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Finding a Church or Something Better? II

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Question #1:

Sir I find your notes on false doctrine very interesting. I was a member of the _____ church until about a month ago a Deacon in the church which at that time I stepped down and have been drawing farther and farther from the church. My main reason for stepping down was like I told them is I cant teach in a doctrine I dont believe. 1 that they are the chosen church. 2 the gift of the Holy spirit through the laying of hands of a apostle. 3 That a apostle has the ability to forgive sins. I can go on but dont believe I have to.

My wife was brought up in this church and has also started to question this doctrine. Sir we both truly believe we need to be a part of a church. But do not want to rush into any decisions. Are we wrong to stay apart of this church and take what we truly believe and leave the rest until we find what we believe to be the right place to worship?

Thanks Very much.

Response #1:

Very good to make your acquaintance.

First, just let me say that I admire your spiritual courage. It is never an easy thing to change course, but when one follows the Spirit and His witness to our consciences, it is always a very good thing, even if it is a hard thing. Where we would be if Martin Luther had decided to swallow his doubts and stay put?

I certainly agree with you regarding your analysis of the problematic nature of the doctrines in the church you are now attending. I also do understand the desire to be part of a church family. This dilemma, that is, the pull between wanting to be a part of a traditional fellowship, and wanting what the Lord really wants for us, namely, our spiritual growth in the very truth, is one of the main concerns I hear about. Your case is perhaps simpler in that you are already convinced that what your church is teaching is seriously false (and I would agree). Honestly, continuing in fellowship under such conditions strikes me as extremely problematic once your conscience has been convicted of the problems with that. Some people try to solve the dilemma by trying to "change from within", but that never works and it especially never works if it is a question of trying to alter fundamental doctrines and practices upon which the church and/or denomination is based (just ask Luther).

He told them this parable: "No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, The old is better. "
Luke 5:36-39 NIV

Therefore I always advise Christians who are leaving their fellowship (for whatever reason) to do so in a quiet and non-confrontational way. As to when you should do it (if that is your choice), well, I've never been a fan of "Baal-dancing between two opinions" (as Elijah put it, criticizing the Israelites of his day who wanted to have things both ways: 1Ki.18:21: "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him" NIV). If you feel it is wrong to stay, going sooner rather than later would seem to be the better course.

But where to go? I have been doing this ministry on the internet for many years now, and from the beginning Christians have been asking me where to find "a good church". In my definition of things, a "good church" would be a place where the Bible and its truths are taught in an orthodox and substantive manner as the focus and foundation of the reason for its being. Such churches are, however, very difficult to find nowadays. There is a reason for that. As you will see (if you continue reading at Ichthys), we live on the cusp of the end times in the era of Laodicea (see the link), the time of "lukewarmness", so that persons like yourself who are truly willing to put Jesus Christ and His will and His truth first in their lives are very definitely in the minority. Since there is a demand problem (so few believers really wanting to put learning the truth of scripture in the place of first priority for their lives), there is, not surprisingly, also a supply problem (as a direct result, very few churches which focus on what should be their primary purpose). Instead, most Christians seek entertainment (of one sort or another) and the comfort of ritual, so that most churches I suppose understandably (from the worldly perspective) respond to these desires as they do whatever they can to gain numbers, contributions, status and "profile". So if it is frustrating as a Christian not called to be a pastor-teacher to find so few opportunities for true fellowship in face to face orthodox, in-depth teaching of the Word of God, just imagine how a prospective pastor-teacher feels who actually has prepared to do so but has been shunned by groups large and small (in favor of ritualistic Christianity, or "exciting preaching", and all manner of hoopla). That has been the experience of many men of this generation who have wanted to "do the right thing"; and so we have found alternative venues.

Thus, I don't know of any church (or denomination) in your area I would be able to recommend. You are certainly welcome to all of the materials at Ichthys (the ministry was established for just this purpose), and I also invite you to write me any time. One other online ministry I can heartily recommend, one with a different format, is Pastor Teacher Curtis Omo's Bible Academy (see the link). Here are some other links which speak to some of the questions discussed above in more detail:

Fighting the Fight III: False Teaching, Local Churches, and the Truth

Finding a Church or Something Better?

Can you recommend a church?

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Christian Unity and Divisiveness.

Dysfunctional Churches.

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Red Hot or Lukewarm?

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"

Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Sir thank you for your kind words! Trying to change their doctrine not even a thought. I could tell just from questioning it and the reactions I got to just let that dead horse lay! I pretty much knew what you said about leaving from studies and from the heart but it is very nice to have some agreement from someone that looks like they follow the scripture as I have tried to do. ( I emphasize try to do because I will never be able to totally do it I dont believe )

Your suggestions on a new church are very welcome and I have told my wife that it was going to be hard but that we would probably never find some where we were in total agreement with. I many times was questioned on why I was not at church and my answer was that I was at the church of mule-back in the woods! This was never understood.

Once again sir thanks for your words from scripture and your words to me.

Response #2:

You are most welcome.

I'm happy to hear that you have come to a decision you are comfortable with.

You are certainly also most welcome here at Ichthys anytime (mules welcome too).

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hello Bob,

I want to thank you again for answering my emails and encouragement. When I have "down" moments, I re-read them. Im happy to say I have fewer "down" moments!! I have two questions and clarification on something Ive asked in the past.

My concern on the last emails I sent you was about the tribulation and the possibility of falling away. I have been reading more on your site and praying about this. I think I understand what you are telling me: As a true believer who is trying her best to live for Jesus, I am protected and will be protected during the tribulation as long as I stay as close as I can to Him. When the anti-christ comes and deceives, we are protected, even if we are tortured or starved, etc. (cant buy or sell without the mark). I was talking to a friend about this and was told Im not giving God enough credit for protection during this time. I have full confidence in Him for protection...I dont have any confidence in me!

My first question also stems from the past emails. I had mentioned that I felt like I was spinning my wheels or was unable to move forward. I guess Im looking at the time I feel Ive lost in the years I wasnt walking as close to God as I should have been. I realize Im putting pressure on myself to "make up for lost time". Im praying, reading my Bible and asking for help in changing but I dont see much happening. A few things are better. This friend Ive been talking to thinks that Im too "sin conscious" and not "God conscious". Ive heard these expressions in the past from TV preachers, so Im not real confident in her response. I know sin is sin and I wont be perfect until Jesus comes and gets me. I guess what Im asking is if this sounds like Im too "sin conscious" and not "God conscious" or just being too hard on myself. Or none of these?

My second question is Bible study. I read my Bible but I really want to dig into it. We have a small group here in town which Ive gone to for the last three weeks. Were studying Matthew. I thought this might be a good way to get me started on a study program. Ive come to find out that they are interdenominational, not nondenominational as I was told. Some of their questions are about Biblical facts, and some are (to me) touchy-feely type questions like, "How do you think Mary felt when she found out she was going to have a baby at such a young age?" I guess its human nature to wonder about these things but it seems most of their "study" focuses on what we feel about what is being said instead of what is being said and how to apply it. Long story short, Im not going back. I bought a NASB inductive study Bible thinking that this would be good. The have a good program of marking up your Bible but I feel that is distracting making crosses everything Jesus is mentioned or other things. I found an inductive study on the Internet but I feel its way over my head with all the digging and application. I know this is good, but I would feel overwhelmed at this point. Do you have any suggestions on studying?

Thank you for your help (and patience!)

Response #3:

Good to hear back from you. I am very heartened to hear that things are better. Please don't give up. Spiritual growth is never an absolutely straight line and certainly not an immediate process. If it were both or perhaps even either, it no doubt would be less rare. It does pay dividends beyond understanding, however, in this life and in the next. So keep fighting this good fight!

As to your questions:

1) It's a salutary point of view to contemplate the Tribulation with appropriate respect. However, in this as in most things, the middle course is the best one. On the one hand, we shouldn't be over-confident and assume that it won't be terribly hard because we are Christians and the Lord loves us; it will be plenty hard enough, even if we are perfectly prepared, and if we neglect proper spiritual preparation out of misplaced over-confidence we will surely live to regret it. On the other hand, we also shouldn't be apoplectic about the prospect of entering those dark days to come; Jesus does love us more than we can know and He will most assuredly take care of us throughout, holding us by the hand the entire way; our job is merely to do what we should be doing anyway, preparing through spiritual growth, progress and production, and trusting Him to take care of the rest. I think as you make your way through the Coming Tribulation series (and the Satanic Rebellion series), these things will come into a little sharper perspective for you.

2) I don't find the phrases "sin conscious" or "God conscious" in scripture, so what they mean would depend upon the meaning those using them place upon them. If we confess our sins, God forgives them (1Jn.1:9), because Jesus died for them. We have been FORGIVEN at salvation for the effecting of our redemption; as believers, we are forgiven on confession for the restoration of our fellowship with the Lord. We don't need to worry about feeling bad or sorry for our sins; God disciplines us with exactly the right punishment, and is fully capable of making us feel just as bad as He needs us to feel in order to get our attention and help us to adjust our behavior in each and every case. All sin is sin; however it is very true that some sins are much more debilitating and consequential. David misleading Achish about where he and his men were raiding was certainly far less of a sin than his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah (for example). Generally speaking, what we think is the first battle line, what we say the second, and what we do the third. Bad thinking begets bad speaking begets bad acting. On the other hand, the more we grow in grace through the truth of the Word, the better we get (or should get and certainly can get) about tamping down on whatever sins "easily beset" us (Heb.12:1). As I often tell people, if we are fighting it out on the first line, trying to get our thoughts and emotions under control, that constitutes the "high ground", so to speak, of the inner spiritual struggle, and we shouldn't feel overly bad about not being able to control our thoughts and emotions all the time no one ever has gained perfect control, apart from our Lord (please see the links: "Who controls our thoughts and emotions?" and "The Battlefield Within"). The Christian life much more resembles bloody combat than it does a pristine tea-party. Just as in war there are always casualties, confusion, and much that is messy, unanticipated and going quite contrary to plan, so also in the Christian walk at least for those who are actually up out of their foxholes and advancing behind the Lord up the hill through the shot and shell. As Napoleon said, if one wishes to make omelets, he will have to break eggs. If want to do what our Lord has called us to do, eggs will be broken. We will be opposed, and we will make mistakes. We will all stumble, in many ways (Jas.3:2). We will all sin (Rom.3:23). And we will all need to confess, get back up, and resume our march forward. Believers who are not advancing spiritually may, somewhat counter-intuitively, have less trouble because 1) they are not being aggressively opposed by the evil one, and 2) they are not really too concerned about their mistakes. So I believe you are absolutely correct "not to dwell on sin", but please also do not get upset about lost time in the past or failures in the past and yesterday is the past. As I often say, for a Christian, it is one day at a time. Yesterday is significant only in that Christ died for us; tomorrow is significant only in that Christ is returning for us. In between the "cross" and the "crown", we have today, an opportunity to walk with Him, serve Him, and earn rewards that glorify Him. Keep you eyes on that prize:

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

3) On Bible study, it's not the effort or the environment it's the quality of the teacher/material. Naturally, I highly recommend everything at Ichthys (and refrain from recommending much of anything else, simply because most of what is "out there" masquerading as Bible teaching is of limited utility at best). But I always tell people to find the right Bible teaching ministry for them, one that will really feed them with nourishing substance, and try to stick with it. If a place/person is right, the Spirit will confirm it; if not, that will become obvious too. Even in cases where the content is good in multiple venues, "church hopping" makes spiritual growth difficult as much because of the different ways in which truths as expressed as because of conflicts in doctrine. Finding the right ministry can require a good deal of "knocking", but once it is found, it should be considered as a "pearl of great price".

Best wishes for your search.

Yours in the dear Lord Jesus who bought us,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for the quick response. Im sure you get more than a few emails a day! I keep telling myself that Jesus is helping me through what trials and tribulations I have now, why would He not help me during that great time of testing?! I have just started the Coming Tribulation series and Im looking forward to the Satanic Rebellion series, too. I have learned so much. Thank you for sharing your wealth of information!

The "sin conscious"/"God conscious" referred to (as they also do on TV) is focusing too much on your sin and not enough on the forgiveness of God. So we have been forgiven of our sins, past, present and future at the cross and when I ask forgiveness it is just to repair fellowship with God? I was taught that forgiveness of sin was just for what I did before salvation. Maybe I should postpone the Coming Tribulation series and hit the Bible Basics one first. And after were saved, what we do (or dont do in some cases) pertains more to future rewards? I did see something on your site about the Bema seat and rewards. Theres another page to add to my growing list!

As far as church and Bible study, I think Ive found a pretty good church. They believe in the pre-trib rapture but I think most churches now do. Ive asked friends what their churches teach and its all pre-trib, even though those friends now believe in post-trib (thanks to your site!). After all the bad stuff I first encountered a few months ago, I pretty much stick strictly to your site and I have read a few things on Bible.org. Theres a guy on there that has some interesting stuffHampton Keathly. I dont know if youve heard of him or not. As far as personal Bible study, I was asking about just opening my Bible and reading. Some suggest read the whole book first (like Matthew) and then go chapter by chapter and write down things you find like the 5 Ws and H (who, what, where, why, when, how...). Would that be a good start for my home time study?

One other thing I forgot to ask...I LOVED your line "for a Christian, it is one day at a time. Yesterday is significant only in that Christ died for us; tomorrow is significant only in that Christ is returning for us. In between the "cross" and the "crown", we have today, an opportunity to walk with Him, serve Him, and earn rewards that glorify Him." That is wonderful.

Response #4:

You're very welcome, and thanks much for your good words.

As to your questions, taking them in reverse order, I do think that personal Bible reading (with a serious "study" aspect) is a very good thing actually a necessary thing. I have some hints and ideas for this at the link: "Read Your Bible", and also at "Bible Versions, Bible Translation, and Bible Reading". Personally, I prefer to be reading multiple books at the same time from different portions of the scripture (i.e., Gospels, Epistles, Prophets, Law-Historical, Wisdom Books), but everyone has their own preferences. It's also very helpful to have some resources handy to help a good study Bible is invaluable. I prefer the Kenneth Barker one (it's available for many of the main versions). Personally, I also prefer to keep Bible reading as separate as possible from more detailed approaches. There are plenty of good resources, if a Christians wants to know more, which plug the gap between Bible teaching and Bible reading ("Introductions" to NT/OT for example, see the link: "Issues of Transmission" under Q/A #2); and a good study Bible will have some info on these matters as well. Some people like commentaries; personally, I find them mostly worthless (and would never recommend a believer to buy one "pig in a poke"). In short, there are all manner of ways to approach this. As I say in Read your Bible, "how you do it is not as important as that you do it" over time, we all fine tune our methods.

On sin and forgiveness, the best illustration of this comes from our Lord (see the link: "Foot-washing"). When He washed the disciples' feet, Peter protested. When Jesus told him that Peter could "have no part of Me" unless the Lord washed his feet, Peter then wanted his whole body washed. Our Lord replied, "Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." (Jn.13:10 NIV). We who have believed have "had our bath", that is, our experiential forgiveness at salvation based upon Christ's payment for all of our sins on the cross past, present and future. When we sin as believers, on the one hand this sin has already been paid for (at the cross) and has already been FORGIVEN as an issue in salvation (when we believed); however, it has put us out of fellowship with the Lord. To be restored to fellowship, we need to confess that sin (1Jn.1:9). Our bodies remain "washed" (we are still believers), but our feet need to be cleaned (confession leading to renewed fellowship). Before salvation we are outside of the family; after salvation we are inside, and God treats us as His own dear children which is what we are (1Jn.3:1)! For children outside of our own family, bad conduct may be noted by us, but we are not obliged to act since these are not our children who are misbehaving. Similarly, unbelievers need to come to God through Christ; sin is only an issue in practical terms as an indication of their need for a Savior Christ has already died for all their sins too. But for children within our own family, when they misbehave, we have to take action but have not the slightest idea of casting them out of our family! Likewise, when we sin as children of God, we are subject to discipline, and a critical part of the restoration process is for us to own up to our mistake and admit it to the Lord (a harder thing for some than for others, it seems). This puts us back into fellowship with the Lord, as our sins are immediately forgiven (as an issue in our relationship) when we confess them (although that does not mean that the discipline goes away immediately). So it all depends on whether the person being forgiven is an unbeliever or a believer. Christ died for all that all might be forgiven. Unbelievers are forgiven when they turn to Jesus in faith, and that is a necessary step for their salvation. Believers, having already been FORGIVEN all their sins in toto for salvation, are also forgiven the individual sins they commit after believing when they confess them, and that is a necessary step for the restoration to fellowship.

Please see the link: "Sin and Salvation, Confession and Forgiveness"

I'm glad to hear that you have found a good fellowship.

Yours in the One who died that we might live with Him in perfect sanctification forever,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Bob,

Thank you for the links and the explanation. I had read Ezekiel after I had read that article and it didnt ring true to me but Im not a minister, so I took his word for it. Even though I know now that almost everything I read back then was distorted to some degree or just plain false, when something hits a sore spot, its hard not to get nervous. I believe the Spirit is telling me what is true and what is not. My problem is I pick and choose what to believe Hes telling me! One of the things I appreciate about your site is that, even though some things might be tough to read/hear, you dont give guilt trips or beat people down with the Word. I think a huge majority (at least of what Ive read) use the Word to guilt-trip people and put them under bondage. I admit that I have fallen for this and Im sure its because I hadnt been walking as close to the Lord as I should have. Thats changed and now that Im reading the Bible more and studying from your site and your help through these emails, I feel like stuff is breaking off me and Im able to see again. This fight that were in is hard enough without me adding to it with worry and fear!

So I thank you again for all your help and encouragement. You and your site have been such a blessing to me!

In Him,

Response #5:

You are very welcome.

I'm happy to hear of and observe from your emails the spiritual growth you are exhibiting.

Keep running a good race therein is great eternal reward.

Your fellow "runner with Christ",

Bob L.

Question #6:

Brother Bob I estimate you are at least 15 20 years younger than I am? When you left the USMC in 1975, I had retired 3 years earlier, after 20 in the USAF. I will be 82 next Sept. If it is the Lords will.

When I sent my first question to you, I thought if I got a response at all it would be a form letter from a volunteer on your staff. How you could possibly field the myriad of questions that you must be deluged with, I can not understand.

I Praise-the-Lord that that you DO, and I do want to abuse that privilege by taking it for granted that you can grant me personal one-on-one communications all the time. I am glad you are able to organize and categorize it all on your tablet, so any time you just give me a one liner and a LINK to dig out the reply, that is fine. I stayed up half the night last week trying to extract an answer that I found was imbedded in a link that would have taken 220 pages to download! I love to download, print & copy, as I take time to underline, study, and especially read the supportive scripture that you include to verify every position! Complication: When I just read the surface scripture in my Bible now I find it INCOMPLETE and wondering what the rest of the story is behind the printed word? That I KNOW you have for me!

Also: When my preacher says we will start to study the DAYS OF CREATION. I said they will be incomplete without a study of the GAP, the FALL OF MAN and an understanding of how God intends to replace the FALLEN ANGELS with consecrated Christians, I was looked at me like maybe I should just move on?

Response #6:

You are right on the money about my bio. Thanks for your kind words do feel free to contact me any time.

As to "right church" et al., this is probably my most frequently fielded question, and I always have to come back to the point that it is a personal and individual decision. In my own opinion, it's not prudent to allow secondary considerations to block the reception of the Word of God, but everyone has their own gifts and their calls from the Lord. Here a few links which may be of help on this score:

Fighting the Fight III: False Teaching, Local Churches, and the Truth

Finding a Church or something Better?

Can you recommend a church?

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Christian Unity and Divisiveness.

Dysfunctional Churches.

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Red Hot or Lukewarm?

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"

Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity

Best wishes for your continued and continuing growth in our dear Lord Jesus and His truth,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

How are you? Fine, I hope. Thanks for taking these emails. I really do appreciate it. It's nice to have a Christian's perspective on things. I'm doing fine in my classes. But I haven't been back to church. I haven't been to any churches as a matter of fact. I was going to check into a few in town. But then I just thought, what's the point. I doubt I'll like them. So, it's just been me. I still feel that fellowship is a good thing, which I know you would agree with. I wish I could meet some Christians in my area. I'm just more dedicated in a group. I bet when you get further along, you can be by yourself. For new Christians though, or maybe Christians who aren't as far along in their walk is a better way to put it, it can be hard being on your own. Some people still need that support. It keeps you on track, being accountable to someone. I think that's why I keep messaging you. Although I don't technically have to answer to anyone but God, it's nice to have someone who cares how you're Christian walk is going. I would say that you're probably the only person I talk about religion with. Thanks for listening.

Response #7:

I'm very happy to hear that you are doing well in school. Things are challenging here at the moment, but Jesus is my Rock.

As to your questions about churches, fellowship is great but only if it is great fellowship. There is nothing better than sharing enthusiasm for the Word of God with fellow believers and maybe nothing worse than having lukewarm believers sap your enthusiasm, or lead you into legalism, or doubts, or pointless rituals, or politics, or any of the other foolish things Christians and churches get involved in when they are too lazy or too arrogant to put the Word of God first.

I do hope (and pray) you will find a worthy fellowship. Until then, you are most welcome at Ichthys.

Keep growing in the Word!

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your response. I'm sorry to hear things are not going so great for you. It's a good testimony though, knowing that things aren't perfect for you and yet you keep the right attitude. It's easy to rely on Jesus when things are going well for you. When you're fighting a spiritual battle it's a lot harder to keep your mind focused on God. When you come out on the other side you will be all the better for it. You're setting a very good example. I can definitely see your Christ-like spirit. I like that you focus on God above all. Even when I'm looking elsewhere, you point to Christ. It is very difficult to pull you off-topic. I am blessed to know such a grounded Christian. It challenges me to be better, and to make much of Christ. You really are doing the Lord's work. I hope these words will be a comfort to you. I don't know that I am in a good enough place spiritually to minister to anyone. Besides, I don't think I could tell you anything you don't already know. Still, maybe this will be helpful to you.

Thanks,

Response #8:

Thanks so much for your good words I think you clearly have a gift of ministering the comfort of the Word of God (and I appreciate it). Keep growing spiritually and refining your gift. In this there is great reward.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus, the One who is the true purpose and focus of our brief lives on this earth.

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Do you remember when I was still going to the Pentecostal Church near my house? I think I might have mentioned it, but I'm not sure. Anyway, I attended that church for a short time. I didn't know it was Pentecostal until I went to one of the services and one of the women started "speaking in tongues." The pastor would do it as well, a long with a few other people. The woman was the main one who would do it, though. It wasn't like what you would expect. The service would start out with the congregation singing, and praising God. There would be quite a few women up front singing with microphones. After all of the songs were finished, everyone would fall silent while this one woman started to speak in tongues. I got the feeling that it was routine (it turned out it was). She would speak in tongues over the microphone. She didn't scream and shout, though. She just talked in a not even particularly loud voice over the microphone. Everyone would nod their heads, and give the appropriate "umm" sounds, you know what I mean. It was almost like she was praying. This would continue for a few minutes with her "praying" over the church. Even the pastor was silent. When she was finished everyone would say amen, and the pastor would begin preaching. I never did find out the name of that woman while I was there.

That particular church also had a breakfast ministry. It was meant to serve the community. They would serve breakfast, and this woman would preach. She was a member of the church. She was "over" the breakfast ministry of you will. The pastor wouldn't even be there, so I guess it was her ministry for all intents and purposes. A good number of people in the community would come, and she would preach for somewhere in the area of 30 minutes before breakfast.

Anyway, the church's pastor was supposed to be leaving, and they needed someone to fill in. She was hoping they would let her preach. She invited me and some of my family to hear her preach. I had already left that church at that point. I had gotten to the point where I wanted to attend a more biblically sound church, so I just moved on.

I had been thinking that it would probably be easier if I had someone to do Bible study with. With this church being nearer, I could have quite a few 'someones' to do Bible study with!

But I have decided to stay at my current church. It really is the best church I know of. I just don't know if I should join a church that I have a few major differences with. Since I'm staying, does that make the pastor "my pastor?" I don't know why I feel uncomfortable calling someone my pastor. I just do. I know I won't be able to find someone that lines up with my beliefs entirely. What do you think?

Response #9:

Having company in studying the Bible, especially if the Bible study involves substantive materials (into which category I would certainly hope the studies posted to Ichthys fall), is a wonderful thing. However, it is also true that "bad company corrupts good character" (1Cor.15:53). That is to say, if the study partners are going to oppose all the good you are seeking on the one hand, and introduce all manner of false teaching on the other, at what price social interaction? Better to go to the park with them and study on your own if such is the case.

Speaking in tongues is not legitimate because the Spirit has apparently not given anyone that gift since the days of the apostles.

Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.
1st Corinthians 14:10

Biblical tongues were actual human languages (read Acts chapter 2), and that is understandable since the purpose was to aid the incipient Church in evangelizing peoples of every ethnicity. But babbling in sounds no one understands has nothing to do with the biblical gift of tongues.

If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.
1st Corinthians 14:11

The rule Paul lays down for legitimate tongues is that they may not be used in a church situation unless someone with the gift of interpretation interprets what is being said (1Cor.14:28). That is not being done in what you relate, and no surprise either since the sounds being made are not a real language (which all legitimate tongues were), and the interpreting gift also hasn't been given since the first century. Please see the links: "The Gift of Tongues I" and "The Gift of Tongues II".

Secondly, only those with the gift of pastor/teacher are allowed to teach a church assembly. A man without that gift (and without the requisite preparation) has no business in the pulpit. That goes for women as well (and this is one gift women are not given: see the link "Should women preach in church or lead churches?").

Thirdly, you are absolutely right about "discipleship". This is an un-biblical concept about as un-biblical as they come, but cults (and individuals who aspire to controlling others) love it for obvious reasons. The whole purpose of the Christian life is to grow up spiritually as an individual believer, to become individually mature through the teaching of the Word of God, to become so secure in the faith regardless of any other person that the Christian in question can pass the difficult tests of faith that come to refine us, and eventually to come into the ministry the Lord has for each and everyone individually to benefit His Church. There is no place in this system for handing over one's free will to another. In fact, all that does is guarantee spiritual dependency (when the goal is spiritual independence); we are to be dependent on the Lord, not others (see the links: "The true biblical meaning of 'disciple'" and "Discipling"):

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.
1st Corinthians 7:23 NIV

In short, everything about this potential association sets off my "cult radar". Clearly, you have to make your own decisions (that is the whole point of this email), but we are influenced by our associations (1Cor.15:53 again). Good Bible teaching should be objective rather than subjective and you can read the material at Ichthys (or some place like it though I like to think there is no place like it) without anyone looking over your shoulder or telling you what to do. That way, application is between you and the Holy Spirit (the way it should be). I wouldn't even know you have questions unless you write me, and with email there is a nice level of independence and anonymity which is not present if someone is in your living room telling you what to do, what to say, and what to think. Finally, the principle of association certainly does also apply to attending a church (joining merely deepens the association). It would be nice if there were lots of places where a Christian could go, enjoy face to face fellowship, and be feed spiritually in a genuinely orthodox and substantive way. Those places are rare. If you have found one, it is a pearl of great price. But that is a judgment you will have to make, along with the consequences, good or bad.

You are in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Robert,

Thank you for your online ministry. Thank you for sticking to the scriptures and revealing the scriptures in all of your opinions. Your website is a breath of fresh air. My family and I strive to live our life pursuing the Father, Son, and Spirit of the Bible. It is hard these days to come across teachings and/or opinions that have not sprouted from a denomination or been influenced by a denomination. I stumbled upon your website when researching church polity. Specifically, denominational polity, when the denomination has state, national, and international boards that make decisions that affect the local church government.

As youth pastors at a small church, we are currently attending calling and ministry classes through our denomination. Our Pastors, also our best friends, encouraged us to attend the class to learn more about the practices of ministry. The classes and books have mostly taught about the denomination and how ministry should be structured, to our discontent. The issue that we are facing is the denomination teaches that you must be an "Ordained Minister" in order to baptize someone, lead communion, dedicate a baby, or "receive new members" (whatever that means). I have researched the bible, prayed, and sought wise counsel on those statements and I find them to be false. The only requirements I see for conducting any of those, is that you are a Christian and you have biblical knowledge of what baptism or communion is.

Being discontent with that answer, I have become discontent with our church polity. Which is when I began researching church polity. As I have found the bible doesnt say much about church polity, however, I have noticed that there is no mention of a production of, or need of, a state or national denominational government over a local church. I do see a biblical basis for elders, overseers, deacons, and pastors. But I only see those leaders being established at the local level.

The decision that I am leaning towards is to not be credentialed. Primarily because I do not want to be credentialed in a denomination that says that you must be ordained to perform certain functions such as baptisms, communion, etc. Secondly, I dont see a state or national church government as biblical, so why would I want to be credentialed with it/by it?

Any advice? Thank you so much,

Response #10:

Good to make your acquaintance.

Ichthys has no denominational affiliation, and, as you seem to have discovered from accessing Ichthys already, I am not a believer in denominations at all. I grew up in a Presbyterian environment and later came of age spiritually in a baptist-influenced independent environment. The seminary I attended was an independent one, and I rubbed shoulders with folks from a variety of backgrounds there. I have to say that I have never seen a denominational structure do much good but they have done plenty of harm. Perhaps when Protestants were fighting for their lives against the Roman Catholic church there was something to be said for banding together in this way. Today the effect of the practice seems to be more to give an excuse not to have to be concerned for what the Bible says on various questions (since the denomination has officially "solved" everything just like Rome). Personally, I (and this ministry) have benefitted greatly from having to defend every point of every position and every interpretation of every verse especially in concert with others who are equally dedicated to finding out the whole truth of the Word of God. Any position/doctrine which has the virtue of genuinely being true can certainly take the heat of close inspection.

As to your current situation and the question of "what to do", I always try to avoid giving my fellow Christians specific advice. I will say that most of my free time between my first and my second years of seminary was taken up in struggling and searching on a similar question: should I go the denominational route or not? I decided that in good conscience I could not, and that has made all the difference. True, as a result there was no obvious "track" for the ministry to which I aspired: teaching the Word of God to interested fellow believers. But what the Lord brought about has exceeded my expectations in overflowing abundance.

Before going any further with this, my sole advice would be, in addition to weighing the rightness or wrongness of these matters in your conscience, to consider also what the objective is here. I wanted to teach the truth and to be free to follow the truth wherever it led me. It is safe to say that this has involved discovering any number of positions which, while in my heart I know them to be true, would have me cashiered from just about any denomination you may name (different issues with different groups). Whether or not and just how much to use this ministry as a basis for calculation, therefore, is a question you might want to defer until you have read more. I do not believe, for example, in the necessity of water-baptism (nor even its advisability).

I wish you success in discovering the Lord's true will for you in this. I do know that great spiritual victories often come out of just such unwillingness to compromise where the truth is concerned.

Please do feel welcome to make full use of Ichthys for all these purposes, and do also feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #11:

Greetings in the Name of our Lord, Brother Bob,

I hope that the Father, Son & Holy Spirit are giving you strength as continue to run the good race.

First of all, we are not rich. We have a friend who continues to say that if we would just tithe and give our offerings, the blessings would just flow down and we would be amazed at all God would have in store for us. This is symptomatic of the changes in our family church. We changed hymn books, we started having power point presentations, they had a bazaar! I hope I have conveyed my frustration with the way things seem to be going. And then came this sudden push for growth. Is this just a state of churches every where? Is it a sign that the Holy Spirit's restraining is beginning to be lifted? Is this just my own personal trial and tribulations? As always, any thoughts, Scriptures or just your wise point of view would be of great comfort.

Response #11:

Thanks for your good words.

As to your current question, I think that is very obvious to all serious Christians (those few who are still around) that we are definitely in the lukewarm era of Laodicea (see the link). I am sorry to hear of the disappointment regarding a church so well-beloved taking a bad turn as soon as stringent oversight is released, but that seems to be the rule these days. Obviously, the prosperity gospel is a sham (see the link), one which really only enriches those who preach it at the expense of those who fall for it which is why we are told to withdraw from "men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself" (1Tim.6:5 NKJV).

I suppose it is no consolation but this is the trend in this our last era of the Church before the Lord returns, and things are going to get worse before they get much worse. Here are a few links where these matters are discussed further:

Fighting the Fight III: False Teaching, Local Churches, and the Truth

Finding a Church or Something Better?

Can you recommend a church?

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Christian Unity and Divisiveness.

Dysfunctional Churches.

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Red Hot or Lukewarm?

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"

Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity

Thanks for your good words! I am keeping you in prayer.

Yours in the dear Lord who bought us free from sin by paying the price above every price, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Sorry for the tardy response to your kind email alerting me to Part 5 of your Bible Basics series: Pneumatology, the Study of the Holy Spirit.

My plate is quite full right now. It is always tempting to enter your website as a place of refuge (and not desire to leave), as your commentaries are a refreshing voice of reason, wisdom and sanity that honor our Lord in truly wondrous ways and keep me anchored to what is righteous and good. Your studies are a sanctuary of sorts. I thank you for this.

I'm facing several challenges at the non-denominational church I attend. Out of the clear blue, our pastor began showing several Billy Graham evangelistic, tear-jerker videos during services, intimating that this was the direction he would like the church to take in reaching out to those not saved. He had us write down the names of five or ten people that he wanted us to invite to the church to watch the videos. I cringed. This multimedia, drive-by evangelism doesn't work and most people view it as a manipulation, which it is. I don't recall who wrote the following in an article about this approach, but he stated, "Religion is such a personal and complex topic that to try to deliver the key point in a few big words is really to disrespect the message as well as the audience. If it took Jesus Himself three years of long conversations and hands-on training before His already-church-going disciples "got it," what makes us think we can effect a drive-by life change? That's arrogance. There must be a better way to share God's story."

Well... amen to that. There must be a better way. And there is. Your website is one.

Needless to say, I won't be participating in the Billy Graham mini-movie revival. Not my thing, and I'm not interested in alienating my non-Christian friends who would blacklist me for insulting their intelligence by inviting them to this nonsense. Forgive my harsh reaction. I would rather direct them to your website if they are curious. Not sure how to lovingly and charitably say "no" to my pastor. I'm clearly stunned that he would take this antiquated approach, as this is exactly why the church has seriously dwindled in numbers over the years. This just doesn't work.

I'm also feeling pressure to join the church and am required to sit in on a mandatory 4-Sunday class for all church attendees (including members) that explores the meaning of membership in a church, and this particular church. There have been many scripture passages quoted that have been interpreted to support church membership and to make it sound imperative. The suggestion is that we really aren't part of the Body of Christ unless we belong to a church. I disagree. I believe that church membership can be polarizing and interpreted as separatist and partisan to the larger Body of Christ. I can participate in this church and all of its functions (sans being awarded a leadership position in exchange for my card-carrying membership), without becoming a member.

I do enjoy your studies and many postings, and return to them often as time allows. I thank you for your rich contributions to our understanding of God's Truth.

All For our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Response #12:

Thanks for the good words! I think this is a very powerful testimony on your part which speaks to the power of the truth and sensitivity of our conscience to the true guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior who is the very truth.

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hi Bob, I found a website called Futurequake which in turn led me back to your website. Now I'm reading the Satanic Rebellion. It is very interesting. Also discovered that you teach Greek and Hebrew. How's that for being able to decipher the New Testament with ease!

These 'strange' gentlemen on the Futurequake site said that you wouldn't come on to their program. After listening to the beginnings of two of their programs, I don't think I would have gone on their program either. They have some very weird archived radio shows and the whole sound of their programs reminds me of George Norry on Coast to Coast.

Thus far in my life the Lord's has never asked me to give my testimony. I figure if He ever needs the stuff that I can tell folks, then He'll let me know. I've told some friends and my family of some of my experiences but mostly I keep the events that I've shared with you today [details omitted] to myself.

Response #13:

It's a fine and godly testimony! Nothing is more important than the absolute truth of the Word of God. I am very pleased that you found Ichthys, and I do hope that it will continue to be valuable to you in your determination to grow closer to Jesus Christ through knowing and believing everything He wants us to know and believe. Your testimony confirms what I know from scripture, experience, and observation: for all those who truly do want the truth, the Lord always provides it. That does not mean the journey will be easy or quick or painless or without a wide variety of tests along the way. But for those who persevere, it always results in coming to harbor in a safe haven of truth. And it is only through the truth that we can grow, advance and produce for Jesus Christ according to the plan He has for us individually. I expect to rejoice with you when you are awarded your crowns of victory on that wonderful day to come!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

I think He let me get lost because when I was away from Him my world and my mind were filled with darkness. Returning to the light was another 'phenomenon' that really affected me. I felt the light in and out and all around me. I'm sure it was there before I got lost but I never noticed it until my return to Him. I've been basking in it every since.

Thru Christ

Response #14:

You're very welcome. And amen!

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
1st John 1:5

In Him who is the Light of the world, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

This is going to seem somewhat random, but it is something that I have been pondering for the last few weeks as I draw near to finishing my blog redesign. My question is: what I should I name my ministry?

Any ideas you went through back when you chose your ministry's name (or even the logic behind how you went about it) would be appreciated greatly!

Also, I would ask for prayers as the semester draws to a close. Classes have been draining of late, and I am struggling to keep my head high and eyes set on the prize. I am looking forward to having more time over the summer, but have a grueling three weeks ahead of me before then.

In Him,

Response #15:

I will most certainly continue to keep you in my prayers.

As to your question, "Ichthys" took some time to settle on, but it wasn't my first choice. Even though when I first got the domain name the internet had only been "graphics friendly" for a couple of years, still most of my initial choices were already taken. If that proves anything, it proves that content is king. Names can be good or bad, and for selling commercial products they are very important. But when it comes to Christian ministry, the name is a very small issue compared to the purpose of the ministry, its content, and the manner in which it is prosecuted (ethics, consistency, heart and spirit, et al.). God honors all good efforts and behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ, regardless of whether or not the name placed on those efforts was the best choice. The problems with "Ichthys": 1) the word is not in the Bible; 2) there are all manner of "Ichthys" out there (not only in alternative domain names but in sites which use that word in the title even though it may not be in their domain name); 3) it is impossible for most people to spell (making it harder to find); 4) it is frequently misunderstood. And yet, the Lord has blessed it, in my appreciation of things, and led plenty of people to it, even if only at first by seeming accident.

My advice would be to give this some thought, but not with the assumption that the name is "make or break". Doing what the Lord would have you to do is what is really important here.

Best wishes with this!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

When doing research for my blog (on which I am terribly behind compared to what I wanted to do over the summer), I covered a large amount of information on the office in local churches that is the "elder," which, as I'm fairly sure you know, encompasses the "bishop/ overseer," pastor/teacher, and stewardship roles as well (the Greek words respectively being Presbuteros [for elder], Episcopos, Poimen/Didaskalos, and Oikonomos). On this single "elder role," my theory is that though they may all be the same office, some elders may serve to discipline, some to teach, some to make the Church's fiscal policy, etc. (they don't all have to do all aspects of the office, even if they all hold the same authority over the church). The thing that I am a little bit confused about is why Paul never explicitly tells us how old one must be in order to be considered for this "one" role. Obviously the requirements that an elder have a wife and believing children implies a certain age (do babies count? Toddlers?), as does the "not newly converted" piece. This whole thing came to me when I was pondering Seminary and pastors in general. I'm so undecided as yet that I can't say I myself want to go to Seminary (I think I would enjoy it), but it begs the question of how biblical it is sending these young twenties-ish men out to local churches to minister to them. Most M.Div programs are 3 years, and any who opt for a Th.M get to tack on another year. Assuming a normal bachelor's degree from some accredited college beforehand, we are looking at men getting out of their training as early as 25, which hardly seems to fit the "elder" role (this is assuming that they are already married and have kids at some point of accountability). Obviously our culture's "norms of age" differ from the ones in Paul's time, but I know of few people who even get married much earlier than 25. There is something to be said for maturity beyond years, but I am having a hard time reconciling any modern conceptualization of pastors with Paul's words on elders in Titus and 1st Timothy (if my reading of them as the same office is correct).

Response #16:

I will give you some links on this: "Church Polity: Elders and three other passages" and "Some Questions on Church Polity". Clearly, you've done some good and detailed work. My bottom-line on this issue is that the New Testament deliberately does not go into much detail about the specifics. That is because the goal of the local church ought to be absolute (spiritual growth), but the polity needed to achieve that goal needs to be somewhat flexible (in order to take into account all sorts of non-essential factors which change with time, language, culture, technology, etc.). The somewhat tragic irony on this point is that the church-visible has pretty much gotten it completely backwards. Groups divide, fight, and stand to the death on issues of polity and never study and teach the Word of God. As to age of service, elders are "old" etymologically, and Jesus was thirty when He began His public ministry (even though if anyone was capable of starting earlier it was He), as did John the baptist. The Levites began at thirty, but occasionally twenty-five is mentioned. Much more important than chronological age, however, is spiritual age. A young man of, say, twenty three who is actually gifted and properly prepared to teach the Bible in a substantive way should be preferred to a sexagenarian who is doctrinally confused and who doesn't bother to study and teach.

Question #17:

I am also somewhat curious about single men that go into ministry. The entirety of my next post is dedicated to the church and its organization (both universally and locally), so I want to make sure I understand it fairly thoroughly. For those who choose to remain single, it seems the office in the local church of "elder" is unavailable to them, as are any less authoritative helping positions (deacons having similar requirements). Paul, as one good biblical example, seems to fill what people of today would call a "evangelist/minister/preacher" position, where he is dedicated to sharing the gospel and ministering to different churches (I'm fairly sure the Greek words for such a position are, respectively, Euaggelistes, Diakonos *in certain contexts,* and Kerux). Diakonos is also used to denote the entirely different office of deacon (cf. Philippians 1:1, I Timothy 3:8). This sort of office [that Paul occupies] seems to be attested to in Ephesians 4:11 as something totally different than the elders, so, if I am not failing in my interpretation, it appears that this is where the single men fit into ministry. Now, my question lies in exactly how these "mini-Pauls" fit into our society today. Obviously none of the mainliners follow the biblical polity structure, but for those local churches that exist around the country (that do a somewhat better job at it), how would these evangelists fit into the structure? Should they be as learned or more learned than the teaching elders at congregations? Should they go on "tours" through different churches, or only have a designated handful that they minister to? Is this the office that modern missionaries possess?

Response #17:

In my view, Paul, being an apostle, was unique in that office, and of course that gift is no longer being given. As mentioned, polity will vary, but wherever there is anything resembling a church, there will be a group of people (biblically, men) who are in charge of the church; and inevitably, one of those men will act as the leader. If the church is worth anything at all, there will be some teaching going on, and one of those men will be doing most if not all of the teaching (just in the general nature of things); as a result, that man will have the most influence in the church, regardless of whether or not he officially occupies the top position. Everything else is window dressing, and trying to write up lots of rules and back them up biblically only obscures these essential truisms of any church it also distracts from the fundamental purpose of meeting together as Christians: the authoritative, doctrinal, orthodox, substantive teaching of the Word of God in order to edify those who attend. Whether the teacher is single or married is of no moment. Both situations have their own complications. The passages in the pastoral epistles which say "husband of one wife" mean "not a polygamist" (a greater problem in that day than in our country today, but not a non-issue at any time), and if the man has children, he should not be letting them get out of control (but they aren't a requirement). Here are some links:

Servants, Slaves, Disciples, and Ministers

Divorced Pastors

Question #18:

In case you are interested: My thoughts on Roman Catholicism, as a born and raised Catholic:

My devoutly Catholic father took me to church every Sunday as far back as I can remember. His faith and listening at church gave me a strong sense of who God is, who Jesus Christ is, and who the Holy Spirit is. I understood (and correctly) the concept of the Trinity at a very young age, and I credit my former Catholicism with that. I also developed a strong belief in and relationship with Jesus at a very young age. I believe my Catholic upbringing had something to do with that as well.

However, the sacrament of confession to a priest became a real problem for me early on. I knew going in to the confessional for the first time (right before First Communion, maybe five or six years old) that not only were there sins I did not remember, but sins I had unknowingly committed. Also realized that I wouldn't be forgiven for long before I sinned again. Certainly I wouldn't last for the entire time until next confession! I used to worry - hopefully if I got hit by a car it would be BEFORE I sinned again, not right after. Probably by the time I was seven, I realized their system could never make me right with God. Yet I believed God loved me.

So in reaction to this spiritual dilemma which remained unresolved in spite of questions to my well-meaning father, I began focusing on myself and became very adept at getting what I wanted through whatever means necessary, selfish and self-centered, loving no one but myself. Yet continued my ongoing conversation with God and Jesus, even while living a completely and blatantly sinful life. Blindly (stupidly?) believing, even in progressively darker periods of corruption, that I was special somehow. It was true that I was never able to sink to the very lowest levels of hedonism I saw around me. Something inside me was still repelled by actually living only for enjoyment of sin, as so many around me did. For me, it was simply an easy and fun means for survival and control.

My unbelievably strong willpower got me everything I thought I wanted in the world. And then one day, some time ago now, my willpower failed me, and I lost the only thing I had ever loved. And suddenly nothing else mattered at all anymore. Three weeks later, after three weeks of unimaginable pain, three weeks of truly sleepless nights, demanding, begging, crying to know where Jesus was, the Holy Spirit showed up. By the time I was saved, I was no longer a Catholic in any meaningful sense of the word. Somewhere along the way, I morphed into kind of a "Christian pagan rebel". Never once did I question the existence and love of God or Jesus Christ, yet I could never have remained a believing Catholic and found the truth. Their initial introduction of a child to the truth and reality of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is very powerful - second to none, which is why they have a history of such faithful followers. But immediately after that, if you are searching for truth, as I was even as a child, you hit a brick wall. I don't see how the Catholic system of forgiveness only through confession could ever be resolved with salvation by grace without works. I think that is why there are so many "lax" Catholics, the ones who just go to church on Christmas and Easter, but still call themselves Catholics. They get stuck where I did and rather than rebelling as I did they just kind of stay there in limbo.

My father was a devout Catholic to the end. But back in the 70's he became deeply involved in the Charismatic movement, and had a salvation experience. It was genuine because I saw the change in him. I can only hope that I will see him in heaven. He loved Jesus.

Response #18:

It's a wonderful and enlightening testimony. I'd like to post it some day (anonymously of course). I think it is very likely to speak powerfully to many of our ex-Catholic friends and readers.

As I say, my view has always been that God knows every individual heart and can bring anyone to salvation who is willing, regardless of organizational affiliation for the simple reason that organizations are artificial and individuals believe what they believe regardless of official dogma. As both your and your father's experience seems to confirm, a saving relationship with Jesus Christ through grace by faith will of necessity be in conflict with the teachings of the R.C. church, even if one is still connected to it to some degree.

And it's not as if that particular "issue" is unique to Roman Catholicism either!

The truth is the truth, regardless of traditions, creeds, rituals, misunderstanding or misrepresentations of scripture.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hi, Doctor.

I'm reading over all the emails to make sure I haven't missed anything. I always see you speak lowly of your apologetic approach, but after having read and reread so much of your work I must say, you're the best apologist I've ever heard of or read about!

You are going about it indirectly in most cases (helping the believer answer the heretical nonsense of a hard-hearted wayward believer or flat out unbeliever) by correcting their thinking in a nearly pure, biblical way which reorients their (recipient[s] or later, the reader's) thinking and corrects whatever potential lie of satan they've just come across.

Just because you don't change hard-hearted minds doesn't mean you aren't defending (valiantly) the Word of God for the weaker of us believers. You are put right in the front line and defend it so much better (reiteration) than I've seen.

Bravo, Doctor!! More and more testing is turning Biblical Truth into a steel bulwark in my spirit and you have been a lightning rod for me and, I'm certain MANY real believers.

Whatever trials you are under now, whatever you question any effect your site may have, please know from the bottom of my heart that it certainly IS pure, heavenly gold from where I'm sitting.

Thank you once again and The Lord God bless you mightily!

Response #19:

Thanks much for your good words. They are deeply appreciated. I am also very encouraged by your report of continuing spiritual growth keep up the good work!

Perhaps apologetics will by your area of ministry. I merely "defend the ground" when this ministry and its teachings are questioned or attacked, and every believer should have some facility for doing the same with the truth he/she has been taught (1Pet.3:15). I think a person gifted in the area of apolgetics more as someone who can do this verbally, publicly, and also "take the fight" to those in the country/culture who are either directly attacking the truth or wrong-headedly perverting it. I'm certainly not up for that!

Keep on growing and fighting the good fight, my friend!

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hello,

I just wanted to say thank you for your posting called "Read Your Bible: A Basic Christian Right and Responsibility". Your article has helped me with 3 very important struggles I have been having. I was a part of a cult for four years and I broke away from it several years ago. I nearly died, and I was in a vegetative, suicidal state for about six months. Then I started reading my bible everyday for two hours and I started to heal and come out of that state as a direct result. I ended up rebuilding my life outside of the cult, using the bible as my foundation. I rebuilt my life beautifully as a result. I would get knocked down and attacked by the cult periodically for the two years that I was not in it; however I finally learned how to block their attacks by reading the bible consistently. Unfortunately when their harassing phone calls and other tactics now longer worked with me and they could find no other way to get to me they sent me a glamorous relationship which nearly destroyed and killed me. After I ended the relationship, I was wounded but resumed my bible reading and started to get healthy again when I stated getting phone calls from the cult leader who used to be like an authority figure to me, telling me to stop reading my bible and start reading their materials instead. It was very heartbreaking for me to hear, and sent me into an emotional relapse which has been very damaging. But I kept reading my bible at which point I was hurt severely by them a couple more times. These cult people held my hand and helped me out in the past, and I was used to obeying them. However the suggestion to stop reading the only thing that has ever helped me was so disturbing and didn't sit well with me. I quit reading it consistently which resulted in a huge downward spiral for me. It was a great comfort to read on your web-sight that "believers have a responsibility to place what the bible says over what people ( even well intention-ed and respectable people) may say." I have been in the habit of trying to find scriptures etc. that confirmed for me that I should keep reading my bible and not listen to my former cult leaders advice and your web-sight has done the trick for me. The other thing that helped me was I was very much in the habit of reading my recovery bible because the commentary on it specifically spoke about many of the issues I was struggling with, with my cult recovery, but I was distributed because it was the NIV version and I was reading on the internet that only the 1611 King James version is good to read and that the other versions were corrupted, I don't particularly enjoy reading the KJV and was feeling guilty and skeptical when ever I read my NIV version. So reading what you wrote about how "worries about accuracy" helped break yet another barrier. Additionally, the part where you talk about being aware of any person or group who "tells you not to read your bible for your self at all" helped just to reaffirm for me that this person probably did not have my best interest in mind in telling me to stop reading my bible. I tried to ask why and the person would not tell me. It has been a very distressing issue that has been troubling me for a long time. I am so grateful I stumbled across your article when I was surfing the web on my phone at Church today. Ironically, I was going to talk to my pastor about it today, it was causing me so much distress. The one barrier I still have is fear over what they may do to me or the harm that will come my way of I start reading my bible again. It seems like when ever I do they send messengers to me and try and discredit any hope I get from reading it that tell me to stop reading it. I feel like a prisoner. However I am fed up with being controlled by them and I think I am willing to take my chances.

Thanks for your great article.

Best Wishes,

Response #20:

Very good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your encouraging words and for your wonderful testimony. I am very encouraged by your heart for the truth and by your spiritual resiliency in the face of very serious opposition. If it is any consolation, it seems to me that the Lord is almost certainly preparing you for some role in helping others who have likewise been led astray. All ministry, to be most effective, follows spiritual growth and progress, and I do hope that you will consider continuing to make use of Ichthys' other resources to that end. Wherever you find that help, however, I certainly wish you God's speed in walking closer with Jesus Christ day by day. It's all about Him and His truth contained in the Bible, not any human being or group of human beings who claim to have a monopoly on that truth.

Yours in the One who died for us that we might be with Him for all eternity, Jesus Christ our dear Savior.

Bob Luginbill

Question #21:

Tell me Robert, why do the people think Thessalonians 2 has to do with the unpardonable sin?

Response #21:

As ever, I am unsure about what goes on the hearts and minds of other people only God knows that for certain. What we can say is that those who think this are incorrect. Reasons for being incorrect about interpretation are myriad, but, if chronic, they generally stem from incorrect methodology in exegeting scripture. E.g., lack of knowledge of theology, lack of knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, lack of knowledge of the ancient world, literal, logic and a disrespect for authority (both of the Bible and those who are truly prepared and gifted to teach it). If a person wants to be a teacher, there is a higher standard (Jas.3:1), and much pain, sweat and trouble to get to the point of being effective and that is if the person in question does things the right way consistently enough and with enough dedication to get to that point.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #22:

I still agree it is gospel rejection, but its just a little difficult when the bible doesn't state it clearly. But does the bible ever state anything directly?

Response #22:

As our Lord tells us:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Matthew 7:7 KJV

All who knock in truth have it opened to them. But you have to knock. Some things will be clear on reading the Bible the first time; others will take prayer and re-reading and meditation; most difficult or complex issues require access to a Bible teaching ministry that is why the Lord appointed teachers in His Church. And if things sometimes seem difficult or complex, it is to a large degree for this very reason, namely, to test our faith (are we really willing to keep knocking until we get an answer?) and also to establish the principle of the teacher's authority: if it were so simple no teaching were necessary, everyone would be a teacher unto him/herself. Some Christians think that anyway (a great deal do, in fact), but the Bible always makes a mockery of self-teaching by making itself closed to a large degree without the teaching of which we all (even teachers when learning to be teachers) have had to partake.

Wishing you a blessed 2015 in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your help, and for praying for me.

I have some questions for you. Lately, when I read the Bible I find myself reading in the OT. I open the Bible and I end up flipping to the first half. I have no idea why this is. Maybe something in it appeals to me? I usually end up in Jeremiah, Isaiah, Hosea and other books like that. You know the ones where there is a prophet speaking to the people of Israel, and telling them what the Lord has said.

I was wondering though, what is the relevance to us? As modern-day Christians what are we supposed to take away from the OT as a whole. The OT was given to the Jews, so why do we read it today? From my understanding, there are things in the OT that were only meant for the Jews of that time. For example, in Malachi 3:10 the thing about the tithes. I've heard many sermons on not just tithing, but giving to the Lord what is His, based on this verse. Apparently, Malachi 3:10 was for Israel though. That promise is not for the Christians of today. Maybe the whole OT was for Israel of that time. I mean obviously, it is. That was it's original purpose.

In the Bible as a whole how do we know what we are supposed to take away from a certain chapter if anything at all? Are we supposed to try and lift lessons from the Bible? I gave Malachi as an example, but I don't only mean in areas of personal gain. I visit one website where this person posts material. I don't know if you would call them Bible studies. I like them though. One lesson is entitled Give us Barabbas! Please follow the link. I hope I put it in their correctly. It's not long. I agree with the message. My point is, are we supposed to apply the Bible in this way? I know we are supposed to take lessons away from the NT. In the OT though, and from specific situations like the one with Barabbas, are those things applicable to us?

Maybe the entire OT is just a history lesson? It's just saying what happened. Should we not look for a message unless it's explicit?

One other thing is, how do we know when something is a metaphor? In the OT, Zion and Jerusalem is mentioned a lot. What exactly are they? When are they meant as a specific place, and as a symbol? If they are a symbol, a symbol of what? One area where a lot of ink has been spilled over what is a metaphor and what is literal is Zionism. How are we supposed to know? Some things are obvious metaphors, like cutting your hand off. Other things are contested, like turning the other cheek and not resisting an evil person. It does seem that when something is not convenient it ends up being a metaphor. People say that God didn't really mean what He said. I feel this turning into a rant about the religious right, so I'm going to close this email. The Bible says we are to reserve our judgment for those inside the church, and to leave the outsiders to Him. I'm going to try to not say anything about them, unless it's to bring them the gospel.

Thanks,

Response #23:

You cover a lot of ground in this email! Here is what I read in Romans:

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4 NKJV

How does the OT contribute to our "patience and comfort" and support our hope?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2nd Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

So the simplest answer is that all scripture contains truth, and all truth is valuable, often in ways that are not obvious at the time we learn and believe that truth, however seemingly small at the time (and without believing what is said we have only "knowledge"/gnosis, not the "full knowledge"/epignosis which is usable by the Holy Spirit).

However, it was never God's plan for a believer to have to mine all the truth he/she needs directly out of the Bible. There were teachers during Old Testament times; there were teachers during apostolic times; and there are teachers today:

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

In other words, we, the Church, are a Body, meant to function as a whole, not as individual parts, and an essential role of the Body for providing spiritual growth to itself is that of teaching along with all the various and sundry spiritual gifts and ministries that back up any teaching ministry (this ministry would never have survived without the prayer support of many Christians, for example).

So while it is absolutely important for all Christians to read the Bible (please see the link), there is really no way for any Christian to "feed him/herself" merely by doing so and is true even of men who do have the spiritual gift of pastor/teacher (until such point as they are prepared for teaching in every way and come into the ministry Christ has for them which in the history of the Church I dare so most with that gift have failed to do).

Thus spiritual growth answers many of the questions you have here, and as you grow many of these things will become clearer to you. However, growth is based on learning and believing and these require responsiveness to good teaching. As to your link, there is a great difference between a teaching ministry and an entertainment ministry each of these is very obvious from merely a few minutes of inspection. The former can be entertaining (to a point), but the latter is rarely of any value in teaching the truth for the simple reason that a person who is more interested in audience reaction than in substance has things completely backwards, and anyone who is that mixed up is unlikely to know/believe much truth in the first place (and that is where most "ministries" are here in our Laodicean era).

As a Christian grows, the value of the truths learned early on becomes more and more obvious, and some of the things that might have required a teacher to explain will become more perspicuous to personal Bible reading and Bible study. A lot of what you are asking here, namely, what is literal, what is not, etc., is based upon interpretation and correct interpretation is ultimate goal of a good Bible teacher. In other words, to get the "answer" on any given passage requires the entire panoply of preparation any good teacher should have, a good deal of experience in interpreting, the aid of the Holy Spirit . . . and of course the gift . . . which is then followed by a lot hard work. If well done, however, the "answer" should be perceptible and even often seemingly "obvious" to those who hear it taught (after all the hard work is done).

I always advise Christians who are getting serious about reading the Bible to spend more time in the New Testament than in the Old. It is true that all scripture is inspired and valuable, and that there are lessons to be drawn from every Bible passage but for some of the reasons you mention and hint at this is less accessible for the OT than the NT, especially until a Christian becomes a "veteran" at doing so. Adopting a systematic approach to reading scripture is also something I recommend. Maybe one chapter a day in the epistles, one in the gospels, one in the Psalms, and one elsewhere in the OT (front to back) would not be a bad idea. That way, over time you will get through a whole lot of scripture (if consistent day by day) and will be giving a helpful emphasis to the passages most likely to be of direct benefit to the truths you are learning and believing in your daily accessing of solid Bible teaching.

I know I didn't address directly some of the passages you asked about specifically, but if the above doesn't do it, please do feel free to write back about any of these things.

If I haven't already mentioned it, Pastor teacher Curtis Omo's YouTube channel is also something I can recommend highly (see the link). This will give you a very clear idea of what "teaching" versus entertaining is all about.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Question #24:

I just wanted to thank you. I have already learned a lot here. I guess I do have a question. You gave a bible reading plan that called for reading multiple books of the bible at once. I cannot find them again. Will you give me the link to find it again please?

Old person, new Christian

Response #24:

Good to make your acquaintance and thanks so much for your positive comments.

As to Bible reading plans, I don't think I've every put out a definitive plan because I don't want anyone to think that there is only "one way" to do this. As I say in "Read Your Bible" (see the link), the important thing is that you do read your Bible.

What I personally am doing at present in the English Bible though I hasten to add that this is what suits me at this moment, has been different, and may well change in future is to read one chapter *daily from Genesis through Esther; one chapter daily from Job through Song of Solomon, one chapter daily from the Psalms (this gives me a double overlap of Psalms), one chapter daily from Isaiah through Malachi, and one chapter from the New Testament. Sometimes I also read more from the Psalms at night. This is my English reading approach. This probably will not be the best for most people since it may not give sufficient weight to the New Testament: I read a chapter from the epistles in my Greek New Testament daily, and also a section from the gospels, so I end up reading through the whole GNT fairly regularly. I also read from my Hebrew Bible daily (but it takes much longer to read through the OT that way).

I suppose the main thing I personally have discovered over the years is that "more is more", that anything is good (and better than nothing), that consistency is important, and that this should be an enjoyable exercise rather than drudgery. So whatever plan is undertaken, one really ought to include at least something of what is personally enjoyable in addition to pushing through sections which are not as "easy". Reading the Bible through from cover to cover is not a bad thing to do, but beyond all argument, some parts are more important to digest fully (Psalms and the NT, just for example) than others are (Esther and Chronicles, just for example). It's all the wonderful Word of God, but there are a great variety of ways to approach its reading with great enjoyment.

*N.B., by "daily", I mean Sunday through Friday; Saturday is my email posting day so while I read some in Hebrew and Greek, I usually don't do the English reading systematically on this day.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ the living Word of God.

Bob Luginbill
 

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