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Should I go to Seminary or not?

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Question #1: 

Dear Professor,

The NIV Study Bible by Kenneth Barker has been a very valuable study tool. It has certainly helped me understand the scripture better. However, as you know, many questions appear during the reading and these often remain unanswered for a long time.

Before I write down a question for a particular passage, I read the NIV SB, look out for an interpretation in different commentaries, I try to find some information on your website. To have a verse by verse explanation available, written by a well prepared teacher or teachers would be a great blessing, but there just seems to be no such resource available. There are resources which may seem to be written for this purpose, but many of them nearly useless.

The commentaries are very frustrating to use either they leave out the most difficult verses or issues, or skim through them, or attempt to explain, but don't get it right (and even with my limited knowledge I can see that on occasions), or provide some valuable information, but do it in a very unclear manner, as if sounding learned took precedence over explaining the truth. Few also make reference to original languages. Hardly ever am I helped by them and yet I have to search for answers somewhere. I recently came across exegesis of Galatians offered by Bob Deffinbaugh
(https://bible.org/seriespage/how-learn-law-galatians-421-31) and it seems better than most other commentaries I've read. I know it's not possible for you to check the value of all the resources that your readers enquire about, but it's just something I thought I would mention, as it has been a long time since I read an explanation that did actually make the passage clearer.

I know it's a question that I have asked you before and you have put forward some titles, I have these noted. Nevertheless, I would appreciate your insight on how I can deepen the Bible study, taking into account current state of things. I am not far away from being finished going through the whole Old and New Testament with the NIV SB study notes. Notes have answered some questions, but many remain unanswered and in fact my lists have grown since I started using NIV SB. It's most unlikely that I will be able to go to university to study Systematic Theology in foreseeable future and quite possible that I may never be able to do that. We also know that it wouldn't necessarily be a solution anyway.

I want to be fully prepared to minister or at least as well prepared as I can be, there is always room for improvement. With God's help and your continuous support I've made good progress with both Hebrew and Greek without going to the university and I think it may well be possible to achieve a very good level of competence in these languages without an academic degree. There also seems to be no other way for me under present circumstances. I think the same will have to apply to the understanding of the scripture.

It genuinely bothers me to leave a verse without understanding it, but it's a frequent occurrence. Particularly these days when I'm going though Paul's epistles. I feel time is coming to take things to the next level, even if it makes the pace of going through the scripture considerably slower than it is now - pace obviously isn't a priority (at the moment I'm going through 2 chapters of the Old Testament and 1 chapter of New Testament). You have put forward Keil and Deilitzsch's Commentary on the Old Testament for the Old Testament, and Meyer's Critical Exegetical Handbook for New Testament. I may start with the latter and maybe focus on New Testament first, if this is a course of action that you consider reasonable.

It is to be expected that the study would become increasingly more difficult. When I first started to read your website and my knowledge was non-existent, this great feeling of joy which comes as a result of coming to understand a verse would occur fairly regularly. These days, hardly ever. Many of the easier questions have been answered, but the hard ones not only remain unanswered, but it's hard to know sometimes where to begin the search. It would be great if you had unlimited time and I could write to you often, but it's not possible.

I'm thinking about Meyer and Chafer. As always, your guidance will be most appreciated.

In our Lord,

Response #1: 

Very good to hear from you, my friend. I think the experience you are going through, and the attendant frustration, is exactly the typical one I would expect for those who are genuinely interested in getting to the bottom of all biblical truth. The fact that you find so few resources which even seem to understand that desire or the problems involved, let alone ask the right questions, only serves to indicate clearly what a rare thing the thirst for the truth you possess really is (especially in Laodicea). When you say, "There are resources which may seem to be written for this purpose, but many of them nearly useless", I only have to smile a knowing smile. I was similarly frustrated. After mustering out of the USMC, I spent many free hours while pursuing my second B.A. indexing Col. Thieme's voluminous tape-recordings in a card file to track any reference he made to any passage. This turned out to be of not much help (nota bene!), but the attempt arose from a similar desire: not the canonizing of this one person, but a recognition that there just wasn't any other particular source out there where any kind of consistent help in understanding the truth could be had. I remember tracking down a set of John Calvin's commentaries translated into English, and being highly disappointed that they were, well, commentaries, dealing with some linguistic issues, some historical issues, providing some homiletic matter, but nor really providing what I wanted: "what does this verse really mean?". Meyer and K & D are valuable resources (far from perfect), but also very seldom getting down to the "sweet spot" of integrating a verse into the scheme of Bible truth which is what we are really about. One of the reasons for this deficit you are encountering (and the criticism goes double for other commentaries, sometimes triple or more), is that the writers, while often scholastically well-prepared and intellectually brilliant, did not necessarily have that system of Bible truth we strive to achieve anywhere near "down-pat" in their hearts so as to even recognize that there was a "problem" or a "question" that needed to be answered. It is precisely because you are looking at scripture with new-found genuine understanding of the truth that new questions arise about other matters which do not fall into the framework of your appreciation of the truth so far. Put another way, "the wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness" (Eccl.2:14 HCSB).

On the positive side of things: 1) in my humble estimation you are light-years ahead of all but a handful of prepared men I know of; 2) your desire for the truth which is presently stymied by lack of proper resources will actually be a help and prod to carry you through to figuring things out for yourself; and 3) your thirst for the truth overall and in general is extremely salutary, because in the history of the Church most men who have gotten "fired up" for the truth have tended to focus on one issue or set of issues to the detriment of their spiritual growth generally: being on fire to know the "whole counsel of God" can be frustrating (since there are for that reason obstacles at every turn), but that is precisely the approach necessary to get to the point of being fully prepared oneself and being able to be a true benefit to others in the Church who are truly seeking to "know the will of God".

What I found personally is that progress in these matters accelerated as I started relying more and more on the original and less and less on the English. Not that reading the Bible in English (or in any translation) is bad not at all. To deepen my feel for these things, I read the Hebrew and Greek daily, and whenever I have questions of the sort you allude to reading the English, I go immediately to the original languages and this almost always either clears things up immediately or leads to a train of research where the correct answer may be found. Even when I still have questions after that, they are at least informed questions stored for later consideration rather than a "lost in the woods" type of feeling filtered through a translator's speculations.

I guess what I am saying here is that I think your method is very sound and that you are going about things in entirely the correct fashion. Any group of believers who might choose to listen to you as their pastor-teacher would be very well served, even now how much more so in the future as you continue to progress.

As to Chafer, I tried to read his corpus through and couldn't manage it and I don't think that my ministry has suffered overly from the failure. I have used Chafer often over the years, but I see his systematic theology more as a tool for specific points (and much more valuable than the systematic theology I got in seminary, by the way), rather than as a means of person spiritual growth.

You will find your way forward and I am absolutely certain that the Lord will lead you into a wonderfully productive teaching ministry. The hows and the wheres and the precisely whats we have to leave to Him, but in the meantime preparing diligently as you are doing most certainly honors our dear Lord it shows that you understand without any doubt what is really important in this life.

Proud to be your friend in Jesus Christ the Lord forever and ever.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Good morning Dr.

I need a prayer request for direction and maybe you can help enlighten me on the subject. I have prayed and will diligently wait for God to direct me. In doing so, I felt the need to reach out to you because your ministry is critical to my spiritual growth.

I was approached to help teach at a local church. This is a new church and I attended their first service on Easter at the behest of my wife. We are currently members of a church and the pastor is biblically strong. He teaches from the bible even though his views on eschatology are main stream, i.e. rapture but otherwise he is a strong biblical teacher. But at that church I never attempted fellowship, albeit my fault, but it is mainly due to differences in background.

So my question is two-fold:

1) Is it right to find a church that you can fellowship with other believers based on common upbringing?

2) If the new pastor is not as strong biblically because he is a new pastor, should that deter someone from being a part of the church and stay with the other church? What I mean by strong biblically is that my current pastor has been preaching for well over 30 years and the new church is a start-up and the pastor doesn't have a degree in theology or pastoral ministry, but has a pastoral license from TD Jakes ministry in 1999. He separated due to TD Jakes trending into apostasy land.

So this pastor is starting a new church in my area and asking if I can help start a teaching ministry. I have never been called to do so but I love learning but that is not a litmus test for someone to be a teacher. Being a teacher is a critical responsibility in our Lord's eye and will be held to a higher standard at Christ's judgement seat.

I don't know what to do Dr. I am stuck at a cross road and am continually asking God for guidance. I don't think I am ready to teach anyone. I don't have a degree in theology, etc. and am afraid that if I decide to do it, it will be for my own glory. To tell you the truth I am scared and don't want to let our Lord down but I also do want to be active in his ministry. I have prayed for him to help me find a way to be more active here on earth for Him and don't know if this is it or not.

I know I am throwing a lot of stuff at you but this decision is hard both should I even be a member of this church and if yes, should I be part of the teaching ministry will affect my life for a long time.

Thanks for your help and your understanding. My God continue to help individuals like us follow us His will and paths for our lives.

Response #2: 

Good to hear from you. Very interesting! You have a big decision to make. As I am sure you are aware, in my opinion the reason for "church" is to learn the truth of scripture everything else is secondary. I do know that fellowship is a big reason why most people join churches. It's not so much that I have any problem with that as it is the problem I see with most people substituting fellowship opportunities for any spiritual growth whatsoever. That is certainly not your problem, and from the sound of it this new opportunity may be one for substantive teaching that would be very good!

Common background is also no little factor in choosing any fellowship, even when it comes to teaching. When I went to college in the dark ages, I had a Pakistani professor who shared with me once that his group of friends was mostly Pakistani, but they had an Indian pal as well. My prof said that whenever a joke was told they all laughed, but the Indian laughed always a fraction of a second later (implication: he really didn't get their sense of humor but was trying to fit in). There are cultural differences between communities, and while these should never keep Christians from mutual love for all brethren, I don't think it is wrong if, for example, all of the Koreans on the north side of Chicago want their own Korean Presbyterian church instead of parceling out into mostly Anglo churches of the same denomination (I cite an example from my youth). It's not just comfort-zone and fellowship; it can also be one of communication (especially if language is any sort of an issue).

The best way to learn something is to teach it; and the best way to serve the Lord is to be actively involved in a ministry to which He has called you. If you feel that there is an opportunity here which is of God, then I would definitely encourage you to embrace it. You certainly seem to me to be a person who is very deeply immersed in scripture and the Word of God with all its truths; I would think that you have a lot to give. This is certainly not a decision that I can make. And it is also true that entering into such ministries entails a very large commitment to the Lord even more than to the people and authority structure in question.

One final thing. Since this is "somebody else's church", it is fair to anticipate the potential problem of conflict in doctrine between yourself and the pastor / elders (or whatever the governing body is). On the one hand, you cannot be expected to teach something you do not believe; on the other hand, a person teaching in the church who has been given its authority to teach can be a disruptive influence if what is being taught on Tuesday/Thursday is different significantly from what is being taught on Sunday. There are (sometimes) ways around this, especially if the people in question settle these matters out before the fact. But in my opinion that is one issue which it would be prudent to have discussed with all concerned in some detail going in.

I do wish you God's guidance through His Spirit on this question, and also the greatest success in your own growth (which such a ministry will of necessity accelerate) and that of those you teach. There is great reward in ministering to the Body of Christ.

Please keep me posted on this exciting development!

In Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd of the Sheep,

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Dear Dr. Bob

Can you give Biblical references to confirm "Salvation" is a must to be a Church leader.

Blessings

Response #3: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope you and your family are doing well. As to your question, I think that is stating the obvious. After all, what does grain have to do with straw (Jer.23:28)? But there are plenty of scriptures to affirm this. For example:

For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.
Titus 1:7-9 NKJV

And on the other hand:

"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."
Matthew 7:15 NKJV

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
2nd Corinthians 11:13-14 NKJV

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
1st Timothy 4:1-2 NIV

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires,, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
2nd Timothy 3:6-7 NIV

See the links for more:

False Teachers, False Doctrines, and False Christians

False Teaching, Local Churches, and the Truth

Third Party Testimony: We Believe God and His Word Not People

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Bob, I thought this would be of interest to you, especially since he is from Talbot. This is from Christian Daily News--today.

In speaking about the pre-trib. rapture and the new Left Behind move coming out:

"This doctrine is not really found in the book of Revelation. If you read the book of Revelation, you won't find any mention of the rapture there," said William Craig, a Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University.

Instead, Craig says, the idea of the rapture comes from a "misinterpretation of 1 and 2 Thessalonians where Paul is describing the coming of the Lord and resurrection of the dead, which will occur at His coming."

"If you compare what Paul says there to what Jesus says about the End Times, Paul uses the same vocabulary, the same phraseology. I think it's very plausible that Paul is talking about the same event that Jesus predicted, namely the visible coming of the Son of Man at the end of human history to usher in his kingdom," said Craig. "But proponents of the rapture view, say that Paul is not at all talking about the second coming of the Christ there. What he's really talking about is this invisible preliminary secret return of Christ to snatch believers out of the world before the great tribulation occurs. I think there's no textual warrant for that at all."

According to Craig, the rapture became a popular theory about the End Times due to the influence of the Scofield Reference Bible, which was published in the early 20th century and promulgated John Darby's mid-18th century's views on the rapture. Later, Christian institutions, among them Dallas Theological Seminary, and churches began teaching the validity of the rapture.

"A good many Bible-believing Christians absorbed this view as their mother's milk as it were and have never thought to question its Biblical credentials," said Craig.

Craig affirmed that it was completely possible for Christians to watch the upcoming "Left Behind" movie or read the series, but they should resist taking its claims seriously.

"It could be maybe good fiction. It would be say like reading science fiction or fantasy novels like The Lord of the Rings. Just so long as you're not deceived into thinking that represents biblical eschatology," said Craig.

Craig, who leads Reasonable Faith, an apologetics organization that equips Christians with the resources to speak about their faith in an "intelligent, articulate, and uncompromising yet gracious" manner, called upon Biblical scholars, pastors and other church leaders who also refute the rapture to speak out about their position.

"It is astonishing, if I'm correct about this, American evangelism is very widely misled, that it has departed from the historic Christian position about the second coming of Christ. That's really rather sobering, because if we're wrong about this, what other things might we have misinterpreted?" he said.

Response #4: 

Good for Craig! I could cheer (I certainly agree with much of what is said here, as you know), but I fear that his "getting away with this" probably represents more of an "anything goes" attitude at Talbot now than an active embracing of the truth generally. I'm also a little concerned with the statement "the visible coming of the Son of Man at the end of human history" the Millennium is still part of human history, so I have to wonder a bit if this guy is soft on eschatology (an amillennial Calvinist, e.g.), or is merely an iconoclast.

Still, in a theological atmosphere that resembles a post-apocalypse nuclear winter, we have to be grateful for the blooming of a single daisy.

Your pal in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Dr. Robert,

I have been looking at your teachings on theology, and I am impressed. I want to know more about GOD the Creator. I am a young man of college age, born-again, and I want to study theology. Please send me more readings to further my studies on theology.

Response #5: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Sorry for the delay in response I do have an FB site, but am not much of an FB user (so it's better just to email me at questions2@ichthys.com).

Thanks for all your good words. I am also pleased to hear that you wish to pursue study in theology. The current church-visible is presently lacking prepared men to teach the Word of God (understandable in that we live in the latter days of Laodicea; see the link). The main things I would like to communicate to you in the early going here are that 1) it is very unlikely that someone who is genuinely born again and actually wants to pursue the truth of scripture wherever it leads will be able to find any sort of regular "track" for employment. I do know of individuals who have founded or found independent churches where their Bible-teaching ministries have flourished to the point of affording them a living, but these are by far the exception to the rule. In most cases, those of us who have dedicated our lives to the truth of the Word of God have had to accept with that commitment the reality that there are not many Christians out there nowadays who are also interesting in putting the Word of God first in their lives. That explains why this ministry is on the internet, and why so many others that really do seek to find out and teach what the Bible really says are being conducted in small fellowships or house churches or in some other non-traditional way, rather than in brick-and-mortar traditional church buildings. I know of no denomination where a person would be free to teach the truth except to the limited degree that denomination X is actually right about point A/B/C. In such a circumstance, a pastor would have to "tow the line" when it comes to whatever the denominational creeds and doctrinal statements may be (and in all cases of which I am aware there are problems with all of these); even more than that, any pastor who "went beyond" what the denomination teaches, even if it doesn't formally disagree, would likely get into trouble. This was, in my case, an ethical problem and a practical dilemma too great to overcome, so I opted out of any denominational connection.

So when anticipating "getting prepared", the goal, in my view, is to "get prepared" to teach the Bible, in faith that the Lord will provide the venue if we but do our part in complementing the spiritual gifts we have been given with the necessary academic tools to put those gifts to use in a proper way. I see from you FB page that you already have a degree. More degrees are always nice (they do indicate a commitment to preparation), but the main things that are wanted are skills and knowledge. Seminaries are a mixed blessing in this regard. The liberal ones are not much use, in my view; the conservative ones also have their problems. A knowledge of Church History and traditional systematic theology can be gained from attendance at some of the better ones; language proficiencies are less easy to come by and better gotten in secular universities (at least in terms of Greek and, secondarily, Latin). Hebrew and Aramaic can also be learned at seminary, but one has to be careful about the level of instruction offered in fact (not just judging from what is in the school catalog), and the depth of knowledge the particular professors and programs actually provide (i.e., it is very good to ask about these matters very carefully from current and former students can they actually read Hebrew after 2/3/4 years of instruction there?). Ancient history and languages generally are better picked up at a secular university. Naturally, everyone's preparation will vary, and no one has twenty years to devote to this sort of thing. Also, it can be very expensive (especially nowadays). I was extremely fortunate to have the G.I. Bill to pay for my Classics B.A., and then to be on scholarship and teaching assistantships for my M.A. and Ph.D. Seminary, on the other hand, set me back quite a bit (in the dollar terms of that day), and it was only many years later that I managed to pay it off; it was a wonderful experience, but more on account of the circle of like-minded, Bible-centered prospective pastors I was blessed to meet there and spend a great deal of time with rather than the instruction per se in many cases.

I would certainly be willing to correspond with you about all this more. Here are a few links which also deal with this issue from some different perspectives:

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly

How important is education for a pastor?

Servants, Slaves, Disciples, and Ministers

Regarding Ichthys

Col. R.B. Thieme III and the origins of Ichthys

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

It's been a while since the last time (school has kept me busy), but I hope you are doing well.

Before I head into the main point of this email, I have a quick question about the devil's hand in temptation. Obviously it isn't prudent to spend an undue amount of thought on such things, but I am curious as to exactly what role Satan plays in an average believers day to day struggles. The greatest biblical example that comes to mind is that of Job (and perhaps Jesus in the desert), but I am curious about us smaller fish. The devil is, despite what we sometimes forget, a mere creation just like ourselves (though perhaps many magnitudes more powerful from our own point of view). Thus, he cannot possibly be everywhere at once and have the same infinite capacity for knowledge as our Lord does. This being the case, does he individually tempt believers, or is our sin just as often a product of our own fallen state and free will?

As the end of this semester approaches (me being a Senior), I will have to decide what it is I wish to do with my life (and hopefully what it is that God would wish me to do). The problem is, I can't seem to decide on exactly what that thing may be. I generally excel at most of the things I do in school, so am not handicapped by my past performance. That doesn't exactly help me decide what it is I want to do, however, and I am at a complete loss. I think I should perhaps pray about this more than I already have, but I do have faith that I will find guidance eventually. My parents tend to push me towards a more science-y type major (engineering/physics), but I am not sure if that's really what I want. I can't really refute anything they suggest either because I really do not know what it is I want to do. While I do still have a couple of months before I have to make a concrete decision (at least initially), it would be nice if I could sort this out. Other than making an entreaty for your prayers in this matter, is there anything that you could really suggest? I have thought somewhat about Seminary, but think that maybe my urge would be stronger if it was really what I was called to do. If this were to be the path I chose, The I'm planning to attend has a strong classics program, and everyone I have talked to said that the Greek was good there (which is usually a good undergrad program for Seminary if I am not mistaken). I am really not certain if this is what I want to do (see a theme here?), but I have a question: is it common for people called into this sort of ministry to just "know" that it is what they are called to do, or is that just cliche? Hearing people's testimonies, you would think that one would have some strong urge or immediate sense of calling, but I have experienced neither. I do not wish to hastily make a poor choice, but I don't want to spend the next few months agonizing over this question. Any insight you could provide would be helpful.

Your brother in Christ

Response #6: 

Good to hear back from you. On your first question, you have a good point: the devil is still just a creature, powerful though he may be, and can only be in one place at a time. He does have a very large following, however, and it is clear from the titles given to his minions and the military-style hierarchy of his cohorts that his is not a free-form organization. There is, as we can discern from what scripture tells us about these things, a definite strategy with definite tactics, and this includes focusing on individual believers (not by Satan himself in the vast majority of cases).

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down."
Revelation 12:10 NIV

The information or "dirt" on individual believers in these cases is most certainly collected by the devil's minions (rather than by him personally), and no doubt demon harassment and demon attack are carried out according to orders in some military operational style. What may be gleaned about these things are written up in the five part Satanic Rebellion series (see the link).

On your second question, there is much to say, but the first thing I would like to observe is that you still do have time (so no need to panic). One of the things that disturbs me, personally, is the tendency in modern American universities to have students essentially set on their life-paths almost before (or even before) they arrive. It used to be the case that an undergraduate student would take a year or two upon matriculating to "figure out" which subjects appealed and which did not. In the history of going to college, it is fair to say that very many freshmen who were sure that they wanted to be doctors or lawyers or accountants or professors or whatever, ended up going another way, in some cases because they found out that the subject matter of the discipline they had thought to pursue was not in fact to their liking, or else they found some other subject or discipline that really caught their fancy when finally exposed to it on the university level (and often a combination of the two). The tendency to load up all of the core requirements into the first couple of semesters, coupled with the tendency to load up majors with many hours and sequences of courses, has made it very difficult for students to do much "exploring" without jeopardizing their chances of graduating in four years. This is great from an efficiency standpoint (and for avoiding unnecessary debt), but has also no doubt meant that many have as a result missed their true calling (for lack of exposure to it) and have instead flown headlong into a profession or field to which they were not really suited, whether in terms of talents, gifts or vibrant interest (the latter being the most important thing of all). For believers this is less of a problem for those who are really walking closely with Jesus Christ, that is because God makes no mistakes. Still, He does expect us to approach things in an orderly and rational way, to "do our homework", so to speak, and it is good and proper that you are asking these questions now, if only because the time for making such decisions once you do get to college has been limited in many cases by the "new approach".

Talents and interests are the two things upon which I would focus. In the plan of God, these two areas are not disconnected from spiritual gifts and Jesus' plan for each individual Christian:

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
1st Corinthians 12:4-6 NIV

As these verses make clear, the Spirit gives us all our spiritual gifts, but our Lord Jesus is the One who assigns us an individual ministry. A Christian with a good heart such as yourself who is giving serious consideration to these matters ahead of time, definitely should keep in mind what it is Jesus wants. In other words, choosing a profession for status or money or even personal enjoyment absent what Jesus wants for us individually is obviously a mistake. At best, it's a huge waste of time (since if we are actually being called to do something else it may require us to retrain later at great cost of resources and time in particular); at best it may be a waste of reward (if we miss the main area where we are gifted and the main ministry where we are meant to serve because of selfish choices). Figuring out where we are gifted and how the Lord may want us to apply those gifts is a personal matter and one which may take some time in life to figure out, but it really is the foundational set of questions to answer your particular dilemma. It's a good dilemma, however, not a bad one. Exploring life options by putting Jesus Christ and our service to Him in first place is (or should be) an exciting thing. And the one overarching principle I would wish to impart is that ministry (and to a lesser degree gifts as well) should not be thought of in merely traditional modes. Undoubtedly, many of the truly wonderful and (spiritually) successful ministries of the Church Age (in God's eyes if not in man's) have not followed any traditional pattern at all. Our job as Christians is to grow, walk forward with Jesus, and help others do the same; the last of these three concerns ministry, and there are countless ways to help other believers move forward in the Word and in their walk, and to help unbelievers to come to Jesus Christ. There are many disciplines and fields featured at universities which may be useful or even essential for ministry the particular ministry Jesus has for you. If a person is head over heels for physics, say, and has the mathematical and other analytical talents to be good at it, it would be hard for me to say that such a person, a Christian, is not going to be used by the Lord for ministry as a physicist. As I say, this is something only the person in question can figure out with prayer, long consideration, and the help of the Holy Spirit. But as with all things, if we knock, God will answer.

If it is a question of a Christian man being determined to serve the Lord in a teaching ministry, if he is indeed gifted in that regard, that is a noble thing to aspire to (1Tim.3:1). Such ministries do require specific preparation, and if you believe that you are so gifted and so called, it really is right and proper to give this question of proper preparation much consideration. I have some things written about this at the site (see the links: "Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV", "The importance of Greek", "How important is education for a pastor?" and "Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly"). The Word of God is at the root of all spiritual growth, and so understanding it and being able to teach it is the bedrock of all effective teaching ministry. That would seem to be obvious, but given the horrific dearth of in-depth Bible teaching in our era of Laodicea, it needs to be said. Learning the truth of what is in the Bible as completely as possible should be the goal of every Christian (all growth, progress and effective ministry is based on the truth), but for a man who wants to teach the Word it is doubly important. That means finding the right Bible-teaching ministry to "apprentice" under, so to speak, and it also means finding the right way forward in terms of academic preparation. In my opinion, learning Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic if possible) is "job #1", because knowing what is actually in the scriptures, independent of other people's translations, is the sine qua non of serious study and teaching. Learning as much as possible about the history and culture of the background civilizations of the Bible is also critical. Ideally, some study of systematic theology is also a plus (and some basic knowledge of Church History as well). Much or most of this can be gotten at college, especially if your university has a good Classics department and/or a good Near Eastern Studies department (by whatever name).

What about seminary? It's hard to find a good one. At college, a Christian knows that he/she is in "enemy territory", so what may be gotten that is good is purely objective information (Greek grammar is not political or philosophical, for example). Seminary is another matter, inasmuch as there, the professors who teach it probably are Christians in most cases, but they also can be mired in tradition, false doctrine, and legalism (regardless of the denominational affiliation or even if it is a case of a non-affiliated place). I am very glad that I attended seminary for two years in addition to my secular training, but the greatest benefit I received was from interacting with a cadre of young men who were as I was truly interested in ministering the Word of God (a rarity then and even more so today).

There's plenty of time to talk about seminary in the future. Let me just add that Greek and Hebrew are best learned at a secular university. The vast majority of seminaries are usually not equipped to or interested in giving students truly in-depth mastery of the languages a trend which is worsening by the day.

To conclude, I would counsel you to keep mulling, but to enjoy the process. Jesus has called us to peace and to joy. If you are growing spiritually, all these matters will fall into place because the Lord will lead you to the right place, taking you by the hand. But without spiritual growth, all the fretting and planning in the world will not produce a good result and will be to no purpose in any case.

Keep fighting the good fight. Everything else will work out together for good.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Thank you, Doctor.

On the subject of seminary and preparing for ministry, where should I go? Is something like the Chafer online courses a good call? I feel like at this rate, I'm gonna be a pastor-teacher whether I like it or not ("liking" stuff is becoming irrelevant thank Christ!) and I want to be as geared as I can choose to possibly be and I trust you.

What will be most needed the first half of the tribulation? Is a Greek and Hebrew background a good idea at this point?

I live very close to _________ Bible College/Seminary. Are they any good?

No one has come close to what you've taught me. If you can see a way for me to be as pastor ready in the shortest time, please tell me.

I know this is The Lords to be worked out, so I know it'll be perfect and on His time, but I don't wanna miss this.

p.s. I'm meeting with my former favorite pastor tomorrow. I'm certain he'll want to know where we've been. Please pray I have all the proper, Spirit inspired words; he's a great guy who's caught in this Laodicean haze. Who knows, maybe we'll speak of higher things!

Response #7:

Hope your meeting went well.

As to your question about preparation, here are some links at the site where this issue is addressed:

"Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV"

"The importance of Greek"

"How important is education for a pastor?"

"Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly"

To be honest, while I found the seminary experience enriching and important, that was more because of the company I kept with a group of prospective pastor/teachers (who likewise came from a "Thieme" background). We arrived with a solid background of basic systematics, and debated theology and exegesis (among other things) late into the night. What I got out of class at seminary or from the assignments was less useful. Even the language study at seminaries today tends to be of a lesser level than one finds at a secular university (if it is even worthy of the name I was fortunate to go to a place that at least gave the issue lip-service at the time, and the Hebrew instruction was not bad). For someone really serious about studying and teaching the Word of God, the original languages are the sine qua non difficult to "make up" or "catch up" on one's own (or even in seminary). The time is short, of course, so I'm not sure I could recommend the eleven year Odyssey I took after getting out of the USMC. Still, Dallas' founder, L.S. Chafer, is reputed to have said that he would be desirous of getting ten years of preparation even if he were only going to serve one year in the teaching ministry.

Please do feel free to write me back about this. You are most welcome at Ichthys at any time, and I'll be keeping you in prayer for guidance and success in your preparations for serving our dear Lord Jesus.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hi, Doc.

Interestingly, he cancelled the morning of due to illness. If it's ok to say, the Spirit seemed to be saying something like "he's secure in his position; he wants us (my family) back" in church. Then I got a long list of reminders on how that's NOT ok (lukewarm almost to the "T"). The church's whole design is "people friendly" to the point of acting flat out cowardly when speaking on hard subjects. Anything the general public sees as anti-gay, anti-political, or anti-"do-gooder"(among much more) is apologized for more than is spoken faithfully; the pastors cower to the people, Doctor.

If I could just spend 8-12 hours a day solid learning Greek, I wonder how fast it could be taught/learned? I get a feeling I'm an edifying specialist of sorts, since my life training is how to teach while literally IN the fire, not just on the way to it. I know that the tribulation will be horrible, and that there is not much time left.

Response #8: 

Good to hear back from you. It seems to me that you are making progress towards your objective of discerning the future path the Lord has for you. As I often say, while there are a limited number spiritual gifts actually mentioned in scripture, there are unlimited "flavors" of each gift, as different as there are members of the Body of Christ. And that is certainly also the case with ministries as well, true ministries directly from Jesus Christ, that is (in contrast with traditional "role" ministries in traditional churches).

In terms of edification/teaching the Bible, the two gifts scripture mentions which are still being given since the age of the apostles are evangelist and pastor/teacher. But some men have both gifts, and even within these gifts, because of the differences in individuals and also in the ministries to which we are severally called, these can result in a wide-variety of different possibilities. For example, I have no doubt that some missionaries in the history of the Church have actually been in a place the Lord wanted them to be and doing what the Lord wanted them to do. Evangelism might have been the focus of their ministries, or it might have been teaching. After all, one of the main failings of the Church in this era of Laodicea (see the link) has been a lack of follow-through for the edification of those saved once saved (whether in missions, or in evangelism at home, or in churches generally).

Just as "missionary" isn't really a gift but a type of ministry wherein the Lord uses men with the gifts of evangelist and pastor/teacher, so also "apologetics", as it's usually called nowadays, is another area of ministry for which there is no specific gift per se, but in my estimation those who are doing a good job defending the true faith and confronting lies are proceeding from a base that includes one of these gifts. There are other non-teaching gifts which, when added by the Spirit to a teaching gift "color the mix" as well, and there many other potential ministries too. In our modern era, with so much happening in terms of mass communication, possibilities for unique ministries have opened up which were unthinkable just a few short years ago. I like to think that Ichthys falls into that category (and there is no telling what tomorrow might bring).

The bottom line is that personal spiritual growth and progress are now (and actually will never cease to be) the most important factor in recognizing one's gifts and in developing a close walk with the Lord wherein a person can reasonably "figure out" (i.e., recognize the Spirit's promptings) where he/she should go, what he/she should do in terms of ministry. Every believer has a ministry which our Lord Jesus has assigned (1Cor.12:5). It's only believers themselves who hold-up in the process of implementation (we have to be prepared in order to be useful to the Lord in any ministry, and we have to be willing to do it). But those who minister the Word in whatever capacity through whatever gift or combination thereof and in whatever name usually need special preparation, often of a very detailed kind. The type of preparation, however, will not necessarily be the same for all. For example, for a person whom the Lord plans to use to publicly defend the faith, five years of concentration on Greek and Hebrew might not be the best use of a half-decade (whereas for a Bible teaching ministry it would seem to me to be a bare minimum necessity).

You are right to "count the cost" before entering on this course full speed, but I wouldn't be overly worried or concerned now about how things will play out in the future (beyond what scripture actually says). If my own years in the Word and personal experience have taught me anything, it is that things usually run contrary to plan and all expectation. God is in complete control. Once we accept that, we can relax and start asking the only question that really matters: "What does Jesus Christ want me to do?"

Yours in our dear Lord and Master.

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hi Bob,

I do not wish to take up an undue amount of your time (no quick response is necessary), but now that I am almost a semester into college I am somewhat worried that I still feel practically clueless as to what I will end up doing. I am signing up for next semester's classes tomorrow morning, and am currently still on the general engineering trajectory (without declaring an official major as of yet). I have spent a lot of time praying and searching through internet resources to attempt and do "my part" of the process, and I seem to have made no progress. I still do not have even an inkling of what God's will is for my life.

I know there are certain things I want to do, such as helping people, building up the Church, becoming more proficient as both a Christian and as an evangelist for Christ, etc., but these qualifications seem to be independent of occupation. While ordinarily you would think that would be comforting, I am still trying very hard to actually pick the "right" thing. I have read some other people's thoughts on the vocational part of the Christian walk, but I just want to run some of the things by you (I am paraphrasing what I have read below).

1) Our culture has a misconception that pastors are more spiritually important than other less outwardly "spiritual" callings (e.g. being a janitor). All parts of the Church are essential and any implication otherwise is unbiblical.

2) God's guidance in our lives can be followed as a measure of our sense of peace. If we are doing something against God's will, he will make us uncomfortable in a way that unmistakably tells us that we are on the wrong path. Conversely, we will know we are doing God's will if we feel a sense of peace and assurance, which signify our following of His will. Thus, when we "take a step of faith" to try something, we can evaluate if we are in God's will by our sense of peace.

3) We should try to identify our particular set of gifts and talents and use them productively for the Lord in a way that we think would be pleasing for him.

I also have some other questions that trouble me. I have read (some) of your explanation of the 7 millennial days, which places the tribulation's start in just over 10 years. Regardless if this will actually be the case (I found your reasoning sound enough that I can't come up with a compelling reason why it would not be other than that nobody else has ever gotten it right), the signs of the times certainly indicate that it cannot be that far off. I recall asking you a question about our work after Christ's return and, I do hope I am not badly misquoting you, think you said something along the lines that you would be hesitant to tell somebody, for example, that they should not be a physicist if they were "head over heels for physics." I am not even head over heels for much but trying to do the right thing, and don't feel a strong pull towards something that would indicate that "hey, I should be doing this." I am having a hard time seeing how a job in a very science orientated area will be beneficial if we only have a very limited amount of time left. Most of science today (at least the part that I think I might end up doing not corporate, but research), focuses on the distant future and "great possibilities." Renewable/sustainable energy, more efficient nuclear reactors, technology that will enhance the future of computation; these are the sort of long term goals that are being worked on by professors at my school. Should we be focused on the very long term, or focused on smaller closer goals? Is there any point for a Christian to work to achieve things far down the line for our children if the world might be reformed and perfect by the time our children inherit it?

I don't really want money, but I want to help people. There are a number of mission projects that involve engineers, but they also need good Christians to be part of them. Missionary work takes a degree of preparation outside of a formal degree and I'm not sure it is right for me. I am related to many foreign missionaries (Mexico, Taiwan, Indonesia), so I could certainly talk to people to get their perspective. My school has a program specifically focused on building construction, which seems like it would be a good fit. I am unsure about this (it is an idea).

I have a friend in a Lutheran Seminary right now and I think I will ask his opinion, as well as my sister's friend who is studying classics. I feel a certain draw towards the seminary route as well, but I don't know if this is selfish on my part (I very much want to learn Greek and Hebrew), or if this is a legitimate call.

I apologize that this is long winded and very personal with few biblical questions, but I fear that I am more worried than is normal about finding the right thing, and I need someone I can talk to about it (I'm not really comfortable bringing it up with my Church's pastor). Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Your brother in Christ,

P.S. I saw my very first email to you in the last email postings. My how things have changed! It's funny how once I started focusing "on the big things" as you put it, all the minor problems ceased to matter for me. Hopefully one day this indecisiveness will feel the same way.

Response #9: 

Always good to hear from you, my friend. College, especially these days, is a time of testing for most young Christians, for all the reason you state and imply here, and for others as well. I'm happy to hear that, while you haven't resolved all your questions, you seem to be handling the test very well indeed. Keep walking with Christ.

As to your questions:

1) I would certainly agree that the entire way the church-visible thinks about these matters is largely wrong-headed, and I tried to make this point emphatically in the latest major posting (see the link in BB 5: "Spiritual Gifts"). Ministries are not cookie-cutter things, at least in the Lord's eyes. This may make for a more complicated "playing field" than many are comfortable with, but it also enhances the true opportunities for Christian service, if approached in spirit and in truth. One small point here: ideally, individual ministries will correspond to the gifts God has given us. A person who is gifted to be a servant in the janitorial realm won't be a good pastor-teacher; a person who is gifted to be a pastor-teacher is unlikely to be a great janitor. We don't get any "humility points" from attempting to plug ourselves into inappropriate slots. One further point: a person with a teaching gift is not necessarily going to be restricted to a conventional church ministry anymore than a person who is good at more practical, hands on things needs to be thinking of "a church building" as the only place of ministry. As you know, my view is that much pointless activity has taken place over the years in just such settings. The same is true of missions. Those who are called to evangelize others in overseas settings may well have more success if they are more responsive to God's call than to traditional or organizational patterns.

2) Peace is wonderful; but as Christians we are called upon to experience the peace of Christ at all times, even when the world may be falling apart around our very ears. True Christian peace is a function of spiritual maturity and some measure of experience in facing a variety of tests in our walk through this world. The problem with the way the people who have shared this with you have phrased (and understood) this issue is that "peace" is made to sound not much different from emotion, and that is a problem. Truly mature Christians learn to "go with what they know" by faith; our bodies, infested with sin as they are, are very likely to try and disrupt our inner peace when we are actually doing the right thing. The devil knows this too, and so aggravating a sense of false guilt is one of his favorite tactics. In my experience, observation, and reading of scripture, it is often when we are going the right way and doing the right thing that we are going to experience the most opposition, internal as well as external; when we are hors de combat or going backwards, the devil has no interest in trying to disrupt our mental/spiritual equilibrium. So I don't think this is necessarily a good litmus test. We are here to choose. Making good choices is important, and all good choices will be opposed. For something like this the need for careful consideration of all factors cannot be underestimated; still, it's really all about us making a choice for Christ and following through. I know that the Lord honors that. Emotion is often a misleading guide (see the link), but true, inner spiritual peace does flow from our determination to do what we feel led to do in spite of all opposition:

It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer (i.e., elder), it is a fine work he desires to do.
1st Timothy 3:1 NASB

3) The link on spiritual gifts above is apropos of this question as well. The main thing I would wish to stress here is that we are all a "total package", and understanding and knowing ourselves as a whole (rather than attempting to split ourselves up into specific talents and gifts) is what we should really be about if we want to be successful in this quest. So things are really simpler, in a way, than at first we might assume. Who are we? Once we have that answer, we will be better able to answer "what does the Lord want me to do?".

4) The timeline connected with the seven millennial days is, as I am sure you are aware, an interpretation rather than a prediction. I have no independent knowledge and have received no independent revelation. My interpretation is based solely upon what I have found in scripture and the caveats which accompany it are usually included whenever I discuss the matter (see the link). That said, we Christians are to live one day at a time in any case. As I often say, just as our Savior is "the same, yesterday, today and forever", there are really only three days for the Christian walking with Him: yesterday when He died for us, tomorrow when He will return for us, and today when we have an opportunity to serve Him. Anything longer range than this should always be carefully dialed down in emotional terms. Today is "the day the Lord has made", a day of rejoicing, but also, since we are "in the world", a day of battle. Every day of battle is different; circumstances change, but what we are supposed to do day by day is always the same: learn more about our Lord, walk with Him according to the truth we have learned, and take advantage of the opportunities we have been given to serve Him. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.

The time is short, but on the other hand, we have no idea what tomorrow will bring (let alone what will happen personally and individually many years in the future). For that reason we don't really know exactly how the Lord is planning to use us when things "change". We do know, however, that if we have diligently prepared spiritually, we will be of much more potential use than if we have dithered away our opportunities. Preparing for a career is prudent, and whatever path we choose may be useful to the Lord in ways we cannot anticipate. As long as we are not sacrificing something we know we should do for something that is merely beneficial in this world's terms, we not only have nothing to be anxious about but are actually behaving in an honorable way.

Preparation for ministering the Word does take time and specialized training. If you are called in that direction, it might indeed require some hard choices. I had a regular commission in the USMC but resigned it to go back to school for that reason, and I've never regretted it (though I am certain I'd be much better off financially if I had not done so). If you are thinking in those terms, I would not recommend seminary as a first step (or possibly even at all). Ancient history, theology, church history, archaeology, hermeneutics and interpretation are all important subjects for a potential exegete of the Word to study; but all of these can be picked up along the way and in fairly short order. What really requires massive amounts of time, effort and dedication is getting up to speed in Greek and Hebrew. Seminary is the last place I would recommend for that since seminaries do not teach these languages as intensively, or broadly, or painstakingly as secular universities do.

I'm keeping you in my prayers!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10: 

Good afternoon Dr. Luginbill,

First I would like to state my sincere gratitude for your online ministry. I've been looking for some solid Biblical tools to help me for a long time, without much success and found myself being tossed to and fro between doctrines. After work I read my Bible, research History, and follow current events solely. But it's still difficult for me to grasp all that I feel I should that qualifies me to teach.

Currently I am an active duty Marine, after going to Afghanistan, I realized that the "war on terror" is not what it seems. I'm a Recon Marine so I got a different perspective than most due to are "mission sets". I won't go into all the conspiracy theories but needless to say I firmly believe that I was lied to and misled under the guise of "Patriotism." I am getting out of the USMC soon, and I feel called to guide and instruct others in the word as well as warn people of what is occurring in the "church visible." After searching for a church for a few months I began to see that they mostly stood on the "doctrines of men"; this was evidenced by a general lack of knowledge concerning prophecy as well as a complete avoidance of discussing eschatology with me beyond "pre-tribulation" rapture. I do not believe that we can rely on current events solely however I also feel that it is doing Christians a disservice to not warn them of the coming persecution, whether one preaches pre-tribulation rapture or not. It seems to me, (in my most humble opinion), that the churches I went to are not truly feeding the flock with sound Biblical doctrine.

I have noticed that God is leading people towards me, specifically at work. A lot of my fellow Marines have started to ask me questions, which I have been more than happy to answer. I find enjoyment from teaching/helping others grow in their walk with Christ. I feel that I have been called to continue this on a larger scale. As I now hold the view that "church" is not a building, but is us, and that I do not need to "bend" on important doctrines just so I can "go to church" to serve. And this is also where I stand a little confused, as to what to do next. I have effectively decided to begin daily Bible studies at my home, this proposal has been widely received and agreed with among the Christians in my workplace. As well has organizing, and executing a homeless ministry. I think we all feel that something is remiss in America from politics to religion etc.

Now that I am getting out I feel it is important to receive an education, specifically because I do not see how one can effectively teach the Bible without having knowledge in ancient history, Greek, Hebrew and perhaps even Aramaic. I have looked at numerous Bible Colleges, but I keep getting an odd feeling about it as well as I've noticed that most, if not all, hold to "denominational" doctrines. Statements of faith, that one MUST sign and agree with. On the other hand, a secular education I feel would force to me learn "secular" things. Which may diminish my time learning things to do with God and his word. I noticed that you have P.h.D in classical literature?

So all that to lead to this question, can you perhaps give me any advice specifically on what degree you'd most recommend in this day and age, that would be most beneficial to understanding and teaching the Bible? I apologize for the long email, I suppose I just wanted you know where I was coming from.

Last question is, can you give me any guidance on how I can better discern what Jesus meant by "false Jews" and "synagogue of Satan?" I feel that he is speaking of the "jews" like the Rothschild family etc. But I've also read some articles that point to the current "ecumenical church" movement. We're going to be studying revelations and I know this question will come up. I tried searching your site but I couldn't find anything. I plan on staying in southern California (San Diego county) for approximately a year.

Again thank you for taking the time to read this Dr. Luginbill, it is truly appreciated.

Respectfully and humbly,

Response #10: 

Very good to make your acquaintance and many thanks for your service. Apologies too for the delay in response. For some reason or other, your message made it to my spam folder and I only discovered it today.

First let me assure you that I get a large volume of mail from good Christians around the world who find themselves in the similar circumstance of feeling forced to chose between the truth and "a church". You are absolutely correct in your assessment that we, genuine believers in Jesus Christ, are "the Church", and that we are here in this world to honor our Master by learning and believing the truth of His Word, putting it into practice in our daily lives and passing the tests of faith that come, then, as we grow, helping others more and more to do likewise through responding to the ministry opportunities He gives us. That is the true Christian way of life.

Ideally, I suppose, one might wish for institutions where we would find all these things nicely set out for us. In fact, however, the Church was never meant to be as organized or "denominationalized" as it is today. And while it is certainly possible to lament the sad state of the church-visible here in our Laodicean era (see the link), from another point of view there has never been greater opportunity to find and treasure so much of the truth of the Word of God as is the case today. Those brave souls like yourself who are willing to "go outside the camp" to do so (Heb.13:11-13), however, have to pay a price. Many Christians are not interested in growing spiritually, of course, or have only a superficial commitment to the task of becoming mature and functioning members of the Body, aiding the collective growth of the whole. "All who wish to lead a life that honors God will suffer persecution" (2Tim.3:12), and that truth is more and more true as we approach the end of this era. Laodicea likes the easy way. Those who choose the road which is narrow and steep are resented for their determination to follow Jesus in the way He is calling for them to do. Compromising with the lukewarm is, in my opinion, a poor bargain. Changing things from within is never easy and seldom successful. Even if the new wine retains its vigor and expands, the result will be the break-up of the old and the loss of the new. More often, those who compromise for the sake of change end up being the ones who do the changing.

This is a long way of saying (and you certainly have nothing to apologize for in your well-thought out message), that I admire your approach and draw encouragement from it as I always do when I hear from true Christians who are unwilling to allow their thirst for the truth and its purity to go unquenched. I also appreciate the commitment you are making to serve the Lord in the honorable if very difficult capacity of someone who actually teaches the Bible. I can assure you that there is a need out there. I know of almost no churches where the Bible is actually taught in a substantive and orthodox way. Indeed, there is so little Bible teaching going on, that the doctrinal issues your rightly bring up have come to mean very little. If Sunday sermons comprise little more than illustrations, stories, jokes and focus mainly on dating, marriage and family life, most of the issues wherein denominations disagree will never come up in church in any case.

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

In desiring to enter into this field of battle, you are aspiring to what in my view is the most sublime sort of work anyone can imagine. I have never regretted the day I decided to resign my commission and embark upon a course of education to prepare me for ministering the Word of God instead.

A couple of things I should share with you. First, like all good decisions, this one will be challenged by the evil one, and probably more vigorously so to the extent that is a genuinely fine decision.

Secondly, when I went through seminary with a cohort of like-minded ex-servicemen, even though we were all non-denominational (being all adherents to one degree or another and of one type or another to the ministry of the late Col. Thieme), there was at least the prospect of some sort of traditional "church" employment after graduation. Few of us found that avenue open (or productive) in the end, however. I remember struggling a whole summer with the question of whether or not to try the traditional route or to opt for going "off grid" entirely instead. Conscience demanded the latter course, and I have never regretted that decision either. However, it is certainly clear to me at this point in my life that a traditional "brick and mortar" church is not going to happen for me. And that turns out to have been a very good thing. There is a lot of interest in the truth out there in the world, but it tends to be scattered broadly around the world. Blessedly, the internet has proved the ideal means to minister to so many of these wonderful Christians thirsty for the Word of God. I also count it a blessing that the Lord has provided me with a livelihood wherein what I do day by day (and what I had to do to get to this point) pays dividends in terms of my ministry (I have my head into Greek and ancient history pretty much daily irrespective of my biblical studies). What I am saying is that after a long and arduous education, no one can promise you a traditional track. After what you've been through, this may not sound particularly daunting, but it does take time to get from point A to point B. It's a bit of a Marathon, and with no ready-made package of rewards once you break the tape. Those of us who love the Lord with all our hearts understand that the true rewards waiting on the other side of this life for a job well done put anything this corrupt world could offer us completely in the shade (see the link: Eternal Rewards), but it is nevertheless always advisable to "count the cost" before embarking on any lengthy and difficult endeavor (Lk.14:26-33), and preparing in a serious and responsible way for a Bible teaching ministry definitely qualifies.

Thirdly, since there is no defined track for this sort of thing, all denominations and formal groupings being tainted in one way or another, how one goes about getting the proper education requires a measure of flexibility in planning and execution. I think you have the parameters about right in your desire to focus on history and ancient languages. I would put languages (Greek and Hebrew) first, simply because they are a much harder lift than gaining a good background in the history of the ancient world, and take some considerable time to get to the point of effectiveness. As an aside, Aramaic covers a lot of ground: biblical Aramaic has proved to be sufficient for my purposes (though I have dabbled in other varieties, mostly during seminary days). One other area of study I also always recommend is that of theology (and church history which cannot be entirely divorced from the study of doctrine as developed by the church-visible). I'm certainly not saying that even at a perfect seminary (of which there are none) that you would necessarily learn in such courses earthshaking truths of which you are presently unaware, but being exposed to traditional theological formulations in an academic setting was definitely helpful for me, if only by way of negative examples and the familiarity gained with "what's out there now" and "what went before". As you will see from my C.V. (see the link), my own approach combined history (the B.A. I received before entering the USMC), Classics (B.A., M.A. and Ph.D.) and Theology/Hebrew (the M.A.B.S. I received in-between my undergraduate and graduate work in Classics). I was fortunate enough to be able to get two years of biblical Hebrew (and one year of Modern) before concentrating on that language in seminary. Classics, of course, is all about Greek (and Latin).

For me, the above proved a very nice mix, but I would certainly not want to foist this particular model on anyone else. For one thing, even though I wasted some of my youth, I still had more time than those starting right now will have. Anyone who decides today that teaching the Bible is his life's work will want to weigh the potential years of preparation against the number of years left before the Tribulation begins (and as you probably know from the postings at Ichthys, in my interpretation of scripture there are not all that many left). Also, as bad as things were when I came up, they seem to be much worse now. The seminary I attended, Talbot Theological, was slanting towards liberalism and a lack of doctrinal grit when I attended in the early 80's. It's gone downhill significantly since. As I also often say when responding to this and similar questions, much of the benefit I derived from attending there came through serious (and not so serious) fellowship with a cadre of like-minded students with military backgrounds. This is something one cannot count on, especially today. I do think your observation about the "oddness" of Bible schools is right on the money. I never went to one, but Talbot is associated with Biola University, and that oddness was unmistakable, even from our side of the campus. That should really come as no surprise. Most denominations, groups, mega-churches, what have you, do what they do and are what they are as a reflection of their clientele lukewarm believers for the most part. And while it is true that poor leadership contributes mightily to spiritual decline and doctrinal vapidity, it is also true that people always get the leadership they deserve (and really want).

In other words, this brings us back full-circle to the sad state of spiritual affairs in the church-visible today and its underlying cause: a general disinterest in learning God's truth in any serious or substantial way. The fact that you wish to devote your life to providing what most Laodicean Christians really don't want makes you one the select few. That is a decidedly good thing, but I would not wish to downplay the resistance you will have to fight through, nor the disappointment with your peers you will likely experience to full measure, nor the lack of understanding and gratitude destined to emanate from the very Christians you are dedicating your life to serve in response to our Lord's command, "Feed my sheep". How many times will you be asked "what church do you go to?" as if this tells the true tale and as if the lack of a firm and positive response reflects very poorly (when the opposite is the case today). So I can't promise you an easy or a simple road to preparation, nor a defined slot once you have climbed that mountain, nor even any sort of immediate, positive response when you begin to serve the Lord in the fullness of the ministry to which you have been called thereafter. But our Lord does promise the three crowns of victory to all who persevere in this fight, unbowed until the end and nothing could be better than getting a "well done" from Him for faithful service in this world.

For what is worth, I don't regret going down this path or anything I've been blessed to do to prepare and to minister to my Master's sheep. I only regret not doing more.

Here are a few posted responses which talk about these matters:

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly

How important is education for a pastor?

Tent-making and Galatians 6:6

Servants, Slaves, Disciples, and Ministers

Luginbill Biography FAQs

Regarding Ichthys (see esp. Q#4)

As to your final question, the messages to the seven churches are covered in part 2A of Coming Tribulation (see the link). In a nutshell, "those who (in Rev.2:9 and cf. 3:9) say they are Jews but are not" are, as scripture states very plainly, not Jewish. This term refers to the false church or that part of the church-visible which is in fact not composed of believers at all. We certainly have our share of this sort in our day and age as well, but the Jewish reference is used merely to distinguish between God's true people (the real Church) and those who merely claim that privilege falsely (meaning today all pseudo-Christian groups and individuals). The treatment under the church at Smyrna is the most detailed on this point (see the link), but I would advise starting this study from the beginning or else the overall interpretation may appear somewhat clouded.

Thank you again for your courageous spirit and admirable intentions. Please feel free to write me back about any of the above or whatever you please.

Your fellow Christian warrior in Jesus our dear Lord.

Bob Luginbill

Question #11: 

Hi,

Is it possible or recommended to try an learn Greek on your own or does one need to go to college for that? I am interested in learning.

Thanks and God bless

Response #11: 

Thanks for your patience.

As to your question, the answer really depends on how well you want to learn ancient Greek. If you want a passing knowledge and some familiarity with the language, you might be able to pick that up on your own. If you really want an in-depth mastery, that takes many years of formal education (in my opinion) along with much time and effort put in on one's own in addition. Greek is one of the most challenging languages I've every bumped into, and I would rate mastering it as being much more difficult than mastering any modern language I've tackled (including German) or any dead language (including Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew). These issues and related ones are discussed in many places at Ichthys. Here are few links which you might also find helpful in getting started:

Greek necessary for exegeting scripture

Studying Greek and Hebrew

Why Was the New Testament Written in Greek?

What language did Jesus Speak

Do feel free to get back to me on this. As I say, it really does depend quite a bit on your purpose and specific objectives. Anyone who aspires to teaching the Bible and its truths would be well served by learning Greek very well (not to mention Hebrew); otherwise, that man will be dependent upon what others have said about the scriptures, rather than reading them for himself.

Yours In Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12: 

Is there any place I can take Hebrew online?

Response #12: 

Here's a link to my page that lists some Hebrew resources online (including courses of study):

Hebrew Language Study Resources

There are plenty of others out there in cyber-space as well, of course. A couple of observations: 1) since there is so much on the net now that is free, I would think long and hard about paying for anything (especially if it is not a standard course at an accredited university); 2) you should also know that while Modern Hebrew is very helpful for those interested in Biblical Hebrew, there are enough differences both in terms of the languages and also in terms of they way they are traditionally taught that unless a person has plenty of time, energy and money to burn, it's important not to study "the wrong one" (whichever that is) by mistake (same holds true with Classical vs. Modern Greek); 3) self-study, of which all online instruction is, in my view, a part, is not the best way to study language, and complicated "dead" languages like Hebrew and Greek are usually best taken in the traditional way, where an actual teacher may be queried face to face about issues of pronunciation, grammar, translation, forms, etc. Still, not everyone has the luxury of taking five or so years off and immersing in language at a top university. For that reason, I have created the page linked above. There is also information about Biblical Hebrew and various translation issues scattered about throughout Ichthys, but you may find the following links in particular helpful as well:

Hebrew Language Study Tools

Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations I

I should also hasten to add that making decisions along these lines also should reflect a person's overall objectives. If a man is planning to have a Bible teaching ministry, for example, that will usually dictate a different course than if it is instead a case of merely wanting to be better informed about the background of the Bible.

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13: 

I was also wondering, if Paul was not around when Jesus was baptized, persecuted and crucified, how would he construct an account of the life and work of Jesus?

Also, in acts 21, why was Paul mistaken for the Egyptian revolutionary? And in Acts 22, were the people amazed to hear Paul speak Aramaic, if so why?

Lastly, what is the history of seminary? How did they start, by whom and especially here in North America?

Thanks so much

Response #13: 

Hello Friend,

As to your questions,

1) Luke says (Lk.1:3) that he got this information anothen = "from above" (though many versions restrict the meaning, wrongly, to "from the beginning"); so we have a case of divine inspiration (analogous to Moses' getting much information in Genesis about events that happened thousands of years earlier).

2) The Roman centurion assumed that anyone who could stir up the crowd in this way had to be a famous insurrectionist (this was the most likely choice); Paul addressed the crowd in Hebrew (not Aramaic; the Gk. says Hebraidi); this let them know that he was not an "out-of-towner" but an educated member of the Jewish intelligentsia (something they were not expecting).

3) A big question! It very much depends on the seminary. The first, if I'm not mistaken, was Dartmouth, a liberal arts college today, but founded to prepare men to take the Word of God to native Americans.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Dear Dr Ludingbill:

Do you produce MP3's or is there a way that I can download them?

I have been with Berachah as a taper for over 40 years but as I study the Word I am becoming frustrated with the exclusivity of that ministry, also whether a man divorced 3 times is qualified to be a Pastor.

I thank the Lord that I found your website, I have been looking for several months.

Yours in Christ.

Response #14: 

It's good to make your acquaintance. I'm sorry to have to report that I don't have any MP3 files. Producing audio materials would take more time than I have (and this ministry plus my full time job have me too busy to consider anything like that at present; please see the link: "Regarding Ichthys" Q/A #3). 

As to the issue of divorce (and remarriage), I have written a lot about that (as you probably know; happy to give you the links if needed; see: "Marriage and the Bible II" as a start). As I always say, the Bible advises: 1) don't rush to get married (but if you do marry you have not sinned); 2) if married, don't get divorced; 3) but if you do, remain unmarried; 4) since most people are incapable of living single without sin, and, life and human beings being what they are, it is the case that in our society in particular many Christians do get remarried after being divorced; 5) so, regardless of the circumstances of the remarriage (and regardless of whether or not there was a "right" to divorce or a "right" to remarry), if we have again passed 1) we are now back to point 2) if married, don't get divorced.

Everyone is imperfect. "We all stumble in many ways" (Jas.3:2 NIV). As Christians, better that we never stumble, or, since we all do so, that we do so as little as possible and in as insignificant ways as possible. I think it is human nature to assume that if a person has divorced and remarried three times that there must be some error involved; not knowing (nor wanting to know) the circumstances, however, that is not necessarily true. It is also human nature to assume that other people's sins must necessarily disqualify them from certain things whereas in evaluating our own cases we are likely to be more lenient. From God's point of view, we are all in need of grace, we all sin (Rom.3:23), and we would all be disqualified, not only from personal ministry of any kind but also from being members of the Body of Christ, were it not for the mercy, forgiveness, goodness and love of God. From what we can glean from the biblical account, Moses seems to have been divorced and remarried, but not disqualified from serving the Lord for either. David, of course, committed adultery and murder and married his victim's wife, and yet he was not disqualified from being king (or from being inspired to write the Psalms). In the latter case, he was horribly wrong in all he did and he suffered greatly for it (14 years of intense divine discipline), so we certainly do not want to commend any sin or any dishonorable action in any way; we merely need to acknowledge that 1) sometimes unfortunate actions are not sinful; and 2) even when they clearly are sinful they do not necessarily mean that God is going to cast the person in question aside forever.

Clearly, everything we do in the life reflects on us as Christians, and we should always be keeping that in mind. Also just as clearly, it is certainly possible for any Christian, and especially for Christians in any position of authority or influence, to go down a false or a bad road and get to the point where God removes that authority or influence as a result (of course that is His choice, not ours). Finally, and perhaps most apropos of your question, we are certainly free as Christians to decide where to go and to whom to go to fulfill our need for spiritual sustenance. And we are most definitely allowed to take all the information we can find about our potential "source" into consideration when we are making this important decision. In my opinion, the best test is the test of the reliability, orthodoxy, and benefit of the truth which that source is dispensing. If what we are receiving is absolute pablum or, worse, untrue, then it is time to move on no matter how wonderful the person is who is doing the dispensing. On the other hand, if what we are receiving is good solid food, and particularly if it is of rare quality, then we might be willing to put up with some imperfections on the part of the one teaching. Ideally, good teaching will reflect and be reflected in a completely good and godly life. But we do live in the world, and that all but guarantees that trying to find perfect teaching which reflects and is reflected in a perfect life is something we are unlikely to find especially if we are looking for someone whose life has always been perfect (few of us have no mistakes in our past, after all). That is certainly what those who listen should seek after and what those who teach should try to achieve, but in the absence of that completely perfect standard, any teaching which is good and solid and which comes from a person of good and solid character who is walking with the Lord (now, even if not always so in the past), is not a completely terrible situation. Indeed, in this age of Laodicea it is, in my opinion, uncommonly rare.

Thank you so much for encouraging words do feel free to write any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #15: 

Dear Dr. Luginbill:

Thank you for such a prompt reply. One supplementary question, how do you interpret 1Tim 3:1-7 re the qualifications for a Pastor? Thank you again for your reply.

Yours in Christ,

Response #15: 

You're very welcome.

On the supplementary, first, if you are speaking of the qualifications in general, taken together they paint a picture of a person of good, upstanding character who is conducting his affairs in an honorable way. As I say, that determination has to be made 1) by the local church in their appointment of the individual as their pastor/teacher (as well as in their oversight of him in his tenure in the position); and 2) by individuals who are or who plan to attend and listen to the teaching. These are excellent scriptures to keep in mind in evaluating the individual who is doing the teaching. However, the teaching itself must also be evaluated by anyone planning to attend, and that issue is not addressed here by Paul since he is discussing the appointment of qualified individuals to the pastorate in the first place (not the conditions for separating from fellowship or the discernment believers should exercise regarding false teaching, e.g.). In the 1st Timothy 3:1-7 passage, we are only told that a person being considered for the position of pastor/teacher must be "able to teach" (v.2). There are many who are able (in theory or at least to appearance) but who do not teach (for a variety of reasons); I take the "ability" mentioned here to be the totality of gifts, talents and preparation necessary to be able to feed the flock in question. So even if from early reports a pastor/teacher seems to be doing the job of teaching (and we are not even discussing here what the 99% do that is, they don't teach), the mere fact that he is not actually qualified (e.g., lacks the gift, lacks the temperament, lacks the talent, and/or, very importantly, lacks the academic preparation and language skills necessary to feed himself independent of someone else' teaching ministry) is reason enough for a believer to move on to the next possibility.

Second, if you are speaking about the phrase "a husband of one wife" (that is what the Greek actually says), this stipulates that a pastor/teacher should not be appointed if he is married to more than one woman . . . at a time. It does not say or mean that he cannot be single; it does not say or mean that he cannot have been divorced or remarried after a divorce; it does not say or mean that he cannot be remarried after being widowed (or still single after being widowed). While all of the preceding have been argued for from time to time, this prohibition is added by the Spirit to prevent those involved in bigamy or polygamy from being pastors. Polygamy was not unknown at the time this passage was written (and was more frequent than today, lacking the same social stigma and legal prohibitions we have), nor was bigamy. Either one of those offenses disqualifies the person in question from being a pastor/teacher, and is antithetical to being in any kind of authority:

[The king] must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.
Deuteronomy 17:17a NIV

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Good afternoon sir,

I know you are a busy man, so I apologize beforehand for such a long email. I just don't have anyone else to talk to about this. To keep it a little organized, my main currents of thought revolve around:

1) Praying and not hearing an answer

2) I feel that God is forcing me to be isolated so I can turn to him.

3) Occultic knowledge

I was recently medically retired from the USMC. I was struggling with "PTSD" for a long while after a deployment to Afghanistan. I went through the "system" to receive treatment which exacerbated the problem more than anything. So I finally turned to Jesus and cried out for help. Which he did and since then it's been a strange journey. I'm doing completely fine without psych meds and all the PTSD symptoms such as anxiety and depression have disappeared. I'm fairly certain that God allowed me to suffer through those years in order to force me to turn to him. Which I am most thankful for.

I have an inner "drive" to find the truth. When I first "awoke" ( I don't know of a better term to describe it), I began reading the Bible voraciously it was as if I never understood it in it's true light before. I had read that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of understanding" and that I should "seek wisdom and knowledge" above all else. So I prayed quite a bit for God to give me these things so that I could help others. I feel that he did, however a lot of what I feel I've interpreted is counter intuitive to what my local churches are teaching.

To give an example: I was invited by a fellow veteran to a church called C3. It was very strange, the "worship service" was a laser light show with "club" type Christian music. Which perturbed me but I feel that I shouldn't judge. My friend said it was run this way in order to draw in people from our younger generation. I've been three times and every sermon always has something to do with money. The general idea being that when you give to their church God will bless you and prosper you. The Pastor also told me that people on welfare are only on welfare because they don't have enough "faith." And that by being on welfare they aren't setting a good example as Christians. It just seems "off" to me.

That's one of many examples I could give. I guess I'm worried that I shouldn't feel this way as Paul admonishes that we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves, especially in these days? So should I continue to go to a church that I feel is teaching the word wrong? I don't have any friends or a social circle, I have a hard time relating to others. As well as all of my old veteran friends still drink and aren't believers. I've tried to reach out but to no avail so I feel that I had to cut them out of my life because they were influencing me negatively. At college I haven't met anyone or talked to anyone that is interested in these things. So my main question is this. How do I know what God wants me to do? Currently I'm a college student majoring in engineering. I thought at first that perhaps God wanted me to be a Pastor. The reason being I honestly can't have a conversation with anyone without bringing the Gospel up and I LOVE talking about prophecy etc. However, I tried to find a Bible College that would accept the G.I. Bill and would also teach the Word correctly. I've found that most of the colleges make you sign a "statement of faith" Which usually included teachings such as "the rapture", something I personally feel that God told me is a false teaching as I've studied the scriptures. It just seemed God wasn't opening any doors in that direction.

So as I said I'm currently majoring in a subject that is interesting to me. But I don't know if that's what God wants me to be doing. I pray a lot for God to please tell me what he wants me to do. I never get an answer in my mind. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to hear "his still small voice" is it an actual voice in my head? Or is it something that will happen externally that I know came from God?

As I started seeking wisdom I got led astray and began reading occultic knowledge. A lot of it is VERY persuasive, for example there is a "grimoire" called the Arbatel. That is all about "fearing the Lord" and living a chaste life. It seems very Christian but I know it has subtle poison in it.

From my understanding ALL occult knowledge is wrong to study. However, to give an example of how it helped me discern something is this:

Pastor Joel Osteen I think is an evil man. The reason being is his ministry "logo" is a circle with a phoenix bird in the middle. This is an occultic symbol that signifies the end of the "Great Work" or Spiritual Alchemy when a man is "reborn" through his own effort at applying the hermetic principles. I would have never been able to know that if I hadn't studied Occult knowledge. He also "preaches" without using the Bible and seems to use the occult techniques of mesmerizing or using oral and body language to lull people into a state of mind that is more impressionable. I feel that he and others like him are false prophets that are leading Christians astray.

Okay, I know this email is getting to long. So to summarize:

1) I am literally completely willing to submit my entire will to God. In fact I've prayed numerous times for Him to take my freewill away completely. I don't even want freewill anymore I just mess up with it. I'd rather be like a horse with a bit in my mouth and have God lead me completely. What do I need to do in order to know God's will for my life? Should I just wait and continue doing what I'm doing and have faith he will show me when the time comes? I don't want

2) I don't mean to sound arrogant but I know that I have a very high intelligence, I know this because nothing is difficult for me to learn I get straight A's in college without much effort, have no trouble understanding complex mathematics etc. Again please don't take this as arrogance, I just know that God has blessed me with a very sharp mind. But it does make it hard for me to relate to people. I have a hard time talking about things that are "normal". I don't watch T.V. or movies, follow pop culture, the news etc. I mainly just read the Bible and mess around with electronics and do art. I know this is wrong. I need to be able to relate to people intimately so that I can share the gospel and good news of Jesus Christ. I've been isolated for about 2 years now, I have my wife but she has the same issue. Very intelligent and can't find good honest Christian friends. I still go out and help the homeless quite a bit and I've helped 2 other people get their life on track by letting them live with me for free and paying for their needs etc. But I'm still very isolated. I have a sense that this is what God wants for me in order that I might learn to completely depend on him but I read in Proverbs:

"A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment."

I don't feel I'm seeking my own desire but this verse made me want to cry when I read it out of frustration. So should I go to a normal church and just not care that perhaps the Word isn't being taught correctly? Every church I've tried to attend I just had a weird feeling about it. I wasn't at peace so I assumed that was God telling me to not attend.

3) I've stopped reading all occult knowledge, I guess what made me feel that it was okay was "Be wise as serpents but harmless as doves." It has helped me understand the illusion that is called the world. It's helped me understand what those in charge are striving towards and their evil plots etc. Things like the "star of David" on Israel's flag is really a satanic symbol that correlates to the planet Saturn as it's north pole is a storm in the shape of a hexagram. I don't think that modern day Israel is a fulfillment of prophecy. It seems off especially from my readings in Isaiah. And solidified by my knowledge of what that Star actually means. So should I continue to avoid the occult?

Thank you your time sir, I'm sorry it was so long I've just had a strange spiritual journey so far and no one to really talk to about it or help me stay strong and wise against Satan's tactics. Thank you for ministry I haven't ingested all of it but it's definitely THE BIGGEST HELP I've found thus far. God bless you sir! I'll be praying for you.

Respectfully,

Response #16: 

Very good to make your acquaintance. I am pleased to know you, and also want to encourage you on your journey. To my way of thinking, you have made many good decisions, and clearly have uncommonly sound "spiritual common sense". That is, no doubt, testimony to the fact that the Spirit guides all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who truly want to be guided. This is not a relinquishing of free will this life is all about the choices we make. The question is who are we choosing for? Are we making choices that satisfy the flesh, for the world and its evil ruler? Or are we making choices consistent with the guidance of the Spirit, those that please our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? So please don't denigrate your free will. It is the very image of God. We are all here in this world to determine whether or not we are willing to subordinate our will to His WILL, or be instead gods unto ourselves. The latter choice is where most of the world is, and even in the community of believers, most, sad to say, are only lukewarm for the Lord (this is, after all, the era of Laodicea; see the link). Every time we make a choice, we demonstrate what is really important to us. Also, please do not be too hard on yourself about lack of perfection. We are held to a perfect standard and we should not be satisfied with less, but we also have to recognize that we are but dust (Ps.90), and imperfect as long as we live in these bodies of flesh.

I think turning away from having anything to do with theosophistic and cultic writings is a very good choice; these sorts of materials are carefully polished by the evil one and his minions to appeal to our innate human arrogance (by studying them "we" know something others don't . . . and can't); a prospective pastor-teacher may perhaps be well-served by having some general knowledge of these things (to warn others against them as in the application you have made), but there are limits which if passed will only bring trouble (see the link on the star of David, one notable trap you mention).

As to divine guidance, this is something that grows as the believer grows spiritually. It is also important to remember that God always hears and always honors our prayers. Just because He does not answer when we would like (i.e., we want it "today", but ten years from now may be what He has in mind for all manner of reasons beyond our understanding), or in the way would like but He always answers. Our part is to exercise faith that He is treating us, His children, in precisely the right way, working all things out together for good for those who truly love Him and our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom.8:28). If these tests and their answers were easy and obvious, there would be no place for faith. But faith is the counterpart of godly choice. When we choose for our Lord, we do so despite everything the world is showing us and telling us. Godly choice is always counter-intuitive to the worldly mind, and always involves faith which is why I often term it "free-will faith", because the two things are really impossible to distinguish.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

Part of the answer to your series of questions is the perspective that should be taken. Consider, if God really has been channeling you in certain directions and in so doing making your life-path gradually more clear, that is most certainly answering you, albeit probably not in the way you would have thought or even desired. There is a divine plan, collectively for the entire world, but also for you individually as one who belongs to Jesus Christ. It is always better to embrace it and flow with it than to fight it and question it. As a military man you understand that orders are orders, and when commanded to take some action or objective that may seem nonsensical, we know that the success of an entire operation may depend upon our doing things that don't seem to make sense. Now in the world of mankind, general officers sometimes blunder, but we are still expected to carry out their legal orders. Blessedly, on the spiritual side of things our Commanding Officer is perfect in every way. So that whenever we may think things are going wrong, we need to grab hold of ourselves and not "go there". Even great believers are tempted to doubt and thus harm themselves spiritually. Elijah panicked after one of the greatest spiritual victories of all time, and it sent him into a spiritual tail-spin; Moses lost his temper after forty years of patience, and it cost him entering the land of promise; Job put up with the absolutely intolerable, but "lost it" when his sorry friends pointed the blame at him. None of us is as great as any of these three, but that is the point. If such great men could get angry at God, blame God, fail to trust God, we should rapidly stick our faces in the dirt whenever we are even tempted to begin letting our thoughts head in that direction. Jesus Christ is our everything; He died for all of our sins which is the only reason we are going to live forever and not end up in the lake of fire. God did that for us; we should be so grateful that the mundane pressures are never allowed to compete with that great truth (but we are human).

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends."
John 15:13 NIV

As to "what next", that is a question I dare say exercises all believers until they have a solid answer all believers, that is, who get to the point of truly desiring to serve the Lord as we all should (and that reduces the number in our day significantly). It usually takes some time before the ministry the Lord has for us becomes clear. For most Christians, this will not involve special training but will make use of the gifts, resources, and life-experience they already have. For those contemplating going into the teaching ministry, however, that is a different story. I certainly sympathize with your frustration about the state of the church-visible today (and completely agree with your analysis; see the link: "When is the Rapture?").  There is a church on nearly every other block in this country, but very few indeed which even pay lip-service to teaching the Word of God the way it should be taught. That is the reason for assembling ourselves together, namely for the mutual encouragement and resultant spiritual growth that comes from the teaching, learning, believing and applying the truths of the Word of God. Otherwise, "your meetings do more harm than good" (1Cor.11:17 NIV).

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer (i.e., pastor-teacher) desires a noble task.
1st Timothy 3:1 NIV

Teaching the Word of God to others is indeed a noble task, because it is through the encouragement and guidance of the truths of scripture that we grow and become more able to fight the fight we are called to fight in this life. I would not, given the present state of the church-visible, encourage anyone to be looking exclusively to the traditional pastorate (and certainly not in a traditional denomination); but the world is changing rapidly, and God dispensation of His truth always perfectly adapts to supply all who truly do want that truth. Such, I would imagine, will especially be true during the soon to come Tribulation. This ministry as currently constituted was not contemplated by me in this form at all when I set out there wasn't even an internet then!

I admire your determination not to compromise your beliefs. Personally, I am sure that I got much more out of pursuing secular subjects during the day and the Bible and Bible truth at night than I ever would have gotten from a Bible college. Seminary was a positive experience for me largely because of the small group of similarly minded men I met there (all ex or prospective military) rather than the course work (although Church History was especially helpful, and I was able to concentrate more on my Hebrew than was later the case in Classics grad school). A prospective pastor first needs to know the Bible (you are working on that); then as much about what the Bible means as possible (systematic theology, best obtained in the first instance from a good, orthodox teaching ministry you are certainly welcome at Ichthys!); then how it means what it means (some experience with theories and canons of interpretation, but mostly a solid knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages). Add history (ancient and Church) and some other odds and ends (accessible at a good seminary but also capable of being picked up on one's own) and a good preparation for whatever the Lord has in mind will be had. If you are convinced that this is the way you should go, it is not necessary to know at this point just how the Lord will use you in the future. Here are a few links to get you started on this:

"Biblical Languages, Texts and Translations IV"

"The importance of Greek"

"How important is education for a pastor?"

"Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly"

Apologies for the brevity of this reply; I do a major posting on Saturdays and need to be getting to the rest of that now, but I didn't want to leave this until tomorrow.

Please do feel free to write back about any of this.

Your fellow Christian soldier, in Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob Luginbill

p.s., 1) I hope you will consider allowing me post this at some future point (anonymously with identifying details omitted); 2) the verse troubling you, Proverbs 18:1, is speaking of a person who "separates himself" from the truth for the sake of personal "desire"; in other words, going to a church for social reasons to the detriment of spiritual growth is precisely what this verse is castigating.  That is why he is explained as "antagonistic against wisdom" in the second half of the verse; 3) as to Joel Osteen, he is certainly not my cup of tea (see the link: "Red Hot or Lukewarm?"), but I know of no reason to connect him with the occult; also, I am reminded of Paul's words: "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice," (Phil.1:18 NIV).

Question #17: 

Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your timely response, it's truly appreciated and helped me quite a bit. If there is ever any way I could help you please let me know.

I had an inkling about most of what you said, however as I said I don't really have anyone to talk to about spiritual matters. I suppose for me it's so distressing because I don't want to major in a subject that God doesn't want me too. But thanks to you I understand that it's best to just take it one day at a time and wait for him to reveal the plan.

I want to keep this short because I know you are busy. I have many, many more questions. Specifically because I took a religious studies class this semester and much of what I was taught about Judaism/Christianity has really been testing my faith. But I will search your site more thoroughly to ensure you're not answering the same questions you've received from others before I ask.

Feel free to post any and all of my email, I know there are other Christians that are researching the occult. If anything I'd hope that it helps them come out it. As I said many of the medieval grimoires/kaballah are VERY tricky to discern that they are poison. I really was tempted to "experiment" but I know the Holy Spirit was telling me NO! It led me to believe that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was spiritual poison in much the same manner. I think that the coming World Religion will have some of the same currents, extreme asceticism and "legalism" within the mystery school tradition.

Thank you again for your time sir.

Humbly,

Response #17:

You are most welcome. Do feel free to write me back any time with questions that is a big part of this ministry.

As to what to major in, years ago I saw an interview with the famous movie director Otto Preminger. Turns out he had read the law in school, and when asked if that had been helpful in his present career he enthusiastically affirmed that it had been, saying something to the effect "anything you learn well is valuable". I have found that to be true in my own life as well. C.I. Scofield of the Study Bible fame was also trained as a lawyer. Technical learning also takes mental discipline of the sort that is helpful in devoting time to Bible study both in preparation for and implementation of a teaching ministry. The real issue is one of time. We don't have time to learn everything, and some things (Greek and Hebrew in particular) take a good deal of time to master to the point of being truly useful for a prospective pastor-teacher. Then there is also the issue of providing for one's family. Were I married with children when I decided to resign my commission and go back to school, I'm not sure it would have been the right thing to do as it was, it was exactly the right thing. Then there is also the consideration that while "all or nothing" is my own particular extremist bent, many have done much with an incremental approach. That is to say, it's probably not impossible to take Greek while you are majoring in engineering. In fact, I have had many such students here at U of L over the years. In any case, before a person jumps into a deep pool it's a good idea to make sure first that there is water in it. I knew for certain what I wanted (and felt God wanted me) to do. Before burning career bridges entirely, having that sort of conviction is probably essential; after all, only men who do actually have a teaching gift from the Spirit are going to be employed by the Lord in that way, good intentions aside. Figuring out just how our Lord Jesus wants to use us often takes time and effort, as previously mentioned, and there is no predictable or entirely controllable path to that end except for the one every Christian should be on in the first place anyway, namely, the path of spiritual growth and progress. The closer we are walking with Jesus day by day, the clearer His will for our lives in all things great and small becomes.

(1) Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed. (2) 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 12:1-2 (cf. Rom.2:17-18)

(9) And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in full-knowledge (epignosis: truth believed) and in all discernment, (10) so that you may be able to evaluate the things that are good and appropriate [for you to do] to be sincere and without offense in regard to the day of Christ (i.e., to gain a maximum reward at Christ's judgment seat), (11) full of the righteous production Jesus Christ [commends] to the glory and praise of God.
Philippians 1:9-11

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.
 

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