Hi, Doc, sorry to hit you up again so soon.
I'm having a dilemma (may or may not actually be so) that I need your input on. Our mutual friend is in such a bind (it's testing obviously) and I want to help somehow. So yesterday after he and I talked, an idea popped into my head: what if I started a fundraising site (there are a bunch available for free to start these days online) for him to start the business he'd love to start to feed his family?
Of course in my overzealousness I instantly restarted my ancient Facebook account, cleared all former "friends" and nonsense out with the sole purpose of spreading said website. Then proceeded to actually start one up. After about an hour of technical bouncing around online I just stopped. Then started worrying I'm jumping over boundaries: he doesn't know; it would purely be a gift; I also didn't pray appropriately – more like "let's do this, Father!" – prior, so I don't know if this is blessed/inspired by the Spirit or not.
I'm asking you because you are his and my teacher and you may know best in that I'm emotionally involved more than I may know fully, and don't want to mess up anymore.
I could easily see raising enough to fly there and literally put it in his hand in almost no time (American, lukewarm Christians and their penchant for "giving" you know).
Is this right? I trust you more than myself.
Bless you, Doctor
Apologies for the delay. I'm behind here as things are in a rather difficult mode – prayers are appreciated.
As to your question, it seems to me to be a very honorable intention on your part. I know nothing about the mechanics of these sorts of things, however, neither the practical nor the legal niceties. On the one hand, I think it would be fantastic if you could help our friend in this way. On the other, I know the Lord wants everything done "decently and in order" (1Cor.14:40), and I also would not want you to fall afoul of any sort of legal trouble et al. So I would suggest that if you do go through with this noble effort, that you make some serious inquiries both on the technical side and on the legal side first, and have a very detailed plan before proceeding. Giving one's own money (if "one" has any), is simple enough (although I understand than even here the IRS has restrictions in both giving and receiving before penalties/taxes are due); fundraising is another matter, and from what little I know a somewhat involved one. You may perhaps already be aware of all these things, both on the legal and the technical side; if you're not an expert, then, as I say, I'd recommend researching this thoroughly, maybe even consulting a CPA and/or a lawyer. There are probably a lot of "how to's" on the internet, but that's probably only a starting point.
It has always been a matter of interest to me that a very large portion of 2nd Corinthians (two full chapters: 8-9) is involved with the mechanics of collecting and handling money for charitable donation – not with the reasons for giving or the effects of the gift but the "how to do it in a right way" as we are discussing here. Paul goes to great lengths to make it clear that the cause is absolutely noble, and those involved in handling the money are above reproach. From this I think we can say for certain that fundraising and proper stewardship in the process is a very heavy responsibility (with concomitant temptations). Maybe that is one reason I have always personally shied away from it. But we all have our own gifts, and, as I say, it is a blessed intent. I am concerned for our friend too, but also for you.
I promise to say a prayer about this.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
With God's help and your invaluable guidance I'm making progress, but I know I am far away from being ready to minister the word. For this reason, I would be very grateful if you could verify these early attempts of mine.
Through your ministry I have a dear friend who came to believe and he has been growing spiritually. He is a true friend of mine. Despite young age he has already attained to a level of maturity well beyond that of other Christians I know. He told me that in some areas of his life he is struggling to move from gnosis to epignosis and finds the battle with sin particularly difficult. Some time ago I compiled and organised a list of verses for the time of testing. I added some passages to it and included the headings so that it's clear for someone else to read and I forwarded the completed list to him. I would appreciate it if you could just take a look at it and let me know how it can be improved, both in terms of its structure and content.
In our Lord,
Thanks as always for your good words, my friend. And thank you too for sharing with me this wonderful piece! I'm not sure if this is your first effort, but it is just the sort of thing that prospective pastors and Bible teachers begin to produce when they start giving serious consideration to sharing the truth with others in a systematic way. Good for you! This really is first-rate. As an outline, I wouldn't change anything. I would note by way of experience that non-teachers usually also need 1) more filling in of the blanks, that is, additional explanations about what each point means (all teachers learn eventually that repetition and continuing to approach the problem/principle from a plethora of different angles is essential to getting one's message across); 2) a feedback loop, so that when, even after additional explanations, some things remain unclear to the listener (as inevitably happens no matter how much time the teacher spends on the issue), there can be clarification.
One last thing. While I wouldn't change anything, I would consider adding another final section, such as John does at the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter two in his first epistle, where he explains confession, and then says (at 1Jn.2:1), that while "I write this to you so that you will not sin", "But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One" (NIV). That is because we all fail, err, fall and sin. That's not our "job description", but I think it is important to give Christians the whole picture on every biblical subject, and when it comes to the subject of sin, this part of the picture, namely, God's mercy and forgiveness when we do not measure up, is incredibly important (otherwise a reader might get the false impression that failure means being turned away by the Lord).
I wonder if you would be willing to let me post this at Ichthys?
[posted at the link]
Your friend in Jesus Christ our Lord,
I thought I would share some very encouraging news. My friend told me yesterday that his brother, who up until not long ago had not showed interest in the truth, started to read Peter's Epistles. He said that the change in his behaviour is already visible and he perseveres despite not having a strong academic background and finding parts of the study difficult to understand and the fact that he is in a spiritually very challenging environment, which you will be aware of much more than I am - he is in Royal Marines.
Every heart which opens to the truth is a source of great joy, as there are so few. Again your studies are supplying the truth.
I know I've got a long way to go, but at least having my own ministry seems a conceivable idea now, just like mastering Hebrew and Greek (and there is Aramaic too). It hardly seemed so a couple of years ago. There are many things which still need to fall into their place and I want to know that I am ready (James 3:1). As I'm going through your email responses I find more often that when I have read the question I've got an idea of how it could be approached and your answer frequently confirms my initial thoughts. There are however many topics on which I've got no knowledge whatsoever and even though answering readers' questions is a critical part of the teaching ministry (and something I always wanted to do), it is important to provide in-depth systematic studies, like the ones you wrote (Peter's Epistles, Basics Series, Satanic Rebellion and others) to provide Christians with solid spiritual food. Now this really takes time and preparation.
Your continuous support in all this is invaluable.
In our Lord,
That's wonderful news! It's always an encouragement to hear of brothers and sisters who have gotten "fired up" for the Word of God, a double pleasure when it has anything to do with one's own ministry, and a triple delight when it comes as fruit worthy of eternal reward for a good friend like yourself.
On the issue of preparation, it's a fine line. On the one hand, we absolutely want to be prepared, and many young men have made a mess of things by going off "half-cocked" without adequate preparation. On the other hand, we will never be as prepared as we should like to be. At some point, we have to "hit the beach", ready (as we would prefer) or not – at least if we do want to get our oar in for the Lord before this life passes away. I am aware that you have only been at this a few years, but everything you are doing, writing, and saying evinces a level of growth and preparation that is truly exceptional. The Lord will make clear the when, the where and the what, and you are in my prayers about that.
Keep up the good work for our Lord, dear friend.
Yours in the One we love and strive to serve in way well-pleasing to Him,
Im feeling pretty lost, and starting to feel very cursed and I need your biblical take.
After a little more than a years worth of reading your studies and searching the Word over and over I've found myself incredibly self aware (especially considering how my youth and such went) and far more likely to be honest and heed The Spirit's prodding about my failings. So I, once again thank you for keeping me fed; I've never eaten so much "meat"!
I'm greatly enthusiastic about ministering, but I have mental processing and application issues which get in the way in a serious way. It's hard to accept any hope that I could have any significant reward, because I feel I have zero chance at any real impact in this life. I feel crippled.
Please pray – I'm not really sure what for. I'll keep reading your site.
I'm keeping you and your family in my prayers day by day. I would also like to say that I admire your perseverance in spite of the various and sundry troubles you have had to endure. That is a witness in and of itself, and it is also grounds for reward. After all, spiritual growth is the basis for the first crown (of righteousness), but success and spiritual progress in the area of handling the tests that come to try that faith is the basis for the second crown (of life):
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 NIV
Please see the link: The Judgment and Reward of the Church
I do understand your desire to use your considerable gifts for the Lord in the service of the edification of His Church – that is a noble desire, as scripture says (1Tim.3:1). However, there is usually a considerable lead-time and preparation phase that precedes such service (for obvious reasons), and that means that the person in question needs to come to a conviction of what that service he/she is meant to provide really is. We are all called to some ministry assigned by Jesus Christ Himself (1Cor.12:5), so the manner and place and time of that ministry are in the Lord's hands. And I dare say that very few people have ever been able to anticipate what precisely these would be (I know I would never have guessed Ichthys for myself) – at least for those who think outside the box and let the Lord lead them into genuine ministry as opposed to going into conventional channels which may or (in my view more often) may not be what the Lord really wants them to do.
So hang in there, my friend. The Lord is well aware of all of our talents and also of our limitations and has perfect allowance from both sets of characteristics. And keep growing, and keep persevering. In both of these things there is great and eternal reward about which you will not have any regret for all eternity – and these are also the preliminary steps for any sort of serious ministry down the road. The Lord will make clear the right path in His own perfect good time.
In the dear Lord we love more than life, our Savior Jesus Christ.
I hope the Lord is blessing you for your continued ministry. I'm not sure if I ever told you that your writings were effectively the determining factor in me really "being" a Christian, but I just wanted you to know that your effort is greatly appreciated by at least one person (probably more than that person knows)!
I have a question in this regard related to what it is that I'm supposed to do. Since the last time I brought it up, I think I've come to accept that I will find out one way or the other even if I don't get any real guidance (from my point of view). I'm going to try my hardest next year, and if I realize that I am not meant to do something that involves this profession, I guess I get to switch schools. I wasn't really expecting a direct "this is your mission in life" communiqué with God, but I still seem to be at the "every single major looks interesting" stage. Is "just waiting for it" something that we as Christians can do without shame? Patience in something like waiting for the right person to marry makes intuitive sense to me, but I'm having a harder time swallowing this unknown purpose feeling. The relative tensions in the world (Gaza, Mosul, Ebola, etc.) are also serving to remind me that the time is not far, meaning that I would much rather choose the right thing rather than be in a poor position when things do get put into motion. Barring my own personal problems, I also have a couple questions that are probably more "up your creek" so to speak.
In Christ our Savior,
Good to hear from you, and I truly do appreciate your testimony and your good words – and your continued growth, progress and production for our Lord even more. As to your question, you are correct that I am reluctant to weigh in on the specifics here. I will say that you are giving it good and serious thought in what seems to me to be plenty of time. There are those who at age seven wanted to be a lawyer, e.g., and have pursued that goal relentlessly and are now actually happy being lawyers. A more common experience is to go college with one idea and leave with another. That is because college is broadening (or ought to be). My advice to undergraduates is to branch out and sample things that seem interesting to them. I do understand that nowadays there is a premium on getting done in four years, and that for some majors that almost requires showing up with credits already in the bank. But summer school can close that gap. Figuring out what one really feels called to do with one's talents in this life is as about as important a life-task as there is, and it should not be short-changed (at least not to the point of getting it wrong). How this will play into the ministry the Lord calls you to is something that will also require patience. Barring a call to ministering the Word as a pastor (which, as we have discussed, entails specific preparation to do it right), I know that the Lord uses Christians in all manner of careers for all manner of (genuine) ministries.
I continue to gain encouragement from your obvious spiritual progress, my friend. Keep running the good race – in the successful endurance of this great contest there is the greatest reward.
Your friend in Jesus Christ,
I shall try not to put words into your mouth, but let me see if I can fairly summarize what you responded just for clarification (to make sure I am getting the gist of things). Rushing the career issue is not as necessary as actually figuring out your calling, so "waiting for it" [conviction] should be a priority before going full throttle in some career.
You read me loud and clear!
Keep running the good race, my friend. You are already far ahead on the course and making good time – keep it up!
Your fellow runner with Jesus Christ,
I am planning on taking a survey course for all the different branches of engineering, and if I come out of next year deciding that absolutely nothing clicked, I could a) try another very technology oriented major at this first school, b) transfer to the other state school which has an A.B./M.A. program in Greek/Classics (if I decide that Seminary is my calling), and better options outside of engineering/physics/business, or c) pick the most interesting of the engineering branches and hope I get more interested in some of the later classes. I'm afraid that I might not hit any of the interesting stuff while doing the core credits (that are pushed upon me my first 2-3 semesters), which is rather unfortunate, especially since transferring credit from one school to another can be arduous or impossible (i.e. once I do make it to what "would be" the interesting classes, switching schools might significantly hamper my graduation). Does this plan sound like a wise one to you?
I would like to ask your opinion on Ephesians 4:11. Who do you think that these "evangelists" (euaggelistes) are? The first two "types" of people are things of the past: the thirteen "true" apostles (counting Paul and Matthias), and the true prophets. This leaves us with the "evangelists" and the "pastor-teachers," which seem to be distinct, at least in all the English versions. I am not trying to muddle any Church polity as you have described it (I have read most all you have written on the subject), I was just wondering what you thought of a third possible office besides elders/overseers/pastors and deacons.
Thanks for your answers!
I think your college plan is eminently reasonable. I didn't weigh in on the specifics because, as Clausewitz observed, "no plan survives contact with the enemy". That is my life experience as well. Hence the need for flexibility, and your plan is wonderfully flexible – so much so that I am confident that you will modify it even further if need be when new information rolls in (as it will).
I agree that evangelists and pastor-teachers are the two gifts for teaching still in operation (see the link). A person can have both gifts, by the way. However, the former is concerned with "giving the good news" that salvation is available through God's grace and Jesus' sacrifice, that is, evangelizing, as we might say. The word has taken on a good deal of baggage in modern evangelicaldom, however, so I would want to spell it out more lest anyone become confused. A missionary, for example, would need that gift, in my view. Some people are much better than others at making new contacts and sharing Jesus Christ with them. When prepared and mature, such a person could have a life-ministry built around that concept. This is the one outreach a local church most certainly should support, whether domestically or overseas.
I'll be out of town for a few days (family wedding).
Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ, my friend!
I am a homeless man, using a library computer to write my first screenplay which is a comedy about a man who's imaginary friend is in actuality a demon.
May I take material from your website, some of your writings, to use as material in my screen play, to be used by characters in the screen play?
I assure you I will not profit from this screen play other than to perhaps write my first comedy and I am willing to credit you for the material according to your terms.
Good to make your acquaintance. Here are the usage guidelines posted at Ichthys:
Copy Policy: These materials are copyrighted, but visitors are free to download and utilize them with the following restrictions:
1) These materials may not be offered to others for a fee or otherwise sold under any circumstances. This is a grace ministry.
2) These materials may not be fundamentally changed or edited. I don't mind honest excerption, but alteration of meaning is not allowed.
3) These materials may not be represented as the work of others. You don't have to cite me; you may use these lessons anonymously, but please don't pass them off as your own materials.
In sum, this site is meant for the glory of God through the edification and growth of His children. Any use of its materials for personal profit, aggrandizement or other personal agendas is not authorized.
Praying the betterment of your condition,
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
When you said that when you walk with the Lord you will know what service he is calling you to do, does that mean this job, if it is a creative job, has to explicitly talk about Christ? And then the whole politics/racism thing, you said to avoid those types of things because it doesn't do any good but is it possible to talk about those types of issues while not supporting some social gospel?
I know this question is very specific I'm just wondering if this idea I have is to glorify God or myself. Because it talks about those things that you said to avoid. If I should drop the idea all together, if this is based on false guilt or if it's due to straying myself from God so much that I get ideas that-starts-compromising-doing-things-for-his-glory.
We all have to work for a living; that is godly and right to do (2Thes.3:10). It is very rare for a person's livelihood also to be their main ministry for the Lord – one which the Lord intends, that is. One reason for that is that any ministry which is supported financially by others will be likely to be flawed for that very reason, since the group/people supporting it most likely will be imparting all manner of incorrect expectations and demands. That is why Paul made tents to pay the bills for his service to the Lord – so as to answer to the Lord and not to others as to how to do that ministry. As to specific ministries, it may take some time of growing in Christ before all this becomes clear (i.e., more a matter of years than months), but with a consistent approach to growth, with progress in the passing of tests and following the road in which the Lord leads you, when you are ready, fully prepared through knowledge and wisdom, He will bring you into a sound knowledge of your gifts, and into just the right ministry – only persevere.
There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord.
1st Corinthians 12:5 NKJV
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I'm afraid you get this question rather more than others in our age, (as in http://ichthys.com/mail-Christian-Assemblys-True-Purpose.htm or http://ichthys.com/mail-Finding-a-church-or.htm), but I am not stomaching my current Church particularly well, and I'm not sure what I should do. I was pretty excited at the outset of college because it was better than the Methodist Church my family went to (still is, in many ways), but now that "the tides have settled" so to speak I'm starting to find things out that perhaps I was willfully blind to before. For example, if you remember me emailing you about praying out loud in a rather cacophonous manner, it probably won't come as a surprise that I discovered from the service today that tongues and prophecy are supposedly spiritual gifts "to be prayed for". We are doing a study on Ephesians and got to 4:11 today, which speaks of the delineation of church responsibilities/gifts that you and I have already emailed back and forth about several times now. Having just recently read the section in BB 5: Pneumatology about spiritual gifts, I couldn't help but thinking that we were just getting a dumbed-down "basic" version, even though most of it was solid teaching (minus the tongues/prophecy/healing part). Being around the other people makes me feel rather uncomfortable most of the time as the emotions tend to run high with the out-loud prayer thing, and it was when a couple of people started making unintelligible noises that I decided that this wasn't going to work anymore. They had a group "prayer vigil" where they met at 7:30 and prayed until 2:00 in the morning (I stayed in and studied instead, my warning bells already tinkling).
I am not going to be hasty in severing some of the friendships I have made (and will probably continue to go to the small group study since it is much more bible-centered), but this leaves me in the "unchurched" condition that so many people that email you seem to be in. I've explored other options in the geographic area, and none of the other churches are substantively better (it's why I ended up at this one). I am not particularly worried about guilt-tripping or any of that, but some of what the recent study has been on has bothered me slightly.
A lot of the emphasis in the last few weeks has been on Church unity and edification (Ephesians discussing what it does). Much of it has been good, which is why I am rather disappointed by the lack of solid doctrine on some of the more "basic" points (at least in my mind). I do not believe it takes a great deal of intellectual exercise to perceive that healing, tongues, et. al. are no longer in operation. Anyway, the thing that has shaken me somewhat is the concept of sacrifice for the sake of the Church. There was discussion on how "church shouldn't be about us" and "should be for the benefit of others." The implication being that "selfishly" leaving a church because it doesn't meet your doctrinal standards or expectation of what teaching should be means you are missing out on helping the body. I fear this may be the standard "that'll keep 'em here" pseudo-manipulative statement, but I feel there is a degree of truth as well. Ever since I have read your material and started studying hard on my own, I don't know if it's that I've become more discerning or just bitter and cynical, but I am not a very easy person to please when it comes to churches. When I learn about a church, I want to see that they at least meet the very flexible guidelines the Bible has for polity (at least one male pastor-teacher, some body of elders, supporting ministers), and meet basic doctrinal competency (i.e., are substantively teaching). Most churches I've sniffed out at least give lip service to the basic gospel message (and tend towards overemphasis on grace), but they fail hard in the eschatology department and in any finer points of interpretation (faulty deductive arguments against abortion, dogmatism with water baptism, pre-trib rapture, signal & sign gifts, etc.). I'm being long-winded again--apologies. Let me hammer out a few questions for you:
Is there any validity in the logic of "stomaching" a church to help in the edification of others there?
Always good to hear from you, my friend.
With a church on almost every corner in this country, it seems as if there should be more than three flavors – but that is mostly all that are available: traditional, new wave, and cult. Some of course are "Neapolitan" combining the three flavors in various combinations (that is what you seem to have found), and the "newness" will be "fun" to those looking for "church" if they have not sampled that particular flavor (or combination) previously. Those from the charismatic or mega church arena may find the high ritual of traditional churches reassuring while in the opposite direction the emotionalism and high-voltage entertainment of the former may be appealing; cults are always appealing, especially in "church" form, because they seem to be so holy and have all the answers (without at the same time actually giving up any answers or actually being holy). What all of these flavors and their various combinations almost always have in common is so very little interest in spiritual growth through the teaching and learning of the truth of the scriptures. So to answer your first question, I think everyone would like to have an actual face-to-face fellowship where the Bible was taught in a substantive and orthodox way with as little distraction via false issues and extraneous activities as possible (at least all truly positive Christians interested in growing and producing for the Lord the right way would). And there are some few places out there like that. God provides to all who ask and opens to all who knock – but we have to be prepared for the answer and the opportunity to be not necessarily what we had expected (that is the story of my life and Christian experience at any rate). Telling people that they have to do things the usual way – even though that "usual" way is not in the Bible and its practical effect is contrary to the Bible is, yes, a means of manipulation, nothing more. Churches, irrespective of "flavor", mostly want as many good-looking and enthusiastic bodies in the pews as possible, giving as much money as possible, bringing in as many new good-looking and enthusiastic bodies as possible, and giving themselves up to "do the work" of the church to greatest extent possible (even though this will in most cases contribute to mutual spiritual growth, progress and production not a bit, and in many cases may very well be counterproductive). By and large, churches have turned aside to follow the world. The world values money, numbers, and celebrity, so these are the goals most churches pursue – by any and all means possible regardless of spiritual considerations – and regardless of which of the three "flavors" we are talking about.
(15) Do not be a lover of this world, nor of what is in this world. If anyone is a lover of this world, a [genuine] love for the Father is not in him. (16) For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh (e.g., money), the lust of the eyes (e.g., numbers), and the boastful pride of life (e.g., celebrity), is not from the Father, but is from the world. (17) The world and its lust are passing away, but whoever does God's will is [going] to stay [alive with God] forever.
1st John 2:15-17
Following the worldly definitions of success is a very easy trap to fall into to for any pastor or church, even if they/he start out with a good idea – that much is obvious from the fact that nearly every church out there has fallen into it eventually and to one degree or another. However, for them to claim that unless we also fall in and wallow in the same mess too we are being un-Christian is turning sin into evil.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.
1st Timothy 6:11-12a NIV
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
2nd Timothy 4:3-5 NIV
I don't think you have wasted your time in all this. As someone who is contemplating the possibility of serving the Lord in teaching the Bible, it's important to see something of the "battlefield" out there before officially taking up arms.
Obviously we are lead by the Spirit, but what do you think are valid reasons to split with a church? I have come to realize that my idealism will find no match in any contemporary church, but how much leaven is acceptable before it's time to pull up the stakes and move on? Mislead teaching on some minor doctrinal point? Any teaching that seems blatantly antithetical to scripture?
I think it will be clear in your heart when and if it's time to leave your church. What I would want to avoid is staying on account of guilt feelings only or inertia only or social benefits only (or a cocktail of the preceding and similar). If and when you do part company, my advice is not to make an issue of it but move on quietly and with determination.
Are we really such mavericks in our understanding of water-baptism, the placement of the "rapture", tongues, life at birth instead of conception, etc. that it is unreasonable to ever find a church that agrees with us on these things? I know your ministry is not "brick and mortar" but certainly there has to be a physical church (or gathering group of people) somewhere that gets these things right. I guess my question is exactly how "far out" are these interpretations in conservative Christian academia (despite them being correct to the best of our knowledge)?
Are we mavericks? It depends. First, I would not want to cast Christianity or Christian academia as some sort of monolith. The only thing monolithic about any aspect of the church-visible today is its lukewarmness towards the truth – and that is both the heart of the problem and the answer to this question. I bump into Christians all the time who have the correct view on one or more of these doctrinal issues, and I think you would find if you did a survey that there is rather more or less controversy depending on the issue (e.g., rather more disbelieve a pre-Tribulation rapture than understand the problems with water-baptism). The critical point here is that the reason for such divergence is a lack of interest. Most people "believe" what their denominations tell them (or they mega-churches or their cults), and they tell them what their forefathers decided in the past, generally speaking. That is to say, their positions on these issues are merely traditional and for the sake of having a position. It is not as if they have diligently looked into the matter of, say, life at birth; and when they do on that rare occasion crack open a Bible to examine the question, it is generally only to look for ammunition to refute someone who is claiming the opposite (rather than genuinely seeking the truth). Doctrines for most churches are more political matters than they are truths to be treasured and gloried in. Why? Because they are not really interested in spiritual growth, progress and true production. What they are interested in is seeming to be "great" – which gets us back to the money, numbers and celebrity. Teaching the pre-Trib rapture is soothing and is good for numbers (even though it is false); practicing water-baptism is a good way to set the hook and keep people coming back since their salvation or at least their access to grace is now tied to the church in question (even though it is false); teaching life at conception is good for political agendas and hence for stimulating the excitement of the cause (even though it is false); and all three can be part of an effort to raise funds and raise the church's profile. On the other hand, teaching the Bible is not necessarily exciting, always rubs some people the wrong way (about some thing or other they haven't heard before or have trouble accepting), and takes effort in learning, believing and applying the Word to yield results. The latter is thus a formula that skews to smaller numbers, with a corresponding reduction in contributions (especially if things that require money are being de-emphasized) and lower profile. Who wants to be a part of that? Answer: only those who are generally interested in doing what Christ really wants us to do. And there is the problem. There aren't enough Christians around in this era of lukewarmness to support many churches/ministries which really are trying to do the right thing in the right way.
If not directly connected to a local church, how can we help the body at large (what we were really supposed to be edifying in the first place)? I understand that our main goal is to grow spiritually, apply what we learn, and help other do likewise, but what form does this take outside of a local church body? (I know you have written extensively on these topics and I have probably read a great deal--though please link to anything you think would be helpful).
How can we "help" if not members of a traditional church? That also depends – mostly on the ministry the Lord has for you. First things first. However you minister, you will do it better the further along the road you are personally in spiritual growth. You are speaking with other Christians about the truth both face to face and in your blog. For someone who just got to college I would say that is well ahead of the curve. We have to learn to take this fight one day at a time. The day will come when you have a ministry that is fully developed and you will fight that fight the same way: one day at a time. Planning is important to some degree, but we have to keep the primary focus on the here and now. If we lean too far forward in our thinking, there are many pitfalls that have the capability of neutralizing our efforts "today" – frustration over not knowing exactly how things will play out is certainly one of these. Have faith. The Lord will make all things clear to you in good time. Meanwhile, fight the fight this day, to the glory of Jesus Christ.
What should young men looking to be teachers do after preparation nowadays to help the church? Having done some more research since the last time I emailed you, I think I grasp why you value the secular Greek and Hebrew--grammar is rather unbiased no matter where you get it from (and getting it without a significant doctrinal spin makes sense). Having considered such a path myself (I'm still not closed to it if I ever feel conviction), I am just really curious where you think these young men should go. I'd wager compromising by accepting a mega-church pastorate or denomination would not be choice number one, but where else do they go to not end up entirely destitute? I know you are a classics professor, but what happened to your cadre of seminary/Greek/Hebrew friends, and what are they doing now?
Preparation for a Bible teaching ministry is also very much an individualized process, especially nowadays. As I always tell prospective pastor-teachers, in my experience, observation and also reading of scripture, knowing the original languages ought to be the first priority in preparing to teach others. That is because everything always comes down to precisely what the Bible says and means – and how can anyone hope to come up with that apart from reading the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic with enough facility to have confidence that the text has been rightly understood? Without the languages, a pastor is in the position of having to rely on what others have read and understood.
Secondly a seminary education (I would suggest a non-denominational evangelical place) is not a bad thing to have – it certainly helped me. Of course there aren't any perfect or even near perfect seminaries. A person should be conversant with systematic theology in the Reformed tradition and its evangelical reception as well as with Church History (just to have some idea of where the bodies are buried, so to speak), as well as know something about hermeneutics, biblical interpretation, and ancient history. Most of these things can be learned outside of seminary. Having a solid system of biblical truth already in one's heart when approaching a course of preparation was for me the most important thing. Needless to say my own understanding of the truth of scripture has advanced since those days, but growth is all about faith in the truth, and that applies doubly so to the prospective pastor . . . because in the process all of his assumption will be challenged and will need to be confirmed, reformed, or replaced until he attains "to that standard of maturity whose 'attainment' is defined by Christ" (Eph.4:13). I like to think that Ichthys provides the necessary materials for that – but we all have to find our own "right place".
As to my own cohort, one friend teaches a small, local Bible group and has an internet blog, one has a brick and mortar independent church in Colorado, one has a Youtube Bible teaching ministry (and website now too: Bible Academy – and I recommend it highly), and one is retired, having had an independent church group out in California with an internet outreach. So we all found our own ways to serve the Lord – all a bit different, and all somewhat non-conventional (interesting in and of itself when one considers that there was no idea of anything like an internet when we were in seminary).
What do you think of logos bible software? I downloaded the free version recently after doing a little bit of research, and haven't been that disappointed. I know you like Blue Letter Bible (which I use as well), but I was just curious because logos is not on your software list. The "package" things that they offer (mostly commentary and other books by theologians) seem kind of extraneous, but some of the cross referencing and language tools built into the software seem very useful (they also have some original language books, lexicons, etc. though some cost money). In most bible study circles on the internet at least, it seems as if logos is the only thing that people use? Thoughts?
I don't know Logos and so I can't vouch for it. I'm not sure either from your description or from what I have seen myself in the past (if memory serves) why a person would need it. There are plenty of good Bible search sites available on the internet for free, and that goes also for almost all of the actually helpful Bible commentaries et al. (since the really good ones are from generations past; e.g., for Hebrew: Keil and Delitzsch commentaries; BDB Hebrew Lexicon; Kautzsch's Hebrew Grammar). It's a common fallacy to imagine that spending money on something is solving a problem, but the more something costs in the biblical realm, generally speaking the less use it's going to be. I'm not immune to this. Most of the books I have bought over the years have proved to be of very little value, whereas the ones which have been invaluable have generally been reasonably priced (the ones in the parenthesis above, for example). When I was getting my second B.A. in Classics I spent a good deal of money I really didn't have to get Kittel's multi-volume Dictionary of New Testament Theology which was all the rage at the time. I can count on my fingers and toes the times I've actually had occasion to use it with any positive effect in all the years since.
I am having doubts about how I am handling academics in college. I have high A's right now in all of my classes, but it has cost a great deal of time, which is my most coveted resource. I fear I may be too much a perfectionist in some regards (it runs in my family), but I do not want to blow off my learning "to be more spiritual" either (however good intentioned, such a thing does not seem to mesh with spiritual common sense). I understand that we are supposed to run the race to the best of our abilities and excel in all we do, but where do we draw the line between learning thoroughly our course material and taking away time from our spiritual growth?
Finding the right mix will always be an issue. We can always do more . . . until we can't. The better we know ourselves, the better we will strike the right balance, and that comes with spiritual growth. As long as we are progressing properly with our spiritual growth, we needn't be too terribly concerned about the "more" that is possible, especially not to the point of feeling guilty about it we are not rolling forward at maximum RPMs . Still, life is about choices, and what we concentrate on says a lot about what we really value. Clearly, our Lord does not see to it that we get to a good college and expect us to "flunk out for Jesus". In whatever we do, we should do it "as unto the Lord", and that means doing a good job. Nota Bene, however, this does not mean trying to be perfect at what we do in the secular realm to the detriment of our spiritual growth. The Lord is well able to give us victory with a good effort (while we save an appropriate measure of time and energy for our Bible studies) which surpasses that of those who are truly giving their all to the secular challenge because that is all they have.
I have applied (am applying) to be both a teaching assistant and resident advisor for next semester, and think both would be good opportunities to help others and expose them to solid Christianity (especially the RA position). I am somewhat concerned about my time-load however (see above), since I won't be in any easier classes (none of the classes here are easy). Even though I have good time management for someone my age (as far as I can tell), my academics alone without any other responsibilities are already almost bankrupting me of all my time. Do you think it prudent to take on more responsibility in hopes of helping people, or would it be better to focus on more Bible study? How do you know where the balance is for this matter, as for the last?
Again, finding our limits is something we get better at with time. I would point out that there is a big difference between situations of necessity on the one hand and unnecessarily loading ourselves down with otherwise optional responsibilities on the other. I have seen some students at my own university who have been absolutely fantastic in strapping on all manner of extracurricular activities and service obligations (to a degree most anyone would find remarkable) while still doing A+ work in all courses. Where they were spiritually is another question. If a person has to work 20+ hours just to stay in school, I am sure that the Lord will help a Christian in that situation who is there for Him; taking on a job rather than devoting the time to academics or spiritual matters just for some extra cash is another story.
This question pertains to my Christian blog. You've been doing online ministry for white a while now, most successfully I might add, so what is your methodology? Do you write something, set it aside for a time, then come back to it with fresh eyes? Do you get family and friends to read it over before you post it to make sure nothing slips in that you don't want there (typos included)? Do you just do it perfect the first time with so much experience? I don't believe I am that awful a communicator, but I must confess that I was not impressed with my past self coming back to my posts after several months. Perhaps it is just 20/20 hindsight vision having grown some, but I feel there must be a way better than what I'm doing.
On your blog, as I have said in the past, I think it's a noble pursuit, and also a very good way to begin to find your own particular voice and approach to teaching the Word. Naturally it will change over time (one would certainly hope so – as you grow and know more and more). Teaching the truth, whatever the means and method, is always going to be a somewhat solitary occupation. The person doing so has to have the courage of his convictions. Help in the form of proofreading is always a plus, but the content by the nature of the exercise has to be one's own (from the Bible through the Spirit of course), so that not much – apart from criticism which may or may not be valid – can come from others. I will honor your request, if you wish. However, I'll wait to hear back in case you have reconsidered.
Finally, I noticed that you said [when replying to someone looking for good Christian fellowship]:
I certainly understand the need for such interaction, and I wish I had some sort of master list of people who are engaged in Bible studies based on this ministry. For a variety of reasons, however, I don't solicit or collect such information. I do promise to say a prayer for your efforts in finding the spiritual fellowship you need – nothing is impossible for God, so keep on "knocking".
Why couldn't us people that follow your site self-select into an online community? As opposed to you "collecting information" as it were, it could just be people that are interested voluntarily "signing up for it" via email or whatever other form deemed appropriate. It wouldn't have to be anything binding or formal, but perhaps it could provide a measure of that fellowship that we all long for. Just an idea.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my many questions, and may God bless you and keep you.
Last but not least, the idea of an online community is appealing, but whenever I have considered something like this, the potential disadvantages seem to me to far outweigh the potential advantages. On the one hand, it would be a way for those interested in Ichthys to get to know each other and interact. On the other hand, well, there's nothing to prevent people from doing something like that individually or collectively quite apart from anything officially sanctioned. This ministry is all about the truth rather than social interaction. If I did set up, say, a Facebook page, it seems to me I would be responsible for moderating what was said; not only don't I have the time for that, but there are more hidden rocks and shoals here than first meet the eye. Secondly, what would prevent someone from pretending to be "gung-ho for the Ichthys ministry" and using that subterfuge to get friendly with someone else at such a site but for ulterior purposes? There are plenty of wolves in sheep's clothing out there in cyberspace after all. In sum, such a site might falsely project the idea of a safe place that was not entirely safe.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I must apologise for how long it has taken me to get back to you. I have been snowed under with larger than usual amount of worldly commitments in the last few weeks which I feel has resulted in a period of testing for me. Regrettably, the weeds of this life have stunted the little mustard seed of faith I have. I can see ever so clearly that without any refreshing water of the Word, that faith plant I so earnestly desire will never spring up to produce the crop the Lord has created me for - the fundamental reason for my existence here in this ephermal world! I had the pleasure of meeting up with our friend a couple of days ago as we live in the same town, and as always he provided me with such great encouragement and spurred me on to persevere. I have continued to keep both of you in my prayers despite this period of testing. Ashamedly though, when it comes to procrastination, I do genuinely think I am one of the worst on this front, finding things to do other than that very thing that needs to be done: substantive bible reading, study and prayer. I have become so frustrated with myself (and I only have myself to blame!) that I realised I just need to ‘bite the bullet’ so to speak, shove everything to one side (analogous to using a machete to chop those dreaded weeds out the way) and prioritise the most important thing in my life (Luke 6:46).
I have also realised that come July next year, I have some important decisions to make which will have a substantial impact on how conducive my worldly commitments are to my spiritual growth. I am currently experiencing the consequences of having too many worldly commitments. God willing, I will hopefully have got my BSc. out of the way successfully and after that it’s a case of deciding where to go with my professional career. I am committed to following God’s will for me, as opposed to my natural instinct. I am aware that it requires a daily commitment to God’s truth; listening, believing and applying the truth in order to make a distinction between the two and be confident that it is of the Spirt (1 Corinthians 2:11-12), and this partly why I want to create spiritual momentum going into that period. I once hear this phrase - "If not you, then who? If not now, then when?" and I feel it’s an appropriate mindset to adopt in counteracting the procrastination.
Addressing your previous email, of course you can post up the diagram and correspondence - no need to ask for my permission for any future ones. Thank you for your wisdom and advice, I think it will undoubtedly be prudent for me to implement those principles into my life given my current circumstances. I have still yet to strike the balance of consistency, but I am hoping that this will come soon as long as I keep persevering. I am one to set myself high standards, which reflecting upon it, is most probably my biggest downfall and also the source of the procrastination. I figure I just need to get in ‘gear’, and as you said, lean towards acceleration, as opposed to trying to floor it given any opportunity. I also realise the latter is costly, while the former is much more economical and sustainable. I feel your emails, website and prayers do give me that timely boost when spiritual progress comes to a halt - almost like giving someone a rolling start, so that I can lean towards that acceleration. You continue to be my main source of encouragement and you do continually draw me back to the Word which we know to be the greatest antidote to all things worldly.
I hope things are well with you? Do let me know if you have any specific prayer requests - I do commit to fulfilling prayer requests as best as I can. I am soon coming to the end of Soteriology, and I am eager to review what I have learnt and feed back to you on a few notes/typos I have spotted. It has honestly been such a joy going through it, it has had a significant impact on my spiritual growth and understanding of pivotal doctrines. I am also excited to move onto your most recent instalment on Pneumatology. Congratulations on completing it! I cannot begin to imagine the time and commitment it takes you to complete such scholarly, substantive and spiritual nourishing resources. You are a testimony to the power of the Spirit and what can be achieved if only we are willing.
In Him who is the whole purpose for our existence,
It's good of you to write me. I do appreciate all of your kind words, and especially your prayers. I have been keeping you (and your brother) in my prayers as well, and I do hope that the Lord will continue to move you forward on the road of ministry preparation, and that in time everything will become clear about how to go and where to go. One of the more recent postings at Ichthys, as you may already be aware, deals with this issue – a very common concern among our brothers and sisters who are genuinely desirous of pleasing our Lord (see the link).
Please do let me know about any and all typos you may find (I do have that tendency).
And please do feel free to write any time. Your conclusions and deliberations shared here indicate to me that you are engaging in this spiritual fight we all have to fight in a good and righteous way, and will certainly figure out the best way to fight it day by day – as well as what direction to take in the long term.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior, in whose service we are promised the most amazing rewards.
Thank you for keeping both my brother and myself in your prayers, it means a lot to me. I want to assure you also that I am keeping you in my prayers daily. I have been going through your latest email posting on Ichthys and it has served as a great source of encouragement. I look forward to your new postings every weekend.
I have been waking up in the early hours consistently now for the last few days and I can see what a difference starting the day off immersed in the Word does. This is all despite arguably being the busiest time of the year for me - I am trusting in God and really trying to put Him before and above everything. I am still far off where I want or should be, and still find myself combating tiredness, but I feel I have made positive steps forward however small they may be.
I do keep getting asked how I manage all my commitments, mostly from non-believers who solely view my worldly commitments and are oblivious to my spiritual ‘quest’. I know for certain, that it is not within my human will, but along with your prayers and petitions it is with God’s help through the Holy Spirit that I have managed to get this far. I do see the difference in perspective throughout the rest of the day when I start my morning off with the refreshing water of the Word. The spiritual desert that we all have to negotiate and contend with does tend to dry up that water if I don’t keep a steady flow of truth coming through. As I’m sure you know more than I do, that is not without its consequences.
Usually, in busy periods where I am under pressure to hit deadlines I resort to relying on self and put spiritual growth aside. I can say this is the first time I have finally stuck to putting Bible reading and study first and foremost before everything in my day, despite all the imminent deadlines looming. Instead of being stressed and worried that I will fail my course, I now find that I cannot wait until morning comes to get stuck into the Word. That’s not to say I have become complacent, it just helps me keep things in perspective.
As my brother remarked after his experiences in his commando training, not many people know there are two 5’o clocks in one day.
In our Lord and Saviour,
A fine report, my friend! Keep up the good work – but also, keep things on a sustainable path. Slow and steady beats sprint, crash, sprint, crash (etc.) every time.
In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Do you sell baseball caps with your fish logo on it?
Sorry, but this is a Bible study ministry. Nothing for sale here – the Bible studies are free.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thanks for the quick response. Yes your bible study ministry has fantastic learning material on it. Its so impressive, I wanted to share it and the Christ logo as a conversation starter piece for sharing the gospel. It also kind of advertises myself as a Christian, for I am not ashamed of the gospel but instead feel joyful and thankful for my status in Gods family. I guess its kind of like those people who attach the fish symbol to their cars. What I am saying is its just such a inspiring time of the season to share ones faith. And I feel so honoured, privileged, and special to be a Christian. I know I certainly do not need a baseball cap to share my faith (Christ is in me). I just fancied the idea that's all. I have learned much from your web site and thank you for your wonderful service to the Lord. I continue to read your finished work and may email you in the future with questions.
May God continue to bless your ministry and reach those who are perishing because of lack of knowledge or those who do not have it because they do not ask or those who walk in fear instead of freedom or those who ….
Have a blessed Christmas season
Brother in Christ
Thanks for this – and apologies for not realizing that you had written to me before.
It's an interesting idea. Of course the Law mandated a number of specifics regarding dress that would mark out a Jew as a Jew. Today we do not wear phylacteries (e.g.), but we are all witnesses for Jesus Christ, and the witness of the life is usually the most important. Unbelievers are often little impressed by believers who don't walk the walk but are aggressive about talking the talk. Wearing a crucifix or an ichthys sign lets a person know at least that we are Christians – or so we may assume. Symbolism, however, often means different things to different people. When I see a crucifix, I usually wonder if the person is Roman Catholic or not (and perhaps in need of salvation). Also, I'll never forget what one of my seminary professors said about this many years ago: "Whenever I get cut off on the freeway, it's usually by a car with an ichthys fish bumper-sticker". Humorous, but also illustrative of the fact that if we do embrace symbols we also embrace the expectations people attach to those who bear the symbol – and these expectations may often not be the ones we really want to foster.
Thanks for your very thoughtful email, and thanks also for your kind words about this ministry: please feel free to write me any time.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Dear Dr. Luginbill:
I am a teacher at a Bible college in Los Angeles. I am stepping out to teach my first Hamartiology course. Your materials are excellent and I think the students will be richly blessed. May I photocopy them and hand them out to the students and use them as my teaching guide? The students do not pay for the notes I distribute. They do pay for the course with the school which is church based/non profit (To cover rent of the facility and general expenses) but it is up to me to find notes to use. I normally hand out my own and do not make any income from my teaching. I make it a point to always ask permission and also to thank you for taking time to write such beneficial material And I do cite the work as yours.
Blessings to you in Christ and Merry Christmas.
Please feel free to make use of this study.
Your request conforms to the copy guidelines at the website; see the link.
Best wishes for a great semester!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Its been a while I have not written. I'm in the Dom Rep finishing my house, where you are welcomed anytime you wish to come visit. Our church would love to have you teach some substance whenever you have the time from your busy academic schedule. In the meantime, I want to wish you a merry Christmas season of introspection and prayer, and look forward to having you in our country!
May God bless you always!!
It's very good to hear from you, my friend!
I'm happy to hear – from the tone as well as the substance of your email – that you are doing better. I have been keeping you in my prayers for your continued growth in the Lord and the resolution of all of your issues (3Jn.1:2). I'm happy too to hear that you have found a church, and I do hope that it will provide you with an avenue for your own ministry work – something for which I also pray and for which I know you also yearn.
As to travel, I do as little of that as possible these days, especially if it involves airplanes (I don't even have a current passport), but I do hope you and your fellowship will be able to (continue to) use the materials at Ichthys to good advantage.
Here's wishing you and yours a merry Christmas too, and a very blessed new year!
Thanks for your prayers always.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I hope you are doing well and you spent some quality time with your family. I have a question that I have written down that I would like some further explanation. I really appreciate your time and effort in answering all my questions.
Exodus 28:3, "Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest".
Is "serve" or "minister" the best translation for this verse? If it is minister, why does God have to be ministered to. Serve is found in the NIV while "minister" is found in the KJV.
I really appreciate your time and may God bless you here and in eternity.
Good to hear from you – hope you are having a nice holiday time as well. As to your questions:
These two words are synonyms in English, and there is no basis in either Greek or Hebrew to draw any significant distinction in the actions described here based on the vocabulary. We are all "servants" of Jesus Christ (cf. 1Cor.4:1), that is what a "deacon" is too, by the way. The ministrations of the Law had as their primary purpose to teach about the truth of Christ's sacrifice by way of the Law's rituals which were shadows of the truth later to be revealed in Christ. Today, following the actual coming of the Messiah into the world and His sacrifice for our sins on the cross, we have the entire Bible, including the New Testament where the shadows of the Old are explained. But then and now it takes service (which is ultimately to God through serving His people) to bring that truth to those who need it. Whether that service is teaching the Word, or encouraging through the Word, or providing to our brothers and sisters the means they need to hear and learn and believe the Word – the grace of God in giving spiritual gifts is multifarious as Peter tells us (1Pet.4:10) – we have all gifts and have all been called to some ministry for our mutual growth (1Cor.12:1-7). But spiritual growth and progress in the truth is necessary for that ministry to be truly effective.
Here are some links:
Deacon / diakonos
Deacons and Elders.
Thanks for your good words, my friend!
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Hi Mr. Luginbill,
I hope you are well sir. If you have some time may I ask your thoughts on a matter? I understand that you and I don't really know one another, and that we have only been corresponding for a short time, however, in honesty, I sense that you are a sincere believer, with a genuine heart to help others, and it is for this reason that I now write. As you may remember from my biographical letter, I grew up in a ministry family, and was exposed to many things in that "world." As a young boy, and even into my early teens, I used to love to read the Bible, talk about the Bible, and to be honest, I saw the Bible as the solid foundational book to answer any of my questions about "The Faith." However, by the time I was about 18 yrs old or so, I starting getting interested in the history of our Faith, and specifically of the Bible. I started learning about Bible versions, and related topics. However, when I began to see that everything was not quite as I had been taught, and when I began to learn about the "technical" side of biblical studies, I was quite shocked. I started reading, and hearing all the different scholars constantly talking about the issue of the "original text", or that the Hebrew and Greek is where we should derive our true answers from, not from English bible's or anyone else. Then I unfortunately came across Mr. Bart Ehrman… he almost shipwrecked my faith after making many claims that apparently could only be dealt with in the original languages, and then I felt that if I didn't learn the original myself, I would always be at the mercy of, and would have to fully rely upon, biblical scholars to define the faith, and tell me what the Scriptures really say or mean. At this point I began read books, listen to lectures, and also to write to bible scholars, like yourself, as well as scholars in several other academic disciplines, in an effort to try and learn "everything about everything", to use the old saying. At first I was somewhat motivated by a sincere desire to learn, however, over time, it has almost become like a prison to me. Sometimes I wish I had never learned any of these things, I miss the days when I used to read my Bible and enjoy it, feeling that I was reading God’s precious Word, and that if I was ever in doubt as to what I should do or believe on a given matter, I could go the Bible and find my answer. But now, and I know many would scold me for saying say this, but I feel like I can’t even do that because my mind is always stressed, saying stuff like, "well, is so and so right, or is such and such the right translation, or is a certain text reliable, etc." I guess the combination of, linguistic, technical, scholarly information, and uncertainty, have somewhat branded themselves on my mind and emotions. In all honesty I can say that these past 7 - 8 years have been productive in the sense that I have learned a lot of information, yet in at the same time, I would say that they have been quite unproductive because I have much less internal peace about the technical issues than I ever had, when I never knew any of these kinds of things, and simply thought that the Holy Bible was my strongest defense. This struggle has even affected my ability to enjoy studying…. I use to read and study because I genuinely enjoyed it, but now, it’s almost as if I am being driven, chasing after answers that I seldom find. In closing, I apologize if my statements sound too "weak hearted", and "cop-outish", all I can say is, that I speak as one honestly searching for Truth. If I may, I would ask that you pray for me, that I will find, and know, the Truth that I seek.
Love and Blessings in Jesus, our Lord.
And because of this we also give thanks to God continually, because, when you received the word of hearing from us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it really is, the Word of God – the very Word which is at work inside of you as you believe it.
1st Thessalonians 2:13
I do think you make a very good point. Believers who do not have the gift of pastor/teacher have different levels of tolerance for the details behind the truth of the Word of God. A pastor/teacher when teaching has a responsibility to know as much as he can, and also to share enough of the evidence which backs up what he teaches to give those taught a reasonable basis for discerning the quality of his ministry. Believers who either do not have the gift of pastor/teacher or who, even if they do, are not to the point of spiritual growth and preparation to be able yet to feed themselves and others, are dependent upon the teaching ministries of others in order to achieve any meaningful spiritual growth.
Understand, it is very important for all believers to read their Bibles (see the link). However, personal Bible reading will only take the believer so far. To attain spiritual maturity requires hearing, learning and believing detailed doctrinal truth which is not always entirely obvious or accessible to those without said gift and preparation merely from reading and considering scripture. Applying what is known of scripture to the teachings of others is certainly important and also a valid means of evaluating a teaching ministry in general terms, but spiritual growth, progress in maturity to the point of being able to pass significant testing, and coming into one's own ministry of whatever type make the accessing of a good, solid, orthodox, and substantive teaching ministry an absolute necessity. It takes "truth believed" to progress in all three phases of the plan of God for our lives.
The fact that so few believers seem to be interested in genuinely growing spiritually these days explains in large measure why there are so few such teaching ministries around. My desire to provide one is behind the genesis of Ichthys, and you are welcome here any time, but I would certainly not wish to represent this as the only choice the Lord may have for you. One important point on this subject, however, is that it is essential for a believer who really does want to make spiritual progress to stick with the "right" ministry once found, and to accept as much as he/she can accept of what is being taught as true. If he/she is unable to do so, it is much better to find a different ministry than to spin one's wheels in disbelief – or even worse, access two or three or four or more at the same time and then "pick and choose" what will be believed. That is because only what is both true and believed is usable by the Holy Spirit, while making oneself the umpire as to who is right and wrong makes simple faith nearly impossible to exercise at all (the net effect of this dubious approach is that a person knows much but can believe almost nothing).
Clearly, since this is such a critical issue for every believer who is truly motivated to do as our Lord has commanded in picking up one's cross and following Him, finding the right place/person and taking pains not to be taken in by the wrong place/person is paramount. That is why our Lord gave us the "fruit test", so that on the one hand we might not be deceived, and on the other that we might have confidence when we do find what He has provided for us:
You will recognize [these false prophets] from their fruit (i.e., their words, teachings, personal behavior and modus operandi). People don't collect grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, do they? Just so every good tree produces good [serviceable] fruit, but the rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good [appealing] fruit. [For] every good tree which doesn't produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize [those false prophets] from their fruit.
There is more about the above at the link: "False Teachers" in CT 2A.
It takes a certain something to be a pastor/teacher with the intestinal fortitude of faith necessary to deal with the issues you describe and yet have more rather than less faith as a result – it takes the gift given by the Spirit (and a good deal of preparation, both academic and spiritual). There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of for those who do not have this particular gift yet have need of its production: we all need each other in the Body of Christ. Every gift is valuable and, actually, essential for the proper functioning of the whole. Whether we are a hand or a foot or an ear or an eye, the Body is only "the Body" when it consists of all of is parts, and it is only a healthy Body when all parts are doing their job correctly. I would not hesitate, for example, to ask for prayer and delight in prayers received: thank you in advance if you are praying for me and this ministry (I certainly need it!).
So please, be encouraged. The Lord may have led you to Ichthys for precisely the reasons outlined in this and previous emails. Be pleased to drink your fill free of charge in the grace of Jesus Christ. But if this is not the place for you, do keep seeking until you find just that right place where you can have the peace you rightly crave and confidence in the truth of what you are hearing . . . and believing.
In Jesus Christ our Lord, the Head of the Body to which all belong,
I hope you are doing well. I greatly enjoyed your most recent study on the Holy Spirit. There were some great learning moments.
I know you are busy, so I will get straight to the point. I am getting ready to start my own website as a Biblical teaching ministry. I have done this in the past, but my military service made it difficult to maintain. I believe that the time has come to start again.
Do you have any suggestions for web-hosting sites? I am not looking for anything fancy. Just the basics such as posting studies and the ability to upload .pdfs for others to easily download. I would like to keep it as inexpensive as possible.
Thank you for your continued service to the Lord. Your weekly email postings with the Q&A is always encouraging. It's not always the content, but the way in which you respond and show love (walking the path of 1 Cor. 13:4-7) in your responses.
His Grace is Sufficient,
Good to hear from you.
I only have personal experience with two hosting services. The first is Web.com. That is where Ichthys is stored. I have been with them for many years, and, generally speaking, the quality and customer service has been quite good. I have unlimited storage and transfer for around $30.00 per month. The other service is GoDaddy.com. They are much cheaper and a bit more user-friendly; however, their basic package requires you to use their own html templates and these are somewhat limiting. I'm no HTML or CSS maven, but their limitations were cramping even my pedestrian style. I think for someone just beginning they might be a good bet. On the other hand if you are well-versed in CSS and/or Java, you'll want to look for something else. I'm not sure what your level of expertise is, so apologies if some of this info is too basic. In addition to a host, of course, you need a domain name. GoDaddy.com or Web.com (and probably any other hosting service you can name) can solve this problem for you. It's a bit cheaper, however, and gives a bit more control to go right to the organizations responsible for assigning them, namely, to an ICANN Domain Name Registrar. I use Network Solutions – however, even though they still have their own website, they were recently bought by Web.com.
One other thing. There are plenty of Blogger options out there where a person can get a presence online for free. The problem is that unless one does the internet equivalent of hitting the jackpot, only sites with their own unique URL have much chance of showing up on Google et al. and being "found", and even then it's a battle. One good former seminary friend has a ministry on YouTube – and that is absolutely free (as well as having a higher than average profile; [now on the web at the link: "Bible Academy"). I would imagine that a FaceBook or Twitter ministry that was careful crafted to fit those social media parameters would also have a much better chance of catching on than a standard "website". Ichthys has been online since 1997, and it took many years to get to the point of even marginal visibility (as well as a good deal of work).
Best wishes for the success of your ministry, my friend!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Dear Sir in whom may concern,
One of my deaf Christian lady showed me that she purchased ten dollars for Chronological Time of the Bible from Adam to Jesus Christ on the wall. How much it cost? I would like to order and to purchase it by credit card. Please email me immediately.
Thank you so much
Ichthys is an independent ministry which does not offer any materials for sale. All of my materials are available online at no charge. You will find the Ichthys charts at the link. Also, the study which details God's plan for history is at this link: Human History Timeline.
Yours in Jesus Christ our Lord,
What does the name Ichthys mean? Thank you.
Good to make your acquaintance. "Ichthys" is a Greek word meaning "fish" (cf. "ichthyology"), but is also an acronym of Greek words which mean "Jesus Christ Son [of] God Savior". Here is a link to a chart where this is set out visually:
The Ichthys Acronym
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
I just feel like whenever I watch what a different source says it makes me feel like something in me is saying this is the truth. But then another voice says your teaching is true, how does this happen?
All Christians are susceptible to false teaching and also to misleading, distracting, confusing teaching. But if they weren't listening to it in the first place, it wouldn't be an issue. That is why I always advise all my fellow believers to find a good, solid, substantive, orthodox source for Bible teaching, one they know they can count on from testing it thoroughly, and then stick with it.
We should turn away from what is bad; we should cleave to what is good.
And, after all, there is an untold number of false or insufficient sources out there in the world these days. Believers are not meant or required to look over them all, to evaluate them all, to consider them all. That would take several lifetimes. And the sad thing is that searching, while beneficial if it end in a good "find", does not produce spiritual growth in and of itself.
Lastly, Christians don't need to worry about being trapped in a false teaching ministry. If they have any sort of true desire to seek the Lord and grow in His truth the Spirit will make it clear at the outset when bumping into something truly predatory. Poor (rather than heretical) ministries will also not keep the positive believer long, as these will be completely unsatisfying for those who truly do desire the meat of the Word instead of pablum. The thing to resist in this generation is the "itching ear" syndrome, wherein pointless listening to every new thing goes on and on, but no spiritual advance occurs – because nothing true is ever believed (2Tim.3:7; 4:3-4).
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I wanted to ask you for prayer about choosing the right path in the coming months.
God has delivered me last summer and provided with sustenance, for which I am grateful every day. Now I will have decisions to make with regard to how my professional career develops and it is sometimes hard to know which way will be the best in spiritual terms. I know I have to trust God on this and if I put Him and serving Him first, all will be good.
Also, I am now not far off from finishing "Reading Greek". Whenever I check a New Testament verse in Greek, I understand it. But I still wonder - should I try to complete a degree in Ancient Hebrew and Greek? I'm not sure at this point if I would be even able to do that, although, unlike a year ago, it certainly does seem at least conceivable now. I sometimes think that even though I have studied theology through your teachings and original languages with more commitment than anything else so far, I may never be considered credible as a teacher without any academic qualifications in these areas.
I will probably move out from the room in which I have spent last 9 years, which seems hard to believe. I moved here after my first year of the degree and stayed until now. Finding the right place will be important.
In our Lord and with constant prayer for you,
Hello my friend,
In an ideal world with plenty of time and unlimited resources, of course I would recommend that you and any other young man interested in full time Christian ministry should get as many advanced degrees as possible. I have shared with you in the past how that my own training in the languages was very valuable. However, times were different, circumstances were different, and in the end I think probably the two years at seminary were the most important for me – but only because 1) they followed a degree in Greek (Classics, with lots of Hebrew), 2) were followed by my M.A. and Ph.D. work, and 3) I was blessed to fall into a group of like-minded young men who were also interested in pursuing Bible teaching in the way I was (and our conversations did more for me than all my seminary classes). In other words, we are all different and the situations we face, both personally and generally, will never be the same. There is not a lot time left, moreover; so using it to best advantage is the challenge to all of us who "understand the times".
It is true that credentials are helpful in the sense of giving Christians who may access your future ministry confidence that you "know what you're talking about". I have found my decision on that score to be a good one . . . for me (taken at the time). However, it is also true that 1) just because a person has a Ph.D. (or two, or three), that still doesn't mean he (or she!) knows what he is talking about. When it comes to the teaching of the Word of God, being a believer, and a mature one at that who has been tested and tried in matters of faith and practice, one who knows scripture inside out along with the truths it contains to a very deep level, is unarguably more important than any number of degrees from the most prestigious institutions; 2) even if you do have said degree(s) that does not mean that people will automatically respect you or your accomplishments. I have bumped into a very large number of people over the years in this ministry who felt that they were just as qualified as I to opine on matters of Greek and Hebrew, even though they barely knew how to use their interlinear Bibles. Others feel superior simply because they do not have such degrees (!), the implication being that because academia in general is overwhelmingly secular and atheist, no good at all can come of it. Others have preferred their own special spirituality or status (as they see it) to any sort of "book learning".
Finally, it is true, of course, that "the proof is (ultimately) in the pudding": a good Bible teacher is a good Bible teacher, and we can be sure that the Spirit is more than capable of leading believers who do want good teaching to just the right ministry for them. The real question will be whether or not Bible teacher X is doing his homework day by day and "cooking up" spiritual meals that really do pass muster with the Lord so as to be spiritual nutritious to those who come to them. Ideally, this will include much prior preparation, including in the languages, and it is true that for some percentage of a man's potential congregation having traditional academic qualifications will be helpful for them in giving them a measure of assurance that Pastor X does "know what he's talking about". It is good to remember, however, that the really important thing is to actually "know what you are talking about", regardless of other people's perceptions. We work for the Lord, and He most assuredly knows where we "are at" in every respect. And no matter how many degrees we may plaster on our wall, there will always be those who need to be convinced by "the pudding". That is not a bad thing either. If the choice is to have "the pudding" or "the stamp of approval", while of course we would ideally like both, the former is essential, the latter optional. I had to face this choice in other respects. I don't have the religious "stamp of approval". I made the decision, halfway through seminary, not to follow the standard course of preparation that could lead to ordination, but a purely academic one instead. And so I have never been "approved" by any denomination. That is something that in the past occasionally rankled a bit, but not much. It has turned out to be a blessing, in fact, in many respects. But it is true that there are some who feel that any Bible teacher outside of a traditional "church" and without being ordained is not someone to be taken seriously for spiritual reasons. I suppose I could be concerned about that still, but I have seen many Christians, like yourself, be able to put that aside in order to get "the pudding", once it was sampled and found to be to one's taste.
Just as there are many spiritual gifts, so there are many routes to the ministry, and I think that this is even more so the case today as the time runs out on Laodicea. We don't have unlimited time. Clearly, more work in Greek and Hebrew in a formal setting would be helpful. But much of the time and effort I spent in my three Classics degrees had more to do with the workings of the culture and the literature than with the languages per se (I had to keep doing Hebrew on my own, for example, during my last six years of schooling). Nearly everything I learned was helpful, but not all of it was necessary for this ministry. I do actually also have a job which the further training made possible, but the Latin I have learned and teach is not particularly helpful in Bible study and exegesis (and a very large percentage of what I did in my extra-seminary degree work had to do with Latin).
The main things you would get in a degree program that you can't get (as well) on your own are 1) volume and the accountability of a higher standard than most of us are capable of inflicting on ourselves in self-study; 2) feedback – these professors do know some things we don't, and can help us through problems that otherwise might never be resolved; 3) ancillary information that is very valuable (about the ancient world and scholarship) which often spices up the pudding in ways not easy to predict ahead of time. But one does have to consider the tradeoffs here. For one thing, I know of no program where a person could do Greek and Hebrew to the exclusion of almost everything else. Only seminaries focus on those two languages, but I don't know of a seminary where the depth of the study in Greek would be sufficient, and even Hebrew studies tend to be at a lower level than would be imagined from the outside looking in. Secular studies in Classics demand as much Latin as Greek (and many other issues which will divide a person's efforts from "job #1" of learning the languages). Semitic studies programs very rarely put Hebrew in first or even second place; Arabic and later (rather than biblical) Aramaic would be good to know well, but they have almost no appreciable value for someone trying to understand and teach the Bible. Now of course one could get multiple degrees in several areas, but, again, there is the issue of time. Generally speaking, most of the work a person would do in a secular university degree program would be designed to prepare for teaching and research in that discipline (Classics, ancient history, Semitics), and not Bible study / teaching. And most of the work a person would do in a seminary would be designed to prepare for being a pastor in one of that denomination's churches, and that usually doesn't involve Bible study / teaching either (not the way we understand it, anyway).
In closing, I'm not sure I've been helpful at all, and have probably left you with more additional questions than answers. That is not a bad thing. I don't want you to get the impression that a degree (or multiple degrees) is the answer . . . just because it's hard. Dedicated persons like yourself can often be led into things simply because they are challenging. Doing hard things often does build character and usually also does pay all manner of dividends (as taking any one of the degrees mentioned would do). But after a certain point, preparation should give way to execution. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to when and where and how on this, but an individual's age, resources, talent, ability to do things independently (or not) . . . and the times in which we live, should all be taken into account.
If I knew what I thought was the absolute right course for you, my friend, I would tell you. Maybe it's a good thing I don't think I know (because I could easily be wrong).
Keeping you in my prayers for your continued successful preparation on all fronts, and for a blessed ministry that honors our Lord and feeds His sheep in due time.
As I have been doing for a while now when it comes to the direction in study, I will seek your guidance this time also.
I had read all your studies before Pneumatology became available and now I have read this also. I know that these teachings need to be re-read and I plan to do so, but I'm not sure if I should commence this straight away, or if there is any other reading you would point me to at this stage.
As I'm reading the New Testament for what I think might be the third time since salvation and the Old for the second time, things are becoming clearer and more structured. There is also progress with the languages - I'm not far away from completing Gesenius (it has been a difficult read, but it has helped a lot) and I've got last few texts to go through in Reading Grammar.
I feel it may be a good time to start a preparation for future ministry whereby I'm beginning to put some thoughts, points, explanations together into some notes, or basic plans and outlines. It is your teachings that I have been reading since committing to the study and my intention was to use them as a structure in this process, if it is fine with you.
Let me know what you think is the best course of action at this stage.
In our Lord,
It sounds to me as if you are pushing ahead in precisely the right way. Absent a formal course of instruction in either Classics or theology, what I would add here would be to start putting in (time permitting of course) the following: 1) Church History (you might want to read Schaff's or something shorter like Walker's would be good too); 2) Ancient History (a survey history of the ancient middle east and one on Greece and Rome would be a good place to star); 3) Greek (if you could read some basic works, Xenophon's Anabasis, for example, that would be helpful); *4) Bible reading in the original languages (start "reading through" in both Greek and Hebrew); 5) Some sort of exercise involving systematic theology, hermeneutics, interpretation and exegesis – but it seems you have already been doing this. Clearly, the more we do when it comes to considering other points of view the better; but time is limited as well. What I eventually found is that by beginning to construct my own materials, which became teaching material, and which in turn formed the basis for the writings on the website, I was forced to deal with everything at once in a practical rather than merely theoretical way, and that was most helpful indeed. So if you can't begin to minister immediately, you can certainly begin to prepare (in terms of putting together a talk, a pamphlet, a discussion, a study, e.g.).
Getting the mix right between laying the foundation and building the structure always involves matters of judgment. As in all things, however, doing something (as you have been doing) is far superior to planning to do something some day.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Thank you for guidance. A couple of questions:
1. Church history - I might go through both, time permitting, but since I haven't read anything so far on the subject, which one is better to start with?
2. I remember you recommended Cambridge Ancient History, I will look at the University Library here in Loughborough.
3. Ok, will look at that as well, I want to commence reading in Ancient Greek soon. Again, time permitting.
4. Would you say I should just go from the first book in the Old and New Testament when reading in original languages?
5. Opportunities keep arising when I have to put things together to reply to someone (there are a couple of Bible-reading Christians among my friend) and I'm thinking about my first studies to write as well, I will of course keep you updated on all this.
That's true, getting the mix right does involve judgment and, in all things, I have had a tendency to focus on the foundation, although I feel that I am getting closer to building something too, at least it's conceivable. It wasn't when I first started reading your website four years ago.
In Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Hello my friend,
You're most welcome:
1) I would start with Williston Walker's A History of the Christian Church. There have been many editions of this but I don't think it much matters which one you get. The 1918 version is available on line (at the link), and most lending libraries probably have a copy. Keep in mind that historians work with secular documents, so what anyone "thinks" about the past in these terms will be more institutional and political and rather less spiritual (i.e., I recommend reserving judgment on many things you will read). Foxe's Book of Martyrs is also something very valuable from a spiritual perspective (I confess I haven't read the whole thing myself); also on line at the link.
2) Survey histories would be more useful than Cambridge to begin (I certainly haven't read the entire multi-volume thing!). For Greece, N.G.L. Hammond's A History of Greece is very good (but there are many such to choose from); for Rome, H.H. Scullard's two books, or his revision of Cary's A History of Rome are very good (but again much to choose from here too). For the ancient near east, you might be better served reading some good encyclopedia articles on Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, etc., inasmuch as wider treatments tend to be short on the detail one would be interested in from our perspective and long on speculation we already know is wrong from our familiarity with the biblical record. The ISBE, on line at the link, is a good, fairly conservative resource here.
3) A little can really go a long way, and there is no way even a Classicist can read it all, so pick something you find fun and interesting. All ancient Greek is helpful for biblical studies, linguistically speaking, from Homer to Nonnus (i.e., 8/9th cent. B.C. to 5/6th cent. A.D.)
4) Yes, I would start from the front and go the back. This works very nicely since the Gospels are the easiest Greek, and the Pentateuch is some of the easiest Hebrew.
5) That sounds excellent from every perspective!
Keep up the work!
Your friend in Jesus Christ,
By chance I came across one of your studies (The Satanic Rebellion) and I was profoundly influenced by it. It made me see things on a new perspective, some things I had only hinted at myself, but never in such a deep way. So firstly I would like to thank you, specially for sharing your knowledge for free.
Secondly, I'd like to pass your texts on. I'm Brazilian, but I speak English fluently, so it was not an impeding factor for me. However, my friends to whom I would like to share it, unfortunately, do not have the same luck. So I was wondering if you would mind if I translated it to Portuguese (I actually did a quick search to your name, but it seems I can only find your original writings in English) - keeping the source credits, of course.
Good to make your acquaintance. Thanks much for your kind and encouraging words about this ministry. It's always a pleasure to hear that these materials have contributed to the spiritual growth of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
As to your kind offer, I would direct you to the "usage guidelines" at the link. While I can't (for a variety of reasons) waive any rights to these materials, what you propose sounds great!
As a Greek and Latin professor in a language department, I bump into the issue of "translation" on a daily basis, and I am very aware that translating anything – especially anything potentially difficult as these materials will sometimes be – is a challenging and time-consuming task. So I guess what I am saying is that I would certainly understand if this great idea turns out to be a load too difficult to move very far. If you do have some success, I would be more than happy to post your translations on a special "Portuguese Page" at Ichthys. I have had a number of communications from brothers and sisters in Brazil in recent years, many of whom are, for obvious reasons, much more comfortable in their native language than in English, and who would therefore greatly benefit from such a resource.
So, again, I'm delighted to make your acquaintance, and I would be very grateful for anything you would be able to do in this regard.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I understand this will be challenging (and maybe even more since I am not an expert either in theology or translations), but it is not the first time I do this kind of job voluntarily, and it gives me great pleasure to help others (specially in reaching the word of God).
Since we are on this topic, would you be so kind as to tell me what version of the bible you have used for the quotations. Some times it is clearly marked as NIV or KJV (both of which I have official translations to Portuguese), but for most of the time there's no indication to the source. I'm referring to the Satanic Rebellion series, which is the only one I have read for the time being.
Also yours in our Lord Jesus Christ
I very much appreciate your noble intention, and will be grateful for any efforts you are able to make in this regard.
As to your question, that is explained at the links:
FAQ #12. Translations: Where do the translations of scripture that appear at Ichthys come from?
How to use the Bible translations at Ichthys
FAQ #20. Sigla: Would you explain the abbreviations and symbols used in the translations at Ichthys?
In a nutshell, if there is no attribution (e.g., "NIV" of "NASB", etc.), then the translation is original to me (there is a listing of these at the link: "Ichthys Translations").
Thanks again for your help!
In the One who died for us that we might have life eternal with Him, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I'm the host of Tribulation-Now's radio program. We were wondering if you might consider joining us live on the show to discuss your work entitled "The Satanic Rebellion". It is an outstanding work and we believe the listeners would be powerfully blessed.
Let us know. We bring guests on live from 9:30-11pm Eastern Time Weds and Sundays
God bless you
Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks much for your interest in the Ichthys ministry.
As to your request, I'm afraid I'm going to have to decline (it's long been my policy to avoid any media contact, and the policy has served me well).
Also, you're no doubt not missing much. As Paul's detractors said: "his letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing" (2Cor.10:10 NIV).
Best wishes for the continued success of your ministry for the sake of the Church of Jesus Christ,