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Ministry and the Ichthys Ministry II

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Question #1: 

Hi again, Doctor.

I want to know from your point of view what my gifts may be. You don't know me, so that's asking a lot. I am a natural leader; people listen to me and I am given authority when they do. However, lately, since my true commitment roughly a year ago, the Lord has taken all my previous positions of leadership and done away with all earthly applications of said leadership. Now, I'm married with a growing family, and all my previous life with unbelievers has ceased. So, The Lord has almost completely turned my life on it's head.

I will say, I've met a couple actual believers and some old friends here who heard all my ramblings about Christ, the Word, salvation, etc. before I started walking right, and now He's bringing them slowly back into the picture, and they are stronger now, too!

I speak of Him literally almost all day every day. Many with whom I have conversed have come to Christ. I can't have any real conversation with someone without Him coming up. Last night, while at an indoor play park for my son, I found myself in a conversation with a video game addict asking me what I "like to do with myself". I said I read the Bible. Then he laughingly said his coworker thinks he'll 'live forever' and although I could tell he doesn't do the 'Jesus thing', I quickly added if he would read 'that book' he might live forever, too!

I've read almost your entire site, Doc, I've apparently been starved my whole life by church cause I can't get enough. I just re-read the Pentateuch and can literally feel our Lord speaking through the pages like never before. When I wake up with a song or notion in my head that isn't of The Lord, I'm hate it, and fight for it to leave.

Despite financial problems and opposition to trying to implement ministry, I am happy, and I know this is the Lord. So I trudge on.

You are highly beloved of God, anyone with the Spirit can see from your teachings, so I know you can see something from my nonsense and give some guidance on the issue of gifts.

Also, I'm reading over your Bible Basics series again, specifically Christology and I have a question: the gospels don't really say, but what happened to Mary's Joseph, our Lord's stepfather? I know Mary is given to John for spiritual and, I'm sure, material sustenance, but where is Joseph. Is he Joseph of Arimathea that buried our Lord? He was so faithful during Christ's youth, I'd be surprised if he just left, or died.

Thanks again, sir!

In Christ,

Response #1: 

Thanks for your patience! I was out of town and away from desk, visiting family for Christmas.

Of course trying to figure out precisely what the Lord wants us to do with our lives and what precise gifts we have been given to accomplish that task is a process of searching and decision-making that only the believer in question can address Ė in the power of the Spirit. From your description, it certainly sounds as if you are gifted in the area of evangelizing, possibly also teaching. There are specific gifts which scripture records, but there all manner of variation in these gifts and an even wider range of ministries and effects. Please see in BB 5: Pneumatology, the section on gifts (at the link). 

One thing that all believers need to do, regardless of gifts and eventual ministries, is to keep on growing in the Lord and walking closer to Him day by day. None of us are perfect in this, but you certainly seem to be progressing well in this regard. Keep it up! God provides the opportunities, the resources and the successes we need to get ready to serve Him the way He wants us to do. Our part is to say "yes" and walk through those doors in faith. This requires wisdom, prudence, and a certain amount of realism (i.e., we can't shirk our other responsibilities in the process, for example), since to get prepared for any serious ministry is not a "one off" sort of thing but rather a process taking time and consistency of application. Somewhere between doing everything ourselves according to the world's ways on the one hand and sitting on a park bench waiting for God to rend the heavens on the other is the "sweet spot" of humble reliance on Him which produces solid hard work on our part as we prepare to carry out His purpose for our lives and begin to do so once the preparation is complete.

I will definitely pray for you on this. Here are some links which may be of use:

Ministry and the Ichthys Ministry

The Local Church and Personal Ministry IV

The Local Church and Personal Ministry III

The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

The Local Church and Personal Ministry I

Servants, Slaves, Disciples and Ministers

The Judgment and Reward of the Church

How important is education for a pastor (includes other links)?

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly

On your other question, our Lord's step-father was almost certainly deceased by the time our Lord began His three and a half year long public ministry culminating in the cross Ė and was probably dead some time before that (Joseph of Arimathea was definitely a different person Ė it's a common given name). Here are some links to what I have written about this subject:

What ever happened to Joseph, Jesus' Stepfather?

The Death of Joseph

The Early Life of our Lord Jesus

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2: 

Good morning Bob.

As I enter into a new season, I become more aware of the attraction/distraction of this place that we are to be stewards of. Division upon division is placed before us, just begging us to cast our lot with those who camp there. Church has become a gathering place for many with many divergent views, but with this comes opportunity to serve and lead to the truth.

It is a new season in Christ for me. I have been speaking at gathering places in the Spirit. I will be visiting your site more, so I encourage you to encourage us. Fortify our knowledge. It is all the more that the Holy Spirit will see in us, and work through us, with the renewed mind of the body in and with Him. Thank you for your diligence.

Your brother in Christ,

Response #2: 

Thanks for this inspiring email. I also want to say how pleased I am to hear that you are coming into the personal ministry the Lord Jesus has for you. I wish and pray for your success in spreading the truth of God's Word.

I feel less than fit for your fine words, but I will endeavor to hang in there and push through whatever comes.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #3: 


Thank you for the response. I want to know if studying your CT series or any other series on your website is considered bible studying. I really enjoy your series because I see the depth of research and labor you have put into dissecting God's word even while some might be controversial.

Being born again recently last year, I am diligently searching and I have found that prior to your website, I was trying to understand the bible by doing a book by book analysis but what the Spirit has led me was to understand God's purpose for man. The best way to approach this prior to a book by book analysis or even topographical is by a systematic theological approach to His word first.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit has led me to read the book of Revelation and have me understand more of Christ return and therefore had me delve more into your CT series.

I am only on section 3A. I read every part slowly and like the Bereans in Acts, all your verses, I read to see if it corresponds with your analysis and it has.

Good work so far and it has taken me two months to finish two sections. I am taking my time. I read every single night an hour or so. Once this is complete, I will read Satan's Rebellion in conjunction with Genesis and then the Peter Series.

The question that I am asking, even though it is your work, can you give me an honest assessment of do you think this is the way to bible study while others say I should only focus on not reading others work first before I thoroughly do an analysis myself. But to me this has been a great way for me to learn God's word.

Yours in Christ.

Response #3: 

You are very welcome, and thank you so much for your encouraging words.

As to your question, I do definitely consider sitting under the teaching ministry of some qualified person an essential part of any Christian's spiritual growth. All Christians should read their Bibles for themselves (see the link: "Read your Bible"), but this is not nor was it ever meant to be a substitute for Bible teaching:

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying [goal] of belief in and full-knowledge of the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

As these verses and many other passages in scripture make clear, the Body of Christ is composed of many members, each of which is essential to the growth and proper function of the whole. No Christian can "do it his/herself". No pastor with a conventional church would be well-advised to try to run the entire administration of that church himself. No ministry, this one included, would be possible without the prayer support of those who are encouraged and helped by it. And no Christian can attain spiritual maturity without the help of others, specifically, without the help of some teaching ministry which explains and expounds the doctrines of the Bible Ė just as the verses in the passage above make clear. Teaching ministries take many forms, but there is a dearth of good ones here on the cusp of the end times as we find ourselves in the trough of the lukewarm era of Laodicea. Ichthys is not the only place to "go to grow", but I am confident in the Lord that it is one such place, and you are certainly most welcome here.

I think your plan of study and your approach to it are fine indeed. I would add the Basics Series to your "to do list". As things have turned out, it is anything but "basic", but it does address many doctrines and doctrinal areas of scripture that are not necessarily the primary focus of the Coming Tribulation and Satanic Rebellion series (as these are concerned with eschatology in the main). The weekly email response postings can also be helpful in that they deal with all manner of subjects and topics, and, because no one thinks about these things in precisely the same way, contain questions and answers that are phrased in ways which may help clarify even fairly well-known areas of the truth.

Here's wishing you continued spiritual success in your efforts for our Lord and His truth in 2014.

In Jesus our Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:  

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

I have a question for you. What should I tell my pastor to make him see that the story of the woman taken in adultery is not inspired. I knew when I started going to my current church that there were differences between us. They donít necessarily come up that often. When they do, I donít think theyíre something to make a big deal out of. They arenít essentials to the faith. The thing is, I didnít like it when my pastor mentioned the whole "let he who is without sin..." thing. Then most everyone, but not me, ameníd and nodded their heads in agreement. It just didnít sit right for me. Thatís not in the Bible. No one should be amening over something thatís not inspired. I usually let stuff like that go, as I said. The only thing is, I think Iím the only person that knows this passage was added. They believe the King James is inerrant. They donít use any other Bibles to my knowledge. He doesnít believe in only using the KJV by the way. Thatís why it worries me that he would think the John 8 passage is biblical. How could he get through all this schooling to be a pastor and not know that it was added?

Whatís also worrying, is that most of the guys from Ambassador Bible College want to be pastors. Itís just unsettling to me that they would believe things that arenít true. Not necessarily through fault of their own, but because they go to a college that perpetuates these things. Iím sure they wouldnít be interested in hearing what I have to say about the matter though. We have doctrinal differences. They probably thing whatever I say is heresy. Plus; they have like an entire college backing them up. Anyway, do you think there is anything I should say specifically to pastor? He is sincere. I wouldnít bother speaking with him if I didnít believe he was open to changing his mind. I donít think he should take my word for it. Iím not qualified to speak on such matters. You could though, because youíve put in the time and effort to make your opinion have weight.

P.s. I asked pastor and he said heíd be fine with it, so itís not like Iím pitting the two of you against each other.

Response #4: 

While I certainly agree with your point of view Ė it happens to be correct (there is no way in the world that this pericope is part of scripture) Ė you should know that I am not a big fan of challenging other pastors.

Who are you to judge anotherís servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.
Romans 14:4 NKJV

There is an authority issue at stake here, and there is a difference between asking a question, questioning, and, worse, seeking to correct. In my humble opinion, if a person knows so much more than their pastor then there is no chance of spiritual growth under that ministry, and the person in question should find a place where spiritual growth Ė the most important thing in the world Ė is possible. I understand that many people in this situation are reluctant to move on . . . for social reasons. But if a person is going to church for social reasons then the entire justification and approach is wrong in any case. That is precisely why the church-visible today is such an awful state of supine lukewarmness, namely, compromise of the truth for the sake of relatively unimportant matters. I do realize that we live in unique times, and that many Christians are trying to make do with one foot in the church and the other outside of it (supplementing a relatively dead spiritual experience clung to for social reasons with, one hopes, some sort of spiritual food provided elsewhere). That is an uncomfortable posture and probably, in the long-run, an impossible one (at least for anyone who really wants to grow beyond all else). So there are three options: 1) stay in the "opposite feet" situation and try to hang in there; 2) compromise spiritual growth entirely but putting "both feet in" (a bad idea); 3) vote with your feet, exit and find a better place . . . or at least a teaching ministry of some sort somewhere wherein growth is possible and give it your all (that is the option I always recommend, a bit scary perhaps, but walking on the water through the storm with the Lord always is . . . and is always the right and good thing to do). But the one thing that, again in my view, is really not an option is to try to "change from within". In the first place, this never works. In the second, it a questionable thing to do, ethically speaking (in my view: because those on the inside are perfectly happy with what they are doing and because in that case one is bucking the constituted authority too). In the third place, it will only result in personal damage, loss and upheaval Ė for all concerned. As our Lord has made clear, moreover, people who embrace the "old" like it well enough as is:

He told them this parable: "No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ĎThe old is better.í "
Luke 5:36-39 NIV

Here are some links to where the passage you ask about are discussed (for your own edification):

Cast the first stone

Interpolations into the Bible

I do sympathize with your situation, and will continue to keep you in my prayers day by day.

Yours in Jesus Christ our Lord, the very Word of Truth Himself.

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Hey Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your response. Itís really given me a lot to think about. It wasnít what I was expecting. Iím sorry if it seemed like I was trying to get you to challenge my pastor. That was not my intention at all. I do know that you donít like that. I only asked you because thatís really not the case. My pastor is very approachable. He thinks itís a good thing that people can come to him with concerns. He already knows where I stand on certain issues. He likes that Iím inquisitive. He told me that I am like him in that I want to take the biblical position on everything. So, itís not like heís stuck in a pattern of thinking. Even though he is affiliated with Ambassador he is not afraid to take the opposite position. He doesnít believe that women should have to wear skirts like they do. He doesnít believe the KJV is the only thing there is. He uses different Bible translations. I respect my pastor a lot. I donít think that I know more than him. He is very knowledgeable. The few things that I do know that he doesnít, I learned online after weeks of hard searching. Before I found websites such as yours, I didnít even know those alternative viewpoints even existed. Remember how I told you I used to think the KJV was THE bible. I was so confused the first time I saw a different version. I was in middle school then. I thought it sounded almost like the bible, but there was something strange about it. Ha-ha, right? My point is, sometimes we donít know that we donít know. When I told pastor that John 8 had been added, he was genuinely surprised. He just had never heard that before. I hadnít heard it until I came across your website. So itís not like pastor knew the authenticity of John 8 was in question, and didnít take that view. He is sincere. I know that he would appreciate having a better interpretation. I figured you could provide that for him. Not because you have authority over him or anything like that. Itís just that, if anyone is qualified to present a dissenting viewpoint itís you. I know how little I know. I donít feel comfortable trying to instruct my pastor. I donít have the education for it. I just feel that since I canít back up my viewpoint, I should not be attempting to sway anyone. Thatís why I try to get you to do it. Also, isnít it true that the older wiser people should help the younger? I know Iíve had people like you, help me in that way. Youíve been such a blessing to me that I thought you could be a blessing to pastor in the same way. I could be wrong, but I think youíre older than him. I think he would appreciate your perspective. Did I tell you he went to your website? He told me with a smile, that he was surprised by how much he agreed with your views. I knew he would be.

One other thing that I have been considering is your opinion of my reasoning for coming to my church. I know you think I came to my church for social reasons. I was all prepared to send you an email saying that youíre wrong. Itís right though. Do you really think there is anything wrong with coming to church for social reasons? I started looking for a church because I was tired of being a lone wolf Christian. You know how my passions tend to waver. I knew it wasnít sustainable for me. I wanted to be in a body of Christians that I could fellowship with. I wanted someone to pray with, read the Bible with, and edify me. I want people that can correct me when needed. I know that you do that for me. Youíre a busy person, though. I canít expect you to entertain all my problems. I know that a big part of church is receiving instruction. I can admit though that itís not why I come to church. Even if I disagree, or donít know the people. I like being around Christians. Itís satisfying for me.

I get the sense that you think I should leave my church. I know if you say so then you think it would be in my best interest. You know that I respect your opinion. itís just not what I want to hear right now. We found out last week that our 501c3 went through. They sent it almost a year ago. Sunday, we will be in our new church. Itís like everything is falling into place. I just felt like this is Godís will. For me to join this church at its inception, and build it with a community of believers. Iíve never belonged to a church before. Last night was our last service in our old building. We shared testimonies, and talked about what we were thankful for. Just being around everyone made me think how grateful I am for my church. I may not know everyone as well as I want to, but I do care for them. Theyíre the closest thing I have to friends right now, besides you. They fulfill that need for togetherness that God put inside man. Friday, we are going to move our stuff to the new building. I said I would help. This just really means a lot to me. It seems like my church is right at the edge of something. I donít want to leave now. Iíve put so much into these relationships. I donít want to be alone again. I grew spiritually in leaps and bounds, but it was a dark time for me. Thatís probably why I value having someone to talk to.

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of oneís friend springs from his earnest counsel.
Proverbs 27:9


Response #5: 

You're very welcome Ė I certainly didn't mean to upset you or to leave you with any impressions about what to do or not do with your own life. That is something I try to avoid as completely as I can because the Christian life is all about making our own decisions in the Spirit based on the Word Ė rather than making ourselves dependent upon someone else' opinions (which explains my reluctance to weigh in on purely personal matters). So I try to stick to principles of truth Ė in my view that is what this gift and this ministry is meant for. Sometimes the truth stings, and it is also true that the truth can be mis- or over-applied. If you are happy with your church and your situation, then I am happy for you, and God is to be praised. Clearly, given the spiritual fight you have been in over the past year or so, this church and its people have been a very positive influence on you in many wonderful ways. That is what a church family should provide. My "beef" with churches in general (I have no experience of the one you are attending) is that they do not teach enough of the Bible to equip their members for living a Christian life. That takes "meat" served generously and frequently, not "milk" served only occasionally and parsimoniously.

It's Thanksgiving, and it seems like you have a lot to be grateful for in this fellowship you have come to love. That is no small thing. And I think that your very careful and well-reasoned explanation here (not that you owe me one) shows how much you have grown in your faith and as a Christian.

I'm very proud of you, and I would never ever wish for you to do anything that would compromise your good walk in Jesus Christ.

Your brother in our dear Lord and Savior.

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Dearest Dr. Luginbill.

Hello & Greetings From India. Praise The Lord! I am a believer from the city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu state - INDIA. I have been a silent reader of your exegetical works at Ichthys for close to two years (off and on). I have recommitted to serious study again. Took me all this while to write you a note. I apologize. I want to thank you for the humongous scholarly work you have put together on the worldwide web by the good grace and wisdom bestowed upon you by our Lord The Holy Spirit. You have been a justified recipient of superlatives from brothers and sisters the world over so I am not going to embarrass you with my share of the proverbial pie, I know you are a humble man of God with bigger things on your mind in our Lord's service in these last days. I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart as you have been my teacher appointed by our Lord for a simple man yet worst of sinners and the least of the saints like me. I have only followed two pastors from America until now the late Dr. Adrian Rogers from Tennessee and Dr. Erwin Lutzer from Chicago as our Good Lord allowed me to. I struggled with the post-trib rapture theory for a long time after first encountering the facts on your site. Coming from a Plymouth Brethren church personally and baptist (on my wife's side) you would know how I was conditioned. Thanks to your works, I no longer believe in that doctrine and I have talked to my pastor about these and even though he confided in me that the biblical evidence sure points in that direction he is wary of causing a turbulence within the congregation by going public with it.

Well I recently read your comment on an e-mail response where you had made mention of one Col. Silverthorn, a decorated world war general. He simply believed what he read from God's word and grew phenomenally in spiritual matters. I too have simply believed what you teach and stand firm as our Lord has willed. I am preparing for tribulation one day at a time and believe our Lord will empower us with the wherewithal to measure up in those soon coming times where we will glorify God and please Him alone. I have started reading your Peripateology series which I believe will set the records straight once and for all to me personally. A former rebel free spirit and recovering I have huge challenges, yet I know am not alone in this battle and we are called victors by our faith. I know God is preparing me for a special ministry that He has in mind. Please hold me and my family in your prayers. I have a beautiful family and I work in web development. There are many coworkers in my sphere of influence at work, all younger and know nothing about eternity in heaven or the lake of fire. I know of Acts 1:8 Please pray for us. You are always in our prayers.

God bless you more brother ! Please Continue to be the hands & feet of our Lord Jesus as we imitate you. I have nothing more to say, brother in Christ. You are such a huge blessing for us all. Lots of Love and warmest of greetings again from a humble servant from this part of God's world.

Praise God alone! Amen.

Response #6: 

Very good to make your acquaintance! Thanks so much for your good words and for your enthusiasm for this ministry Ė it's certainly appreciated. I always take heart when I hear that these studies have been of benefit to my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.

I will say a prayer for you and for your guidance and help in preparing for the precise ministry the Lord has for you (and I have put up a prayer request also to that effect on the Ichthys site).

I'm not sure when part 6A of Bible Basics will be available (part 5 was long "in the oven" and has just been posted at the link); but as you have discovered there is a good deal of material at Ichthys which deals with these very issues which that installment will eventually address (in more detail than will eventually be found there in many cases due to a concern for space, length and pithiness).

It is certainly true that we all have challenges, tests, and areas of weakness we must work through and fight through Ė and must trust the Lord to get us through. No doubt for many of us alive today the (seemingly at least to us) unusual, frequent, and difficult tests and trials we are facing are for our great benefit: preparing us for all that is soon to come.

Thanks again, brother, for all your good words! Be encouraged in Jesus Christ, and keep on pushing forward in your spiritual growth and preparation. Jesus has a particular ministry for us all, and you seem to be zeroing in on what it is He has specially called you to do.

Do also please feel free to write me back any time. And a special thanks to you and encouragement in staying true to the truth of the Bible even when it is not convenient and not what your brothers and sisters in their lukewarmness may wish to hear.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #7: 

Thank you Dr. Bob for writing back to me in less than a heartbeat! I and my wife are so encouraged to have heard from you so soon, despite all the great demands on your precious time. Just goes to show how much you practice what you preach. Thank you so very much for putting up a special prayer request on the website for my guidance in The Lord's predetermined ministry that I am to serve to my fullest capacity (I am not there yet, but am sure I will get there and receive it at the God-appointed time soon, as I know the Lord is never late or never too early.) Thank you also for your continued prayers. I know and believe that prayers of righteous men (and women) are extremely powerful. Praise God.

Do not worry about when you will be able to make Part 6A available to us, God will bring it to completion at the right time, just as He has made all your other works available to us in retrospect. I am sure beyond doubt that it will be worth the wait brother. I am glad that you are comforted when you hear from all the spiritual Titus' paralleling the record in 2 Corinthians 7:6. Remember brother that we love you back all the more knowing you are our modern-day Paul - our spiritual father in the Lord. I am aware great leaders tread a lonely highway beyond the plateaus, the road less traveled. Not so in our case, we are together in spirit always in Christ our Lord interceding for each other. I chose not to make mention of my failing health with several serious chronic problems and deep debts, as I do not consider them burdens anymore, in fact, I have learned to praise God in all of these tribulations of the past years, as they have brought me into the right relationship with our Master. I am quietly learning to look past these things and keep to the goal and the race that has been set before me going forward. I now truly comprehend the "all-inclusive package plan" God has for me and I have learned to never grumble and never dislike the deal, yet its not as easy as I make it seem and I am a work in progress, at a certain phase right now, just like the rest of the believers this side of heaven.

Brother Bob, I wasn't this spiritually mature and committed before I found your works online. So, be sure of your great rewards - just like you always have. Surprisingly as it may seem, I do not have any specific questions for you at this time as I am at peace, as The Lord is leading me one day at a time in my Christian walk ably supported by your writings at Ichthys, whenever I need more information during Bible study. Your exemplary life of faith, hope & love for the brethren has had a profound effect in the way I go about life at peace with God and men of late. Yet, should I have questions please rest assured that I would indeed shoot them straight to you in a trice.

I & my wife have great respect for you brother Bob and I look forward to those glorious times when we will reign with Christ a thousand years and again with our Lord in New Jerusalem, worshiping and praising together for everlasting.

Have a wonderful weekend and a blessing-filled Sunday of worship and praise & fellowship.

We will be praying for your great ministry, your personal needs and for the well-being of your beloved family in America.

Tons of love from us all in Christ our Lord & Savior.

Response #7:

Thanks again for your overly kind words, my friend Ė and even more so for your prayers!

As I having been remarking to various and sundry of late, it seems that I know very few truly dedicated Christians who are not beset by financial woes and serious health concerns (so much for the "prosperity gospel"). No doubt the Lord is preparing us for what is ahead. But despite debt and disease, we still stand firm in Christ! The enemy attacks and draws blood, but we who are genuinely of faith wait on the Lord and trust in His ultimate deliverance, doing as it was given to Paul by the Spirit to command: "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1Thess.5:18 NKJV).

Truly, it is only "through many tribulations" that we "enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22 NKJV). But, God helping us, we will continue to do battle for each other in prayer (as well as serving our Lord in whatever way He leads us to do so), and reach heaven home in our Lord's good time, having earned the bountiful eternal rewards that put all the suffering of this world into the shade (see the link).

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2nd Corinthians 4:17-18 NKJV

"Your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ" (Rev.1:9 NKJV),

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hello Brother Robert! 

I wanted to start off by saying thank you much for praying me regarding that job. I did not get the position, and myself and many others are still trying to wrap our heads around that one. But, I also believe that all things work out for the best to them that love the Lord. So I will leave it at that.

Secondly, I discontinued my journeying out of town to preach every weekend. I did my best and that's all I can do. I was beating dead horses and nothing else was looking promising. So I ended it.

I thought about starting a home church and start inviting people over for bible study, but I'm even discouraged about that, because people really don't want this truth even though many said they would come (they always say that, but never come). And I'm at the point where I just have to worry about myself and my family. I've tried home ministry before and it never worked, I've tried renting out space for years, never worked, I've tried video streaming, never worked. I might as well give it up and get my act together and just make sure I teach my family the ways of the Lord.

Going about the ministry in those ways I listed above was unsuccessful. Not one soul came to Christ through the ministry. And that's the purpose of it all. In my many years of preaching, not one sincere person gave their life to Christ. So I ask myself, why should I continue. Maybe I'm not qualified, but I did try my best. Well I better get a few hours of sleep for work my friend.

As always, I look forwarded to hearing back from you and you are always in my prayers.

God bless

Response #8: 

I'm sorry to hear that you didn't get the position. Most of the people I know who are looking for jobs or promotions these days are similarly having a very hard time. Part of it is the economy. Part of it is the evil one and the intensification of resistance to believers as we approach the end Ė and our God preparing us for all that is to come.

I'm also sorry to hear about the church. I had been praying that the Lord would work this out for the good. Honestly, it seems to me that this is just what He did, given your report. The one thing I would urge you to remember is that as ministers of Jesus Christ we are judged according to our efforts for Him, not by what other people do. Think of all of the prophets of Israel who spent their lives remonstrating with their fellow countrymen to return to the Lord. For the most part their words fell on deaf ears. That does not mean that they were failures. It does mean that the people who didn't respond to them failed spiritually. This is the era of Laodicea, the time of lukewarmness just before the deluge. In a sort of contrary way, I think that a big response, lots of people coming in and lots of money being given, are probably more of a sign of spiritual failure from the pulpit. That is because if a person really does tell the truth and proclaim the Word of God these days (as opposed to entertaining the people and telling them mostly what they want to hear), then he will likely drive away the lukewarm and the not-actually-Christians Ė and that is mostly what is out there at present. Anyway, that is what I see when I look at most "successful" churches today (and it makes me sick to my stomach).

We are not accountable for what others choose Ė especially if we told them the truth and gave them proper warning. We can only control what we do. You have been standing up for the Lord for many years, and it seems to me that you are approaching things precisely in the right way. Only try not to be discouraged. This is not about you or me. This is about Jesus Christ. Remember what the Lord told Samuel when he got upset in a similar situation:

And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king."
1st Samuel 9:7 NIV

So I certainly would not second guess your decision to move on from that ministry opportunity. But I would ask you not to be depressed because that group (and that area) proved unworthy (Lk.9:5). You will have other opportunities. Maybe the Lord has in mind for you to build yourself up and your tools too before taking the next step. And believe me, as long as Jesus leaves us here, there will always be a next step.

Take a deep breath, my friend. I understand your disappointment. Even a great man like Elijah ran off to the desert when similarly disappointed. But he was wrong to do so. Blessedly, we have the examples of scripture to help us keep from making the same mistakes.

You and yours continue in my prayers, my friend. And please do continue to keep me in yours. The next couple of months are critical if the pit is not to close its mouth over my head. I wait confidently for the Lord's deliverance.

Apologies in advance for any delay in response to future emails as I am off in the AM to visit my family for a week or so.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #9: 

Hello, Doctor.

First, I gotta say, you are one of, if not the most blessed Christ centered mind I've ever even heard of. Every word you have written makes me feel closer and closer to The Lord, and it's quite amazing how much information you've managed to pack into one site. As many other folks have stated: "I feel The Lord led me to ichthys.com absolutely on purpose!"

About me: I've been a believer nearly as long as I can remember, and what little I do recall before involved me just flat out knowing God is real (children are amazing.) I was not raised as such, however, and that (lack of teaching) did eventually lead me down some seriously sinful and deadly paths. [details omitted]

The reason I'm contacting you is that, after reading so much of your work, that I want to meet you. There's a small church building available in the town we're moving to, and I hope to start a ministry there. As you obviously know, churches today are an offense more often than not to TRUE bible teachings, but I hope to make this one different.

I need your help, but more for edification in that, most everything you write I've known, I've just always felt so alone about it. No believer up til now understands these things you write in the proper severity, they all diminish it (I had to correct my pastor a few weeks ago!) and it's making me so deeply saddened for all these "dead people."

I've read the whole tribulation series (as far as it's completed) and the whole Satanic rebellion series. I've printed them both out, too.

It'd be a big drive or a spendy plane ticket, but I would bend over backwards to meet such a faithful warrior for Christ if you are willing. There are so few of us (even reading the email replies from people, they're all so stuck on "their denomination" or "their tradition") and, I guess, I just feel terribly alone anymore.

Please consider it, I would only pick your brain and thank you profusely.

Your brother in our dear Lord God and savior, the Messiah Jesus.

Response #9: 

Very good to make your acquaintance. Thank you for your encouraging and inspiring personal story Ė it shows the power that the Word of God can have on the lives of any of us (if we only open ourselves up to Jesus' truth). I also appreciate your very kind words about this ministry, but I certainly have to point out that anything which you have found helpful at Ichthys is only so to the degree that it actually does reflect biblical truths, and those belong to us all as children of the Father and followers of the Lamb.

To that end, I fear that while not being worthy of comparison to the apostle himself, my situation vis-a-vis you, at any rate, might be very much like 2nd Corinthians 10:10: "His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing". To illustrate, these materials often impress me too Ė as something that seems to have been written by somebody else when I read them over months or years after the fact. Suffice it to say that any good in them is from the Holy Spirit; I am responsible only for the errors and other infelicities.

Added to the above (i.e., your near certain disappointment compounded by loss of time, energy and resources), is the fact that life is complicated at the moment; things are in limbo for me at present as I am awaiting the Lord's deliverance in a difficult situation with the result that I am not in a position to be as forthcoming as might otherwise be the case. What I can offer you as a substitute is a continuation of this correspondence whenever and as often as you wish (and I am certain that this is the better part in fact for all manner of reasons as well).

Please do know that I very much value your generous words of appreciation, and even more your powerful witness to the goodness of God's truth and its life-changing potential.

And one final word Ė the Coming Tribulation series is now complete (nine parts, the last one being part 7 [because of 2A and 2B and 3A and 3B]; see the link).

Please feel free to write any time !

"Your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance in Jesus",

Bob Luginbill

Question #10: 

Hi, Doc.

Thank you for the lightning fast reply! I guess what I was getting at is that I feel I'm being led back to the place I was raised specifically to help, with all The Lord has given me, a place where all of the Faith can call an escape, as free of charge as I can muster and with as much scripture and holy living to back it up as we (my family and whoever joins) can possibly attain before it's all over. I wanted your feedback (steel sharpens steel, man sharpens man) because you obviously ARE in The Spirit more often than most I'll ever meet before our Lord returns and I know you would have MANY wonderful ideas and insights (whether or not your oratory skills are exceptional.)

All that being said; I've prayed for you, I hope whatever the outcome The Lord's will be done, and I will keep in contact with you, perhaps one day soon, you'll come see the place!

Thank you again for all your meticulous work, humility and patience. It's all a great example of refusing today's world and pressing forward in Christ, and we (true believers) need to see that, I think.

Blessing, peace and mercy from our Father and His Glorious Son,

Response #10: 

Thanks for your understanding and for all your good words Ė and especially for your prayers!

As I say, I'm near positive you are overestimating me mightily, but it's nice to hear anyway (none of us can do anything good or right without the Lord and the empowerment of His Spirit).

I promise to say a prayer for you too, for a blessed transition into the next "next".

Do feel free to write back!

Your new friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11: 

Good Evening

I enjoyed your article-scriptural answers on Pay the Pastor, and I have a question: I enjoy learning the Word of God. I have inquired of three churches in my area about Bible study opportunities, but, my goodness, the cost is out of reach when one is on a limited income. College is also way too expensive. And that's why I pose the question how much do I (we) have to pay for this knowledge. Did Saul pay Gamaliel? I get it. But I couldn't see myself charging anyone for the knowledge of the Word of God.

I have a Strong Concordance; Custom and Manner; Bible Dictionary; Biblica-Bible Atlas: Scofield-Thompson King James;Nelson Study Bible; Children's Illustration Bible: Charting the End Times with Chart and The Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical collection on my computer. It's not much but I still have a few more books. Still there is nothing like having a teacher. My problem is that I have had the pleasure and honor (spoiled) to be personally taught by my Bishop for years (now deceased). Sad but true. No one really wanted to listen to him and I truly enjoyed how he taught me, and yes I feel and believe I should be taught not altogether free. I do understand I'm paying for someone's time to teach me. I just wouldn't/couldn't charge someone I just can't see it.

Help me to understand while opening up my understanding.

Thank You,

Response #11: 

Dear Friend,

Very good to make your acquaintance. The article to which you refer, "Pay the Pastor" (and see also the links:  "Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly", "How much should we pay our pastor?", and "Tent-making and Galatians 6:6"), is speaking primarily about a person with the gift of pastor/teacher who is providing a full-time teaching ministry to a congregation (not to individuals). Such a "workman" is "worthy of his wages" (1Tim.5:18; cf. Lk.10:7), that is, if the man is truly gifted by the Spirit, has properly prepared academically so as to have the tools necessary for in-depth personal Bible study, and is actually teaching the Word of God to his local church in a substantive and orthodox way. One finds this very infrequently in our present era of Laodicea (see the link), but when found, such a pastor/teacher in such a local church is a "pearl of great price". In this circumstance, namely, when a man has given up other means of making a living in order to devote his entire time to the studying and teaching of the Word of God for the benefit of a local group, then it is the responsibility of the local group to support that pastor/teacher and his family in a reasonable way (and the four links at the beginning of this email talk about the details of this support). Clearly, there are many small groups which do not have the resources to support a teaching ministry full time Ė but given the fact that there seem to be "churches" on almost every corner in this country, and that most of them have at least one supported "minister", it truly is sad to find such an incredibly small number of teaching ministries out there Ė especially since that is the purpose of the local church, and there is no other purpose for it. See the links:

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

Christian Unity and Divisiveness.

The Local Church and Personal Ministry IV

The Local Church and Personal Ministry III

The Local Church and Personal Ministry I

The Local Church and Personal Ministry II

Church: The Biblical Ideal versus the Contemporary Reality.

Red Hot or Lukewarm? Bible Teaching versus Sermonizing.

Church Attendance.

The Assembly of the Local Church

The question of paying for individual teaching services is something else again. This ministry, Ichthys, provides everything for free on the internet, and this is in the tradition of "tent making" as in the apostle Paul's refusal to take anything from the Corinthian congregation. If a person wants individual tutoring (in language study, for example), well, that is another matter. When it comes to "face to face" Bible teaching, a group setting is always preferable, because in that way there is a more clear authority relationship as well as less of a chance that those taught will "take it personally".

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #12: 

[details about telling lies in ministry in order that "good may come" left out by request]

Response #12: 

I am happy to make you acquaintance, but am sorry to hear of your present dilemma. I will honor your request and not post any of your correspondence to me without permission (my words belong to me, of course). I am also going to bend a little rule I have here about not giving specific advice Ė please take the advice with a grain of salt: we are all here in this world to make our own decisions, and we personally are the only ones who really know all the facts.

We all have troubles and problems here in the devil's world, and many of us are dealing with "self-inflicted wounds" of one type or another. The first thing I would like to point out is that as bad as this may seem and appear and feel, it could be worse. A Christian who has committed financial fraud may find him/herself in jail with a long sentence (worse); a Christian who has married an unbeliever or otherwise made a bad marriage out of defying God's commandments on this score may find him/herself with a life-long sentence of unhappiness and trouble (worse); a Christian who has abused his/her body in one way or another may be struggling with all sorts of otherwise avoidable medical issues and problems of a serious nature (potentially much worse). Add to this the fact that all Christians who are really trying to live a godly life of spiritual advance, progression and service will most definitely come in for satanic opposition which, while it is sharing the sufferings of Christ, may still be in many cases even more painful and at times seemingly unendurable (2Tim.3:12) Ė although in that case it will be accompanied by the joy of knowing one is doing what Jesus wants, and that tells us a lot about where we should be generally. So much for perspective.

As to suggestions, as I often say with no particular originality, the best advice to give someone in a deep hole is to first stop digging. If what you are presently doing seems wrong to you and is making matters worse, then ceasing to do whatever your conscience truly guided by the Holy Spirit convicts you of would seem to be a "no brainer"; not that it may not be hard. Indeed, if it is hard to contemplate stopping then that may a sign that this is just what you ought to do.

Secondly, God forgives us anything and everything we confess to Him on the basis of Christ's work on the cross. Whatever you have done, Jesus died for it Ė just as He died for everyone of my sins and those of every other human being. What is required is repentance and confession (1Jn.1:9). Repentance is frequently misunderstood (see the link), and is really inseparable from true confession: if we really are turning away from sin, then we will confess; if we confess genuinely then we are turning away from our sin in so doing. It does no good, obviously, to come to the Lord and say, in effect, "O Lord, I have committed sin X and am in no way really sorry about it and have every intention of continuing to commit sin X again as soon as possible after I am done with this prayer, but I thought I would confess it anyway just to avoid some divine discipline for it if at all possible". Clearly, we are all weak, we are all flesh. Many of us have a hard time getting past sin X (whatever it is in any given case: we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, after all), and when it comes to the things we have the most trouble with there will no doubt be many times when we will fail again after confessing, sometimes pretty quickly thereafter. But our attitude in confession is all important: are we serious about it or not? If we are, then we are forgiven when we confess.

Thirdly, we are responsible to the Lord and to ourselves. We all make our own choices, and ultimately only answer to Him for them. It doesn't matter what other people think. If everyone thinks ill of me but I am really doing God's will, then it may cause me pain now, but in the end it will only result in greater reward. On the other hand, if everyone things I am wonderful but . . . . , well, God is not fooled. I would counsel you not to let the exigencies of the situation sway you in determining what to do (or not to do). I understand that "coming clean", as you put it, may not be a realistic option, and I also "get" that you are understandably reluctant not to give up ministry which advances the kingdom of God. Consider, however: if a person is willing to be saved Ė and God is certainly willing for everyone to be saved Ė is it really conceivable that but for you misrepresenting the facts of some story that said person will be lost? I refuse even to consider the possibility.

If you are doing good work for the Lord, please continue, but I would advise you to do so without resorting to falsehood. Sometimes we human beings paint ourselves into corners from which extrication is or at least seems impossible if we behave in an entirely "stand up" way. David never should have gone back to Gath. He never should have told Achish that he was raiding Judah when in fact he had no intention of harming anyone in Israel. But he did tell these lies, and as a result but for God's intervention he would have found himself on the wrong side at the battle of Mount Gilboa Ė and that would have been the end of everything, one way or another.

This brings me to my last observation. God is on our side. Please remember that He loves you. I can't promise He will "bail you out" the way He did David, but isn't it true that He often not only forgives us but delivers us when we don't deserve it in the least? I am certainly not telling you nor advising you to "come clean", but I do think that if you stop doing what is troubling you and commit yourself and your way to the Lord, He will certainly be with you in whatever comes next, no matter how rough the ride. That way, no matter how you found yourself in the "valley of the death-shadow", He will be with you, to comfort you and guide you. The true Christian life is all about looking forward, not backward. But to do so, we have to put away all that is troubling and walk forward with Jesus, confident that He will bring us safe through the storm.

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

Here are some applicable links:

Is it Ever Justifiable to Tell a Lie?

Is it Ever Justifiable to Tell a Lie (part 2)?

Hypotheticals (1)

Hypotheticals (2)

In hopes and in prayer for good decisions and successful outcomes to the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob Luginbill

Question #13: 

Hello--I just went to your website and saw your CV. I didn't know you are a full professor now since 2010. Congratulations!

I presume when you were doing your Hebrew studies, you learned about not only the Hebrew language but also about the Old Testament, is that correct? But I cannot tell from your CV where you learned about ancient Greek NT manuscripts. Could you please enlighten me about that? That is the last question I need answered, for the Mormon guy who has a masters in this stuff. Probably form BYU, which, from what I have read, isn't always considered a very good university when it comes to Biblical studies.

This Mormon guy seems to think you don't know that much about the Bible, since the Classics is your area of expertise. But I seem to remember your writing to me years ago that those studies included the Bible. Is that correct?

Thanks again.

Response #13: 

Throughout my three years of intensive study of Classics in my second B.A., and also in my six years of study for my M.A. and Ph.D., I worked on the issue of textual criticism of (mostly) Greek manuscripts. The principles of textual criticism of ancient manuscripts are the same for all ancient languages (the languages and their paleography are different of course), but in this case we are talking about Greek in the main (the LXX is in Greek too, after all). My work in Classics has always had a text-critical component; at present I am working on textual issues in Greek papyri. In terms of Hebrew, I made that language a focus of my second B.A. at Illinois, and at Seminary that was my major focus (not just the Hebrew language but all manner of ancillary issues, such as Hebrew inscriptions and paleography, Aramaic, archaeology, hermeneutics, etc.); the fact that I did an M.A.B.S meant that I could use all of my time and my hours there for such academic pursuits (e.g., I didn't have to take sermon preparation or pastoral counseling, etc.). My thesis was on the exegesis of the Hebrew of Exodus chapter 14. And I have also been working at these issues from some years now (as is also evident from the C.V.).

I have always felt that every piece of work needs to stand on its own feet, so to speak, and whatever I do I always try to back it up with all appropriate support. Nevertheless, I did go out of my way to get the additional four degrees (after the USMC and my first B.A.), both for the sake of appropriate preparation and also because I felt that anyone who would be accessing the ministry I intended in the future had a right to expect proper qualification. I do not have a Th.D., and that I do not regret; nor do I regret not spending an additional four to eight years working on a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies as a way of getting deeper into the Semitic languages. With regard to the former, the linguistic depth of study one can extract from most seminaries in this regard has its limits (more so with each passing year), and with regard to the latter, on the one hand, knowing the languages is the key to all genuine textual criticism, and on the other the secular approach to the Old Testament one finds in universities is almost a complete waste of time in my view because of the practical impossibility of mixing a faith-based approach with a secular one in an institutionalized setting. BYU is not entirely secular in their approach to "biblical studies", of course, but in their case the problem is for that very reason that much worse.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #14:  

Dear Bob,

Only a few lines to wish you a very merry Christmas. May the Lord smile upon you, bestowing his infinite grace and enlightenment. Your work and kind words of support have meant the world to me, as well as to all your readers, I am sure. We are blessed to have someone like you in our lives, to guide and strengthen our resolve, who serves the Lord in truth and faithfulness. I pray that in this coming year your teachings will provide us with the courage required to face the events that are to come upon the earth.

Please receive my warmest regards and highest respect.

Merry Christmas!

Response #14: 

Thank you!

I certainly appreciate your kind words. I am keeping you in prayer day by day for the clarification of your situation and for your "entering into the work of the vineyard" according to the intent you have often expressed.

Here's wishing you and yours a very merry Christmas, and a happy 2014 as well. I am off soon to visit family, but will be back by the new year.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Hi Bob,

If the third (and most severe) of the Satanic lies is ĎGod needs me,í and that we, as Christians, are able to Ďhelp God,í then doesn't this forbid any kind of ministry that we haven't been unambiguously called to do (in the same manner of Moses, Jeremiah, or the 12 Apostles)? After all, God does not need help with Bible instruction or evangelism.

But yet, this seems terribly wrong. We are supposed to help our brother:

ĎWhen I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.í (Ezekiel 18:19-20)

And faith comes through hearing the word of God:

ĎThe hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall liveí (Ezekiel 37:1-5)


Response #15: 

I think anyone who has read much of this ministry will understand that the successful fulfillment of the personal ministry Christ has called us to is the apex of what we strive for here in this world. This is something, however, God does largely for us albeit through us. It is not really something we do "for Him" in the sense I mean it in this discussion you reference. God told Moses "strike the rock", and Moses did so. Later, to the next generation, God told Moses "speak to the rock", but Moses struck it. Whether he did this "for God" or not, he was in the second instance not following God's express will. If a person does the wrong thing in the wrong way, the right thing in the wrong way, or the wrong thing in the right way, in all three cases there will be no reward, even if the person claims, "I am doing this for God". God knows all of our inner motives. Only doing what He wants in the manner He wants is acceptable ministry. If a rich person gives a huge amount of money he may very well find that in truth the poor widow who put in the "least coin" actually gave much more. If he did it with the wrong motives, wanting to be seen and appreciated by other human beings in his giving, then no doubt he has no reward at all. He may claim to be "helping God", but God needs no such help. Being allowed to participate in the plan of God is a privilege, not a right. Those of us who are willing and eager to do so may only do so according to God's rules. We cannot make up our own. We cannot "help God". If the Spirit gives us a gift so as to be able to help our fellow Christians, and if the Son assigns us a ministry wherein we may do so, and if the Father blesses that ministry with effectiveness (1Cor.12), we have in fact helped our fellow Christians according to God's will Ė but God is the One who empowered and directed and consummated our efforts: "We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty." (Lk.17:10 NIV). As true servants of God, our attitude in joining in the work of the kingdom is very important. On the other hand, those who have passed beyond the folly of thinking they are independent of God and equal to Him all the way to the point of imagining they are so superior to Him that He requires their help have corrupted their thinking to a terrible extreme. The only thing left is disposing of Him entirely (in their thoughts).

Yours in Jesus Christ whom it is our great privilege to serve,

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hi Bob,

What is the Biblical difference between a pastor and a deacon?


Response #16: 

In my understanding of the biblical position on these matters (as opposed to the way these titles are employed in various denominations), pastor-teacher is a compound gift which entails supervising the congregation and leading it primarily through the function of teaching. Deacon is an office, not a gift (just as "bishop" is an office: a formally installed pastor-teacher), and entails serving and ministry within a local church (e.g., handling the finances), but not teaching. Here are some links:

Deacons and Elders

Some Questions on Church Polity

Spiritual Gifts (in BB 5)

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #17: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill, it has been a busy couple of weeks, but I nonetheless have another slew of questions to throw your way (it seems every time I gain understanding on my previous set, more questions actually arise).

In my last email I touched on Christians doing local missions vs. flying places to do missions, and I don't seem to be able to find your response. I am just rather curious as to whether you think the Bible better supports people helping those around (near) them vs. physically seeking out those in need (that are far away, like in Africa). Obviously travel in the Biblical times was different than now so "world missions" were probably a somewhat foreign concept. How do you think we should devote our resources?

I did decide to start a blog and have gotten some of the basic stuff up. I most definitely don't want to make you read something if you are excessively busy, but certainly a cursory glance would be appreciated to make sure I'm not making some glaring error (my first post turned out to be more rhetorical than I had intended, but I think most of it is sound).

I borrowed from you rather heavily in my "about the URL" section, which is similar your "about Ichthys" page. Obviously I don't want to pass your work off as my own, and while it certainly echoes the same principles you teach at https://ichthys.com/readbible.htm, the wording is original to me. I also linked that page at the bottom because I think you do a better job at it than me in the first place. Since I'm still new on the whole creating my own "works," is this acceptable as far as paraphrasing stuff goes? I was originally just going to link your page, but kinda thought I should take a stab it myself.

Response #17:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

First, let me compliment you on your blog. Really first rate! I am most impressed with your content, and think you have found an admirable way to engage in ministry. Who knows where the Lord might want to take this? I placed a link for your blog on my "Other Resources" page. Thanks much for the Ichthys link!

I'm not much on "mission trips". In my personal estimation, these are more tourist excursions in many cases than they are true Christian missions. I think local groups overseas and also of course organizations tolerate or even encourage them for the material benefit they bring rather than any spiritual benefit. If that is the case, writing a check would be simpler and more cost-efficient. Biblically speaking, "those sent" are sent to further the Word, and this usually involves sending prepared people on long-term missions to evangelize and to instruct in the truth so that the local population of Christians can be helped in spiritual growth and begin to "do it themselves" thereafter (ideally). But sending people who don't know the local language or culture and who are not even spiritually mature to help put up church buildings where who-knows-what will by taught by who-knows-whom so they can feel good about themselves is not the same thing at all. Of course I am generalizing, and I certainly do not want to give the impression that no "mission trip" ever had any positive spiritual consequences for anyone. However, I do see this shift from traditional approaches as part of the Laodicean trend for the reasons mentioned. Also, to some extent this for me is like the issue of charity. We cannot miss in the news and the ether all the "wonderful things" all manner of charities and charitable individuals are doing (Christians and secular), especially those who are rich and already celebrities. However, I have been around a while now, and I have known and known of plenty of people who have been very hard up and suffering in all manner of ways Ė yet I have never known anyone who has actually been benefitted by such a charity. However, I have known and know of many who have been benefitted by acts of mercy from individual Christians acting on their own. Outsourcing these things makes for good P.R., but I wonder how much reward such high-profile activities will bring at the judgment seat of Christ (if any).

Keep up the good work for Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #18: 

Hi Bob,

I have been thinking about you and hoping and praying that whatever problem you were enduring that it is lightening up for you and that the Lord will deliver you from such problems in His perfect timing. I so admire your calm disposition that you always portray despite whatever you may be dealing with.

I sure appreciated your wise words about the various types of ministries that every true child of God possesses. It is wise and good to be thankful for whatever gift God may have given us as you seemed to be expressing in your message. I feel really blessed lately because in the past it seemed I was being bombarded by all these strange teachings of "sinless perfection", various types of legalism, and other very harsh teachings from others that were not presented in a gentle type spirit normally. I feel blessed because even though it was tough to endure such immature teachings, it did cause me to really research these topics against the Bible, and know with much greater certainty where I stood on these various issues. Then when I discovered your website, you also came to the same conclusions as me on these various topics which boosted my confidence even more. (And there were some topics that I asked you about that I was not 100% sure of the correct answer, and you led me into the correct views on those subjects). So I can really see where "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord" as Romans 8:28 tells us, despite the burdens that we endure in the meantime. And another blessing is that now I am tending to remove people with such harsh teachings from being seen in my newsfeeds, and I am mostly focusing on people who know how to share the truth, but yet can do so in a more loving and respectful tone. These people are extremely few, such as yourself and a very few others, but it just makes me even more grateful to the Lord for them. And I do hope that whatever burden it is that you are/were struggling with, that God does show you the purpose behind that suffering too, because that is just an amazing thing to see what God is really trying to help us learn or grow from when we go through such trials.

I think the Lord is helping to show me a new path of ministry in working with teens along with my family and some other young people. I think many times teens tend to be more mature than some adults at times, and their minds have not become so polluted by false teachings quite as heavily. We are making some plans on this and I feel hopeful and happy about it.

Also thank you for your thoughts concerning the man who did not believe that Jesus was God. I later had to block him because he would not stop his comments. I checked his page before I blocked him, and I discovered that he was a Jehovah's Witness.

We have some rather time consuming family matters coming up, so I'm not sure that I will be getting on the computer all that much over the next few months or so. I will continue in your excellent studies though when I can, since I am continuing in the Tribulation series and so far I have taken over hundreds of pages of notes so I can refer back to them whenever I need to. Your studies have been such a tremendous blessing to my life! I am so grateful for them and for the way God has blessed you with such wisdom on these matters.

Your friend in Christ Jesus our Lord,

Response #18: 

You are always a great encouragement to me. Nothing lifts my spirit more than to hear that this ministry has helped a brother or sister in Christ move forward with our Lord's plan for their life. In your case, I am particularly heartened because the Word has not only strengthened your faith and your walk, but is also bearing wonderful fruit for Jesus Christ.

"This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
John 15:8 NIV

I also appreciate your prayers so much Ė both because I know you actually are praying, and also because the Lord " hears the prayers of the righteous" (Prov.15:29).

We should know something soon. It will either be tidings of an early spring or an indeterminately long additional stretch of winter. God is God in either case, out of the storm or through the storm. To Him be the glory.

Your friend forever in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #19: 

Dear Professor,

I write to you with questions and I have asked for prayer, so I thought I can also write to share my happiness with you, particularly as it's happiness that I owe to you. I was just reading 4th chapter of Luke and when going through verse 22 I thought to myself that this verse maybe wouldn't be so difficult in Greek. And I went to Blue Letter Bible website and put it up in Greek - and I read it and understood all of it! One thing was new to me, that thaumazo epi goes with dative, as in the text book I saw thaumazo used without epi with accusative.

I remember starting Greek and Hebrew just over a year ago and it seemed a hardly achievable task that was being undertaken, but this is no longer so, even if I know I've got a very long way to go. Some of the sentences in Lambdin where scripture verses, and even though many have been adapted, some were not, like Ecclesiastes 1:9, which I understand now also.

I wanted to thank you for your invaluable and continuous guidance, without you it wouldn't have happened. If you think it's something beneficial, I could probably check a verse every now and again in original language, as this makes learning so real - and most exciting.

In continuous prayer for you and your ministry and in our dear Lord,

Response #19: 

This is wonderful news!

You are now already ahead of 99% of pastors in this country. Knowing the original languages is so important, for anyone, that is, who wants to get the unvarnished truth of precisely what the Bible actually says and means.

I am most pleased to hear of your great progress on this front, and encourage you to keep up the good work. I also know that the Lord will bring you into just the right ministry at just the right time.

Thanks also for your good words, but while I'm glad to have been of some small help, the talent God put in and you supplied the hard work.

Keeping you in my prayers as well, my friend!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #20: 

Hey Bob,

Thank you for your answer, and as always, you manage to help clarify things for me with a knowledge I lack so far. I did have a couple of more questions, though, one of them pertaining to the first one. In my particular case of moving out of the country, how would I be able to care for family who remain? Should this effect my decision to go or stay here? I realize this is a very direct question, but I just want to make sure I am not committing this offense, or even come close to doing so, by moving to an area far away where I can't care for my parents.

The other question is where did you learn all of this information? If I recall correctly from your website, and previous conversations, you've gone to school/college for this, correct? Say I were interested in going down that path - not necessarily becoming a pastor, since I really don't feel as though I have the gifts for that, even though I don't know for sure, but how would I go about it?

I remember in a much earlier conversation we had where you suggested that I would never be satisfied being lukewarm, and I don't know if you were referring to never being satisfied and always craving more when it comes to dedication to the faith, but you may be right about that. Every day I strive to do better and be better than I am. Aside from a couple of problems I still struggle with, I've managed to clear off a whole list of old unproductive habits of mine.

Thank you for everything you've helped me through.

Response #20: 

You're very welcome, and thank you for your kind words.

As to big decisions like the one you are contemplating, I suppose all such things should be weighed in the balance. I certainly can't tell you yes or no. I will say that I don't believe that in our modern era with communications and transportation being what they are that the concerns you have raised need necessarily be insurmountable.

As to being lukewarm, et al., we Christians are all members of the Body of Christ. That means that we are all an individual "Body part". We all have a job to do in terms of caring for the rest of the Church of Christ. People tend to think of only "pastors" and occasionally a few other traditional "jobs" (such as missionary or evangelist) as being legitimate or at least "really meaningful" Christian service. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth. The scriptures tell us quite a bit about spiritual gifts (Romans 12, 1st Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4 are the three major concentrations of this information), and looked at together we can say that this a veritable rainbow of gifts (see the link in BB 5). I am also of the opinion that 1) these descriptions are in some cases somewhat elastic in their description (i.e., they may individually compromise a number of things that we would want to categorize as different the way we see things today), and 2) within each gift category, there is a wide variety of "shapes and sizes" of each gift. That is to say, spiritual gifts are as varied as the Body of Christ in the same way that there are a wide variety of "body parts" with all manner of different functions, the sum total of which provides for the health and proper function of a body.

Not only that. Because the Church is so diverse, there all manner of different ministries so that even if two Christians had precisely the same gift and it was precisely the same "shape and size", they would nonetheless be led to employ it in two different ways according as how the Lord Jesus directed them. For just as the Spirit assigns the gifts, so Christ assigns the ministry Ė and the Father decrees the effects (1Cor.12:4-6). As believers, we are rewarded for our spiritual growth (learning and believing the truth), for our spiritual progress (walking more closely with Christ day by day), and for our spiritual production (helping others do the same). The last element of the threefold successful Christian life involves implementing and being faithful to the ministry that the Lord calls each Christian to Ė and that "first best" ministry will always comport with the spiritual gift the person has been given.

That means two critical things:

1) to serve the Lord in the best possible way and to earn the greatest possible reward, we have to respond where the Spirit is leading us and be receptive to the role that the Lord has actually chosen for us. I.e., if we are called to service in an administrative capacity, if our strength is finance and administration and if that is where we are gifted, ignoring that area of potential service to, say, a local church and spending all our time and effort trying to learn the guitar so we can perform in some "contemporary worship service" will be a poor use of our resources and our talents, and will result in a lesser reward than if we had accepted what the Lord actually wanted us to do. We may receive some reward (if the service we do is in any way legitimate), but we will shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak, and will be doing less for Christ's Church than He wanted us to do.

2) It also means that we are not going to be disadvantaged in any way by following God's will completely. If we do a good and faithful job in some supporting role, we have every opportunity to earn just as great a reward as any missionary or evangelist or pastor/teacher. If this seems hard to believe, and if the latter gifts seem more glamorous, well it certainly is true that these teaching ministries are the ones on the firing line, at least most obviously so. Those in the first wave of combat experience the more obvious danger and receive the lion's share of the glory. But what does David in the Spirit say about that?

"Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike."
1st Samuel 30:24 NIV

In my opinion, God "created us as we wanted to be" in our heart of hearts (see BB 4B). The upshot of that truth is that if a person really wants to glorify the Lord and serve the Lord might and main, that said person is perhaps more likely to have been given a teaching gift for precisely that reason. But the converse is also true: we are not rewarded because of the gifts we are given; we are rewarded on the basis of what we actually do with the gift.

Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.
1st Timothy 3:1 NIV

The "overseer" or episkopos (cf. "bishop" and "episcopal") is none other than the pastor/teacher. It is thus not untoward for a believer to desire this office, and my sense is that many more Christian men have teaching gifts than ever do anything with them. And many who begin down that road end up wasting their efforts through improper application. The purpose of a teaching gift is, primarily, to teach (whatever word a person wishes to use to express that fundamental pastor/teacher function):

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2nd Timothy 2:15 KJV

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned [them], and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2nd Timothy 3:14-17 KJV

Deciding whether or not one has a teaching gift is the first step. And achieving spiritual maturity is generally the only sure way to further that process of investigation: as we grow, the Spirit makes many things clear to us, including how we fit into the Body and how the Lord wishes to make use of us.

Once a person does decide he has a teaching gift, the manner of preparation should match the particular ministry to which he has been called. The training for an evangelist will be different from the training of an apologist which will be different from that of a missionary or a pastor/teacher Ė at least in some respects. Clearly, anyone who is going to be making pronouncements about the Word of God needs to know the Bible very well. That means knowing the formal theology and the history behind it; that means knowing the languages in which it was originally written. It also means having both a good, solid knowledge of the scriptures themselves as well as a thorough grounding in the best system of theology and Bible teaching a person can find. There are plenty of specifics to get to, but what I am saying here is that best place to start, both as a means of discovery and also as a fundamental preparation, is to aggressively pursue spiritual growth by means of making the most of the best teaching ministry you can find. If not Ichthys, then the best, most orthodox, most detailed and thorough ministry to be had (if you have not already done so, you might want to check pastor-teacher Curtis Omo's "Bible Academy" at the link). Once progress is made to a high degree of spiritual maturity, other steps should be taken as well Ė but that will depend at least in part upon the particular gifts a person comes to realize they have and the particular ministry to which the feel the Lord's call.

Here are some additional links on this which may be of help:

Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation, and the Purpose of Assembly

Servants, Slaves, Disciples, and Ministers

How important is education for a pastor?

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21: 

Hey Bob,

Thank you for your clarification and suggestions, and I have to admit, I still have a hard time understanding some things. Firstly, this is just all so big and overwhelming, and I feel like I don't really know all what I'm doing. Secondly, we do kind of come back to the question of 'how do I know what my spiritual gift is?', since for many people (especially myself) it's not exactly clear or told directly to us, we have to find out what it is. I know the big part is simply reading scripture, taking it to heart, and trying to follow the Lord and His teaching day by day, but is there anything else we can do to figure out what our spiritual gift is? I know it is a hard question to answer, but when does that moment of realization come where you just 'know' it's what you're meant to do? Like I said, I really just feel kind of overwhelmed by this spiritual gift subject, and like I really don't know what to do.

Response #21: 

My advice would be not to worry about it. If you're not sure, then you're not ready to use your gifts to the full yet in any case. Some people figure this out in a momentary "epiphany"; for others it is a lengthy process of searching. But I don't think it can be forced. The best way to have this spiritual insight is to develop spiritually. So my advice is to keep growing (and of course I recommend giving careful attention to all the materials at Ichthys to help accomplish this), so that the Lord will lead you with His Spirit where He wants you to go and when. We have been called to peace, and we can have that peace at every phase of our development and in every step of the Christian walk Ė in fact we should strive for it. One thing you find at the link in BB 5 about gifts, is that they generally tend to complement the natural talents and proclivities we have and surely have known about since our youth.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

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