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Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth II

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Question #1:  

Dr. Luginbill, I spent around two hours late last night studying this essential teaching and am going to reference it during my Sunday School class this weekend. For some odd reason, I found myself turning to mathematics as I looked at my own spiritual growth, strengthening and maturity in Christ, i.e., exponential vs. linear vs. quadratic, and how the Holy Spirit responds to the quality of attention and effort we invest abiding in God's Will and Word. It is a strengthening of the heart that increases and is fortified over time as we remain embedded in the commandments and our love of Him in action demonstrates our comprehension of His Truth. The tutorial below explains growth mathematically depending on our approach and commitment. Then there is exponential spiral tiling and a Fibonacci sequence of growth. This shows a perfecting of relationship in our growth as our strength and comprehension of God's Truth expands. Perhaps because I'm an artist I tend to also grasp concepts graphically and symbolically. What isn't represented clearly in any of these constructs is the intersection of Spirit (or not) at any time that can radically change a growth pattern. It all depends upon on our will, our discipline and our desire to be close to him.

I deeply appreciated the time you invested in this very important teaching on God's Word. If we follow what you have carefully prescribed here, we not only will be sanctified and will grow, but we will be protected and He will be revealed through us.

Many thanks, dear friend.

Response #1: 

Well said, my friend. I'm not much on math or numbers, but it is absolutely true that there is a multiplicative effect which comes from an increase in the time and effort we put in (and the quality thereof) when it comes to spiritual growth through attention to the truth. This accelerating growth and increasing nearness to the Lord happens, as your rightly perceive, in ways that are not necessarily perceptible, definable or quantifiable. It would be easy to see the process as the same as going to school to learn a subject – but spiritual growth is so much more than that. Even for believers, it may seem "hard to believe" that more time reading the Bible, more time in prayer, more time listening to good Bible teaching, more quality of effort in all these and more determined faith applied to these, then taking that truth-believed and walking with it in the world . . . it may seem hard to believe that this really does make a big difference – but it really does make a BIG difference. Not overnight. But like a seed planted in the garden whose growth we only note from time to time, before we know it that mustard seed has become a huge tree, dominating our garden . . . as the truth comes to dominate our lives and our ever closer relationship to our dear Lord Jesus.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hello Bob,

Your personal note was so welcome and such a surprise, it brought tears to my eyes. My dear husband of 41 years passed in December after a failed double umbilical cord blood stem cell transplant. I don't know if I told you or not but the chemo treatment for one leukemia gave him a second (and rare combination) leukemia. It was the second one that necessitated the transplant. I drove 40+ miles daily for 10 weeks to the bone marrow unit at the Medical center after which He came home to die 7 days later. Because of his illness, I had to bring his 99-year old father to our area (and ultimately to a nursing home) to be his caregiver. My husband wasn't buried at Arlington National Cemetery until March (3 months after he passed). His father passed and was buried in mid-April. Less than a month later, my dear 95-year old mother passed on Mother's Day. While many think that it will always be a sad day for me, I think it was a most appropriate day for the Lord to take her home because she was a GREAT mother. All 3 of my loved ones were saved and are now safely with the Lord in heaven. Oh, I omitted the fact that I fractured my ankle (on the footboard of the bed) and tore some tendons only 2 weeks after my husband died. I wore the "boot from hell" for more than 2 months. I thought the tendons would never heal. My work as caregiver gave me little time to grieve. When my mom passed and I had no where to go to care for anyone, I was so alone. Through it all my great church family and the Holy Spirit gave me support to deal with it all.

I still read your site on a regular basis and just thank you for remembering me. My faith in Jesus as my Lord and Savior are stronger than ever. May God continue to bless you in the great work that you are continuing to do.

Response #2: 

Thanks for writing back. Yes, you had told me about the "double trouble" and I was very impressed by the way you were bearing up under it. I'm sorry for your losses, dear friend, but greatly encouraged by your attitude. Your godly perspective about dearly loved ones who've gone to be in the presence of the Lord is also a wonderful witness to the power of the truth – for those like yourself who really do believe it and live it.

I had an ankle crushed by an M-60 tank when I was much younger and so do know what it is like to be hobbled for a long period of time; a good friend here at school also had a ruptured Achilles last fall and was "in the boot" too for some long period. So I know it's not easy – and neither is rehab-ing to the point where you're almost as good as new. These serious health impediments are a load that often knocks down the weak of faith. For those who really trust the Lord, adversity, while never welcome, always builds faith as we witness the Lord's perfect faithfulness in getting us through. Not for sissies – only for believers who love Him more than life.

Last time we chatted I believe you were also trying to find just the right personal ministry. I'm continuing to keep you in prayer on that.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hello Again Bob,

My caregiving responsibilities, especially since late 2011, have taken front and center in my life. I found it to be extremely rewarding to care for the elderly and critically ill even though I don't think all are as cooperative as those I dealt with. I have a young family friend with Parkinson's disease in an nursing home that I visit and take out for lunch occasionally. When I return home, I'll serve for a month as a remedial teacher in a church sponsored program. After that I really don't know. I just stay in the Word and go where He leads me.

Your friend in Christ,

Response #3: 

Sounds to me as if your prayers for direction in ministry have been (or are in the process of being) answered! I am certain that your good efforts for our Lord will be found worthy of "rewarding" on that great day to come as well.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Good Early Morning

Praise the Lord

I need to vent and I hope you don't mind and I pray you can help me. [details omitted about conflicts with other tenants who are involved in drugs, their serious retaliation for complaints, and the difficulty of maintaining a good Christian attitude under the continuing pressures].

Response #4: 

You and your daughter have had a tough time of it, that is for sure. I know from experience in my lifetime (too much of it) how challenging a problematic living situation can be for absolutely every aspect of our lives, including very particularly as you report here for our peace and peaceful walk with the Lord. It's hard to be anywhere close to perfect under such circumstances. I think the fact that you clearly recognize all of the critical spiritual aspects about this situation and your responses to it says good things about your spiritual maturity. I will certainly say a prayer for you for deliverance into some better situation, and also for an increasing ability to rise above all such distraction and to continue your spiritual advance with the Lord. The more we learn about the truth, and the better we get at applying it under pressure, and the more these sorts of tests can be better handled. It's a very difficult test. But I am confident that the Lord will bring you through it and work everything out together for good – He always does that for those who love Him.

Here are some (I hope) 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.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:  

Dear Bob,

I know I have written to you many times about this subject, and I do apologize for once more bringing it up, as I would like to see what your opinion of my progress has been. While I do struggle with sin every day, as we all do, I do feel as though I am making progress outwardly.

Where I feel like I'm 'losing ground', however, is -as I mentioned before- the battle of the mind. Mentally, I still have issues with upsetting thoughts Trying to not be too dramatic about this, I sometimes feel as though my mental state is deteriorating, and it has gotten to the point where it feels like not a moment goes by where I'm not actively fighting to keep my thoughts away from disturbing thingss. Even though I do try not to let my emotions control me, I do get upset fairly often, and many nights don't even get proper sleep. I hate that I feel as though I cannot control my own thoughts, but again, am I simply being dramatic?

I feel as though I never mentally get a moment of peace. I know we are to always be on-guard, but I'm at a constant odds with my own mind. You've told me before that it is a matter of just reading scripture and applying it, thinking on it, and keeping my thoughts and mind on the path ahead, not looking back. I have been doing as such, and I will never give up, always moving forward, but my mind feels tired. What can I do?

Response #5: 

First, let me say that you have a right to feel a little relief and (prudent) satisfaction for the progress you have made. Second, it is also often the case on this subject of what is going on in our heads that if we get too caught up in it we will sometimes be making it worse. To draw a loose analogy, a general who starts giving orders to individual squads, trying to micro-manage things, will not only drive himself and everyone else under his command crazy, but will also likely lose the battle. So we need to focus on the big picture and not get too caught up in the moment by moment ebb and flow of our thought processes. Third and most importantly, this is an area where a good offense is the only really effective way to defend in the long run. If we are thinking about the third heaven, we are less likely to be thinking about some movie we saw years ago; if we are thinking about the Lord and what He did for us in taking on a human body to walk through this world and then die for us, we are less likely to be replaying old sporting events in our heads; if we are reciting a favorite Psalm mentally, this will take precedence over any manner of foul thinking we might accidentally fall into under the influence of our sin nature; and if we are "counting our blessings" – and importantly relating them to the Lord who gave them to us, keeping up a continual dialogue with Him in prayer (1Thes.5:17) – we are less likely to be mentally complaining about whatever is bugging us . . . or coming to the verbal expression of our annoyance.

It sounds to me as if you are making good progress. Keep it up! And please don't let small setbacks (Sng.2:15) steal the joy of day by day becoming a more and more a mature Christian warrior who loves the Lord Jesus Christ more than anything in this life.

Some links:

Christians and Mental Illness

Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground 

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 the dear Savior who bought us with His blood.

Bob L.

Question #6:  

Thank you Bob,

Actually, just recently I did have something of a powerful moment, when I was thinking to myself 'what I would give to just meet God in person, and Jesus.' I know they are always with us, but I was imagining a scenario where I would get to meet the Lord physically, which I know will not be the case until our time comes. The point is, just the idea of it, the thought of it – suddenly I had gotten really excited and joyful. I am pretty certain when I say that I don't think I've ever felt such joy when 'looking forward' to anything else, ever. On top of that, it seemed to have a domino effect, where I felt relief for feeling that way, because it was good.

A friend once told me about how to combat addiction, which doesn't seem related, but the strategy seems to still apply. He told me, and I believe you've said this to me in the past as well, that "It's not enough to just 'stop' doing whatever the thing is; you need to replace it with something else." In this case, I think I keep falling back to just going defensive and 'trying not to think about it', when I should be as you say, going on the offensive in terms of actively keeping my focus on God.

Either way, what I absolutely do know and am confident in is that nothing excites me more than meeting with God, finally, being with Him.

Response #6: 

Good job!

Now you're "cookin' with gas"!

Keep running that good race, my friend.

Your fellow runner for the goal of Jesus Christ's good pleasure on that great day.

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Dear Bob,

Related to the discussion of our mental battles, I wanted to ask something a bit more specified: do we have rest? What I mean is, even though we've gone over this before, I was asking if this assault on us ever stops? I'm fairly sure it doesn't, as we've discussed before, but what do we do in times where we get weary of fighting? I suppose then the answer would be to find comfort in the word, in scripture. And of course there is rest once our time comes.

On a little bit more of a personal note, I guess I need to know something: this issue I have, my constant struggle for my mind, it is not specific to me, is it? I know we've discussed this before in the past too, around the time I first started emailing you. There are millions (billions?) of Christians who struggle with sin every day. I guess what I'm asking is, in specific, have you heard or know of other believers who seem to be in a constant battle of their mind like I am? This seems to hit me hardest at night, when I am trying to sleep.

Response #7: 

Hello my friend,

We all get tired from time to time, but there is nothing else for it but to do the best we can in the fight, and to run as best we can in the race, even when we are not at our best or find it hard to give our best. The important thing is that we never give up trying, and never give up believing that the Lord is with us and helping us – for He surely is, at all times no matter what.

It is true that this is an area of the Christian walk and struggle that every believer has to deal with at some time and to some degree (see previous links). We do all have our own unique personalities and sin natures, and our own particular life experiences and circumstances to boot. So not everyone has the exact same troubles on this score, but I doubt if there is any serious Christian who really is born again and trying to follow Jesus and who has made / is making any progress in spiritual growth who can't relate on some level to these problems we've discussed. But it is more of an issue for some than for others. As I said, we all face our own unique challenges, and the evil one is adept at altering his attacks so as to direct them more towards our weaknesses than towards our strengths. When it comes to what is going on in our hearts and how we deal with thinking thoughts that are not sanctified (of whatever type), we do have some control over what goes on deep inside, but we probably will never have total control as long as our spirits are housed in these bodies of sin (our "hearts", where we think and feel, are where the spirit and body intersect). Understanding this, we should take care to draw the right application, namely: to take responsibility for what we think on the one hand, but also to recognize that failure to be 100% pure is inevitable, so that random thoughts we reject should send us into a spiritual tailspin. If we have sinned, we should repent of it, confess, and move on.

It is true that whenever it comes to sin of any kind, there are certain people who have a harder time with this principle than others. If I may use an analogy, everyone has some kind of skin trouble from time to time, if only from insect bites or poison plants or other environmental irritants. Knowing that repeated scratching of affected areas is actual harmful and will not result in betterment of the condition but only in making it worse and prolonging it is no doubt very helpful in exercising restraint. However, the affected person has to take that knowledge and apply it. I.e., just knowing that scratching is a mistake is not enough – we actually have to STOP scratching. We can do that, but it is harder for some than for others, and no doubt exponentially harder to the extent that we "itch". So it is with these sorts of mental harassments doled out or at least encouraged by our adversary. It's easy to say "stop scratching!", and knowing that we can stop and should stop is encouraging and helpful, but we still have take the initiative individually and do so. If we remember how much the Lord loves us, and if we remember that He has already died for whatever sins we have and will commit, and if we understand also that willfully violating the commandments of the Word is certainly worse than failing to protect the "goal" from oncoming pucks of mental failure 100% of the time, then this will perhaps make that process somewhat easier. In my experience and observation, once we take the correct and balanced view and stop letting this worry us so much, the less likely that minions of the evil one will be directing their efforts at this particular weakness.

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend. Continued spiritual growth and a daily walk closer and closer with the Lord always yields the desired results, even if it takes a bit of time and a wee bit of a fight to get there.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Dear Bob,

I can just do my best, over time. These thoughts seem to fluctuate, as I suppose I get more easily agitated during the night by them.

One thing that helps me with uncontrolled thoughts is that thinking something and believing it aren't the same thing. I guess part of me has been looking for an 'easy' way to prevent these thoughts, but it just comes down to leaning on the Lord and his word. Thank you for helping me and 'putting up' with my going on about this one subject. So, the best thing I can do about my mind is just keep looking forward, ignore them (obviously repenting of them), and lean on the Lord and scripture.

Response #8: 

Good observations! And good for you that you are making such progress in this difficult area. For me, that is a witness to the power of the truth coupled with a willing spirit in a believer who really wants to live well-pleasing to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Dear Bob,

I seem to be doing alright now, after a moment of virtual panic. I managed to focus my mind, and realize that the evil one likes to tamper with our feelings, our emotions, since those are generally powerful and have a more immediate ''effect'' on our minds. Do you think the same? I told myself that one cannot commit some unforgivable sin (not being Christian), while being concerned about having committed said sin, not wanting to. The two are literally mutually exclusive. I also assured myself that, no matter how things may feel, the Lord knows our true minds, our true hearts, what our will is, and what we are going through/suffering for Him.

I think if anything I should learn how to better control my emotions, so that they do not control me. We have discussed this before, but am not quite sure how to actually take such action, other than that just sheer mental willpower and leaning upon God's word and scripture? While there is assurance and comfort in the word, how am I to do with my emotions? They've clearly proven to both help (sometimes) and hinder me.

I do think maybe I should go to a doctor to have my head analyzed, just to make sure there's nothing physically wrong with me, such as being bipolar or something along those lines.

Response #9: 

Sorry I am just getting to these emails now, my friend – early evening is usually when I first have the opportunity to do so.

I think you have weathered this storm nicely, and agree entirely with your conclusions here. You are handling this the right way, and I hope that you will continue to get better at doing so as time goes by. I would never tell anyone NOT to go to see a Dr. (whether for physical or mental issues). What I would say is that from the point of view of the Bible permanent solutions always boil down to spiritual growth. I'm not sure how much time and effort you are putting in daily to going over the studies at Ichthys, but the more and the more consistently a Christian accesses good, sound, doctrinal Bible teaching, and learns, believes, and makes a habit of applying what is taught, the less these sorts of problems tend to dominate that person's life. In other words, spiritual growth solves all such problems over time. There are no overnight fixes or instant solutions or magic bullets. You have gotten better at dealing with these problems because you have been moving forward spiritually. So keep it up, my friend! The day will come when you realize that such things are no longer plaguing you at all (no doubt some new testing will replace it). In the meantime, trusting the Lord as you are doing, concentrating on the truth you believe, as you are doing, remembering applying the pertinent biblical principles to combat the lies the evil one is trying to foist on you as you are doing is exactly the right approach.

Again, apologies for not being able to get to this until now. I realize that this is a short response to the volume you sent me, but I think it addresses where you are now – on the other side of the Red Sea for the moment, having negotiated a difficult crossing "by faith" (Heb.11:29). Please do feel free to write me back if there is any aspect of all this you would like to speak about with me in more detail, and, if you haven't already read these postings, please do have a look at the following applicable links:

Christians and Mental Illness

Claiming the Mental and Spiritual High-Ground 

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

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:  

One of the thoughts I recently had while reading at Ichthys, while reading "The Battlefield Within", when you were speaking of believers who were not spiritually mature. My mind kept trying to think of hell; my mind seems obsessed with it and I don't know why. I think I even had a horrifying thought that, once again, upset me and even made me panic a bit – along the lines of "they are going to" or even "I hope they are going to", which I don't even know what to make of. I don't actually think that way, I don't want ANYONE to go there, and that thought seemed so hateful and/or even judgmental/condemning. I feel horrible for it, because I don't think like that. I hate these thoughts, but if they really are my own where are they coming from? Am I really so rebellious and hateful of a person? It seems like any progress I make towards centering myself and finally controlling my mind again is instantly shattered.

Response #10: 

In my humble opinion, you need to stop worrying so much, my friend. Take a deep breath and remember what the Lord has done for you. Jesus has died for all you sins, so you have been forgiven, and are forgiven anything further whenever you confess. You are righteous, because you have God's righteousness. You have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, and you have been reconciled to God through Jesus' death on your behalf. Now you are a son of God through faith in the Person and work of the Son who died for you. You have been washed, you have been sanctified, you have been made one with Him forever. You belong to Him and He will never let you out of His hands. You are part of His Body, part of His Church, part of His Bride, part of the "joy set before Him" which motivating Him to go into the darkness on the cross and rescue you from hell so that you might live with Him in the New Jerusalem forever. You have been placed in union with Him and with us all through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who has sealed you, the Spirit who indwells you, the Spirit who is your pledge that you belong to Him and no one can lay a hand on you as a result. In short, you are saved, and you have absolutely nothing to worry about . . . just as long as you maintain your faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. That faith, I know, is unshakeable. So please be pleased to rejoice in your unshakeable position in Jesus Christ, and relax. It does NOT depend on you; it ALL depends on Him. He bought you with the highest price, and He will bring you safe home. None of us is perfect; we all make mistakes; but we are all absolutely secure in Jesus Christ the One in whom we believe for life eternal.

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be praised, who has in His great mercy caused us to be reborn to a hope which lives through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead, and to an inheritance which will never be destroyed, defiled, or dimmed, but which is being guarded in heaven for us, who are ourselves also being kept safe by God's power and our faith in Him to an ultimate deliverance ready to be unveiled at the end of time. Rejoice in this [salvation to come], even though at present it may for a time be your lot to suffer through various trials so that this validation (lit., "assaying") of your faith [which results from your successful passing of these tests] may result in praise, glory and honor for you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. For this [validation process] has a greater benefit [for you] than [is true in the case of] gold, which, while it is also proved by fire, ultimately perishes (e.g., in contrast to the eternal rewards of faith proved genuine through testing).
1st Peter 1:3-7

Keep reading and keep growing!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Dear Bob,

Today was a harder day than usual, but I believe I am able to finally start getting a handle on how to keep moving forward in the race, for the most part. My feelings seem to still be my biggest enemy as of late, as I keep feeling a sense of anxiety after a couple of particularly troubling thoughts today.

I know we are retreading past lessons here, but I want to ask: why, as a believer, would I have such terrible thoughts come to mind? I obviously don't actually think that way, and don't believe those thoughts, but every once in awhile they come, nonetheless. Am I right in recalling that this is the spiritual battlefield? I know you've said before there are three areas we are controlling, or fighting for control for: our actions, our words, and our minds; I also remember you telling me that our minds are by far the most difficult and 'bloody' of the conflicts.

I believe this is the devil's latest tactic in trying to throw me off, by "retriggering" my older potholes and making me think I have/am trying to commit some unpardonable sin, of which I already know is not a thing except for not being a believer. The thing is, what this has done is make me realize what one of my biggest weaknesses is: fear of forgetting. For the most part I have managed to not look back and forget what I have done, since I have long-since repented of my sins, and these feelings of anxiety are mostly centered around recent thoughts that really 'stick out' to me. Even though I mentally know, or SHOULD know that I am forgiven, my anxiety tends to remain, but not nearly to the paralyzing degree as it was in the past.

I feel I am trying to climb Mt. Everest here.

Humbly your reader,

Response #11: 

It may be Mt. Everest, but you are making your way up. I think if you were to read these latest emails objectively in comparison with the others sent in the past you would see the progress too.

A couple of things: first, God never gives up on anyone. People give up on God.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
2nd Peter 3:9 NASB

Second, temptation is not sin. Sin is sin. The last thing we should do when we are tempted is to mistake it for sin and feel guilty about it. True, temptation is dangerous and we need to separate ourselves from it whenever it assails us, but it is NOT sin. How can a thought that pops into our head be a sin if we do not entertain the thought and then commit to it?

Everyone is tempted by his own lust, being dragged away [by it] and enticed [by it]. Then, should lust conceive (i.e., should the person give in to it), it gives birth to sin. And sin, should it be fully carried out to the end (i.e., should the person give in to a life of sin), produces death (i.e., spiritual death, the death of faith).
James 1:14-15

Third, spiritual maturity is the ultimate solution to getting our mental house in order, learning to have more confidence in the Lord and be less easily "swept off course" whenever pressures come. So don't try to get up the whole mountain in one leap, and don't get down on yourself if it is a climb. Just keep climbing – the right way.

Fourth, I would also recommend, if you have not already done so, to have a look at this recent posting, "Sin according to the Bible". If you want more depth, Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology will give you that. There is an abundance of material at Ichthys on this subject – which should go to show you how much these issues concern all of our brothers and sisters fighting it out here on earth in these bodies of sin.

Keep fighting the fight, my friend! Faith always brings victory.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:

We all have to work for someone, unless we're one of those silicon valley billionaires that retire before they're 30, but there's a difference between being a subordinate and being a business-suit peon forced to wear the ultimate symbol of the exercise of arbitrary authority: the tie.

The tie is an article of clothing that looks absolutely ridiculous anywhere outside of a business setting, precisely because only businessmen decided to employ it as a means of showing that they can make you wear anything because you are dependent on their livelihood and (often lacking) mercy. I believe the ancient Greeks would definitely hold such a situation, while not technically dire poverty (as this kind of job is available only to middle class workers), to be one of total obliteration of any free will one might possess.

Response #12: 

At my university, professors don't have to wear ties – they don't pay us enough to enforce any sort of dress code.

I hope and pray you'll find just the right niche. I know the Lord has something good for you.

And remember, it could always be worse (Syrian refugees starving and stumbling across 300 miles of open desert to an uncertain future just to survive another day). And it's likely to get worse (the Tribulation is not too far off, after all).

So please make every effort to make the best of things in the meantime.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:  

Thank you Robert,

I am so afraid that God gave me over to a debased mind as I don't feel love in my heart as I used to and I don't seem to care for people or God as I used to and it crushes me, because as I try to read from the bible or sing songs of praise, I get all these blasphemous mocking thoughts. I want to truly repent but I don't even feel as I used to it seems that my heart is so hardened. I don't know what to do. I am so full of pride because in my heart I am saying how could this have happened to me, but this is accusing God of not being faithful, when its me who is a sinner. I feel so lost, I am tormented in my sleep, I can't even get rest as I used to, not even peace, and I also feel selfish, and self preoccupied, even as I write this message.

Response #13: 

God has not "given you over to a depraved mind". That phrase in Romans 1:28 is speaking of unbelievers who have not only rejected Him entirely, refusing to come to Christ, but who have also taken a further step towards degeneracy in violating His natural laws. Some unbelievers live good, honorable and happy lives of worldly productivity. They are still going to hell, however, for refusing to accept Christ. What you are experiencing is a typical satanic tactic used to keep believers down and to frustrate their spiritual growth. Please understand: being tempted is not a sin. The very fact that you are appalled by these thoughts that occur to you means that you do not agree with them – so the fact that they are bubbling up is not a sin. If we entertain such thoughts, give them room to grow, we are likely to be ensnared by the temptation they may offer, and actually commit sin. So the battle of the heart is important, but unless you understand the basics you can never win it. The fact that you are fighting it just means that you are a human being with a sin nature (as we all are) and also a Christian who is trying to do what is right (that is the reason these things upset you). Once you understand this, it becomes easier to reject such idle thoughts out of hand, regarding them for the nonsense they are. If it makes you feel better, you can say "I don't agree with that!", just to reassure yourself that you do not, in fact, agree with that. The second part of getting victory here is to begin to gain some momentum in spiritual growth. No spiritual problem can be tackled effectively as a one-off. Our fight has to be a comprehensive one on all fronts. That means that learning all of the truths the Bible contains – and believing them – is fundamental to getting to the place you want to be. So please keep growing in the truth. That is, ultimately, the solution to all things.

Here are some important links I urge you to read:

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 #14:  

Does this apply to this verse as well?

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
2Cor.10:5

The KJV is different from the NASB, the other translations talk about arguments.

Response #14: 

This is a "spiritual warfare" verse, and you can find my translation and explanation at the link: in Peter #29. Paul is speaking about the Corinthians first adapting themselves to accepting his apostolic authority, and the next step after that of being able as he is able to dominate his own thoughts with the truth to the glory of Christ. Your might also have a look at these links:

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

Spiritual Warfare

Spiritual Warfare II

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:  

Please give me feedback on my new Facebook page on Aspergers disorder. I will be quoting you on it in the future.

Response #15: 

I'm not much of an FB user. I had a look. What you have written seems reasonable and fine to me, but I'm no M.D. – or Psychologist either for that matter. I think setting up this forum to discuss this condition from a Christian viewpoint is not a bad idea at all. We all have our own gifts and ministries, and, as I think you can see from Ichthys, there are a good many Christians with a variety of related issues/conditions/diseases who can benefit from a point of view that puts the Bible first (most recent link: "http://ichthys.com/mail-christians-mental-illness.htm").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:  

Hello Dr Bob-

I wanted to write to encourage you in your ministry. Each week, as I read the emails sent to you sometimes I feel frustration with the questions you receive. Some seem outright argumentative; some just seem to try and trip you up...you and your ministry are constantly attacked by the Adversary. This, as you know, is a great compliment and testament to your love for the Lord.

I felt the need to uplift and encourage you. I know that you, although incredibly well versed in Scripture, are still human and have troubles as do we all when striving to live for Christ.

Please continue your work and know that you have many brothers and sisters in Christ daily uplifting you & your ministry in prayer.

Yours in Christ,

Response #16: 

Thank you!

I'm doing pretty well at the moment, health-wise (most recent "challenge" responding to meds). Things have also been looking up here on the provisioning front. We Christians are always under attack – all of us. I'm sorry to hear if I seemed frustrated with some of the questions. They are often up to two years old when published (though occasionally I do post things which are very recent, depending on the theme). I try to be patient – it's not my strong suit though!

Keeping you and your family in my prayers too.

In Jesus Christ who bore our sins that we might have life eternal.

Bob L.

Question #17:  

You're most welcome. The frustration I feel is mine. You always come from a place of love and patience.

Glad to hear your recovery is going well.

Please be encouraged and know you are in my prayers daily, for both you and your ministry.

In Christ,

Response #17: 

Thanks!

I appreciate your prayers very much.

Hope you and your family are getting along OK.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18:  

Dear Bob,

I think I've been doing better lately, but I still wrestle with these thoughts every day, trying to focus on the Lord and push them aside. I am still not sure what to think of them: you have told me thoughts aren't sin, but what if the 'goal' is to not even have the thoughts to begin with? As before, I obviously don't entertain these thoughts or believe them, but even thinking them bothers me, so I am not sure what to do about them other than what I have been so far.

I also had another thought tonight, though admittedly tonight is bad since I'm having a 'bad night' and I am sick and currently tired. Part of me was thinking or wondering, what if I only believe because I don't want to suffer the consequences? Not because I love the Lord? I don't like that thought or thinking like that. I do not know if I love the Lord. Isn't even knowing that there are consequences for not believing, and choosing to do so and follow God, a way of loving him?

Am I just once more getting hung-up on feelings? Loving God isn't necessarily a feeling towards Him, but simply having faith in Him and His word, right? I am not quite sure what to think, or if I should be even doing so tonight, as it doesn't seem productive. I am not sure if I am just over-thinking this once again, or complicating it, or if it really is just 'tonight'?

Response #18: 

I think you have this just right. It's not about feeling. We are going to have feelings which are all over the map, human beings that we are. It is true that the more we grow spiritually, the more we learn to trust the Lord, the more we read of scripture, the more we believe of what we read, the more we listen to good Bible teaching, the more we believe of what we are taught, the more we make a conscious effort to remember these things in our daily walk, and the more we aggressively apply the truths we have learned and believed to every aspect of our lives, then the more we will be "feeling" closer to the Lord – for indeed we shall be. However, as is evident from studying the lives of great believers, pressure and trouble can ambush anyone (and the devil is adept at such tactics). So no matter how far we progress spiritually, our feelings will never be a sure guide. The best use to which they can be put, when they are not positive and helpful, is as warning bells that all is not right – whether that is because we are under attack, or because we are being less than perfect in our application of the truth (or some combination of the two). Most importantly on this score, as I have said ofttimes before, when we do have some meltdown in our feelings, the thing to do is to get past it and then forget it. There is no benefit to looking back. If we are out of sorts, spiritual recovery is the thing (confession, refocusing on spiritual truths, prayer and reaching out for the Lord) – and when we are "feeling" better, to enjoy those good feeling and not dwell on the recent past when such was not the case. The truth is the truth, no matter how we may feel about it. We are saved in Jesus Christ, and that is the most wonderful thing in the world – whether or not our feelings appreciate it as they should at all times. By focusing on that good truth (and all other good truths) we will eventually bring our emotions back into equilibrium whenever we do get out of sorts.

Keep pushing forward, my friend. You're on the right track.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Dear Bob,

I was reading a bit of Ichthys tonight when I came upon one of your pages where you answer someone's email, namely the one where someone asked for clarification on the father of the sick child who said to Jesus "help my unbelief."

http://ichthys.com/mail-lack%20of%20faith.htm

The part here, where you say "It is very important that this event has been included in scripture, because it give us an example, a negative one, of the type of unnecessary self-torture that people put themselves through, even when they feel God's call (in matters great and small), when they refuse to give in to Him entirely and take what He says with complete trust, acting upon what He says in complete faith. A true faith, undivided, single-minded, zealous and not lukewarm, is a very powerful thing. But a little doubt can destroy everything (cf. Jas.1:5-8)", seemed to speak to me, as I started to think about myself and how I have been the past while.

From what you've read of our emails so far, do you think this is what is happening with me? Have I become timid? I recall in one of my previous emails where I expressed that in my mind there existed the slightest little bit of doubt, or 'wondering', and that I did not want it to be so, that I didn't want to have any part of me question or have any possibility of doubt in my hand. I am not sure what to think: whether this anxiety I seem to sometimes have is from how I am currently struggling with controlling my mind (it's not "in my past", or so it seems), or if there is that small part of me that wonders/doubts (if it is there) that I do not want to be there.

I know I do not doubt Jesus' capabilities and what God can do at all, so I would like to say I am sure it is not the latter, but I don't want to deny the possibility if it indeed is the case. It may just be that as I read the page, my mind once more started to examine myself, and maybe I have a tendency to over-analyze myself, or over-think things, or see things which my not necessarily be there? If I go on for too long I find that I tend to think in circles, especially if I begin to get frustrated with myself.

Response #19: 

I can only offer my own opinion based upon limited information – none of us really ever knows what is going on inside somebody else, even if we are, e.g., married to them. For what it is worth, you do seem to me to be much too hard on yourself. You do seem to be too introspective. Some of both of these things is good, but as with all things there is a proper balance. Ideally, through spiritual growth we will come to the place where we are so focused on the Lord we stop worrying much at all about ourselves, and our tight relationship with Him takes over everything else. If we were seeing Jesus face to face, knowing what we know, we would be occupied with Him, what He says and how we should relate to that. We can't see Him face to face yet, but we certainly can see Him through the truth of the Word – for He is the Word and the Truth. If we were putting the truth first in everything we did and thought and said, and glorying in the truth above all else, that truth would be the equivalent (as it is indeed and in fact) of having our Lord right here beside us with His presence occupying all of our attention (cf. Heb.11:27).

I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.
Psalm 16:8 NKJV

A couple of pertinent links:

Peter #17: Imitating Christ

Walking with Jesus

Pursuing a Deeper Relationship with Jesus

The Christian Walk

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:  

Hello doc.

Hope you are having a great day there! Life has been very tough lately. Full of huge debts. Broke. Full of family conflicts. Full of stress. Too much work to think about. I am a teacher and salary been already flushed out before it is even received! Stressful! Include me in your prayers. I pray for your family too in Jesus' Name!

I hope we can get over with all of these!

Thanks doc. God bless you!

In Christ,

Response #20: 

I'm sorry to hear about your present challenges. I can assure you of the truth of the words of the apostle Peter, "the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." (1Pet.5:9 NASB).

I will be remembering you personally in prayer, and have placed a prayer request on the Ichthys list for you.

Hang in there, my friend. Our Lord is all-sufficient, and the Father has planned every single step of our way. If we are faithful to Him, we need fear nothing, because He is working everything out for the good for those who love Him and His Son our dear Lord Jesus Christ, the One who paid the only real price necessary to pay at the cross. Whatever we are suffering, God has a plan, and we can (and should) honor our Lord by trusting Him that He will bring us through the fiery trial, that He will part the sea and bring us through dry shod.

Here are a few links which I hope you will find helpful and encouraging in this struggle:

On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials

Mutual Encouragement in Christ.

In Need of Guidance and Encouragement.

All about Ichthys: Mutual Encouragement in the Lord.

All about Ichthys II: Mutual Encouragement in the Lord

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth

Fighting the Fight IV: Dispatches from the Laodicean 'Front'

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

Hello brother Bob,

I pray that all is well with you and yours. I wanting to let you know I was laid off from work even though they have not officially told me yet since I'm out on leave, but I will be back to work Monday only to be let go, but I was wanting you to praying that I will find another job soon. I had been there 5 years and moment I tried to get promoted to Manager they let me go. I think it's retaliation for going over the VP's head, but never the less I'm jobless. As you know I have been going through tremendous spiritual pressure and I have not applied myself as I should from day to day (nobody fault but mine) and I no doubt feel the affects from not eating the word of God and praying like I should because I've been wrap up in self and in this world. Every since we stopped having church my life hasn't been the same. And even though I have kept the faith, I know I've also compromised to which is weakness. I will try to explain myself the best way I can. Because I've been to idle for so long, maybe a year or so, I almost feel numb. When I try to pray, I lose focus and give up, when I want to read I don't feel like it and rather do something else. I have so many things tugging at me that my mind is all over the place. So whenever I try to get into a subject in the word, I feel like I don't know where to start, like I'm new at this. I've no doubt made some mistakes and bad decisions along the way, and maybe losing this job and going through what I'm going through is a way to get me back on my knees, and if so, so be it. I've just started reading the Peter teaching you've provided: The Plan of God. I'm going to read all of this and study it. And from there I will learn how and what to study from your site. You have so much to read through and it's a great body of work that I can't wait to learn.

Well brother Bob, until next time my friend please continue to keep me in your prayers as I will be doing the same. God bless you.

Response #21: 

I'm sorry to hear about the job situation. I will put that on the prayer list (personal and Ichthys).

It's hard to work on ministry when there is at that moment no particular ministry but only a potential future one. Your plan of growing spiritually in the meantime is the right and proper one, and I am delighted to hear that you plan to use the materials at Ichthys to help you with this. Do feel free to write me with questions.

In my observation and experience, when the Lord shakes things up, He always has a definite purpose in mind, and that is doubly true when He does so in the case of those who truly do love Him. Keep your spiritual eyes and ears open for what He is guiding you to – I am convinced that it is something very good. I will certainly be in prayer about this too.

Be encouraged, my friend. You have taken the evil one's attacks and are still standing spiritually – even if you feel a bit beat up. Pull yourself back up and get back on the track of spiritual growth just as you intend to do, and the Lord will help you at every step. Victory will be yours; just trust the Lord that He will provide it.

Yours in the One who died for us in Calvary's darkness that we might be "made the righteousness of God in Him", our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #22:

Dear Professor,

I though I would let you know that Hebrews 10:26 became clear to me today. It's a passage about which I asked you before and now, going through the New Testament probably for the third time since I became a believer, I can see how it refers to performing the animal sacrifices from the law. Although the word "sinning" appears in this verse quite suddenly, and hence many commentators link it with the context of what has been said in verses 19-25, verse 29 does clarify things. So far it has been a teaching "swallowed", but not fully "digested". It is quite amazing how one goes through these books, chapters and verses on a regular basis and yet there is always something new that can be understood and noticed.

In our Lord,

Response #22: 

Good for you, my friend! Yes it is certainly true that we are (or should be) always learning something new from scripture – even if it is only a clarification, reinforcement, or illustration of some principle we already knew on some level. In fact, until we begin to have a framework of detailed truth in our hearts, putting some of the outlying pieces into place as you are doing is impossible. We are building this edifice of truth from the ground up, and the more missing bricks there are, the harder it is to gain height. On the other hand, the more sound and complete the structure becomes, the more we can start turning the building into a more finished product.

Be encouraged and keep fighting this good fight! Looking forward to rejoicing with you on the day of reward.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:  

Hello Professor,

I wanted to ask also if you would recommend any further grammatical study apart from additional reading in ancient Greek? Just so that my understanding of the language keeps improving from theoretical viewpoint also, if you consider this a right course of action. I will be going through the textbooks that I have now completed with the purpose of revision, albeit at a reduced frequency now, but maybe there are some linguistic points not addressed at all, or to a sufficient degree in the titles I read, but are addressed well elsewhere. Let me know your view.

I agree with you completely and it has been the same in my life also. I take into account that X could happen, despite the place I long for. In fact, whenever I really wanted something, it almost without fail ended up being not what I needed. God knows best. I have a growing awareness, however, that I'm currently not where I ought to be if my spiritual productivity is to be at its best. The same goes for my professional situation - on the one hand I have been delivered, on the other I need to be very careful about the work I now take and I also have a growing sense that a time may be coming where I reduce my workload further. I have not had almost any work for quite a long time, now that things have changed I am in a dangerous situation where the time is running out and every day is a true battle with the weeds.

It might be, at least to a degree, Spirit's prompting, but apart from keeping to sharpen my use of time each day I may need to make another step in leaving at least some of my earthly commitments. Time is running quickly. With all that has gone on in the few months I have realised that keeping more distance, both spiritually and geographically also, is what I might need to further my commitment to the Lord. Yes, it is not good not to be able to sustain oneself, as it has been the case for me for a long time. But I have also discovered the blessing of poverty - a life of detachment from earthly possessions, where one is not attacked by weeds every hour and is not constantly battling for time. Your prayers, professor, will be greatly appreciated. I know I need to be very careful before taking the next step. I wanted to be as careful as possible and yet ended up where I definitely don't want to be. The realisation of that has been helpful, as has been the spiritual test it has all been. And, as you observed a while ago, it has been a new test for me. Nevertheless, our Lord demands full commitment and full denial of oneself.

God knows what is best for me, but I feel I may have failed to recognise what it is. In any case, to whatever degree it was the right decision and to whatever it was not and I have put myself in a spiritually difficult situation, I can see how it has served the purpose of understanding things that, before they happen, are very hard to understand.

In our Lord,

Response #23: 

It's my experience that grammar is a guide and that actual language is "the real deal"; so reading other things in Greek (other, that is, than the NT), will hone your understanding and facility in particular exegesis. One thing that is helpful is to use a good grammatical commentary with whatever author you choose to tackle. For most major Greek authors, there are many wonderful "school boy" commentaries from the last century in particular, selections with informative grammar notes from major Greek works developed for English "public school" students. I can certainly make recommendations for most things you might choose (and these also often have the benefit now of being in the public domain, so that even if a print copy is desired it can usually be found at a discount, even if it is a reprint).

As to life issues, since as I understand it you are locked-in to your present employment and living situation for a bit longer, it might be best to put the matter on the back-burner for a while. I know from experience that these kind of logistical conundrums, as important as they are, have a tendency to eat up a good deal of time and mental energy, not to mention personal peace. And since things almost always take an unexpected turn (or two) before the actual decision points come, trying just to make the best of it day by day until things get closer is often the best approach. Admittedly, this is not easy for human beings to do, and I'm not sure how good my own record is on this sort of thing – only that I know I've been happier when I've been able to keep to that day by day perspective.

One thing though; when you say, "our Lord demands full commitment and full denial of oneself", I'm not sure I would put things in quite that way. First of all, no one is perfect, and I doubt that even Moses or the apostle Paul achieved this (they were human too). For one thing, no one who is married could ever hope to live up to such a standard, and we know that it is not "against the rules" for Christians to marry, not even for dedicated ones like yourself (and in fact in most cases it is a necessity for the reasons Paul lays out in 1Cor.7:1ff.).

Objectively considered, we can all always do better. My major issue with this statement is not a desire to have you tone down your zeal for the Lord and His service – far from it. Rather, it is usually the case that while putting the pressure on oneself to perform does yield more quality and quantity of performance, if there is no taking into account our human limitations then we are likely to become very frustrated and down on ourselves when we don't live up to these unrealistically high standards. The biblical standard is perfection, but none of us is perfect. And yet I see throughout scripture that "joy in the Lord" is where we ought to be living our Christian lives day by day, and that is certainly where I see all the great believers of the Bible (even though they too were human), rather than kicking themselves for lack of perfection. The alternative resembles more the monastic approach of medieval Roman Catholicism or the genuinely committed legalism of the Pharisees as in the example of Paul before conversion (and in these cases the standard itself was clearly wrongly applied in ignorance of the truth).

So while I do thrill to see your wonderful spiritual progress and also your fantastic academic advance whose purpose is to help other believers, I also want you to be able to sustain this effort for the long run. The Christian life is more of a Marathon than a sprint. We all have to find a pace that we can keep up all the way to the finish line. If we are capable of picking it up, that is one thing; however, few things are less productive than sprinting and crashing, sprinting and crashing. There's no joy in that, and happiness in the Lord and what He has done for us is a major part of the underlying motivation and perspective that will carry us through times good and bad.

You are running a good race, my friend. Please take pains to enjoy the process, even when the course gets rough.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:  

Hello Professor,

I understand your point and will focus on reading in the languages from now on. I've just finished the gospel of Mark and now, having read both Matthew and Mark, the reading does go smoother and quicker. For the time being I planned to go through the scripture in Greek and add other texts in foreseeable future, but if you think it's advisable to start on it as soon as possible, then I can do that also.

I also completely agree that being focused on the present is an absolute priority. And also a spiritual test. With Spirit's help there has been progress here, as the initial period when I moved here was not good, as you can probably remember. Now I'm able to maintain a good rhythm of study, even if it requires more effort than in the past and my current circumstances also make it difficult. And this is why I see, not for the first time, that I have to be careful what I wish for - as you said.

I also agree with your observation regarding the joy in the Lord. And recently I'm beginning slowly to feel it again in my heart, after a long period of drought. Even though my approach to things is now not motivated by Roman Catholic legalism (it had been for a long time before salvation), destructive perfectionism can clearly be a problem for me. This year and a half has been a test of a different nature now that my professional circumstances improved, but, I have to say professor, the weeds have multiplied also. My professional life requires far greater spiritual discipline from me - and that has been a good opportunity to progress. But I'm receiving a lot of emails, more offers of work, all these things that were not present in my life are now a challenge. And I feel, and perhaps it may have sounded legalistic, even if the intention is definitely not so in my heart, that a time is now approaching where seeking a balanced and sustainable solution will require giving up some of these things.

In fact it is also sustainability in terms of spiritual production that prompted my recent considerations, as I know I just couldn't stay where I am. I hope and pray that God does direct my path, again, and points to a solution that will be the best in His eyes. Your prayers will of course be much appreciated also.

As to sprinting and crashing - that had been my story for a long time. As a true Catholic legalist I was experiencing this pretty much daily. Remnants of this still haunted me for a time after I placed my faith in our Lord, but things are different now and there are less and less crashes which are also less and less time-consuming and costly, even if there is always room for improvement.

In our Lord,

Response #24: 

Just a quick note in reply - apologies - as tomorrow is our "Thanksgiving" here and I'll be out of the mix for a day or two.

Your plan of attack sounds fine to me. Do let me know if you'd like any advice on individual editions or texts.

I'm thrilled to hear that your reputation is deservedly growing so as to produce other job offers! For myself, Louisville was really the only good option at the time (so there was no need for me to agonize over choices), and it turned out to be a blessing (even if a struggle at times – but that is always the way of it, so it seems). I'm confident that you have got your priorities straight, and so you'll recognize the right thing when it comes along. It may not even have come along yet.

Also, I certainly don't mean to imply that you are anything but a dedicated Christian with the right idea about how to serve our Lord well. I just want you to be happy in the Lord while you do so. Maybe that's how we know we're putting too much pressure on ourselves: when joy turns to drudgery; just as how we know we're not putting on enough when we are so dissatisfied with our performance that we are unhappy for that reason. But with the Lord's help and prayer in the power of the Spirit we can find just the right middle ground.

I very thankful for you this Thanksgiving eve, my friend!

You are in my prayers every day.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25:  

Good morning Dr., from South Africa .

Because of the life's dark storm that I was facing I decided to venture into Christianity and it helped me a lot in going through, I have found value in studying the word and I believe there is a lot of mysteries and treasures to be uncovered in the word. I was referred to your website by a colleague and I am interested in reading what you have found out in the word.

Well Dr I believe I am in transitional phase and in it I found out that I have been chosen by God to a mission. I found out that all my sufferings and pain that I went through was actually God preparing me for things to come. I endured and I surrendered to the pain. I believe I have been delivered from the pain and I was wondering what more can I do to serve God and what can I do to claim the promises of God through my Lord Jesus.

Response #25: 

Very good to make your acquaintance, my friend. Thank you for your testimony and also for your encouraging words.

It is true that the Lord has a "mission", a job or ministry for each and every Christian, and it is also true that if this charge is taken seriously by the believer in question, it will often turn out that it does not develop along traditional "church" or "denomination" lines.

How then to prepare? For every believer, the game plan is precisely the same. We all need first to grow up unto spiritual maturity. Thereafter we all need to be tested and tried in the fire to perfect our walk with Jesus Christ. Finally, when we are truly prepared, the Lord will lead us into exactly the right ministry He has for us.

The details of the above will vary greatly between believers (and there is always overlap: e.g., spiritual growth through the Word never ends, nor does testing), but the principles are always the same. Spiritual growth requires learning and believing the truth of the Word of God (reading the Bible, listening to or otherwise accessing good, solid, sound, orthodox, substantive Bible teaching, and concentrating on these things so as to master them and put one's faith fully in them); perfecting our walk with the Lord requires prayer, sanctification, and ever greater application of the truth to every part of our lives; production will begin often before the main ministry is identified: everything we do for the Church of Jesus Christ to help other believers learn, believe, and apply the truth counts. These three are roughly sequential but also thoroughly overlapping (and always will be, if we are proceeding correctly).

You are certainly most welcome to all the materials at Ichthys to help you in this noble goal, the result of which is great eternal reward (see the link). Here are some other links you may find helpful to consult in the early going:

Peter's Epistles: Coping with Personal Tribulation

Spiritual Growth

Spiritual Growth II

Encouragement, Spiritual Testing and Spiritual Growth

Guilt, Sin and Victory through Spiritual Growth

Do feel free to write me back any time.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #26:  

Good day sir. I greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus, peace be unto you.

Your reply was well received thanks for the links; they are helping. Well sir it is my belief that I have been saved. I believe the lord has been with me ever since from day. Ever since I was a child growing up was not easy. Because of my low self esteem I suffered a great deal of abuse and humiliation from school mates; it led to self hate and self denial. I lost touch with my self worth and it hindered my process to grow and mature as a man. But by the grace of God I survived all odds that were against me. I managed to be a success in my academics and I progressed.

Later in my life when I was in varsity I discovered that it was time for me to confront the darkness that was hindering me to connect with myself, it was when I started pursuing Christianity that I got answers about my struggle. A year ago I realised I was getting better each day. It is my believe that I am healed and I am being delivered from the things that where pulling me down.

Dr., I believe that all my struggles where not in vain. I believe that God has placed greatness in me and I believe now is the time to connect with that greatness. I've been finding self value and worth in studying the word I find interest in learning who God is and in understanding his character.

I am trying to devote my time in studying the word everyday and I am struggling to keep up with my schedule and I struggle to be consisted in studying. Would you assist me with suggestions, topics and study resources that would help me in seeking Jesus?

Yours faithfully in our lord and savior Jesus.

Response #26: 

You are very welcome, and thank you for your email. I appreciate your testimony. I think it is very much in-line with the experiences of many true born-again Christians. Whatever we have or are or will suffer in this life, we know that we have a heavenly inheritance as those who belong to Christ which surpasses anything this temporary and corrupt world could ever offer. We belong to Jesus Christ and are sons and heirs of God; that certainly makes us "great" – even as we strive to walk humbly with Him who has given us everything.

I want to encourage you that the Lord does have plans for you. So please do continue to keep growing in Him and walking with Him closer day by day. The Lord uses prepared people, and there is no end of the opportunities to grow, to prepare, and to minister for those who are determined to serve Jesus the way He would have us to do. Herein lie even greater rewards which we shall enjoy to His glory forever.

You are very welcome to all of the materials at Ichthys (please see the links: FAQ #7: "Recommended Use: How can I best benefit from these studies?" and FAQ #8: "Recommended Sequence: Which of these studies should I read first?").

Please do feel free to write me back any time.

You are in my prayers in Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #27:  

Hello Professor,

I've finished Metzger and it has been a very good introduction to textual criticism. The area seems very complex; one could devote the whole life to it. Although this is not my intention, I can see how an understanding of it is important for a bible teacher. I'm now about to start "Introduction to the New Testament" by Thiessen, but please let me know what would be the next step with the textual criticism.

I also wanted to ask you a question on spiritual battle. As I have often written to you, this has been a time of worldly trials. With God's help, and I know your prayers have helped a lot in this difficult time, I've been negotiating them better. I know, however, that I'm not yet with it where I ought to be. Yes, on the one hand new things seem to come up almost all the time - fresh and unexpected disappointments, constant dealing with very hard hearts and people who out of pride and envy suddenly become adversaries. And all this combined with my own failures. On the other hand, there does come a point where the test, to the degree that it is possible while we dwell in these earthly bodies and despite the faith never being perfect, can and perhaps should be completed.

And this test just seems to carry on. There are last couple of months left in this season and I would like to use the time I've got in this mire of falsehood, worldliness, politics and simply sheer evil and malice to become as immune to it as I possibly can, having peace of Christ in my heart. I have to say that since this peace has been shaken some time ago, I have found it hard to regain it. This sabbath-rest of faith where one observes the satanic world around him remembering that God is the rock has been eluding me for a while now. I think I'm coming closer to it, but sometimes I find myself willing to say to God "help my unbelief", as if the responsibility for what is happening wasn't mine and the result of my choices - which it clearly is.

Resuming the normal study routine has helped a lot. Things can always be better, but I feel on track with the preparation. With my character, however, I always have to be careful not to fall into the trap of legalism - I am a man of routine, but I recognise that sometimes a little bit of variation does help (for example committing from time to time a day to a type of study that I find most enjoyable rather than following a normal daily plan). Psalms have also been a faithful companion and as I do my work I often find that Psalmists' words reflect exactly what I feel in my heart. First efforts to write teachings have been a big step forward too, as they help me realise where my responsibility, true treasure and the real work lies.

But despite all this, I'm not there yet. I remember how I had a car accident several years back which wasn't my fault. Initially it kept bothering me, particularly with my financial situation. I remember how I felt in my heart that I needed to make a leap of faith, for lack of a better expression. To finally commit the matter to the Lord and stop thinking about it. This time, making that leap has been difficult. The injustice and falsehood of the environment in which I now operate make it hard to erase the thoughts about what one is surrounded by. I have often been going with them to bed and waking up with them, constantly seeking refuge in God and yet never fully dwelling in peace knowing that my Rock is behind me and won't let me perish in this miry clay. I suppose if one has been sinking in it for months, then he also won't see the surface after a day of effort to swim up towards it.

So knowing that we are all different and different spiritual strategies will work for different people, and knowing also, above all else - that it is simply a test of faith and it is faith that is most important here, I still wanted to ask you, Professor, how do you negotiate all these worldly trials in this satanic realm. I have no doubt that in your academic work you are also constantly encountering similar problems, being surrounded by hard-heartened unbelievers, people who are proud and bent on evil. Are there any strategies that you have found particularly helpful over the years? Scriptures that seem to apply more than others? Things that are particularly useful in girding and strengthening this armour of faith as it is being hit all the time?

In our Lord,

Response #27: 

I'm glad you found Metzger helpful. There are plenty of specialist works on textual criticism in general (e.g., Renehan's Greek Textual Criticism), but they are mostly concerned with developing schemata for mss. families (not too helpful in the case of the NT where we have a wealth of early mss.). Most of the titles on this subject dealing with the Bible are the sheerest nonsense and devoted to imaginary sources, form criticism and the like. I think at this point, now that you are familiar with the sources, getting a copy of Metzger's very good A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament and consulting it as you read the NT in Greek, especially wherever you are wondering about the text, would a great next step. This will give you an idea of what scholars consider when they make their determinations. Not that I agree with everything that Metzger and his coauthors conclude; far from it. But the process they go through in coming to their conclusions is the traditional one. Most of my disagreements are based on either a difference of opinion about which sources should have the most weight (I am partial to Sinaiticus as you know), and also the degree to which a true understanding of the text (based in turn upon a correct appreciation of the theological principles) often leads to different conclusions; in other words, if we really do know from the context what, e.g., Paul is trying to say better than those who copied the mss., then it is foolish to pretend that's not the case (and it probably isn't the case for Metzger and co.).

On spiritual warfare, I've written a good deal about this as you know – and I hope you can see from what I have written that I don't hold the opinion that I personally have "arrived" at any sort of state of perfection (cf. Phil.3:12). I think the main thing I would want to say based upon your email is to emphasize the difference between feelings and reality on the one hand, and between fighting and losing on the other. It is possible to do well in this area and not automatically "feel good" about it; and it is possible to fight the fight well and yet not have a "feeling" of victory, even though one is winning, not losing. The farther along the road of spiritual advance we get, the more subtle the tests and the more stiff the opposition. Therefore we have to take increasingly greater care as we advance not to let our feelings be the instruments by which we are navigating, nor to allow the fact that the fight goes on suggest to us that we are not fighting it well. Everything you say here indicates to me that you are running a good race, and that the spiritual tactics you are employing are good, effective and biblical. It is sometimes necessary, especially, as I say, when we make progress in our advance, to take special pains to reorient ourselves to the most important things we know and believe, to take time out to do what Paul tells us to do in Philippians, to focus in on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy" (Phil.4:8 NIV). Concentrating on what our Lord did for us on the cross and really appreciating how that is so much more than anything in this world taken in its entirety is an excellent place to start (and the essential place to start – as well as to end): if we would only hold onto the cross in our hearts, we will not be moved far off our mark.

Next in importance is to keep in mind that we are only here one day at a time – for the Lord and to serve Him – and that in truth we long to be with Him and to enter into our only important "tomorrow", all the blessings of eternity; which are in fact very close and reveal everything we see with our eyes as merely "light and momentary troubles" that are "achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2Cor.4:17 NIV).

I'm not without my "feet of clay" (believe me); but I do find this "three days only" approach a good way to step back from "the weeds" of life and reassert God's viewpoint in my heart (see the link: http://ichthys.com/Tribulation-Part7.htm#the Lords prayer). That is what we are attempting to do, after all, namely, to see things as our Lord sees them, and to adjudge them and deal with them accordingly as He would have us do.

Our Father, the One in heaven,
May your Name be regarded as holy [by us].
May your Kingdom come [soon].
May your will be done as it is in heaven so also on earth [when you return].
Give us today the bread [we need] for the coming day.
    [TODAY: He has already made all provision for us]
And forgive us what we owe you just as we also forgive those who owe us.
    [YESTERDAY: the cross]
And don't bring us into testing [that we can't handle] but deliver us from the evil one.
    [TOMORROW: we will be with Him, delivered from all this]
Matthew 6:9-13

Keeping you in my prayers for a wonderful result later this year – wherever and whatever that is in its specifics.

In Jesus Christ who is ever the same, yesterday, today, and forevermore.

Bob L.

Question #28:  

Hi Bob,

I am being extremely severely tested and having difficulty rallying my faith. Will be rereading all of your series for exactly that purpose.

Vincent Cheung's material is extremely bad for any kind of spiritual edification. Where do you put a hyper-Calvinist (denies free will) who believes in the continuation of sign gifts and "name it and claim it"?

Response #28: 

I wrote them "for exactly that purpose"! Rallying our faith is in large measure remembering to see things like God sees them rather than how the world sees them. If Jesus were at your side right now and you could talk to Him it would change your entire attitude. Well He is right at your side right now (as well as in you), and you can talk to Him – addressing Him in prayer and imbibing His words, the mind of Christ in the Word of God. Spiritually, this is just as good as actually being able to see Him (in fact it's better because we are not distracted by the emotion). I do understand that emotionally it's not the same thing -- which again is a good thing (consider how being with Him personally for three and a half years didn't result in a perfect walk by the disciples). These are truths it takes time to completely internalize, but when we commit to doing so in the right way as you are doing we always do make progress. It's all about building our faith in the truth until we do understand that everything He says to us is true – but how deeply and completely do we believe that? He is 100% faithful; if we accepted even half of that we would be spiritual giants. Believers who are effective in their growth, progress and production are so by accepting the truth and not fighting against it just because what they see, hear, feel and think is opposed to it. Be pleased to let the truth sink in.

In anticipation of this ultimate deliverance, your joy overflows, though at present it may be your lot to suffer for a time through various trials to the end that your faith may be shown to be genuine. This validation of your faith is far more valuable than gold, for gold, though it too is assayed by fire, ultimately perishes. But your faith, when proven genuine in the crucible of life, will result in praise, glory and honor for you at the glorious return of Jesus Christ. Though you have never laid eyes on Him, yet you love Him. And though you cannot see Him at this present time, yet you have faith in Him. For this reason you rejoice with an inexpressible joy that bespeaks the glorious future to come, when you shall carry off in victory the ultimate prize – the deliverance of your lives – which is the very purpose and objective of this faith of yours.
1st Peter 1:6-9

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

p.s., it's also not a terrible idea to avoid things that give you "spiritual indigestion" to no good purpose.

 

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