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Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth

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Question #1:  

Dear Prof Bob,

How should a Christian view 'Godliness' & 'Faith ' biblically?

Appreciate your advice

Response #1: 

Good to hear from you. To take the latter first, "faith" is a very big topic in the Bible (obviously). It means, essentially, to rely on God and His goodness/love/faithfulness rather than on oneself. In salvation terms, that means to trust in Him for deliverance from death and hell rather than 1) one's own efforts, or 2) being unconcerned about "what's next", or 3) "other gods" or any other false system of salvation that does not relay on accessing God's favor (grace) through simple trust (faith) in Him and what He has done for us (Christ's sacrifice). Since the cross, therefore, Christ is the sole object of faith for salvation (Acts 4:12).

For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this [salvation] did not come from you – it is God's gift. Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for [the purpose of accomplishing] good works, which [very works] God has prepared ahead of time for us, that we might walk in them (i.e., live our Christian lives in the accomplishment of them).
Ephesians 2:8-10

Here are some links where these matters are discussed in greater detail:

The virtue of faith

What faith entails

Faith Dynamics

As to "godliness", this term (along with "godly") in the English Bible usually translates the Greek compound euseb-, and means to be "duly reverent", respecting God's true desires and will for us. In this respect, it is close in meaning to "the fear of God", but that will entail different things for each believer at different times, and of course more is required of us as we grow. It is important to note that while respect for God's deity and will ought to motivate us all to stay away from things we ought not to do or have contact with, godliness cannot be reduced to a list of "don'ts" (i.e., it can't legitimately be used to support a legalistic agenda). Rather it means living one's life with God's priorities for us firmly in mind – and that in turn cannot be divorced from spiritual growth, spiritual progress in our walk in this world, and proper production once we have reached spiritual maturity. So from my reading of its use in scripture the positive aspects of godliness are at least as much in view as the negative ones (or, as I like to say, offensive more than defensive). After all, the only true way for a believer to "get better" is from the inside out; spiritual growth, true growth, can't be imposed through rules and regulations – that only results in "white-washed sepulchers in the manner of the Pharisees. To be truly godly, we have to grow as we are supposed to do. So I suppose I would say that in a nutshell view of it, godliness is adopting God's viewpoint on all things in this world . . . and acting accordingly; that is to say, having the divine viewpoint and accommodating our behavior to that heavenly perspective (as opposed to all worldly views and desires). That will certainly help in passing tests once we realize that even the thought that the Lord could prove anything but perfectly faithful to us is "madness" (Eccl.9:3), i.e., human viewpoint, worldly thinking, not godly thinking and acting.

The Lord is the One shepherding me. Therefore I will not be lacking [anything I need].
Psalm 23:1

For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you".
Hebrews 13:5b NKJV

Here is one link on that: "Godliness"

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

'Seeing is Believing'. Hebrews 11-1 speaks of the path to the Power which overcomes the world, and begins by saying it is not seen. Not as 'the world ' sees anyway. To those who believe, there are given eyes which can. New 'eyes', as in vs 13, which because of what they can see, sustains those through all. If you're awake today, with your 'new eyes' open, provide a vision to those whose 'eyes of the heart' are still closed, or are maybe still getting adjusted to the Light. Seeing is still believing, with the right pair of eyes.

Response #2: 

Good words!

I'm keeping you and your family in prayer.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hello Robert. Can you please help me, I struggle with disrespectful thoughts about the Trinity. I feel like I lack forgiveness for my stupid actions and I might never be forgiven. I believe It took me to a point of temporary rejection. Do you find issues with disrespectful thoughts normal?

Response #3: 

Yes, I believe that to have issues with one's thinking is normal for all believers who are actually engaged in the spiritual conflict that swirls around us (perhaps not so much for believers who are merely sitting in place and doing nothing about spiritual growth). My advice to believers who are being plagued in their thoughts in any way is to remember that 1) these thoughts are not really "from" you but are being instigated from without by the evil one and are being abetted from within by the sin nature (cf. Rom.7:17 NIV: "As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me."); 2) so you do not have to entertain these thoughts; instead, you can boot them out of your heart and out of your mind and out of your thinking; that does take a consistent effort to do so , but it most assuredly can be done (and gets better with spiritual growth); 3) very importantly, since these things happen to all believers, since our culpability is at least minimized by the outward pressure, and since we can't avoid this issue totally (not if we are determined to advance and thus receive resistance), it is IMPERATIVE that we confess all such lapses immediately AND let them go of any concern immediately thereafter. Absolutely the WORST thing a believer can do in this regard is to agonize about this issue or think he/she can't/won't be forgiven. If we take that route, we are going to give the devil just the victory he is looking for, namely, getting us out of the battle and all tied up inside on account of these sorts of subtle attacks. What we need to do instead is to slough this sort of thing off (reject, confess, move on), and if we do so we will indeed find that such attacks minimize thereafter (after they prove a waste of the evil one's efforts). Here are some links I strongly suggest you read in this regard:

Sin, Fear and Forgiveness

Sin and Spiritual Transformation

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness: Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground

Spiritual Warfare IV: Demons, Demonic Influences and Satanic Methodology<

Spiritual 'ups' and 'downs'

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Dear Dr. L,

I had to change computers and providers so have a different e-mail address. Just wanted you to know that I am still here reading, rereading, learning and growing thanks to your AWESOME site.

Lamenting the fact that there are so few seekers. People just want to sit on what they think they know and are not open to any slight adjustment, or discussion, let alone a major change! Realize that is not news to you...and shouldn’t be to me considering how long I have been on your site. HOWEVER, a friend that was reading your site with me for awhile, has abandoned ship and is back to getting her eschatology from Hal Lindsay. A lot of people are going to be very, very confused when the tribulation hits...think that is where my ministry will be.

Thank you sooo much for "being there" for me. Ichthys is my mainline to maturity!!

I have no idea what you are up against, but I pray for you and your protection.

With you in Christ,

Response #4: 

I've updated your email address. It's great to hear from you – and thanks so much for your encouraging words! I'm sorry to hear about your friend, but the truth has a way of separating out those who are really interested and those who aren't. I think we've all experienced some of that in our lives, all of us, that is, who are really interested in growing spiritually (I sure know I have). I'm also encouraged to see that you are starting to "home in" on your own ministry potential and direction going forward. That's a sure sign of spiritual growth and progress.

Some helpful links:

Mutual Encouragement in Christ II

In Need of Guidance and Encouragement.

All about Ichthys: Mutual encouragement in the Lord

Mutual Encouragement in Christ.

Christian Trials and Testing

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.

In need of encouragement.

Spiritual Resiliency.

Waiting on God.

Thanks ever so much for all your prayer support! It means a lot (and does a lot of good, believe me).

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Thank you Bob. I have downloaded the Rtf version for reading offline. I could not write back to you as I had trouble with internet connectivity (the response from you certainly gave me consolation and my hope was revitalized. Thank you.) Incidentally, my youngest, 3-year old developed an allergic reaction this past Wednesday and it became severe and was hospitalized. Thankfully she was able to be discharged on Saturday night and is doing okay by God's grace. The little money we had was spent at the hospital and I was only glad that we had that money at an opportune time. As of this writing we are stone broke and have nothing to make breakfast this morning, yet am hopeful God will provide as he knows everything about our situation. Please continue to pray for us, as we are under a genuine demonic attack, the enemy keeps targeting my finances and health, but that's how much he is allowed to do. Praise God.

Will write soon bro. Take good care.

Happy Spring to you all too.

Much Love from us in India

Response #5: 

My dear Friend,

I am indeed keeping you in prayer on this and all other needs and have added this concern to the Ichthys prayer list. I know that in spite of what the eye sees and the ear hears, God is good and God is present and God will provide. The victory will come, my friend. Keep faith with the Lord in spite of these pressures, and you will never regret it.

I draw great encouragement from your courage in the face of such satanic opposition. The Lord will deliver you, and we will rejoice in that deliverance!

We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Psalm 20:5 NASB

In Jesus who is more to us than anything in this temporary world.

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Dear Bob,

I can't thank you enough for your continued prayers and spiritual support. James 5:17-18 says it all. I am so fortunate to have a friend like you bro. God did provide for us on Sunday. Right after I wrote you the mail with a pain in my heart, we took our daughter to a nearby nursing home to get her allergy shot and on our way back, a grocer in the neighborhood gave us enough credit to buy provisions that would last us a couple of days and we actually enjoyed a sumptuous lunch with veggies. I also got a call from an old friend in the evening offering me a job and said he would pay for my roundtrip. I am starting tomorrow night. ( I have been without a stable income for the past four months as the enemy had blocked supply lines.) Am so relieved with these developments over the last 24 hours. I am not afraid of the enemy, I believe our Lord will say a big "NO" every time he petitions for something worse, just like He did previously...Truly, He has put a hedge around me and my family. God is Good All The Time! Praise God. When we hold onto The Faith, Our Lord makes us victors in this temporary world too! With your Godly counsel and prayers, I am more than strengthened to take on the challenges that lie ahead in my personal walk and I will never forget to Thank Him for everything. Love you lots bro. You are in our prayers. Will keep you posted.

God bless you abundantly always. Have a great week ahead.

Best Regards,

Response #6: 

You are very welcome, my friend!

This is a true answer to prayer! God is great! I appreciate you letting me know about this so soon as your situation has been a heavy burden on my heart. I will be praying for the new job to be a blessing and for everything to go well with your family from here on in.

While I am very happy to hear of these blessings, I am even more happy – and encouraged – to see the way you handled this very severe test. It is easy to pass hypothetical tests. When we are actually on the firing line, however, it is not so simple. When we really are down to our last bullet and the enemy is charging, it takes a strong and mature Christian faith not to whine, not to complain, and not to doubt or worry but to put it all in the Lord's hands and understand that He, our Great Shepherd, is not going to let us down but will deliver us. You have passed this test with flying colors, my friend, and I know that it will redound to your eternal reward.

Your friend in Jesus Christ, now and forever.

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Dear Bob,

Hope and pray all is well with you in KY.

I apologize for the delay in writing to you. My daughter developed severe joint tenderness after her episode of hives and was in severe pain and we had to rush her to the hospital again and she was diagnosed with Reactive Arthritis after routine blood work and urine studies. Thankfully, our Lord has taken her pain away and she has done remarkably well over the past two days and is pain free as of this writing. Praise God !

Thank you for your continued prayers. I also received an e-mail from a brother in the UK who is a reader of your site, and I am copying it for you to read. I was so touched by his reaching out to me and showing me his kindness in doing so.

Dear brother,

I am an ichthys.com reader. Ichthys is a ministry which changed my life and I am constantly in touch with Professor Luginbill as I'm preparing for my own service.

I read about your struggles on the Special Prayer Request page and wanted to ask if there is a way in which I could help you? Where are you based?

In our Lord,

I will be writing to him in a few. God bless his heart.

I will have an update regarding my job as I expect to hear back from them tomorrow. Please keep me in your prayers as you have bro.

Thank you again for your confidence in me. I am a work in progress.

Much Love,

Response #7: 

Good to hear from you, my friend. I'm also happy to hear that your daughter is responding well to treatment for this new problem – we will keep her in prayer.

I'm also pleased to hear that you are in touch with our friend. He is a wonderful man and I know he will be a good Bible teacher in his own right some day soon. He is working hard and diligently on it.

Do keep in touch. I'm also praying for your situation.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus, our Savior and Shepherd in all things.

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Hello Bob,

First, many thanks for answering my question a couple of weeks ago, and thank you for letting me know about your latest work, I really need to be armed with this knowledge. I remember years ago when I worked along side someone who said they were not a Christian, that there was never anger negative vibes between them and me, we just accepted them and vice versa, but now these days, most of the atheists are using the Bible to attack us and the evolutionists have made their dogma into a religion too.

Thanks again, and for you blessings.

Response #8: 

You're most welcome.

I too sense that things are "heating up" in the spiritual warfare in which we are engaged generally. To me, this is another indication Christians should not ignore that the end times are getting closer.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Dear Robert,

Thanks for your timely email and instructions. Once again, you are right not he spot. I am being tested again in a worrisome manner: financial and legal. [details omitted] What is most disturbing about this is that this person is supposedly "Christian"woman who initially spoke of the Bible regularly with me, and I recall sending her tons of writings and teachings to which she NEVER even responded commenting on them, and slowly just dropped the Christian mask. In this country it has become a joke to hire Christians, since that is the shield, the excuse they all use to pretend honesty and integrity.

Now I don't have the money as I don't have a job yet. Please pray so that I might get a job that would help defray the expenses of living and give me a sense of purpose. It has been too long that I don't work and my self esteem is very, very low. Is this pay back for some bad things I did in the past? What can I do to in order to feel productive and a whole person? Why doesn't the Lord open ONE door for me? Is my life always to be cursed by the sense of non-accomplishment and feeling left behind, now that my friends are actually retiring, and I seem to be starting over again so late in life?

Please give me your spiritual reading about this life situation that I am facing once again. Remember what I have been going through these last years: bad decisions, lots of moving in search of fulfillment (professional) and abandonment. I feel that the enemy’s ploy has been to demoralize me so that I commit suicide and got to hell; to bring to a point of exasperation where I just lose it, something which by the way I will not, by the grace of GOD. Is there a familiar curse on me, a generational curse placed on me by my father’s sociopathic evil behavior towards others and myself? Can I be set free once and for all, or is this my lot in life, to be persecuted, harassed and disdained by others that are in the world? Why is it that some people I have trusted turn on me, when I have been an unconditional friend and loyal to a tee?

God bless you and I hope your answer comes divinely inspired by Our Lord, because I am reaching a dangerous point. I thought that coming back to my country would make me safer, given the profound, satanic changes taking place in America. But between my stupidity and the wiles of the enemy, I seem to have no escape.

Response #9: 

I'm sad to hear that things have been so difficult for you. I have been praying for you on all this. No doubt the Lord has something – I am often surprised by "just what that is" in my own life. If it is any consolation whatsoever, let me say that Peter's observation to the effect that "the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world" (1Pet.5:9 NASB) is very germane. I know this not only from my own situation but from that of many with whom I correspond.

Every Christian has to make his/her own decisions, especially about the sorts of things we are talking about here. I certainly cannot tell you that moving was right or wrong or that doing things in way X vs. way Y was preferable. I do know that God is on your side as a believer in Jesus Christ, and that regardless of opposition, disappointment, suffering or setbacks, through faith you will accomplish what the Lord has put you here to do and that you will make it safely across the "finish line" by guarding your eternal inheritance "through faith" (1Pet.1:5). This is the blessed hope we all have in common. If I were to diagnose anything here it would only be to remind you of what you know very well in any case, namely, that there are no material solutions in this life, that the important things are spiritual and not material at all, that when the trouble begins there will be no "absolutely safe haven" to which believers may repair, but the whole world, which already lies in the lap of the evil one, will be in his grasp and control more than at any time in prior history. These things being the case, the best thing we as Christians can do is to make our spiritual growth and consequent spiritual preparation the absolute first priority in our lives. Having a perfect base of operation, after all, is only valuable if one is going to really "get cracking" with spiritual growth, progress and production; and in truth God may have to take away much of that "perfection" – if we ever could come close to achieving it – in order to give us the proper spiritual load to achieve growth we need. That is because testing is essential to growth.

So it seems you are under pressure, and it seems that the evil one is well-informed as to the type of pressure which can best "get your goat" (he is notoriously good about that, I can tell you from personal experience). God knows your pressures. He also knows the reasons for them. If they are not under divine discipline for something recently done and needing to be confessed and repented of – and I have no reason to think that – then these troubles are being allowed in order to help you grow (precisely as in Job's case). The first rule of testing is "pass the test". After all, if you are going to be pressured anyway, you might as well bear up under it in a good and godly way. What does that mean? It means trusting the Lord for His deliverance in all things great and small. He can certainly take care of your smallest problems (as I know you have seen countless times in your life), and we know for certain that He has already taken care of the really BIG problems of sin and death . . . by sending His own dear Son to die in your place and mine, and for the entire world. But it often is those "middle problems" which constitute the hardest tests. We know we have salvation; we know God is working in our lives; but here we have some life-threatening, or life-style-threatening, or job-threatening, or health-threatening problem . . . and it seems hard to bear and harder to maintain a good attitude of faith and hope. But that is precisely the test. Do we really understand that salvation is more important? Do we really understand that Jesus paid the real price and that we are only hear for Him to glorify Him? Can we connect the dots between the things we know God has done and is doing and all of His promises to deliver us . . . now that we are under pressure and cannot see a solution to our present problem? Stepping back, no such "problem" means anything in the light of eternity. But here we are, in the world and in the flesh, and this "problem" is something that would send any unbeliever into a complete tail-spin. We have an advantage as believers – if we activate and hold onto that faith that has brought us to this point.

This is why James can tell us to "count it all joy" (Jas.1:2) when we are being hit so hard, precisely because of what it really means: 1) it means all this – our new life in Christ and heavenly position – is real; otherwise there would be no devil to hit us; 2) it means that God is allowing it to happen, so that must mean we have gotten to a point where we are spiritually mature enough to "take it", and 3) it means that "this" will be "good for us" if only we face and pass the test in a spirit of faith. This is not the stuff of spiritual immaturity, but then these sorts of extreme tests do not come to those who are spiritually immature.

In my experience, observation and reading of scripture, people will often disappoint, things, circumstance, plans will often go awry, trouble and tribulation may come . . . but the Lord is always faithful. Oftentimes the whole point of having all of these other things threatened which those who are "of the world" depend on completely is to make us do what we ought always to be doing in any case: lean on the Lord and not on ourselves or anything we may have:

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
2nd Corinthians 12:9 NASB

Troubles and tests always come to an end eventually. The real question for growing Christians is, how are we going to feel about our performance under pressure when we look back? Be pleased to be encouraged, my friend, and to remember that the Lord is with you. Delight yourself in Him and in His truth. That is the capital which the Spirit, your real source of strength, uses to bring you through every trial.

We will sing for joy over your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners. May the LORD fulfill all your petitions.
Psalm 20:5 NASB

I will be keeping you in my prayers – keep fighting the good fight of faith!

Here are some links you may find helpful in all this:

Mutual Encouragement in Christ II

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

Mutual Encouragement in Christ.

Fighting the Fight II: Struggling with Sin, Doubt, and Severe Testing

Spiritual 'ups' and 'downs'

Perseverance in the latter days of Laodicea

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle

In Need of Guidance and Encouragement.

 All about Ichthys II: Mutual Encouragement in the Lord

All about Ichthys: Mutual Encouragement in the Lord. 

Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.

Encouragement, Isaiah 6:11-13, and the Hope of Repentance.

In need of encouragement.

Christian suffering - Christian encouragement.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Brother Bob,

I just wanted to update you on how things are going for me. Things are going well. I came across a verse about a month ago 1 Corinthians 15:57 about God giving us the victory through Jesus. This has been a transforming verse for me since I have been meditating on it. Victory is a gift. I do not have to work for it through blood, sweat, or tears. It is mine for the asking only if I ask and believe. I asked the Lord to give me victory over every sin, over every fear, over every doubt in my life. The transformation has been amazing. My ability to say no to sin has greatly increased and my fears and doubts are less than they used to be.

I have started studying your Peter Series and I enjoyed your recent responses on Spiritual Growth. I pray every day now that the Lord would help me to grow a little more than the day before and to chip away at smaller prayers or reading the Bible or thinking about the Lord a little each day instead of goals that cannot be reached.

Also I do have a question about spiritual fruit. My studies on this are showing me that all real born again believers produce fruit of some degree and non-believers do not. However, can’t some of the fruits of the Spirit like love or longsuffering be seen in non-believers lives at times? Also, on the other hand, Fruits of the Spirit are not always evident in a believers life. Is this correct? How can I know that the Fruit of the Spirit is coming out in my life? I’m not always a good judge of my own progress. And if I want more fruit from the Lord in my life don’t I need to abide in Him more like the branch in the Vine? What does it mean for us to abide in Him? Not sure if all of this is making sense or not.

Anyway, I just wanted to say Thank You for your ministry. You never fail to respond to my e-mails of which I am very appreciative of. I am sure you are a very busy person. I hope that I can be a blessing to others as you have been to me.

God Bless,

Response #10: 

I'm delighted to hear of your spiritual progress, my friend! I've been keeping you in my prayers day by day and your news is an answer to prayer. Thanks so much for your positive testimony. Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ!

As to your question on spiritual production, first, it is impossible for anyone who is not a believer to do anything with which the Lord will be pleased because it cannot truly have been done in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only things done "by God through us" are truly righteous production.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 NIV

It is true that unbelievers with good hearts who do good things 1) will be led to the Lord if that is what is at the root of their actions (as in the case of Cornelius in Acts 10:1ff.), or 2) will receive in many cases the approbation of the world (as in "saints" and other "holy" people who were not in fact saved) – although this cuts absolutely no ice with God. He sent His Son to die for their sins; anyone who throws that sacrifice back in the face of the Lord Almighty has no defense on judgment day, no matter how much they did for charity (e.g.). And it is certainly also true that those who live humanly "righteous" lives, follow the law, work hard, etc., often reap the favorable natural consequences of such behavior in this world (although there is no guarantee of that). What legitimate Christian service we perform as believers we do in the power of the Spirit and "for God" since it definitely through God that we do anything legitimate at all.

What is "fruit"? First, we need to rid ourselves of the medieval mindset and its preoccupation with giving up material things. Giving money to charity can be fruit, if that is what God has called us to do (and indeed it is hard to imagine a contemporary Christian life where the Lord will not give at least some opportunities of this kind – although traditional "charity" is often a false road here: giving to someone we know who is in need is exponentially better than giving to a charity the end effect of which may not be as we imagine or intend). In fact, we are the Church, and the Church helps each member through the gifts each member has received. Some have the gift of giving, but not many (since "not many mighty" or rich are "called"). Some have the gift of pastor/teacher, but less than assume so (and without a great deal of preparation even so its really not possible to benefit the Body with that gift even when legitimately possessed). But we all have some spiritual gifts, and I suspect most of us have a variety of them. In any case, we can all certainly pray (that is fruit), we can all encourage (that is fruit), we can all express the truth (that is fruit, done in the right way, at the right time, and for the proper motivations). And we can all grow – in fact were are all called to grow, and we can all make spiritual progress by passing the tests we are give – in fact that is also expected. This too is fruit.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God’s friend.
James 2:20-23 NIV

Abraham passed this exceptional test based upon his prior exceptional spiritual growth and scripture considers this an ultimate example of "deeds" – and only God, the angels, and Isaac saw it – no money exchanged hands. Both of these two phases of the individual Christian life need to come before we enter into the "life ministry" the Lord has called us to (where our "fruit" output will be maximized). And even here, what that ministry is may not be understood, or appreciated or even noticed by unbelievers or even by many putative Christians. What if we are called to have a special prayer ministry? Of one thing I can assure you: God sees our true "fruit", and so do the angels – and no doubt plenty of other people do too, even if that is not known or obvious to us.

Our Lord's mention of the Vine and being in the Vine to bear fruit shows that we really do have to be believers to bear fruit – and clearly also the more closely we are walking with Jesus, the more we are growing in the love and knowledge of Him, the more we are doing as He wills us to do in facing up to the challenges and pressures of life, the more fruit we will have (for all this is fruit), and the more we will have to offer others as well (since we will become prepared thereby to give excellent service in whatever special ministry He has in mind for us). No Christian will be without a single "plum" – the smallest prayer is "fruit". But at the judgment of the Church it will be made clear that some have done much more than others – not necessarily in "doing" as the world and religion defines "doing" (the most obvious religious "doers" in the history of the world were the Pharisees, and they were not even saved), but "doing" in the sense that the Lord means it and requires it: growing up spiritually (that is fruit and a witness to others), progressing spiritually in our walk with Christ and passing the tests that come to challenge and refine that walk (that is fruit and an even more powerful witness, as in the cases of Abraham and Rahab in James), until finally we can actually enter into the field of helping our brothers and sisters do the same through our personal ministry (although it may look nothing at all like what the world imagines when it hears the words "Christian ministry" – much of which is not worthy of the name).

Jesus knows the truth; He knows your true heart; He honors your good intentions; and He will bring all this to pass in due time in the right and good way . . . provided you continue to adhere to the right and good way (as I, for one, have great confidence you will). On the other hand, there is almost nothing worse than trying to get the cart before the horse and "force the issue": people who try to minister in ways the world approves of before they are spiritually mature or "battle tested" (and often without even being believers) are not only wasting their time but also are almost always bound to tie themselves up in a web of legalism from which it will be difficult to escape.

All things in good time, my friend. In the meantime, be pleased to continue to "grow up through the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2Pet.3:18).

Here are some links:

For spiritual gifts: in BB 5, "Spiritual Gifts".

For production based rewards: in CT 6, "The Judgment and Reward of the Church"

In the service of the One we love more than life, our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

I continue to keep you and your family in my prayers, hope things are going well (or at least better) for you and that The Lord continues to bless you. Take care of yourself; there are those of us out though who depend or will come to depend on your ministry.

In Jesus,

Response #11: 

Thanks so much for your prayers, my friend! They are greatly appreciated. I'm keeping you and your family in my prayer too day by day. Thanks also for your good words of encouragement – they mean a lot.

I'll hang in there – hang in there yourself too, and keep fighting the good fight of faith.

In Jesus Christ our dear and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hi Doc,

More fun! My job situation has been used against me more and more lately. I'm currently on suspension because a woman accused me of all sorts of lies and nonsense regarding kids being violent at my workplace. I had to speak up because one child was literally pummeling another and I had no choice but to act. I was then sent home, but on my way out ANOTHER kid started a huge fight, so, even though I was being sent home and was off the clock for the second incident, I HAD to say something. And I could tell the whole time that is was designed to be pure, demonic abuse. And now I will probably hear later that I've lost my job.

The good news is that my conscience is clear and I feel pretty good about whatever happens, but still don't know what will come of it.

This all happened because I keep saying no to any of my former tendencies. Each time I effectively say no for The Lord, something like this happens. Do you think I'll at least be able to pay for some sort of living?

Pastor Omo's lessons (Bible Academy) have been helping me get through work. Whenever I have a break I'm listening to him or reading from you or scriptures. In fact, this whole incident happened after hearing his new lesson on the beginning of James for the second time (ironic timing for more trials).

So I'm doing better at "considering it all joy" this round; I literally saw it coming, did what I knew was right and here I am, and I'm not too upset".

Please pray something happens. I don't know how to keep on top of all our other bills with no job, again.

The Lord's Will be done.

Response #12: 

Sorry to be just getting to this (Peter #29 plus posting took their toll of time). I do hope and pray that your suspension will come quickly to an end and that you will be back on the job and be able to have peace there while doing a good job as you see fit. I'm also praying that "something will happen" for the good and right soon – maybe a better job you wouldn't have looked for but for this "event"? God is good; He knows all our needs; He never lets the righteous go begging bread – even if we have to wait for the ravens to arrive at times.

I am very proud of your good Christian attitude in all this, and even more so of your spiritual awareness. The fact that this may all be the result of being persecuted for doing the right thing and trying to walk more closely with the Lord is indeed a badge of honor. It takes a mature Christian who's been "battle tested" to have that perspective, but I rejoice in the fact that you are able to "count it all joy". That said, we still beseech the Lord to bring relief and deliverance – and I appreciate your prayers on my behalf in that regard as well.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Dear Professor,

Thank you for such wonderful news. This is something I’ve been wanting to read more into for a while - I feel my spiritual ‘guard’ is let down all too often and spiritual alertness is an area where I have a lot to improve on, as we all do. For these reasons amongst others, I am really looking forward to going through this study (from tomorrow morning!).

May I take the time to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the materials you produce. As I have stated before, they motivate me to pursue the Word of God with more vigour and enthusiasm.

I have no doubts this study will have required hours of energy, focus and effort, and so a big heartfelt congratulations goes over to you! May I encourage you to keep up the diligent work in your wonderful ministry in feeding the flock through the guidance of the Spirit. In a day and age where substantive teaching is scarce, I do feel that you have been God’s provision to many believers who have been left searching for spiritual nourishment.

All praise be to God for the work that He accomplishes through his faithful and committed servant.

Response #13: 

Thank you!

I appreciate you taking the time for this, and for all your good words of encouragement.

I keep you in my prayers day by day for continued success in all your efforts to prepare to serve our Lord and His Church.

In Jesus whom we love more than anything in this temporary world.

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Thank you for the fast response Dr and the steadfast prayers. To clarify about topical studies, I wanted to know do you know how I can effectively go about doing it? For instance, I want to start doing some individual studies on humility and being humble. I read all your email postings but believe if I tackle a subject at a time myself, it will help me delve more richly into the Word.

Thank you and like always may our God, the Father, hear and answer all your prayers in Christ Jesus.

Response #14: 

Hello my friend,

You're very welcome. On this issue, to me it always comes down to the Bible. Here is a possible method (there are many variations): compile a list of terms in English, words that relate to this idea of being humble, and try to define for yourself what it is you really mean by them and what English really means by them. Then have a look at a concordance and start looking up all manner of words that relate to this term; try not to get myopic about one word (e.g., "humility" is a noun but it may be represent in Greek or Hebrew by a verb, and how it comes out in an English translation may not be reflective of the original grammar). Try to search using multiple English versions / concordances, since different translations will hide the idea (not deliberately) that you may be looking for. Once you've begun to compile material, start looking, if you can, at the Greek and Hebrew words and phrases that represent your concept, and branch out (using Greek and Hebrew tools if possible) to find more examples; cross-references in study Bibles will also be helpful in all this. If you have a systematic theology or some other person or persons' studies on this topic, see what passages they may have found. As you begun to "crunch" the data, no doubt certain passages will pop up as being more "on point" than others. Begin organizing the information according to its priority and individual aspects. As you do all this, the parameters of what the Bible has to say on the subject will begin to become more and more clearer. Then other things, other passages which may not contain the "key words" but which do address the issue – often examples of this or the lack thereof – will come to your memory (and all the more so the better you know the Bible). In all this, let the Spirit guide you by what the Bible actually says and says clearly. Do not approach the issue with a preconceived idea of what, e.g., "humility" is, or look for passages that, twisted this way or that, support your preconceived view. For we do these things to learn and be taught of God, and oftentimes the passages that are at first glance the most problematic generally will teach us the most. Example:

Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.
Numbers 12:3 NIV

I don't know about you, but if asked to give my impression of Moses from scripture it would not, absent this passage, mention his humility – and yet scripture is very clear this is his salient characteristic. I think this shows that God's view of true humility and man's view, even among contemporary church-going evangelicals, are two different things. Why? You see, that is how we learn from the Lord and His Word.

Hoping to hear good news of your deliverance soon!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you so much for your continued edification of the elect. Reading your work is second only to my first goal of gaining a rudimentary competency of scripture. Unfortunately, most of Satan's attack on me as a child of God seems to be directed against my time ... or maybe the problem is simply my own poor time management. Either way, your writings are to me like buried tidbits of food to a squirrel - I have downloaded them all in preparation for a future time when I have more time to read them, but perhaps not the freedom of internet we enjoy right now.

So sad - I finally sat down for a few minutes at 10 pm tonight, and flipping the through channels on TV happened to see a show on Destination America called "Biblical Preppers". I was ready to turn the channel in the first few seconds, expecting to see some typical patronizing portrayals of slightly nutty "Christians". Instead I was pleasantly surprised, even shocked, to see several intelligent, well-spoken, truly born-again Christians featured. True, the show incorporated some gratuitous video clips of various types of catastrophic events - atomic explosions, fires, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc - accompanied by inappropriately melodramatic music, but was otherwise fairly neutral in its presentation of these people. These were people who, like you and me, are believers in the absolute authority and inerrancy of the Bible, yet believe that we, the church, will go through either half or all of the seven years of tribulation, and so they are preparing. Pretty tame stuff really - moving to rural areas, stocking bibles and food, storing water, gardening, canning, learning to handle guns for self-defense, etc.

What was so sad was how excited I was to see other real Christians with similar outlooks to mine on television. I never meet anyone like myself here on the west coast. Well, I did meet one once - a pastor from a small poor rehab church across town going door-to-door collecting donations. Poor guy, I kept him here an hour talking about the Bible.

Watching TV keeps me sane, because the Christian channels do offer several programs with truly saved people. The problem is that most of them come from a pre-trib, eternal salvation viewpoint, which does lend a certain complacency to their attitude which I don't share. Many of them (and Chuck Missler has actually said this) somehow believe that you can't have a literal belief in the Bible and also be post-trib. That really hurts. I feel estranged even from most of the church, whom I don't ever meet anyway ... Pretty sad alright.

I thank God for my spouse who was saved some months after I was. Our beliefs are pretty much identical, and this is a great gift to me from God (as well as to my spouse of course). But I have a question for you, if you have time to reply. Do you know, from the emails you get, if this sense of isolation is common among true believers? I very much identify with Paul's assertion that we are ambassadors. I feel as though I was assigned to a particularly spiritually empty wasteland!

We are planning to move in the next two years to a rural part of the southwest. I'm hoping that then I will have more time to really study the bible and your work as I would like to do, not just 15 minutes here and there as I have now. Thank you again so much for doing what you do.

Response #15: 

Thanks for the update!

I think your experience is very typical. As you intimate here, enthusiastic Christians often are "nutty" – which may be an indication that while they are gung-ho they not necessarily interested in doing things the right way. On the other, many "reasonable" Christians are just not that interested in the truth period. So to find others who are both interested in doing things God's way (truth sought, truth learned, truth believed, truth applied), and enthusiastic about making it the number one priority in their lives is truly a discovery of no small moment. I suppose that explains a lot about why this ministry is on the internet. I "run into" many such Christians out there in cyber-space who are truly dedicated to serving Jesus Christ His way, but they tend not to be in the same zip code, or area code, or general latitude and longitude. So it can feel at times a bit isolated and isolating, but on the other hand that has its benefits in building faith – faith based upon the truth of the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit rather than on the emotional support of others close by. The latter is a blessing, but in the church-visible today it has often come to substitute for spiritual growth and advance – but it really is no substitute at all (as any unprepared Christian always finds out when serious testing arrives). Given the days in which we live, having our growth accelerated by such factors is, as Paul says in Hebrews about another matter, an experience often painful rather than pleasant at the time, but yielding fruit in the end (Heb.12:11), or as James says, "this testing of your faith develops perseverance. So let your perseverance develop fully, that you may become fully mature and entitled to a full reward, having been found lacking in no respect" (Jas.1:3b-4).

It certainly is a pleasure to know you! I wish you and your spouse a blessed move and "snap in". My stepson vacationed in the area over Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it. If I ever thought to retire, this would be a place I would consider – but it seems that my retirement from this position will likely be, for a variety of reasons, "feet first" . . . unless I make it to the time to "flee Babylon".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Dear Professor,

The meeting [with my prospective employer] went very well. We have an understanding that I seldom develop with people. He is a highly intelligent (graduated from Oxford with a degree in maths), but at the same time a humble and open minded individual, who wants all possible improvements to be implemented. Football is a worldly, corrupt environment and he stands out as unique. I know that for our paths to cross is a grace from God.

Professor, what can I say? Our God is a God of deliverances (Psalm 68:20). Last summer I started the work which brought me the much needed sustenance. I have been thinking about a solution that would allow me to devote time to study. God has granted this also.

All of this leaves me humbled and grateful. I know that God is making these provisions so that I can bear fruit for Him. I know that it is good not to overestimate outward changes, but I cannot hide the excitement about the fact that I may soon start a normal life, having my own place, having sustenance through work with someone who values what I do, but, most importantly, having all these things together with the time to devote to study. This is how I know that it is God's deliverance. I can see how all my attempts to look for work in the past, to look for a place in recent weeks, all of this has been in vain, because all I need to do is have faith in God who will lead me and wait for Him.

I know that trials will come, I know that in this world nothing lasts. But this deliverance, the way the Lord has led me all this time, never allowed me to perish and in all these difficulties has always given me the conditions to study and grow spiritually, all this that has happened since salvation is just truly, truly wonderful. And I know I need to take it as a signal to sharpen up and maximise productivity.

Of course, all has happened in a manner I would have never predicted.

In our Lord - our Deliverer and Provider,

Response #16: 

This is really wonderful news, my friend! And an answer to prayer as well. God does work everything out for good, truly. We just have to trust Him and continue to wait on His timing until He does so (to stretch our faith). I very much appreciate your attitude of humble gratitude and of understanding that winning one victory does not mean the end of the "war" – because plenty of Christians get knocked off their stride right after great victories of this sort (witness Elijah).

Looking forward to hearing about all the developments!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

Thank you Dr. I really appreciate that message. It is comforting to hear and encouraging to boot. Your responses are so lucid and to the point that my follow-up questions are very minimal at best.

I do have one question that surrounds this. If the pre-trib rapture is a false doctrine and one of the main reasons why Christians in this era are lukewarm, why does God allow false doctrine to continue? Or maybe I have it wrong. Genuine followers of Christ can interpret scripture wrong and really believe it. If that is so, why doesn't God correct?

For instance, the Church we attend the pastor is pre-trib. He is part of the Calvary Chapel movement started by Chuck Smith in CA. The pastor every Sunday has 30 minutes of worship music and 1 hour of sermon. Each sermon he goes through the NT on Sundays. We are on the book of Luke. This is verse by verse and not topical. Each Wednesday he goes through OT and he is on the book of Judge.

He has been pastoring for over 30 years and this is the method of teaching for anyone associated with the Calvary chapel organization. I believe that he is a genuine believer but the hard line about the pre-rapture is erroneous. Why don't God correct these men of faith or at least let them know this is a wrong doctrinal interpretation of His Word? Christ must know the impact the doctrine of pre-rapture will have on the congregation or may that in itself is his design.

Our Lord is beyond our understanding and his methods beyond our ways. Wow!

Your thoughts in Christ Jesus and thanks again sir

Response #17: 

You are most welcome – thanks as always for your good and encouraging words. As to your question, first, I don't consider eschatology as the only area of truth believers need to know about. It's just that in our time so close to the end, being wrong on this is deadly. There were no doubt plenty of mature believers in the aftermath of the Reformation, and they didn't know much at all about that area of doctrine. After all, it's not just about knowing; it's about believing and applying. If knowing and believing the truth about the end times encourages us to walk closer to Jesus (as it well should), and to grow faster and put more time and effort into what really matters (growth, progress and ministry), then all to the good. If we are just being entertained, then it hardly matters. The proof is always in the pudding. That is true of teaching, that is true of individual Christians, and that is true of all ministers of the Word as well.

First, the teaching has to be substantive and correct (not merely entertaining), because only the actual truth taught in depth can benefit those who listen. Second, those who listen, if they are blessed to receive the truth in some detail, have to believe it and hold onto it and apply it, meditating on it and making truly a part of "who they are". For operations where this is not the case, or where it is only tangentially the case, it is usually the fact that both minister and those ministered too are not really much interested in the truth when all is said and done. When I study, I am constantly corrected by the Word. I like to think that in terms of major doctrinal issues most of the large course corrections have already been made – and in this I think I also have the Spirit. But my goal is to teach only what is true on every point, small or large, even in terms of things which may seem very small and insignificant. I think if a pastor has that attitude, he will be lead to the truth by the Lord – but if he doesn't . . .

It's a problem to belong to a denomination. What if you belong to a group that believes in the pre-Trib rapture. What if you are the pastor of one of these churches and you become convinced that it is wrong? What do you think will happen if you were to start teaching the truth instead of the denomination's position? I think you could anticipate being out of job and having no congregation in very short order (pastors worry about their careers and families too).

The more we do things the right way, the more freedom we have to do right and be right down the line. The more we do things the wrong way, the more we complicated our lives become, and down the road this makes the price of "doing right" very high and possibly for many too high to pay.

Jesus is the truth. He is happy to share it with those who really want it, but He spoke many things in parables to those who did not. The truth does come at a price: for the pastor, hard work and possibly hard decisions over many years; for the parishioner, possibly having to go "outside the camp" to receive the necessary spiritual food. But we will never regret "doing it right", and especially not when our Lord tells us "well done!" on that great day of days.

This life is all about free will. The pastor and the congregation have all made their own choices, some good, some bad. Would that we would all only make good ones! But this a battle, a spiritual warfare, and only those who are willing to fight that fight with everything necessary come into to all the truth that the Lord has for us.  Why doesn't God do more of this for us?  He has already done everything in Jesus Christ.  Our part is to respond, and these choices before us and how we make them demonstrate what is really in our hearts.

Keep fighting the fight, my friend! This is where the great reward lies.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Dear Professor,

Thank you for a very quick reply to questions on Matthew. I'm looking forward to going through them.

I wanted to ask you for prayer and guidance and this does link to the last week meeting regarding my professional commitment. There are two areas of Christian walk that I have been struggling with. Firstly, I find it hard to walk in the Spirit in what I say (James 3:1-12). I find it so much easier to write, when I have the time to consider each word. Spoken conversations give a very limited opportunity to do so and I find myself saying things and reacting in a manner that I wouldn't if I could give things more thought and all is made more difficult through the fact that I'm not a native speaker. This is not to say that emotions take over me or I become a different person. It's not the case, but I wish I could always give the best possible testimony to the truth that I believe in, in every word.

The meeting I had owner a couple of weeks ago was one of the best I have ever had, possibly the best in my career. The meeting last week was also quite good, but it left me wondering if I definitely said things in the way in which I should have done. I came back from the meeting and just wished I had the ability to fully rely on Spirit to guide me in such situations, to give me the wisdom which I don't have.

And the second issue is the consequences of such failures. When I feel I haven't given a good testimony to the truth in my words or deeds, it bothers me a great deal. If a difficulty befalls me that comes from the outside, I know I have to trust in God and wait for His deliverance. Last two years God has provided me with opportunities to refine my faith and I'm grateful for them. But when I myself make a mistake, I find it very hard to get over it. I know I've got only myself to blame and cannot expect God always to bail me out of the troubles I get myself into. Frequently something I said or did where I know I could have done better will disturb me for days and affect how productive I am for the Lord.

One strategy I have come up is to really slow down in conversations and constantly remind myself that I need to rely on the Spirit. This will take time to implement, but it could help. I also try to pray at every opportunity, even just in my thoughts when a meeting or conversation is taking place or when I have some time off between sessions, etc.

If there is any guidance you can offer me on these things, Professor, it will be most welcome. Your prayer on finalising the agreements for next season will also be greatly appreciated, I hope it all works out well.

In our Lord,

Response #18: 

Hello my friend,

Apologies for the delay. The day before yesterday I learned that yesterday Google was going to begin de-listing websites which were not "mobile friendly". So I went to their online tester and found out that Ichthys was not "mobile friendly". What that means in sum is – and apologies if you are ahead of me here – that if a person looks up my site on a cell phone, they will only see the upper left hand corner of the page (because of the frames I put on the sides for the navigation buttons). Long story short, I had to figure out how to fix the problem (for over a thousand pages of code), and I had to get to the point where at least a couple of the key pages were fixed. I'm nowhere near being done, but at least it's in triage. Came at a busy time, too.

As to your question, I think you probably know more about the issue from what the Bible has to say about it than most (an understatement). What I can share with you on this is that the Spirit does not dictate to us. Nor does He coerce us in any way. From reading scriptural situations involving believers, from what the Bible has to say directly, and from our own experience I think it is pretty clear that the Spirit works through very delicate suggestions to our consciences and also to our spiritual common sense, suggestions which are very easily shunted aside if we do not do what you suggest and "go slowly" and carefully consider our ways. Interpreting His "still small voice" is an art at which we get better with growth (as in all things), with the occupational hazards pushing forward in some things or being unwilling to listen on the one hand, or getting overly sensitive and unsure and allowing ourselves to misinterpret guilt as the Spirit on the other. We should be totally confident in the Lord; we should also be totally humble in response to Him. If we are truly both at the same time, that is when we will "hear" and direct our path aright. Naturally, fine tuning this is not something we will get right all the time, especially in the earlier going, but we will get better at it as we grow and make it our priority to do so.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Hi Bob,

It is obvious from natural revelation that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Generally, when theologians deal with why God has designed creation in such a way so that it is possible for people to condemn themselves to hell, they reconcile it by introducing free will. But a strict Aristotelian understanding of this rebuttal would suggest that it suggests that God is unable to create a universe wherein people have free will and that they cannot condemn themselves to hell, so therefore this argument negates God's omnipotence. But there is a rebuttal to this counter-rebuttal: our free will is uncaused, just like God's existence is uncaused.

This is why II Timothy 2:13 carefully uses the verb cannot, not in a way suggesting that God's omnipotence is limited, but to draw attention to the fact that our free will is uncaused just like God's existence, which means that a universe where God could make people accept Him...would be like a universe where God could just stop being God. But God cannot stop being God ("He cannot deny Himself"), so He cannot be faithless simply because the faithless are.

Sincerely,

Response #19: 

The key is that it's not about power but about choice. Your analysis is a good demonstration of the principle that forcing someone to choose would negate the choice, so God never does so when it comes to salvation or spiritual growth.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Hello Bob, I pray and hope the Lord keeps blessing you in all the areas of your life.

This time I mail you to ask you if your website has a rss service for subscription. It would be great to be able to receive and read every update you make in a rss reader. Is it possible? If not, it's just an idea I thought would be interesting for you.

You can't imagine how the Lord blessed me with Peter #29. I'm working on an article about renewing our minds with the Truth and how it is a weapon to live in sanctity, and found your article really helpful. What we believe is deeply connected with the ways we think. The more we fill our minds with Gods Word, believing It, the more we'll have "the mind of Christ".

Hoping and praying for you.

Response #20: 

Good to hear from you, and thanks for your prayers and good words.

As to your question, yes indeed, Ichthys does have an RSS service. Here is the link:

Ichthys RSS feed

I can only test these things myself to a limited degree, so may I ask you to let me know if it works for you? I posted last night, and the next new posting should be next Saturday night.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Hello Bob, thank you for your answer. I added Ichthys.com to my rss reader with your link and so far it's working. It even downloaded previous posts.

In Jesus Christ, Savior, Redeemer and Lord.

Response #21: 

Thanks!

 

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