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Question #1:  I am a new Christian and I love learning the truth when it comes to the word of God. I have found your teachings very interesting and fulfilling. Please share with me of what religion you are. Thank you for your sharing your wisdom of scriptures with others.

Response #1:  Thank you for your positive report! Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to hear when these materials have been helpful for the spiritual growth of my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

As to your question, I am proud to be a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, one who has been born again by grace through faith in the unique person of the universe, the God-man our Lord and Savior, and in His work for us, dying on the cross, baptized by the Spirit on the point of faith in Him, and kept safe through His power by means of the water of truth until the day when I with all of our brothers and sisters will rise to live forever with Him and claim our inheritance and our full share in Jesus, the One whom we love and serve above all else.

But in case you may be asking me about my denomination, I can tell you that I was brought up as a Presbyterian, was long associated with an independent (largely Baptist by tradition) church with a worldwide reach, and am now devoted to the ministry of this Bible teaching website, ichthys.com. I don't have any denominational affiliation any longer, and that has been important for this ministry. Most conventional denominations have very set doctrinal systems, and since this ministry is all about discovering the truth of the Bible, denominational strictures would surely have proved quite stultifying to its healthy development. What I generally say when people want to know more is that this ministry can be characterized as being broadly in "the conservative evangelical tradition". That said, while I don't know of many evangelical groups who would strongly disagree with most of the basics of doctrine presented here, I also don't know any that would be happy to endorse absolutely every single thing taught at Ichthys. For more, please see the links "About Ichthys" and also my on-line "Curriculum Vitae".

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  I am a small-group leader and it was wonderful to come across the Ichthys website whilst searching the web yesterday for possible Bible studies on a theme I'd like to suggest for study to the group. My plan is to title it "Truth v. false" and my aim with such a Bible study would be to have the group reminded of focusing on the "Truth" (so that when anything false, or a lie "comes along", we'll be even more aware, through guidance from the Holy Spirit of course, of the fact that it just does not fit the Truth! And thus not allow it into our lives, or know to let go of it.) Hope you don't mind me sending this email, it is mainly to thank you for making your Bible studies available on-line. But also to let you know that when I went back to your site today - to check "my source" before recommending it to the group, it was wonderful to see that your work IS based on the Truth/The Word of God.

Then, I don't know if you would be interested to hear my thoughts on this and you may have thought about this yourself or perhaps have someone else remark to you along the same lines before, but reading about where you got "Ichthys" from, and knowing that the fish symbol is associated with Christianity, I could not help but be reminded of two events documented in the Bible.

I am reminded of when Jesus called His first disciples and when He fed 5,000 men (plus additionally the women and children there!). When Jesus called His first disciples He said to them: "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." (Matt 4:19 & Mark 1:17)

After Jesus learnt about John's death, He went somewhere secluded to be alone, but a huge crowd followed Him. When it got late the disciples were worried that the people would be hungry so they suggested to Jesus that the crowd be sent away to nearby villages where they could buy food, butů

(Matt 14:16 - 21)

16 Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."

17 "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.

18 "Bring them here to me," he said.

19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.

20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.

This makes me think and realise why associating the fish symbol with Jesus is so appropriate. And also, associating it with being Christian – i.e. a child of God, a follower of Jesus - (He calls us to follow Him - so we can reach others on His behalf, so we can be the witnesses He wants us to be), someone close to God - (He asks for people (us & other) to be brought to Him – not to be left at a distance, away from Him), a saved person, a satisfied/full person (when you follow Him, when there's no distance between you and Him, HE feeds you, and IF you "eat what He offers", HE SATISFIES you!)

Thinking about this, trying to justify it by referring to the Word of God, the fish symbol just has so much more meaning to me personally. Andů it will now always serve as a reminder to me that Jesus calls me every day, in all circumstances, to be a fisher of men for Him and that it is only HE who satisfy me!

Thank you again so very much for sharing your Bible studies generously. I will most certainly respect your copy policy and acknowledge you for your work when I use it in our group.

May our God Almighty bless you and your work, and may you always be close, close, close to Him!

Response #2:  Thank you so much for your encouraging e-mail. I am especially grateful for your insightful comments tying Ichthys to biblical parallels. I believe many can benefit from them, and plan to post them to the e-mail response page at some point (probably sooner rather than later).

Please feel free to write back at any time, and, indeed, there is nothing better than being close to the Lord -- may we all do better with this through His Word day by day.

In our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Question #3:
 

Dear Bob,

Have you ever considered having your studies made available in audio (MP3) format?  This would be a boon to many people (myself included).

Thanks!

Response #3: 

I am very intrigued by your proposal. I have toyed with this idea before, but put it on the back-burner because of my own personal limitations.

First, I not particularly "tech-savvy". I have been able to deploy this website mainly because websites are not terribly complicated things when they are as simple in design as Ichthys is (and I have had about ten years to learn and to "tweak"). So on the technical and hardware end, I'm not really sure how to go about the process, even if it is, as you say, fairly readily available technology. I suppose I could figure it out given the time to do so.

That brings me to problem #2: time is the one thing I'm fairly short of. Between answering e-mails, writing new studies, administering the site, and doing my own personal Bible study and devotions, my "free time" for the ministry is pretty well occupied (in fact, as the website has become somewhat better known, the trend in this regard is for my time to come under increasing pressure). Then there is my full time job and my personal life (which is not without its time-consuming issues as well, especially over the last few years). Your suggestion is one of the things on my strategy list, but at present I don't see how I would be able in terms of the time required to "get to there from here".

Thirdly, there are any number of issues I would want to thrash out before I went down this road, even with help. A pastor friend of mine is converting all his stuff into audio files - actually, since he is taping his classes, really it is a question of converting one format to another (or maybe its direct transcription - not really sure about this). But he did mention to me that there is a copyright problem with MP3 files. I don't know the details, but it was a significant enough barrier that he went with a different format. But if MP3's are what people actually listen to while other formats would throw up access barriers, it begs the question of how many resources one would wish to throw at something that might not be accessible after all the trouble. As I say, I'm not really deep enough into this issue to know the details. Another technical issue is size. Many of the major studies at Ichthys are well over a hundred pages single-spaced. I have done test readings of pages, and five minutes a page is a good rule of thumb in order to render the text with clarity. Thus, part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series at 122 pages would run to something on the order of ten and a half hours. When I made some test sound files, if memory serves, the rule of thumb I came up with was about a megabyte a minute. This one study would be over 600 megabytes, and I'm not sure how many people would be able to download such behemoths to their desktops (let alone their Ipods). Not that such problems are insoluble. Perhaps in the year or so since I looked into this there are ways of compressing these files (clearly, commercial music type quality is not necessary), but from what little I was able to find out then, it didn't seem like a profitable avenue for me to pursue at the time.

Fourthly, there are the production problems. By this I don't mean so much the recording devices, recording "studio" (or place with acceptable acoustics), or "sound engineers" (or someone to monitor, control, and mix the product), or "directors" (or someone to do the coordinating, the cuing, and general problem solving) -- although all of these would have to be addressed. What I am really concerned about is more just how the studies will be read. I have only a fleeting familiarity with verbal interpretation and performance, but I do know enough to understand that a "voice" can't just pick up something he/she has never seen before and read it cold. The text has to be digested first, and this requires someone understanding it and preparing copy for performance. Additionally, I would imagine that a reader, even a very talented one, would have to put in about ten minutes preparation for every five minute "page", and of course production would last at least that long (with stops, starts, set-ups, and re-takes). What I really have not been able to solve is how certain things in these studies would be rendered. The charts are impossible. Of course these are rare compared to the bulk of text, but I blanch at the idea that any of my beloved footnotes might be left out -- and yet I concede that in an oral performance these would really fall flat. I wonder how to render the sigla I use in translations (square bracket supplements, for instance -- I don't really want to leave out what's in the supplements, but I also don't want people to be unaware that when I am supplying meaning rather than translating forms). These studies are also replete with verse citations. These are important, but it wouldn't do much for someone listening to this on a bus to get ten or twelve quick verse citations they could never be expected to remember. In short, these are written studies and bridging the gap between written and oral (or from oral to written, for that matter) has never been an easy transition.

I honestly don't want to appear too terribly negative. I have full confidence in the Lord's ability to bring this about if that is truly His will. Certainly, many similar objections could have been thrown at the website idea back in 1997 when I first launched it. Really, I'm intrigued by what you have to say. But you can see from the above, this could easily be something that might get out of hand.

Thank you for your care, concern, and Christian love. I will continue to keep this possibility in mind despite the potential problems.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.


Question #4:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I have recently been on a personal journey of reviewing my belief systems. I want to be certain that the things I believe are within my being because they are true, not just because someone taught me. It is this quest that led me to your site, for which I am forever grateful; however, this beautiful gift you have so graciously offered has led to more questions.

I recently read your teachings regarding the rapture and was stunned to learn that it was prior to the tribulation. Astonishingly, I have reflected and realized that I never even knew that there were other ideas about the rapture. In fact, this one item has shaken me to the core in questioning my beliefs and leaves me a little frightened as I've always been taught that I would not have to endure this period of time. If this is not the case then what else out there (that I've been taught) is not true? Subsequently, I want to know more and desire to study the Word more diligently but am having difficulty understanding.

Other than attending seminary myself, what resources would you recommend for a layman to utilize for biblical study? Also, have you ever contemplated placing a discussion board on your site? I would love to have the opportunity to dialogue with others regarding Christianity and the Word of God.


Response #4:
 

Very good to make your acquaintance. I also very much appreciate all your positive comments. As to the pre-trib rapture, I too was "taught" that this was gospel, so to speak. What led me to see that it didn't hold water was precisely what I recommend to others: diligent personal Bible reading and Bible study. Of course, not everyone has the time, money, opportunity, freedom, etc. to go to seminary, and in many cases it wouldn't help much. I can tell you that while seminary was a very important time for me personally, it was so more because of the discussions I had with a select group of fellow students provided by God than with anything taught in the curriculum (Talbot: where, by the way, they also teach the pre-trib rather than the biblically correct post-trib resurrection). Personal spiritual growth requires above all commitment, commitment to diligently read the Bible every day, to seek out and avail oneself of orthodox Bible teaching every day, to learn the information, believe what God has provided, put it into practice, and help other members of the Body do likewise. It is hard, virtually impossible I would say, to do this in many local church situations in our Laodicean day and age, but God never lets the positive desire to grow closer to Him through His truth go unsatisfied.

I strongly encourage you to do exactly what you are doing, that is, to seek the truth through the scriptures, to find a good source of teaching and stick with it (I would be most happy if Ichthys is a part of that), to believe the truth and apply it, and, in time as God provides, engage in the personal ministry to which you are lead in fulfillment of the gifts you have been given. For in doing so there is great reward, spiritual blessings here and now, and untold joy for a good report before the throne of Jesus Christ on that great day of days.

I wouldn't worry too much about your foundation being fatally compromised. The problem with most doctrinal systems in Protestantism generally and evangelicalism in particular is really not so much that what they believe about "doctrine" is wrong, but rather that they are really only little concerned with learning, believing, teaching and living all that the scriptures have to offer. Most groups have become traditionalist in fact if not in philosophy. For example, I think if you have a look at the first installment of the basics series, "Theology", you may find some things you had not heard before, but probably will find nothing that conflicts radically with what you have been taught, assuming you come out of one of the broad traditions mentioned above. I would also recommend by way of preliminaries the short piece: "Read your Bible".

As to your suggestion about a discussion group, it is indeed very intriguing, and one which has crossed my mind from time to time. My biggest problem is one of time. I like to say that my hobby (full time professorship) pays the bills, and I love my job (this ministry) which the Lord has graciously allowed me to be able to offer for free. Time is an issue, however, and I fear that the commitment to a discussion board, setting it up, maintaining it, monitoring it et al., would necessarily take away from work I already feel somewhat "behind" on. Also, there is the issue of what is proper or improper. One would hope that only those with serious things to say in a Christian way would participate, and that there would never be any "wolves in sheep's clothing" infiltrating such a site. My experience on the internet suggests otherwise, however, and until this is more than a one-man after-hours operation, I'm going to have to go slow on such things, exciting as they may be. But who knows? Perhaps your gifts will lead you in just such a direction.

Thank you again for your kind remarks. Please feel free to write back about any of this.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #5:

Just bumped into your web site and I have found it very interesting so far. It all sound good, biblical, and Godly. (Especially the article on speaking in tongues, which I found very helpful). What about you? What is your background, your beliefs? Are you affiliated with any church? Just would like to know some things about you, since I plan on utilizing your site quite often and don't want to be influenced by something untrue, un-Godly, or deceptive! I just want to be careful!


Response #5:
 

Good to make your acquaintance. I think that your approach is extremely wise. You will find most of what you want to know posted at the site. Here is a link to my CV: current curriculum vitae; (please see also "About Ichthys"); and here is link that gives some basic autobiography: "A bit of autobiography".

If you are just getting started, I would recommend the short but important "Read Your Bible: Protection Against Cults". Among other things, this study recommends and commends the careful approach you are adopting.

As far as denominational affiliation is concerned, although you will find that these studies are not outside of the main stream of the evangelical tradition, this site has none by design. Generally speaking, as I often say, I try to keep money, politics, personality, and denominations out of this ministry as far as possible, since in my view all of these things do more to retard than to benefit spiritual growth (which is the focus of Ichthys). So on this score, these studies will have to "speak for themselves", although I do go to what I consider great lengths to back up what I teach with scripture quotations, citations, and argumentation. Additionally, I am always happy to field questions when you have them.

Thank you for your interest and for your prudence! Please feel free to write and visit any time.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

Question #6:

I just ran across this email question: Can I ask you a question? Did you ever study under Col. R.B. Thieme, and have you been influenced by him?


Response #6:
 

Yes I was a "taper" for many years while in the USMC and some time afterwards, but began to go my own way in the early 80's as I got deeper into personal investigation and interpretation of scripture. The question of so-called "eternal security" was, in doctrinal terms, one of the big dividing points, along with the non-biblical "pre-Tribulational rapture". Of course on both of these issues, Col. Thieme is far from unique in his approach. He is a Dallas man and those have been the DTS positions since the place was founded by L.S. Chafer and co. I might also say that while the method of presentation used by Col. Thieme also became a sticking point in that teaching illustrations very often were given their own unique technical vocabulary and then elevated to the status of biblical truths in their own right (at least that was often the impression given), this was not always the case. The tendency, in my view, got worse in the early 80's and contributed in no small measure to my disaffection. I would hasten to add as you might have read elsewhere in one of my postings that on the positive side, I did get quite a lot from Col. Thieme, whose basic theology was originally different in very few respects from L.S. Chafer's Systematic Theology, and so was in the main-line of conservative evangelical thought. One of the things I appreciated about Col. Thieme's ministry was the essential philosophy behind it, namely, that all true theology had to be based upon scripture, and that careful, diligent, and painstaking analysis of the Bible would yield fruit. That essential starting point is also the bedrock basis for the studies at Ichthys. As to the specifics of how the two ministries are different, that is somewhat difficult to say since, as you read, it has been at least twenty-five years since I have had any contact with Col. Thieme's ministry. All of the studies offered at Ichthys (with the exception of "Exodus") were produced after (and most well after) I had moved on to my own ministry. So there is no question that Col. Thieme's ministry was an important one for the development of my own approach, but it is also fair to say that the principle of looking to the Bible for answers and doing so diligently has led in very many places to different interpretations on points large and small. In my ignorance of the present state of affairs of his work based on the last two decades plus (I know that he is retired now), it is difficult for me to say exactly where and how we differ in much more specific terms (but the two areas mentioned above would certainly not have been favorably received in times past - that is an understatement). I have never made much of a point of comparing myself or these teachings to those of others except where that was important to do for the sake of the reader. As always, I prefer to let these studies speak for themselves, and to let the reader do what the Bereans did: search the scripture "to see whether or not these things are so".

I hope this helps.

In Jesus,

Bob L.


Question #7:

Bob,

I really have tried to find this answer on my own, but have been unable to do so. What is a "taper"? I don't see where any of the known definitions have anything at all in common with you or your ministry.


Response #7:
 

Sorry about that. From your question it seemed that you had some familiarity with Col. Thieme's ministry. It had and I suppose still has a very large presence and appeal in the military community on account in no small part of the military focus of much of the Col.'s teaching and illustrative subject matter (some of which I very much enjoyed, although the emphasis I found somewhat counterproductive). I came to know about his ministry from a fellow USMC officer who was a "taper"; the Col. put out his sessions on reel-to-reel audio tape, and made them available though the mail to service members (and others not in service too) - free of charge (something I always have appreciated). If you followed his ministry from a distance on tape, you were a "taper" (as opposed to getting "face to face" teaching in Houston). The Col. also did a number of "tapers conferences" around the country for the benefit of those who wanted some "face to face" but were unable to make it to Houston. Interestingly, I found the booklets that the ministry produced ultimately to have been of much more help than the tapes (though I listened to a million of them). I later found out that these were epitomes of his teachings put together by one of his staff. I don't think it was a conscious choice necessarily, but I have found the written word to be much more conducive to substantive teaching than the verbal medium for the studies offered at Ichthys. I suppose that has something to do with the fact that the Lord makes all manner of spiritual food available to all manner of tastes and capabilities.

Hope this answers your question - do feel free to write back.

In Jesus,

Bob L.


Question #8:

Robert,

I would love to have these studies available as books.  Prayer is the key we have in tapping into His resources for the Gospel to be preached.  it's all faith. I also pray that the Lord would grant you more inspiration, and financial means to enable you publish all of your work in volumes. That way it's circulation enhanced to the book readers around.


Response #8:
 

Certainly, I would love to have these materials in book form. Unfortunately, about the only way to do this is to contract with a company - and then of course people would have to pay money for them. I much prefer the current situation. It may be difficult for some people to access these studies (and/or to print them out), but then again if they were in print, even in paper back, it would probably cost several hundred dollars to buy a complete set and that is beyond many people's capability. As it is, there are some people who not only print out these studies but share them with others - for free. As you say, prayer is key, and I am confident that the Lord will direct everyone He means to come into contact with this ministry to the site, as well as provide them means to access what they need.

In any case, I very much appreciate your prayers most of all, and also of course your encouragement and kind words of support.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.


Question #9:

It was with great pleasure that I discovered a reference to ICHTHYS from an unrelated Google search today, as it had been what seems like several years back (well...more than a couple ;-) ) that your website apparently disappeared from the Internet. I was unable even to find any references to your published articles, which I found quite edifying. Perhaps I am mistaken, but had you dropped off the face of the earth for awhile? At any rate, nice to see you again. :-)
 

Thanks so much for the time and effort you've put into these papers. I just wanted to let you know your work has not gone unnoticed and is greatly appreciated. Worthy food for men made worthy by virtue of our gracious Father's gift in Christ Jesus! God bless you, sir. Be encouraged!
 

"Your work is not in vain in the Lord."

Response #9:
 

I'm glad you found the site again. I hope you can see from what's available now that progress is being made. The "Coming Tribulation" series is now through seven installments and the Basics series has four complete on-line, with e-mail response postings a weekly thing. Ichthys has been in the same place since 1997 but of course the Internet has changed a good deal since then. There is quite a lot of competition for visibility, and much of it is fee, advertising, and reciprocating links driven. Since I shun all three things, it's not surprising that these materials are not the easiest things in the world to find. But as our Lord told us, "seek and you shall find" - I leave it to Him to sort out those who are interested from those who aren't. Traffic has been gradually building on the site over the past decade, and in a way I am grateful that it is not more visible than it is. I have always tried to do a creditable job of answering e-mails, and at present volume of e-mails, with the new studies I'm trying to produce, and with a job to pay the bills, I pretty much have my hands full.

I do maintain an e-mail notification list to announce the posting of major new studies (only a couple of e-mails a year). I would be more than happy to add you to it if you so desire. Just let me know.

Thanks very much for your words of encouragement - they mean a great deal.

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.
 


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