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Fighting the Fight VIII

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

Is it a sin to paint a portrait of someone you hate with his eyes gouged out, his arms and legs cut into bloody stumps, with worms crawling in his teeth, experiencing extreme torment in fire?

Sincerely,

Response #1:

Whether or not it is a sin per se, it's hard to see how the attitudes concomitant with it could not be sinful in the motivation and execution.

Some people "push our buttons". If they are family members or colleagues at work etc., there is nothing for it but to recognize the spiritual vulnerability we have in regard to such individuals and steel ourselves in the Spirit to refrain from allowing ourselves to be goaded or manipulated by the evil one. When it comes to relationships or contact that is not driven by necessity (of binding relationships or earning a living), then we ought to separate completely from all such individuals as we have an absolute right to do.

Life is too short for such aggravation. That would be true even if we weren't here to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Since we are here for Him and His Church, this is one area where we really ought to "gird up our mental/emotional loins" for doing what is pleasing in His sight (1Pet.1:13). We will certainly have more peace if we do so.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Hi Dr Luginbill!

Recently life has been much easier for me (I have a sneaky suspicion it is because great believers have been praying for me since you put me on the prayer list). Some of the people whose emails you post also just seem like good strong believers. I have been resisting temptation and reading the Bible and doing the Bible study on Ichthys. I'm also getting the tenses and declensions on words, and am getting very simple sentences! Sorry for all the exclamation points; I just feel really happy.

There is an issue that I was though you might have some insight on. It is something that I have seen many people my age struggle with. I think it would be easier to give you a personal example than ask in the general abstract: [is helping someone with whom one has history wise?]

I know you are very busy, so please take your time.

Your fellow 'doulos' in the Lord (hope that is right),

Response #2:

Always good to hear from you, my friend. I'm very happy to hear that "life is easier" at the moment. We all need respite from time to time and God is good, giving us what we need. As someone concerned for your spiritual welfare, it is my duty to point out, however, that we Christians who are advancing spiritually as Christ would have us to do always come in for new "flak" from the evil one sooner or later. Testing is also a normal part of the Christian life, properly lived – it qualifies us for the next level of rewards, properly negotiated. So enjoy, and don't be looking over your shoulder (you have a right to enjoy this time), but do "stay frosty". More on this in BB 6A: Peripateology (at the link).

As to your question, while it is true that even a cup of water given in the Lord's name will not fail to earn its eternal reward, it is also true that there are some people and some situations which a discerning Christian will avoid (e.g., Matt.7:6). We are told to love all of our brothers and sisters – but we are not required to associate with those who are "problematic" (we can love them "from a distance"). And indeed, we are expressly told to stay away from them if they are involved in sinful activities (1Cor.5:11). Understand: we are not required to "prove it"; if we even suspect something seriously awry we should keep our distance (1Thes.5:22: "Stay away from anything that [even] looks [like] evil").

And in the case you mention, where there is a history of bad behavior, we aren't required to keep exposing ourselves to harm. That would be a misapplication of the principle of Christian love. When it comes to personal relationships, no doubt we are all vulnerable in many ways and for many reasons. A prudent Christian will approach all such things with Christ first in view. Knowing He wants us to continue to grow, to progress in our walk with Him, and to get to the point of being able to help others do the same, to stay away from people and relationships which are likely to harm us is part of spiritual common sense – we are certainly not obligated to put our head back in the meat-grinder (we've all been there).

Good work on the Greek!

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob,

I'm having some trouble this semester staying focused on my goals and finding peace and rest. I had good first couple weeks, but things have sort of started to pile up, and as the water level has risen, so to speak, so too has my anxiety. I'm no stranger to this, but I'm not terribly happy right now. I'm having a hard time finding joy in things that I should find joy in, and am worrying about things rather than leaving it to God to sort out.

Also, as always, prayers about my time in the languages would be appreciated. Doing things the right way is discouragingly time consuming, and I'm having a hard time getting myself to do it.

My relative is taking quals tomorrow (I think). This is a big deal, obviously, and I'm sure she'd appreciate all the prayer she can get. She's worked hard for a very long time to get where she is, and I'm sure she'll do great, but these things are always stressful nonetheless. I'm hoping to hear good news back.

I would also appreciate prayers regarding the situation with my friend who is an unbeliever (the "reading exchange" that I mentioned in a prior email). I've been so busy I haven't been able to keep in touch with him recently (or get much reading done on my side), but want to continue on in the endeavor. He also needs prayer in general: he's had a rather rough go of it, but turned to the wrong things I'm afraid.

I hope things are going better for you at the moment than they are for me.

In the hope of deliverance through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,

Response #3:

I have said a prayer for your relative, and I pray for you every day.

Peace and joy are two sides of the same coin and should always be present in the mature Christian's life. That is not to say that they will always automatically be there: often we have to fight to preserve them. When we notice they are lacking, that is the time to mount the spiritual barricades, to take time out and remember all the good things the Lord has done for us and all the wonderful things we anticipate, to re-orient ourselves to the truth spiritual realities while we push the world down under the rainbow bridge we should be walking on into the presence of the Lord and His glory.

Take some time out to pray and have fellowship with Him – not "only" the usual time you spend in prayer.

What is your schedule looking like this semester? Going two ways at once is always a bigger challenge than most people realize, even if, e.g., the number of credit hours is more or less the same. You probably are approaching a critical mass in the languages where you could do it yourself from here on in. Since you are not going to be headed for grad school in Classics, obviously you don't need to reach the same level of expertise. If you're not enjoying it, my advice would be to back down to something you do find enjoyable. You'll probably learn more that way too.

I'll say a prayer for your friend as well.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Bob,

I have been giving some money every month to a widow of a pastor for several years and recently she wrote that she didn't need it any more. I have been praying and asking God where I can put this money.

In reading your emails for today, 2/3/18, and question 23, it seemed to me that this was the answer to my prayer. Would there be any problem if you asked the family if they would accept the gift? If so, I would love to invest the money for eternity. If they say yes, I'll need their name and address in order to send it to them, monthly. It's not much, but at least it will put some food on the table.

Thank you,

P. S. I'm the 98 year old that is still teaching Sunday School every Sunday. Your web site has helped me personal and also with my lessons.

Response #4:

Good to hear from you, my friend! And thanks so much for your generous offer.

I've sent a message to our friend and will let you know what he says. It may be a few days before I hear back from him.

However this turns out, I want to know that I really appreciate your good heart, and I know that the Lord does as well. As you say, the only investments in this life that are really meaningful are the ones which are going to outlast this temporary world.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.
 

Question #5:

Bob,

My last communication from her was just before New Years. Saw that you reran her husband's story in the emails a couple of weeks ago. Have emailed her twice this year letting her know that I am still here and praying and does she need anything else. Can you give me an update?

Pray that all is well with you and yours. You have a very special place in my life!

Learning...thanks to Ichthys.

Response #5:

I had another person petition me for the email address; he wanted to make a (to me) sizeable monthly contribution. She said that family picking up the slack and that it had a been a blessing for them as well as for her for things to have worked out that way – and that she wouldn't feel right about taking the money. She also expressed great gratitude for the fact that people were still thinking about her and praying for her. So prayers are in order. If I hear anything, I'll try to remember to let you know since you have "skin in the game". Do feel free to write back for an update anytime, however.

I appreciate your spirit and your love for the Lord!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hey Robert, just out of curiosity, have you experienced a lot of answers to prayer or saw things in your life where you knew or was sure it was the Lord acting? Where there was no doubt it wasn't just coincidence? You have been a Christian a long time and I was curious because that's how I see my cancer issue a few years back.

Do you see those sort of things regularly? I guess the most famous example would be George Mueller and how he provided for an orphanage on basically prayer alone.

Response #6:

The word "see" is the key. Believers see with the eyes of faith, and as we grow we see ever more clearly.

In fact, there was never a prayer uttered that did not receive its answer, an answer woven into the perfect fabric of the all-comprehensive plan of God before He even began to create the universe. If we do not "see" it, it is because of our lack of spiritual vision. Prayers may take longer to fulfill than we would like, they may be answered in ways other than what we had envisioned, and the answer may be "no" but if so always for our good – just as a loving father would not give a four year old a loaded gun for Christmas, just because he asked for it. And that is an answer too. All answers to prayer are miraculous, depending on one's definition of that word. It is a Latin word which, etymologically, means "worthy of admiration and wonder". God is ever so at all times and so is everything He does.

If we are thinking of things which supernaturally contradict the way the world seems to work to human eyes, everything He does fits the definition of miraculous here too – since He is above and beyond anything that may be seen or heard and since He is involved in everything good that happens, all answers to prayer included. If we mean "things demonstrably supernatural", even here we have to account for the hardness of the world and our own lack of faith (if that fits). The world, the unbelieving human heart, has an amazing capacity to deny the truth even when it is demonstrably undeniable. When the soldiers and officials confronted Christ in Gethsemane and asked for Jesus, He said "I AM" – and they all fell backward. This was an obvious miracle, an obviously supernatural event, an occurrence which, coupled with His clear statement of personal deity, ought to have sent them all running and begging forgiveness. But instead they all brushed it off as if it never happened, and took the Son of Man, the Son of God, off to be condemned and crucified.

How many miracles did Jesus' contemporaries see, and yet they continued to disbelieve with even those who believed doing so only for a time (cf. Jn.6:66). But for those of us who did put our faith in Him, we experienced the miracle of miracles, spiritual rebirth by grace through faith in the Person and work of the Messiah. In fact, our entire lives hereafter consist of one miracle after another, and while we understandably take closer notice of bullets miraculously missing us than other things of less potential damage, we all are given many experiences wherein the hand of God is impossible to deny – for those seeing things with the eyes of faith. As you grow, look back on your life and see. God has been providing you with miracle upon miracle from the very beginning. All it takes to see them is faith.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Thank you so much for your sacrifice. V/r

Response #7:

If you mean this ministry, it is a great blessing and a great pleasure to have it!

Thanks for your good words, good thoughts, and especially for your prayers.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Hello Mr. Luginbill.

So I've decided to really get even more serious about my walk more this year. I was listening to a lesson by Mr. Omo and he basically said that if one is still struggling because of sinful past then spending more time in the word is what you should be doing even if one has to spend their entire afternoon to suck up truth from the word to filter bad thoughts out. Didn't say it like that but I know what he means. I still struggle with my thoughts. I know I have free will, and I have the Holy Spirit but it's still hard. Its gonna take suffering, I know it's the only way out. 1 Peter 4:1

So I guess this year is gonna take a lot of sacrifice. Hours spent in the word and applying that truth to my life. Originally I was spending about 2-2 and a half hours a day listening to a lesson, reading the word on my own while pausing to pray in between, and going through Bible Basics. But now I feel I need to spend more time in the word. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm turning the heat up, going out of my way to help my thought process.

During this process however I will be alone much of the time. I've been asking God that I would find a group of believers who believe as I do. The drawing line seems to be the false doctrine of "once saved always saved". Basically my prayer is that I would find a group to get together with who believe as you and I do. To encourage each other and study the word together. A mini church perhaps? I did not want to doubt when asking God about this because of what James 1:6 says. But what if I don't find a group to get together with? My question is do you think I can have a safe spiritual welfare and be alone the whole year studying the word but not having any contact with other believers except for perhaps on your site? It's just that I don't like being alone all the time. I still occasionally go to my relative's church, but I don't feel like I can get very far there again because of the false doctrine of OSAS. I want to be around other believers who I can discuss the truth with. Not living in fear around others who probably wouldn't want to spend that much time with me anymore if they found out what I believed. Although I don't have any friends anyway.

Any spiritual guidance is appreciated.

In Christ

Response #8:

It's good to hear from you, my friend!

Sometime in the not too distant future (at least I hope not) I'm planning to finally post BB 6A Peripateology which will have a lot to say about these issues (now posted at the link). There is plenty on the site already, however. Let me give you a few links which will lead to more.

On thought warfare:

Who Controls our Thoughts and Emotions?

The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.

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

Christians and Mental Illness

On churches:

Red Hot or Lukewarm?

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Dysfunctional Churches.

Finding a Church – or Something Better? II

Finding a Church – or Something Better?

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

The Meaning and Purpose of True Christian Assembly

Can you recommend a church?

Christian Unity and Divisiveness.

Ichthys and Contemporary Christianity

Spiritual Growth, Church-Searching and "Discipling"

In terms of being alone, it is of course "not good" for man to be alone (Gen.2:18), and we all need contact with others. However, as you rightly adjudge, bad contact can be worse than no contact at all. Making a bad marriage, for example, is going to be much worse than "single bliss" and more so in spiritual terms than even in emotional ones. Similarly, there are many downsides to becoming active and involved in a place that is not dedicated to the truth. The reason that churches embrace OSAS, just for example, is that they care more about what they want to be true than about what the Bible actually says. Any Christian – and I have met many such (and you yourself are a good example) – who undertakes a serious study of the Bible can find out easily enough without going to seminary, without studying systematic theology, and without learning Greek and Hebrew or spending years on the project – that OSAS is incorrect. Once it is learned that place X is not going to contribute to spiritual growth but is only a social club, then care has to be taken not to compromise oneself.

I'm certainly not telling you not to go to such a place; it is my duty to point out what it is clear from this email what your conscience is already telling you, however: beware of getting too close else your spirituality and spiritual growth be negatively affected. Suppose you meet a nice woman there – but she is there because she is not really interested in the truth (otherwise she would be seeking the truth the way you are doing it or in a similar fashion to avoid compromise); what are the prospects of marital success when you love the truth and potential spouse does not? The same goes for any friends you might make. Of course there are exceptions. But if you go into a place using the truth as your litmus test and as you propose (i.e., evangelizing for it), you are going to make waves, not "get along".

Believe me, the Lord knows your needs. And He knows how to provide for them . . . and WHEN. Abraham had to wait a long time. A test of faith. And then he received a supreme test few of us could handle in being told to sacrifice the one he loved so much and had waited so long for. But Abraham loved the Lord more than anyone else, even more than Isaac. That is what we are all here to find out. Just how much do we love the Lord? And to what degree do we really love Him more than ourselves? We all fall short if we are honest with ourselves on this score, but that ought to be motivation to us all to do better day by day at putting Him and His truth and His Church above all else. If we do that, if we do place our seeking of the kingdom and all things related thereto in first place, then we will find as our Lord promised that "all these things shall be added to you" (Matt.6:33 NKJV).

So this is a test and a time of training for you. How you handle it will go a long way to determining how far and how fast you grow and become ready for ministry – and there is the most critical time of ministry looming in the offing, the Tribulation wherein all those people in that church where they enjoy coffee and donuts together but can't be bothered to honor the Lord by responding to His Word will need the truth more than ever. Will you be ready to help them? That is the question we should all be asking ourselves. And we can all stand more pruning and refining before "the balloon goes up". Great rewards lie ahead for those who place the Lord first (see the link). David's "might men" have their names inscribed the Word of God forever for the acts of valor they performed; similarly, our spiritual acts of valor will likewise be emblazoned on the heavenly record for all eternity – if we ready ourselves and follow through. Remember, it's not our power, it's not our strength, it's not our wisdom – we are lacking in all of these things. But if instead of conforming to what the immature are doing we offer ourselves up as a holy sacrifice to the Lord (Rom.12:1-2), He will provide and use us to good effect.

So I urge you, my friend, to be "strong and courageous" for the Lord. There is joy to be had in this spiritual battle, joy that the Spirit provides in Jesus Christ, and peace that passes human understanding whenever that "joy" is put under severe pressure (Phil.4:7). So be encouraged! You are a hero, a "mighty man" – as long as you fight the fight. The angels are watching, our dear departed are cheering you on, and our Lord is pleased with every good stride you make in this race to the finish. So fight the fight and don't allow yourself to become weary. Mount up with eagles wings and renew your strength in the Lord. If you could see past the vale of darkness and tears that is this world for an instant you would understand how glorious is the other side and how ineffably valuable and "worth it" every sacrifice you make on this side truly is. Few are willing in this lukewarm time of Laodicea to engage as you are doing. That makes what you are doing all the more important. You are standing in the gap for all those who are unwilling to do so. Be pleased to continue and don't let yourself faint.

Looking forward to cheering for you at the Judgment Seat of Christ, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

Your response could not have been better. And its just what I needed. Your love and care for your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ really shines through in your responses. Thank you! I know what I have to do, and I'm ready to do it. It's my life now. People have often asked what I do. They have also criticized me for not doing anything like hobbies, socializing or what have you. I don't have many interests, but I'm glad I don't. Fewer distractions that way. I have told people that I like to study the Bible and that "is my hobby" so to speak. I find it difficult but joyful and rewarding none the less. But thanks to your and Mr. Omo's ministries (link) I have some helping hands. That is what teachers/pastors are for after all. Again thank you.

In Christ

Response #9:

You're so very welcome!

I appreciate you and your dedication to the Lord. That is an inspiration to me.

Keep fighting the fight, my friend! Down this road lies great reward.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L

Question #10:

Hello Dr.,

Hope you are doing well, no complaints here. I have some new Mp3’s ready for you.

Not much new to report on this end. The budget at the City is still a mess, the bureaucrats in charge don’t seem to understand that they cant keep spending money they don’t have. I guess basic math isn’t a prerequisite for higher levels government employment. Meanwhile the City has hired a third party company to do a “salary analysis” (at an expense of over one hundred thousand dollars [we currently have a shortfall of approximately 2 and a half million) to see if City employee salaries are on par with other jurisdictions across the United States. The consulting firm that was hired to do the analysis advertises that they specialize in making business more efficient for their customers, I think I know where this heading, but no worries here, I’m walking with the Lord.

Other than that it’s business as usual. As always enjoyed the email postings this week, no matter what the topic I always find something edifying.

How are things with you? Ministry, family, job, health...all ok? Let me know if there is anything more I can do. Got you in prayer daily.

Should have some more files for you in three or four weeks.

All the best.

Rev. 22:20

Response #10:

Thank you, my friend. I'm very appreciative of your continuing efforts on all this. A lot of folks dive into to projects like this with good intentions but never complete them (for all manner of reasons). I'm not unaware that this is a sacrifice on your part and I am most grateful. I also know that these audio files (link) have been very helpful for the spiritual growth of many – and will continue to be as time presses on.

I'm sorry to hear that things are still up in the air with your employer. Same thing goes here. The new budget from the state is supposed to cut the universities once again (ten years in a row) and if so and if history is a guide my college will bear the brunt. Short of firing me – hard to do since I have tenure and am now the last man standing in Greek and Latin in the whole university – I'm not sure how they can damage me any further. But they are inventive. Like you, I'm leaving this in the Lord's hands. Nothing is impossible for Him and even certain death can be made to slide by without a hair on the head being harmed. He is faithful. Such times are actually opportunities to trust Him and to show that we really do have some depth to our faith and our trust in His faithfulness.

Health-wise things are about the same. I'm trusting the Lord that my problem will eventually heal up. That is always "the thing", after all. Abraham got Isaac – but not without having to wait precisely to test and build his faith.

Thanks for the update, the good words, and of course for your prayers. Keeping you and yours in mine as well day by day, my friend.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #11:

I am distraught because people hate me. This comes from both Christians and non-Christians.

Lots of Christians get extremely angry at me for wasting their time. But what does that mean when they say I'm wasting their time? I think what they're trying to say is that whatever problems I have or resource I want from them, it isn't worth them to give it to me because:

1. I am lying and don't have problems.

2. I am not worth the effort, because I am not as valuable as other people.

These people are evil hypocrites, because they would go move Heaven and Earth to "evangelize" one convert in some mudhut in Africa out in the middle of nowhere but not lift a finger to do anything for their NEIGHBOR that is RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM. Do they think that if they translated themselves across the ocean that they’ll be more obedient to God? That the problem is the latitude and longitude they abide not their heart? Or is it that the neighbors (i.e. the people GOD THE FATHER put in their lives) are not holy enough for them?

Response #11:

I'm sorry you're going through a tough time.

I'm praying for you to find a better job, and also for help in finishing your degree.

It's always a mistake to get one's eyes on people. People are, well, "people". The best of us are flawed in so many ways, and all of us make mistakes of judgment and application. We all lose our temper from time to time and we all say and do things we wish we could take back – and that's Christians who are mature and trying to live for Jesus Christ. When it comes to immature Christians, lukewarm Christians, reverting Christians, that's a whole different story. And of course there are plenty of false Christians and unbelievers who hate anyone who is a Christian. There are plenty of honorable unbelievers, but as things get progressively worse in the world, that is a more and more rare thing too.

Keep your eyes on the Lord, not people. If He is happy with you, then you are happy indeed – or should be – even if the world is against you.

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
Hebrews 11:24-27

(12) Therefore Jesus too, in order that He might sanctify the people through His own blood (i.e., His death on the cross), suffered outside the gate (i.e., separated from fellowship). (13) So then let us go out to Him outside of the camp (i.e., likewise choosing God over the world), bearing His reproach. (14) For we do not have here [on earth] a city which [is meant to be] lasting; rather we are eagerly looking forward to the city that is destined [to come] (i.e., the New Jerusalem).
Hebrews 13:12-14

In hopes of cheering you on when you receive your reward on that great day.

Bob L.

Question #12:

Robert,

How are you brother? Hope you’re doing well. I’m having a down day today. My wife is having bad dreams again. I feel helpless to help her. It really brings me down emotionally and I am so sorry about things in my past. My question is, Godly Sorrow vs. Worldly Sorry. Am I just experiencing worldly sorrow or am I truly sorry to God? I have asked God to give me true Godly sorrow and not the worldly kind. I will look on your website to see what you say about this. Also, sometimes I get the thoughts or feeling that maybe I’m apostate and God has given me over to Satan a long time ago. I know that sounds crazy but I just want to have peace with God.

Thank You so much.

Response #12:

Good to hear from you – although I'm sorry to hear about your current problems.

Fighting the fight is always a fight. It always takes engagement with the truth to hold onto the peace and the joy which are the birthright of every believer in Jesus Christ (link; e.g., Jn.14:27; Rom.15:13; 1Thess.5:16; Phil.4:4). We have to grab that peace and that joy, however, and hold onto it with all of our might.

If we are praying daily, reading our Bible daily, accessing a good Bible teaching ministry daily, and aggressively believing and applying the truth we are learning daily, then this fight will be an easier one to win. Without the above, it is an easy one to lose. We do have control over what we say, think and do, but we know that certain sins are hard to avoid, and as James tells us the tongue too is hard to control – how much more then is it a challenge to master our thoughts and keep our emotions responding in a proper way as opposed to falling into despair when thing don't go right. And in this world things often don't go "right" - - meaning the way we want them to go. In fact, in my personal experience and observation that is rarely the case. Because "right" has a tendency to equate with "the good and happy life I want to be experiencing now". But mature believers learn that we are on a mission, on a pilgrimage. That our home is not here. It is in the New Jerusalem. That our debts and financial pressures here mean nothing really, because we have an eternal treasure chest in heaven that is impervious to loss, one we are filling up every day (or should be). Do we have health problems? We have a perfect and eternal body waiting in heaven for us. Is this life depressing? Very soon we will see the Lord, the One we say we love more than life, and He will wipe away ever tear and bring us into His kingdom where we will know only joy forever more.

Is life difficult? No doubt. And much more so for Christians since we are special targets of the evil one and his minions. But we need never to forget that we have a unique opportunity, a chance to win the three crowns that will glorify our Lord forever. A chance to have our names emblazoned on the eternal honor role of those who not only survived this life with faith intact but who truly did "fight the good fight". That is what we should be thinking. But what we think is a choice, and there are many things stacked against thinking the right way. So we have to fight it out day by day, step by step, taking pains always to encourage ourselves in the Lord whenever we are in any kind of emotional turmoil. Our hearts will respond – but it may take some effort to bring this about. It is our job to do what is necessary.

Everyone has things in the past that he/she regrets. And some of us may still be suffering from the divine discipline for doing something or other, or suffering under the lasting natural consequences of something we have done. The absolute WRONG thing to do at such times is to give into guilt and despair. Are we being disciplined? That is because God loves us (Heb.12:1ff.). Are we feeling guilty about sin? If we have confessed, the Lord has completely forgiven us (1Jn.1:9). Do we feel bad about where we are as a result? That is a choice, and a bad one. We still belong to Jesus Christ after confession and even in the midst of discipline. David's joy in the Lord shines through just as brightly as ever following the biggest sinful failure of his life and throughout the extended divine discipline that followed. We are not David. But for that reason we are not as culpable for the things we have done (to whom much is given, much is expected) nor did we commit murder. So we have no excuse for not being joyful in the midst of whatever consequences we may be suffering. But please note, scripture does not say "you are joyful" but gives the command "rejoice!" (1Thes.5:16); it doesn't say "your joy is automatic" but "count it all joy" (Jas.1:2). Peace is something we have to "make every effort to enter" (Heb.4:11 NIV). If we are growing through the Word, through Bible reading and Bible teaching, praying and aggressively believing and applying the truth we are learning, then this will all be easier to do – not easy, but easier. But if we are not doing these things, it will be a rough ride.

It is also the case that we have relationships, and the more important and the closer they are, the more any disruption can take away our peace and our joy – or at least challenge it, even in the case of the most mature believer. That is part of life too, and that is another wave on the dark sea we are walking over that must be braved. But as with all things, with prayer, with love, with application of the truth and by setting a good spiritual example, the Lord does bring peace in the end, even if as with other tests, this one may take a minute to pass.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you are not an apostate. That is someone who has rejected Him. Apostates don't worry about being saved. People who worry about being saved are either unbelievers who are then immediately saved when presented with the truth or believers allowing their guilt and despair about past sins because of present spiritual inertia get the best of them. Christ died for our sins. Period. They have been forgiven and we have been redeemed from them. Period. If we are feeling bad, then we need to get going with spiritual growth – and delight ourselves in the grace, the forgiveness, the mercy, and the love of Jesus Christ. He does love you and will never let you go (Jn.10:28). And He is in you and wanting you to have the peace and joy He means for all believers.

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:27 NIV

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Following the Lord every day.

Still praying for a closer experience of His presence...I do love and thank and want the Lord to be center of my life. Been trying to figure out John 15 and how I was not cut off by the vinedresser, withered and dead when I wasnt producing any fruit for a long time...

Other than that, business as usual. Keep you and your health in my prayers regularly.

Response #13:

Good to hear it!

As to your question, consider this passage:

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”
Luke 13:6-9 NIV

The Lord is longsuffering and patient with us – but not forever. He was extremely patient with me, I can tell you. So I like you rejoice in His mercy and patience. But it's not something you or I or anyone else want to test forever because eventually the tree will be cut down (sin unto death; see the link).

Praise God for you and for me that we repented and got on the right road before it was too late! All the more reason to devote our energies in the time that we have left to the glory of God and the Messiah's kingdom.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hi Bob,

Last week in my Bible study I raised the question of how we ought to weigh trusting God completely with needing to "do our part" in things. I brought up the example of Abraham not trusting God and his promises ("operation Hagar"). I also mentioned how balancing this is important in such life matters as career and marriage/relationships.

It's easy to on the one hand sit on our laurels because "if it's God's Will, he will work things out for us," but it is also easy to make a mess of things by trying to "do" things when in fact we should be content to wait on God.

Do you have any resources on this topic in particular? It strikes me as important, and I'd like to get a more nuanced understanding of this on my own part, completely aside from my study.

I think I've mentioned in recent exchanges that this semester hasn't been the best for me. I'd like to kick the torpor and get red-hot again – about my path and preparation, but also just with my faith in general. Sometimes I feel old and weary and entirely unmotivated to make real progress, despite knowing how to get from A to B. I'd also like to obtain the peace and joy that scripture mentions concerning being in Christ. I don't feel like I have these things. I also don't feel like I've been putting weighty matters first in my life and trusting God to work out the rest (like we're supposed to).

Sorry – not so much a question in there as a string of thoughts and observations. I guess we all get burnt out sometimes, but I just wish it were not so.

Yours in Christ,

Response #14:

On the issue act vs. wait, scripture has a lot to say about the virtues of "waiting on the Lord" (Ps.27:14; 37:9; Is.8:17; 40:31), but also about the need to work hard at all we do (e.g., Prov.6:6-11; 24:30-34; Eph.6:5-8; Col.3:23-25). A search of the concept "wait" in the NT will reveal that our "waiting" now after the cross is focused on the Lord's return – for it is then that we will receive our reward and all the wonderful promises we are anticipating. The flip side of that is that here and now while we trust the Lord to get us through to that point, we need to remember that our real home is in the New Jerusalem. That is where our true "boss" is too, our dear Lord Jesus Christ. And that is where our treasure and the fulfillment of all our wants and needs and yearnings really resides. All we need here are the means to get by to, as you say, "point B". And He has never left us in the lurch. Where we are now, wherever we find ourselves, while we can probably all say as I am wont to say, "It didn't turn out like I expected", nevertheless it DID turn out . . . and we are still marching toward Zion.

So while scripture sees no contradiction between working hard and waiting on the Lord, the reason why Christians sometimes get into difficultly is pretty clear, namely, doing things that they know in their heart of hearts are not right for one reason or another. And sometimes it's not a matter of some obviously sinful or dishonorable behavior but merely of ignoring a clear message from the Spirit that "this way is not the right way for you". The more we go against what the Spirit is telling us positively – and reject His warnings about what not to do – the more will will find ourselves drawn into the likes of "operation Hagar" in the example you used. But if we can do something in complete peace of mind that it is almost always the right thing to do – especially in the case of mature believers. And it doesn't matter if it is a hard thing, a risky thing (by the world's estimate), a thing that others are telling us won't work out. If God is in it, it cannot fail – but if He is not in the thing we are attempting, it cannot succeed if it's not His will for it to do so.

So the litmus test here really is the will of God for our lives. If what we are trying to do is legal, honorable, and has as its purpose the prosecution of His will for us as best we see it as its fundamental motivation, then we have little to worry about. But if it is not legal or honorable, then it has nothing to do with Him. And even if it passes that test, but is really about our own comfort, our own advantage, our own greed and lust for one thing or another, if we are really running away and not attacking, then likely it's a mistake (again, whatever "it" is). So a right-directed thing done in a questionable way or a wrong-directed thing even if not done in a sinful way are both to be avoided. But if what we are about has its true purpose the glory of God, then of course we should work at it with all of our hearts (cf. Jn.7:18).

As to feeling tired and joyless, first, maybe you are tired. We are just finishing spring break here, so I hope yours is coming up soon (?) and that you will take advantage of it to get a good rest. Second, joy is not automatic. When people tell me they feel "spiritually dry" I have to remind them that how we feel is a result of what we do and say and think – and how we tell ourselves to feel. If we are doing what the Lord would have us to do, there is joy in that. If we are thinking the right things, then the joy we get from superimposing the truth on what the world and our weak flesh tell us is also a source of great peace and joy. Mature believers learn to apply scripture, principles of truth, wonderful treasures from the Word, to their lives and experiences whenever they are tempted to feel "down" for any reason. Because there is never justification to feel "down" – that is, to let the "down" stimuli go unrefuted and unopposed. Sometimes we have to fight these off vigorously and over a stretch of time when something is apt to bother us (too much work, health problems, lack of this that or the other thing we think is needful or really is needful before the Lord supplies it); spiritual failures bother us too, so that is a good reason to fail less, recover more quickly, and learn lessons better – remembering that the Lord loves us and that any discipline is actually an act of love. *And one thing that REALLY needs to be remembered in all this is that whenever we get lax in our Bible reading, our Bible study, our prayer life, and our application of the truth in what we say and think over the course of the day, then we are basically shooting ourselves in the foot on the "peace and joy" front. But if we are doing all these good things consistently, then we can rest assured that if we are willing to think about the truth and apply the truth, then even under pressure we can have these things. Sometimes peace leads, sometimes joy, but they are a tandem that is the birthright of all believers (e.g., Jn.14:27; Rom.15:13; 1Thess.5:16; Phil.4:4).

It is a fight. It does take effort. But the Spirit will help us do it, if we are willing to do it. Are we plagued by some health concern? This is not our final body; we have a perfect one that will bless us forever waiting in heaven for us. Are we plagued by financial concerns? Our treasure chest is in heaven and is impervious to theft or loss – and we are filling it up every day with eternal blessings that will delight us forever. Are we plagued by troubles at work or school? On the other side we will have only enjoyable occupations, wonderful things that will be blessings for all eternity, things that eye has yet to see or ear to hear, but things we know are better than everything in this world put together. So we don't envy those who have no troubles or ills or tests or shortfalls in this life – rather we pity them (Ps.49:6-20). We have an opportunity the likes of which no one who is of this world can even fathom. We have a chance to win the eternal crowns of reward, to win the best places in the New Jerusalem, to win honor and God-given glory that will never fade – like David's "mighty men" to have our names emblazoned on the heavenly honor role for acts of valor, for spiritual courage which is even better than martial courage. That is to say, we have a chance to please the One who paid the entire price for all of our sins – and to be rewarded for it with eternal rewards.

It is easy to get our eyes on the wind and the waves and storm we are passing through and to start sinking and sloshing around in the depths of this dark world. But the Lord is right here to grab our hand and lift us back up to walk on this stormy water with Him, indeed, even to walk with Him on the rainbow bridge that rises up over all this darkness and stormy sea, and leads straight into the presence of the glory of God. But we have to be willing take His hand. We have to be willing to walk with Him.

Grace is given to those who seek it – not to the worthy (for no one is worthy) – but to those who reach out in faith to the One whom we love more than life itself. He will grab your hand. And He will never let go.

So act . . . and always trust.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Bob,

Spring break was last week for us too. Such as it was.

Let me see if I'm understanding the thrust of your response correctly:

In general:

Broadly speaking, we as Christians find a large part of our "waiting" dealing with our expectation of things to come: the return of our Lord, and eternity afterwards.

But we aren't exempt from working in the here and now. We can have full confidence in God's promises to us and our eternal state while understanding that we are called to work out our salvation day by day.

More specific circumstances:

There is in reality no conflict between waiting and acting for individual Christians in individual circumstances since it is all about God's will for us. Should we wait? Only if that is what God would have us do. Should we act? Only if that is what God would have us do. Should we wait for ultimate deliverance from personal circumstances at the hands of the Lord while also working hard day by day to obtain deliverance (as opposed to just waiting for God to deliver us since it appears that our efforts would contribute little)? Only if that is what God would have us do.

This has sort of reframed my initial question from "how do we know when to wait or act?" to "how do we know when it is God's will for us to wait or God's will for us to act?" It struck me reading that Romans 14:23 ("everything that does not come from faith is sin") has bearing here.

In my life, I can think of 3 different "acting versus waiting" situations:

1) The first was my decision to switch majors and schools, to upend my life at one University to gamble on a new major that I'd never experienced and didn't know if I'd be much good at. If you remember back, I wrestled with this one for about a year – struggling, praying, and researching everything I could get my hands on before I finally committed and made the switch. The decision to finally act (rather than waiting to have a Greek study group of engineers fall into my lap randomly, e.g.) definitely was not free from doubts and uncertainty.

2) The second was my decision to add on a third major to pursue a career in computer science rather than a career in academia with my head in Greek. This one had a shorter decision-making period (around 3-4 months), but I still researched a great deal and asked you (and other people I know in the field) many questions. This decision to act (to consciously take on a significantly heavier workload in the short-term to support a certain career track in the long term, as opposed to just trusting that God would make jobs materialize upon graduation with a bachelor's degree or Ph.D. in Classics) was also characterized by uncertainty about what God's will for me actually was.

3) The third is my continuing decision to put personal romantic relationships on the back burner. Unlike the other two, I've decided that at the moment, the right for me to do is to avoid acting altogether. But this was not an easy decision to make either. We've spent a great deal of time talking through things of this sort over the months – how to know who you should marry, the purpose of marriage in general, how one is supposed to navigate things of this sort (as in "going out and getting" vs. "waiting for Ms. right to knock on your door"). None of this was marked by certainty in the least, and in fact, of the three, this is still the area I am most fuzzy about.

After I switched schools and had a couple semesters under my belt, I became comfortable saying that I'd made the right decision transferring and that this was God's will for me. Similarly, after having had a semester and a half of computer science classes, I feel comfortable saying that this too was the right decision for me to make, and that this is God's will for me. Finally, even though I'm lonely and long for the Biblical sort of companionship that marriage can provide, I'm not so naive that I've failed to notice all the crashing and burning that goes on in this area in the lives of people around me in college. So I'm comfortable saying that God's will for me right now, particularly given my workload and stress levels even absent relationships, is to stay single and wait. But I've come to this conclusion after a long time – this was an "open question" for me as recently as half a year ago. Due to some of our discussions, I started more or less ignoring these matters, and observed how things went. While things haven't been easy and I haven't succeeded entirely, I can now say with a measure of certainty that this too is the right thing for me to do.

In all these matters I more or less got confidence after the fact. Interpreting the verse from Romans above in a certain way, this would seem to suggest that I went about things the wrong way. But I don't see any way around what I went through. If humans wait for full certainty before acting, we never act at all. So the question then is what is action "from faith" (as opposed to "not from faith")? How do we know when it is God's will for us to act? (Or not?)

I'm going to make a point of re-reading all our correspondence related to the three situations above, since we've definitely been over this before. But I'd like to hear your thoughts regarding application of Romans 14:23. Is the context of this discussion limiting its application? I confess that I've always had a hard time grasping what it is this verse means, but pondering the above matters for my Bible study has brought out my confusion more.

I appreciate the rest of your email as well. It helped reorient me to what I should be about. Would that we not forget so easily!

Yours in Christ,

Response #15:

A very good and thoughtful analysis of the issue.

The one point I would wish to make apropos of your question about Romans 14:23 is that there are degrees of faith, and that faith should be distinguished from confidence in situational details. Indeed, faith really is all about having confidence that God will take care of the situational details – about which we may have little knowledge and less confidence. So that stepping out the boat onto the water when your entire human experience tells you this is a bad idea and when you've never personally seen it result in anything but sinking DOES take exceptional faith. The fact that there is emotional trepidation and lack of clarity about the details does not diminish the fact that such is an act of faith, and of pretty substantial faith at that. In fact, it makes the test all that much more real – and the passing of it all that much more glorious.

What you did in all three of these instances involved trusting God and honoring what you are led by the Spirit to know is His will for your life. That fact that you don't know the "how" of it is precisely where the testing of faith and the proof of faith comes in. If there were already a city in Palestine with his name on it, Abraham's journey to the land would have required less faith. But the fact that the details of how all this was going to work out were "up in the air" in terms of human reasoning and knowledge is what made his willingness to do this – when others would not have dared to do so – a much greater demonstration of faith than would otherwise have been the case.

Your demonstration of faith in all three cases is likewise most commendable. I certainly don't want you to get a swollen head, but you have a right to understand that these acts of faith – great faith – are looked upon with favor by the Lord, and it is clear to me that He is honoring you for them. That doesn't mean that there is no "flak" along the road of commendable faith – quite the opposite:

". . . and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit."
John 15:2b NKJV

The pruning will go on . . . as long as you keep up the good work. So please keep fighting this good fight. The fact that you have to fight off doubts about decisions you have made just shows that you have a measure of humility so as to be worthy to be given them, and a greater measure of faith to fend off such doubts and keep moving. So while a little introspection is a good thing from time to time, a better use of our time and emotion, once we've committed to a course we are sure is a good one, is to focus on the road ahead and forget about the patch behind us, even if it's just behind us.

I'm keeping you in prayer on the "issues" you've mentioned. One other thing I'll say (and may have said before), is when it comes to jobs and spouses, most people are too keen to take the "err on the side of inactivity" in respect to the former and the "err on the side of activity" in respect to the latter – whereas biblical guidance suggests that prudence lies in the other direction in both cases. So kudos to you for your prudence! That is also a type of faith, namely, trusting the Lord to work things out and therefore being reluctant to rush in where it is not clear that this is His will (unless and until one can have a measure of faith that it is).

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob,

I take it from your approval of my summary that decisions to wait or act in individual circumstances depend entirely upon God's will for an individual's life. Is this correct?

With respect to Romans 14:23, a couple points of lingering clarification:

1) Uncertainty in specifics and particulars strikes me as qualitatively different from uncertainty in path. While it is true that I was uncertain of the details when I made my decisions in all three cases (a fact which did indeed make the decisions require more faith), I also had doubts about the path of action I was taking. So when I was transferring schools, for example, not only did I not know what Greek class would be like, whether I'd be good at it, where/with whom I would live, and so forth – I also didn't have confidence that I was making the right decision in the first place...in that I had doubts that what I was doing was in fact God's will for my life. It seemed like it possibly could be, but there were reasons for and against the transfer – reasons difficult/impossible to sort through with anything approaching objectivity that could beget certainty. So at the time I doubted the rightness of the decision, not just the specifics of the details therein.

2) If my uncertainty in path above is not corresponding to the doubts of Romans 14:23, then what exactly are the "doubts" in this verse? Is Paul here condemning people that act entirely against what they firmly believe, rather than people that act from a place of true uncertainty? That is, does "having doubts" in this context mean that the individuals in question actually believed that eating was wrong (rather than them merely not being sure if eating was right or wrong), so that acting against their belief is what is being condemned?

So, for example, if I had truly believed that I was supposed to stay, and then transferred, then I would run afoul of Romans 14:23. But since I really had no belief one way or the other what the right path was – and was groping forward, trying to make the decision best I could despite having doubts that it was the right one – I actually did not run afoul of Romans 14:23.

Hopefully all that is clear. Thanks for bearing with me.

Out of curiosity, I checked the Greek for the lemma "doubt" in this verse. According to my understanding of the middle voice as an occasional direct reflexive (which can sometimes carry over into the passive via connotation?), it seems that the "he who doubts" meaning of the substantive phrase ὁ διακρινομενος could more literally be rendered as "he who is separated/parted (within himself)."

This doesn't shed a great deal of light on my questions above (by a certain train of thought, someone wracked with real indecision is parted within himself, albeit in a different sort of way than one who is acting against held firm beliefs), but perhaps you might be able to draw significance out of the form that my knowledge at present prevents me from seeing?

In Him,

Response #16:

It does all come down to cases. But it is a question of what we will too. God's will for us in terms of what is actually in the plan of God – as opposed to unfulfilled potential in a course He would have preferred we choose – takes into account what we are willing to do and how much we are willing to pay in terms of suffering and effort to do what He clearly wants us to do.

"For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ "
Luke 14:28-30 NIV

The Lord has told us to "count the cost" of committing to Him – although of course He would prefer that we all do so to a very zealous degree and keep it up to the end.

On the question of "doubts", from my point of view the proof is in the pudding. In fact, we do not know everything about the road ahead. That is the test of faith, and those who walk the road without knowing what is in store, trusting the Lord that it will be OK in the end, are those of great faith, regardless of emotions that swell up in their hearts from time to time. As in combat, everyone is "scared" but some act heroically even though scared, some act in a cowardly way, and most are in the middle leaning one way or another. So in the case of "doubt" I would wish to distinguish between emotions which are impossible to quell but to which a brave Christian does not listen when it comes both to making hard decisions and to following through on them – and also very importantly in the witness of life and WORD that said Christian gives in following up and following through. I don't imagine that David had no emotions to keep in check when he fought the lion, when he fought the bear, when he fought Goliath. But he gave a good witness going in, and he trusted the Lord to give him victory. From scripture we can see no inkling of doubt. Bottom line: he trusted the Lord. Did he have no scintilla of fear/doubt? It's hard to believe and the scripture doesn't say he didn't. But as someone who trusted the Lord completely he buried those emotions and encouraged his heart to do the brave thing, the thing he knew the Lord approved, and he had confidence that the Lord was with him in the fight – which of course He was . . . which of course He always is for those who belong to Him. Are there degrees of such confidence / faith in the Lord? Absolutely. Does faith/confidence wrestle with fear/doubt? Undoubtedly. But what it the result? That is the proof of the pudding. What did you DO? You made the decision and you followed through and your are carrying through. This is precisely what James means when he says that "faith without deeds is dead" (Jas.2:20); "deeds" mean "things done". That's the question. Did you actually follow through on your faith? If you did, then you have great faith indeed.

And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14:28-31 NIV

Peter often displayed great courage – even impetuousness (as on this occasion), but he is also very human, just like us at so many times and in so many ways. Here is a case of starting out fine then allowing doubt and fear to strangle one's good idea – resulting in a deed half-done . . . which is worse than not beginning in the first place. The man who couldn't finish the tower in the scripture quoted previously is an example of a believer whose faith is not strong enough to stand the test so that he/she falls away (Lk.8:13). Finishing the course of life with faith intact is thus the victory of victories (1Jn.5:4). And salvation is the parallel to all our fights in this world to grow and progress and produce thereafter: good choices followed up and seen through.

So for someone who has a hard time doing something difficult (rather than enthusiastically jumping in as Peter did above), and perseveres in doing it despite the gnawing emotions of doubt and fear that must be coped with along the way, how is that not better than the above? And how is that not victory in every way. Sure, it would be better if we never felt the pressure, I suppose, but what sort of test would that be? Daniel must have known he was "for it" when he prayed in spite of the prohibition, and he had at least a little time to anticipate being thrown into the lions' den before it happened, and then he was down there locked in for the entire night – right next to the lions, even though they were not in fact attacking him. Are we supposed to think that he was as calm as if he were taking a walk in the park? But he trusted the Lord enough to endure this test even though it could have meant his death, as his friends say in a similar test:

"If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."
Daniel 3:17-18 NIV

Similarly, Daniel was ready to accept whatever happened and his acceptance of the fact that God might require him to die for his faith was NOT a case of doubting the Lord or His ability, merely of accepting that we don't always know what the specific will of God is, and we are willing to do His will regardless of what it means for us personally:

And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
Daniel 6:23b NKJV

Trust is a choice, a choice that is made in spite of emotional resistance, a choice that is verified by the events themselves: from the result; not from the process. Those who trust do the things that bespeak faith, even if it is hard for them; those who doubt, do the things that bespeak faithlessness, even if they made a good start. The children of Israel are a good example of the latter even as Daniel and his friends are a good example of the former. The Israelites "tested Me ten times", and every time demonstrated their lack of obedience, their lack of faith, their unwillingness to trust God – as even the next generation did, following in their fathers' footsteps, and tempting Moses to a rash act which cost him entrance into the land. They doubted. How do we know? From the result. Not from the process.

So whenever the emotions rise, whenever fear raises its head, whenever twinges of doubt begin to gnaw at your peace, put them to death in the Name of Jesus Christ, trust Him when you're not sure of the next step or the next meal or the next payment or healing or necessity that doesn't have a clear solution. Trust Him. He is 100% faithful and has never ever let you down. He cannot do so. He is perfect. So be strong and courageous and trust the Lord. He is our shield that never fails, our fortress that can never be conquered, our Provider who has never left us in the lurch and never will. Don't doubt. Trust the Lord. That is a choice. A good choice. The only choice for those of us who wish to walk with Him and please Him in this life.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Bob,

I believe I'm starting to see.

The way you describe this clashes with most of what I've ever heard "preached" on doubt. Much of what I've heard (some of it no doubt intended to make Christians feel guilty to foster dependence upon a particular group) holds that "doubts" (including an emotional state of uncertainty) are necessarily brought about by moral failings of believers. In other words, having to fight emotional troubles and having gnawing fear that one is not doing the right thing is seen as being one's own fault – the "bad thing" that these verses have in mind.

If I'm understanding you correctly, real doubt is not so much about how one feels but about how one acts with respect to what one actually believes. In other words, it is all about how you act when the chips are down, not how you feel about what you are doing. Why would we expect emotional attack and exploitation from attacks of the evil one (not to mention from our own corrupted flesh) to be absent when making big decisions, particularly those of potentially great positive spiritual import? No, indeed, quite a bit of the "faith" part of these decisions is acting anyway, entirely despite the fact that your fleshly thinking and emotions are driving you to second-guess yourself at every turn. So the perils in doubting come not from having thoughts of the sort of "what if this isn't God's will for me? What if I'm making a big mistake? ... best be less bold just to be safe," but from actually giving such emotional turmoil and anxiety credence.

All this to say, having feelings and thoughts that challenge decisions – even to the point of making you gun shy about saying that you can be "sure" of them – is not doubting in the sense that is bad. It is part of the spiritual warfare we wage in choosing for God in all that we do. What is bad is whenever we let our emotions run us into a place of paralysis and unwillingness to push forward and trust that God will work things out. Does all this sound right?

As a practical matter then, would you say that stepping forward with what seems to be a good decision – trusting that if it isn't God's will for us he will make it clear – even if we do not have rock solid confidence in the rightness up front (for how can we given our incredibly limited human viewpoint?) is a good and right thing to do? Especially provided we don't do so with great rashness, and attempt to pay close attention to any "feedback" the Spirit might have for us moving forward?

This seems to be how I have made decisions that were emotionally tumultuous – doing my best to weigh practical and spiritual considerations, identifying what seems to be a good path, and then waiting for confirmation or disconfirmation, trusting that God will either bring about success in the endeavor or somehow close doors to make me reconsider.

If all the above is more or less accurate, then I'd like to see if I can mesh this understanding with the other places "doubting" shows up in the New Testament. In Matthew 21:21 Jesus speaks of doubt interfering with answers to our prayers. According to my understanding above, this would not so much be referring to emotionally-charged uncertainty about what the right things to pray for are (I mean, we know we should pray for God's Will to be accomplished... the tricky part is figuring out what it is so we can pray correctly), but praying prayers and acting as if God is not capable of answering them. If we pray and truly believe God can and will answer our prayer if it his Will (even if perhaps we are not quite sure if what we asked was His Will – acknowledging our human limitations, but not letting them make us unduly worried about praying for "wrong things", trusting that God will answer our prayers from faith), that is different than merely speaking words to God and then acting as if he wouldn't or couldn't fulfill the prayer. Is this correct?

Finally, James 1:5-8 also speaks of doubt, this time in asking for wisdom. These verses strike me as more absolute: "doubting" in this context is not emotional turmoil about what is right or wrong (as in with eating certain foods, making certain decisions, or praying for certain things), but a lack of faith that God will provide wisdom to those who ask. Unlike the other areas where we may be misled by our emotions and have to wrestle them into submission as we try to discern God's will for us, this matter is black and white: when we ask for wisdom, since God gives it freely to all those who ask, we should have absolute faith that we will in fact receive it. Anything less than this is perilously close to doubting God's ability directly.

Sorry this got a bit long. I think sometimes I have a tendency to overthink things, but at the same time, putting all this into words and examining it from many angles really helps me get perspective.

Yours in Christ,

Response #17:

Yes, I think that is a good way to put it. I would hasten to add, however, that there are degrees to all this, and that the further one matures spiritual, the closer one begins to walk with the Lord, the more peace is to be had with less of a fight, and the more joy that comes in fighting the fight. This is all a matter of choice too, both of doing the things necessary to get to that good spiritual place where one has such resources of heart, and then also to be consistent in using them and engaging with them. To use a military analogy, a civilian without a weapon is not much good when the enemy hordes attack in the middle of the night (this is where most Christians are today – a scary thought on the cusp of the Tribulation!); a trained Marine with a weapon and a good store of ammunition will do much better fending them off – but he still has to load his weapon, take aim, fire, and not get flustered by the waves of enemy attacking.

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
John 14:27 NKJV

(9) So there does remain a "Sabbath day's rest" for the people of God. (10) For he who has entered into [God's] rest has himself ceased from his works just as God did from His own. (11) Let us therefore be eager to enter into that [continual and spiritual] rest, lest anyone fall [from grace] following the same pattern of disobedience [as the Exodus generation did].
Hebrews 4:9-11

So the one thing I would add to your synopsis is the point that trusting God implicitly becomes a very good habit that mature believers develop over time so as to have ever greater peace in following the way the Spirit whispers, knowing that this is the good way, even when the world, the flesh and devil disagree.

"We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself."
Job 5:27 NIV

As to Matthew 21:21, this verse encourages us to have faith and trust that defies all physical limitations – so that if we ever did need to have a tree uprooted or a mountain moved, God would provide for us when we prayed in faith for what we actually did need . . . just as He always actually does provide for us all that we need, and much more so when we ask for it in faith!

The context of James 1:5-8 is being under pressure wherein we are encouraged to move beyond peace and focus on the eternal joy we have of eternal bliss which is based in turn upon the eternal blessings we already possess in principle. If we are having a hard time with that, a hard time understanding "Why, God, is this happening to ME!?", then a prayer of faith will be answered; a whiny "prayer" of doubt is merely confirmation of our lack of spiritual growth (the civilian in the analogy without the weapon) or a momentary unwillingness to apply what we know aggressively to our situation: in the analogy a seasoned Marine who for whatever reason is "off" and doesn't load, doesn't shoot back, and doesn't stand firm – not something likely in either type or antitype, but even seasoned' Marine's sometimes need a kick in the backside; as when Sgt. Dan Daly got up amid the machine gun fire at Belleau Wood and shouted, "come on Marines , do you want to live forever?" (cleaned up version). We DO want to live forever, and this is James kicking us in the backside and telling us not to be wimpy and whiny just because things are going wrong: pray to the Lord for wisdom, but not like someone who doesn't think the Lord knows what's going on or thinks that He can't do anything about it.

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

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

Bob,

My dad passed away peacefully this morning with my mom by his side. I want to thank, with all my heart, you and everyone else who prayed for him based on the entry on the Ichthys prayer list.

I honestly don’t know if he was saved or not, but here’s what I can report: Last year, there was a day, I don’t remember exactly when, when he started asking me about Jesus and he actually let me give him the Gospel for about an hour. I was encouraged when it happened and his friend who just graduated from ministry school, is convinced that his profession of faith was genuine. What I do know is that God said, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion” (Exodus 33:19, cf. Romans 9:14). And I trust God whatever His decision.

Yours truly in Jesus Christ, our dear Lord and Savior,

Response #18:

Thanks for taking the time to update me at this difficult moment, my friend.

I'm so sorry for your loss, but very relieved to hear the uplifting report – it sounds to me as if your dad was saved for sure. We all have doubts about other people, and all the more so it seems the more we love them. But I think this is a special blessing for you and your mother amidst the painful loss. We grieve for the loss of those we love, but if we know we will see them in the resurrection, it is not grief as the world grieves.

Keeping you and your family in my prayers at this difficult time.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hello Dear Dr. Bob,

I hope this note finds you well. I have been thinking & praying for you. You've been on my mind for several weeks & I find myself compelled to check on your well being.

I hope you remember me...I have not written to you in some time. I have been studying & praying, as it seems the fig tree is beginning to ripen.

Congratulations on the web site & all of your most important work in witnessing for our Dear Lord & Savior. You have helped me to grow spiritually & for that I am ever so grateful.

The web site has grown most impressively over these years. It is truly a place for the young in Christ to begin their "diet" as well as providing more substantial "food" as we grow & mature in the knowledge which will sustain us in the difficult days ahead.

Again, my sincere thanks for being such a wonderful teacher & brother in Christ. I am certain our Lord will be well pleased with such a good & faithful servant.

Although we may not meet in this world, I look forward to worshiping with you when we meet in the New Jerusalem and are with our Lord forever.

In the love of Christ in which we are all family,

Response #19:

Great to hear from you, my friend!

I very much appreciate your kind and encouraging email – it is greatly appreciated.

Things here are "interesting". The older one gets, the more "work arounds" are necessary. I've dealt with and continue to deal with a few.

At work, you may have heard that the KY legislature just passed a bill that should make it easier to fire tenured university professors like myself than for no other reason than that they are no longer wanted (or better put their salary is wanted for other purposes). This comes on the heels of the loss through firing of my colleague of 19 years at the last minute just before classes started last fall. She didn't have tenure, but she was a fantastic teacher, a strong believer, and an irreplaceable asset. Now that she's gone, I'm left to do all the Greek and Latin classes myself, so it has been a very busy year. Prayers here are appreciated! Not that I'm worried. The Lord is my Fortress and He has never let me down. He led me into this career track and it has proved just the right one for pursuing the ministry I was given. I know that "the plan" is absolutely perfect, and already all planned out. "Just add trust".

Do feel free to write back any time!

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #20:

I can certainly sympathize as I'm not the spring chicken I used to be. Getting older has its own rewards but they are accompanied by bodies that remind us that time has its way with us all.

I'm sorry to hear about your work and colleague. I have heard that universities have become less places of higher education and seem to be falling prey to politics. I have no worries for you either, Dear Friend. The Lord has plans for you that we can't see presently but will no doubt be of great importance as the days are drawing near when, forgive my paraphrasing, but a day work will only buy a day's food. The Adversary is beginning to exert pressure on believers we know it's only going to increase. Alas, we have Our Precious Lord to use us as He sees fit and for His purposes. We must just continue on in the race until we reach the finish.

I do pray for your recovery and the peace that passes all understanding as you contend with your challenges at work.

In the Love of Our Dear Lord and Savior who sustains us through all our testing

Response #20:

Thanks for the update.

Please know that your words of encouragement are also most appreciated – as our your prayers (keeping you and yours in mine as well).

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Dear friend,

I have been reading on your website today... Jumping around from subject to subject. I had a list if things to do today.... its now been 4 hours and I can't seem to get off. Love, love your stuff. You answer peoples questions so perfectly.

I was reading your question on Extreme Personal Tribulation (link). When I read this person's question I so teared up. I really felt for this person and how so many times I have been there. I now feel much stronger and have an understanding and love. That's what brings me to the place of thanking God for my tribulations. Did this person ever respond? Do you know how they are doing? I sure she/he are doing better. One reason I have been reading today . . . [details omitted].

Response #21:

Always great to hear from you, my friend!

As the person who wrote that email, that was a LONG time ago: 10/9/2000. To the best of my knowledge, the person never identified himself at the time and never wrote back. Since then, I got a new computer, had it stolen, got another computer, and have recently migrated to yet another one because the old was dying. So I have no way to go back and check any further.

Relatives, it seems, are problems for most people – but yours pretty much take the cake since you have extraordinary fireworks on both sides!

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Genesis 2:24 NKJV

There are limits how far we should go in violating the spirit of this command. Being a good, loving Christian to all, especially our family members, is of course important, but we are not to allow them to ruin our marriages or our families or our spiritual lives. I'm confident that you'll figure out the right balance here – just as you always have – and have the courage to do what really is the "right thing" for the sake of all good things (just as you always have).

And by the way, our Lord's family gave Him "flak" all the way to the end (e.g., Jn.7:5).

In Jesus our dear Savior

Question #22:

Thank you for responding so quickly.

I totally understand not being able to go so far back. I sure liked how you responded to him/her though. You have a beautiful talent. Maybe that's all that person needed and off they went. I'll just think of the best!

Yes and yes again and again. You said it right...Fireworks on both sides. Its been my life challenge..... FAMILY!!! I have been in that person's place many of times due to family. I know how they feel. [details omitted]

Thank you for sending me Genesis 2:24 . That is so true and exactly what we have done....it takes that to get through this life and especially raise a healthy family.

Response #22:

You're very welcome.

We've all got more important things to do than deal with unnecessary family drama. Life has enough unavoidable drama to keep us busy, add in working for a living, keeping up with our immediate families and our own health and circumstances and, oh yes, growing, progressing and producing for Jesus Christ – which is the most important thing of all. In addition to compromising our time, emotional upheaval of this sort you relate challenges our peace and hinders our prayers (cf. 1Pet.3:7; 4:7).

Keeping you all in my prayers daily – and thanks so much for yours as well!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Good morning my friend. I believe Saturday is your posting day and you probably wont get to this email until tomorrow, so I placed urgent on it to get your attention quicker if possible. I pray all is well with you and yours and you're always on my mind. Today I'm faced with the biggest challenge of my life. I was diagnosed with cancer yesterday.

Myself, wife and children are taking this hard as we should be, but I know God is able heal me. I've been healed by God twice miraculous and I know he can do it again if it's will. So I'm asking for you and the saints to pray for me that God use me through this and heal me that souls will be save, others believe and I live on longer in this earth.

I'm going to reading and praying like never before. I wanted to ask if you could provide scripture regarding heaven and just scripture to prepare myself for what comes.

I thank God for you brother Bob and I appreciate your ministry and you more then my words can express. You have help me understand things that didn't understand and you've encourage me through so much in my life. I know for a fact God placed you in my life.

Your friend in Christ,

Response #23:

I am deeply distressed to hear this news, my friend – but I do know that nothing is impossible for the Lord. I too have experienced and seen His healing hand at work when the eyes of the world thought nothing could be done. So you and I agree on this matter (Matt.18:19), and I have been and will continue to be in prayer for you, my brother in Christ. I have also put in an urgent prayer request for you on the website.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:2-5 NKJV

The other side will be blessed beyond anything imaginable, glorious and wonderful to such a degree that no one will / would ever wish to come back to this temporary world. I know a man, a believer in Christ, who was given to see the approach of the heavenly glory and experienced a euphoria so complete he was completely unwilling to come back, but he was told "No, it is not yet your time". With so much to do for the Church of Jesus Christ before the Tribulation begins (and after it does start too), it would seem to me that there is a great deal for you to do before it is "your time".

I do want to commend you for your witness of faith and trust and confidence in the Lord, my friend, in spite of the terrible pressure you are under. That speaks volumes about the depth of your faith. And I also wish to commend you for analyzing this test for what it is: NOT some sort of punishment for something in the distant past, but a high level test of faith of the sort that only comes to those who are waking closely with the Lord.

None of us know the details of the plan. If we think we do, we delude ourselves. We are all only given one day at time and we need to live "today" as the only one we have . . . because tomorrow the Lord may return for us all or He may call us back to be with Himself. But whatever He does, we know that it will be done in perfect love and perfect faithfulness, for He is absolutely faithful, and could not be otherwise, perfect God that He is. So our job is to trust Him -- and not sell Him and His omnipotence short. If it is His will for you to continue, you will most definitely continue, regardless of the way the world sees things. He made the universe in the blink of an eye, and He can certainly heal you with no effort whatsoever. The hard thing was for our Lord to be judged for the sins of the world – and the smallest part of His sacrifice is worth more than the world to in infinite degree. Since you are His son and part of the Body of Christ, whatever must endured in a short time or long, it pales in comparison to all that is soon to come for us all.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18 NKJV

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
2nd Corinthians 4:17 NIV

Here are some links which contain all the pertinent passages you asked about:

What is Heaven Like?

Peter's Epistles #20: The Resurrection

The Resurrection of the Lamb's Bride (in CT 5)

What does the Bible say about Heaven and Hell?

Heavenly Things.

Last Things:  The Millennium and the New Jerusalem (CT 6)

Do feel free to write me back any time, my friend, and do please also keep me in the loop on this.

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

 

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