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Fighting the Fight IV:

Dispatches from the Laodicean 'Front'

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Question #1:

Good afternoon Bob.

I hope this mail finds you well. I have a thought to share, as a question that is personal, but I'll share with you. Are those who profess Jesus as Lord called to be disciples? Some may refer to themselves as believers, to avoid 'the cost'? What then becomes of the word 'follow'?

As always, thanks for your time, and sharing your thoughts.

Response #1:

I think this may be a bit derivative and based upon modern assumptions about the meaning of "disciple". That word means "student" in Greek and is concerned with "learning" (coming from the Greek verb manthano which means "to learn"). And while the Latin from which our English word comes means the same thing as the Greek (disco also means "to learn"), people have an impression when they hear the word "disciple" which may not be biblical. The motives of Christians collectively or individually are difficult for us to discern, but Jesus certainly knows what they really are. If we would serve Him in the way He desires, our learning has to be that of faith, not just knowledge, to "fully know" (epignosis) through believing the truth we are taught – and then applying it in what we think, say and do, facing the trials of life with that armor of truth, and helping others do the same through the ministries to which we are severally called. That is true discipleship in the biblical sense, and has to be done by the person in question through spiritual growth (rather than having the details of our lives directed by others in legalistic micro-management as is an all too common fault of our present era when people try to set up systems of "discipleship").

Here as some links on this which may be helpful:

Servants, Slaves, Disciples and Ministers

'Discipling'

The true meaning of being a disciple.

What does it mean to be a disciple?

The true priorities of discipleship.

"Spiritual Counselors"

More on discipling

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Brother,

Hope you and all those around you are keeping well. I'm doing a Bible study on the testimony of prayers. I'm hoping you can give me some insight. We know that the Bible is a testimony, God's true Word, that induces and builds faith.

Romans 10:17
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

How is it that the more you hear God's Word the more your faith grows. How does that compare to a faithful believer's testimony, when God answers his prayer. Can that testimony induce and build faith? If so, how? What's the difference between a faithful believers testimony and the Word of God?

Your Loving Brother In Christ

Response #2:

To take the last part first, the Word of God is the inspired message of the Bible which is, in its original form, absolutely what God wants us to hear and know. It does take translation, deep knowledge of the truth, many tools developed over much time, and the spiritual gift to interpret and teach much of it accurately, but some things are so obvious than even an unbeliever can see them . . . and one hopes be led to salvation through the Spirit's illumination of the gospel.

When it comes to human beings, we are all fallible, even the most faithful believer. There are plenty of examples of this in scripture itself, after all. Part of answering this question is understanding just what you mean by the word "testimony". In evangelical circles in the last couple of centuries, some churches have been in the habit of having people stand up and tell all the wonderful things God has done for them. I don't find any biblical basis for this sort of thing as a regular "feature" in the assembly of the church. And there are terrible temptations even for honorable, mature and "faithful" believers to stretch the truth in such circumstances, sometimes far past the breaking point (it happens all the time). The limelight also can produce problems, and that is one of the reasons Paul tells Timothy that a pastor-teacher should not be "a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil" (1Tim.3:6 NKJV). If the person doing the "testimony" is not all that honorable or faithful, and is not spiritually mature, chances are things will be made up and misrepresented. I have, in fact, had correspondence with people who have done this and felt bad about it after the fact, feeling hypocritical when people who hear them are "blessed" by the testimony. And I can tell you that there are a good many people who do this who do not feel hypocritical at all but figure that "the end justifies the means" (which of course is never the case).

So there is a very great difference between the Bible and what someone says, even the greatest believer. That is one of the reasons, by the way, why the book of Acts (and other historical portions of the Word) have to be handled differently from, for example, the epistles. In the latter, the apostles give inspired truth to their recipients; in the former, the Spirit records precisely what the individuals in question actually said and did – which may be godly (and for godly people usually is), but which may not be prescriptive (and often isn't), and may occasionally even be a correct representation of things they said and did which were not quite right.

I think it is true that when we have our prayers answered, that is a positive for the strengthening of our faith, but ultimately faith is a choice and needs to grow through the build-up of truth in our hearts, truth we choose not only to hear but also to believe; if we are going to depend only on experience, even genuine experience given by God, our faith will never grow very strong. Good decisions reinforce good decisions; good choices reinforce good choices; truth builds on truth, line upon line, precept upon precept, a little here, a little there (Is.28:9-13) – and hopefully "a lot" here and there – so that we grow "in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2Pet.3:18), "until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance to the Son of God" (Eph.4:13). We have role models of our Lord and the apostles and prophets in all this, and they would seem to be more than sufficient testimony to the power of truth and the grace of God. The value of giving our attention to that testimony is that we know it is true; the danger of being overly fixated on our own experience and the testimony of others is that it can distract us from the truth by substituting the emotional "high" of what we feel or hear for the absolute truth of scripture we need to believe – which is why Peter tells us that even seeing the Lord's transfiguration with His own eyes was not as powerful as the truth of the Word of God (2Pet.1:16-19).

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 #3:

Hi Dr. Bob,

I hope all is well and your family is doing well. I thought about you when I read this article and find that you might think it is interesting. At least I hope so. This article is fascinating and I try to put it in context based on all your ministry writings, particularly as it relates to this age of human history. Here are some of the interesting things I found:

1. the number of actual believers in Christ (born again) is much smaller than the population of Christian stated in this article

2. Catholicism is still the predominate religion here in the USA. I did not know that. I thought that evangelical denomination was.

3. The trend of lack of faith is accelerating as shown by the decline of Christians in the world. (their definition of Christian)

4. Majority shift of Christian growth will be in sub-Saharan Africa by 2050.Christ will return by then but I see Christ working in allowing everyone the opportunity to confess his name prior to his return and what place is better than a historically pagan continent.

Here is the article link:

http://www.businessinsider.com/christians-are-leaving-the-faith-in-droves-2015-4

I would really like your insights seeing that I respect you very much and you have the Spirit in you.

Thank you and God bless you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Response #3:

It's always good to hear from you, my friend (and we all have the Spirit, all of us who believe, that is: Rom.8:9). As to the article, I think you have properly ferreted out most of the problems with the points made. First and foremost, there is a big difference between the Church and the church visible – that has always been the case, and in terms of numbers the disparity today is probably larger than ever. Secondly, in my opinion the reason for the drop in numbers in the church visible in the west has more to do with societal changes and growing permissiveness, but not how one might think after reading my statement. In the past, many people were "Christian" only in the sense of their tradition, not really being believers in Christ. In the past, there was a price to pay in the west for being openly "non-Christian", but this penalty has dropped off proportionately to the extent of societal permissiveness in all things. For me, that is not bad at all. What's the difference between an open atheist and a Methodist who is an atheist but identifies himself as a Methodist to avoid public humiliation? Only honesty. The larger problem in my view is not that of overall numbers but the question of quality. So many Christians today – the vast majority in fact – are spiritual babies. They have little interest in the truth and they attend fellowships where they couldn't grow or progress very far if they were interested. In times past we could expect that this state of affairs would "merely" result in loss of significant eternal reward. On the cusp on the end times where we find ourselves today, we know that one third of these weak believers will not have a faith strong enough to endure the pressures of the Tribulation. The Great Apostasy is the thing that concerns me for every Christian alive today and those who will believe before the return of Christ. For it is of small comfort to "believe for a while" but in time of testing to "fall away from the faith" (Lk.8:13).

It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.
2nd Peter 2:21 NIV

Keep growing in grace, my friend. We will not be sorry for any spiritual preparation we "put in the bank" between now and the hard(-er) times to come.

Looking forward to your deliverance and mine as well, in the short term and in the long.

In Jesus Christ who is our Savior in time and for all eternity.

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Doctor,

How are you? I was a bit concerned when I noticed the week delay in new posting recently; I pray all is ok and you and yours are well. Also, I wanted to thank you yet again for all your prayers and teaching, things are changing here and I'm certain your words to The Lord have something to do with it.

I have an acquaintance (about as much a friend an unbeliever can be, I guess) who is questioning my about my faith pretty constantly as of late. He has many of the standard unbeliever objections and I try my best to avoid judgmental talk outside of what Scripture generally prescribes as far as what believes behavior SHOULD be, but he's from Texas and is used to the overboard charismatic types which have turned him off a lot. I dunno, he seems to "put up with my faith" well enough and even pro-actively asks questions out of the blue at times it just seems to fall on hardened ears, as always. Perhaps a prayer from yourself would also help?

We will keep trudging on. I hope myself to have enough time to start reading more again, gotta get that Greek nailed down.

Talk to you soon, brother.

Response #4:

I'll certainly say a prayer for your friend on this. How goes the job hunt? My other two friends who are out of work are still searching (difficult times indeed).

Things are about the same here. After the end of term I went up to visit my mother in Michigan for a long (she's in assisted living near my brother's home) – that explains the "no posting" (it happens three or so times a year for the same reason).

Best wishes for your continued and continuing preparation for ministry, my friend! In this there is great reward.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

John 1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Since the word was translated from the Greek word Logos and Logos also means plan or program, I looked in Thesaurus to see if in English: word means plan. The only meaning closer to plan, I found on Thesaurus for word, it was the word: guidance.

Question: If I insert the word "guidance" to replace the "word:"

1. In the beginning was the guidance, and the guidance was with God, and the guidance was God.

Or if I insert the word plan to replace the "word:

In the beginning was the plan, and the plan was with God, and the plan was God.

Please tell me if what I say make sense or not. To me, if I introduce utterance instead of word, it doesn’t make sense.

Response #5:

Good to make your acquaintance. As to your question, biblical translation is more of an art than a science – an art built on years of experience in the two main languages concerned. Tools such as you relate can be helpful, but they are guides and not menus from which one can pick and choose. A word means what it means in any given context, but it doesn't mean what it doesn't mean. We can't dictate to the text. Our job, as pastor teachers (or translators), is to figure out what is truly meant (based on many factors, including expertise in the language, the text, the theology, the history, etc.).

For example, in Greek and Hebrew, the word for Joshua and the word for Jesus is the same word. But we can't exchange "Joshua" and "Jesus" at will (obviously). Another example from English: the word "that" is actually two words in English, not one. It is both a demonstrative pronoun as in "that guy", but it is also a conjunction, "let me say that I am . . .". Anyone translating from English to another language would be mistaken in confusing the two, and the context is what makes the distinction between them clear. How words with (apparently) multiple meanings should be translated in a given context is, as I hope these two illustrations show, not a question of being able to select from a list in a concordance or a lexicon. Rather, one has to determine from reading the Greek (or Hebrew) based upon a thorough understanding of the meaning of the context what word or phrase in English best captures what is actually meant. Logos in Greek is particularly tricky because of its historical usage. "Word" in English is the traditional rendering for most occurrences, and, while not perfect (there are no perfect translations, ever, since the language is different by definition), so close (especially if capitalized) that in most instances it ought only to be changed, in my opinion, for purposes of illustration (rather than formal translation). Here are some links where to where the passage is discussed at Ichthys:

Logos

What does "the Word was with God" mean in John 1:1-2?

And on the subject of translation, please see "Biblical Language, Texts and Translations".

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate.

Bob L.

Question #6:

Dear Dr. Robert D. Luginbill,

First of all I have to thank you for your quick answer. With your short e-mail you made me understand the context of the Biblical text I referred to in my question to you. I was tempted to interpret the text. I was wrong. I leave it to the experts, and I accept your fine explanation.

I pray to Our Lord Jesus Christ to forgive me for this blunder.

Again, thank you for your time.

Yours truly,

Response #6:

It's my pleasure.

You are to be commended for seeking out the truth. Trying to find out everything the Bible really means in truth is something all Christians ought to be doing!

You are welcome at Ichthys any time.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Dr. Rob

I saw on your site Luke 22. However, your view is the universal interpretation.

I'd like to share this (gty) different interpretation with you:

http://m.gty.org/resources/sermons/42-251/Abusing-the-Poor

Links:

http://ichthys.com/mail-tithing%20and%20the%20book%20of%20life.htm

Regards,

Response #7:

What is the "universal view" and of "what?". I can tell you that most of the teachings at Ichthys are at odds at least in some ways with traditional views. You link a study on "tithing" at Ichthys – which teaches that tithing was a Jewish income tax of sorts and it is not authorized today. The article you link not from Ichthys is typical of the sort of sermon-pablum that is ubiquitous in the lukewarm Church era of Laodicea in which we presently find ourselves. This person kept saying he would get to the point, but I never was able to find out what the point was in spite of much wasted time. The only thing I "got" is that everyone else is wrong about the meaning of the "widow's mite" except this person: it would be nice to know exactly why, and how this person is right when the Bible is very clear about our Lord commending the woman and about saying that she put in more than everyone else. No wonder, I suppose, that this person does come out and "share" his interpretation – because it would have to be contrary to the entire context and to our Lord's words in order to be so radically "different" from what the scripture clearly says.

This is a good example of what I was telling you previously. True freedom in Christ comes from spiritual growth which is only possible through attention to the teaching of the truth (not from sermon-pablum).

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Dear Dr rob

I am a babe in Christ. I was powerful in grace and Spirit many years ago. But I backslid.

I need good doctrine. To commence growing. As you can see it's tricky.

I.e Do I follow osas doctrine or not?

Your website aside, what book or teacher can you recommend?

Response #8:

Believers are saved; unbelievers are not. So on the one hand "once saved, always saved" is incorrect, because on occasion believers do revert to unbelief. It's called apostasy:

"But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away."
Luke 8:13 NKJV

On the other side of the coin, it is equally incorrect to teach that salvation can be "lost" through sin. David not only committed adultery but also murder – yet he did not lose his salvation (he did bring down on himself tremendous divine discipline over many years). Sin's role in apostasy is its effect in weakening a person's faith. If faith is lost (through personal choice), apostasy results when the person no longer believes. Please see the links:

The False doctrine of absolute eternal security III

"Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"

There is more than enough at Ichthys for you to grow up spiritually, progress in your Christian walk, and come into the ministry the Lord has for you. However, one does have to believe what is taught for the teaching to do any good whatsoever. Only actual truth actually believed is beneficial for growing in the Lord. Ichthys is not everyone's "cup of tea", of course, and, depending on your geography, I do have other ministries I recommend (which does not mean that I approve of everything taught). But "church hopping" is never going to result in significant spiritual growth, so I do suggest that when you find the right ministry for you, you stick with it. Here is a very good online ministry: Bible Academy (see also: "Bible Study Resources") .

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Dr. Bob.

I hope you are doing well. I just want to commend you on your excellent explanation on canonization, Response #10.

" 3) What you say here ("We only accept the genuine Bible because humans decided what to canonize and what not to canonize") is certainly not correct. I have read the Bible many times in the original languages (and many more times in English), and I am quite confident that I can tell what is inspired and what is not – with the help of the Spirit. The fact that there are not major mistakes in terms of books usually included which should not be or books not included which should be merely serves to make the point that Christians of all eras have had this same God-given ability and that this explains why there has never been any serious disagreement about what is scripture and what is not – at least among born-again believers. The tradition merely corroborates what we already know."

I think the more one reads the bible and become spiritually discern by the power of the Holy Spirit, the more one tends to realize that no human in all of history could have written the things in the Bible so eloquently and apropos to our lives, in and out of Christ. I realized that every time I study his Word and the issue of inspiration of the Spirit just jumps out at you with even a modicum of consistent bible reading.

Good points and thank you again, in our Lord and Savior, the protector of our faith, Jesus Christ.

Also, I understand you were trying to be polite to this person and I realize that your ministry is to answer questions and lead them to Christ. But this person, in my humble opinion, is not a believer. I know you were being diplomatic but He is not.

Thank you in Christ our Lord.

Response #9:

Thanks! Your support and encouragement is much appreciated. As with you, I don't know the person's heart, and I hung in there with him as long as I was able. The last response seemed willfully ignorant of everything I had been trying to tell him. There comes a point . . .

I appreciate your prayers for myself and this ministry, and am keeping you in prayer for swift and timely deliverance as well.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

I have been gratefully brought to read Jeremiah 35, and to consider. To self examine. Written on the hearts and minds, the words from their father were held unchangeable, and by all descendants in obedience. These words were spoken to them then, and they served them as if they were spoken today. Unchangeable. At this point, I also reflect on Solomon, and his assessment of our varied endeavours to find meaning through what we can accomplish, when our obedience is self serving- Vanity. Our Bible is G-ds word. His Spirit lives within its pages to we who are perishing, transitioning. It is such a joy to be reminded and renewed by G-Ds word, the word of the father, by way of the scriptures, amidst all the deception we encounter from the world. Is this the voice of G-D? Or is it only thunder? May the Spirit of the resurrected Jesus the Christ guide you, and the blessing of His printed Word help you to make the choice of who you will serve, in obedience, forever. Prayerfully consider Jeremiah 35, and the man who asked for wisdom, Solomon's Ecclesiastes.

Response #10:

The Rechabites are indeed a good example of what having self-discipline can do. In their case, it seems to me that it is the obedience to a good tradition which is being praised by the Lord, and the "goodness" in it consists of avoiding things which tie a person to this world. We are only sojourners here, and to the extent that we can keep that perspective the better for our spirituality and relationship to the Lord; to the contrary, the more we become involved with the world, the harder that perspective of the kingdom to which we aspire is to keep in mind, and the more potential spiritual danger. In our modern world, most of us cannot live in tents and pursue an itinerant lifestyle – nor would it be a good idea to try to do so (e.g., it certainly wouldn't promote our learning of the truth or any particular ministry that comes to mind). But while we can't be Recabites in a physical sense, holding onto that perspective of not being tied in our hearts to the "civilized" world around us but rather looking to the kingdom and being occupied with the King is very beneficial, spiritually speaking (and in the soon to come Tribulation it may be essential).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Hi Doctor,

How are you holding up? I imagine you're experiencing the heat where you're at as well. I pray your mother is also in a well air conditioned place. It's been hovering at 95-100 for a couple weeks now, and it's highly abnormal for us so you folks in the nation's "heater" gotta be warm.

I'm at sort of a hard spot, brother. The hard spot is that I seem to be unable to grow beyond my responsibilities for the moment. I have far less time to read, although with the mass of lessons from Pastor Omo, I get an earful while I drive (a LOT).

I have the books for Greek and some Hebrew, I'm just so beat and usually in between work and don't have time to really dig. Guess I just need another prayer.

I pray you are well, brother.

Response #11:

In my experience of life, nothing is ever perfect. There is never enough time, enough money, enough energy, enough freedom of action; on the other hand, walking with Christ and trusting Him, it seems that there is always just enough of everything – and more on the way if we are truly able to make use of it. If we have ten minutes to study Greek today, praise the Lord and do the best job possible with the ten minutes. The alternative is feeling depressed that it's only ten minutes and not doing it at all. In my experience and observation of the human condition, if we have three hours instead of ten minutes, we are very likely to waste the three hours and not even spend ten minutes. It takes a constant effort of self-discipline and constant self-reorienting to the truth and our place in this world and what it is really all about to stay spiritually balanced and to do a good job in using the resources God has given us. Trust me, He always gives us enough, even if we don't see it. And on those very rare occasions when there is arguably "not enough", that only lasts a little while to test us to see where our heart really lies – Jesus was forty days without bread in the wilderness, but He was not allowed to starve to death.

No one in this imperfect present body is perfect in his/her application of the truth or utilization of the time and resources God has given. We can all stand to improve. The important thing is to work at building up momentum and then to hold onto it as long as possible – because it is much easier to lose than to build up. Better to do "OK" for a week and then "good" for two thereafter, than to do "outstanding" in the morning and crash in the afternoon. This is an important issue for prospective pastors because there is little to no external discipline for us – as there is in the military or on a 9-5 job where we have to show up and perform or else.

I think it's great that you have a family and friends – these are definite pluses. Being totally alone is as least as great a challenge. Wherever we are in life, our faith and motivation will be tested and challenged daily. So the best thing is not to long for some sort of ideal circumstances which are never going to obtain (and would in fact not be "ideal" even if we could arrange them at will), but to fight the fight God has given us to fight day by day where we actually are. No one knows what tomorrow will bring – so we look forward to the kingdom of the Messiah; No one should care about what happened yesterday since it's gone and can't be changed – except to remember what He did for us on the Cross; so today, lets pick up our own cross remembering Him, and strive for the crowns that glorify Him. We are one day closer to the Kingdom today, and it is one more opportunity to add to our heavenly treasury, regardless of what the challenges may be.

You're in my prayers day by day.

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I've been depressed for a long time, but for trivial reasons. I'm not starving, I'm not in pain, I don't live in poverty, my parents love me. I have no reason to be sad. My troubles are nothing compared to what other people have experienced. Yet, I haven't been genuinely happy in a long time.

I don't understand why this is. I've never had a long-term, true friendship with any human besides my family, so I've had no one to cry to. My parents don't understand why I'm so sad, but I don't really either.

For a few years, my family attended a very legalistic church. The Pastor used to preach that we are "worthless, undeserving, totally-depraved worms," which is not an exact quote, but is essentially what he meant. I believed this to be true.

At this church, we had to take "communion classes" and then meet with the Pastor and elders, who would quiz us on our knowledge of the Bible and the Catechism. When it was my turn to go before them, I panicked and answered the questions horribly. Of course, I wasn't accepted. It felt like they didn't think I was truly a Christian. In the same week, my teacher at school told me to go home and commit my life to Christ, because she didn't think I was a Christian. I started crying; she must've thought it was because she converted me, but it was because I was sad that it was not obvious to her and to my Pastor that I was a Christian.

Because I failed my Pastor's test, I had to meet with him every Sunday after the night-time service. A year later, I was quizzed by him and the elders; I passed that time, but my "friend" was not accepted. She said to me, "I can't believe they didn't accept me, but they accepted you," as if that was a disgusting thing for them to do. Her words hurt.

I know I shouldn't care what they think and that I should "count it all joy" when I'm suffering through trials; but I'm not really suffering through anything. I don't know why I keep letting such trivial, inconsequential "problems" trip me up.

It hurts when non-Christians laugh at me for being a Christian, or say mean things to me because of who I am. But I expect this from them. It's when the pain and hurtful words and rejection come from fellow Christians, mentors, and even friends that I break down and weep. Sometimes I think I've already failed and gone to Hell, and that any efforts to live for Christ are futile. But God isn't so cruel, is He? I know He's not.

I know I've been self-righteous, arrogant, and foolish. I know I'm impatient, immature, foolish, cowardly. I know I'm a sinner. But I also know that all sin and fall short of the glory of God. My sins are no worse than anyone else's. In fact, I know that I'm better off than most because I have put my faith in Christ, and I know that He is more than enough to pay for all my sins. I know that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him. I know that the joy which is to come is better, so much so that these former things will not even come to mind in the life that is to come.

I don't really know what I'm asking you. But this has been on my mind, and I'm looking for excuses to write to you. Your writings are so encouraging to me.

I hope you're doing well. I keep praying for you.

Response #12:

Let me start by saying that your love for the Lord and your true spirituality came through loud and clear from your very first email. The fact that you have grown in Him and made good spiritual progress in spite of being subjected to things you mention is evidence of a very good character, a true heart for the Lord, and a persistence in cleaving to "the good" come what may. Any Christian would be and should be proud of such a wonderful witness!

You are undergoing a serious test. That is, it so happens, necessary to move forward in spiritual maturity to the next phase of being "battle tested" and ready for ministry. We are all tested in different ways, but the fact that you are "not starving, not in pain, and not living in poverty" does not mean that you are not being tested. Clearly, you are feeling the pressure so the pressure is there – it's also clearly not the result of divine discipline, punishment to get you to turn around from something or the other – so that what we have here is a divine "compliment". Job was tested too, severely, and it was really a compliment from the Lord. No doubt it didn't feel like that to him at the time! But he recognized that God knew what He was doing and was working everything out together for the absolute good (until he faltered when aggravated by his "friends"). That is what we have to do too when we are under pressure. That is the time to walk even closer to the Lord, to make up our minds to love Him even more, to make more of an effort to focus on eternal rewards and the New Jerusalem instead of on this temporary world of dust, to keep seeing what is invisible and ignoring the visible (2Cor.4:18; 5:7; Heb.11:1-2; 11:26-27). That is what spiritual heroism is all about, what "winning the victory for Christ" means – and that is where the crowns of life and glory grow.

I want to encourage you to persevere in your good walk, in your growth in the truth of the Word of God (when we are being tested like this the truth is more important than ever), and in your joy in the Lord. We are called to have peace at all times, the moment by moment Sabbath with Jesus Christ (see Q/A #2 ff. at the link); we are called to rejoice in Him at all times – even if we are smiling through our tears. And we are called to be good witnesses to the world, to men and angels both. All this you are doing. Keep up the the good work, the good fight for Jesus Christ!

One final word about that "church". From your description it is fair to say that I am appalled by absolutely everything you report. I certainly hope you no longer have anything to do with it. If that is not the case, I would urge departure. If you have left, I would seriously urge you to consign it and all memories regarding it to the oblivion they rightly deserve. All of us have things in the past which trouble us (for one reason or another), but none of us should be looking backward. We are one day closer to Christ's return today, and our tomorrow is going to be glorious. That is what we should be striving for, to make that day even more joyous by adding to our heavenly "deposit" with the opportunity we have today to do so, "so long as it is called 'today' ". Looking back and worrying or fretting about wrongs done to us or mistakes we made ourselves can only compromise our exploitation of the grace we have to make our time count for Jesus . . . today.

You are my fellow warrior for Christ. Please know how much He loves you . . . and if He loves you, it doesn't matter at all what "people" think. Most "people" are going to end up in the lake of fire, and even many "Christians" are not going to survive the Tribulation with their faith intact. The number of Christians in this era who will win the three crowns is apparently going to be depressingly small (and the experience you had at that church certainly is an indication of why!). All the more reason for those of us who do appreciate what is really important in this life to act accordingly – to the glory of our dear Lord and Savior and for the benefit of His Church.

I have not put many links here nor many scripture references, for I feel you already know both (but I'm happy to direct you to these things if you have any questions). Please do feel free to write back at any time.

In the One we love more than life, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Thank you for your encouraging words. You seem to see beyond what I wrote, to know exactly how I feel so that you know the right words to say to me to lift up my spirit.

I will remember that He loves me, I will pray for endurance to keep running towards the prize I seek to win, and thank the Lord for this divine compliment! I was so afraid that I was being punished. I never expected to be tested in this way.

And rest assured, we no longer attend that church for many reasons in addition to what I mentioned that I am glad are so obvious to you. The pastor told ___ that ___ was violating the sixth commandment by not eating his vegetables. And he was not discreet about this, but said this in the middle of Sunday school in front of everyone. He would go so far as to pile veggies on __'s plate at the monthly potluck. And he said__ was a glutton because of being overweight. He was cruel. He once took me aside and asked me about __'s eating habits. He wrote a horrible "damning" letter to ___, which was the final straw for us.

It is difficult to forget the past. Still, I will also strive to accomplish this.

Again, thank you so much for your kindness, fellow warrior of greater rank than I.

In His name

Response #13:

You're most welcome, my friend! Thanks for all your encouraging words as well, and especially for your prayers. I hear from many young people who are struggling in all manner of ways – you are an example of the right way to do things (keep up the good work!).

This world is passing away. It is all nothing but dust. The things people value here are worthless in God's eyes – except for the truth of the Word and our dear brothers and sisters who value it. What we have in heaven is a treasure that cannot dim or decay; the troubles of this life and the opinions of mortal men cannot decrease its value in any way. And we have the opportunity to keep building up that hoard day by day – and it is a glory to Christ that we do so. Keep building.

(10) According to the grace of God given to me like a wise architect I have laid down a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each one take care how he builds upon it. (11) For no one can lay another foundation except the One that has been laid down: Jesus Christ. (12) And if someone builds upon his foundation with gold, silver, and precious stones, [or] with wood, hay, and stubble, (13) [in either case] his work will be made manifest [as to its true quality], for the Day [of judgment] will make it clear [for what it truly is], because it will be revealed (lit., uncovered) with fire. And the fire will evaluate (lit., "assay") the work of each person as to what its [true] quality is. (14) If anyone's work which he has built [on his foundation of faith in Christ] remains (i.e., is not burnt away by the fiery evaluation), he will receive a reward [for it]. (15) If anyone's work is burnt up, he will suffer the loss [of any potential reward for it], but he himself will be saved – but in this way [just described] as through fire [which evaluated his false works as worthless and burnt them up].
1st Corinthians 3:10-15

Looking forward to cheering you and your crowns at the judgment seat of Christ!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Professor,

The last few weeks have been a test and I have not given a good testimony to the truth. Weeds pollinate quickly when the word of God isn't put first and the only way to change that is to come back to the truth fully in one's heart, placing it above and before all else.

It is tempting, however, to delay that return until this or that problem has been solved, as one thinks that then things will finally be in order and it will be possible to refocus the attention to where it needs to be. What a delusion. This is exactly how the battle with the weeds become endless and takes over.

I now need to come back to God with all my heart after this terrible time and failure. I know that this was a test for me and today I am making this long overdue step in the faith, putting trust in the Lord, reading Matthew 6:19-34.

At about this point last year God has delivered from the long trial when I haven't been able to sustain myself. Now a multitude of all these mundane, time-consuming issues has proven a difficult test, but today I want to put all this behind me. I almost can't believe how I let all the weeds take up so much space, how all the earthly anxieties multiplied at a time, when I am professionally in a better situation than I ever have been, by orders of magnitude.

It is a new start today, to know the truth isn't enough. This has been an exercise in the faith and it is time for the faith to overcome. Your prayer Professor, as always, will be greatly appreciated.

In our Lord,

Response #14:

It's not my place to second guess anyone's self evaluation of their Christian walk, but I hope that you will put up with me for a word or two. Life can be messy and complicated, and the Christian life even more so. Paul sometimes compares it to serving on a military campaign, and that analogy is apt here. War is messy too. Even if a general or private soldier does everything right with courage and skill, the unexpected will often happen and there will be setbacks and losses. One reason for that is that the enemy also has a "vote" on how the battle will go. For that reason the best leaders have a knack for encouraging their troops when things are going badly and not according to plan – and nothing ever goes entirely according to plan. We too are in a fight, a life and death fight. We too are opposed by a clever enemy – there is none more clever. And of course although we attempt to always act with courage, skill and discipline, we are not perfect. When new circumstances present themselves, moreover, we certainly can be forgiven for not having a "standard operating procedure" for dealing with them. In the analogy, if we fight a battle and take heavy losses, or perhaps are even defeated, a post mortem on what we did right and what went wrong and some attention to "lessons learned" is not a bad thing at all. But in the heat of the campaign we can never allow ourselves to be so upset by one bad tactical decision that we end up losing the battle (not to mention the war). In other words, good soldiers have to have short memories. They can't afford to grieve overly about every loss or setback. They have to maintain good morale through the shot and shell, even if they have "messed up" (and everyone does so from time to time). They have to take the long view, and not get myopic about present circumstances. And the main thing they have to avoid is to be looking backward when the enemy is out front.

I have always found this a useful analogy in conducting this "fight", and I hope you too will take it to heart. I certainly have feet of clay and while I am very pleased with what the Spirit has wrought in this ministry over the years, it hasn't been a straight line "big blue arrow" moving forward without glitches, bumps, setbacks, periods of poor performance, etc. But a good solider always gets back up off the ground and keeps moving forward, "forgetting what lies behind" (1Cor.3:13), and pushing forward to the objective. We are going to make mistakes and we are going to have breakdowns – it's a part of human nature – especially since we are going to continue to be confronted by the unexpected. The measure of true Christian courage is getting back up and getting back on the road even when we are depressed about some setback or failure . . . and recapturing our joy in the Lord. It's all about Him, after all, not about us. The mission is important, but we are not (relatively speaking), so we can afford to take ourselves less seriously – even as we come to love Jesus more and more in all godly seriousness.

You will get back on your spiritual feet, my friend. Once you get this new situation "wrestled to the ground and pinned", things will again begin to fall into place.

I'm keeping you in my prayers day by day. Also, thanks in advance for your prayers this week.

In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Brother Bob,

I've been trying to get my mind right to email you back now for a while. I've received both of your emails informing me of the latest updates to the Ichthys website and also you checking up on me which meant a lot to me, probably more than you know. I know you deal with thousands of people and never thought you would remember me.

I don't know where to start with my life. I know it's been a while now since we last spoke. I pretty much stop preaching all together. I got too discouraged and decided to step away from trying to have a church because everything I did and tried never lead to growth. But at the same time I also stopped having bible studies and church at home because during that time I was broken down and defeated and I just needed a break from everything. In the midst of that, I started focusing on the natural things of the world more like sports for my kids. Because while I pastored, the kids never could play sports because we had church a lot. So I signed them up to play in travel leagues etc. which occupies the weekend entirely and a lot of weekdays as well.

I've been numb brother Bob for a long time. I've tried to pull myself together and get started doing something but I have not been able to muster enough strength to do it. Whenever I feel the hurt and the pain, I can never get a break though because of the state I'm in. I've let my family down. I have not departed from the faith, I love the Lord much and my faith is still in him. But I feel like I know nothing anymore. I've lost all confidence and motivation in my ability to teach his word again even to the family. I've allowed too much of the world inside which has occupied my time and routine and I haven't been able to break free.

I never been in this state before and I feel like I'm in stuck mode. I haven't read the word or had a steady prayer life in a long time and now it's become normal. I've been unhappy for a long time, but I try not to show it. I can feel myself going backwards slowly, but I don't have the strength to fight hard enough to get my break through. The old man is trying emerge but I keep fighting him off. But I know I have compromised on some things which I shouldn't have and the results has affected myself and my family. I could go on and on but I believe you get the picture.

With that being said Bro. Bob, I know it's Satan. I know I have given up and given in to some things which I know I shouldn't have. I know I turn to self and to flesh to get by the hurt, pain, stress, discouragement and everything else I've been faced with. I know I’ve given him the satisfaction of being the cause of my failure and even myself knowing this, I've done nothing.

I don't have like-minded friends close by, I don't have a church to go to because of what I already know. My __ who's always supported me even when we disagreed on some things came against me a few days ago. Though a follower of Christ said some hurtful things to me regarding what I believe is the truth in regards to the speaking in tongues and modest apparel. My stand is the same as yours on this topic and a matter of fact you made it clearer to me to understand. If I had been willing to compromise on the truth the house would be full. But anyway that hurt me because __ was the main person I could somewhat talk to.

I don't have any one I can talk to or fellowship with close by, pray with or anything close. It's just me. And that's a lonely feeling. Even the bible describe brothers having fellowship, encouraging one another being each other’s keeper and hold one another accountable. Even the bible talked about the saints assembling themselves together and being around Elders teaching and encouraging others.

I miss fellowship where I can physically see people and talk to people. I don't have a (let's just say) mentor or a teacher close by where I can talk and break bread with or other people whose relatable at the moment. That by myself feeling doesn't feel good at all knowing it's just me and my family and I don't know what to do. I've been these churches before and I won't settle. I don't believe the phrase some church is better than no church if the churches are incorrect in a lot of ways, unless of course I'm conducting it myself which is the problem.

I know you've always been there when I needed a word of encouragement, understanding and direction and I so grateful to God for you. The first time you emailed me I was in tears because you said my name and remembered me and said that you were praying for me.

I really wish you could teach openly and not only electronically. I would like to meet you someday and fellowship with you in person sometimes. I have no problem driving out that way.

You've been that friend and that brother to me that I need in my life. I truly thank you for your prayers and I know you may not believe this, but I do often mentioned you and yours in my prayers.

I've been flat out been too embarrassed and ashamed to email you, but I feel relieve that I'm doing this now. I haven't been on your website in a long time. Please pray for me even the more, that God will deliver me, restore me and to fix my mind so I can get back to work and feed my family if no else the word of God and also live the life of holiness in the way I should live.

Once again, thank you, thank you, thank you for not forgetting about me my friend.

God bless you.

Response #15:

It's wonderful to hear from you, my friend! I have been keeping you in my prayers day by day.

I am sorry to hear, however, that you have been having some spiritual turbulence. I think that it is an occupational hazard of those with the gift of pastor/teacher to be prone to an "all or nothing" tendency. We have to recognize that this is not a healthy approach since it can easily result in burn-out when we have ourselves set on "all", and the sort of spiritual torpor you are experiencing whenever we find circumstances tending in that other direction.

The main thing I can tell you about this is that all Christians, and pastor/teachers in particular, need to develop a short memory.  We are going to have things in life capable of being regretted, but if we actually start regretting it's going to set us back in all sorts of ways and make forward progress problematic. Biblically speaking, if we have messed up in any way large or small, we know that the Lord forgives us when we confess – so we definitely need to make a habit of forgiving ourselves once we have turned around and gotten back on track, having asked for His forgiveness. Otherwise we will likely be staying off the track entirely for a good long time.

It's clear to me from you email, my friend, that you are only in need a little kick-start to your self-discipline. Having a church or any sort of ministry where things are required to be done on a regular basis has a tendency to provide a framework where doing what we ought to do is "easier", at least to the extent that we are forced by the circumstances to show up and do what we are expected to do (and so it is easier to be in a rhythm of routine of preparing to do so). Once the bugle stops sounding, however, it is harder for most people to keep up a good, systematic approach. But it can be done. My advice would be to set a time for your prayers and Bible study that can be defended as "sacrosanct" or more or less so. If that means getting up earlier or staying up later or retiring to a "safe place" at a regular time of the day, so be it. That can be hard to do with a family, I do understand, but even if you only do this for, say, half an hour, that can become the rock on which you start to build back in all manner of other good things. A little bit with which we can prove faithful is better than biting off a lot we can't be consistent with – or that seems so onerous we stop trying.

Missing other people to fellowship with is a common complaint I hear almost daily in this on-line ministry. But I have learned that a little here is also better than a lot out there if that little is of a high quality. I'm sorry to hear about __, but even family members (who are often the most difficult to convince of the truth), sometimes do come around through patience and prayer. Don't give up or become too discouraged: faith, administered with love, can move mountains.

I will certainly continue to keep you in my prayers as I have been doing, my friend. I think that the Lord is already beginning to bring you back around (as your email shows). I am sorry that things didn't work out the way you had hoped in your previous ministry, but that was no doubt not your fault. Most of the great prophets of Israel had very unresponsive congregations. That is part and parcel of the point on the divine time-line where we find ourselves. Keep being faithful in your prayer life, your Bible reading and Bible study, and overall preparation for further ministry which He no doubt has in store for you. I know that the Lord honors all of the above, and I know that that is where your true heart is as well.

Your friend forever in Jesus Christ the Head of the Church,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Brother Bob, I thank you for your response. I really appreciate everything you said which meant a lot to me and no doubt the truth which I really needed. I thank God for allowing me to cross path with you. Your email and prayers is the kick start I really needed and I'm building upon it now. I had surgery and I will be having another done as well, but I have plenty of time on my hands to get back on track, read, pray and meditate on Gods word and will. I really needed this time. I'm limited with typing, but please continue to pray for me, because even sitting here with free time it's been hard to get focus. Once again I really appreciate you and I will also continue to pray for you and yours. I will be in touch once I heal up or before. God bless.

Response #16:

I have been praying for you and thinking about you a lot. I'm very pleased to hear that you are back on the road to spiritual healing.

I know that the Lord has great things in store for you, my friend.

Keep fighting the fight.

In the Name of the dear Savior who bought us with His blood, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

This is my first email to you although I have been using Ichthys for my Bible Study for a few years now. My brother introduced it to me, he is also the person who has helped find salvation in the Word of God.

A quick introduction about myself, I was brought up (or made to be) a Roman Catholic. During my late teenage years I felt that the Roman Catholic church was not for me and I ‘abandoned’ it. After two years local service, I left to move to the United Kingdom to become a Royal Marine Commando. I am now in my third year serving the Corps.

It’s not easy being a Christian in the British Military but I have managed to keep my faith strong, on the other hand Jesus’s Apostle’s without doubt had a harder tests of faith then I could ever imagine.

Like I said, I have kept my faith strong but recently I feel like I have let God down big time. We are born sinners, which is why God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins and that is why we are able to repent in prayer with the Lord for every time we sin.

This time I’m finding it incredibly hard to reach God in prayer and also very hard to concentrate while doing my Bible Reading and Study (I feel I need to be on level terms with God before I really can take in the word again).

Thank you for all your hard work, a true blessing.

God Bless,

Response #17:

It's good to hear from you personally – I have been keeping you in my prayers for some time, having heard about you and your situation from your brother and from our mutual friend.

I know from personal experience that living a sanctified life while in the military on active duty is not the easiest thing in the world, and especially in elite units such as the Royal Marine Commando. The better units all have their own unique warrior ethos, and that often involves a zealous embracing of all manner of carnality. It's understandable, and I am sure that the Lord is well-aware of the special temptations that you are having to battle in your particular circumstances.

I suppose the best advice I can give you is to remind you first and foremost that we are promised forgiveness when we confess. So when you do so, you are forgiven. It is true that when we violate our own godly standards we are going to "feel bad" about it, and that this will in turn have a negative impact on our relationship with the Lord. But even if we fail and stumble – as we all do in some respects from time to time – that error does not destroy our relationship with the Lord. So when we are suffering under discipline for some sinfulness or some repeated pattern that we find hard to break, it is important to remember to carefully walk the line between being too hard on ourselves on the one hand and too easy on ourselves on the other. The Lord loves us, and He also disciplines us. In failure there will be tears, but there can (and should) also be joy as we remember that we do belong to Jesus Christ no matter what, and that even the sting of discipline is an indication of that love.

David was a great warrior – one of the greatest who ever lived. He "messed up" on more than one occasion, and sometimes spectacularly so. But David never allowed the failure or the consequences or the discipline he suffered to intrude on his love for the Lord, and he never forgot in all his troubles that the Lord loved him. This flashes forth from the Psalms brilliantly, and it is something a believer should never forget, especially when convicted in the heart of being "off" in his/her approach.

No matter how badly you feel you have failed, remember that you have the Holy Spirit within you, and that you belong to Jesus Christ. He bought you with His blood and you are His. You have the greatest opportunities in this life to learn about Him, to grow in your walk with Him, and to help others do the same. This is what the Christian life is all about, and every Christian warrior has to inure himself to the battle, resisting the temptation to let himself become hors de combat because of some particular failure.

So be strong and courageous and do not let anything throw you off your mark. Keep fighting the fight for Jesus Christ, my friend. Herein there is great reward. This is where the crowns of glory grow.

Please feel free to write me any time.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our Lord, Master and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Dear Professor,

Thank you for such an inspiring email, it has certainly helped me. Your time is very much appreciated Professor.

''No matter how badly you feel you have failed, remember that you have the Holy Spirit within you, and that you belong to Jesus Christ. He bought you with His blood and you are His.'' - I shall do my best to remember these words in bad times.

I met our friend for the first time last weekend, he is such a gifted and blessed man. I am very intrigued with how you managed to live a sanctified life while in the military, I was very surprised to find out how many hardened hearted non-believers there are in the forces here in the UK, which brings me to my next question.

Getting asked ''are you Religious?'' is becoming a very common question I get asked, and when asked on the spot I find it really hard to answer. I don’t like to describe myself as religious but more as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, though to my friends and family (who are non-believers) it will mean the same thing to them. Professor, how would you answer this question?

Another question I got asked recently was ‘’What do I think about relationships with a non-believer, and would it bother me?’’ This person struggles with some of the ideology, mainly the idea of being a good person isn’t good enough and I think our outlooks vary greatly. This question got asked to me by someone who is not ‘religious’ but from what I can see so far is very open minded, and I pray for ___ to open up to the Word of God and believe.

I didn’t respond back with an in depth answer because I felt I didn’t have enough knowledge to answer. My response was more like, ‘’The majority of my family are non-believers but yet I still love them, the majority of people I work with are all non-believers but yet I still maintain professional standards with them and look out for them like brothers.’’ I then said that no, it wouldn’t bother me but I’ve been thinking lately and if I did have a relationship with a non-believer some way or another it will have an effect on my relationship with the Lord. Once again Professor, how would you answer this?

God bless Professor,

Response #18:

You're most welcome.

I was saved at a very early age. My dad was a Presbyterian minister. But I wasn't much interested in "religion" either, and wasn't the most "sanctified" of individuals during most of my time in the USMC. However, the Lord got my attention while I was in service, and I had the blessing to fall in with another Marine officer who acquainted me with Col. Thieme's Berachah Church ministry of tapes and publications. After about a year or two of this, I decided to resign my regular commission and enter into preparation for ministry. Getting to the point of "sanctification" was certainly a process for me (and I wouldn't dream of suggesting that I have totally arrived either). There are temptations in service that aren't as avoidable as they would be in a normal nine to five job, but I did learn that it is possible to turn them down. If a person is not sanctimonious about it, it need not even be a point of ridicule (circumstances do vary, of course).

I spent most of my free time in the last two years of service in Bible study, so I wasn't often at loose ends with my buddies and in danger of falling into terrible straits. Then too, besides the officer I mentioned, I met a couple other fellows who were likewise strong believers, even if not of my particular "flavor". In my experience, therefore, the Lord provides and more than meets us halfway if we are willing to respond to Him. So, no, I wouldn't describe myself as religious at all – in fact that sort of thing has always turned my stomach. True Christianity is as you say a life-changing personal relationship with our Lord, and being faithful to Him is learning about His truth, living it, and helping others do the same. If anyone is ever interested, I'm happy to explain (in gruesome detail if they can handle it). But I don't believe in jamming things down other people's throats.

When it comes to in-between situations, a well-placed word or phrase can be more effective than a dissertation. The Spartans were renowned for this sort of pithy discourse (even though it was not any more understood in general in antiquity than it is today). They would say things like "with it or on it" (meaning, "I'd rather have you killed and carried back on your shield than dishonor the family), or "in the shade then" (meaning, "You can shoot all the arrows you want at us, but we're still not going to yield this position"), or "smart missile" (meaning, "Just because I survived and my buddy was killed doesn't mean he had more guts than me, unless your arrows can search out and destroy the courageous men and avoid the cowards"), etc. Or to put it in biblical terms:

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 NKJV

As to unbelievers, there is a good deal about that subject on the website of late (see below). Generally speaking, I have no problem relating to unbelievers and maintaining good, professional working relationships with them. Never have. But I'm not much interested in socializing with them – unless it is a case of making someone a special project (but I've gotten a bit too old and too busy for that sort of thing for the most part). What it all boils down to is choice. It's not about being good. We are all bad in that we are all sinners, have all sinned, all have a sin nature, and all will sin again. Since God is perfect, no one could stand before Him absent the work of Christ, because all the good in the world can't blot out a single sin. Only the blood of Christ can do that – He died for all of our sins, every single one. Since Jesus is freely offered to all as a Substitute for sin, and is the only way of having God's righteousness, it is in fact the epitome of arrogance to throw Christ's sacrifice back in the Father's face and say "I don't need that". People do this because they don't want to be accountable to God or to have their will impinged upon by Him in any way. Even "good" people do that. I'm glad for "good" people. But I'm also appalled at their failure to draw the right conclusions from the basic life-calculus of sin, death and judgment. I suppose that is why I'm not interested in having a relationship that is serious with anyone who is clearly never going to be likely to accept Christ – it's just too sad.

Family members are a different story in that 1) we have some obligation to them whether we like them or not, and 2) since we are believers, it is not pointless to hope that God in His wisdom has put us in the family with them as a witness to them – one which they may well one day accept. Where there is life, there is hope, and given a connection that we did not choose, it is honorable to keep that hope alive, in my opinion.

Here are a couple of links where this subject is covered:

The Problem of Unbelievers (in BB 4B)

Unbelievers, Free Will, and the Plan of God

Unbelievers, Free Will, and the Plan of God II

Salvation, the Gospel, and Unbelief.

Against Universalism III: Unbelievers in the Plan of God.

Unbelief and its Consequences.

Please do feel free to write me back about any of this, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello Rob,

Im struggling with a heart wrenching situation, the death of my dog, who has been my faithful and loving companion for eleven years. Today I had to put him to sleep, his suffering was too much to bear. I am heartbroken. And I am mad at God, not at Jesus, but not because of this, but in general. For years I have asked him to open a door for me for work, which I need and am qualified for, for my self esteem. And NEVER has he opened that one door. I don't know if this makes any sense to you, but I feel that He feels disdain for me, and just doesn't like me, never has. I feel He rejects me. Not because of the death of my much beloved companion, but in general. Is it possible to love Jesus and not have a negative impression of God? I see Him as distant, cold and vengeful. I see Jesus the opposite. So how can one reconcile those two natures?

Much thanks and I look forward to your wise words in this moment of deep sadness. Does it have to do with the fact that I did not like my father, who never liked me? Or my mother, who abused me? Does God also feel this way towards me?

God bless you (ironically, I have always felt He blesses others)

Response #19:

Let me strongly advise you never to get "mad at God". That is always a mistake. We all go through troubles and tribulations in this life, and it is often the case that God does not answer us how we want or when we want . Trust me: if He did it our way every time we would only pray ourselves into oblivion – because He knows what's really good and right and we often don't have the slightest clue (we don't know what's coming, e.g., and He certainly does). God's care of us is perfect and His plan is perfect. If we ever fail to see that it is because we are in a less than perfect place, spiritually speaking (and loss and grief and trouble sometimes but us there emotionally). Spiritual growth and consistency is necessary to get to the place where we can have peace in Him and continue to trust Him no matter what happens – and even then we can have "bad days" (which is what I assume you are having). But He loves us more than we can know. After all, the Father sent His own dear Son to the cross to die for all of our sins – otherwise we would be doomed to the lake of fire. Think about it: sacrificing Jesus for the least of your sins was bigger and better than all your worldly blessings you could even imagine put together, and more than compensation for anything you ever have or will suffer . . . and He died for all of your sins.

And we know that, for those who love God, He works everything together for good – [that is to say,] for those who have been called according to His plan.
Romans 8:28

Yes, God the Father is working everything out for our good – if we truly love Him. That does not mean it will always seem that way, especially if we are looking at things with worldly eyes and not from the divine viewpoint. When the pressure is on and when we are disappointed by circumstances it is very easy to cop a bad attitude about our lot. But that is to misread the entire situation. We know, or should, that if He appeared to us right here right now and we had the temerity to complain, He would show us very quickly where we were in the plan and just how everything was coming together perfectly . . . for what He wills for us is good for us and for all in every way. Of course in the absence of being able to call upon Him for the details, we have to have faith. That is what our still being here after salvation is all about. The children of the Exodus saw great things from the Lord, but just as soon as He let them be tested they began to complain and blame Him – every time. We should do better than that, especially since we have the scriptures which tell us about their mistakes (cf. 1Cor.10:1-12).

If I'm not mistaken, several years ago you had talked with me about how best to use your talents for the sake of Christ's Church. I have been praying for you ever since to get to the point spiritually to be able to make good on that good intention so as to be highly rewarded in eternity. What you are experiencing now is no uncommon thing since all who want to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted in some way and opposed in many ways. We have to remember, however, that it is not God who is our adversary but the evil one. God is for us – so who can be against us? No one. If we trust Him to bring us through whatever troubles assail us. Not necessarily our way. Not necessarily right away. But in the precise right way and at the exact right time. I have just now this week been delivered from a trial that has lasted over three years – three years when disaster loomed daily. But God was faithful to me and kept me safe like the apple of His eye until the glorious day when He wiped my troubles away like the shadow of a cloud. It is not my place to say, but perhaps the Lord is gently coxing you into an even better direction.

Be pleased to trust Him, my friend. If you are angry, you are not thinking aright. He loves you and has only good things for you, even in the midst of grief and trouble. But accessing that love takes faith and faithfulness.

As to your loss, I would remind you that inasmuch as animals do have spirits but do not have the necessity to choose, there is nothing that prevents them being in eternity with us. We know that God never allows a human spirit to face annihilation (cf. Eccl.3:14), even if most people are going to end up in hell of their own accord; so that I take Solomon's observation that "no one knows" what happens to the spirits of animals as an encouragement that all of our faithful companions from the animal kingdom will see eternity too. I can't be dogmatic about it since scripture is not, but it is what I personally believe. Please see the link:

Nature and Fate of Animals

Be strong and courageous, my friend. There is nothing better than the love of God and the love for God. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are "one" in essence, and in purpose there is no shadow of difference between them. Loving the Son is loving the Father and vice versa. Be pleased to love Him "with all of your heart and soul and might and mind and strength". That is the stuff of spiritual maturity, when continued even in the dark times.

The sun will break through and the rainbow will appear in the sky. That is my testimony, my friend.

The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
Proverbs 4:18-19 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior who loved us so much He died for all of our sins – and in the Father who gave Him up that we might have eternal life with Him forever.

Bob L.

Question #20:

I'm in a spot of trouble again and really really need help. Following your advice, and the advice of someone else whom I emailed, I was slowly beginning to get better over the past few days. However, tonight I was reading an article concerning the Book of Life and what it means to be blotted out of it. The site was pulling up the various instances of where the Book of Life is mentioned in scripture and, at one point, describes all the people of Earth during the Tribulation who will worship the anti-Christ and therefore have their name blotted out. The author of the article goes on to say "Worshipping the anti-Christ is certainly probable cause for one's name to be blotted out of the Book."

Then, the author speculates on who the anti-Christ might be. The author says that Revelations 17:8 and the wording used might infer that the anti-Christ would be a person from the past. The most likely candidates in this scenario, according to the author, are Antiochus Epiphanes, Roman Emperor Nero, or Judas Iscariot (who was also called the son of perdition in scripture). When I read this, I thought to myself "What?! Judas?! Well, if that's true, then you have to give him credit for his persistence." For a second, I was amazed that such a prospect might come to pass. But then another thought took hold in me: "Is there a hint of admiration there,? Why, would you even say you marvel at him?"

The second I realized the implications of this thought, my chest, my very core seized up into a knot of indescribable fear and I became very hot and started to sweat almost immediately. Provided that I had just read about such thoughts being the basis for someone being blotted out of the Book of Life, I'm sure you can understand my fear. I got up, paced back and forth in my room, reminded myself of God's eternal promises and that I am a child of God, and when I was calmed down enough to sit, I knelt by my bed and prayed out to God for forgiveness in this. But right after, here I am sending a message to you. Perhaps it's silly of me to think, but I'm afraid that these thoughts I was briefly subjected to has caused me to be lost. Would you say I am?

Response #20:

Hello Friend,

Let me start by saying that you have an ailment which is very common among Christians today, one which can impede spiritual growth and recovery. I call this ailment "Smorgasbord-itis". Simply put, it's an inflammation of the heart brought on by ingesting all manner of things that are not true and then paying attention to them.

In order to grow up spiritually, the last thing a Christian who truly wants to grow closer to Jesus Christ should do is to move from one teacher to another, one website to another, one blog to another – at virtually the speed of light. There are a number of reasons for avoiding this approach. First, in order to benefit us, the information we get has to be both true and believed. If it is not true, it won't help us. If it is true and we don't believe it, it won't help us. But if it is NOT true and we believe it anyway, even just a little, it will hurt us spiritually, and sometimes gravely so. That is why every Christian needs to find the right Bible teacher, the right Bible teaching ministry for them, and then stick with it. It can take time to figure out who is teaching the truth in a godly way that is actually going to be spiritually beneficial to you personally, a place where there is sufficient in-depth truth being dispensed so that a Christian can actually attain spiritual maturity through learning and believing it. Mind you, it doesn't have to be this ministry, but it also can't be any and every ministry – not if you want to recover and grow the way Jesus wants you to.

To get the specifics of your question, I have written a good deal about the book of life, and will give you those links here first:

The Book of Life

Tithing and the Book of Life

"The Book of Life" translation issues

The grammar of Revelation 13:8 and "The Lamb slain"

I will assuredly not erase his name from the Book of Life (in CT 2A)

The Book of Life (Revelation 13:8) - in CT 4

The godly and the godless and the book of life (in CT 6)

Last judgment "books" distinguished from the book of life (in CT 6)

Philippians 4:3 and the Book of Life

As to "who is anti-Christ", that is a question Christians who know the Bible should be aware cannot be answered with certainty before the Tribulation begins (and the Tribulation has not begun – yet). The beast is NOT a person from the past. He will become very obvious to any Christian who has being doing their homework once the last seven years commence.

As to worshiping the beast, that is associated with voluntarily taking his tattoo onto one's body. It's not an accidental or small thing. Everyone who does it will definitely know what they are doing (that is Satan's point), and, in the case of someone who was a believer before, such a person would first have to have already recanted of faith in Christ.

Believers are saved. Only unbelievers are condemned. And only someone who does not believe in Christ will be able to take this horrific action of receiving antichrist's mark and bowing down to him. Here are some links on that as well:

Antichrist: the Mark, the Number, and the Identification of the Beast

The Mark of the Beast (in CT 4)

The Number of the Beast (in CT 4)

You've begun running a good race, my friend! Be pleased to continue, and stay away from anything and everything that might trip you up.

Stay away from anything that [even] looks [like] evil.
1st Thessalonians 5:22

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Dear Bob,

I am in a rather weird position as of late. Since our last emails together I've had this never-ending feeling of something in the pit of my stomach. Much like worry, but at the same time it feels like something else, but I don't know what. It started on the night that everything all 'sank in' at one time, especially about hell and how it will be eternal (I don't want to see it/see those who are sent there). I think I know what is going on, and I don't know what to do about this.

I believe what is going on is my human sensibility (or my sin nature?) doesn't like even the thought of hell, the existence of such a place. I think what is going on is that part of me disagrees with God in terms of the eternal punishment of unbelievers, or even resentment of it? These thoughts are wrong, because I know that God is Love, but He is also just, and sacrificed everything for us to give us the gift of salvation through our Lord Jesus. Jesus died for our sins and wiped them clean, and that essentially, only people who choose to go to hell actually go there, and that anyone who knows God and our Lord Jesus even the slightest bit should immediately be running after them as fast as they can. This does not at all hinder my knowledge or faith that Jesus is Lord, and that I am saved through him, of course not. I may be 'forgetting' a lesson I learned before, but I'm not quite.. I don't know.. feeling close to the Lord, feeling love for him – but then I remember it's not a feeling, right?

I was reading Ichthys, and this is what finally helped me realize what was causing my discomfort. The discomfort came from the fact that I even questioned, or... disagreed with God, at all. http://ichthys.com/mail-minimum%20to%20be%20saved.htm

I don't want to question, or disagree, and I most certainly hope this is not resentment I feel. I don't want to feel this way about Him, I want to love again.

What can I do? This feeling, or sin nature, or sense of (my perception) of right and wrong is getting in the way, I think. I know I am wrong, but at the same time I keep asking myself, telling myself that "it doesn't seem fair. The punishment doesn't fit the crime." I've seen this before on Ichthys, but can't find the link, and was hoping you could elaborate to me on what to do about this. I hope I'm not doing something horrible by disagreeing with God on some level, even though I don't want to. I know, ultimately, he is right, he is just, he is perfect, and know that I'm not. There must be some arrogant part of me that thinks I'm better, or something, and that brings me much shame to admit in light of the progress I'd made in the past.

I keep asking myself "Who am I? The creation does not question the creator", and I know He is right.. or do I? Eternity in hell just seems so overwhelming horrible, and even now just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes that even a single person is condemned, and not saved, but that was their choice by choosing not to believe in Jesus. It's like I'm fighting with myself or going to just tear in two at any moment. I don't hate God, and I think it is more my compassion for others getting to me more than any real 'resentment' toward God. Why is it so hard for people to just believe in Jesus? I don't want anyone to go to hell, anyone, but it's not up to me.

Maybe there's this part of me that hates not having control, and that's contributing to it to.

In any case, I feel like I've finally hit the root of my problem, of my 'issues' which have been tormenting (or testing?) me as of late, but I don't quite know how to deal with them. I want to move on and not disagree with God, I want everyone to be saved, or both. Disagreeing isn't the same thing as not believing, right?

I can't seem to stop thinking about it, to the point where it is on my mind, constantly, that and the coming tribulation. As bad as this might sound, I haven't left my house in weeks. I can't let this just keep me paralyzed in my room all day, but I feel like I can't do anything but wait for the end. Why am I even worried about the tribulation, because afterward is when our Lord comes and we finally get to be with Him. Could this just be nervousness of the tribulation itself? I am willing to die for Lord Jesus, for God, but I guess my mind keeps wondering 'if I were physically tortured, how long could I hold out?'

This email was way longer than I intended, and I apologize. Please take your time in responding to it, should you choose to do so.

I do not like sending multiple emails like this, but tonight I had a small talk with ___ about faith. I asked __ if __ believed in Jesus, and __ did respond with 'I don't know'. I think I gave a poor witness to Christ tonight, since I let my worry overcome me while we were talking and I did cry a little bit, got emotional, due to what is going on with me right now as I detailed to you in the previous email to this one. To my small shame, when asked if I believed in God 'fully and 100% without a single doubt', I paused, but not for the reason it may sound like. My first inclination is to not lie or give false witness, and I paused because (firstly, I was emotional still) but I suppose I was asking myself in my own head, just to make sure, to confirm if I did indeed really fully 100% believe in God. I wanted to say yes, but then I asked myself if I would be lying or not.. so managed out a "I'm pretty much sure about it, yes.", or something along those lines.

Though I did find out __ concerns mirrored mine, the ones I detailed to you in the previous email. This may be me being swayed by my emotions again, but I think that could have gone better, like I could have done a better witness. The pause is causing me some measure of concern and, yes.. worry. I did go back later on to say that I did fully 100% believe, because I do... or I would like to think I do. How do we know? How do we know if there is not some part of us that doubts? I do not want to doubt, I do not want any doubt, but I fear if whether or not there may be some there...

I am afraid of doubt of any kind.

Response #21:

No one is perfect. When it comes to witnessing, most of us can look back later and say "I should have said this not that" or "I should have said it this way, not that way". ___ knows your position – that is the best you can do. Faith in Christ does not come from clever persuasion or debate finesse. It comes as a free will response to the witnessing of the Holy Spirit (so all are without excuse).

You don't have to be afraid about doubting. Most people have doubts. Spiritual growth is what stills them over time. As we grow and better understand the absolute faithfulness of God, we get better about seeing just how simple this all really is. God is God. We are His. We are saved. We will be with Him forever. Jesus is our Lord, our love, and our life. The time between now and when we are with Him must be endured, but it presents opportunities to learn about Him, walk with Him, and serve Him . . . to gain eternal reward.

Double and triple thinking things is not productive. If we sin, we can confess – and we should. If we fail, everyone fails. But if we are still alive afterwards we can get back up and try again. Plenty of people get angry with God. I think the fact that you are zeroing in on something important here is a sign of growth. A good deal of getting to the "simple place" of spiritual maturity is coming to realize that God has it all under control and that everything that happens is for good in every way. Therefore the only really unnecessary problems and troubles we will have in this life are the one which result from not trusting Him that He is in fact on top of everything.

If we could see the Lord standing at our side at all times, we would recognize that He is in charge and very well aware of all that is happening, and in complete control of it for good too. We can't see Him physically, but He is in fact here in reality and we need to get to the point of seeing Him spiritually with the eyes of faith. When we begin to do this, we start to recognize that this is NOT all about us, but is all about Him. We become incidental in even our own thinking when we finally get around to yielding up our will to His WILL, recognizing that it is the plan of God which is directing all things, not our ups and downs and worldly circumstances. That is what true Christian objectivity is all about.

This will all come as you continue to grow in Him and learn to put the truth you know in your heart above what you see, hear and especially above what you feel.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Hi Dr.

I hope all is well. In Galatians 5:24 "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires" (ESV), is he talking about mature believers? In this fleshly body, we all have not crucified it 100% because we all still sin even after salvation. Is he saying that only the mature believers belong to Christ because they are not constantly falling prey to the same fleshly desires? How does this correlate with spiritual marginal believers or believers who fall into "sin unto death"? These believers still belong to Christ.

I am confused on this passage because of the many levels of believers of Christ in this world.

As part of my continued walk in Christ and trying to grow in spiritual maturity, I am starting to do a verse by verse study of the bible on some key books. I am doing this in conjunction with continued studies from your site.

Every other week or when I finish an exegesis on a passage, I would like for you to review and comment. I would like your help in understanding how to better approach verse by verse studying techniques. Obviously there are so many different research opportunities online but I consider you my teacher and final source so your constant input is greatly appreciated.

My first book is the book of Colossians. I chose this book because it is an excellent book on deity of Christ and much easier to study for a begin exegesis student than say Romans or Hebrews. Please take a look at the attached document. Make any comments you wish on the documents or in an email. You can also use this as part of your email series if you wish.

Also, if you decide to help me along this exciting journey, any suggestions on techniques or things I should be looking for or answering when doing the exegesis is critically important . I do not want to start on a path without having a correct view of how to really do an in-depth verse by verse or book study.

I really appreciate your help and no rush on this. When you have time. I won't continue my studies until I hear back from you because I do not want to go in a different direction.

Yours in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Response #22:

Good to hear from you, my friend. Galatians 5:24 is speaking about our position in Christ. By choosing to accept the Gift of salvation, we have turned our back on the world and everything in it, including the passions and lusts described in this verse. That is, we have been set apart for Christ apart from the world . . . positionally. Getting to the point where we actually act that way consistently is sometimes a struggle, and there are few Christians who don't experience some setbacks therein along the road to Zion. Attempting to answer the command "be holy because I am holy" is something that can only be effectively done through spiritual growth and a deep commitment to living as Christ would have us to live (which things are really impossible to disaggregate).

I had a look at the attachment you sent me. It is clearly the product of a lot of detailed work. I didn't notice anything with which I would substantially disagree. What I would like to ask you is the purpose of this work, that is to say, how do you envision using these materials to help others grow? The medium and method of presentation really do make a difference when it comes to how best to organize and deploy the knowledge of the truth the Lord has given us. I might be able to better assist you if I have some more background.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Thanks Dr. I never thought about using the materials to help others. It was more to help me strengthen my understanding of the Word. I don't feel I am qualified to help others if I am myself so inadequately prepared. Also, I can just point them to your ministry for in depth questions or Dr Omo at Bible Academy.

There are so many so called teachers out there and I don't want to assume I am one or God called me just because I like personal studying. I guess I don't know what my spiritual gift is but until then I am just trying to learn more about him.

Thanks Dr

Response #23:

Well, I've seen many such materials prepared by seminary trained men and also those ministering the Word which were not nearly as well done. Being able to organize one's thoughts and knowledge like this is part and parcel of preparation for teaching, whatever the venue. Just because there are many teachers, doesn't mean there isn't a need for teaching – we both know there is. I can't tell you what your gifts are, but I can see what I see. I appreciate your humility, but humility is only humble up to a point:

"Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say." But he said, "O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send." So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses . . ."
Exodus 4:12-14 NKJV

I'll be praying for the Lord to help you figure out what He wants you to do.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #24:

I appreciate your response Dr. I will prayerfully see where the Lord leads me and will take your advice to heart. Believe, it is not false humility. I just don't know.

Thanks again sir.

Response #24:

I understand. I would merely suggest that you keep in mind the possible use of these material to help others as you are constructing them. I think that will give you added motivation, tighten the approach, and save time in the long run. Remember, there are multifarious gifts and many more ministries. It's a mistake to think of ministering the Word as only possible in a "cookie-cutter" traditional way like "it's always been done". The world is changing very rapidly and there are many ways to help others with learning the truth, if a person is gifted and prepared to do so – not just in the traditional ways that are usually thought of at first. This ministry, for example, has little to do with what was universally the standard approach to things just 50 years ago – and would have been inconceivable then.

Keep running your good race, my friend!

Yours in Jesus Christ our Lord, the Chief Shepherd of the Sheep.

Bob L.

Question #25:

Thank you Dr. Bob. Fyi, finished all your series and wonderful work. Going around for seconds now. :)

God bless

Response #25:

That's wonderful! I'm sure this puts you in a small and elite group – especially the "going around for seconds" part.

Thanks for your prayers and for the encouragement of your eagerness for the Word of God.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers every day.

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hi Bob,

Consider the following sentence in Japanese:

Konna boku nimo kanojo ga dekita.

The interlinear gloss of this sentence looks like this:

Konna boku nimo kanojo ga dekita.

this-kind-of I [DATIVE] girlfriend [NOMINATIVE] able-to-get.

Grammatically speaking, what we have here is something that is unthinkable in a western language like Greek or English: a demonstrative adjective modifying a personal pronoun. Literally, this would be something like saying "this-kind-of I." But when broken down according to the rules of Japanese grammar, we actually have a very natural interpretation of such a strange construct: "even a guy like me"

Western languages have a habit of assuming that their ways of grammar are universal among all humans, but this is of course not the case.

Sincerely,

Response #26:

This doesn't seem terribly odd to me. Perhaps its just that I seen a lot of odd things in Latin and Greek (not to mention in Hebrew and Aramaic) – odd, that is, from an English perspective. I firmly believe that just about anything we study and learn can be valuable, if only for the mental discipline of learning it. For anyone wanting to expand their capacity for thinking to greatest effect, language study seems to me to be the most effective way of doing so. If a person had to choose one language, Latin should be first (since it explains and helps a person master English), and Greek second (since it taxes and enlightens the mind like nothing else). After that, depending upon one's time, resources, and objectives, I would say you have a point. Hebrew certainly gave me a different way of looking at things – and it is also essential for anyone wanting to teach the Bible.

Apologies for just getting to your recent messages. Saturday is "posting day" for me, the day I try to put up a new email response page for readers to have something for Sunday fare (so I often don't get to late Friday emails until Sunday evening).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #27:

What do you think of KJV-only believers? There are those who have pointed out that modern versions are perverted and corrupt, especially the NIV.

Should we preach on the streets, in this Laodicean era? I feel like it falls on deaf ears, but I want something to do for the Lord.

One saved soul, planting a seed in someone, seems worth any heckling and verbal abuse from numerous unbelievers. Or is it more effective in this day and age to use the internet to spread the Gospel?

Response #27:

As to Bible versions, all the major English ones are good; none of them are perfect. Reading the Bible is good to do (see the link), but it can't substitute for receiving substantive Bible teaching. One reason is that the scripture is only truly the Word of God in the original languages, and translations can only be that: translations. People who fixate on one version usually do so because they want things simple. Simplicity is good only if it reveals truth; it is bad if it obscures truth. None of the men who actually translated the KJV would have the view the KJV-onlyists do, were they alive today.

As to street preaching, we all have our own gifts. Personally, I don't see much value in this sort of thing. If a person has genuinely been led by the Lord to do it, well and good. But evangelism is a gift (as well as a personal responsibility), and I don't see anything in scripture recommending odd behavior for odd behavior's sake. Paul and company often preached to crowds – crowds who were interested in what they had to say in no small part because of the miracles they were given to do (usually); this is a different time. Haranguing passersby is not the same thing as what went on in Acts.

Question #28:

Another facet that is a foundation to my upbringing and to many in our western Christian culture is the concept of a personal savior in Jesus Christ. I believe scripture supports the idea that God wants and desires communion with us and that the work of Christ enables that, but where I have questioned our cultures interpretation of this is in its execution. Some will speak about their relationship with God like a casual relationship with a friend, some will claim they hear from him or have conversations with him, etc...a big trend right now is to characterize Christianity as a relationship not a religion. It seems we consider this relationship as something that should resemble a human to human relationship. For me, I understand the desire for intimacy and I want to fellowship with Jesus but are we understanding what this relationship should look like correctly? I feel we can grow closer to Him through studying and applying His Word. Through prayer. And I look forward to fellowshiping with Him in eternity on a level I can't comprehend now, but what should our relationship look like now? How is this idea properly characterized or defined? Any thoughts or insight would be appreciated, as always. Thank you good sir!

Response #28:

It's a good question. I too often describe being born again as a relationship rather than a religion. I think that is an important distinction, especially when one considers what a "religion" is, namely, a superstitious collection of rites, traditions, and beliefs (most of which are untrue in whole or in part) which seeks by works to gain the approbation of God (or gods). Like you, however, I am always a bit skittish about putting things precisely this way, mainly because of the misuse (or bad witness) that often accompanies this pronouncement out there in "evangelical-dom". Like you, I wish always to express in my actual dealings with the Lord and also in the way that I describe my own approach the utmost respect to the One who made me and who died in my place that I might have eternal life.

Scripture is very clear about this, in my view. Jesus is the Head of the Church and our relationship to Him ought to be one of a very respectful and reverent wife to her perfect husband. Of course no human husband is anything close to perfect, and no wife, being human, ever gave her husband anything close to the respect to which he is biblically entitled (even being most imperfect). But we certainly hold in our hearts the ideal of the perfect wife responding perfectly in her heart to the perfect husband, and that is the standard of behavior to which we ought to hold ourselves (for it certainly is the standard to which the Lord holds us).

So on the one hand we really are "one" with Jesus in an absolute and incredibly intimate way; but on the other hand that does not mean that we are to be overly familiar with our Lord and Master, or treat Him with less respect than, for example, we would treat our boss or some other human authority: He is the Ruler of the universe. Between fear and familiarity there is appropriate reverence, and that is the "sweet spot" for which we should ever aim. He loves us and we appreciate and glory in that love; He expects us to be perfectly obedient and responsive to Him and we ought to be solicitous of His desires to the depth of our being.

I think it is unquestionably the case that this is yet another instance where growing spiritually is the key. By learning more about the Bible and its truths, progressing in the Word and in our application of its truths to our lives, we do learn the right way to think about our relationship with Him in all respects, so that we can avoid (for the most part) going off the road and into the ditch on one side of this equation or the other. As you rightly note, most Christians who are not spiritually mature and who are not aggressively pursuing a closer walk with Christ usually are either overly familiar in their attitude or overly fearful – and neither is really appropriate. Rather than treat the symptoms, however, what all such really need to do is to learn more of the truth of the Word. In so doing, most of these issues have a tendency to sort themselves out with growth (in the same way that all the foolish things we did as children, teenagers, and young adults eventually yielded to more appropriate behavior as we learned by life experience).

One last point. If anyone says that they actually hear the audible voice of God telling them verbatim certain things, that is a danger sign of far more serious spiritual problems. Of course it's not impossible, but all scriptural evidence suggest (and more than just "suggests" in my reading of the Bible), that God is not communicating to us in that way at the present time; rather He is talking to us by means of the Spirit through the written Word of Him who is the Living Word, our Savior Jesus Christ:

(1) God, from antiquity having communicated to our fathers in the prophets at many times and in many ways, (2) has in these last days communicated to us in a Son, [the One] whom He has appointed heir of all things, [the One] through whom He created the universe. (3) He is the shining forth of [the Father's] glory, the precise image of His essence, the One who sustains the universe by His mighty Word. When He had accomplished the cleansing of [our] sins, He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
Hebrews 1:1-3

Here are some other links you might find helpful in this regard:

Pursuing a Deeper Relationship with Jesus

Following Christ (in CT 1)

The Christian Walk

Prayer and our Walk with Jesus

Walking with Jesus

Peter Lesson #17: Imitating Christ

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #29:

Dear Professor,

I'm going through Thiessen and it's been helpful, although I also recognise the difference between reading a teaching which helps a fellow believer grow spiritually, and systematic theology, which, despite it's evident usefulness, often seems to have a smaller effect in this respect, even if it does help to achieve it indirectly - through preparation.

In our Lord,

Response #29:

Always good to hear from you, my friend!

I appreciate your comment about Thiessen. It demonstrates something I too have found. As I often say, the best approach to things often lies "in the middle". In most churches today, "teaching" is all about (or mostly all about) pop psychology and motivational speaking with a little scripture thrown in; systematic theology, on the other hand, is usually so dry and academic and generally devoid of any evidence of actual spirituality so as to be not very uplifting at all, even if it is useful for developing and exploring doctrinal positions. Most verse by verse commentaries suffer from the same precise problems, being either all about "rah rah rah!" and almost oblivious to what the verses actually mean, or merely dry investigations of grammar divorced to all intents and purposes from the power of the truth the verses contain. Getting the mix between doctrinal truth and "relevancy" right has always been a concern of mine, but I have found that if one really is allowing the Spirit to lead this happens more or less automatically. So it is surprising to me that so few ministries whether oral or written (which I have seen anyway) have ever even come close to getting it "right".

Here's to getting it right for Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Your friend in our dear Lord.

Bob L.

Question #30:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

For many valid reasons I have stopped attending church. Most importantly (and sadly) because I've experienced "Christians" repeatedly using church walls and private agendas to build barriers between people. I've experienced behaviors of church leaders that are real head shakers (like using church tithes to buy a fifth of Jack Daniels as a gift for a guest speaker....).

I'm just tired of the politics and hypocrisy. And I'm sick of the blinders people don as they try to justify supporting dysfunctional toxic politics of separatism and hate.

The south is not the place to be if you've stopped attending church, as I've been abandoned by old church "friends" who think I'm an apostate. They are horrified and worried that I'm lost. What is worse are the many Bible-toting coworkers who routinely throw their teammates under the bus or who blatantly violate standards.

The fervor with which the churched attempt to draw me back into the fog only pushes me further away. I'm at the point where I wonder what in the world caused me to be part of this crazy pseudo Christian dynamic in the first place, as the rich relationship that I've experienced with the Holy Spirit has always evolved independently from the church. I find myself in the twilight zone; a no-man's land of sorts. The only comfort and reassurance I find is in prayer, studying and demonstrating God's word. I meditate a lot and quietly go about His will. We are what we do. They will know us by His love.

I hope you are at peace. My own peace arises from how the Holy Spirit directs me from within. It is a deeply personal thing.

Wishing you and yours a blessed day of Thanksgiving joy.

Response #30:

You're very welcome.

The "what church" problem is a hard one these days, and the reaction of lukewarm Christians to their more spiritually serious brethren who finally get tired of the compromise and the hypocrisy is in my estimation getting more unkind as the lukewarmness gets more obvious. After all, if a person is compromising and merely "nodding to God", as my old pastor used to say, anyone who refuses to participate in the charade is likely to be taken as making a personal comment on their own lack of interest in the truth by voting with their feet and getting out.

I used to feel defensive about this issue once upon a time. Now I don't have any qualms about telling people that Ichthys is "my church": I've never met better and more spiritually dedicated Christians anywhere than the readers who communicate with me day by day.

It would be nice if we could all find a wonderful brick-and-mortar church within driving distance that really did put the Word of God in first place, one that really did teach enough doctrinally correct substance to enhance our spiritual growth. It would be worth putting up with a great deal of non-essential nonsense if that were the case. Trouble is, it almost never is even close to being the case. We live in an era when non-essential nonsense (whether ritual or emotional excess or high-tech gadgetry and musical programs on steroids, etc.) is mostly the only thing that most churches are about in our era of Laodicea. And once a Christian has had some actual, solid food, it's very hard to go back to a pablum diet exclusively and pretend to like it (Heb.5:14).

I praise you for "choosing the better part" (Lk.10:42), and encourage you to make better spiritual use of the time and energy previously devoted to attending for the sake of attending so as to keep growing "through the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2Pet.3:18).

Sorry to hear about the job. I was wondering about this when you said you were considering a job there. It's hard to believe from the outside looking in that the problem is not merely a few bureaucrats at the top. But I know from much sad personal experience that every organization has a culture that tends to seep down through the whole, whether good or bad – and it's much easier for it to be bad (or go bad) than to stay good (let alone get good if bad – that never seems to happen). If we find ourselves in such a place, it's almost impossible to change it from the inside, single individuals that we are (even the head of an organization would have to be exceptional and have exceptional powers to do so). More likely is that sooner or later our good approach will run afoul of all those vested in the lazy, bad approach, and we will suffer for it. So I do hope and pray that you will soon find a better job somewhere, and that the Lord will keep you safe in the meantime.

Thanks for the T-Day greeting. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #31:

You wrote, "Now I don't have any qualms about telling people that Ichthys is "my church": I've never met better and more spiritually dedicated Christians anywhere."

Thank you. Ichthys is now my church too. You are one of the most devoted Christians I know!

All For His Glory!

Response #31:

Thank you!

Your spiritual dedication is what impresses me.

I'll try to be worthy of your confidence.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #32:

http://creation.com/should-genesis-be-taken-literally

No, Adam did not write down clay tablets with Genesis 2 on it which was later redacted by Moses. Moses got the whole book in one form from God on Mount Sinai. Why is this even open for debate?

I have given up working with most Evangelical Christians. American Christians have failed to do their job. If the Tribulation doesn't happen soon, Christianity will loose its saltiness entirely.

Sincerely,

Response #32:

It's sad but true. This is a good case study for what's wrong with the current approach. When there is no serious Bible study going on, people look for causes, and that always results in a false cause. Evangelicals should be carrying the torch, but instead they're only marginally less lukewarm than the spiritually dead or near so traditional denominations and the definitely dead Christian in name only ones. We are in the era of Laodicea indeed.

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
Jude 1:20-21 NIV

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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