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Culture and Christianity XIV:
Motivation, Mental Illness, Music and Marijuana

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Question #1:

Could help me on this scripture? Do you have any thing on it?

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD.
Deuteronomy 23:2 KJV

Thank you

God Bless

Response #1:

Since Israel operated as the chosen people of the Lord, they were required to abide by all manner of statutes that showed by their outward behavior their inner sanctification. At least that was what should have happened. However, in no generation of Israel following the giving of the Law did any generation ever come close. Before the captivity, Israel tended toward idolatry; afterwards, she tended towards legalism (a strict following of the letter but with jettisoning the deeper spiritual meaning). Deuteronomy 23:2 states that no one born illegitimately should be allowed to be part of the active fellowship of Israel until ten generations had passed. This certainly shows that sexual behavior outside of wedlock with one's marriage partner is the absolute opposite of sanctification. One should mention, however, that this command, though as said it is illustrative of the Lord's attitude, should not be taken to mean that we today who are not in Israel and not under the Law should treat any individual who is a brother or sister in Christ any differently or withhold our Christian love regardless of circumstances of birth or any other factor.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Bob,

Greetings again from Arizona. Been praying for you that the Lord will keep you in His care.

What is your take on John Bunyan? I recently read some of one of his works called Heavenly Footman, and came away troubled in heart. Seems like, according to him, that your soul is always in the balance and everything has to be right or you could end up in hell for the smallest deviation. What is your take on that and Pilgrim's Progress?

God bless; have a good one.

In Jesus,

Response #2:

Thanks for your prayers, my friend – I'm keeping you in mine as well (and I hope you are doing well also).

I've never personally been much on Christian fiction or allegory (though we all have our own ministries). To me this sort of literature is analogous to hymns which while they may have one foot in the truth often add other things that may give false impressions and empower emotional ways of thinking which have nothing to do with the truth. That may be the case with Bunyan. I had a seminary professor whom I greatly admired who told us that we ought to read Bunyan because "any educated person" should read him. Even so I could never bring myself to get through it – just as I can't tolerate most Christian music, especially the newer stuff (although I allow as how others feel differently). My attitude towards these cultural-Christian productions is that if they are truly helpful to someone, I have no objection, but I always am on the lookout for influences that are not helpful or are misleading – of which all writing whether lyrics or literature which is not actually the Bible runs the risk of being at least to some small degree. But I really don't think that a Christian who knows what is really important ought to have to force him/herself to listen to "Christian" music or read "Christian" literature on the grounds that it is "necessary" or "the right thing go do". These things are optional for growing Christians. If they help, well and good; if they hurt, stay away; if they become substitutes for true spiritual advance, that is also a problem.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

Read this:

http://www.worthynews.com/1712-bush-worship-at-shinto-temple-troubles-christians-in-japan-and-u-s

People wonder why Japan continues to remain a country with very few Christians, but if our Christians go and worship false gods, I cannot imagine that this sets a very good example for Japanese citizens for what it means to be so. In fact, it is very much possible that the Japanese believe that being a Christian just means getting married at a church and observing a few nominal holidays, merely because this is the only example they see (America).

But what's really surprising is that evangelicals do not seem to mind that Bush did this. Can it be possible that so many people with the Holy Spirit indwelling them, if indeed He is indwelling them, could treat the worship of false gods as a purely cultural issue, and that Jesus Christ is not at all offended by this action? Even if the form of paganism in question is extremely mild-mannered and socially acceptable, I do not think that it is ever within the bounds of Christian freedom to do this at anytime.

How do you, as a fairly conservative evangelical, feel about this? I find it very weird that evangelicals can treat this as a non-issue but at the same time get worked up over their children reading Harry Potter, even though J.K. Rowling confesses Jesus Christ as Lord! I almost feel as if evangelicalism is on the verge of becoming a completely different religion from Christianity!

But in fairness, I do not consider Bush to be an apostate; after all, even giants like Paul worshiped at the temple after becoming a believer, even though he very clearly stated later on that nobody can continue to be a believer in Christ and continue these practices! But I do not think Bush should expect kudos for this behavior, neither should we believe that he acted in love by doing this.

Response #3:

You make some very good points, however, I try not to get too worked up over what politicians do. That is, in my view, exactly the wrong tack to take. The problem is not that modern evangelicaldom is not concerned enough about political problems and political leadership but that they are far too concerned about it and have gotten far too involved in trying to influence these things. The only way to truly influence one's country is to make personal spiritual growth the first priority. God honors a genuine remnant of positive believers. We get the government we deserve.  See the link: "The Salt Principle".

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hey Bob,

Now that I am no longer under the burden of time-consuming coursework, I have set about to figuring out what I want to accomplish over this last stretch of free time before adulthood strikes with full fury. I am going to run through my thought process and some background before I get too specific. I have bolded the main question of the email, towards the bottom.

Since piecing myself back together after finals, I have spent several days looking at what options I have and exactly what my goals are. I have about three months now—May, June, July—that will be relatively unencumbered by school or work in a formal sense (though I am auditing a couple of online classes from Harvard/MIT). This will be the last stretch of time of this type for me, unless I choose to consciously turn down internships or research positions in the future (my grades are going to make them available if I am so inclined). Thus, during these last "free" days, I am trying to make the best out of what time I have been given. It seems like it would be an easy task to figure out what good productive things I should be about, but it has proved to be a bit harder than I had anticipated. Let me start off with a list (not in any particular order) of things I have in consideration:

Building a website in full for my internet ministry

Learning how to cook (better)

Getting my 2-finger typing transformed into 50+ WPM touch-typing

Teaching myself HTML, CSS, and some basic PHP (web design languages)

Reading through the Bible in a systematic way (if not entirely, at least a good chunk of it)

Picking up piano/guitar (or both), singing, and music theory

Getting through all of the Peter Series and BB, and hopefully some of SR (I have studied parts of all of them, but not all the way through)

Beginning a journal

Taking up an exercise regime more rigorous than what I currently do

This is what I narrowed down my previously larger list to from ideas accumulated over the past year. Summer opportunities all came and went, leaving me now with the time I have.

I was going to enroll in a summer program with the USMC that would have effectively been "paid boot camp" with no strings attached (i.e., no obligation to enlist after the program), but the reaction from my parents was so overwhelmingly negative that I decided it was better to decline rather than create tension back at home. I thought the discipline and experience (and the financial aid offered) would be be reason enough, but they were pretty adamant. "Don’t give them an opportunity to brainwash you." Or something like that.

I also had the opportunity of getting my resume into several companies, but ultimately decided against pursuing a job over this summer too. I am not particularly interested in money, and was similarly uninterested in the condescension and scorn often heaped upon freshman interns (who admittedly haven’t learned much yet). The fact that I haven’t concretely decided on a major also gave me pause before diving headfirst into something I would quite probably find vapid and detestable. I also decided against working at a grocery store or what have you—if I did this, it would be solely for money and nothing more. And neither I nor my family needs the small amount I would get from working, and my desire for it is far exceeded by my desire to grow spiritually this summer and have productive time.

There are certain things that are obviously much more important than others. Systematically reading the Bible; studying BB, SR, and the Peter Series in depth; these are things of more import than, say, learning how to make my cooking more palatable. I have recently started one of those one-year Bible reading plans that breaks each day into OT and NT readings, as well as a Psalm and some verses from Proverbs. I am not going to try and "rush it" by cramming 3 or 4 days into one over the summer when I have time; I would rather be thorough and contemplative even if I don’t get through the whole Bible this summer.

At some point within the last 6 or so months I have experienced what I would call "acute fascination" with all of the topics in my list. Most recently it has been piano and music theory (as in the last week or so), but cooking was two weeks before finals (my roommates and I are going to cook next semester, and I've always kind of wanted to do it), and exercise/fitness was about halfway through the semester when we did it in my health class. None of these things relate directly to God, so they are in the gray realm of application.

First off—and apologies that this is the only "real" question—what do you think of Christians and "Hobbies?" Ideally, everything we do is in worshipful obeisance to God, and this is certainly the precept I want to carry into my choice of activities to pursue. I am very fuzzy, however, on whether "hobbies" are even something to pursue in the first place. I am an idealist to the extreme, so if it would be better for me to forsake anything that is not Bible reading, Bible teaching, or Bible application, so be it. I want to be doing the biblical ideal down to the last letter. But I have poked around on the internet for several days and have found conflicting reports. I’ll spare you the full arguments, but some say that no, hobbies are a bad idea—we should dedicate ourselves in full pursuit of Biblical truth and not "waste time." Others say that we can glorify God in our pursuit of aesthetic perfection; by playing [musically], or drawing, or painting, or writing, or cooking, or running, etc. to the very best of our abilities, we may live biblically while simultaneously having hobbies.

My observations: On the one hand, some people pursue their hobbies in lieu of Godly study and application. Clearly, some let their talents and worldly pursuits become idols and dim their appreciation for God and His truth. Hobbies ultimately do take away from time that could be spent studying, reading, exhorting others, etc. We humans have a very finite amount of time, and ought to be extremely selective about how we spend it. On the other hand, many times what we call hobbies provide a creative outlet to Christians, the fruit of which may be edifying to the Church or instrumental in bringing others to Christ. Hobbies provide a means of personal worship, and can provide "practice" in self discipline and dedication, which are essential to a successful Christian walk. This question is most essential to the rest of whatever discussion may follow this, so I will refrain from inquiring more about what else I should pursue this summer (and in life) until I am convinced that ought to be pursuing anything but what I have already mentioned (reading the Bible, reading a teaching ministry, preparing for my own ministry).

All for His Glory,

Response #4:

Good to hear from you, my friend, and congratulations on a successful completion to the year. On the USMC, I went through the PLC program and it was the beginning of a four + year stint with the Marines after graduation (which was very valuable for me personally). I did a ten week program after my junior year; those I spoke with who did the sophomore six week program rounded out by a further six weeks after their junior year seem to have had a harder time of it. It's been a long time since I mustered out, and the USMC has apparently not only kept to its traditions but, no doubt in part because of the greater interest in service in a small part of the population, has been able to even increase its physical standards (me on the outside looking in). If you did decide to do this at some point, I would strongly advise getting yourself into better physical shape than at present seems possible or imaginable (you would not regret a single ten mile run you did ahead of time, e.g.).

On hobbies, here is what I would say. Imagine you are going grocery shopping and you have a hundred dollars in cash, no more. Your objective is to buy what you need for the week. Depending upon how you choose, you might be able to eat very healthily and still have some money left over for a magazine at the checkout counter. On the other hand, you might spend your money very parsimoniously and have even more left over but on a spare diet. You might load up on twinkies. You might load up on broccoli. You might combine all these things. Does it matter? If you get through the week with what you buy and do what you intend to do with what you've bought, probably not. After all, the food (et al.) and the money to buy it is just a resource, a blessed one we need and for which we are grateful, but a resource nonetheless. Time is a resource too. Question is, what is your objective? How best to spend that time? If your objective is to find yourself standing before the judgment seat of Christ on that great day of days and be able to give a good report, one which will not only result in being awarded the three crowns of victory but also with high marks, that objective should (and probably will) influence your use of your time. No one is perfect. And there is a danger in extremism of all sorts. Few of us are 100%-ers like the apostle Paul. Even Moses took a second wife. Family takes time, and most of us require a little down-time, a little recreation now and again. What's better to do with our free two hours off this evening, play video games or play the piano? Probably the latter, but in my opinion not that much more so that it makes a great deal of difference – provided that we have done today what we have set out to do to achieve the overall objective we are pursuing. Doing more good things is good; doing less is not as good. But we also have to take into account where we are in the plan of God for our lives. All of the twelve apostles will each have a gate of the New Jerusalem named for them and beyond doubt they will be among the elite of the most highly rewarded (Levite status, above the other twelve tribes). But what does Paul say?

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
1st Corinthians 15:9-10 NIV

So even among the best of the best, there is ranking. We are not Paul. Is it OK to aspire to be him and like him? It certainly is. But we can't start out running ultra-Marathons if we still get winded in the fifty yard dash. God will work with us to build us up to where we really do want to go – where we are truly willing to go. To each level of growth, progress and production, there is cost, and effort is necessary. We don't start off 100%; we have to build up speed and momentum. And things will happen that will negatively affect our momentum from time to time (more self-induced at first; more opposition from the evil on later on). As in running a race, if we go "full speed", we will not last 23 plus miles. But there is a class of athlete who does prepare and train so as to be able to run very fast for a very long time and sustain it. If that is truly what we aspire to, our Lord will bring it about, if we do our part consistently. But if we want to spend four to five hours a day in our basement working on our model train set, well, that is a choice too. It may not stop us from getting the three crowns, but then it is hard to see how could ever run in pace with Paul if that is our long-term choice.

(24) Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way so as to achieve what you are after. (25) And again, everyone involved in competition exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. (26) So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. (27) I'm "pummeling my body", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:25-27

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

Please understand. God does not begrudge us time off or wholesome hobbies or families or any other blessing of this sort. Indeed, He is the One who provides them. What Paul had was a gratitude so deep that in love he "gave back" to the Lord to what was at least a rarely precedented degree. And when it comes to giving, "God loves a cheerful giver" (2Cor.9:7). I can't imagine much worse than the spiritually dangerous course of depriving oneself of all joy and of all rest to devote more to the Lord if the attitude behind that devotion is not exactly right. Such policies have resulted in asceticism and monasticism and the like, wherein those who have bought into such legalism have not only had little rest and little joy – but have also not actually done anything for Jesus Christ (not anything He wanted, at any rate). We are free to choose. We should be solid in our minds about our choices. When we choose to do something for Christ's Church, it should be with joy and enthusiasm. If we are doing it out of guilt (as in feeling guilty about spending an hour playing the guitar), then because our motives are wrong we are likely only wasting our time (or worse). If we really are joyfully pursuing the work of the Kingdom, then it is all to the good. This of course doesn't mean that doing Jesus' work is always easy or does not take self-discipline to push through the resistance – it most certainly does. But it does mean that just as we will have to build up over time to be ultra-Marathon runners, so we cannot start out right away devoting every spare second to the Lord (no one ever gets there). What we will find, however, is that as we do grow, the Spirit will guide us into better and better applications and a more and more efficient service to the One we love more than life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – to the extent that we are truly willing. In the meantime and in between time, the truly important thing is to sustain a good effort day by day and consistently so.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Bob,

I’ve thought things over fairly hard in the last week or so. Here is what I would say.

We Christians are not here for fun—not for pleasure, or entertainment, or for having a "good time"—but to bleed for the Kingdom. We are not here to impose legalistic standards upon ourselves and those around us—but to demonstrate the power of Jesus Christ in our lives, both for the sake of our own growth and for the edification of others. So please don’t get the impression that I am trying to outlaw relaxation and peace. Legalism is heresy. Saying ‘thou shalt not….’ is bad if the Bible doesn't. But there is something to be said for not being apathetic, and for taking a stand against Laodicea.

Let’s discuss your grocery shopping example. Your main point (and correct me if I’m wrong here) seems to be that it doesn't matter what you choose to use your $100 for as long as it sustains you and gets you through the week: "Does it matter [what you use your money for]? If you get through the week with what you buy and do what you intend to do with what you've bought, probably not." I confess that I am confused by this. Does it matter if you eat broccoli or Twinkies? 20 years down the line it will. Type II diabetes, obesity, heart disease—these are what a poor diet causes. They are entirely preventable consequences that directly follow from what we consume. They cost America billions in dollars every year for healthcare, and even more from lost time. How can this possibly not matter? No, I suppose, our salvation does not hinge on whether or not we choose to destroy our bodies or live out a healthy lifestyle. We are saved by Christ alone. But there is more to this than saying "it doesn't matter."

Food is a resource, but how we use it will affect our ability to serve God (e.g., you are going to be much less effective than you would have been if you are bound to a wheelchair because you are too fat to carry your own weight). God can use us despite our poor decisions—far exceeding what we could imagine given our previous misbehavior. God can use the critically obese amazingly given their handicap. But I don’t for a second believe that their self-selected condition was the best use of their resources. In my view, there is a "best" use of resources for each and every person. Mine may be different from yours, but for each and every one of us, it will be made clear on judgment day that we could have lived a perfect life given our circumstances, as Christ lived a perfect life. No human ever will, not even close. But that is why Christ’s sacrifice was necessary— God is fundamentally perfect, and humans are fundamentally inclined towards evil. Trying to live as close as we can to that Godly ideal for us, however, is critically important for Christians.

This is how I view time too. There is a correct thing to do at every moment. We are going to be too blind to see it most of the time, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. Each of us has a ministry personally assigned to us by Jesus Christ. If we choose something else for our own selfish motives, does that mean that God can never use us? Of course not. But it would be better if we followed Christ’s call on our lives in the first place. It would have been better if David had not had Uriah killed and slept with his wife. God still used it to demonstrate the glory of his plan, but David faced painful discipline the rest of his life. Like I said, God can use us no matter what we've done. But that doesn't mean that there wasn't something correct to do in the first place.

You say "There is a danger in extremism of all sorts. Few of us are 100%-ers like the apostle Paul." I would qualify this statement by defining exactly what we are "100%-ing." In the sense of Paul never marrying and devoting his entire life to ministering Christ, there are indeed few "100%-ers" in that sense. But in the sense of living 100% of our life with Christ in view, of living to the very boundary of what we think is possible and then some, this is a calling for all Christians not just a small group like Paul. All can get the three crowns and hear "well done good and faithful servant." It is one of the most beautiful things about the gospel—it is not exclusionary. God’s is not a zero-sum game. Perhaps we will not give back to the extent Paul did, but we can live in such a way to give back as much as we possibly can in our particular position.

On extremism, the statement is well taken. Misplaced extremism has caused wars, oppression, terrorism, and the propagation of hate. Monasticism and asceticism, as you point out later, are not the right answer. They are a form of extreme legalism. Being zealous for God in a correct manner, however, is not improper. If you look at the Bible, we are not called to live a "mostly pure" life or do "mostly good." The standard we are called to is righteousness, absolute and unqualified.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
(Matthew 5:6 NIV)

So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.
(2 Peter 3:14 NIV)

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
(1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV)

Blameless, pure, righteous—these are things we will never be at all times. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. I am somewhat curious how the two passages you bring up (1 Corinthians 9:25-27; Philippians 3:12-14) support anything other than this sort of unqualified enthusiasm for God; Paul is "driv[ing] straight for the tape" and "heading straight for the finish line." That doesn't sound very moderate to me. It also doesn't sound like this is just a "Paul thing"—it sounds like this is what we should all strive for.

Finally, as to nobody being able to run a marathon from the outset, there is a danger on both sides of this issue (danger in extremism). Berating yourself for your weakness before you have trained is not spiritually productive. However, neither is excusing sin because you are not yet strong. I have had discussions with others about "tempered change" (them) vs. "attempting absolute change" (me), or putting it another way, gradually phasing out sin vs. trying to go cold turkey all at once. In psychology, you are supposedly more likely to be successful at changing behavior if you do it slowly and gradually. So, for example, the secular world says you would be more likely to stop watching pornography if you cut it down from 20 days a month, to 15, to 10, to 5, to 0 over the course of a year. But the secular world doesn't believe in the power of God. Perhaps it is true that humans alone need a gradient rather than a cliff. But with full faith in God’s ability to carry you through, I believe you could go from 20 days a month to 0 days a month instantly if your faith was perfect. You can "run a marathon" at the outset if you are running by faith, drawing on God’s strength rather than your own. Will you likely do so? No. You will likely change gradually, because our faith is always imperfect. But that doesn't mean that you should embrace gradual change over attempting absolute change. God can do anything. Motivations matter for God, so if you try to hold yourself to the perfect standard and fail, it is different than embracing sin (or mediocrity) even if you gradually eliminate it.

In Christ,

Response #5:

I wouldn't disagree with anything you've said here. However, I notice the examples you use are of sin and often gross sin. Please don't misunderstand. I don't condone sin because the Bible doesn't condone sin. What I am talking about are decisions which are "not profitable" even if they are "permissible". No one runs a perfect race. My examples of Paul show the best a person can do, a striving to "make every punch count". But we aren't going to be perfect even in this (nor was he, merely better than everyone else). That is the way it is – no sin involved. True, the more we are red hot and the less we are lukewarm the better! But there is a danger in getting too wrapped up in this sort of thing. We should do a good job using our time and our other resources. But if we start worrying about sleeping too long we may get sick (or go to some other extreme); if we worry we are spending too much on a pack of chewing gum we may get obsessed with money. We live here in the world one day at a time, and we have the time and other resources to get through that day, but we do not know what is coming the next. In a one day at a time context, we should set ourselves first to do what the Lord requires as absolutely necessary; then secondly to do a good job in making profitable use of the time et al. to grow, progress and serve Him; then thirdly we should try to be doing better today, to be stretching. If we do these things, we will find that everything expands. Looking at what we have over a longer term as a zero sum situation is not a good idea, in my opinion. Nothing is impossible for the Lord. We need to concentrate on the here and now, living for Him today.

So all the analogies and arguments provided were meant to be directed towards this goal of getting better day by day in our walk and run with Jesus Christ. Sin is another issue. It's never acceptable. If we are doing anything that is debilitating to our walk, we need to stop it.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Bob, hope you are doing well.

Over the last couple months I have had a question niggling at the back of my mind. I am aware that Christians are to follow the law of the land (cf. Romans 13; 1 Peter 2). To the best of our abilities, we are supposed to submit to the legal authorities in all matters unless in opposition with our faith (as when Peter and John continued to preach the gospel when the Sanhedrin forbade them from doing so in Acts 4). To my knowledge, there are very few examples in the Bible of direct opposition to government authority (most of which are extreme), so I think an attitude of following the law "precisely" is certainly not inadvisable.

However, there are some things that give me pause. For instance, exactly what is "the law" [in a secular sense]? Is it only composed of the statutes put in place by the local, state, and national governing bodies? What about the "terms of service" when one signs up for internet applications and websites? Do these carry the full weight of authority and demand our submission? Unlike most people, I actually skim the legally binding documents when signing up for services, and, to be frank, much of what is written therein strikes me as unethical and most arbitrary. Let me explain by example. When you "buy" an e-book from Amazon, you do not actually own said book. You are leasing it from the company, who holds the right to revoke access, modify, or stop supporting your purchase at any point. With or without cause, they may strip you of the thing that is supposedly your own. While none of this is illegal per se, the fact that people do not read user agreements means that most believe that they actually own exclusive rights to the content they pay money for. In addition, Amazon has a "buy with one click" button available to buy e-books. Notice this says "buy," not "lease" or "license." I find this a poor choice of wording with respect to their policies at best, and would go so far to say that it is bordering on dishonest. My main beef comes with the fact that I am not allowed to make a back-up copy of my own for my own personal use. It is clear that copyright infringement (i.e., piracy) is something to be staunchly avoided by Christians, as it breaks federal law and is punishable by fines and prison time. However, the simple act of creating a non DRM (digital rights management) protected copy of an e-book (i.e., one that Amazon cannot tamper with) is grounds for the termination of a user account. I don't particularly care that my books are stored in the Amazon Cloud and accessible from anywhere--they are still capable of being deleted arbitrarily a la corporate policy. The sole reason for this prohibition (as far as I can tell) is to force more money out of people. If you are in interested in the specifics of this particular case (DRM and e-books), you can read this article.

A second example that you may be more familiar with is Youtube prohibiting the downloading of local copies of videos hosted on their site. Of course there are websites, extensions, and software applications that let you do it anyway (e.g., savefrom.net), but it is technically against the terms of use. Youtube (Google) wants to keep traffic on the site for advertising revenue, and this is, as far as I can tell, the only reason for this prohibition. I remember at one point you included links to download Mr. Omo's Bible Academy videos on your website from the site listed above, and then removed them quietly. I do apologize if I am reading in motives, but this certainly makes it appear as if you realized that such links (and services) were in violation of Youtube policies and thus removed them.

The motivation behind downloading videos is similar to breaking the DRM on e-books: to save local, backup copies of content in case service providers go out of business or engage in content manipulation. For me specifically, this is also important since I block Youtube through filtering software (because I waste time on it and it can lead to other sin if I am not careful). Hence, no Youtube=no Bible study videos.

There are, of course, other cases where distributor's "digital rights" get in the way of consumer freedom (like iTunes or Google Play), but I am primarily interested in the above two cases since I do not buy music (or listen to it much). I am aware that there are "solutions" to the problems with Amazon and Youtube, namely, not using Amazon and Youtube and opting for different things (such as publishing e-books on Project Gutenberg without Amazon DRM and making videos available to download through services like MediaFire and mega.nz). However, these solutions require PRODUCERS to take a step, and there is little I can do alone if I would like to backup content I find valuable (such as Mr. Omo's videos).

To condense the above: what do you think of "breaking" terms of use in various services if your conscience is clear and the offending terms seem to stem from corporate greed alone?

For His glory, P.S. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what will happen to internet Bible study resources during the tribulation. I would assume censorship and persecution of those who post them, but I find it rather pertinent to the above discussion. Why make it easy for things to be suppressed by Antichrist's regime? Should we just print off everything and not trust computers at all?

Response #6:

Good to hear from you as always, my friend.

I think you are precisely correct to distinguish between dictates which require us to do things contrary to the truth (or refrain from things we are required to do such as praying in Daniel's case or spreading the truth in the case of the apostles) and "merely" setting up onerous or unjust requirements (especially since what is burdensome or unjust is a matter of some subjectivity, after all). Christians should, as far as possible, do as you are doing and attempt to abide by every single aspect of the law in its precise stipulations. As you are seeing in your example, however, that is something which may not always be entirely possible. Traffic regulations and the income tax code are two notorious areas where there is a great deal subjectivity in many areas of application and an impossibility of absolutely literal compliance in others. However, Christians should be able to appreciate the difference between failing to report thousands of dollars worth of income on the one hand and getting overly scrupulous to the point of inaction in terms of how best to calculate the worth of charitable donations of goods under the limit where appraisal is not required on the other; and also the difference between driving three miles over the speed limit in rush hour to keep up with traffic so as not to cause a danger on the one hand, and running red lights on the other. As Solomon says:

Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.
Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 NIV

This is not "situation ethics". Rather it is the correct and proper application of spiritual common sense, recognizing that there are commands of God which are absolute, but when it comes to the edicts of men, clearly, because of conflicts between competing laws, unanticipated consequences of regulations, subjectivity of language, and lack of clarity in composition, there will no doubt be many times and circumstances where the "right thing" is not 100% clear, and where "trying to do the right thing" according to overly and unreasonably scrupulous interpretations will not have a spiritually profitable result at all. Christians do need to be convinced in their minds about these things when they make decisions about, for example, whether photocopying a page or two out of a book is "fair use" or passes beyond that line. The line is gray, but there are clear enough examples of what ought to be OK (I need to have page 43 to be able to quote it accurately in this article I'm writing) and not OK (I'm photocopying the whole book and selling it at a profit). Our main objectives on this score as Christians are threefold: 1) We want first to please our Lord, so that we have to have clear consciences about what we are doing; if we are not really OK in our consciences about action X after prayer and Spirit-filled consideration informed by the truth of scripture, best not to do action X. 2) We want to provide a good witness to others, so that doing something others are likely to look askance at and wonder about our morals/ethics/values is something we should definitely think twice about, even if we are not convicted in our hearts of the wrongness of it. 3) We also have to keep in mind how our actions will be interpreted by other believers who will be witnessing what we do, even if they are wrong in their interpretation (Rom.14:1ff.). So we want to do what is genuinely right in the spirit of all such law without at the same time allowing ourselves to be paralyzed by an excess of false virtue.

There is a great deal of self-serving evil in this world, and in my estimation, having lived here for a while now, it has not only been increasing dramatically but also accelerating in the rate of increase with each passing year – a sure sign in my view that we are getting ever closer to the end. Navigating these sorts of issues may be difficult, and it also may be, as in the example you proffer, very annoying at times. However, we have to remember that this is not about us – this is about Jesus Christ. The degree of evil with which the world will be infused during the soon to come Tribulation will make what we are witnessing now seem completely benign by comparison. Keeping our spiritual priorities straight now will help us to do so then, and we will also learn in the process how to let all such minor attacks from the evil one and his evil world system slide off of our backs. The Lord does let us get "shot at", but He also causes these attacks to miss the mark enough so that through His gracious supervision of every aspect of our lives we can continue to thrive and survive spiritually, even as we grow, progress and help others do likewise through the truth of the Word of God.

Bible Academy is now a separate website (at the link), so this question is now largely moot as you can download all of the videos without accessing YouTube at all. As to my links, I can't imagine that there is either anything wrong with that or that YouTube should have a problem with it: that's exactly how people find out about their postings. The only files I had actually stored at Ichthys are ones provided to me before the channel (then website) went live while my friend was experimenting with the best way to get these materials on the internet. They don't play nearly as well as what you will find on his site, so I would advise all interested persons to go there instead.

As to the Tribulation, of course I don't know exactly what will transpire. I do think that it would be prudent for anyone who is relying on the Ichthys materials to have these downloaded in e-form to their own locales (it's easy enough to do and costs nothing). Printing off thousands and thousands of pages is probably not the best use of time and resources. As long as I am alive and able to do so, I plan to keep this site live and available at no cost to readers. But none of us know what tomorrow will bring – and that is true irrespective of the proximity of the Tribulation.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dr. Lubingill,

Thank you for your teachings. I have been reading your teachings for over a year now and have been a Christian for several decades. I have debated at times with certain fellow brothers and sisters in Christ about my belief is that smoking marijuana is a sin. I believe I am correct. Could you help me address this through scripture so that if and when the subject returns I am more equipped to give an answer as to why I believe it to be a sin?

Thank you,

Response #7:

Good to make your acquaintance. As to your question, one thing I think we can say for certain is that in this country buying, selling, and using that drug is currently illegal. Even in states and municipalities where these crimes are not taken seriously (or have legalized it locally), correct me if I am wrong, but the Federal laws against these things are still on the books. Should a Christian break the law? Even if we commit some misdemeanor we are likely to suffer for it where unbelievers might not – and it certainly would be a bad witness. How much more so when we are talking about federal felonies. Not only that, but if we who are "mature" engage in such activities, and those who are "immature" see us, will they not be emboldened not only to do the same but to do worse, assuming that "if brother X can ignore these laws, then surely it is not un-Christian for me to ignore those same and other laws too that I don't like"?

When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.
1st Corinthians 8:12 NIV

For me, it's not necessary to go any farther than this. Any Christian who would belittle the need to avoid criminal behavior (even if they personally don't see any compelling reason for the statute in question), won't be profitably engaged on the other "merits" of the argument.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

I was taking to my psychiatrist today, and she said that if she had any adolescent living under her home, the worst thing they could do is pot. Why? She said that if some adolescent has so much as a single paranoid episode while on pot, the standard psychiatric protocol is to monitor said adolescent for the development of schizophrenia over the next five years. Apparently, pot can induce schizophrenia in non-schizophrenic individuals, which more or less means that your life is ruined. I don't want to incriminate, but someone in my immediate family who is an adolescent has done it. It is a concern to me for the reason that my psychiatrist mentioned. Please pray for God's grace and providence over said family member's life, so that he doesn't suffer the very permanent consequences of smoking pot.

Sincerely,

Response #8:

On cannabis, what you say seems just plain common sense.  However, I'm no MD and can't speak to the issue of medicinal benefits or the ins and outs of medicating mental health problems. Seems to me that any Christian with basic spiritual common sense would want to stay away from all such things unless necessity (in the form of some unique medical condition) intervenes.  We do all make our own choices, however.  It's not as if I didn't make my share of stupid mistakes when I was younger; this was not one of them (but the list is plenty long enough without it).

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hey Dr Bob.

We've talked a few times and my walk with the Lord is doing great. I've found a wonderful new church and my faith is strengthened. The Lord has blessed me quite a bit and has given me a confidence in my salvation and peace regarding trusting him and taking him at his word. I've got a tough question that may or may not have an easy answer. Ever since I was young I've suffered from severe depression and anxiety/ocd. When I was born again the Lord gave me so much peace but never healed my mental illness although I have much hope that through all this one day the Lord will give me a new mind in heaven. Trusting him and understanding that we live in a fallen world while realizing Gods love for me greatly helps. I still suffer from extreme guilt. Over-sensitive conscience and anxiety have me confessing my sins over and over sometimes. All of the drugs the doctors give me induce terrible side effects. I've tried dozens of different antidepressants and antipsychotic medication. I turned to alcohol which helped for a time but thank God I've repented and have overcome that situation.

Marijuana has helped me greatly in the past. However I just can't get past the fact that it's illegal. It is a sin to break the law. The only way I feel I could have peace is with some kind of medical card or if the government legalized it. Is there ever a situation where I can justify a tough moral decision where the good outweighs the bad? Or is this "let us do evil, that good may come"?

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is all I need in this life and I know that. I also want to please God and make him proud. Just sometimes I feel so terrible I don't know what to do. I'm not going to make any rash decisions or go smoke marijuana but do Any Bible verses come to mind about this situation? Thank you and happy Easter.

Also a follow up. Your website is great and I love the biblical discourses you provide. God bless!

Response #9:

I'm very happy to hear from you and also to hear that you are making good spiritual progress. Good for you!

As to your question, I'm surprised to learn that there are any places left in the US that don't have a medical exception (where do you live?). From a spiritual point of view, medicine is medicine. Consider:

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.
Psalm 31:6-7 KJV

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.
1st Timothy 5:23 NIV

Of course we are responsible for all the decisions we make, including taking medicine (just as in deciding whether or not to drink). A rather large percentage of Christians I correspond with have mental health issues ranging from mild to severe (see the link: "Christians and Mental Illness"; also check the Subject Index). It is a sign of the times, no doubt, that the evil one is using this avenue for attack. No doubt the state of the culture and the church-visible has also opened things up for him to do so more and more as well. As a matter of principle, I would never advise a believer to do something that conflicts with his/her conscience. Because of the unique challenges in our day and age, and of course also because of the growth (one might even say "metathesis") of technology and medical advances, Christians today face all manner of moral dilemmas which never even existed in even the very recent past. Keeping the Lord and our desire to please Him front and center will always be helpful in working with our consciences in the Spirit through the Word in order to sort out the wheat of divine guidance from the chaff of unnecessary feelings of guilt. That is very much an individual process, especially when it comes to the ever growing gray area occasioned by inconsistent law, societal pressure and change, and technological transformation. Here are a few links which might be helpful:

Sensitive Topics III

Culture and Christianity III

Culture and Christianity IV

Culture and Christianity XI

Drugs and Medications

Incurable Illnesses

Believers in the World IV: Making Godly Choices vs. Following Man-Made Rules

Happy Easter to you too, my friend – although of course we celebrate Him every day.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

The other sin, that of chronic marijuana smoking, is far more complicated. The following are my conclusions about pot (and a bit about psychedelics as well). I think marijuana falls under Genesis 1:29 as having been sanctioned by God for use. It’s been one of the most commonly used plants throughout the world. The cannabis plant can be used to make clothing, paper, and rope. Imagine no more cotton picking or unnatural fabrics. Imagine not having to cut down forests of trees and destroy the wilderness to make paper. For a long time hemp rope was the only rope to use on ships sailing the seas of the world. The medical benefits (both mental and physical) have been attested to from countless personal testimonies (including mine—it cured my sever anger issues I suffered with throughout my youth) and scientific studies (when they can be independently funded and/or unbiased in their research). The bottom line is that alcohol seems to be universally permissible, but if you drink too much of it you die of alcohol poisoning (i.e. it’s a poison to the body); whereas if you smoke too much pot you eat a lot and fall asleep (i.e. it’s physically impossible to consume a lethal quantity, if there is one). I don’t think there’s a difference between someone who comes home from work and has a beer or two and someone who comes home from work and smokes a joint. However, a drunk is a drunk, and being a drunkard is definitely a sin, as is addiction. This leads to the crux of the situation: it’s not the plant, but how it’s used. If we’re going by Genesis 1:29 as a guideline, then technically marijuana, in its consumable form, should be in food. In my personal experience and opinion as someone who has consumed marijuana daily for five years without a significant period of stopping, eating pot is much better than smoking it. If I could eat some brownies or cookies everyday instead of smoking, I would choose that in an instant. The high is much smoother and longer lasting, and it’s healthier. If you consume pot in food, there’s no physical harm being done. However, smoke in any form is not good for the lungs. Pot smoke may not cause cancer like cigarette smoke, but it’s still not good. So, with all of that said, I’m left with what to do with myself. I would like to at least cut back to only smoking on the weekends, but I’ve been saying that for over a year and haven’t been able to make it more than a day without it each time. I fear I may be addicted. The thing about pot is that is not "not addictive" it’s simply "less addictive" than many other more commonly consumed legal substances like caffeine—the numbers I saw were that 9% of the people who consume caffeine are addicted to it and 7% of the people who consume pot are addicted. Anyway, before I can really move forward and take on the duties of whatever I’m meant to do in life, I need to clean myself up and address these issues.

Response #10:

I'm no expert on drugs. I suppose, especially where marijuana is concerned, alcohol is a close enough parallel (since there is near universal usage of both). The difference is that I can take a drink and not feel any need to justify drinking in moderation. Now, mind you, alcohol is a problem for many. Drugs of any sort, however, possibly because of the way they affect people, are probably best avoided unless they are needful for medical reasons (and we are responsible for what we do in this regard as well).

For those who want to spread the gospel, the best witness is to be drug free, in my humble opinion. After all, I think it is not too much to say that a high consumption of drugs is inconsistent with sanctified Christian behavior. For those one is witnessing to, the fact that drugs are only done "in moderation" is probably going to be lost on them, and we risk alienating those who think we're hypocrites on the one hand, and of empowering those who want to keep doing clearly dangerous amounts of drugs on the other. At the very least, it shifts the focus away from Christ and onto something else.

You are a free man, and clearly a good man. I can't tell you what to do. My advice, however, is to "own" this one too, and to figure out an extrication strategy if you go the way you are suggesting you know you ought to go.

P.s., I have heard on the news cases of some serious illnesses on the part of children in Colorado eating pot-products mistakenly (can't vouch for the truth of these but it is probably a mistake to paint this drug as absolutely and unconditionally benign).

Question #11:

Hello Robert.

I have been studying and believing in the word of God since I was saved about 1983 grew up RC. I have been reading your web site ever since I asked about Harry Ironside. Thank you for your answer and you may the Lord Jesus keep blessing you. I have no Home church so you are about the only teaching I get. I do listen to a preacher out of Ireland. Love his accent; he is a Baptist and may God bless Him too. I just want you to know how much you have helped me on my path to my real home with the Lord . In the latest e-mail posting of 6/6/15 you could not have more patient with that person. I barely graduated high school. Had adhd in school. Just want to let you know I am pray for you. My son and daughter I hope someday will come to believe as I do and desire to study what is about to happen to all mankind. In His Holy Name Jesus the Lord of all the living and the departed. Thanks again my real brother

Response #11:

It's great to hear from you again, my friend, and thanks so much for your encouraging words. I am getting lots of emails lately from Christians who have or have had adhd and related issues – and issues with the medication they have received for these conditions as a result as well.

Thank you also so much for your prayers! I will say one for your children. Setting a good example as you are doing has all manner of positive if invisible effects – and the Lord knows your heart.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12:

http://www.reddit.com/r/television/comments/36vnhy/viewers_slam_tlc_after_network_airs_19_kids_and/

Many Christians around the Internet are defending Josh's behavior because "Jesus forgives all sins" and therefore everyone should just "move on"

But God is a God of justice. God grants forgiveness so that He may be feared (Psalm 130:4), not so that people can mock God's justice by thinking that He is a fool by being both just and forgiving.

"But Abraham said to him, 'Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish.'"
(Luke 16:26)

"Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don't have eternal life within them."
(I John 3:15)

Response #12:

I haven't been following this. What we think is immaterial in any case, especially if the individual being subjected to media shame is a Christian:

Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:4 NKJV

On the other hand, the Lord disciplines all sons and daughters regardless of whether we may think they need it or deserve it.

Our role is to pray for others and to make decisions about whether or not to associate with them, if we must, based upon their behavior. We don't have to (and probably should not) participate in this new media "shaming culture", if only because its so highly selective, targeting one person out of millions of potentials merely because a celebrity is involved or because the story catches fire – as in the case of Justine Sacco. We obviously don't know anywhere near all of the facts, but funny how we all have an opinion anyway.

Continuing to keep you and your family in my prayers.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I do hope this email finds you well. I want you to know that I am benefitting greatly from both your and pastor Omo's teachings, I keep you both in my prayers.

If you don't mind I would like your opinion on a personal matter. Over the years as I continue my walk with the Lord The Holy Spirit has convicted me to do away with many things in my life. The majority of these were obvious no-brainers according to scripture, but for some reason on a couple of recent convictions I find myself frozen and unable to move forward. I was saved out of the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle. So while much of the sinful behavior that went along with that life was blatantly obvious that it had to go, which was no small task, as I move forward I find myself hung up on things that seem silly to most people, so I am seeking your valued opinion.

Two of my greatest passions are study of the Bible and music. I'll start with Bible study. I have been a follower of Jesus for approximately two decades. During that time I acquired a large collection of Christian books. Unfortunately most of these books were full of false doctrine, so I recently decided to get rid of them. I had a large sum of money invested in these books but I threw them in the dumpster, convinced it would not be right to trade them in at the used book store and be responsible for redistributing false teaching to others. The problem in this area is that I still I still have a shelf full of books written by the man who's ministry God used to save me, I'm sure you know who he is, Dr. Charles Stanley. It was through his preaching that God convicted me of my sin and showed me that I needed salvation through Christ. Here's where I'm conflicted, I don't doubt that Dr. Stanley loves Jesus, however many of the doctrines he teaches are not correct. I recently quit supporting his ministry and every time I see his books on the shelf I debate tossing them. Am I too severe in my judgement on this matter? Can a man be wrong on so many doctrines, be right on Jesus and still be worthy of support? I have taken this to The Lord In prayer but I must confess I do not have clarity yet.

Music has been a large part of my life since childhood. I am a musician, singer, songwriter, producer and fan. Over the years I have invested thousands in my music collection. I used to listen to music all the time but as I have grown in the Lord I have come to see the harm in this and barely listen to music at all anymore, and am contemplating giving it up completely. It seems to me that music and all forms of entertainment are just distractions at best. Here's the hang up, all these records and cd's are worth quite a bit, would it be wrong to sell them? Would I be contributing to the spiritual detriment of others by doing so? I'm not really concerned about the money so much, I just don't want to do something that would harm another and at the same time I don't want to go off on a tangent. The Christians I know are very attached to this world and I do not trust their judgement. I know you do not like to give direct advice so I only seek your opinion so I may consider it in making good decisions to help keep myself level in an unbalanced world.

Thank you for reading this email and all of your help up to this point. I look forward to your response.

God bless you and your ministry.

Hello again Dr., hope you are well. This a follow up to my last email.

I know it may seem silly but these two issues have been a big deal to me and until this morning I couldn't understand why, this should be easy, but now I get it...growing pains! The sin I have had to turn from in my life up until this point has been the obvious that even most lost people could identify. Please understand I am not claiming perfection but a constant desire to be perfected which I know will only come at the resurrection.

The Lord has shown me that while these issues may seem like small things to myself and those around me they are big things to Him. Music has held the place of an idol in my life, so for me it is sin. Also sentimental attachment to a preacher/ministry who was involved in the process of my salvation but is also responsible for spreading false teaching cannot be tolerated. It is my desire to go to a higher level in my relationship with Jesus Christ and I am beginning to see that the process of shedding skin to escape fleshly desires can be very tricky.

The Christians around me do not accept orthodox teaching and for the most part view me as an oddball, which is fine, I understand where they are at. I have been told that I am one step away from standing on a street corner decked out in a sandwich board proclaiming "the end is near". While asceticism is not my goal, I'm beginning to understand that what may be acceptable for others may not be acceptable for me. I don't know where The Lord is leading me in all this, I just know I want to be where He wants me to be.

I know you don't know me from Adam, but aside from my relationship with The Lord, which is more than sufficient, I have no one I can talk to about these things. Thank you for reading my emails, and thank you for your ministry. Any observations, corrections, etc. are always welcome and appreciated.

God bless you,

Response #13:

Good to hear from you, my friend. I hope all is going well with you too, and I thank you so much for your encouraging words and especially for your prayers.

As to your questions, it is certainly more important for a Christian who wants to please His Lord to "give up" things which are clearly sinful than things which are not. It is also more important, practically speaking, for a Christian to consider staying away from things which, while not technically sinful, are known problems for that particular believer him/herself (e.g., it's not sinful to frequent a brew-pub which serves great burgers, but a recovering alcoholic, Christian or not, might want to think twice about it). When it comes to things which are neither outright sinful nor a particular problem for the believer in question, we find ourselves in the "judgment call" area of Christian application. Certainly, the Bible could have outlawed all manner of behaviors and activities as many religions and cults do (and as even many legalistic but putatively Christian groups and churches do), but in fact it does not do so and for a good reason. We are supposed to live by the Law of Love and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Some things are clear enough. If a behavior or activity causes fellow Christians to be wounded in their consciences so as to fall into sin (where we, as mature believers who understand the truth are not tempted), then we ought to refrain from whatever it is, at least while in the presence of such brothers and sisters. To use the previous analogy, it is not sinful and may even be medically beneficial to drink alcohol in small amounts (though getting drunk is sinful: 1Tim.5:23), but it is not acting in love to take a drink openly in the presence of other Christians who are convinced that it is sinful when such individuals might be tempted to start drinking following our example (and fall into sins of excess because they cannot handle it). To balance the discussion here, it is also wrong to allow ourselves to be bullied out of some behaviors / practices which are not sinful by self-righteous and legalistic types when the issue is not one of the Law of Love but merely their desire to control others and to have others tow their own legalistic line. Sometimes these things may seem to run together into the same thing, but a mature Christian acting in the Spirit and with prayerful consideration ought to be able to tell the difference (Rom.12:1-2; Phil.1:9-11; Col.1:9-10; Heb.5:14). These things are "situational", however, meaning that no one can write down a rule that will alleviate the Christian concerned from using his/her spiritual common sense and consulting his/her conscience in the Spirit so as to make the correct decision.

(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

Solid [spiritual] food is for the [spiritually] mature, those who by [diligent] practice have trained their [moral] perceptive faculties to [properly] distinguish between good and evil.
Hebrews 5:14

When Paul began ministering in Ephesus, the Lord empowered his ministry and blessed it with the performance of many exceptional miracles (Acts 9:11). As a result, many believed, and many who did came and "confessed their [formerly sinful] deeds and practices" and also burned their expensive books which dealt with these practices, probably including what we would call "magic" (Acts 19:18-19). This may seem similar to what we are discussing, however I will note that 1) not all participated in this book burning (and those who did not are not criticized by the Bible); 2) this only (apparently) ever happened once (and there must have been people like this throughout the Greco-Roman world who had such books when they believed); 3) the practice is neither required or praised elsewhere in scripture; 4) it's not even praised here (one can assume this from the context but Luke through the Spirit is allowed to merely report the fact as a remarkable thing without commenting on its goodness or badness); 5) these individuals also felt compelled to openly confess their prior ill-behavior – and we know that while this is not unprecedented, it's not generally repeated (and that normally confession is meant to be a personal thing between the believer and God). So this example is not meant to be a dispositive suggestion – it recounts what happened on this one occasion historically.

If I have a hammer, should I feel reluctant to sell it so someone in fear that they might hit someone over the head with it? Certainly not as a general rule. However, handing it over to a maniac would be a mistake, even he offered me a good price.

I was distracted from finishing this email (long, difficult week and weekend too), and now your second message has arrived. I think you have put your finger on the issue precisely: what is right for others may not be right for you, and what is "right" for us today when it comes to gray area issues such as this, may be different tomorrow as we grow. We may find that some things we stayed away from are, with growth, no longer as dangerous for us; on the other hand, we may find that some things we used to consider part of our standard approach to life are now outgrown and ready to be discarded. Every road has two sides and getting off into the ditch on either side is a disaster. The two principles or "poles" of application here that should restrict, that is to say, "guide" our approach are doing no harm to others on the one hand, and maximizing our service to the Lord on the other. Somewhere between these two principles is the sweet spot. But if we veer too far in the direction of concern for others we may find ourselves enslaved to a legalistic tyranny, and if we go overboard in our attempts to be "all" for the Lord – going beyond what we are actually able to do and consistently maintain at this point in our spiritual growth – we may "crash and burn" and become depressed when we are not able to complete what we had purposed. We will get better as time goes by, provided we keep on with our spiritual growth and determined application of the truth we have learned and believed.

We all have these sorts of growing pains. Learning to understand what they are, how to cope with them, and how to make the best possible decisions with the best possible follow-through is what growing up spiritually is all about. I'm confident that you will figure this out and do what is really right, for the Lord, for others, and also for yourself.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

My entire family is quite musically inclined (piano, violin, flute), as are many of my friends at college (guitar, French horn, clarinet). Music permeates our cultural fabric (which is impossible to ignore completely). I'm going to summarize my present understanding of this topic and ask for comment. I have prayed about it, but conviction has not come.

Point 1: Instruments are not in fact prohibited in worship; While not strictly pertinent to this discussion, it is important to make sure that our premises are not suspect. Denominations like the Church of Christ claim that worship should be vocal only. While the argument is more complicated than meets the eye (it mostly comes down to questions of positive statements and perceived arguments from silence), so far as I have found, the attempt to ban mechanical instruments from worship is mostly thinly veiled legalism.

Point 2: Music MUST take a back-seat to teaching; Teaching and exegetical study for the purpose of mutual edification is the point of assembly. When believers gather together, "spiritual songs," hymns, etc. are to be theologically correct. They are not simply artistic, but also of didactic value. Since most Christian music artists of today have no proper training (nor the gift of teaching), most of what rules in the contemporary sphere does significantly more harm than good (and often dethrones teaching as the primary function of assembly, making it even worse). This is not a concrete prohibition against music, but it ought to give one pause before jumping in. Sober introspection is necessary to discern motives and evaluate the risks associated with valuing music too highly.

Point 3: Music must be held at arm's length due to its disproportional emotional influence. Very few songs have what one might deem "good" theology. Most of the time songs have nothing objectively "wrong," but have things overemphasized, under-emphasized, or just generally "off." Some songs have straight up bad theology. All these songs, however, pack a powerful emotional punch that makes them particularly memorable and hard to ignore. It is depressingly easy to forget a beloved Psalm that is read time and again, but much more difficult to forget a catchy worship song that butchers God's righteousness to overemphasize his mercy. The Psalm, of course, is inestimably more important, but the worship song is remembered because it is set to music. Even for the instrumentalist, it is important to keep in mind the insidious effect that music has on the development of listeners' theology.

Point 4: Music MUST NOT displace God as a source of comfort. Too many people depend on the emotional high of music to pull them out of life's struggles rather than on their omnipotent Creator. When music is used, it needs to supplement the worship of God, not twist emotions to give false comfort. So much as music helps believers turn their eyes and hearts to God, it is good. So much as it replaces God as the source of all comfort, it is a very poor bargain indeed.

Point 5: The pursuit of musical competency must not displace individual growth and maturation. Instruments take a significant time investment to become proficient at. If someone is already neglecting Bible study and preparation for his/her personal ministry, adding on a heavy practice schedule is not going to make the situation better. If someone is following God and growing day by day, that person needs to be very careful that daily practice does not displace daily Bible study or daily prayer. Constant care needs to be taken to make sure God sits on the heart's throne rather than a cello or a guitar.

Point 6: Care must be taken to play for God rather than for others' attention; Learning an instrument to impress others is not only not productive, but feeds into pride and the maintenance of appearances over internal values. "Showboating" or "performance" ought to be avoided at all costs. God is not impressed by how well you can play a scale or execute a chord progression. Giving the glory to God instead of taking it for oneself is one of the musician's greatest challenges, and easiest places to slip into sin.

This is a rough outline of the conclusions I have come to after reading on Ichthys and elsewhere. There is a danger in music that is not often seen or acknowledged by the church visible, but is very present indeed. This does not, however, seem to prohibit music outright (we are, after all, exhorted to sing spiritual songs and "make music in our hearts," Eph 5:19).

My primary motivation in picking up guitar is the fact that I have no hobbies right now and am learning the hard way why Spiritual growth is a marathon rather than a sprint. When I was much younger I played sports and read a lot of fantasy books. More recently, I was addicted to video games, a behavior that took 2+ years and many attempts to finally dispose of. Over this summer I've tried to take your advice and relax, but I've found out that I'm very bad at relaxing. I get twitchy when I feel like I'm not being productive, and instead of taking the opportunity to decompress from a stressful school year, I have found myself getting repeatedly anxious at my perceived lack of effort. It's not like I haven't done anything at all (I'm in an online class from MIT right now, I cleaned out my room and donated most of the things I do not use, I organized a bunch of papers), but I feel myself struggling to keep my feet beneath me.

I tried to cut out all distractions and focus on spiritual growth 100%, but so far it has resulted in several failed attempts to start an organized Bible reading plan, many half-started theological books, and studies left partially unfinished. I have avoided movies, television, Facebook, and internet forums (things that are not spiritually edifying). Instead of promoting an atmosphere of studious intensity, however, this has served to make me feel like the ascetic monk you mentioned in one of our earlier exchanges about hobbies: I have neither relaxation nor joy, and I am beginning to question whether my actions were truly in Christ or not. My attempts have left me with flagging self-discipline and I feel myself sliding into burnout rather than peace.

I am not naive. I do not think that playing guitar will somehow revivify my spiritual life or redeem the summer. I do believe, however, that I need more balance in my life right now. There is no such thing as too much God, but there is such a thing as too much legalism and too little trust. I have been valuing my own efforts too much, and have reaped the harvest sown by self-reliance. Out of possible activities, guitar features highly on my list. There are certainly worse things to get involved in. But my question is, should I do it in the first place, or has my judgment been clouded by my circumstances?

Your brother in Christ,

Response #14:

Good to hear from you as always, my friend, and, as always, your spiritual common sense is always encouraging to see and hear. When you say "I need more balance in my life right now", that would seem to be an absolutely correct appraisal. There are many writers who have produced amazingly large and impressive corpora, but I guarantee you that they didn't write all the time. If they had tried to do so, no doubt their work would have suffered greatly, not to mention their physical and mental health. Few believers in the history of the world have been able to be "total" in their approach after the manner of our Lord. This is not a reproach for us (rightly seen) so much as it ought to be another thing in which we admire and appreciate what He did in casting His lot with us and coming into this world. Perhaps Moses and Paul came closest to the "total" approach, but then Moses had a (second) wife – and we can be sure that his marriage took time and effort and was no doubt a very pleasing distraction from his heavy load of leadership and concentration on the Word of God. Paul was single, but he was also itinerant. His life was one of complex texture. He was always traveling from one place to another throughout the Mediterranean world, walking long distances, taking many voyages by sea, evangelizing, teaching, now in one house, now in another, meeting all manner of new people and friends from the past as well, often being threatened, sometimes imprisoned, sometimes with little or nothing to eat, when eating, eating different things set before him in all manner of different places. What he did was very difficult and few if any other believers in the history of the world could do what he did, but it's not as if he sat at a desk in the same place every day doing the same exact thing for years on end.

We all need some variety, and what you are attempting to do is to make sure that this necessary variety and refreshment comes in a godly way and may also contribute to the cause. That is the best possible approach. It is safe to say that learning a musical instrument is better than playing video games (or many other such complete wastes of time which may also have other negative effects). No one is perfect; we all make mistakes; no doubt we are all guilty at one time or another not only of wasting time but in doing so in counter-productive or border-line sinful ways. Playing guitar is one of the least wasteful and/or compromising pastimes I can imagine – especially in the context of your solid and impressive understanding of the potential dangers involved in abusing music. If I need to spend an hour or two in the garage making birdhouses after work, or an hour or two in the garden before work, it seems to me that these would fall into the same sort of category. Such pastimes are only generally problematic if we fill our lives with them too much to the detriment of what is really important.

Your points here are wonderful and I have no objection to any of them – I think you have put the matter more clearly and in a more organized way than anything I have ever posted on Ichthys. One point I am really glad you included is the "ego" point, because whenever a person is the center of attention for any reason in any field of activity, and especially if the "performance" results in the approbation of the crowd, it will take a spiritually mature person to shrug that off, not to play to it, and to recognize completely after the fact that any success is from God and all glory owed to God. There are a lot of people, even good and spiritually advanced Christians, who are not really capable of handling that sort of attention well (i.e., the list of "famous pastors" who have succumbed to the celebrity bug is seemingly endless). The devil's world is full of temptations, and we all have our own weaknesses according to the precise composition of our individual sin natures. For anyone who can't put the limelight into proper perspective, doing anything performance-related is probably a bad idea.

Nicely done! This piece will have a prominent position whenever I get around to posting the next thing on cultural activities and the like.

Best wishes for a relaxing and productive summer – even if the relaxation involves what some would consider work.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

Let me test my understanding of your response, just briefly. I am rather fond of seeing if I can echo back things in my own words, since doing such generally means I actually understand it.

1) Jesus was unique in His ministry on earth. Obviously. Jesus lived his entire life for the Father in a manner that even the best of us barely grasp, dedicating his entire life (and death) for the working out of God's plan. We are in no way qualified or prepared to do anything close to this level. Even "smaller fish" (relative to Jesus at least) had things that gave them variety in their ministry to God: Moses had his marriage(s), Paul had the life of a "wanderer," with new places and people giving him quite a varied experience in his dedication to God. Even then, these two are still far removed from us believers today; while their dedication was a level lower than Christ's, it was still high indeed. Rather than berating ourselves for failing to live up to the example of Jesus or Paul, we need to praise God for the work he did through them while simultaneously acknowledging that our call is not the same as theirs was. If Jesus gave 100%, and Paul gave something like 85% (say), we ought to be happy if we clock in at any value more than half that.

2) There are different types of ways in which a believer can achieve variety and refreshment in a Godly manner:

By engaging in activities that vary from his/her normal calling but still have a direct positive impact on the Church (e.g., a teacher reading up on tax-exempt finance laws to help another church member deal with a congregation's monetary assets, an evangelist helping comfort a friend who has just lost a relative). Since gifts are not a discrete thing (i.e., we all have our own "cocktail"), one might consider this still ministry, just in a different form.

By engaging in neutral activities that have some positive "skill-building" effects (e.g., building cooperation, teamwork, and communication skills through recreational team sports, building discipline and self-control through good nutrition and personal fitness, building focus and concentration through archery).

By engaging in neutral activities that enable better time/resource allocation (e.g., learning how to garden to save money on food, learning the workings of indoor plumbing to avoid prohibitive repair costs, learning how to type faster, learning time-management techniques to streamline and enhance organization and productivity).

By engaging in activities that are purely neutral (e.g., learning how to balance textbooks on your head, learning how to wiggle your ears by conscious effort). These activities have no sin (or "almost sin," i.e., "toeing the line") involved, but do not carry the same level of benefit as some of the above options. (They are "permissible" but not "beneficial").

In general, the order one ought to try to follow is 1<2<3<4. It would be ideal if all we did directly contributed to the edification of the Church. However, this is an ideal only, and will never be practically realized. Thus, we should, in principle, try to engage in relaxing behaviors that still have some positive contribution to our situation, be it by learning new transferable skills or alleviating fiscal and time pressures. We ought to limit "fun but pointless" activities (category 4) to a level that is not damaging to our growth but not so low that we become swamped in legalism.

There are, of course, other ways to spend time that would not fall under the statement "in a Godly manner" (these are usually more obvious). Playing video games that promote sex and violence would be one example of "variety" or "relaxation" that one ought to avoid. Another example might be excessive body-building that fosters vanity and arrogance. Since these things are sinful, or at least conducive towards sin, we ought to limit them to as low a level as we can possibly can.

3) I particularly like what you wrote towards the end: "Best wishes for a relaxing and productive summer – even if the relaxation involves what some would consider work." Herein lies the key to running a successful Christian race – taking the most arduous, challenging tasks and making them a means to lean on God and rest content in his power. This is one of those "perspective shifts" that you never really master but can train through time and patience. It's not so much that we won't find some things tedious or painful, but that these things do not matter compared to the glory of Him for whom we do them. When you get down in the trenches of this life's warfare, being able to pull your eyes from the blood and the mud and turn them towards the sky is the only thing that will give you peace. This makes peace and relaxation a function of your dependence on God over yourself – turn towards God more, and you will need fewer "crutches" to help you get by. But until that day of days, we will all need a few crutches (like guitar) to keep us on our feet and plugging onward towards Zion.

I don't want to say that your response gave me the green light on this, but I had really been struggling with "hobbies" or "less-productive-than-Bible-study activities" up until this point, when something finally clicked. If you remember back to the beginning of the summer I sent you an email wondering what you thought of Christians and hobbies, primarily because I felt almost guilty "wasting" my time with things that weren't the "first-best option." In the conversation that ensued I was trying to carry a double standard of dedication to God and legalistic idealism.

It's not so much that there doesn't exist a best use of time/efforts/energy for each and every person, but that fact becomes moot when you bring the nature of humanity into the equation. Sure, we "could" live a life perfectly in tune with the Father's will. It would be possible if we used our free will for good in each and every instant. But since we don't, the ideal must be sacrificed for "battlefield compromises." You will not make it far by trying to live a perfect life according to the law. Christ died specifically so that the law could be done away with (since it impossible for humanity to bear the burden). Obviously we should do the best we can, but we should not expect the impossible from ourselves (God is another matter). This isn't a matter of us "trying harder," but a matter of accepting the grace God gives us in the sacrifice of His dear son, Jesus Christ.

We have to adopt a mindset of living for God without earning our adoption by Him. Jesus was never in a rush in his time on earth, and, if you look at other examples (the apostles, e.g.), there is never mention of them getting supremely worried about what exact thing they were "supposed" to be doing at any instant. Rather, they lived their lives day by day in a way that demonstrated their dedication to God's plan. We ought to behave in like manner, not getting unduly worried about what precise thing God wants us to do at every moment, but rather striving to live for Him more day by day. In time, we will be able to match our step with God's plan for us, but it is not something that we can do from day one.

I finally feel like I'm getting closer to grasping our purpose in this regard.

In Christ,

Response #15:

I like your analysis of these things very much. This is an area of spiritual application rather than direct doctrine, however, so we will all no doubt think about these things and express them in slightly different ways, and it is therefore important not to get dogmatic about these expressions. Somewhere between "relax and don't give it another thought" and "be meticulous about how you employ every single second" is a sweet spot that is both godly and workable for the individual Christian concerned. That spot will vary person to person and that spot may change as one grows. Those who tend to be too relaxed can afford to get a little more meticulous; those who tend to be too meticulous can afford to get a little more relaxed; and all of us ought to be moving forward spiritually every day (rather than bouncing between these two extremes with no forward progress).

One other perspective I think it is important to hold onto in this regard is that of proper motivation. We run to win because we want to win, not because we are afraid of being punished if we don't run all out. We are eager to win the three crowns because we want to please our Lord in a positive way, not because we are worried about lack of effort being sinful. Negative motivation is for those who are headed the wrong way in the Christian life; for those headed the right way of sanctification, growth, progress and production, contemplation of the blessings of eternity and a good report before the Lord are better motivators. If we are basketball players by occupation and want to win a championship, that will (or should) motivate us to work hard to achieve our goal – a much better attitude to have than fear of being the goat in an important game or being kicked off the team. Whatever people achieve in this secular world takes effort, and there is much in scripture which likewise seeks to motivate us in positive ways to achieve what God wants us to achieve – true achievement that lasts forever in contrast to perishable crowns. There are different ways of managing ourselves, our time and resources and attitudes, but the motive behind doing so for Christians is important, and in my experience and observation we will be more effective too if it is a positive rather than a largely negative one. In other words, we should feel "good, better and best" about our efforts to achieve our goals today, rather than "bad, worse and worst" about the extent to which we have fallen short of maximum possible effort. And I think that is the case even if the "bad, worse, worst" approach has the same ultimate goal. Naturally, this also depends upon our individual personalities, but my point is that even if we respond better to a program of self-discipline which is more negative than positive, the totally positive end goal should never be allowed to fall from our consciousness.

Jascha Heifetz used to say, "If I skip practice one day, I know it. If I skip practice two days, my orchestra knows it. If I skip practice three days, everybody knows it." The goal, however, was really not one motivated by fear but by a desire to be exceptional in the music he made.

We all have our own gifts, our own situations, and our own personalities. We can all make our own "sweet music" to the Lord, and we can enjoy doing it too, but we can't be at it all the time, even though we won't get good at it without serious effort.

Yours in the dear Lord who died for all of our sins, Jesus Christ our Savior.

Bob L.

Question #16:

Dear Bob,

This week's email collection prompted a question that has been lurking in the back of my mind for some time. It is my understanding that God takes oaths sworn before Him quite seriously. I would consider any oath that ends with, "... so help me God" to be one of those oaths.

Those of us in the military (and other branches of government) swore an oath that ended, "... and bear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of the United States. So help me God." In so far as an oath doesn't conflict with the commandments of God, I feel we are obligated to honor that oath. That particular oath brings us into a great deal of difficulty in today's society.

While I now adhere to the instructions in Matthew 5:34 to not swear any oath, I didn't then and didn't understand the ramifications. What are your thoughts on this?

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #16:

Good to hear from you. As to your question, first, I would agree that avoiding any oath-taking where possible is a good things. Of course it's not always possible. We live in a very litigious society, and in criminal trials, at least, sometimes a person can be subpoenaed to testify (and an oath will ensue); same goes for jury duty (which is an obligation not a choice). I do understand that Quakers, for example, are allowed to "affirm" instead of "swear", but I doubt God sees a difference. The point is that the person in question has obligated him/herself with God as witness. As I say in Q/A #9 of "Freedom and Responsibility" (at the link):

. . . this has historically been a problem for many Christians and Christian groups. I don't pretend it's an easy one. My own conscience has no difficulty with this sort of legal affirmation of the truth of what I may say or promising thereby to do my duty in an honorably way.

On the military side of things, however, this is indeed different. For one thing, we have an all-volunteer force now – no one is being drafted against their will where the oath would in consequence not be something they were necessarily willing to take. As I have remarked in the past, being in service in Germany under the Nazi regime required a personal oath to Hitler. It seems to me that when this oath was required following the Nazi seizure of power, that would have been the time for servicemen with scruples to object. Of course there are consequences for following our consciences (always, it seems), and refusal would probably have landed the refuse-nik in a concentration camp.

Today the situation is different, but there are problems as your email suggests. However it strikes me, to get at the gist of your question, that the real potential problem going forward for members of the military will not be so much in the oath they swore before God (for those who take that seriously), but in the interpretation of the phrases "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" and "bear true faith and allegiance to the same" and "obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me".

One can certainly imagine circumstances, once the Tribulation begins in particular, where the actions required of individual soldiers and officers may not be legal, not only in particular cases (we know that an order to execute civilians, for example, would be illegal), but also in terms of genuinely "supporting and defending the constitution". If things come to such a pass that just by being in the service a believer feels he/she is waging war, so to speak, on the very institutions he/she has sworn to uphold, that would seem to me to be the time to get out. While I do not see that point having yet been reached – nor do I even see it on the near horizon – it may a bit trickier a problem to navigate even than was true in Nazi Germany. Even though the consequences of refusal in that parallel were obviously horrific, nevertheless the point of decision was at least clear. In our case, once the Tribulation starts and antichrist comes to power, I would not be surprised to see a stealthy erosion of consonance between honorable service in keeping with the oath and compromise merely by continuing to serve – in the same way we see the slow but ineluctable erosion of values in our society at large. In fairly short order, antichrist will be in charge of tribulational Babylon, and those in her armed forces at that time will be required to carry out his will. That is certainly a situation no believer will want to be involved in, and it may not happen as dramatically as in the Nazi parallel.

Until then, we who believe in Jesus Christ very much do appreciate the service and sacrifice of all of our young men and women who have put their lives on hold and in danger to protect our country – and we really mean it when we say it.

One last point on the historical parallel: even for those German servicemen who were believers and took their oath "before God" seriously, it seems to me that while this bad decision to swear allegiance to Hitler did put them in a position of weakness, still, the better part of their Christianity when push came to shove would have been to stand with the good even when it came into conflict with that oath. God can forgive anything in Jesus Christ. Committing horrible deeds in His Name because of an oath can never be justified. As I say at the link "Jephthah's Daughter", "I find it very hard to believe that carrying out a vow would take precedence over murder".

May the Lord protect you and keep you, and ever bring you home safe and sound.

In Jesus Christ our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Good morning Bob. Are there scriptures that come to mind about defending myself or others, using force that potentially takes the life of the perpetrator? This would not be to seek a loophole or anything. But to prayerfully consider. Yes, this may be partially fueled by current events. Is this a Spiritual battle using Spiritual weapons? What of picking up the sword? If I do, the challenge becomes waiting on the Lord as to when to draw it.

Thank you brother.

Response #17:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

Here is something else our Lord said:

Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered.. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.
Luke 22:35-36 NIV

Beyond all argument, our Lord meant that now that He was no longer going to be with they disciples, they would occasionally need to defend themselves. That is always permissible; see the links:

The Golden Rule, Christian Military Service and Self-Defense

The Biblical view of preemption and self-defense

Turn the other cheek

During the Tribulation, it is true, there will be some different factors at play. For one thing, there will be no "good government" whence believers will be able to flee, and I don't find a biblical justification for individual taking up arms against all worldly authority, even though it will be in the devil's hands; no doubt for that reason martyrdom will be the rule during those dark times. Here are some links on that as well:

A Tribulational Code of Conduct (in CT 7)

Code of Conduct for the Tribulation

Christian Conduct during the Tribulation

A Brief "Code of Conduct" (in CT 4)

I hope this answers your question, but do feel free to write back.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Good Morning Bob. While I have only begun to read your generous offering in the latest posting, I wanted to take a moment in thanksgiving for what our Lord has worked in and through you. Years ago now when I looked to you as a mentor, I had yet to realize that once again my mentor would be the Holy Spirit. I often drift in my mind and heart from the appreciation of that reality. In my wandering, He has always cared for me, even now through you. So..guns or not..stockpiles or not..if it is only the outside of the cup that is clean I must visit this- I believe the Church is where-IAM. The question to honestly ponder today is 'where am I'. The Spirit has blessed me through you Bob. Let that be a reassurance to you as you boldly speak this Thanksgiving day.

Sincerely,

Response #18:

Thank you!

I grateful today for you and your dedication to the Lord, and for all our brothers and sisters who have chosen "the better part" in spite of all the noise and confusion of this world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Good morning Bob.

I realize my question is one I need to be Spiritually guided in an answer. However, I respect your knowledge of the Scriptures, and because of that, your opinion. The purpose of concealed carry is for protection, using deadly force. It has proven to be a conflicting reality for me as a licensed gun owner, in light of my studies with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose inspired writing has awakened this awareness in me. My thoughts today on the cost of discipleship are that it is truly impossible with man. That to carry a sword, as in Luke 22, was another living example to reveal which kingdom you will serve, not the right to take a life. I have at this point decided along that line. To carry, but to stay awake and pray, lest I fall into temptation, at the moment when the world would have me draw my sword, but Christ would not. What do the scriptures reveal to you on the matter?

As always, your brother in Christ,

Response #19:

In my considered opinion, this is an area of application, not one of specific scriptural "regulation". I don't see how it can be wrong for a Christian to carry, nor do I see how it can be wrong for another Christian to deliberately refrain. Whether it is "a good idea" to do so is a question of individuals, taking into consideration all pertinent factors (maturity, proficiency, external situation). Making use of deadly force is a different issue, whether or not one is specially prepared to do so. We most certainly do have the right of self-defense. How and when and to what degree we are justified in making use of that right is a judgment call that depends on the situations which arise. As someone who is committed to Christ and growing in Him day by day, I would say that you have a much better than average chance of getting it right, should the situation ever come up. Praise the Lord if it never comes up!

Here are a couple of pertinent links:

Biblical view of self-defense

Preemption and self-defense

Turn the other cheek

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Bob, 

Been reading your website off and on, and noticed that this week you are covering some sensitive subjects. Here is some thoughts and a question about a sensitive subject that every single man, saved or otherwise, contends with sooner or later. I have seen teachings on this subject both pro and con, whilst the scriptures are pretty much silent on that particular thing. This is how I have come to think on this subject, correct me if I am wrong.

Here is another question, totally unrelated. I am half Scottish, so I purchased a kilt and other items to wear for our party. What do you think? Kilts are distinctly male garments, even if they are not pants.

You must work day and night to answer all the emails you do. Some of those emails are really wacked out, yet you keep a calm and Christlike demeanor even to the most caustic of them. You do a lot better than I would, I think. Yes, I know... it is the Lord in you that enables you to do that.

God bless and have a good week.

In Jesus,

Response #20:

Good to hear from you, my friend! Busy time here with the end of the semester and many home repairs put off all winter (for myself and a friend as well who helps me too). Then a visit to my 94 year old mom in Michigan next week. Then back to Loo-a-vul to do my summer research articles (publish or perish). Meanwhile I am up to date mostly on emails, but behind on the Peter series and also Bible Basics. Always something to do.

On question #1, I understand the universal pressures particularly for unmarried men, but I have a hard time seeing this behavior in any regard as something that would not trouble the conscience; so while I can't give a scripture that covers this explicitly, it seems to me that avoidance is the better path.

On question #2, that's a cultural thing in my view. I would never dream of considering a Scotsman wearing a kilt as untoward in any way; a man in drag wearing a wig and an evening dress, however, is something else again.

Hope you and your family are doing well!

Keep fighting the fight for Jesus Christ!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #21:

[question involving a married couple and Hebrews 13:4: "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." NIV]

Response #21:

What a husband and wife do in their bedroom is strictly between the two of them. I don't know of any scriptural prohibitions along the lines of anything you have mentioned. The Greek word pornos ("fornicator" in the KJV) in the verse quoted above is referring persons who have illicit sexual relations outside of marriage. Consorting with prostitutes is the main thing Paul has in mind here, because that was the most common context of the usage of this word, and a widespread problem in the ancient world. One could say that prostitution (a part of most temples which were ubiquitous) was the "internet pornography" of the ancient world. The word can apply to persons who indulge in any manner of sexually inappropriate behavior, that is, where the two involved are not a married "man and wife".

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

Sometimes I don’t feel I’m a very good witness to others or my family. I keep doing my best for Him and it will get sorted out.

I am very naive when it comes to termites. I personally don’t know anyone who has had them so I figured they were not a problem here. Quite a shock! I pray that the damage isn’t too bad. If so, I hope we get someone who will fix it right the first time. Sounds like you were able to get yours fixed relatively easy. At least there won’t be any termites in my mansion in heaven! ha!

Testing is hard at times and I know He’s in charge. There is provision for me and this will turn out good. We’re starting to see some of that in the last couple of days. It’s hard when there are several things at once. I know he’s preparing me for things to come. Maybe for the Tribulation. This will certainly be rapid fire there. Nothing I’m going through is going to be wasted.

Thanks again for the good words.

In Him,

Response #22:

Your witness minsters to me.

On termites, yes, it is a blessing to remember that nothing on earth in this world is permanent, and that all "security" is an illusion (see the link: "Strangers in the Devil's Realm") – apart from the security we believers have in our Lord.

I was just able to get my house problems fixed in time for passing inspection; it cost me a lot of money I really don't have. But God provided and I am very appreciative. He always takes care of us, and, as you rightly conclude, if it didn't hurt a little in the testing, it wouldn't be much of a test – and it wouldn't be preparing us for what is coming.

Thank you for your ever positive and manifestly Christian attitude!

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Dear Rob,

I'm leaving my church of five months because it is oppressing me with tithing. He says if I don't tithe.... I won't have spiritual progress!

What happened to grace?  

I feel so dry. False teaching quenches my spiritual growth.

Response #23:

I don't blame you. Tithing was a system of agricultural income tax designed for Israel, the only genuinely theocratic state in history, wherein the produce tithed supported the Levitical priesthood. Tithing is never even recommended in the New Testament, let alone commanded for the Church after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Here are some links on this:

Tithing 2

Is Tithing Net or just 'Gross'?

Tithing

Tithing and the Book of Life

Tithes and Tithing

Christian giving

Charity

Giving and Ichthys

More on Tithing

Tithing and the so-called "prosperity gospel"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Hi Bob L.

Thank you so much for the information. I have another problem:

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;
Proverbs 3:9 NIV

How I interpret it: you give to God tithing as per what He adds into your life.

Example: I get 13th cheques every year and 1 tenth must go to Him. I have thought that 1 tenth of my salary must go to Him each month.

I surely don't want to rob God.

Shalom

Response #24:

As Paul says, "God loves a cheerful giver" (2Cor.9:7), and " if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have" (2Cor.8:12 NIV). Both of these passages support the legitimate function of Christian giving, but not of tithing. Tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament for the simple reason that it was a part of the divinely instituted state of Israel under the Old Testament regime – wherein there was an officially constituted priesthood and temple rite which had to be supported. That is not the case today. The verse you quote, Proverbs 3:9, certainly supports Christian giving to worthy ministries (to the extent that a believers is both willing and able to do so), but not tithing. And let me stress – worthy ministries. Giving money in and of itself is not necessarily a good thing; that depends on the true inner motives and also the worthiness of the recipient ministry.

Here are some other links which deal with this subject:

Prosperity Gospel, Tithing, Cults and Legalism

Tithing and church polity

Tithing

Tithing and the Book of Life

Is Tithing Net or just 'Gross'?

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hi Bob L,

Thank you so much.

Times are getting very tough and I thought if I am not able to give 10% of my salary every month, that God will curse me for stealing from Him.

Once again thank you for making things more clear.

Seems like a lot of churches are leading us astray.

Till next time.

Shalom

Response #25:

You're most welcome.

The Lord is "tapping His foot" in anticipation of blessing us; He is not in any way anxious to curse us.

Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
Isaiah 30:18

Feel free to write any time.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

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