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In Need of Guidance and Encouragement.

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Question #1: 

Dear Bob,

I thank you very much for Bible study and teaching through your responses to such a variety of engaging questions. Here’s another:

Is studying "Bible Basics" the most useful response to the quest for guidance in assessing the degree of "truth" in reading various interpretations of "Parousia," the Second Coming of Christ (e.g., as outlined in Wikipedia)? What guidelines, feelings, thoughts should be suggest for "knowing" that you're on the right path?

Catholic and Orthodox

Preterism

Mainline Protestant

Seventh Day Adventists

Jehovah's Witnesses

Latter Day Saints

Western Wisdom Teachings

Dispensationalists

Baha'i Faith

Hinduism

Islam

Ahmadiyya

Judaism

Theosophy

I’d like to give some guidance in my "sermon dialogue" questions like this. Where does the average person start? There’s so much to study that it’s easy to see why so many people give up before starting.

Keep the faith,

Response #1:  

On parousia per se, the most accessible thing I have posted to the site is an email response which covers the question directly and provides further links: Parousia. The most comprehensive treatment of the topic from the standpoint of refuting the common evangelical misplacement of the resurrection before the Tribulation are "The Origin and Danger of the Pre-Trib "Rapture" Theory" and "No Rapture". The best way to tackle the issue in the long run would be to "bite the bullet" and study the "Coming Tribulation Series" (which in turn is best understood after first digesting the "Satanic Rebellion" series, deliberately designed as a precursor to the former).

You ask specifically about the (still incomplete) Bible Basics Series, and I would have to say that this is also very important (as is the Peter Series). While I never do, when I'm asked "Where should I start studying the Bible?", I'd like to say "Everywhere". That is because to the question "What is really important?", the only honest answer is "Everything". Ever single snippet of truth the Bible contains is of fundamental importance.

A Christian who has committed himself or herself to following God's plan the right way is like the man in Jesus' parable of the tower: there is little sense laying a foundation without ever getting around to building the structure without which the foundation is pointless. We are here for a purpose: to grow spiritually by learning the truth and believing it; to progress spiritually by applying that truth-believed in our hearts to the situations, trials and tests of our day to day lives; and to help others do likewise through the exercise of the spiritual gifts we have been given in the ministries our Lord severally assigns. And in the process of building this "tower" for Jesus Christ, every single brick is important. We may not know at the time when we learn and believe some seemingly small particle of truth from the Word just how it will contribute later on to the entire of edifice of maturity we are erecting in our hearts, but we should understand and accept that it most certainly is and will be important – or God would not have included it in His Bible. Just as in building a tower we can probably leave out a brick here or a brick there, omit a reinforcing beam or skimp on the mortar occasionally with no appreciable loss of structural integrity, as workmen who seek "not to be ashamed" (2Tim.2:15), we ought instead to be devoted to the absolutely highest possible standard of spiritual construction. And we ought also to be aware that if enough bricks et al. are left to go missing, the structure might just collapse under the stress of unexpected events.

That is really the key to answering your concern about "knowing one is on the right path". That kind of confidence takes faith, truth, and consistent perseverance. First, while people can be encouraged to "have faith" in the first place, and to "keep the faith" after they do believe in Christ, faith is really the non-meritorious exercise of our free will in accepting the veracity of God's Word and acting accordingly. That is to say, when divorced from dead theologizing, "having faith" is choice, and "faith" itself is a series of choices, day by day, to look to God (rather than to the world) and to believe Him (rather than doubting what He has to say). Second, we cannot believe truth we have not heard. To grow, faith needs to be fed, and there is absolutely no substitute in the process of spiritual growth for deep, substantive, orthodox Bible teaching. Personal Bible study and Bible reading, prayer and proper application are very important ingredients in the mix, but the one thing that is most often left out is the commitment to a good source of the truth, one that can be properly vetted and reasonably relied upon thereafter – so as to be believed. Because it is only the truth we have committed to our hearts by believing it that is usable spiritual "capital" for the Spirit's ministry to us in all things (including spiritual confidence going forward). Third, once a Christian has determined to trust God completely, and once he or she has found and committed to a sound source of spiritual food, thereafter persistence and consistency of approach are – as in all worthwhile endeavors in life – absolutely critical in order to make any lasting progress.

Spiritual confidence, "knowing" that one is on the right path, is the result of this process of growth. Can we know ahead of time and in the early going which way to go? We can certainly know enough. God never allows the slightest bit of positive, spiritual desire to go unsatisfied: if we knock, He always opens, and He guides us by His Spirit. The point is that very few ever really knock – and God most definitely knows the difference between those who are really interested in the truth and those who are merely trying to cover up their choices to live their lives the way they want by claiming "there really are no answers". Sadly, the latter group massively outnumbers the former.

A long way of saying "seek the truth, live the truth, teach the truth". And let God sort out the wheat from the chaff. We often can't tell the difference, but our Lord knew which was which before He made the world.

Best wishes for the dialogue!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Bob, I want to share a story which I feel is pertinent to the life of a sincere believer, which I feel I am!

I've been praying for a new job for one year. I started, with a minister ( even though I don't agree with much of what he believes ). I was supposed to begin work this past Monday. My insurance ended on with my new insurance ( for me and my diabetic daughter ) to begin on about a week later. I was hoping to go those FEW days with not problem. Incredibly, the day after it ended, I developed a tear in my retina which means that I had to be seen by a specialist, have a sizeable bill coming and had to "rush" to buy COBRA coverage.

I sincerely feel that this is a satanic attack as I have rarely have medical problems and this really put a damper on my the whole "high" about the job and overtly answered prayer. Also, I have not gone to work this week because Hurricane Irene knocked out power to the building.

Hopefully, this over attack means that I am in Yahweh's will and getting closer to "my promised land" ( as it pertains to "this world" ). While it has affected my mood, I am trying to "do God proud" with my attaitude. To boot, I will, likely, have to miss a couple of days after the procedure.

Feedback will be appreciated!

Response #2:

Sorry to hear about your troubles (I said a prayer for you about this for your deliverance).

On the one hand, the evil one and his minions oppose believers in all sorts of devious ways. If they had their way, they would wipe all believers off the face of the earth in no time. But God prevents them. Jesus loves us and knows what we need. He never lets us down. That does not mean that we are not going to face trouble in this world – here we have tribulation, but Jesus has overcome the world (Jn.16:33).

No doubt one of the reasons why we are allowed to be "tribulated" is for our own good, for our spiritual growth, so that we might learn to trust Jesus beyond what our eyes see, and also to glorify Him by trusting Him when any unbeliever would be completely depressed. In fact, testing and suffering are essential parts of spiritual growth. No one wants them (why would we?), but only unbelievers and lukewarm believers face no such challenges. The devil opposes advancing believers and it is only positive believers who are capable of passing these tests. Without the book of Job and other scriptures which make these things clear, we might not realize that being put "under the gun" is really a compliment to our spiritual efforts – not that it seems so at the time, and, to be sure, when we do find ourselves under such pressures we often find it hard not to react with anger against God or depression or hopelessness or worry or fear or what have you. But with continued attention to the truth of scripture, believers can come to understand that God is in control, that Jesus is walking with us every step of the way, that everything that happens is part of God's plan from eternity past, and that He will never let anything happen to us which is not really and truly working things out for our absolute good – for those who love Him, that is (Rom.8:28). Our Lord Jesus takes care of everything; our part is to trust that He is doing so and not become despondent or give into any negative emotions. If we can praise the Lord like Job did initially in complete acceptance of whatever God brings our way, then we are really getting somewhere in our spiritual growth. That is not an "easy lift", not the stuff of the spiritually immature, and not something achieved without a deep and abiding knowledge of the scriptures, the truth behind them, and believing what we have learned and been taught about these things.

Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 8:2-3 NIV

We can all be heroes in our dreams. We can all see what the other person ought to do when the trouble flies heavy and thick. The mark of a mature believer who is really living for Jesus Christ is their absolutely blind-faith and unwavering trust in the Lord's deliverance even when everything seems to be falling apart. They are the ones who have learned to really believe and trust in the character, the promises, the love, the goodness of God and the truth of His Word beyond what their eyes see and their ears hear. And without some trouble, that spiritual resiliency would never be developed, would never be refined, and would never be demonstrated to the world of men and angels both. Through testing, we build muscle on our faith, so that in time we can face even the most demanding tests to the glory of our Lord Jesus and to our own great eternal reward.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Psalm 46:1-3 NIV

So while we should ever have a humble heart and be willing to confess any sin and accept the responsibility for any divine discipline coming due, sometimes – and more and more as we grow – we will find that such challenges are really a matter of sharing Christ's sufferings (1Pet.4:13; cf. Rom.8:17; 2Cor.1:5; Phil.3:10; Col.1:24; cf. 2Cor.12:7-10). Consider the case of good king Hezekiah:

(21) In everything that he undertook in the service of God's temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. (1) After all that Hezekiah had so faithfully done, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and invaded Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities, thinking to conquer them for himself.
2nd Chronicles 31:21 – 32:1

Now it would not be surprising to read later in this passage that Hezekiah had reacted incorrectly: "Why me, God? Haven't you been paying attention to all I have done in faithfulness?". But instead, Hezekiah continued to trust the Lord, and in spite of coming near the brink of disaster, God averted the disaster in a most amazing and miraculous way, a way, I feel it safe to say, that Hezekiah could never have anticipated. Our Lord is a Lord of mercy and of miraculous deliverances. He will never break faith with us. Our part is to stay confident in Him and faithful to Him, even when the storm clouds gather and deliverance seems impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Matthew 19:26 NIV

Here are some other links I hope you will find encouraging:

Mutual Encouragement in Christ.

Christian Trials and Testing

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.

In need of encouragement.

Spiritual Resiliency.

Waiting on God.

Stand fast in Jesus Christ.

Praying for your deliverance.

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Bob, I understand the premise of your article on Christian suffering, however, describing a life of continual trials seems at odds with many Bible verses such as "ask and you will receive") most REAL believers do ask for answers which are within acceptable Biblical parameters.

Also, it's much easier for a single person to face, for example, financial difficulties than for one who supports or helps support a family to do so!

Also, people who ask for a like minded mate and doesn't get one when the Bible also states that it's "better to marry than to burn".

Also, I often hear people say a variation of: " sometime the answer is yes, sometimes no and sometimes wait". When is "wait" a "no"? One year, two years?

Another note "Some of the Bible verses are written for church leaders (and I don't mean people with fancy titles) and not for most Christians and are sometimes, therefore, quoted out of context."

Any feedback on the above?

Response #3: 

Good to make your acquaintance, and thank you for your email.

I certainly agree that many believers – possibly even most (God knows) – "ask for answers which are within acceptable biblical parameters". Moreover, I think that if you read further at Ichthys you will see that the last thing I would wish to do is to discourage persistence in prayer which is a clear biblical teaching (please see the link: "Cumulative Prayer").

Second, what you say about the trials and tribulations of married and family life is also biblical, and something I would never seek to deny. Paul says about marriage that such will "have tribulations in this life, and I am trying to spare you" (1Cor.7:28). But that does not mean, however, that single people do not have their share of trials and tribulations too. After all, Paul was single, and his various catalogs of personal sufferings are, I would suggest, not only beyond what the average believer would even come close to being able to tolerate, but also perhaps unprecedented since Job. In any case, I certainly did not mean anything said in this email response to be applicable to singles over marrieds or vice-versa. Nor do I believe we should try to "one up" each other in what we suffer. Scripture says, to the contrary, that we ought to draw perspective from the fact that "the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" (regardless of their family status; 1Pet.5:19). The Peter series in particular (please see the link) is dedicated to helping believers cope with such personal tribulations, regardless of their status.

On the issue of finding a spouse if single, I would certainly agree that this might not be in God's plan for everyone. It is certainly true that we are counseled to marry in the vast majority of cases (something scripture says and I have never denied). God is faithful to help us wait when we must wait; to bless us in marriage when it is His time and purpose for us; and to help us to endure "single bliss" for those who are in it, for as long as He wants us to be in it. In all these matters, it is God's will that counts; our job is to respond to that will in faith and patience.

On "how long" to wait, well, we certainly have scriptural parallels for instantaneous prayer results (Gen.29:9) and very long waits indeed (Abraham waited over a decade for the birth of Isaac, for example). I would say that we should never give up, and should instead have faith that God will either answer our prayers specifically or, in time, give us the strength and the wisdom to understand the answer we are given. With God, there is only "yes", if we ask in faith and are willing to let Him answer His way. Our part is to demonstrate our faith without wavering, and to grow spiritually to the point where what we ask is indeed in His will:

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1st John 5:14 NIV

The issue of context is an important one. Many people and many Christians quote verses out of context and misapply them all the time. It takes spiritual maturity and a deep foundation in the truth of the Word of God to begin to get to the place where all the wondrous things in scripture begin to come together into one consistent and glorious whole. When they do, we find that we are understanding, applying, and even quoting scripture more in tune with the actual truth it contains better and better day by day. That is what we have been called to: to grow spiritually and help others do the same.

Helping Christians in this endeavor is the purpose of this ministry, Ichthys, and you are most certainly welcome to visit and to email me any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #4: 

Thanks for the "energetic" response. I appreciate it! It's not my opinion that, necessarily, trials of those with a family are more challenging that those of single folks. I happen to be both, by the way, I'm "single" ( widower ) with a daughter who goes to college and lives at home. I was trying to convey that the pressure of having to "provide" can make trials ( especially financial trials ) , all things being equal, a tad harder than, for example, if it was just me.

Actually, the whole topic speaks to my dilemma quite well: 1) I badly need a higher paying job as my present job has been ravaged by the economic slow down 2) I "need" a like minded wife for a number of reasons such as emotional support, sex, companionship and spiritual support.

I have been praying fervently ( and, objectively, don't see much sin in my life ) for a "solution" to both and, as of now, "no dice". As you might imagine, it can be excruciating, at times. Never the less, I do know that any Christian worth his/her salt, will be tested, so, I do take it as a compliment, even though it hurts.

A bit under a year ago, I did have obvious sin in my life, whenever I felt the delay to answered prayer, I drowned mu hurt in alcohol, I no longer do that!

By the way, I'm very Bible literate and quite committed to "The Way".

Any thought on the above? Any examples of overt answered prayer in YOUR trials that you want to share?

Response #4:  

You're very welcome. I can certainly appreciate where you are coming from. And it certainly is true that God sometimes answers prayers immediately and precisely as we frame them.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.
1st John 5:14 NIV

The operative phrase highlighted above opens up what is at the heart of "unanswered" or, more often, "perceived as unanswered" prayers. As human beings, our temporal perspective is highly limited and limiting, and even as believers our ability to understand let alone focus on the true "big picture" of the plan of God is often woefully deficient. God's plan is comprehensive and takes in everything that has ever happened in human history and ever will. We tend to think of our problems as new developments of which God needs to be apprised. That is actually very funny, seeing that He foreordained the number of hairs on our heads (and when each one would fall out) before He even created the universe.

And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Matthew 6:7-8 NIV

Clearly, God knows what we need before we ask – but He also knows what we really need. It is sometimes unpleasant to contemplate what it is we really need. What Jesus wants from us is spiritual response: spiritual growth (through hearing and believing the truth of God's Word), spiritual advance (through applying that truth we believe to our lives, especially in testing), and spiritual production (aiding our fellow believers in this same process through the gifts and ministries we have been individually assigned). Seen from that point of view, what we deem to be hardship, our Lord may see as "good training". The question is, how will we react to the tests which come our way? After all, if we were really praying in the will of God, we would want just what Jesus wants for us.

All this is not to say that God only wants us to have hard times. Far from it! If were training up a young son, we would discipline him when necessary, and we would no doubt make him do some things he really didn't want to do on occasion, whether trips to the doctor and dentist, making him get up in the morning and go to school, giving him chores and otherwise introducing him to experiences which might not be easy but which would test his mettle and help him prepare for life. Certainly, we would not deny him basic needs, and just as certainly we would be generous with our other blessings as well. There would be times when he "didn't get what he wanted" or when "he had to do something he didn't want to do", but we would be acting towards him in love at all times, doing what was right and good for him as best we saw it. Without question, God's love for us surpasses any love any father ever had for a son; after all, He sacrificed His Son unto death for our sakes.

So we can be sure that if our prayers are not being answered how we want and when we want that it is for our own good. God knows things we don't know. To return to the analogy, if we had cancer or if we could see that our country was likely to be taken over by a hostile power in the near term, we might subject our young son to much more intense training; we might be much harder on him to bring him along on the road to honorable manhood sooner that might otherwise be necessary. It is likely that he might not appreciate the pressure, and even possible that he might react to it by becoming angry with us. But we would persevere nonetheless because out of our love for him our desire for his welfare would be a greater concern than his displeasure. If we as mere human beings can sometimes act that way out of love, we can be certain that everything God is doing for us is not only fair and just, but motivated by love and done with our best interests at heart.

We live on the precipice of the end times. If it be our lot to find ourselves in their midst, we are going to need every bit of faith and faithfulness we can muster to negotiate those difficult days ahead and survive with our faith intact. At the resurrection, we will know for certain that every bit of difficulty that came our way had a very specific purpose, if not to discipline us, then to train us . . . and to glorify our Lord. As you put it so very well, "any Christian worth his/her salt, will be tested, so, I do take it as a compliment, even though it hurt". That is precisely what we all need to do. Respond to discipline, endure hardship, and rejoice in sharing the sufferings of Christ, knowing that however challenging things are at the moment, it is very possible that they will become exponentially more difficult in the times to come. Wise Christians make spiritual hay while the sun shines. Even it is presently cloudy, that is nothing compared to the storms ahead. We really do need to do everything we can to prepare ourselves spiritually for the Tribulation, learning as much as we can about the truths contained in the Bible, believing them assiduously, and seeing our present troubles as opportunities for growth and glorification . . . "even if it hurts".

I have had all manner of experiences in my life so far. I have had instantaneous answers to prayer and have had to wait on the resolution to certain problems for many years. For some, I am still waiting. But I trust God to provide all I really need to get by in between and to supply all my genuine needs (even it is not in the way I personally would otherwise have them met). One consistent theme in my life on this score has been the blessedly unexpected nature of the way God works things out. Things almost never turn out the way I expect them to turn out. But they always turn out. Glory to God the Father and Jesus Christ my Lord!

I will certainly say a prayer for you and your situation.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hello,

I was told to send you this same story below that I posted on a Christian forum: I have been doubting my salvation, and thought I got saved earlier this year - the story below happened two year earlier and much has changed about me, and for me since than.

Thank you, and take care.

Okay so my mind keeps going back almost two years ago. Around this time I believe I may have been saved for the first time. Up until this time my friend (which I no longer talk to sadly due to other issues) was telling me about Jesus Christ. He used the King James Bible, and he just gave me the word verbally. I don't know for sure at one point I did believe [if this is when I believed opposed to earlier this year] and I had my "Change." You see after this happened I went and started putting my stuff out on the lawn - I was both convicted and compelled to do so. I didn't need the stuff, and just gave it away - earthly possessions you could say. After leaving a bunch of stuff outside I took my Bible [It was an NIV, but its all I had at the time so I used it] and went out into my town starting to preach and shouting out, "Repent for the Kingdom is at hand!" "God Bless!" "Turn from your sins, etc." These were things I was saying to people, and was quoting scripture I believe from the Bible. I said some prayers, and one of my prayers was that "Lord let one person even stop," and guess what? About a minute, or so later - maybe less a red jeep came down the main street through the middle of town, and stopped where I was. I quoted some scripture to him from John [Don't remember where at though] and he said keep up the good work as he liked what I was doing, and he was a Christian himself I believe. Now after this I went walking through town (As I was on a corner before where the guy stopped, and I was shouting at) and shouted out even more to the rest of the town to quote: "Repent and Believe the Gospel!" Well eventually I returned home - My sister freaked out and said I was "Nuts" and she became so afraid of me that she left the house fearing for her life? - The next day my mother returned home very quickly, because someone reported me (which I have found out who since then) and she told me not to leave, because we were going to talk when she got back from grocery shopping. I went out again after they left and preached again on another side of town. I went to the local park, and met someone there, and I said to him (after this thought came into my mind - the name Jacob) "Your name from now on shall be Jacob" to which he responded, "My name is Jacob," and after this I talked to him a little and preached the Gospel to him with the Bible in my hands sharing scriptures with him. After this I went into this open back room on the park and was back there from all morning until like night time praying - probably six hours, or more. After this I headed to my friends house to talk to him, and he was worried about me (Found out some people came to talk to him while I was missing, because my mother had called the cops to go look for missing me) and said my Mother was searching for me, and that I should go home. Oh on another side note: Both days I had these papers that I taped to the back, and front of me that had stuff I wrote on them like "Repent, Believe the Gospel, Jesus Christ, etc." Anyways moving on...I did go home, and my Mother was all hysterical asking where I went. She told the cops I returned home, and they did come out to the house, but only she talked to them. She didn't say much more to me that night that I can remember. The next morning to some Psychologist in the town not far away. He asked me questions, and I pretty much remained silent [like Jesus was at his trial was my thinking and why I did this] and the only time I opened my mouth was to quote scripture to him. Seeing he wasn't getting anywhere with me he took my mother in the outside room, and talked with her privately. After this we headed to the city, and I was put into a "Mental health clinic" that was a unique one for only a few days - it wasn't the normal ones you stayed in a long time. In this place they wouldn't let me have my Bible and took it away from me. I didn't talk much about Jesus in this place, and I suppose its cause I didn't have my Bible, but I did lay my hands on this one guy who was really troubled mentally [I thought he was distressed or affected by evil spirits] and prayed for him, and commanded them to leave in the name of the Lord as we shared a room together. Anyways a few days passed and it came to the first night they prescribed the medication to me. I hid it in my mouth, but never actually swallowed it, and spit it out in the sink inside of our personal room we shared and washed it down. However the second night for whatever reason I began to have doubts, and did swallow and take it. That night I remember saying something like this [Can't remember exact words] but it was like "Release me, or get me out of here Satan." I remember saying words exactly like that, or close to that. I remember crying shortly before that, and I had been praying a lot earlier to the Lord. - I think at this point I may have lost my salvation, but I am not sure. The next day I was promptly released from that place - Kind of strange. I believe I put this in my testimony I published on this forum, but maybe not - point being i have been thinking deeper on all this stuff that happened lately, and it makes me wonder if I lost my soul, or salvation somehow, because of what happened. I know I was changed when I went out preaching, because I was on fire and had a completely changed mind and heart. I wanted to serve the Lord, and was walking in the Spirit for sure. There was no doubt about that. Is it possible you can lose your salvation? What do you all think of this experience? [I was changed, because I think I believed then, but now it seems like I'm like my old self and ways possibly.] Please note I do not equate my salvation with works, but there will be EVIDENCE of salvation by the works AFTER your saved. Undecided

Response #5:  

Good to make your acquaintance. I read your posting, but it is not clear to me why you think you have "lost your salvation". Please understand, I find much in your pattern of actions and in your descriptions with which to disagree personally (I try not to judge other Christians' applications as a general rule, but under the circumstances I thought it important to mention – see at the end of this email), but it is unclear from what you have written why it is that you are suddenly uneasy about your faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith.
Ephesians 2:8a NASB

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.
Acts 16:31a NASB

These verses make it very clear that we are saved by believing in Jesus. A believer is someone who has a living faith in Jesus Christ. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved. If you do not believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the One who took on true humanity and came into this world and died for the sins of all, then you are not saved.

It is really as simple as that.

There is only one way for a believer to "lose salvation", to "become an apostate": to stop having faith in Jesus Christ. This does occasionally happen:

They on the rock [are they], which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.
Luke 8:13 KJV

The phrase "fall away" is clearer in the Greek: "they turn apostate". How does this happen? The parallel passages in the other gospels fill this in for us a bit:

And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word's sake, immediately they are offended.
Mark 4:16-17 KJV

But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
Matthew 13:20-21 KJV

Affliction, persecution, tribulation, temptation, the various pressures of life, lead people into sin, and sin, when it comes full circle unrepented and unconfessed, has the capacity to blunt, degrade, and even put to death our faith.

But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
James 1:14-15 KJV

Make no mistake: loss of salvation is not accidental nor is it particularly "easy" to accomplish. A Christian has to get to the point of actually throwing his/her faith in Jesus away in order to apostatize, has to actually "stop believing" in Him, and has to stop following and caring about Him (and salvation) in order to be lost once saved.

Loss of salvation is a very extreme thing and only happens, as the verses above indicate, where the "faith plant" was never set deep into the heart in the first place (i.e., "the soil" in the parable) but was kept at arms length by the person in question (i.e., the "rock" or personal resistance of heart beneath some thin soil kept it from rooting deep).

I have seen and heard of this phenomenon often enough. In some cases, a vulnerable Christian reacts to a terrible loss of a loved one, blames God for the loss, and stops believing. In some cases, a vulnerable Christian is sucked into a vortex of sin and has his/her faith compromised to the point where eventually he/she is no longer willing to come to repentance and eventually abandons in his/her heart the Kingdom of God for the kingdom of this world – not because of sin per se, but because under such circumstances the weak faith of the Christian in question dies. That is, the person is no longer a Christian, no longer a believer, because they no longer believe.

In my experience and observation, those who, like yourself, are worried about their salvation are almost always still Christians. That is because for a person to lose salvation they have to care so very little about their faith in Jesus Christ that they throw it away. On the one hand, it seems inconceivable to me that a person who no longer believes that Jesus is the Son of God, God in the flesh, come to earth and having paid the price for all sin, can fail to realize they do not believe this any longer. And on the other hand, if a person has thrown away their so-great salvation, it is equally inconceivable to me that they would care much if at all – and certainly not enough to go to the lengths you are going to to find out.

Doubting salvation is, truth be told, indicative of spiritual immaturity (I do not mean that in an unkind way – we all started as "babes in Christ" and all had need of milk before solid food), so that in most cases when Christians ask this question what they really need is not to be "re-saved" but to grow up spiritually. This ministry, Ichthys, is devoted to that very purpose, and I am most pleased to offer you all the resources it contains (it's all free of charge or obligation). I would also be very happy to suggest a plan of study which would help you with taking in the teaching of the truth available here (although there is a general guide already posted to the site at the link: FAQ #8 "Recommended Sequence of Study")

To begin, however, I strongly advise you to start with the link: "Have I lost my Salvation?"; this will lead you to other helpful studies on this particular topic as well, and, I believe, give you some confidence that you are not lost so long as you continue to have faith in Jesus Christ.

In Jesus our dear Lord in whom we are safe and saved,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6:  

Hi Bob,

Up late thinking and it doesn't matter where I go on this internet I am always the odd ball out. Everyone either believes in osas, pre-trib, kjv only, no hell, no real ac and the list goes on and on. I always state my views but will not get into any deep debates about any of it any longer.

I just want a place where I can go to discuss with like-minded individuals. This is not happening. Is there any place that you know of? Being a Christian truly is a lonely path. I am not saying these others are not Christians, most of these issues are not a matter of lost salvation, but like you state, it presents a much more difficult path. I just find that these groups of people are many and are of a very elitist attitude...the 'in-crowd'. They look down on anyone who doesn't agree with them almost to the point that I am lost because I don't agree. I don't allow their words to bring me down, but I do long for something or some place to go for real-time edification. Church used to be that place but that just isn't happening for me.

Sorry to sound so down, it is not my intention. Still home everyday as I cannot find work. Things are getting tight and I am always alone with my thoughts, too much. Anyways, I am hoping life is treating you well. Always looking forward to your emails. I'll feel sad when your work in these studies are finished. I am hoping you begin some new ones or is that selfish of me?

Please forgive the late hour, although I know you'll open it at an appropriate time, just that my mind should be asleep but is not and therefore who knows what this will look like in the morning. lol.

Take care and always remain in the arms and peace of our Lord Jesus,

Response #6:

Sorry to hear that you are in a rough patch. Things have looked better here too (although come to think of it that was a long time back). I wait on the Lord's deliverance in all things.

I do sympathize with you about fellowship. Believe me, if there were a denomination or even an informal association or type of church nowadays where there was actual Bible teaching going on and an atmosphere of delving into the Word of God instead of the disheartening mess one finds seemingly everywhere today I would be in that group/type/whatever. There are no doubt a few independent churches where someone like yourself who truly has put Jesus first in her life might find fellowship and spiritual satisfaction, and I will continue to pray for you on that point (and also on the job/ministry front).

Whether we are up or down, the angels and the saints are watching and cheering us on. They have little to cheer about these days. All the more reason for people like yourself to keep in the habit of "encouraging themselves in the Lord" and remembering that all this is passing away – but the glories and rewards of all that is to come put even the worst days in the shade.

Apologies for the "shortness and sweetness" of this reply, but I didn't want to leave this hanging until I got back.

The love of Jesus Christ is wider and higher and deeper than any heartache we can conceive. Walk with Him.

In our dear Savior.

Bob L.

Question #7:  

I see numerous places around the Bible where God says we reap what we sown, aka seed time and harvest, and even where Jesus says the Kingdom of God is based on this concept in Mark 4:26. If this is true, then why don't all preachers recognize and teach that this is a truth that work in every area of Christian life?

Response #7: 

If you want to consider the theme throughout scripture, a parallel passage for the negative aspects of this theme would be . . .

Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same.
Job 4:8 KJV

This alludes to the well-known scriptural truth that there are consequences for sins. And there are, in fact, all sorts of consequences for sins, not only the natural results of what we do in life but also divine discipline (please see the link: God's Dealing with the Sins of Individual Human Beings, wherein both categories are discussed).

As to Mark 4:26, in the context there Jesus is referring to the fact that as we work at our personal ministries here on earth, God produces results in His own time and His own way, results of which we may not even be aware in our own lifetimes. For as our Lord also says . . .

I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.
John 4:38 NIV

This "good reaping" as opposed to reaping the consequences of sin, is always speaking of the results of Christian production, results that will be rewarded in eternity when each of us is evaluated for what we do on earth (please see the link: The Judgment and Reward of the Church).

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves [with him].
Psalm 126:5-6 KJV

As to what others teach, I think it is true that the level of Bible teaching in the church-visible here in the last days of our era of Laodicea (please see the link) is indeed appallingly deficient, and not only in this one area but in almost all categories of Bible doctrine (except perhaps marriage and family which is what itching ears want to hear about – but very often this is gotten wrong too despite the over-emphasis). I think you will find, however, that Ichthys is not guilty of any of this, and I invite you to explore the ministry fully. I also stand ready to answer your questions about this or any other biblical topic.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8: 

OK, seems like you are a "glass half empty" kinda guy who is affixed on evil only...I supposed there are no consequences for righteousness???

Good luck with that...

Response #8:  

Not at all!

The gist of my response, if you read it carefully, is that while people generally use "reap what you sow" in a negative sense, in the Bible sowing and reaping (used as metaphors) are almost always positive, referring to ministry and the believer's eternal rewards. Our glasses, as believers, are full to overflowing in Jesus Christ.

This ministry has always been focused on spiritual growth so that believers may appreciate these things, become more like Jesus day by day, and come to produce a bountiful crop for Him so as to earn a maximum reward in this life and be blessed all the more for all eternity.

I am certain that if you have a look at any of the postings at Ichthys you will see that you have gotten entirely the wrong impression.

In Jesus our dear for whom we wait with breathless anticipation,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Please put me on your email list for future studies. This site is such a blessing, and to think that you do not ask for monetary funds.

Response #9:  

Good to make your acquaintance – and thank you for your kind and supportive words.

I have just placed your address on my mailing list.

Thanks so much for your interest in this ministry.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #10:  

I will try to keep this short. I have been searching for an answer diligently for many years. I feel that maybe your thoughts on this matter will help, maybe.

Was raised in a horrible environment of abuse and neglect. Never knew anything about Jesus until I was in my late 20's. Heard about Jesus and truthfully thought all the people I was around were crazy beyond words. So I had a saving experience in the privacy of my home. Never told anyone cause I thought I was crazy. But then one day I shared it with an older person who showed me a scripture that was just like my experience. I devoted years to Bible study, alone. I believed God showed me many things. I NEVER shared my personal pain of abuse with anyone my entire life. Then one day I was told that it was God's will everything that happened to me in my life. I was devastated; how could HE plan and will for so much sadness to happen in my life? Through my disappointment I have been trying to find the truth. The MAN I met one night that changed my life would never allow or permit this type of sin. Through my seeking the pain has continued but on a different scale as I now hold physical scars from so called Christians who hurt me horribly. They still vow I was willed by God to suffer and so on and so forth but my mind won't rest. I am alone now and will continue to seek the truth about God's sovereignty and man's free will until the day I die.

Thanking you in advance for your opinion.

Response #10:

Good to make your acquaintance. I am very sorry to hear of your suffering, both that of your early years and also what you have endured from (supposed) brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. We live in a Church era of very weak understanding of the scripture and the truth it contains (please see the link: The Era of Laodicea). Although we have more advantages than any prior period or generation, generally speaking, most Christians today are little interested in deep study of the Bible. The small truths they know (or think they know or only partially know or are largely wrong about), they tend to use like sledge hammers on other people, often on other believers. I think this makes them feel more important; it also helps disguise the fact that they are not really doing their "job" in growing up in Jesus and helping others to do the same. This seems to be your experience as well.

The issue of the divine decrees, of sovereignty versus free will, is one that was often indelicately phrased by the Reformers in their battles against a hostile Roman Catholicism. Since the latter religion was trying to extinguish them (literally), it may perhaps be understandable that they would wish to put their opposing point of view in very clear relief. As always, since the truth is the truth, over-stating and under-stating inevitably result in mis-stating. Still and all, the Reformers are not as "out to lunch" on the issue as one might think from, say, the statements of hyper-Calvinists such as you seem to have had dealings with. For example, the famous theologian Charles Hodge, in volume II of his Systematic Theology, section 9.3, reconciles the problem of sovereignty vs. free will as "certainty consistent with liberty", and this seems to me to be entirely true. So while I find most of what has been done on this issue deficient, the over-simplified distillations of most current practitioners of hyper-Calvinism are highly deficient even when it comes to understanding correctly what their own founders and experts really meant.

I have written quite a lot about this issue recently, and will give you the links below to some very detailed and somewhat lengthy expositions on this subject (please see especially the link part 4 of Bible Basics: Soteriology). The gist of my position, however, is that you are right to be upset about this "homogenized Will of God" position and precisely for the reason you are upset, namely, the blame it wrongly casts upon the Lord. I think the best way I can put it is to call to remembrance the very critical fact that Jesus died for all mankind (see the link: "Unlimited Atonement"). God the Father, having judged all sin in His one and only dear Son so that the price has now been paid for the salvation of every single human being, wants every single human being to be saved (1Tim.2:4; cf. Ezek.18:23; Matt.18:14; Jn.3:16; 12:47; 2Tim.2:24-26; 2Pet.3:9).

God wants all to be saved; but all are not saved. Does this mean that God's sovereignty can be overturned? God forbid! What it means is that God allows human beings the free will to act, even when it is opposed to His will. By all means, all sin, all evil, all the terrible things that happen in this world are most definitely not "what God wants"; they are merely things that God allows to happen contrary to what He would choose.

It is unquestionably the case that God could prevent all sin, all evil, all suffering, all crime, all abuse . . . but not in creating creatures who have genuine free will and genuine choice. Doing away with all the negative things creatures possessed of true free will do and commit would require doing away with their free will as well. The Lord could have made it impossible for Satan to rebel; He could have made it impossible for Adam and Eve to fall; and He could make it impossible for human beings currently alive to be unloving, to be sinful, to be careless, to be self-centered, to steal, to lie, to cheat, to murder, etc. But God could not do so without taking away the one thing that makes us who we are in the very pith of our essence: our free will.

In this world people go through terrible things. The question "why, God?", is one that comes very quickly and very easily to human lips. In many cases, however, at least in terms of the very specific thing we are asking about, we may not get the answer this side of eternity. We do have it in general terms, however: God has never done nor could He ever do anything unfair, unloving, unkind, or unrighteous. If we suffer something of the sort, we are not right to blame God for it. The blame lies with the evil one and his earthly minions (whether they know they are working for the devil or not).

When Peter and John were imprisoned and going to be executed, the Lord had them released from prison through an angel and saved their lives (Acts5:17-26); God saved their lives, but He didn't stop them from being horribly lashed afterwards for doing nothing but what God had told them to do (Acts 5:40). Understanding these matters aright, the apostles praised the Lord for being allowed to suffer disgrace in His Name (Acts 5:41); they didn't blame God, because they realized the difference between what comes from Him and what comes from evil human beings in the service of the evil one, and they trusted Him, even though He did not prevent something most people would have found very difficult or even impossible to bear up under.

These seven thousand years of human history are a time of spiritual conflict and spiritual combat. I'm not sure which is worse: failing to understand this fact altogether (as is the case in many liberal congregations), or failing to make the distinction between what is coming from our Team Leader and what is coming from the opposite team. Either way, we are dealing with doctrinal dysfunction, and, given the importance of the issue, a very large spiritual vulnerability. For in the first case a person will have not a clue that terrors and disasters are part of a greater conflict that is being waged seen and unseen all around us, one which is far more important than what one reads in the papers. And in the latter case, a person is likely to begin to see God as the "enemy" – or at least someone to be kept at arm's length. That would truly be a travesty, for He is our Rock; Jesus is the One who gets us through the trouble, the pain, the suffering, past and present. It is because we belong to Him that, like the apostles, we are "targets", but, like the apostles, as we grow we learn to shoulder the weight of the responsibility that comes with being "soldiers of Jesus Christ" (please see the link: "Strangers in the Devil's Realm").

Without Jesus, we are nothing and have nothing; with Him, we have eternal life and an opportunity to continue to glorify Him through opposing the evil one and to earn eternal rewards day by day regardless of who we are, where we have been, or what we have endured: and that is "the Will of God".

Here are those links:

Free-Will Faith and the Will of God

Faith: What is it?

Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God.

In the One in whom we trust for eternal life according to His Will, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

Bob Luginbill

Question #11:  

Dear Bob:

I just ran across your wonderful website a few days ago. It has been such an encouragement to me. Thank you for your humble service to our Lord and to His children.

As I read the emails of those going through trials ... It gave me a sense of great hope. I love the Lord with my whole heart. I seek His face in all that I do. I was saved at the age of 10. Didn't really "sell out" totally to Him until I has around 18 (when I was baptized). I know that baptism has nothing to do with my salvation, but is simply a commandment of God and an outward public symbol to my commitment.

I am going through great trials but the interesting thing is that everything is "very good" for the most part. I have a wonderful loving spouse (not perfect) that loves the Lord and four amazing children who are all saved. The last year I have been tormented greatly. I think it might be of the "evil one" ... But not sure. Our family has been greatly blessed financially (but going through very rough times right now). My spouse' business is being hit pretty hard now. We are drawing very close to feeling that the "evil one" is attacking. Still, read Bibles daily and pray (sometimes together), and we have dedicated the business to the Lord and the office prays together every week.

I have been led to start 2 ministries over the past several years. The last ministry I was led to start an after school ministry for teenagers. The Lord also allowed me to start an after school (elementary) Bible Study that has spread to all the elementary schools in our district and just

recently spread to the 2 Middle Schools. I say all this not to brag but to give you some background. I used to be a "very happy" person. I used to wake up with "Jesus" on my mind and be very joyful most of the time.

For the past 8-10 months I wake up tormented. I have a cloudy mind. I might add that "my children have been my life" and now all that is changing. Our children are growing up and moving away and I feel we may have made them a bigger priority than should have been the case. I just want to get back to where I was but feel God wants to take me through this valley for a reason. I pray that my eyes be open to "things" he wants me to see. That I would be moldable. I love Him so much and want to do His will. I feel like "I am trying" too hard sometimes to be good. I want to be obedient to His calling whatever it may be.

The two previous ministries I mentioned were God ordained "I feel". The Bible Club was started from a burden from my sons heart. He said "I am just so afraid what is going to happen to my friends who do not know Christ". I was heart broken to see his sadness yet thrilled to see his burden for his friends souls. Without even thinking I asked him if he would like to start a Bible Study at school and he, without hesitation, said yes. That was the beginning of the Bible Study that is still thriving today. The other ministry, I feel, was another God ordained ministry. I am not a speaker .. nor a leader, but God lifted me up to start this ministry. I was totally out of my comfort zone, but he gave me courage and "the words" to share the vision. It is a long story but I feel it is nothing less than a miracle on how it transpired. It is now thriving in our Middle School.

Well, a big part of my attack started when, "I felt" the Lord wanting me to give up control of this last ministry and focus my attention on my youngest son. I did feel the Lord "releasing" me from

the mental burden of this ministry .. and I felt myself "letting go and letting God" take control in this ministry. But I haven't had peace in my life (in other areas) ever since. I'm not sure what the problem is. There are SO MANY positives in my life. But I can't seem to get out of this torment. I read the Bible a lot, pray, listen to sermons/talks all the time (Charles Stanley, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, Joyce Meyer) It seems to be a battlefield in my mind. My thought-life is so negative. Guilt ridden. Things I could have done better. I'm sorry to ramble on but just hurting very badly and do not know how to get past this.

Thank you for your wonderful website. It has been such a huge source of encouragement to me.

Blessings to you,

Response #11: 

I was recently making a rare pass through Ichthy's server email saves (the place where all the junk mail accretes), and noticed to my dismay that I had two very legitimate emails which for some reason had not been forwarded to my main account (yours being one of them). I am still not sure why this happened (spam programs have a tendency to pass Nigerian bank-scam emails on to the inbox and delete the ones from one's family complaining about health concerns), but I wanted to assure you that your email is important to me and that, under normal circumstances, if you don't hear back in a week, there is most likely some such problem.

After reading your email, I wanted to congratulate you in the Lord for your wonderful work in ministry. Balancing what we are called to do for Jesus with all of our other obligations in life, especially in giving our families their due, is never an easy thing, and there is certainly no set formula for it. You have found a way to do this (actually, several ways), and that is a model for us all.

Personally, I find nothing to censure in your decisions. In my considered opinion, everyone is free not to take on a spouse and children, but once that responsibility has been accepted, then it is not legitimate to short-change them for ministry. Just as I believe that it would not be pleasing to our Lord to give up our day jobs and expect Him (or our relatives or other Christians) to pick up the slack for us while we "minister", so we need to understand that giving our families what they deserve in terms of time and attention is something that has to come first once we have been blessed with them. In the mercy of God and in His all-wise plan, there are opportunities to do what we have been gifted and called to do in spite of the heavy load that life often places on us. It usually isn't easy, and you can be sure the evil one makes it hard for those who try to push their spiritual growth and application for the Lord into actually giving back to the Church of Jesus Christ. But it certainly is possible: that is why we have been given the gifts we have been given – and your fine example proves this point very well.

So I would not let myself be consumed by feelings of guilt for whatever decisions you have made in the best interest of your family. Those who don't provide for their own, in whatever is needed, are "worse than infidels" (in the parlance of the King James: 1Tim.5:8). In my view, if a person's sacrifices affect only themselves, they are, if correctly motivated and done in the power of God, worthy. However, when my intended sacrifice affects others (my parents, my wife, my children, or whomever), then I have to ask some hard questions about whether or not it is truly godly or merely self-righteous and self-serving.

I also wanted to let you know that in my experience and observation it is far from uncommon for those who are "fighting the fight" to be thrown off-balance by unexpected prosperity. As I often remark, the "prosperity test" is often the toughest one believers face (although everyone want's a crack at that one). We may compare David's track-record on this (he only got into serious trouble when he found himself, unaccustomedly, at home with nothing much to do in time of war). So whether it is wealth, or professional success, or merely an unaccustomed lull in the adversary's "artillery barrage", just like a runner with a good pace who hits a different surface or grade (even if it is smoother and now downhill) may be temporarily thrown off that pace, so also believers can be, oddly enough, pushed into depression after winning many battles when the stimulus of bearing up under trial is suddenly removed. Satan is quick to use pressure against those who can't handle it and is certainly not averse to removing the pressure (to see if that will work) from those who are handling it. Our eternal perspective of running for the tape and the reward on the other side of the finish line will eventually, as we grow and become ever more seasoned in living the Christian life, help us to see the world for what it is, nothing but dust (whether the pile we possess is seen by the world as characterized by success or failure). Our emotions often fight against all the good applications we wish to make (Gal.5:16-25); eventually, in God's good time and through Jesus becoming more real to us than the world, we can learn to encourage ourselves in the Lord even in the most desperate circumstances, and not get carried away by lust or boredom when we find ourselves temporarily taken "off the battle line". Eventually, we learn to see every day the same – as a wonderful opportunity to grow in and to serve our Lord. For Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever, and our true objective here in enemy territory really never changes: serving Him and His Church by learning, believing, applying and ministering the Word of God.

I dearly hope this email finds you having worked through this "tough patch" in a godly way in the power of the Spirit and by attention to the Word of God, and apologize for not being available as you did so.

Please feel free to write me back in any case (and if you don't hear back this time, you will know that there is a problem).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12: 

Hello Mr Luginbill:

Feeling very sad and depressed. Feeling stuck. I love the Lord with my whole heart. In His word everyday. Praying for breakthrough. Have raised 4 INCREDIBLE children who also love the Lord. Have so much to be thankful for ... Yet it still remains. Feel totally empty inside. Son getting married to incredible girl ... Youngest child graduating high school and will be attending University in fall. So much good ... But it has always remained that I feel unappreciated. Hurts very much. Hard to function.

Appreciate advice.

For Him,

Response #12:  

While I'm glad to hear from you, I'm sorry to learn that you are experiencing this trouble.

The last time we chatted, you were telling me about the various Bible ministries you had started and had been involved in. Speaking from personal experience, I know that for myself, when the troubles of this life seem to overwhelm, focusing on what is really important, our Lord and our service to Him and His Body, is the best way to set my sights beyond this world of tears, looking instead to the reward and our reunion with the Lord who loves us so much He died for each and every one of our sins. Sometimes also it takes trouble and pain, physical and/or emotional, to get us to concentrate anew on our walk with Jesus. When we are feeling great and everything is going great, it is very easy to get caught up in the "here and now". So while what James says, "count it all joy", often seems like cruel advice, taken in this context it means the increase of encouragement that we can receive through the Spirit by allowing the things that crush unbelievers to prod us instead to see our Lord more clearly and walk with Him more closely. Again, speaking for myself, when the going really gets rough falling back into the love of Jesus Christ is often the only thing that can provide genuine comfort and support: His overwhelming love for us in dying in our place, and our response in loving Him with all our heart, His Church, His truth, and ministering that truth to those He loves. Sometimes it takes a bit of trouble and tribulation to help us relax our grip on the world and turn our gaze back to the One with whom we are walking through it, looking instead to the blessings beyond which are better by far.

You are in my prayers day by day.

In Jesus who is our all in all.

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Hi Bob:

Sorry .. but I have a completely random question from what I have been emailing about.

I feel very attacked right now and not sure what to do. Very down. Can't seem to shake it. Have been reading Psalms and can relate to many passages. I'd share more, but afraid I would just ramble. From the outside I know I look like everything is perfect. Hurting inside.

Thanks.

Response #13:  

As to your present difficulties, in my experience it is not at all uncommon for Christians to "get down" for any number of reasons. Sometimes of course there is a definite reason, some source of pressure such as bad news, impending trouble, health problems, etc., all the sorts of things of which life in the devil's world is full to overflowing. Sometimes there is no appreciable reason – indeed, it is often the case that we are at our most spiritually vulnerable right after some great success (the example of Elijah after his triumph on Mt. Carmel comes to mind). The evil one and his lieutenants are very clever at denying us a constant level of resistance, and at times that also trips believers up – just as if we were trying to push a stalled car which kept starting and stopping. But whether there is true crisis and disaster or emotional turmoil of unknown provenance, the solution is the same: reliance upon the spiritual resources God provides.

Looking to scripture, the Psalms as you are doing, is a wonderful thing to do. The Spirit, moreover, is able to make greater use of the truth we access at all times the more we have advanced spiritually in God's plan for us. What we have in our hearts is what really counts in moments of crisis (rather than what is in the Bible as yet spiritually "undigested"). The more we grow spiritually, the more truth we have come to understand through personal Bible study and through the accessing of solid, substantive Bible teaching, the more we have believed the truth of what we have been taught (and hence the need to be taught things worthy of belief that we can believe), the more we have been in the habit of applying that truth to our lives already as we progress on the high road to Zion, passing tests great and small day by day, then the more prepared we are going to be to take on all manner of additional testing and trial, and successfully cope with whatever the Lord has for us.

This is not an instantaneous process. Merely going to church (especially with what church has become in our lukewarm era of Laodicea; see the link), and merely logging time as a believer does nothing to prepare us for crisis and personal tribulation. God gives us ample opportunity to refine our faith, but faith has to be in something: in God, absolutely, but specifically in the truth He has spoken to us in Jesus Christ, that is, in the entire realm of truth, the whole counsel of God as contained in the entire Bible. In my experience and observation, and, more importantly, in my reading of scripture, it is only by such consistent Bible study and conscientious believing of the genuine truth of the Word that spiritual edification occurs (this prior growth, for example, is what made the believers in the hall of fame of Hebrews 11 great in the first place), and it is only after a Christian has grown to a certain point that he/she becomes capable of withstanding the withering fire that the devil and his minions are wont to lay down.

One of the more advanced areas of such spiritual growth involves the true imitation of Christ through the consistent modification of the way we think:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by this renewal of your thinking, so that you may discern what God's will for you is, namely what it is good, well-pleasing, and correct [for you to do].
Romans 12:2

This spiritual transformation is based upon spiritual growth but also must be applied day by day, step by step in the Christian walk:

If therefore you have been resurrected with Christ, seek the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Seek the things above, not the things on earth. For you have died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

This is a blessed perspective, but in all honesty it is not one which in the first place a baby believer will be able to apply when the sky seems to be falling, and in the second place it is not a perspective which even an advanced believer will be able to use to fend off depression, panic, fear, anger, etc. when such emotions come on in waves – without making the conscious decision to do so (and without training themselves over time to do so). That is to say, applying the truth, especially when under attack, is something that takes the sort of positive action you are now attempting to take. The more we make a habit of walking with Jesus in a mentally active way at all times, the easier such applications are when hard times hit. If my life experience and analysis of scripture are anywhere near the mark, it is the case that while sometimes these satanic assaults are short-lived, very often the important ones are long-lasting. In both cases they tend to come on fast and have the potential of throwing us off of our stride if we are not practiced in the application of truth to our lives in this way.

For I do not consider these present hardships in any way comparable to the glory destined to be revealed for us.
Romans 8:18

(17) For this present light affliction of ours is working out for us an eternal weight of glory beyond any possible estimation. (18) [Let us] not [then be] having [any] regard for what can be seen, but [instead] for what cannot be seen. For the things which can be seen are ephemeral. But the things which cannot be seen are eternal.
2nd Corinthians 4:17-18

This heavenly perspective, this eternal perspective, this "goal-oriented" perspective which has us living our lives not as other people who are not focused on the eternal evaluation at Christ's judgment seat as we should always be, is neither easy to achieve, nor to maintain. But we need to begin to see the opposition we face in this life, whatever our personal tribulations may be, as opportunities to grow and to apply the truth we have learned in the process of growth. In so doing we will be preparing ourselves for the difficult times ahead when the Tribulation begins, and also setting the proper example for our brothers and sisters in Jesus who draw encouragement from out unflappability in the midst of crisis and trouble.

Here are some links which may be of help in this:

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions According to the Bible?

The Christian Battlefield (in SR #4)

Imitating Christ (Peter #17)

Walking with Jesus

The Leadership of the Holy Spirit in Transforming our Thinking (Peter #16)

Mutual Encouragement in Christ.

Christian Trials and Testing

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

The Judgment and Reward of the Church (in CT 6)

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Waiting on God's timing: What does the Bible say about having patience in testing?

Keep on fighting this good fight of faith, a fight which will not fight itself, using all the marvelous armor the Word of God supplies.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Bob:

Just wanted to respond quickly and let you know that "yes" I did receive your latest response. THANK YOU SO MUCH! You have no idea how deeply it touches me to hear the care and

concern in your emails. And more importantly "God's Word" that you share. It is very healing for me. I have made "raising my children" the high priority in my life. As admirable as that may

be from a worldly standpoint. It is very wrong from a Biblical standpoint. Right? First God, then husband, then kids then church ... Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, my family dynamics have been gradually changing and my oldest boys will be moving to Dallas my youngest off to college. It is ALL good and God is right in the middle of it ... Which adds to my "confusion" and "sadness". Kind of mad that I'm not elated. To tell the truth ... I do feel great JOY where God has them ... But a sadness for me because it will never be like it was. This in turn brings guilty feelings for feeling sad. As crazy as it may sound ... I "DO" feel like I am over the hump and am starting to heal... Thanks to you and friends speaking truth into my life. I understand that it is a process. That I need to persevere. Most importantly stay in the Word and in conversation with God ... Which I do. Some say that I need to "let down" ... "have some fun". I am not very good about having "me time". I have always had a huge burden for the lost. I feel such an urgency to reach them because "I too" feel like we are on the cusp of end times. My biggest battlefield is in my mind. I have a tendency to beat myself up with things I could have/should have done better with my children. The evil one really has a playground in my head at times ... But as I stated earlier, it is much better than it was a few months ago. I know it is the evil one ... But yet I know he has no power unless I give it to Him. God has won the victory on the cross and the devil has been cut off at the knees ...

Rendered helpless. My prayer partner just mentioned CS Lewis's book "The Screwtape Letters". She explained the basic premise and it sounds like a good book for me. I just seem so self-reflective the past 8 months .. And I did not used to be like this. I always used to follow the JOY principle: J-Jesus first O- Others second Y- Yourself last. I seem to be stuck in this mode. But with God I know I will get better. Sorry, I seem to be rambling a bit. I'm tired, but wanted to get this email off to you. Again, Bob, you have no idea how your insightful and caring words mean so much to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. God Bless.

Response #14:  

I am happy to see that my message made it to you. I am also happy to hear that you are coping well and making use of the truth of the Word to fight this battle we all ought to be fighting (though so few Christians really are).

I am in no position to judge your application of truth, but it does seem to me that a person who is not only pursuing personal spiritual growth but who has also done much in the way of personal ministry in spite of a busy home life et al. is far from "wrong". I have never been big on this "ranking of priorities" thing because it only leads to making ourselves feel bad (please see the link: Ranking our Christian Priorities). On the one hand, we owe God everything, and we also owe our families a great deal (Prov.32:10-31; 1Cor.7:4; 1Tim.5:8; 5:16). There is no way that any human being can do everything that he/she ought to do for Jesus (growing, applying, ministering the truth), and very difficult to do all he/she should do for those for whom one is responsible – how much more both at the same time. And on the other hand, we have to do certain things no matter what, whether we are happy or sad, tired or well-rested, sick or healthy, rich or broke – certain things have to be done for the Lord and for our families regardless of what even seems possible.

In my experience and observation, for Christians who are genuinely "in the fight", there is usually little time or energy or extra resources to start worrying about "ranking priorities". Most of the time for those who are truly committed to Jesus, we are just trying to stay in that fight. Paul tried "to make every punch count" (1Cor.9:26), but we need to understand that we are not going to connect with every jab, and we are certainly not going to get out of this ring without a mark. But the good Christian fighters stay the course until the fight is over. They keep getting up off the mat whenever they are knocked down. And they keep fighting. They try to get better at it day by day, but they keep punching no matter what. This fight is long, and it is important not to let oneself get upset by circumstances. The true measure of how we are doing is not how we feel or what is happening around us. The true measure is whether or not we are fighting the fight as best we can. If we are, then we know that we are serving Jesus the way He wants us to do – and what else really matters (in the short run or the long)?

You are absolutely correct about the battleground of the mind/heart being the place where this fight is fought out in the case of Christians who have attained a measure of spiritual growth. Coming to command some degree of control over our emotions and our thoughts throughout the day as we carry our cross toward Zion is never easy, and the sin nature fights against such concentration on the truth we have learned and believed at every step (e.g., Gal.5). Fear and worry, lust, envy and guilt and all manner of negative emotions are ever there bubbling beneath the surface, and only a deep knowledge of the truth of the Word and a habit of application of that truth to situations that come suddenly upon us in good times and in bad is the stuff of the veteran Christian warrior.

When David had lost everything after Ziklag was sacked and his men were on the point of stoning him, scripture tells us that "he encouraged himself in the Lord" (1Sam.30:6); he threw off his emotional turmoil, refused to give in to the hopelessness of the situation and turned everything upside down for good – with the Lord's great help of course.

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.
Proverbs 3:25-26 NIV

"But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.
Jeremiah 17:7 NIV

Keep on putting on the full armor of God and advancing forward in the Name of our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.
 

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