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Question #1:

You wrote: From the love we observe in a world full of hate, we posit the One who is the origin of love and we deduce His intrinsic goodness; from the justice we observe in a world full of iniquity, we posit the One who is the origin of justice and we deduce His intrinsic holiness; from the life we observe in a world full of death, we posit the One who is the origin of life and we deduce His unwavering faithfulness and truth - giving us hope that there is an escape from death through Him. By comparing this true picture of the Creator to our own comparatively unloving, unjust, corrupt and downright sinful selves, we should be motivated to seek Him as the solution to our imperfection and deliverance from the grave.

Since our observation is based on what we see in the world, where and how specifically, for example, can we observe love in this world which is full of hate? I think I know what you might mean, but would rather be sure about the argument you develop here. In: http://ichthys.com/4B-Soterio.htm.

Response #1:

The point is that even though human beings are dreadfully sinful and hateful, yet we do find love – and sacrificial love at that – in this dark world. So we understand what true "love" is from our normal human experience, and, as with all good things, can understand in principle what Love with a capital "L" ought to be like; since God is perfect, His love must be perfect as well.

Question #2:

Are we born into God's family or are we adopted in? Romans 8:15 says we have received the Spirit of adoption ( We have received the Spirit of adoption but not the actual adoption for which we are waiting, the redemption of our body. Romans 8:23).

Thank you for considering this question.

Response #2:

Good to make your acquaintance. It's an interesting question. The only one who speaks of theological adoption in scripture is Paul (five time: Rom.8:15; 8:23; 9:4; Gal.4:5; Eph.1:5); each time he does so, the effect of being/becoming "sons" by means of God's adoption of us seems to me, at least, to be indistinguishable from being/becoming "sons" through the new birth (cf. Jn.1:12-13; Gal.3:21-4:7; Eph.3:15; Heb.12:4-11; 1Jn.3:1-2). The passage you ask about makes this clear:

(15) For you have not received a spirit of slavery [leading you] back to [a state of] fear [of damnation], but you have the Spirit who has entered you into God's family (lit. "of adoption"; Gk., huiothesia, υἱοθεσία, "placement-as-a-son"), in whom we cry, "Abba! My Father!" (16) For the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are God's children. (17) And if we are God's children, then we are also His heirs, even fellow heirs of Christ – that is if we have indeed suffered with Him so that we might also be glorified together with Him.
Romans 8:15-17 NASB

As a result of receiving "the Spirit who effects our adoption" we cry out "Father" as "sons", and the Spirit tells us that we are "children of God" from which we conclude that we are "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ". In other words, no stronger language, it seems to me, can be found than this in terms of assuring us that we are absolutely children of God, sons of God, heirs of God, part of the family of God as a result of our salvation. We know what we are adopted as sons (e.g., Eph.1:5); we know that we are born again (e.g., 1Pet.1:23). Both things are true and therefore cannot contradict one another; both things are decreed in the plan of God and happen positionally when we believe; both things are effected by the Holy Spirit. Also importantly, both things are significantly different from their worldly, physical counterparts. Being born again is a spiritual rebirth; being adopted into the family of God is certainly of a different spiritual order than being adopted into an earthly family (and, indeed, as you note, is only fully achieved in experiential terms beyond the present positional reality at the resurrection: Rom.8:23). This is a long way of saying that to my mind the two things are synonymous, doctrinally speaking, since they are both talking about our change of status from unbeliever to believer and the consequences/benefits thereof.

In terms of differences, these to my mind are merely differences of emphasis, not of status or effect: the idea of adoption stresses God taking us for Himself in spite of our previous "orphan in the world" status and conferring on us all the benefits of sons and daughters; the idea of being born again stresses the complete renewal of our lives, being made spiritually alive instead of our prior status of being spiritually dead. Since they are both speaking of the same fundamental transformation that takes place when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, His Person and His work, for salvation, I would not want to say one or the other without or to the exclusion of the other is "responsible for placing us into the family of God" (nor do I find any scriptural evidence for making any such distinction), since in my view they are essentially speaking of the same thing: belonging to God as part of His family through faith in Jesus by means of the ministry of the Spirit on the basis of Christ's death for us.

It might also help to understand that "adoption" was different in Paul's day than it is today. For one thing, the Greek word, huiothesia, means, etymologically, "appointing [someone] as a son", thus stressing the conferring of rights on the one so blessed, and it seems to me that this is what Paul means to emphasize by using the term. In Roman society, moreover, adoption was not necessarily something reserved for orphans or other poor unfortunate children. The main point of adoption was precisely this conferring of rights on an heir of one's own choosing. Octavian/Augustus was a well-educated adult of a noble family (not a street urchin) when Julius Caesar adopted him. And in Roman society, the person so adopted was in every sense the same as a natural born son – and in my reading of the custom of even greater status if possible because the adoption involved an informed decision rather that biological chance. So while in our society it is not unknown for adopted children, while treated well, to occasionally feel or be seen to be somehow not quite up on the same par with those who are naturally born into the family in question, that was definitely not the way the Romans of Paul's day thought about this matter. Being adopted by God the Father we are "joint heirs with Christ" – and there is no higher status or better family situation than that!

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

Today, I became angry when I was reading an exchange written by two Christians.

Christian A: You do not need fear to love God.

Christian B: You need to fear God to love God.

Christian A: What do I have to fear? He has my best interest at heart. If I was a drug addict, would I fear rehab? Sure. Should I fear rehab? No.

Christian B: You need to fear God anyway because the Bible said that it's the beginning of wisdom.

At that point, I was angered by the response of Christian B. The point is, yes, it is true that our natural state is to be afraid of God because of who He is, but should this be our eternal state? That is, should God's presence in eternity inspire fear in us even when we will not be sinners?

I did not grow up in a nice nursery. The nun who was there told me that if I didn't follow instructions God would rip my arms off. This traumatized me and my idea of God. Is the root of the fear of the Lord the simple fact that God could squash me like a bug? This is the impression I get from churches around the USA, but not from the teachings of Jesus Christ.

But what really scares me is the thought that Christ might be like them and you and I are the mistaken ones.

Sincerely,

Response #3:

The devil always keeps testing our faith. But that is actually since steel must be heated in the fire, hammered and tempered to become stronger (1Pet.1:16-17; cf. Rom.5:3-4; Jas.1:2-3). We can revere our heavenly Father in a way similar to the reverence and respect due an (ideal) human father. Even if our earthly father's were not perfect (or in some cases totally absent), God has put the ideal into the heart of us all, and even in the bad examples we observe we can easily postulate the "good father" by comparison. God is perfect, as we know from the eternity set in our hearts (Eccl.3:11; cf. Rom.1:19-21); and being the perfect Father He loves us with a perfect love (1Jn.4:8; 4:16).

I'm in the process of editing my dad's WWII memoirs. He was a hospital chaplain in the South Pacific. He tells of their unit receiving survivors from the Japanese prison camps in the Philippines, all of them emaciated and nearly starved to death. One Australian woman and her two children were there, but the father had died – he gave the meager rations he got to his children to keep them alive. My dad's comment, "Fatherly love is like that!" My observation: our heavenly Father gave His one and only dear Son whom He loved with love so perfect we cannot comprehend it over unto death that we might live. "That's Fatherly love!" – and it is indeed worthy of supreme respect. Without understanding the cost, we can't comprehend the love, and consequently will not be capable of the proper reverence. The Spirit tells us all these things (Rom.8:16; 1Jn.3:1), and His testimony is true regardless of what anyone else says or thinks or believes, even if our own heart may sometimes be confused (1Jn.3:20).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

I think we've discussed this before, but I wanted to verify and make sure that my line of thinking was correct on this. Well, there's this part of me, a small part, that remains seemingly ever-skeptical, a part of me wanting to resist and forget all of this and leave it behind. Am I right in assuming that this part of me is simply the sin nature in me? I recall that "The flesh and the Spirit work against each other", and that "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak". Am I also right in assuming that we will always have this small part of us, but that over time (years?) it will simply wither away or otherwise be muted as we grow in the Lord? I am almost certain this is exactly what it is, but I wanted to make sure my line of thinking was correct on this matter.

I believe there may be another component to this, as well. Since I came from a divorced home, I do not have much experience with having a father. I have some, but my father was always rather indifferent to me (though he did say he was proud of me). I guess this makes it even harder for me to imagine how God could love me so much. Even though God is nothing like our earthly fathers, my mind still tries to make that connection.

Thank you for your help, and I hope I am not too difficult to talk to about matters such as these. I will continue to keep going forward, and try not to look around or back behind me.

Response #4:

Until the resurrection, we will have a sin nature. It will always resist our efforts to follow the Spirit, but we always have a choice as to whether or not we turn off course or continue to follow Him. The more mature and spiritually experienced we become, the better we get about parrying the sin nature's attacks, and the better we get about consistently responding to the Spirit. But sin is wide and deep and often very subtle, so even if we grow to the level of the apostles and great believers of the Bible (a good goal but probably an impossible one) we will never get to the point of being able to relax in our fight against sin. Just as soon as we come to think we have mastered some area of weakness, we are likely to let down our guard only to have it overwhelmed in a surprise attack. The good news is that Christ died for all of our sins, and we are forgiven whenever we confess. If we keep advancing up the high road to Zion, we will get better at this. No fight comes without bloodshed, but if we are willing to "resist to the point of blood" (Heb.12:4), we will be victorious more than we are defeated, and victory will become more and more the norm in our advance.

I hear you on the father thing. I was blessed to have a wonderful dad, but what I have said before and believe to be true, namely, that even for those who don't have a dad or a mom, the way the Lord has built us we can easily imagine the perfect dad and the perfect mom (or the perfect husband and the perfect wife, even if we are not married). And even if our parents and spouse are not perfect (who is?), we can see by comparison with the ideal how wonderful our perfect heavenly Father is, and how perfect our heavenly Husband, Jesus Christ, is. We can also see this in any such relationship we observe. Even when we decry some poor parents or poor spouse, we do so by comparing them to a standard of perfection we instinctively possess, and that perfection is found in God. So for example we know that our heavenly Father loves us perfectly but also holds us to a perfect standard. So we revere Him (but not grudgingly, since He is perfect), and love Him back (because we know He has given us everything, "life and breath and all things"; Acts 17:25); and we love and have awe for our dear Master . . . because He bought us out of slavery to sin and death with His own life's blood, His spiritual death on the cross.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Bob, how can you tell when God is speaking?

And how can one relate it to choosing a life partner?

Response #5:

Good to hear from you again. Hope you are doing well.

As to your question, we all have questions we want answered, especially when it comes to things that are happening in our lives (or we want to have happen), and from time to time we would all wish to have a direct, verbal and audible answer from the Lord (but cf. Jer.42:19-22). In this time, however, that is not the standard way He communicates to us, of course (and so I am always skeptical when I hear "God told me [this]" or "God told me [that]"). Very often, the person in question is merely substituting his or her personal desires for the voice of God. The reason that God does not need to be telling us individually "this" or "that", is that He has already given us all truth in the Bible, and He has already given us His Holy Spirit to guide us through that truth (once we have learned and believed that truth). Learning how to respond to the Spirit's guidance – and especially learning how to separate His true leading from our emotional predisposition of the moment – is the stuff of spiritual maturity (cf. Rom.12:1-2; Phil.1:9-11; Heb.5:14). So it all comes back to spiritual growth. The further forward we progress with the Lord, the more we will be easily able to test with the truth of scripture anything we hear or anything we feel, and the less likely we will be to be deceived by others or to deceive ourselves through wishful thinking or pursuing our own ends.

So on the specifics of the question, scripture has very little to say about romantic love. One of the reasons for this is that in the ancient world, as reflected in both testaments, marriages were more often arranged than not. In 1st Corinthians chapter seven, Paul makes allowance for marriage in order to avoid falling into sin, but he also expresses his hope that we would stay single if possible (not possible for most), because he is "trying to spare you tribulation". In other words, the way the world looks at this issue is not the way it is, from the divine point of view. People generally look at life as a "pursuit of happiness", and marriage is a big part of that equation. While there is nothing at all wrong with being happily married, and while that is no doubt the most common development for most Christians (at least the married part), life is not "about" being happily married. That is merely a (possible) blessing on the way to doing what the Lord wants us to do, namely, to grow spiritually, to progress in our walk with Him, and to help others through ministry.

We can be sure that God knows all about our needs. We can also be sure that He is working everything out together for the good . . . "of those who love Him" (Rom.8:28). Which is to say, if we are patient, if we are truly looking at life in the right way and putting Jesus Christ first in all things, then everything else will fall into place down the road eventually. I am no expert in this area about which you ask, but it seems to me that if something is "right", it will not be something we have to rush into, and it will not be something about which we have serious doubts. If it is really right, then waiting to make sure will be workable and none too onerous. If we are really letting God choose for us, we will have all the advantages of the arranged marriages of the past, and none of the disadvantages based on human foibles. But if we are determined to "choose our own ways" (Is.66:3), we are liable to experience the tribulations Paul seeks to spare us.

Finally, in keeping with the theme of this email of putting our hope in the Lord and avoiding getting out ahead in front of His plan, I am reminded of Abraham's servant who was charged to find a bride for Isaac. He trusted in the Lord entirely, and was rewarded with the perfect woman for his master's son, that wonderful believer Rebecca, the very woman that God had destined for Isaac in the first place (Gen.24:1ff.).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Bob,

Good evening. Hope you're good. Please on this subject of discernment, how do I know a particular godly guy I've grown to have feelings for is supposed to be or fit for me as husband? Especially if the feeling is mutual. How long am I to wait on considering him before the Lord?

Thank you.

Response #6:

I stand pretty much by the words of the last email. The Bible really doesn't have too much to say about this because the way this issue is generally framed in our contemporary, modern world is as a careful willful choice of searching for and finding "just the right one". Clearly, God has a plan for all of our lives, and that certainly includes marriage for most of us. However, the Bible is mostly concerned with our honorable conduct within marriage, not with any such "process of choice" ahead of time or enjoyment of being married afterwards. If the husband is loving towards his wife and the wife is respectful of her husband, then that is enough said (Eph.5:22-33). Paul's advice is to prefer single status (1Cor.7:1-2; 7:7), though recognizing that this is not realistic for most and that certainly it is no sin to marry (1Cor.7:27-28). In that day and age, and indeed throughout the entire time covered by scripture, arranged marriages were the norm, and that certainly took all the angst about choice out of the picture – marriage was seen in quite a different light than we view it today from the lens of "romantic love". Not that the ancients didn't appreciate that sentiment (read the Song of Solomon), but decency and the production of a godly family were their main concerns; if love followed in train, that was just an unexpected benefit. Clearly, God is involved wherever there has been a "good match" in that respect (cf. Gen.24:67; Eccl.9:9).

No doubt we all want the same thing here, but the biblical perspective tempers our cultural celebration of "romantic love" with godly realism: this is an imperfect world (understatement) and we are all imperfect people – how then can there be a perfect human love? And since the Bible gives no direct advice on the subject of contracting a marriage, we are left to approach that problem as we would any other choice we have to make in this world. If we do this in a godly way – as you are seeking to do – then we are much more likely to be successful. If we are seeking to live a godly life and to have a family which is also godly, then the question of where our prospective opposite number is at spiritually is the main one we ought to ask.

In the history of the world, three points of compatibility have been nearly universally critical in making a good match: culture, age and religion. If two people are of different cultures, ages, or religions (let alone being mismatched on more than one point), this militates against a happy marriage. I say religion, but of course true Christianity is a relationship between a believer and our dear Lord Jesus. Paul tells us directly not to be "unequally yoked together" with unbelievers (2Cor.6:14), and that is more important to heed in a prospective marriage than anywhere else (cf. 1Cor.7:39). One could take it step further and say that for anyone who is truly putting Jesus Christ first in their life and seeking to do what He has called us to do, namely, grow spiritually, progress in our walk with Him, and help others do the same – as our #1 set of priorities in this life – that for such a positive believer only someone else who is equally positive or even more so ought even to be considered as a possible match. This is not a biblical precept, merely a personal opinion, but it is based upon some experience and observation of life from the Christian perspective over a long period of time.

Other than the above, we gain confidence about any important decision by seeking the Lord's guidance in prayer and by listening carefully to the inaudible guidance of the Spirit. In other words, the more we have progressed spiritually, and the better able we are to determine and follow God's will in all other things, the more this will be the case in making a good marriage too. And that decision is so important to get right – since it has such long lasting implications. While there is no time limit one way or the other except for what we may ourselves set down, haste is probably more likely to lead to a mistake than sufficiently careful consideration. How long should we wait? As long as it takes to get it right.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Bob,

I hope you’re doing well. I’ve greatly enjoyed the recent pre-Christmas special postings, especially the lengthy one on Matthew. As usual I have a lot about which to write to you, and have taken far too long to write about it. I had been thinking about the way 2015 went for me as a roller coaster, but recently I’ve come up with a better metaphor. It was like a body slide at a water park. It was a long slow climb up to the top, then I spent two months in the summer admiring the view before being pushed off—well before I was ready— head first down the slide, until I hit the pool of water at the bottom with such force that I was knocked unconscious and almost drowned. Only now that 2016 has rolled around do I feel like I’ve reached the other edge of the pool and am getting back on dry ground.

Now for some good news. In the last few months I’ve been recovering from having stumbled and am beginning again to move forward in my walk with the Lord. After a hiatus during my "lost summer", I have resumed the after-work Bible study with my Polish friend/coworker that I’ve told you about before. It began with some questions he had about Jews vs. Gentiles in the body of Christ, and turned into a study of the whole book of Romans (with relevant bits from Galatians, Corinthians, etc. thrown in). We’re up to chapter 13 now, and I want to approach this subject delicately because it can easily be abused if not understood properly. There’s a popular conspiracy theory about so-called "Clergy Response Teams" who are church leaders around the country that DHS has paid to tell their congregations to follow whatever the government tells them to do (up to and including taking the Mark of Beast) because Romans 13 tells them they have to. I’ve read your translation and writings on these verses in your Hamartiology study, and I think you’ve given it the best treatment I’ve seen. I’ve decided to take a detour into Acts to read to him the experiences of Peter and Paul in the hands of the legal system of their day, then to read Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-17, and then to discuss the exceptions using Daniel, and top it off by reading that section in Hamartiology. In the course of doing this study I was suspicious that this was the only time my friend was being exposed to the Bible, so I asked him what translations he had at home (as a diplomatic way of finding out whether he was reading it at all on his own) and he said he only had a Polish translation. I bought him the NIV in the hope that he’d start reading at home. He said the English translations of scripture make a lot more sense to him, even though Polish is his native language.

Concerning my parents, I’ve written to you before about my concerns over their salvation and current state of unbelief. I’ve also written to you about my dad’s disease. He’s been getting worse. Well, my dad has had this close group of friends since they were boys. One of them was a Roman Catholic and the other three Jewish. In the last two years one has left the RC Church, become passionate about the Bible and declared himself born again. Another has declared Jesus his Lord and Savior, and now reads the Bible (New Testament and all) and attends a protestant church; those two have been taking the last one to see a Messianic Rabbi in the hope that he might come to believe in Jesus, and have been coming over to my parents’ house every couple of months with their Bibles to try to give my dad the Gospel! I’ve been overjoyed with how the Lord is moving in these people’s lives, and the potential benefits it could have for my parents. I think real progress is being made in un-hardening their hearts. Last weekend they astonished me with what they were saying. I got them to agree that they can at least believe in the Tanakh and what it says. Although they know very little of what that actually means yet, it’s certainly a starting point. My dad said that instead of cursing God and saying "Why did you do this to me?" he’s now asking God for strength. My mom, who had been rabidly anti-Christian, and would leave the room when I would bring it up before, last Sunday said to me that the next weekend I’m there she wants me to start reading to her from the Bible and explaining it. She said her worldview that when you die you’re dead and that’s it, no afterlife at all whatsoever, is an extremely pessimistic and negative one. She’s now looking for a happier outlook. I told her that even the Tanakh has a concept of an afterlife with reward for those who love God and punishment for those who reject Him. After a lengthy conversation in which I tried to deliver the Gospel in a way she could understand and answer any questions she had, she agreed to start reading the Bible. She’s afraid of being completely unable to understand it if she tried to read it on her own, so she wants me to go through it with her. I thought about where to start and decided that Matthew would be good because it’s all about showing Jews how Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies (and, after all, it was the book I read four years ago that made me believe in Jesus). Please let me know if you agree that that’s a good place to start, or if you have any other suggestions about how to approach this. I’m also asking for prayers in the hope that the most can be made of this opportunity.

I’ve written a lot, as I tend to do. Take your time in responding, although you always seem to respond much quicker than I’m expecting. And again, I ask for prayers for my parents that they might receive the Word of God as the Truth and Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

In the name of our Lord Jesus, the one and only name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved,

Response #7:

It's always wonderful to hear from you, my friend! I have been thinking about you as I pray for you and your family day by day. I am very encouraged to hear your news about your parents. God is good. Keep persevering in your good witness of life and of the Word. I think Matthew is a fine book to use for these purposes since the person and work of Christ are evident throughout it (as with all four gospels). I'm hoping and praying that your mom takes the Lord into her heart soon. Learning/teaching the Bible to a believer is a different thing/process from showing unbelievers God's grace, goodness and message of truth in Jesus Christ through scripture. So just please keep that in mind in your noble endeavor: the Spirit makes the truth of the gospel clear to unbelievers whenever they hear it; everything else in scripture can only be theoretical to them until they are saved. I have taken the liberty of adding your request to the Ichthys list as well.

I'm sorry to hear that you've gone through the wringer spiritually since last we emailed, but I am relieved to hear that you have come through this trial with faith intact and with motivation unhindered to continue your spiritual advance and preparation for serving the Lord, wherever He has a mind to make use of you for the benefit of His Church. You are clearly already having a big impact close to home and also with your friends (thank you for the interesting and encouraging update on your ministering to your Polish friend). This is ministry at its most basic, most practical, and most important. So please keep up the good work and don't let yourself get discouraged on account of past troubles. Every day is a new day the Lord has made, a new day of opportunity for spiritual growth, progress and production.

Keep up the good work in Jesus Christ, my friend! I am very interested to see where the Lord leads you.

Keeping you in my prayers day by day,

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Dear Bob,

Thank you for your reply. I’m happy to tell you that this past weekend my mom and I ended up sitting down on Saturday and Sunday to read from the Bible, and it went very well. She really liked everything we covered (basically I got through the end of Matthew 7), except the only objection she had was to the possibility of a virgin birth. The root of the problem is her overly rationalistic worldview that miracles can’t happen, ever, at all, under any circumstances (e.g. she said the parting of the Red Sea for the Exodus was just "low tide"). I showed her how the Messiah had to be born of a virgin according to prophecy, and then explained that if God created everything, including the laws of physics and biology, but can’t intervene in that creation and alter those laws whenever He wants for His own purposes, then God isn’t really omnipotent. That appeal to logic seemed to work, but the real big one will be believing the resurrection. She says she wants to believe though, so hopefully the ground is fertile enough for the seed to take root and begin to grow. I asked my dad if he wanted to join us, and he declined because he felt that he would only hold us back because he’d be asking too many questions. I tried to say it wouldn’t be a problem and might bring up some good topics that should be addressed, but he insisted on not participating, so I let it drop for now. I’m hoping that if my mom becomes enthusiastic about it, he might come around because of that (she’s always been the bigger skeptic about everything). And she does seem to be enthusiastic about it. She had me download the Bible app on her phone, and asked me to order her same the Bible I have (NIV study bible—I emphasized that the commentary is less than stellar for non-historical information, but the few historical context tidbits, and all the charts and maps I find to be useful). I’m so happy, thankful, and grateful to God. Hallelujah!!

I would like now to discuss with you some things related to the Hebrew language and Tanakh. Last email, I wanted the focus to be on my parents as that was the most immediate situation, but I would also like to relate to you a discussion I had with my relatives at our family Christmas party. In the my uncle married a shiksa (who self-identifies as Christian although nothing she does or says would reflect that) and in the early 2000s our family went from having Chanukah parties to Christmas parties. She had been married before and her son is kind of a step-cousin, but he and my other cousin are the closest thing I have to brothers. Anyway, at Christmas, I ended up spending the whole night discussing either Star Wars or the Bible (of course I made sure to point out to people all of the things about Star Wars that come from witchcraft and Luciferianism, especially The Force—which is what actual covens of witches called the magical power they wielded for decades before the first Star Wars film was made). After everyone started leaving we really began discussing the Bible in-depth for the next three and a half hours. It was a pretty good test in apologetics and evangelism, as my cousin is a devout atheist and transhumanist who thinks science is the end-all and be-all of everything and that man needs to become god through the perfection of his mind and technology, and although he’s a little more liberal nowadays, the other one spent a period of his life when he read the Tanakh and was very zealous for Judaism. They were tag-teaming their interrogation of me and my beliefs. One is unfortunately also infected with the mental deficiency known as "Postmodernism". Sorry for the harsh words about this philosophy, but I’ve been running up against it too much recently and can’t believe how these people can live without their heads exploding (certainly they make my head want to explode). He literally told me that 2+2 doesn’t have to equal 4. I just don’t what to say to someone like that. My uncle, on the other hand, there may be more of a chance.

One of the big problems my uncle has is his insistence that the Bible, even the Tanakh, is simply a fictional creation of men, and is neither divinely inspired, nor historically accurate. Despite this, we were still able to argue about points of the Tanakh as if it were fact. He admitted that he believes that God created the heavens and earth in the beginning, and that God created Adam and Eve. Here is where one of the biggest points of contention came up. The argument became centered on when the spirit of a person is created. My uncle’s argument was that in Genesis 1 and 2 it says God created this and God created that, but then it says that God created Adam and "breathed life" into him. He takes that as proof that people’s spirits have always existed, and that you keep getting reincarnated into human bodies until you "do it right." This was a central theme of his eulogy over ten years ago for my other uncle. He said that said he wouldn’t have to come back again. It made for a good speech, and I believed it then because I didn’t know any better, but now I can’t believe it; I can’t believe in reincarnation, and I can’t believe (even though it pains me) that this deceased uncle was saved and is in heaven right now. The only argument I could make was that reincarnation can’t be true. A belief in reincarnation is what caused me to believe that suicide was like hitting the reset button on a video game (a dangerous thing to believe as I have seen). The only verse I could think of from the Bible was "man is appointed to die once; and after that comes judgement" (Hebrews 9:27). This wasn’t sufficient for proving that a person’s spirit hasn’t existed since eternity past. From reading your studies, the case seems clear to me that a person’s spirit is created and placed in the body when that person exits the womb and takes its first breath. The differences, obvious as they may be, between the way Adam and Eve were created and the way we are created is an important point to emphasize (I like asking people if they think Adam and Eve had a navel). However, it seems like the only verse that can be used to show when and where a human spirit is created is Zechariah 12:1, which I did not remember that night. If God "forms the spirit of man within him," that is he creates the spirit inside a person’s body, then obviously the spirit can’t exist before the body does. Are there any other verses that speak to the specifics of when the spirit is created?

The other main point over which my uncle and I argued was grace through faith in Jesus. He brought up the scenario of Hitler on his deathbed deciding to believe in Jesus and asked if that meant he would go to heaven. When I said he would if he genuinely believed and repented, my uncle said "That’s too easy! It can’t be that easy to be saved!" I said, "It is that easy. In fact it’s so easy, that it’s too difficult for you." He didn’t really have a response to that, other than to mumble something about not being able to believe that’s all you have to do. I tried to show how God’s love is demonstrated in Jesus, but neither one could even believe that Jesus actually existed (let alone anything else about him), so I was shot down immediately every time. The whole time they were arguing that the God I was describing was a mean, tyrannical, evil God. My uncle said it was because I said you only get one lifetime to decide where you spend eternity, and he argued that a "loving Father" would allow as many lifetimes as necessary for everyone to make it (again trying to argue reincarnation). Both of them said explicitly that any God that would allow any of his creatures to spend eternity in a lake of fire is a God they don’t want to have anything to do with. I said, "Be careful what you wish for, because existence without God is known as the Lake of Eternal Fire." Whether they like it or not they’ll appreciate who God is and what he’s done eventually (Romans 14:11), I just hope for their sake it’s sooner rather than later. Overall, I think it was a good experience. It got me to sharpen my debating skills, and motivated me to want to study harder so that I can be better prepared for next time. I’m also glad that at least the topic has been breached, and maybe it can be a conversation I pick up with them the next time I see them. The only thing I really didn’t like was at the very end when they both said that I’m wasting my life by reading and believing in the Bible.

There was something else, however, something wonderful that came out of that discussion. My uncle went up into his attic and dug out a box of books, from which he gave me (technically lent) a Koren Jerusalem Hebrew/English Tanakh. These last few weeks I’ve been reading from the Hebrew every day, trying to remember what I had been taught for my Bar Mitzvah, but which I haven’t used in many years. I remember the Aleph-Bet and vowels and can painstakingly make my way through verses, sounding out each word. I know certain words and phrases (and of course verses like the Shema), and it’s been very encouraging for me when I can start to understand the language. For example, Genesis 1:1: I know that bereshit is "in [the] beginning", elohim is "God" (plural because the Trinity is involved in the very first verse), ha’shamayim is "the heavens", and ha’aretz is "the earth", and from that I can conclude that bara is "created" and et is identifying what is being created. I’ve been able to tell that a hay at the beginning of the word means "the", and a vav at the beginning of a word means "and". All of this is very exciting for me because my biggest complaint about Hebrew school when I was younger was that we were taught how to read Hebrew out loud, but we were hardly taught what anything meant or how to translate it (outside of prayers). I’ve always loved the sound of Hebrew (as I think I’ve told you before), and I like the fact that during the Millennial rule of Christ, and after, the official language will be Hebrew. Obviously a thousand years is plenty of time to learn a language if you don’t know it yet, and the Tribulation is only about 10 years away, but I don’t see how it can hurt to start learning it before then. I’ve been inspired to begin doing just that.

I know it’s a long process, especially outside a formal educational setting, because for 40 minutes a day, five days a week, for six school years (7th-12th grade), and that’s not counting time spent doing homework, I learned Spanish. After all that time I could barely speak it well enough to hold a conversation, and couldn’t read a Spanish news article without a dictionary. However, I would really like to begin learning Hebrew, and would love to be able to get to the point where I can read the Tanakh in Hebrew (with vowels—I think reading without vowels is too advanced for me, at least in the next decade) and be able to translate. As I said, I already know the Aleph-Bet and some of the basics of pronunciation. I’ve seen the list of books you recommend in the email posting Hebrew Language Study Tools. Should I get all of them? I don’t know how old that posting is, are there others that would also be beneficial?

Finally, I have a Hebrew language question about something I noticed in looking at the transliteration of names in the Koren Tanakh. In 1 Samuel, up to 14:49, Jonathan is called Yonatan. However, the next time he’s mentioned in 18:1, and thereafter, Jonathan is called Yehonatan. I can only conclude that it has something to do with the events of chapters 15-17, which involve the Lord rejecting Saul as king, Samuel anointing David, Goliath, etc. What is the significance in Hebrew of adding the hay? Or is this just a peculiarity of the Masoretic Text and there is no significance?

There’s a big snowstorm coming to the east coast this weekend, so I don’t yet know if I’ll be going to my parent’s house, but I hope to go through a significant chunk of the rest of Matthew with my mom the next time we meet. I want to build up to and properly explain the Passion Week so she really understands the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who saves us by grace through faith,

Response #8:

Thanks for the interesting email. I'm very proud of you and your standing up for the truth – and also very significantly in your caring enough about your family to do so. God blessed you with some fine openings. What is important to remember here is that this is really all about them and all about God – it's only about you to the extent that you are allowing yourself to be used by the Lord for the benefit of your friends and family. The Spirit is the One who is really doing the evangelizing, and if my own personal experience is any guide on this I am sure that you can look back and see that you were empowered to come up with some of the fine responses you came up with (in a way that might not be true in a secular debate you might find yourself involved in for whatever reason). It's also good to remember that you can't reach into a loved one's heart and throw any magic switch. They have to make these decisions themselves. And it really is all about their decisions, not your persuasive powers. All of these extraneous things, such as reincarnation, are merely excuses, mental armor for the hardness people build up against the truth. In their heart of hearts everyone knows what the truth is (or did at some point); it's just that they don't want to accept it for whatever reason. Once a person has decided not to – or to delay – getting right with God (through Christ the only "way"), they really have to put something like science or reincarnation or "collective memory" or universalism out there in order not to go nuts with the realization that if they don't "get right" by grace through faith they are going to hell by their own decision. It's a very common thing, moreover, for people to start blaming God when you begin to break down their armor. The last line of defense we human beings have in our arrogance is always some sort of what-seems-to-us irrefutable, logical defense speech that will act as our "get out of hell" card, should all of our other little pet theories be exploded and should what we know in our heart of hearts will happen happen: we will stand before the Lord (we all know it), but we tell ourselves that we didn't have a fair chance, or that God Himself is not fair, or that because others did wrong we should not be held to account, or that because some didn't hear the gospel, we are exempt from choosing for Christ . . . etc., etc. What all this amounts to in the end is just a willful placing of a veil over our own eyes so as not to have to "deal with it". So there is value in always getting back to the central issue as you certainly did. Will Hitler be saved? No at all – he didn't have any such desire. But Christ died for his sins too otherwise you couldn't be saved; and since Christ died for your sins, what excuse do you think He or the Father would accept from you for considering that sacrifice – an ineffable sacrifice and unexplainable load of suffering beyond anything in this world – beneath you, and consistently refusing to accept it? The good news is you can have eternal life right now for the taking, only just don't refuse the offer of grace He is extending to you.

As to your Hebrew question, I don't see any significance in this change, but you might want to investigate further. It's not uncommon for personalities in the Bible in both testaments to have more than one name (and today the same thing is true: people call me Bob, Rob, Robert, Mr., Prof., Dr. Luginbill – and other things I'd rather not mention). When scripture makes a point of the name change, it is obviously significant (see the link: "name changes in the Bible"); when it doesn't I usually prefer to reserve judgment absent other significant evidence to the contrary.

Finally, on the spirit, yes, the Zechariah passage is very clear. Whether we imagine – incorrectly – the spirit being passed down essentially biologically (the false though widely accepted theory of traducianism) or understand that it is created and given by God at birth (creationism), I'm not sure exactly what this has to do with reincarnation. Some creationists wrongly have imagined souls (that is also wrong of course) in some sort of heavenly storehouse waiting to be implanted. But consider: God from the beginning made man a spirit-body creature. Without both, there is no life – and that is the key point. And once the spirit departs, life ends. No mention in scripture of the same one coming back in a different body (which would be odd if that were what happens). Also, we are resurrected from or through the present body – not multiple bodies in multiple lives (i.e., the resurrection cannot be squared with reincarnation in any way). It is also fair to say that there is not a single passage of scripture which points to that false doctrine in any way. Most of what I have on the spirit will be found in BB 3A at the link: "The human spirit".

On Hebrew books, I suppose it depends on your ultimate objective, your finances, and how much you prefer books over the internet. I've rarely regretted buying reference works or texts; I certainly wish I could sell back many commentaries and other books that weren't general in nature – at their original list price. The ones listed at Ichthys are all very good. As I often remark, in terms of serious reference works valuable for learning the Word of God or the languages of the Book, most were completed in their original form before WWII.

I will continue to be keeping you and your family in my prayers! Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

My mom is getting sicker by the day and this really concerns me. I believe that God's will in my life is to witness to my family members so that they can be saved. I am happy to know that now my brother is saved after telling him about Jesus. I never force the Gospel upon someone, but try to bring it into a conversation when I see an opportunity that is fitting. I have tried to minister to my mother several times in the past and she told me that she doesn't like to hear about God or the bible. I know that my mother doesn't have too much longer on this earth and her salvation concerns me because I want my entire family to be with me for eternity. I don't know what to do. Does the bible give any sort of guidance in this type of situation. Thank you for all of your prayers, and those who have been praying for me and my family.

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #9:

You are most welcome, my friend. Let me start by saying that I have been praying for your brother for some time – and I just am finding out here that he is now a believer. Praise the Lord! Just think about how impossible it might have seemed just a little while ago that your brother would come to the truth . . . and yet he did! The Lord knows your heart and your godly desire for your family to be saved, and He has worked everything out for the good. He worked it out for your brother to be saved – and we know that He can do the same for your mother. In fact, we know that all this has already been entered into the plan of God from eternity past. It is true that we all as individuals have to make our own decisions in this life about our eternal future and all things spiritual. But God knows everything; and He knew everything before the fact. He knows you love your family; and He knew that when He put you into this family; and He knew it when He planned to do it before time began. So I would counsel you to continue with your prayers and ministry to your mother and the rest of your family as God grants occasion and opportunity, but also to have faith and confidence in the Lord that He knows how important this is to you and that He has taken everything into account. I'm sorry to hear that your mother is ill. However, sometimes it is just such physical weakness that can lead a person to reassess their spiritual status and prior decisions. That is to say, bumping into problems for which there is no human solution is sometimes the only way to get a person to look to God for the solution. And as we know He is the only "way". I will continue to pray for you and your mother as well (as I have been doing). The one thing I know for certain is that despite what our eyes and ears and feeling may tell us about what is going to happen, in truth "God works out all things together for good . . . for those who love Him" (Rom.8:28).

Keep up your good walk with the Lord my friend, and trust Him that He is indeed working this out for the good in just the right way.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hi Bob,

Today's my birthday, however, it was not a very good one: I broke down in tears today due to a overwhelming sense of hopelessness which bubbled up. The idea that I could be the only one in my family to go to heaven while the rest of my family is comprised of "fake Christians" is something that I cannot prove until after it's too late.

Sincerely,

Response #10:

Happy birthday!

Hope the day will turn around for you before it's over. We can never know what will happen to those we love, but consider that the mercy and grace of God exceeds our wildest imagination. He knows where He has put us and why. He did not do so to make us unhappy. He has given us vast means to be happy now – even in the midst of tears – and on the other side, bliss beyond comprehension. If the salvation of our loved ones is essential to our happiness now and/or then, He certainly knows that. It always comes back to trusting the Lord that He has our best interests at heart at all times and in all things. Is that hard to accept some times? Indeed. That's what makes for the testing and trials of this life. But the sooner we get around to trusting Him no matter what – in the manner of Abraham – the sooner we can enjoy to the full what He has for us now, and the more richly we will be rewarded for our faith and its fruit on the other side.

Please try to have a happy rest of the day, remembering the wonders of the New Jerusalem ahead if you can't find anything on this earth that cheers you up.

Your friend in Jesus Christ who gave up all that we might have eternal life with Him.

Bob L.

Question #11:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you're doing well.

A few months ago, my mom told me that she has a serious medical problem. We've been telling her to go to the doctor, but she's been reluctant to go. She's finally decided to go today, but she said that if she has to go to the hospital, we're going to lose the house. My dad's been complaining about money shortages lately.

I don't really have anyone else to tell. I'm so worried, I feel like all these problems are partly my fault, I feel like a failure. I don't want to stress out my mom anymore than she already is. I need a better job to be able to help out my parents more.

My brothers still live with my parents too. My younger brother has been looking for work; he has two upcoming interviews. My older brother is still finishing school. He doesn't have a job. He really needs to start getting motivated to find work. My parents have been paying for his last couple years of college; but he's in his twenties and should really have a job and have graduated by now. We really need prayers.

I haven't been keeping up with the ichthys posts lately, but I've been praying for you. I hope the new year has started off on a positive note for you.

Response #11:

It's good to hear from you, but I'm sorry for your family's troubles. I have placed a prayer request on the Ichthys list. I have also been praying for you daily, and will add these concerns to my own prayers. Thanks you so much for praying for me as well! It has been very needful of late.

I want to encourage you to persevere and not allow your faith to be undermined by these tribulations. Family troubles can be the worst sort to bear because we love our families but we often don't have the ability or the resources to help them in the way we would wish to do. But we can always pray for them and try to set a good example. Being concerned for and helping your parents and siblings is a righteous thing to do. God did give you your own life too, however, and that is also something that can't be neglected. Striking the right balance is often difficult, but with prayer and an objective application of the truth that "sweet spot" can be found. When it is, that is, when it is clear what you should and should not be doing and when you are doing what you should and not doing what you shouldn't, then guilt is entirely out of place – although guilt is one of the devil's most potent weapons if it is paid attention to in a misplaced way. So I counsel you to figure out what is right and appropriate to do what is needful for your family but also for the life God has given you to lead, then proceed guilt-free in the power of the Spirit to the glory of the Lord.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for the kind reply.

I wrote to you because I wanted you and anyone who reads this to pray for me and my family, but I forgot to say that. I wrote that email too hastily, so it came across more as a list of all the things I'm worried about.

I still don't know what I'm supposed to be doing with my life. I've been saving my money, and I've been looking for a better job. I want to move out and live on my own; but I think that I'm supposed to stay here and help my parents out. I'm worried about my brothers too, but I know that all I can do for them is encourage them and pray for them. There are a lot of things I'm worried about. But in spite of it all, my faith won't be undermined.

Response #12:

No worries. I know for a fact that there are some readers who keep up with the prayer list, and I will continue to keep these concerns in prayer as well.

I'm encouraged by your continued faith under pressure. That is what the Christian life is all about in a nutshell:

(6) 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. (7) But your faith, when proven genuine in the crucible of life, will result in praise, glory and honor for you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1st Peter 1:6-7

Looking forward to hearing of your deliverance in the Lord.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Hello Bob,

How are you and your family doing? Your mom? I’m still keeping you all in prayer.

I just wanted to update you on my dad and ask if you would add this to your list. My dad fell almost two weeks ago and has a possible rib fracture and some bruises but was pretty much ok and very blessed that he didn’t hurt himself worse. He fell again the next morning. Didn’t hurt himself but he can’t lift himself and his legs are weak. He almost fell out of his chair two days later and we had to call the ambulance again because mom and I can’t lift him. They suggested that we take him to the ER and tell the doctor that we can’t physically take care of him anymore and that he can’t come home. This was quite the blow to me but know deep down that it is true. They took him in and we did as instructed. They told us on Tuesday that all three nursing homes were full and they were looking for out of town places. We sent the word out to our faithful prayer friends and Wednesday we got a call that one room opened up at the home closest to us! A miracle they say because that just doesn’t happen. We had already signed up for Medicaid when he was on hospice before, so that was in place but was going to cost my mom extra money a month since they went over the state allowance. A lady at the hospital said we could go through the VA since my dad is a WWII vet but would take up to a week. They sent the paperwork in late Wednesday and I got a call early Thursday afternoon saying he had been approved! Another miracle because they say it never happens that fast. They got him in to the home on Friday. He is also back on hospice since he isn’t doing well, so they will take care of all the other needs he has. God has blessed is in this transition.

I just feel so guilty doing this. He was fine the first day but now he wants to go home and he’s angry. He’s fine once I talk to him but then he’ll forget (he has short-term memory loss) and will start in again. He doesn’t know that he will never go home again. We have told him that he needs to get his strength back and do rehab, which isn’t a lie because he will get that in the rehab center there at the home. I’m just afraid if I tell him he’s not going home that he will give up. I know that would be his decision and I’m not responsible for his decisions or emotions. It’s hard to see him this way and in a place where I never thought he would be. I did the best I could for him.

Please keep my mom and myself in prayer for strength and not to get down or feel guilty. For my dad that his spirits will stay high and strong. He is a believer but not much to show for it, I’m afraid.

Thank you for your prayers and friendship. Your ministry has been such a blessing!

In Him,

Response #13:

I will of course put this on "the list". I do understand that these things are very difficult to handle. We want to do the right thing and that sometimes puts us at odds with the wishes of those who, not so long ago, were the authority over us. The fact that we love them dearly only makes things trickier. My mother is not a particularly angry type, but other than that the situation is somewhat similar. She is often "not there" mentally and forgets now with rapidity and regularity. She is clearly not terribly happy being in this home, nice as it is, being in pain and in her greatly reduced physical state, medicated though she is. She would like to go home, but that home is long gone years ago. Sometimes she remembers that; sometimes not. I'm going up there in early December to see her. Last May when I was up there it was before her set of seizures and she was able to get out with help and basically function. Now things are quite different (she is on hospice too). So I can sympathize, but clearly this is more of a hands on situation for you (my brother and his wife are doing all the heroic work in our case).

There's not much to say about all this besides reminding ourselves to trust the Lord that He is working it all out together for the good regardless of how it seems to us (He does know best even when we don't understand it), and then to do the best we can and the best we know how to do for those we love. These are difficult straits to navigate, but if we are truly acting out of love for the Lord and for our loved ones, trusting Him to help us and them, then it's best not to second-guess ourselves too much when we have decided that option A is better than option B – especially when option B is unworkable or non-existent in reality.

Thanks so much for your good words and especially for your prayers!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Thank you, Bob. I appreciate it very much. This is just the next chapter in this long trial. With God’s help, we’ll get through it. My dad is good at controlling with anger. Correction, I’m good at letting him control the situation with anger. As in other trials, God’s trying to toughen me up. There is something coming (maybe the Tribulation) that I will need all this "training" for. I keep your brother and sister-in-law in prayer because I know how hard it is, even if the situations are not exact. Getting my sister and her husband to help with anything is a miracle in itself.

I had a long prayer time after reading your email and asked for help in not feeling guilty or second guessing my decision. I really do feel that he is exactly where the Lord wants him. It won’t be easy but I guess it wouldn’t be a trial/test if it were easy.

I’ll be keeping you in prayer for your visit with your mother. I’m sure it’s hard on you, not living closer.

In Him,

Response #14:

Thanks so much for your prayers. These are difficult times, but we know that God's plan is perfect even when we can't see it – often especially when we can't see it.

I am very encouraged by all the great things the Lord did for you and your family to get you dad into a good situation so quickly and with (compared to what it might have been) less than average bureaucratic nightmares.

He is working it all out for good, and resting in Him and His peace is a big part of how we all have to get through this world, remembering that He is in control and that it is all about Him, not about us.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hello Bob,

Thank you for the email and for the update. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you and thank you.

To tell you the truth, and I’m sorry to say, I haven’t been doing much reading or studying in the last 6 months or so. My father is still with us. They released him from hospice in March because he had leveled out enough where he didn’t qualify for hospice. He is now in "home health" where a nurse will still come and check on him but it’s only about once a month or if we need her to come. I am still his primary caregiver along with working my regular job. We think he is getting dementia and it is wearing on us. Especially me. He gets angry and combative at times. They won’t give him any medication unless he agrees to it and I don’t even dare bring that subject up with him. It just grates on me. The whole stress of taking care of him and my job—doesn’t seem I can catch a break. I pray and ask for help and I know He’s helping me because it would be a whole lot worse without Him. At times, though, it doesn’t seem like He’s there. I get frustrated and angry, then I get mad at Him. I know I shouldn’t and I know I can’t (!) because He’s all I have. Plus, like you said, we need to be in the Word and study because where we are on the "prophetic clock". I know He’s preparing me for other things and I try to keep that in mind. It’s hard when you’re acting more like the devil instead of His Son.

My family and I appreciate your prayers so much and we continue to pray for you and yours.

In Him,

Response #15:

I'm sorry to hear that you are under this pressure. It's a lot to ask of someone who works full time to also be the full-time care-giver for someone in that situation. You deserve a medal. I know you'll get back to studying more when you can. My going-on 96 year old mother is beginning to lose her bearings, so I can relate. I call her everyday; lately though it's become a chore and I have to be careful not to get negative about it since it's not her fault, of course. Your situation makes me appreciate what my brother and his wife do for mom all the more; she's in an assisted care facility which makes it easier on all of us, but its running through what's left of her money pretty quickly.

I've taken the liberty to put this concern on the Ichthys' prayer list, and promise to keep you and your family in my prayers.

Hang in there, my friend! Doing what's godly is usually not the easiest road to take.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hello Bob,

Thank you for adding this to the prayer list. I forgot to ask if you would do that for us.

I will keep your brother and his wife in prayer for their caregiving situation. It’s tough and I think more so because it’s family. It’s hard to see my dad (and mom) go down. He’ll be 91 in September and she turned 85 in July. I’m a late in life child so at least I’m young enough to be able to take care of them physically at this point. We’re trying to keep him out of assisted living as long as we can also because of the money issue that you mentioned. If he goes into assisted living, we can stay in the house and I guess she’ll be able to stay until she’s gone or goes into an assisted living place but then the State would take the house. God will provide in any situation we find ourselves in, but I’d like to have one less thing for them to have to worry about. I also try to keep from getting negative with him because I know he can’t help it. I try to put myself in his place. Sometimes, though, it’s just too much to take. I know He is helping me and getting me through all of this. Mostly dragging me, I think, but still getting me through.

Thank you for your kindness and prayers. They have always meant so much.

Praising Him through the good and bad,

Response #16:

Thanks for all your kind words and also for your prayers. It's comforting to be reminded that whatever problem or trial we might have, "the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world" (1Pet.5:9 KJV).

Question #17:

Hello Bob,

I am in need of more prayer. Last Sunday I had an incident with my dad involving a gun. His care team believes he is getting dementia yet they never officially tested him. He already has anger issues and you never know what will set him off. I am having to be the one who will have to take his guns away since I can't get any help from other care team services. He's very angry at my mom because we had to put the house and vehicle in her name because of the state services he's on. She's the reason he was going to "end it all" last Sunday. He has an appointment Tuesday for his dementia test and his doctor is going to talk to him about the guns. I want him to stay at the house but he will need to give me the guns, otherwise we will have to move him to a facility. I feel he will be angry either way. It's very hard on me because I want to do right by him and keep him home but I also have to keep my mom and myself safe along with anyone else who may come into our home.

I know He is with me and all will work out for the best.

In Him,

Response #17:

I am and will continue to be in prayer for you and your family and situation.

A little advice. If there has already been "an incident", then absolutely it's time for the guns to go, regardless of resentment/anger etc. Some things are beyond negotiation or weighing or second-guessing – this is one of them.

I admire your tenacious grip on the faithfulness of the Lord!

Keep fighting the good fight, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Hi Bob,

I just wanted to let you know how things went today. The Lord really blessed me today and my family. I was able to lock up all the guns this morning when my dad was out of the house. It was a miracle because he carries one on him at all times. I went to search for the others and found that he had left that particular gun at the house instead of taking it with him. This was the gun that was keeping me from locking things up sooner. Also, his doctor’s appointment went well. He doesn’t have dementia but does have high-moderate short term memory loss. He is on oxygen for his COPD but doesn’t use it as much as he should and the doctor thinks that plays a big part in his memory loss. He also gave him medicine for his anger episodes. He talked to him about the gun issue and at first dad wasn’t going to budge but between the two of us (and God) his heart was moved and he agreed to let me lock them up. So for now things have quieted down. He is happy but that’s not to say that things won’t change in an instant. With his short term memory loss he might forget that he agreed to give up the guns but at least he won’t be shooting anyone. For that I am so grateful! Thank God for the small victories that keep us motivated to stay in the battle.

Thank you also for your kind words. I feel so inadequate at times in my walk. It’s hard to see past the struggles and easy to forget that "the world" is watching us. I always hope and pray that I am a good witness and bring Him glory.

Thanks again my friend!

In Him,

Response #18:

Hello ,

I'm very glad to hear this! In addition to all your other good witnessing, let me also commend you for relying of God to help you solve this problem. Many times Christians either want to let God do it all or else do it all themselves. Your reliance on Him and on prayer, while you also did everything reasonable in your own power, strikes me as precisely the sort of biblical balance we all ought to exercise at all times.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Dear Bob,

I had an interesting and difficult conversation with my daughter this morning. She asked me how to introduce children (6 and 7 years old) to the Bible and Christian beliefs and behavior. I wasn't sure how to answer her. I started with Proverbs 22:6 (Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.) My thinking was that they learn from doing and later move on to the Bible.

After that, she asked what material she could use that was appropriate for their age. I suggested starting with Matthew and the nativity, but after that, I was at a loss. I told her I would ask you.

As background, my wife was raised Catholic and I was raised Methodist. We were both disappointed in the nonsense coming from both and consequently gave up on corporate churches. We tried to apply Proverbs 22:6 as best we could and, I believe, succeeded reasonably well. My daughter also married a man raised Catholic who, while not a church-goer, retains the Catholic indoctrination. My daughter was raised with no church affiliation. She is getting pressure from

my son-in-law's side of the family to have the children confirmed in the Catholic church. She's resisting that but is sensitive to the need to train the kids in the Bible and Christian precepts.

What would you suggest she do? What parts of the Bible do you feel would be appropriate and is there any extra-Biblical material you feel would be helpful? Your guidance would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Response #19:

Good to hear from you, my friend. One thing I would be eager to avoid is any indoctrination of anyone I loved in Roman Catholicism. It's very difficult for most people who have had that experience ever to completely recover, and when they do it takes years and leaves scars.

One of my best early memories of the power of scripture is my dad taking precious time one Sunday morning (he was a Presbyterian minister) to tell my brother and I the story of Daniel. I must have been about the same age as mentioned here, and I remember that it really spoke to me. I think we will all be surprised in eternity to find out just how receptive and attuned to critical issues of truth all human beings are from a very early age.

So although I certainly understand that some materials are difficult for the very young, I think the Bible is always the place to start (I read scripture together with my stepson when he was young).

I don't recommend starting with Ichthys – even many adults have real problems getting into the materials posted here, or so I am told! What I can strongly recommend are Pastor-teacher Curtis Omo's "Bible Academy" podcasts. He has a number of series that designed specifically for children. See the link (n.b., the children's studies are mostly marked with a capital "CS"):

Bible Academy Online website

And here are a few links where this subject you ask about is treated at Ichthys:

Train up a child in the way he should go: Christian child-rearing.

More on Christian child-rearing

Being a good Christian dad

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

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Bob,

[From Berit Kjos's book Brave New Schools]
Houghton-Mifflin's America Will Be tells students that "Puritan parents might beat their children for laziness or disrespect or for running and jumping on the Sabbath. They believed that a child is 'better whipped than damned' by the devil."[35] What does this imbalanced lesson teach children about Christian parents? The teacher's Guide for The Original Land, prompts teachers to emphasize that the Indians "see the deity as part of themselves, warm and approachable." In contrast, it paints a cold, harsh picture of God based on the sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by the 18th century evangelist Jonathan Edwards: "God's wrath is burning like fire, and he looks upon humans as 'worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire...'"[36] Since teachers must "teach to the test," they are told what students must learn. What do these questions and instructions from the teachers' guide tell you about the planned result of this lesson? "Does the student explain that God is wrathful and will severely punish those who disobey with eternal damnation?" "Does the student point out that Edwards feels that it is merely God's pleasure, a whim, or his mercy, that keeps sinners from immediate destruction?" "Make sure the students understand that they are expected to quote from the sermon to support their points. You might want to preface the assignment with a discussion of the Old Testament God and how this deity differs from the New Testament God."[37]

Do you wonder, as I do, how most non-Christian teachers might follow the last suggestion? In a group discussion, which deity – the Indian or the Judeo-Christian--do you think students would agree to choose?

Keep in mind that Edward's message was never intended for today's elementary age children. Nor can it be understood by non-Christian adults who have never experienced God's mercy.[38] It seems that the only logical reason for contrasting Edward's description of God with the idealized images of pagan gods would be to "challenge the students' fixed beliefs"--as Professor Benjamin Bloom proposed decades ago. Since few children know enough about God's love to counter the distortions, the educational outcome seems clear: the biblical God will lose the popularity contest.

It is rather surprising and disturbing to read someone accurately describe how God was taught to me when I was still in the K12 school system. The Christian God is described as capricious, incomprehensible, and Stalinesque in his behavior, with his omniscience functioning as the surveillance system of an Orwellian Kingdom of Heaven, and the Lake of Fire as the gulag. On the other hand, the gods of animistic religions are portrayed as compassionate, affirming of the infinite worth of human beings, and predisposed to a good disposition to humanity at large. Of course, they don't actually preach that about God, but merely selectively present "evidence," such as the Edwards sermon, and have the kids infer the preconceived conclusion that is embedded in the curriculum materials. More specifically, this kind of theory of God appears to be the parti pris which drives the curriculum.

Ironically, for as much as the Old Testament God is portrayed as "bad" and the New Testament God is portrayed as "good," it is actually the New Testament that spends the most time of the two teaching about eternal damnation, with very little mentioned in either the Torah, Psalms, or Prophets about heaven or hell (but a lot mentioned about a restored paradise on Earth). Neither is the fact that the New Testament is written in a rather academic, didactic style contrasted with the gentle, inviting, and outright mirthful poetry of the prophets or psalms. If kids were taught how to properly read the Old Testament, they would conclude that it is the greatest collection of poetry and literature in existence.

In Jesus Christ (who is predisposed to save humanity, not to condemn it).

Response #20:

And yet, you have come to the truth in a marvelous way in spite of that handicap. On the one hand I too decry any misrepresentation of the truth. On the other hand, people are a lot more genuinely independent in their thinking when it comes to their basic orientation to the world and life vis-à-vis God than is generally understood. They may easily be propagandized into hating this or that other group, but they are not as easily swayed towards accepting a good and righteous God if they don't want to admit who and what He is (out of an essentially selfish bent of will), nor towards rejecting Him (if they are predisposed to seek Him out and throw themselves on His mercy). And it is certain that He knows what is going on in the lives and hearts of all children, right down their most essential thoughts. So when it comes to the really important choices, lack of information (or provision of plenty of lies) will never lead to condemnation of those who wish to be saved – any more than very good teaching of the truth from a very young age will lead those who in their heart of hearts want nothing to do with God to be saved.

So we fight for the truth at all times; but we recognize that God is sovereign and that He is working it all out together for the good of everyone who loves Him – or who is willing to do so.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

Hardcore fundamentalists mock and call people who think that beating your child is wrong godless fools, because Proverbs says that children need to be beaten with a rod. Can you please give me ammunition against this patently insane interpretation?

Sincerely,

Response #21:

There have been some prominent cases in the news over the past few years where parents abused their children using the Bible as their excuse. Whether or not they were "hardcore fundamentalists" (whatever that means), I don't remember enough to say.

The rod and rebuke give wisdom,
But a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
Proverbs 29:15 NKJV

The Bible says what the Bible says, and Proverbs does commend disciplining one's children. There may be parents out there who can do a good job with this absent any "spanking" whatsoever. That may depend as much on the particular child as the methodology of the parents, however. The point in scripture is that discipline is good and necessary (however it is accomplished), whereas if we allow our children to do whatever they please whenever they please with no consequences which is the only alternative (as in the second half of the verse quoted above), we are doing them no favors: the world they eventually venture forth into will exact a greater toll on the undisciplined and otherwise unprepared to enter it. These truths do not justify what is clearly sinful behavior in committing child abuse.

People are always using the Bible to justify extreme behavior that is to their liking. I am sympathetic to wanting to head this off. But it is a trap to pretend or teach that scripture doesn't say what it clearly does say in the interest of one cause or another. The consequences of that approach are just as bad as any sort of abuse the abuser is using scripture to justify – and after all we are not actually going to change abuser's behavior by our misuse of scripture. The person is already misusing the true teaching of scripture; substituting a false one, regardless of motive, is clearly not going to be effective. This is the sort of thing the anti-abortionist crusade has gotten itself into. People who justify abortion are not really going to be convinced not to engage in the practice because we tell them they are committing murder "because life begins in the womb". All we are doing by distorting scripture is harming ourselves and those who listen to us. Those whose behavior we abhor already knew they were doing wrong and are not going to change just because we use this self-damaging tactic against them.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Bob,

I suppose the problem is that parents who use corporal punishment usually produce children who are less disciplined (in the sense of having worse behavioral inhibition) than parents who do not. I can guarantee you that if you were to go to a prison and interview every person in there for battery, assault, or murder, you'll find that the majority of them were corporally punished. Now, the Book of Proverbs also states that fools should be beaten with a rod as well. Why graduates of Bob Jones University seem to take these verses figuratively while demanding parents to beat their children is a mystery to me.

The problem isn't only that people use the Bible to justify extreme behavior that is to their liking. They use the Bible to tell people who do not engage in their extreme behavior to join them or they'll accuse you of rebelling against Jesus Christ. I cannot take such accusations sitting down.

Every conservative Christian I've met says that the Bible says that corporal punishment is a necessity to produce good children.

However, there is one problem with that interpretation: it doesn't correspond to reality. In fact, corporal punishment when applied to children regularly produces adults who are more likely to be undisciplined, impulsive, quick to violence, and angry. In other words, it produces what the Bible calls "fools."

Not only that, but conservative Christians go on to make the accusation that psychological and neurodevelopmental research are founded on the assumption that "Children are basically good." This is a bald-face lie, and every conservative Christian that has made this statement should be ashamed of himself. Even if there have been some schools of thought that suggest that humans are basically good (Maslow), this is far from being an uncontroversial assumption, and in fact, cognitive-behavioral therapy assumes the exact opposite: that without constant supervision from social forces or good peers, the human mind regularly falls into destructive and illogical thought patterns.

Response #22:

I think by now you have a pretty good idea about my attitude towards people who want to judge another person's behavior then criticize and "correct" it. This is rarely a legitimate thing to do, but I do grant you that it is all too common in legalistic Christianity. Legalism is a big problem in the church-visible today, and not just in "fundamentalist" circles. If you have children, Proverbs gives you biblical advice on how best to rear them (here are some links on that: "Train up a child in the way he should go", "How will my children turn out?" and "Influencing Children").

Proverbs is the Bible and so the advice is good. All good advice can be misapplied. Misunderstanding or willfully perverting good advice and then trying to foist that on other people is despicable (not biblical). I was spanked as a child (and it was necessary), but I never ever even came close to be abused – the two things do not necessarily overlap and Proverbs assumes those who head its advice understand that too.

As to cases, scripture is very clear that we all have the image of God, and that, in the end, we make our decisions on everything important. So sometimes a person with a bad upbringing will turn out good – if that is the person's choice; whereas a person with a good upbringing may turn out bad – as a matter of choice. There is plenty of anecdotal information to confirm that the above is true (since these determinations are largely subjective there is no statistical way to confirm or refute the principle). But we know what the truth is from scripture. Good upbringing, which includes appropriate discipline (however that is dispensed as long as it is done with love rather than in abuse), helps a good person along his/her way. But no amount of good upbringing will dissuade someone who is bent on evil from evil. Sociologists may debate "nurture vs. nature"; believers understand that it's all about free will in the end.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Bob,

I was reading this article on Desiring God and I cannot help but feel as if the church places a very heavy burden on women who are infertile. The truth is, there is nothing to be ashamed of if you or a woman you love is suffering from infertility. A woman who has children is not more valuable than a woman who doesn't, and a woman who doesn't is not less valuable than a woman who does.

This is doubly disturbing because I know from history how Hitler and Mussolini made all women in Germany and Italy feel as if the only source of value they have is from their ability to make babies. It is an injustice, and if I were to email Piper about it I feel like I would face staunch resistance.

Sincerely,

Response #23:

I've never ever seen or heard of any group (even ones with whom I have serious issues and violent disagreements) giving anyone a hard time for not having kids, regardless of the reason, but especially if it is "no fault of their own". After all, Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel were all infertile . . . for a long time (as was Elizabeth, John the baptist's mother).

Isn't this a non-problem? The article you link seems to be supportive of those who are suffering from infertility, not denigrating.

In Jesus our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Are baby dedication biblical?

Response #24:

No, baby dedications are not biblical as in there is nothing in the Bible to suggest them as valid for our time. The origin seems to be a combination of things: first, a desire to "do something" for the newborn of a member family in a local church which church does not believe in infant baptism (I don't believe in infant water-baptism nor water-baptism at all for our age, John's mission having been completed with the completion of Christ's and certainly by the time of the dying out of the generation who saw John; however, neither do I believe in baby dedication); second, under the Mosaic Law a newborn male had to be presented before the Lord:

Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD"), and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
Luke 2:22-24 NKJV

The Law has now been fulfilled, but since the early days of the Roman church's suzerainty, that church (and others following its example) have been using portions of the Law or adapting them to their own use. So this is just another pointless ritual – and some people seem to love pointless rituals (e.g., it's been a long time since I've been to a church service around Christmas time when they didn't take up a lot of time lighting candles as if there was something to that). In fact, when the genuine seeking of the Lord and His truth is abandoned, something always takes its place, and the two most common substitutes we see today in the Laodicean church-visible are an ever increasing degree of ritual of all kinds, and an ever increasing degree of emotionalism of all kinds. And by the way, the two are not mutually exclusive; it's just that traditionalist denominations tend to lean more to the former while "new" and particularly "charismatic" groups tend to lean to the latter.

Question #25:

Good day Sir

Trust you are well. I have been reading Genesis.. The story of Adam and Eve. I have a few questions..

1: Was Adam walking with God the Father. Or is it The Son? The reason is that I have read from another book that man lost his communion directly to God in the garden of Eden, since then he needs a mediator.

2. Why was Eve created? I read that Eve was like a structure or a purpose to Adam. In what way was she to be a helper?

3.The rib protects the delicate parts of the human being. In what way was Eve expected to protect the delicate parts of Adam? And if that is the case what are those parts?

And when Paul said that the mystery of marriage, Christ and the Church. What was he referring to? Or in what way are they similar?

Kind regards

Thank you so much

Response #25:

Good to hear from you again my friend. Most of these questions are answered at the link: Bible Basics 3A: Anthropology (q.v.), but I will give some short answers here (along with another link or two).

1) It is true that our Lord's mediation is necessary on account of the need to redeem us from sin – and only someone who is both God and man could do that – but it is also true that the Son has always been the Son, and that everything that is happening in the plan of God has been ordained from the beginning; that is to say, it's not an accident or a reaction to what "happens" here on earth. So it was always intended for our Lord to the be visible face of God to man – and the One for whom mankind has been made as His Bride and her friends (in terms of the elect who believe, that is). Here's a link on that: Jesus Christ in the Old Testament (Christophany: Gen.3:8).

2) God says when He creates Eve, "It is not good for the man to be alone" (Gen.2:18), and that is the reason He designs a helper for Adam in the next part of the verse. So it is companionship which is the need, and it is woman who fulfills that need for man, and man for woman. On "helper" see the link: "The meaning of 'helpmeet' "

3) Scripture does say that Eve was made from one of Adam's ribs, but I don't find the rest of this in scripture and wouldn't draw those conclusions. The fact that she came from him makes the connection between husband and wife all that more intimate (in BB 3A see "The creation of Eve").

4) Just as the human family is designed by God to teach us about the authority and love of the perfect Father towards those who belong to Him, so the institution of marriage is designed by God to teach the perfect love and sacrifice of Christ towards His Bride – and also what our response to Him should be in the analogy. For more, please see the links:

The Bride

The Bridegroom

Part of Christ's Bride

The Wedding Supper of the Lamb

Do feel free to write me back about any of the above, my friend!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hey Bob-

I'm checking to make sure you are OK. I wrote you the other day... Maybe I'm spoiled...Usually I hear from you in a day or so.

I pray you're well. You've been in my thoughts quite a bit lately. I pray this note finds you well and safe in our Lord's loving care & protection!

Also I would like your fine interpretation of this passage (1Cor.7:1-12)?

Response #26:

Saturday is my day for posting a new weekly email response topic, and it takes up all my free time for the ministry on that day. So anything that comes in after I've stopped work on Friday is often not gotten to until sometime on Sunday or later (apologies). Thanks for your concern!

On the question, I'm not exactly sure what it is you are asking. The passage in any English translation is pretty straightforward. I do understand that there are all manner of issues with it, and I have had a lot of questions about a lot of aspects of these verses over the years (a look a the Ichthys subject page under Divorce and Remarriage will give lots of links). Verse twelve, for example, really is of a piece with verses thirteen and fourteen. That passage addresses a problem at the time (which continues into the modern era) of persons who are saved after marriage. Should they stay married if the spouse refuses to become a believer too? Paul says 'yes' in the Spirit – provided that the spouse is "OK" with the other partner being a Christian. As to the other verses, in the absence of a specific question (and I can assure you that this topic brings up countless such), I can give you my essential response on all marriage, divorce, remarriage questions:

Here is the essence of the advice scripture gives as I have been able to distill it in my study of this issue: Are you single? Better not to seek a spouse. But given the power of temptation, better to marry than to fall into sin. Are you married? Do seek the dissolution of your marriage. But, life being what it is, divorce does happen. Are you divorced? Better not to seek a new spouse. But sin does not abate because of divorce, and remarriage does happen. Have you remarried? Do not seek dissolution of your new marriage. Etc.

I am happy to address any particular question or variation on the above you may have.

Praying for you and your family daily.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:

Is this Biblical? Almost sounds convincing...

"It is good for a man not to (marry) have sexual relations with a woman." [2] But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband." In that sentence it says, "But since sexual immorality is occurring..." In the New King James Version it says, "because of sexual immorality..." The different versions lead to "because this is happening...." What happens when sexual immorality isn't happening? Does the Bible say that we shouldn't get married? That marriage is not good? No it doesn't. In 1 Corinthians 7, it talks about husbands pleasing your wives and vise versa, "because of sexual immorality...." In order to get the people back on track because they were playing the harlot, they were asked to please each other sexually and not refrain from one another…..that their bodies were not their own. Because there were a lot of broken couples, they were seeking sexual pleasures from people that were not their own spouse. Because they had the problem of fire in the loins they were told not to reframe from having sex and to solidify it, they were told that your bodies were not your own, but belong to their spouse…..This was a prescription for people who had a LUST FOR SEX PROBLEM, so their broken marriages may be healed and then they are to move upward to a higher level in Christ Jesus; Galatians 5:16 "walk in the spirit and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh…." It was not intended to be a mandate for the Body of Christ to live by. What does the Bible say to the couple that is not looking to please the lusts of the flesh, but looking to have a marriage pure before God? When God made Eve from the rib of Adam, He said "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." He did not say that they were together to only multiply (have babies) and He did not say that they were together to satisfy each other’s lusts of the flesh. The Bible says (New King James Version) 1 John 2:15-17 "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." Let's first address the pleasures of the flesh (meaning SEX) for a minute. I pray we are all adults. I use to be a very sexually active person and at no time was my flesh or anyone I ever encountered was satisfied. It was delighted for a time and then we would move to CREATIVITY until that ran its course and again, we always found our way back to wandering eyes and hidden fantasies about being with other people. The God that I serve is not interested in satisfying the lusts of our flesh. Because of His Grace and Mercy He allows us to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh from time to time with boundaries, but then we take that too far.... It is just like my children. I know that white sugar is not good for their body, but from time to time we give it to them, let them indulge in it. Why? Because we know that their flesh is craving it, because they got exposed to it through someone giving it to them and now their flesh wants more. We allow them to indulge in something that is not necessarily good for them (within boundaries) in order to win them over so they will not fight as hard in another battle that could cause them more harm than the candy. Now, they know us to be reasonable and flexible parents (with boundaries) and understand where they are at that present time. At least we strive to be that for them. That is the message that verse is trying to convey.... Are we suppose to be striving to live by the Spirit or by our flesh? Let’s take another scripture reference that a lot of people try to emulate their relationship with, "The Song of Solomon." Now, I am not saying that it isn’t beautiful, but it is lustful. When we read scripture, we are suppose to understand the story too, not just quote the scripture. Now, Solomon was a man that continually indulge in the lust of his flesh concerning women. That was is imperfection. We all have them. He also died early because of the desires of his flesh. Read the book… What then, is that how God wants us to live our lives? No. Then why do we quote the lusty message those scriptures in the Song of Solomon were saying? Why did God put them in the Bible in the first place. Because the Bible is our manual….It tells us how to live by showing the do’s and don’ts. Because we were trained to think that the Song of Solomon is so beautiful, we didn’t take the time to think how it benefited Solomon! Let’s also look at his father David, also another man known to give into the lusts of his flesh concerning women….look what happened in his household…..his daughter was violently raped by one of his sons, then another son killed another son and so on… As I am reading the Bible all over again, I have not found one verse that God intended our bodies to be used as a pleasure tool for our spouses. Except with the exception of "due to sexual immorality…" Meaning, if you can not control yourself….meaning if you have not yet died to your flesh….meaning you have not yet picked up cross to follow him…..then, He in all his Grace and Mercy is allowing you to indulge in that area, with boundaries. My question is, "are you HOT OR COLD in the body of Christ?" I recently had this same conversation, because after many years of marriage, sex just wasn't what it use to be and we starting seeking answers to this. Obviously God made sex and it was suppose to be good! Not sometimes, but at all times if we are keeping our hearts and minds on Him." The answer is: The God kind of sex is called "intimacy." What we call Sex is the lust of the flesh. The God kind of "intimacy" involves not pleasing one another in our flesh, but coming together as one flesh. It is suppose to symbolize the relationship between Christ and the Church. Where the Church is the body of Christ and that Christ loves the Church so much that He sacrificed himself for the Church. Now try putting on worshipful music and lay with your spouse and tell God that you both are here as one flesh and you are laying down your desires and pleasures before His Throne and you both are willing to sacrifice yourselves to do His will and purpose for your lives. Watch and see how your lives change! Then have sex to please your sexual desire and see how your spirit feels. I will guarantee that the only thing that will feel good is your flesh and God isn’t in the flesh business! People, get it and receive it.....we are not here on this earth for our pleasure and comfortability...but we are here to do what God has purposed and determined for our lives..... Leave the romance and Hollywood bed scenes where it belongs, in the world and take up your cross and follow Him. There are much more pleasurable things to do then to please your flesh. And that is the problem with trying to please the flesh…..when you give it an arm, it wants a leg and so on. Not to mention, it continues to block the pleasures that God has for you that deal with your mind, body and spirit…..not just that self seeking flesh. It is not our spouse’s responsibility to make us happy or to please us....that's why Paul said that if you can restrain from getting married do so. He said that because most people, even today do not have a true desire to serve God, but their desire is to serve themselves. We are married to be a companion for one another, as God said that He made a companion (a help mate) for Adam. That means we are married to support one another through our personal journey’s that God has purposed for our lives. Why is there a high rate of divorce? Simply, we have the misconception that we are together to PLEASE one another, instead of to SUPPORT one another. The question is, are you prepared to serve the Lord and sacrifice yourself to do so....or are you going to look to satisfy the pleasures of your flesh? Unless the Holy Spirit is leading you to separate from your spouse, stay with them and do as the Bible says, "love them as Christ loved the church and gave His life for them...."

Response #27:

The version quoted for 1st Corinthians 7:2 in this piece you have found is the NIV. While generally a very readable translation (1984NIV being far superior to the new "no name" one, however; see the link), this particular rendering is potentially misleading – and actually so in the case of the person who penned this piece. There is no "is occurring" in the Greek. The Greek merely says "because of sexual immoralities", better rendering in English "because sexual immorality does happen". In other words, the entire reason for this phrase is (one would think obviously) to recommend marriage because otherwise many Christians (indeed, most of us) would be likely to fall into sexual immorality. You don't have to look any farther than the internet or the TV set to see that this is certainly just as true today. The conclusion that can be drawn from Paul's statement is that marriage relieves the average Christian of the pressure to commit sexual immorality by providing a godly channel for all such desires. What that means in turn is not abstinence in marriage but the exact opposite. That is why Paul says in the very next verse and following verses:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
1st Corinthians 7:3-5 NIV

So one doesn't need to engage in a long consideration of all this fellow has written here. All that is needed – for those few who don't otherwise understand the obvious sense of verse two – is just to continue reading for a few verses more. It is permissible for married couples to abstain, but only if they both mutually agree, and only for a short period of time to fulfill some spiritual priority.

The point of view advanced in this blog piece is a very dangerous one because if followed it will lead to one party or the other in a marriage depriving the other party. No good will come of that, and the rest of the passage quoted above demonstrates that this is contrary to the scripture and the will of God. Christians are not supposed to be preoccupied with sex, but the only way to head that off for the vast majority of us while still in these bodies is through a normal, godly marital relationship (not through self-righteously depriving our marriage partner). For those who do not enjoy the blessing of marriage, an extra measure of self-discipline and spiritual alertness has to be consistently deployed to avoid "sexual immoralities" because "they do happen" in this world, and believers are especially in danger because we are special targets of the evil one – he knows very well that most of us are vulnerable on this score to one degree or another (particularly if not married).

We live on the cusp of the Tribulation. In my studies of how antichrist will enlist such a large following in his religion / political movement it seems clear from certain scriptures that sexuality will play an important role (see the link). The beast will appeal to everyone's particular sin-nature proclivities, so that there will be options for those who want to indulge the flesh and also for those who want to deny it. As to the latter, for which heresy this person in this piece is helping to prepare the ground, we have it directly from scripture:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.
1st Timothy 4:1-3

Abstaining from sexual activity within marriage amounts, theologically speaking, essentially to the same thing.

The irony in all this is that asceticism of any type does not actually work – being not from God and not of the Spirit. In going down this road, believers will only alienate themselves from the grace of God by attempting to establish a sort of monk-ish and legalistic righteousness by works (Gal.5:4), and in the end will also fail in their attempt:

Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules; "Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!" These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
Colossians 2:20-23

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Hi Bob,

What is "the present crisis" mentioned by Paul in I Corinthians 7:26?

Sincerely,

Response #28:

Rather than some particular and specific yet unnamed "event crisis" (the Greek word here is anangke – necessity / pressure / stress), Paul is talking in more general terms about the pressure of being a Christian in this intensified phase of the plan of God, the calling out of the Church worldwide, wherein the evil one is violently opposing all who believe. Given that we are not here to enjoy the world but are left here to serve the Lord, getting involved in anything of the world anymore than is necessary is not recommended (Paul's point); it goes without saying that there are exceptions (such as "it is better to marry than to burn").

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #29:

Hi Bob,

Your assumption that the crisis must be unnamed is mistaken. In fact, given the likely timeline between the events transpiring in Acts and the time that Paul wrote I Corinthians, we actually have a very good candidate for what the crisis must have been:

"One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.)" (Acts 11:28)

So if I Corinthians was written during the reign of Claudius, then it is highly likely that the marriage passage is not a universal command against marriage, but rather a specific instruction to not get involved in marriage during the famine predicted by Agabus.

Sincerely,

Response #29:

It's an ingenious suggestion, but Paul's comment here is directed specifically to men in their deciding whether or not to marry women to whom they were pledged by their parents before they came of age (if we had to do with a famine, and if that were a reason to refrain from marriage, then the rationale would hold good for all the other situations treated in the chapter). I stick by my interpretation for the following reasons.

1) The Greek word here is, as explained before, anangke. The English word "crisis" is in fact a word borrowed directly from Greek: krisis. This latter word (not present in our verse) can mean "crisis" as in "decisive point in time". But I don't believe that anangke can mean that (some parallel use would have to be adduced, and I have not seen one). I don't think that the idea of a political or economic "crisis" would even come to mind without this particular English translation (actually, mis-translation), so that loading too much onto a translator's educated guess (and a bad one at that) would be a mistake.

2) The use of the perfect participle of enistemi here is a Pauline idiom, and it always has a sense somewhat different than translators (who are not familiar with this idiom) usually understand. For example, Paul uses this same tense of the participle in 2nd Thessalonians 2:2 to describe something that is not just "present" but personally palpable – in other words the metaphor of "surrounding" (which is what the Greek compound usually means in a literal sense) is not dead for Paul, whereas in English "present" is almost a throw-away word in these contexts (other examples: Gal.1:4; 2Tim.3:1; Heb.9:9). So while "present" is not wrong, it misses the point by losing the force of the word and therefore the entire reason for its use – which is more to bring up the reality of the "whatever" to the reader's mind than it is to anchor something temporally (that usage is seen to a degree in Rom.3:8 and 1Cor.3:22, but even here the grittiness of the Greek word makes "present" a limp translation). The point of all this is to say that "present necessity" is much more personal than general, which means that both words used by Paul indicate one's own individual situation more than some "general crisis" which is plaguing the Roman world as a whole.

3) This is all born out by the context as well. Paul's explanation of this guidance about marrying (or not marrying) a woman to whom one was pledged in youth by one's parents comes in verse 29: "What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not" (NIV). In other words, it is the situation of the individual believer in this last age before Christ's return, a return that was theologically imminent then as now, that provides the intensification and the recommended difference in behavior. Perhaps before the cross a brother might view these things as if we were in the world to make the best of it. But as things stand now, "the time is short", and we ought to be living our lives in the light of eternity, avoiding everything that pulls us away from a "pure and sincere devotion to Christ" (2Cor.11:3), and also thereby avoiding the tribulation and trouble that comes to us whenever we get too involved in the world's affairs (1Cor.7:28). This is in fact the theme of the entire chapter which links together all that Paul has to say about marriage: if we put Christ first, we will stay away from complicating relationships, but if we must become entangled (to avoid sexual sin), then there is a proper manner in which to do so.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #30:

Hi Bob,

I hope you and yours had a restful and pleasant Thanksgiving. It's still a little bit crazy here (primarily because of term paper rewrites), but the storm will all blow over in a few days. Prayers appreciated, as always.

Over the last few days I've been struggling to reconcile Paul's presentation of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 with other passages in scripture.

Genesis 2:18 says God created woman for man as a complement: "Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." In this we see that God's decision to create woman was something more than a concession to man's weakness; Eve was created before the fall.

Furthermore, the marriage relationship is presented throughout scripture as a vehicle to teach us about God: the nature of the combined relationship teaches about the unity of God (Genesis 2:24), the nature of the woman's role teaches us about the Church's place in submission to Christ (Ephesians 5:22ff.), and the nature of the man's role teaches us about Christ's sacrificial love for the Church (Ephesians 5:25ff.). All of these things point to a relationship that God instituted as a fundamental good, a part of human existence that leads us to a deeper understanding of Him.

Other passages in scripture speak of wives in positive terms: Proverbs 12:4, Proverbs 18:22, Proverbs 31; also cf. Priscilla and Aquila. Wives can help make a man's ministry more effective (or possible, for that matter): off the top of my head, I can't think of very many men who have helped me in my Christian life who didn't have a faithful wife by their side, supporting them every step of the way.

There are circumstances in scripture where negative consequences came from marriages (Jacob and Rachel/Leah, Solomon and Bathsheba, Moses and Zipporah), but in each of these circumstances, I do not believe marriage itself is implicated as the cause of the problems, but rather some other failing. (Polygamy, however, is not portrayed favorably). On the whole, scripture seems to paint (godly) wives as gifts from God, and marriage as a source of meaningful happiness and joy in a world otherwise devoid of it (cf. Ecclesiastes 9:9).

Yet Paul does not speak of marriage in these terms in 1 Corinthians 7. Paul characterizes marriage as negative in three separate ways:

1) Verses 1-9 speak of marriage (and sex within the bounds of marriage) as a concession to the sexual impurity of man.

2) Verse 28 says that "those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this."

3) Verses 32-35 describe marriage as a distraction from affairs of the Lord -- as net negative regarding the Christian production of both parties involved.

Now, I can see the validity in all three of these observations: it would be better if we were not mastered by our sexual desires; it would be better if problems introduced by marriage not working as intended (e.g., fights) were avoided; it would be better if people were not distracted by their marriages to the detriment of their Christian walk. But all of these presuppose negative motivations/outcomes: that sex in marriage is to fulfill base desires rather than to express love and consummate the relationship God instituted; that marriage will necessary cause more problems than it solves (e.g., married people inherently have greater emotional stability than those who are alone, cf. Ecclesiastes 4:9); that marriage will act more as a distraction than a spiritual focusing lens in two individuals' Christian walks (cf. Proverbs 27:17).

So basically, my question is, what am I missing? Are Paul's comments supposed to be understood in the context of a marriage to the "wrong person" not working out as God intends marriage to work out, or are they apropos to all marriages under all circumstances? His claim in verse 38 that the single state is superior to the married state is made without any hint of qualification, but it doesn't seem right to me to view marriage some sort of necessary evil that we humans engage in due to our fallen state.

In Him,

Response #30:

I hope you are surviving the final "crush". I think things are more difficult now than when I was doing my two undergrad degrees because "writing papers" has gotten completely out of control in academia nowadays. We had to write papers too, of course, but there is this new idea afoot that somehow, by writing more, students will learn more; when in fact by having so many papers to do they are actually reading less – which makes their writing worse than if they had been reading some good material. But I digress.

On the issue of marriage, I'm happy to explore this subject with you. Let me observe first that with only apparent exceptions, all of the potentially positive examples you adduce come from the Old Testament (or personal observation); that is important because the Church Age is one of intensification, as Paul points out in this chapter, and how much more so as we rapidly approach the end (1Cor.7:29-31). Also, I don't find anything in Paul's comments which are at all inconsistent with what the Bible actually says elsewhere, taken as a whole, even looking back to the OT. As you correctly notice, marriage is something designed for man and woman in paradise – and this is no garden of Eden. Also, I can't think of a single passage of scripture which sings the praises of sexual activity even within a godly marriage – or even of romantic love (Song of Solomon is a special case which allegories Christ and the Church as Husband and wife). And there are a number of passages which directly deal with problematic marriages. So lets take the most notable and potentially most at-odds-with-Paul passage head on:

Whoever obtains a wife and does so for good will receive the Lord's favor.
Proverbs 18:22

The translation is my own – necessary to provide since I think most versions miss the point. "Finds a wife" is a very problematic translation here for matsah since women are not in hiding or particularly hard to find; "find" is really nonesensical, when you think about it. In fact, the verb here has its commonly occurring sense of "going out and getting". But just "going out and getting" a wife is not what produces God's favor but doing so "in a good way" – which I take to mean in the right way and from the right motivations. That is what is godly (not marriage per se). So the qualification here – which is generally completely overlooked – is absolutely critical to understanding what is meant. A person who gets married to avoid sexual sin (good motivation) and who does so in a proper way (in our cultural context not rushing into something but acting with prudence in the timing and in the choice) will find that doing things God's way and from motives that honor Him will result in His favor. This is a far cry from promising happiness in marriage or bliss in sexuality. The Bible never does this, because these things are rarities (this is the devil's world and we are imperfect human beings – making "perfect marriage" a contradiction in terms), and even when they do exist they do not in any way outweigh the other problems, stresses and loads involved in being married. That is not to say that marriage is bad (far from it) or that there are not compensations – certainly, having a partner who is truly a "helpmeet" is a wonderful thing. Eve was the perfect helpmeet for Adam, made for him by the Lord Himself, perfect, that is . . . before the fall. And that perfection of relationship did not prevent the fall (after all).

The problem with marriage is not marriage. The problem with marriage is people. If a person wants to get married, the problem is that he/she is going to have marry another person. And it doesn't matter how perfect the other person he/she may find and get to agree to marriage may seem – that other person is not perfect . . . and neither is he/she. Just think of all the problems we have as individuals, all the bad habits we have, all the mistakes we make, all the sins we commit, the time we waste, the resources we squander, the opportunities we let slide. If we marry, we will be multiplying the problems, and not subtracting a single one. Because all people have problems. And even if we could find a perfect person who was willing to marry us, our own imperfections would cause grief and trouble when they bumped into this other person's perfection. So once they bump into the imperfections of another actual person, trouble is the result. This doesn't mean that people can't be married and happy or even happy about being married. Obviously, people can be happy while single and happy about being single. But if a person is single and not happy, getting married is not going to make that person happy. If a person can't be happy while single, they are definitely not going to find that marriage is a solution to their unhappiness. Rather, marriage is a complicated set of problems that makes life more difficult – though not without potential compensations, as mentioned. Although I do stress "potential". Whatever one's marriage turns out to be, it will not match expectations – obviously, nothing in life ever does. Marriage can be negotiated successfully and, apparently, even enjoyed – and so much so that there are some parties in some marriages who are willing to swear that they are ecstatically happy. Maybe.

Marriage, however, involves serious trade-offs, but for those who are no good at being single, for whatever reason (and there is more than one), marriage is the only godly solution. I will say that there is probably nothing worse than being married to the wrong person – which accounts in part for the high rate of divorce and the high rate of obvious dissatisfaction among those who are married but who are not divorced. Perhaps the best non-biblical comment on the institution I ever heard came from my old roommate at TBS whom I met some years later on a training exercise on an aircraft carrier off of the coast of Korea. I asked him how he liked being married (to a girl I had met when he was dating her before). He said, "It depends: would you rather be lonely all the time or angry all the time?". I think that sums up the biblical record pretty well too. Being single has serious difficulties attached to it – but it can be endured. Being married has serious difficulties attached to – but it can be endured. Both sets of difficulties will militate against spiritual growth, progress and production; both sets can be overcome so as to "do one's job for the Lord" despite the disagreeable state one is in (whether single or married). Paul's point is that there is more potential for service while single (again, "potential" is the operative word) – provided a person can deal with the stresses of being single. Whereas once married, of necessity things in the marriage will have to be done and done well before one gets around to doing what the Lord wants done (1Cor.7:32-33). That is not a prohibition against marriage, far from it. But it is sobering reality to consider before getting married, especially for those like yourself who have set themselves to devote their lives to serving Him.

To recap, I'm not saying that I haven't known people who were as far as I could tell blissfully happy in marriage and deeply in love. I have. And some of them got divorced many years later anyway. So it couldn't have been perfect. But there are those who persevere in marriage and some small number who seem to have found just the right mix and match – to the envy of all. Putting this into God's hands is really the only way to be sure of success . . . success being Him accomplishing what He wills taking into account what we are willing to do and not do – and capable of doing and not capable of doing.

The main point I want to make here is that Paul presents the essentials and without any rose-colored romantic glasses on – and this agrees perfectly with the rest of scripture rightly understood. In other words, the Bible does not idealize marriage. The Bible does not promote the idea of romantic love, nor of soul-mates, nor of blissful happiness within marriage as an automatic or even normal thing. After all, we are here on the temporary and corrupt earth, and we are in the middle of a battlefield. We are not here, moreover, simply in order to enjoy ourselves. We are here to serve the Lord. Does this mean that the Lord begrudges us a spouse? Not at all – and especially not if we need one first if we are ever going to get around to focusing on "His business". And it may be that this spouse will be an asset for our spiritual growth, progress and production. Maybe. But it is much more likely, just as Paul says, that marriage will bring an extra load we'll have to bear in the process of doing what the Lord wants us to do. Now if it must be this way because of who we are, believe me, the Lord understands that. So we are not wrong to marry nor wrong to abstain (1Cor.7:28) – and foolish to abstain from marriage if we are not really able to abstain without shipwreck (1Cor.7:2-3).

Nevertheless, it's not wise to try and make marriage into something it is not, biblically speaking. If we make the mistake of idealizing the institution or a particular person we are going to be sadly disappointed. And as a prospective pastor, that is something I would suggest you think about very seriously. Virtually every church in this country that pretends to teach the Bible spends most of its "teaching time" and effort on marriage – idealizing it, making it out to be something different than the Bible says, namely, a source of happiness. God helping us, we may make a good marriage and we may be happy in it, and we may be "best of friends" with the spouse we "go out and get in a good way". But marriage will be a set of responsibilities we have to balance against the real job we are trying to do here on earth, not a "super-charger" that will help us do it. That is the lie of "myth happiness" into which most churches have bought precisely because this is what people want to hear (see the link). Are Christian marriages better than others? They should be just because Christians ought to be better than other people in every important way. But we can't control the other person in a marriage any more than he/she can control us. So seeing marriage in an unrealistic way before or after the commitment is made is equally dangerous – especially for someone who wants to lead other forward in the truth.

I have been keeping you in prayer on this subject, my friend, and I know that the Lord is working this problem out for you for good in every way. Waiting on Him to provide what we need, whatever it is, is often not easy but always essential. He will take care of this legitimate concern for you just as He has so often delivered you from all manner of things – only some of which you even noticed. This will no doubt require some action on your part. Just remember to "do it the good way", trusting Him to work all things out together for good.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #31:

Hey Bob,

My fiancé is coming down for a visit pretty soon, hopefully, and we think we have a good plan in place to where she'll be coming down here to go to school in a few months, but we're working out the details still. I would have been up in Canada already (although I'm not entirely sure about that plan. We're still talking that out too), but monetary problems are hindering us. I've prayed for help from the Lord and will be looking for employment soon, so I hope that works out.

Anyway, I wanted to ask about marriage real quick, because where we have the courthouse wedding will be where we intend to move, since the delay between getting married in the other country and having that sent to the country we intend to live in can be quite a long time. So, I was wanted to make sure which marriage is the more important one: is the actual physical license necessary, or is being married by a licensed judge/minister what counts?

Thank you for your patience and wisdom.

Response #31:

Best wishes for you, my friend, in all these things.

If your asking me "what is a marriage", it is when a man and a woman officially contract a legal marriage obligation with each other. So a person is not married if, for example, he/she gets "cold feet" and fails to show up for the ceremony (civil or religious). The particulars of these things are different at different times in history and in different countries/jurisdictions, but "a marriage is a marriage" in God's eyes – which requires a [legal] gesture of willing self-obligation by both parties, however expressed.

"I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine."
Ezekiel 16:8b

The "oath and covenant", that is, an official agreement entered into solemnly and verbally (usually before witnesses) is what effects the marriage. Venue is completely unimportant.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus who gave up everything for us that we might have eternal life with Him.

Bob L.

Question #32:

Well, I suppose I was specifically asking, "If we get married in a church by a licensed minister, but don't actually go to the courthouse and get a physical license, does that count in God's eyes?" One reason I ask is that, while she's down here on her visit... I doubt my own ability to not fall into passion, if you know what I mean, and would rather get married in God's eyes as soon as we can (me and her have already discussed this).

Response #32:

It doesn't have to be in a church or done by a minister. It can be done by a clerk at the courthouse. Marriage is a civil obligation. We honor it as Christians as a moral obligation once we have entered into it, but there is no need for that concomitant commitment to be ratified by a Christian church or a Christian minister. Getting the license only allows the official, civil or religious, to perform the ceremony legally. A pastor can't marry you without a license. A clerk can marry you without being ordained (if you have a license). And a legal marriage is a marriage to the Lord, church or no church, minister or no minister.

Best wishes!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #33:

Should vows be exchanged at weddings? I know some parts of the Bible speak out against swearing (cf. James 5:12, Matthew 5:34)

Response #33:

Biblically speaking, marriage is an institution designed by God for the entire human race, not just for believers. It is therefore to be governed by the civil law of the polity concerned. "Christian" and "church" marriage ceremonies are a later religious development and are neither required nor regulated by the Bible (they are not even mentioned therein). If I'm not mistaken, most civil ceremonies merely require the partners to acknowledge their free will assent to the union (in some specified way), and that would certainly not violate the letter or the spirit of Matthew 5:34 or James 5:12. If a person believes that being married in a church by a preacher accompanied by all of the traditional hoopla of a church wedding somehow makes things holier, then marriage vows would be the least of the problems. However, an oath is, technically speaking, a formal pronouncement as in "do you solemnly swear to tell the truth". Most marriage ceremonies I have heard don't use "swear" or "vow", and most importantly do not "swear by the Lord". That is the issue with swearing in these two biblical passages, namely, the Person (directly by name or by place: heaven, throne, etc.) by whom one swears. That is because it is the invoking of the Person of God (to act as the witness) that is problematic. No one is perfect, and no one knows the future. Therefore making God the witness to and guarantor of one's oath is a very bad idea (it is preferable to invoking a pagan god, which is why Moses was given Num.30:2 as part of the Law). Even the most well-meaning and otherwise righteous person might get tripped up by unforeseen events (think of Jephthah and his daughter). But if a person says "I swear" or "I vow" or "I affirm" or "I promise" without bringing God into it, said person is merely calling on his/her own integrity as the guarantor of the thing sworn or promised. It's still a bad idea to lie, and it's still inadvisable to swear, and it is also true that by promising in church or by putting one's hand on the Bible it certainly implies that one is making the promise/vow "before God" – but there is a critical difference here, and the two passages cited are speaking specifically about swearing "by the Lord".

Question #34:

Hope all is well

I was on Facebook and came across this picture that I was a bit confused about. I wanted to know if you can reconcile these two verses (Leviticus 20:21 and Deuteronomy 25:5). I know there's a biblical explanation for this. The owner of this page who posted the pic suggests a contradiction between the two.

Please help!

Response #34:

In Leviticus 20:21, the situation involves a man marrying his brother's wife after his brother has divorced her – that was the situation with Herod Antipas and Herodias, his brother Philip's wife (Matt.14:3). Deuteronomy 25:5 treats an entirely different situation, namely, the death of one's brother before he has produced an heir. In those circumstances, because of the great symbolic importance in the nation of Israel of passing down the inheritance in the land (representing our eternal inheritance), provision is made for a "raising up" of an heir to one's brother through this process of "levirate marriage" (levir means "brother in law" in Latin). Scripture considers the first offspring the brother's heir. While the sinful false parallel did happen (as in the example above), it's not clear how often the levirate situation happened. Although the case of Ruth is similar (and demonstrates the point that this institution is meant to be a gracious one), despite the cynical hypothetical of the Sadducees in their testing of our Lord Jesus (Matt.22:23ff.), I can't think of an actual incidence in scripture (apart from the pre-Law case of Onan who in the event refused to do his duty). Certainly, God could easily have worked things out so that this rarely if ever happened. But the provision is in scripture precisely in order to make the point of the inheritance being permanent in God's eyes, regardless of earthly events – and that is blessed as we look forward to our imperishable inheritance in the New Jerusalem (to which the temporal inheritances in historical Israel correspond by way of biblical analogy).

It is typical of unbelievers to throw apparent contradictions they find in the Bible back in the face of believers. Believers should remember that there ALWAYS is a solution and an explanation for everything in scripture, even if sometimes it takes a while to find and/or (for pastor-teachers) figure out.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #35:

Genesis 3:16
"...your desire shall be for your husband"

Does this mean women will desire a husband, man will choose what women desire or man will rule over women?

Response #35:

I take this as meaning the first: as the physically weaker and thus more dependent part of the couple in our accursed world outside of Eden, the greater need and desire on the part of women for a marriage has historically been validated. In our modern society perhaps the principle is not so obvious, but it is the biblical principle nonetheless. For the details, please see the link:

Genesis 3:16 (in BB 3A)

Your Desire shall be for you Husband

Question #36:

I went through all your answers regarding 1 Timothy 2:15 and I think the issue of authority is clear to me. What I am not sure about is whether this passage essentially means that women will be delivered through childbearing "if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint", as that would mean that only those who do fulfil these conditions will be delivered, whereas as we know this is not the case

Response #36:

We all remain safe in salvation, and we are all delivered through all the various trials and testings of life "if we continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint", that is, if we maintain our faith and continue walking with Jesus Christ. That is true of every male and of every female, no matter what trial we are talking about, even if we are talking about the trial of childbirth, about which the Christian women whom Paul was addressing apparently had particular concerns.

Question #37:

Dr. Luginbill,

I hope you're doing well. How is your mother?

A quick question tonight, referencing 1 Corinthians 7:12-14. It sounds to me, if one spouse is saved, the other is saved, as they are "one flesh." This feels wrong, but I'm having a hard time reading it any other way.

Thank you!

Response #37:

The spirit is who we are, not this temporary body – which will have to be replaced in order for us to live with the Lord forever (1Cor.15:50). The spirit – who we really are inside – is what is saved (1Cor.5:5). During this time on earth, husband and wife are "one flesh" but not "one person". Each retains his/her free will, and only those who put their faith in Jesus Christ so as to be born again are saved (Jn.3:18). Believers bless others "by association" (see the link), and that is what is being referred to here. The believer's family is protected by the Lord as a benefit to the believer, not the unbeliever; Paul's particular purpose in mentioning this here is to show that just because a person is married to an unbeliever (especially if that person was saved after being married) that is no cause for alarm or reason to terminate the marriage: the unbelieving spouse gets the benefit of divine protection and the sanctification of the marriage based on being married to a believer.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #38:

Dear Bob,

I was reading at Ichthys when I came upon one of the emails you posted up, in which the person in question mentioned her friend being close to someone whom claimed to be a psychic. I notice that they were attributing this person's 'ability' (can people even be truly psychic?) to the evil one, and then I remembered how we are all given gifts. Some for ministry, others for generosity, others for compassion, and there were a couple of others ones I cannot truly recall. One of them was about being able to see/speak to the dead? It was something along those lines, I can't remember the exact verse.

Well, the reason I bring this up is twofold: one, I do want to know what came of that story, in terms of if the friend's friend really was really having the evil one work through her, or if it is at all possible for a gift like that to come from God? The second reason I ask is because, well...my fiancé and wife-to-be is someone who claims she can see (and speak to?) the spirits of the dead. There was a time, when we were younger, where she thought she was the daughter as Gabriel, but I think now at our current age and maturity, she's grown past that fantastical phase of thinking anything of the sort (and this was before she was saved). However, she does still mention being able to see the spirits of the dead.

I was wondering if this line of thinking is – I'm not sure how to put it – healthy? Either she is making it up, in which case she'll eventually drop it, or for some reason she really can. Is it possible such a gift were from God? I remember reading about it in the past to comfort her, since she was worried about her spiritual status because of it some time ago, but reading that one story in "The Battlefield Within" made me remember, and think I should ask you about it.

Response #38:

As a reader of this ministry I think you know that this behavior you report has nothing to do with scripture or with reality (see the link: Endor). So it is disturbing. I'm certainly not going to advise you on any course of action or otherwise weigh in on what you do with your applications of scripture. Relationships are always difficult. No one is perfect, and it is a very rare person who is straight-arrow on all points of biblical doctrine – if we found somebody like that, they'd probably have good reason to find fault with us. It is something to put before the Lord in prayer, however (I'm praying for you both).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #39:

Would it be alright if I came back to you about something I've asked about before in the past? My fiancé? I know before, when I mentioned her problems and asked how I could help her, you did say that we both knew it had little to do with reality. I know this and acknowledge this, and I do fear it may be a hindrance in her walk in the future, if it isn't already doing so. I hope to eventually, over time, help her 'realize' that the things she 'sees' aren't necessarily so, but I wanted to do it carefully. I don't think anything can be gained by doing the equivalent of 'hitting her with a hammer' by telling her flat out "love, it's not real, you need to realize this", since she's grown up with this and it's become so 'normal' to her.

She won't talk about it to anyone else except me, at least not yet, but maybe in the future if she begins to question it? Whenever the subject comes up, I ask her questions, leave little seeds to get her thinking about if she really is 'speaking to Gabriel'. I know you are no doctor and no psychologist, and would not recommend to tell me what to do, but I am worried about her Spiritually. Right now she's a believer (though if I am to be a little presumptuous, I really feel as if she is "just barely" there), but at this point in time, what she 'sees' are really ingrained in her still.

What I think is that, over time, as she grows mature in her spiritual walk (hopefully with me doing a good job of helping her, Lord help me) that the illusion will start to 'break down', as it were.

Response #39:

You have hit the nail on the head about my position on specific advice. What I will say is that you have a right (and a responsibility) to consider all these things before committing to marriage; once committed, you are committed. The most important two things I can say about this are: 1) Marriage generally makes things harder and more complicated as opposed to less so; it creates additional difficulties without really solving any problems, and its best to accept this principle as a truism before getting married; 2) People don't change after getting married; to the contrary, they become more affirmed as who they are – or perhaps it is just that who they are becomes much more obvious in the process of living with them, and it is best to accept this principle also as a truism before getting married. In other words, if you love the person so much that, even accepting as fact that things will become harder and that there will be no change on your partner's part but possibly even an intensification of the things deemed problematic, you still can't live without the person, then its all for the good, "for better or for worse". However, putting on rose-colored glasses and ignoring these two principles – obvious from the observation of the world and any marriage/relationship you might want to make a test case – is a big mistake.

 

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