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Question #1:

When I was unable to watch TV when I was younger and stumbled on to it I used to think it wasn't Christian, though I couldn't articulate it. I soon thought maybe it could be implied either way with the shows so that it could be either for whoever is watching. But recently I realized that that isn't true. They really are without-God, even spitting in His face. I was watching a modern iteration of Sherlock and they were multiple moral dilemmas (i.e.: being told to shoot this person to save that person, etc), and in life and death situations. And it is just, at no point did anyone pray to God even once – which might be a good idea in such situations. Instead it is save yourself (usually the protagonist always makes it work in the end), no need for God. What an awful hateful thought; a world without Him. So I think I was right in the beginning, they are non-Christian shows. Just good to keep in mind when we watch them.

Also, on the moral dilemma, I am not shooting anyone as, if my captor does shoot someone else if I refuse, that is on them, not me. They are the murderer, and you can't trust someone who would do those things to keep their word anyway. And again, heaven forbid we think about God at all in such extreme situations. Can't have that.

Response #1:

Not shooting anyone is a fine policy!

Yes, whenever confronted with any cultural production of any kind, remembering that this is "human viewpoint" and not "godly thinking" is essential. Keeping such things at arms length is always excellent advice.

It's also good to remember that when we "watch" we are tempted to put ourselves into such situations – as you were doing above. However, we are NOT in "that situation", and – God helping us – will NEVER be in "that situation" . . . or anything remotely similar.

We do NOT have to exercise ourselves about hypothetical situations which aren't going to happen to us. What we DO have to do is prepare for what the Lord has for us. And we know how to too, because He told us:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."
Matthew 16:24 NKJV

As I often say, "simple as 1, 2, 3": we have to put Jesus Christ in first place in our lives, then we have to be willing to lose our lives for Him, and when we have gotten our heads thinking in this godly way – as opposed to the worldly way everyone else is thinking – then we can proceed to "follow" . . . by growing, progressing and producing for Him.

This is all very critical at the time in which we find ourselves. We are – many if not most of us – going to be called upon to give up our lives for Him very soon. Once the Tribulation beings, the Great Persecution will be the end for many of us – but the end for which we ought to be striving and joyously anticipating. To be done with this rotten world once and for all! To glorify our Lord in a manner most pleasing to Him! To have our life's work for Him signed off by Him in the one way that guarantees our eternal reward. Even the least of us will be one with all of us in that glorious day to come, praising our Lord in resurrection and glory for all eternity as part of the perfect, complete and holy Bride of Christ. One moment in New Jerusalem doing that will be worth more than any pleasures or possessions or "rewards" in this debauched and temporary world "enjoyed" for a thousand years. So we don't have to worry about losing anything – including our lives. When we who belong to Jesus Christ lose, that is when we win – the victory of faith and all it entails. As our Lord continues . . .

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul [i.e., "life"]? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul [i.e., "life"]? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works [i.e., whatever has truly been done for Jesus and His Church]."
Matthew 16:25-27 NKJV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

When I was watching it, a woman was doing a 'play-god' thing where she made Sherlock and a couple others pick who lives and dies, and she kept killing innocent people whether her captives did what she wanted or not. And she said 'does it make a difference killing the innocent instead of the guilty," kills two innocent people and then says it didn't feel any different. And I was thinking, 'well just be glad there were no angels around to strike you down, but you still have to worry about the Judgement Seat, I imagine you will feel it then'. The shows REQUIRES there not be a God to make sense, but then there would be no existence for us and that is a nonstarter.

I am sorry. I don't know why, but whenever I see and hear certain things like that, I feel compelled to deny the trick and give a Biblical answer. Even only to myself in private. Anyway, have a great week!

Response #2:

Good comments! I think it's wonderful that you are putting up the biblical perspective as your shield against these negative influences. We would probably all do well to stay away from as many of them as possible and thus exposing ourselves less to such negative influences in the first place.

Keeping you in my prayers.

In Jesus Christ our Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Well I suppose Paul might only know so much about Classical mythological culture simply because he was around it, and the Classics were quoted constantly. But using it in Scripture: perhaps it was the same for his audience and they knew it that way too. And that it was not a 'just getting in it for the fun, and you should too, otherwise you wont get the reference.' That way I could see what you are saying. I mean it does fit a bit with the OT leaning towards having nothing to do with what the pagans think or believe to the point it isn't even on our tongue.

I really don't know. I mean the act of willfully quoting it in your letter that you know will be considered Scripture really isn't keeping it at arms length; if it was something unwantingly learned, and preferred if others didn't float it in the minds, you wouldn't bring it up like that... I don't know. And the Bible does mention mythological creatures, which is in contrast too if it is something we should stay away from.

I am not being sarcastic, just realized it might have come off that way. That is the only way I think to look at it if we are supposed to keep away from all that. I mean you might be right. I am finding when I imbibe it a bit, even when I read the Bible, the Bible stuff gets drowned out and doesn't stick when I hardly got into cultural stuff at all.

Certainly you can do too much.

Anyway, thanks for being patient and longsuffering with me, dear teacher.

I sincerely you and your family are well and happy.

Response #3:

Paul and his knowledge of Classical literature is a great example. I think we can safely say that he wasn't spending his free time as an apostle reading Homer. I think we can safely say that he had virtually NO free time (what he knew he had learned as part of his childhood education no doubt). Socializing with other believers and always with a mind to their edification was probably about all the down time Paul got once his ministry cranked into top gear (aside for a little sleep here and there).

Also, there is the point that it really is impossible to live a normal life in this country and be totally ignorant of all cultural phenomena. You can't go to the grocery store, e.g., and not hear Disney music or whatever playing in the store and not see products which are tied to the latest movie et al. And if you don't want to be totally ignorant about world events, well, the internet and TV and radio are awash in cultural stuff – even if you never see a movie or play a video game or download a song. The stuff is everywhere.

But we don't have to love it. To me, that is the key. You can't love the world and really love the Lord. The same two people can watch / read / listen to the same thing and one can make it into an idol and the other can slough it off. But it is true, however, that the MORE we watch / read / listen to such "stuff", the greater the chance that we are being led a little off the path – and at least we are not doing the good things that the Lord would prefer we do when we do so. It's easy enough to see if that's the case too. All we have to do is check our prayer / Bible reading / Bible study routine. If that's slipping, well . . . And where we are in our walk with Jesus Christ is also a good litmus test. If we are farther away than we should be and not moving in the right direction, then less of questionable stuff and more of the good things that please the Lord is not a bad R/x.

Christians have free will and plenty of options here in Laodicea. The number of believers today who are concerned about this sort of thing – and concerned for the right reasons from the right perspective – are few and far between. So having this issue on the radar is a good sign. Because unless we are considering the importance of the choices we are making, we are probably making questionable ones.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Yes, I believe I see. So for the cultural quotes it was more of a they-already-understood due to be awash with it all around, and not an endorsement to get into it? A byproduct situational thing?

It isn't like there aren't pleasures we can enjoy that don't do that-like food and jewelry (not allowing it to become an idol, of course).

Response #4:

Right. Making rules is a bad idea. We learn by listening to the Spirit as we grow spiritually, and we adjust our approach pretty much daily, if only in small incremental ways. The main thing is to keep our eyes on the Lord and the reward, and avoid over-focus on the world and the things thereof. We are only here for a brief moment, and even if we could snap our fingers and get everything our hearts desired, what good would that do? It would only provide more distractions and less motivation to get to work and do what Jesus Christ wants us to do. After all, just a small cup of cold water offered to another believer in the Name of Jesus Christ receives an eternal reward – ETERNAL, meaning we will enjoy it forever (Matt.10:42). On the other hand, if we possessed the riches of a Bill Gates or a Jeff Bezos or a Mark Zuckerberg, that earthly wealth and all the lusts it could satisfy would only abide for the few short years we have in this world. And on the other side, if all that had distracted us from offering a single cup of cold water we otherwise might have done, then it will have cost us eternally. People being what they are, of course, in fact most who received such a "gift" would absolutely ruin their lives – from God's point of view – and if they even made it to heaven, that would be a major miracle.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 19:23-24 NKJV

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
James 5:1-6 NIV

Keep fighting that good fight, my friend!

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hello there! I was just wondering what your thoughts were on medication. I know people who say it's against God's will to take medication (especially psychological prescriptions) and vaccines. Is this true? They say it's like a form of witchcraft and that we should trust God completely with our sicknesses. I don't take any medication but they convinced me for the most part. I enjoyed your Bible Basics series. I wanted to know what your thoughts were on this. One more thing. Is smoking weed a sin? My friend said God put weed on earth so we could enjoy it. Thanks.

Response #5:

Good to make your acquaintance.

Medication is a question of application – which means it's an individual Christian's decision based upon their personal spiritual growth. It's very clear that it's possible to go too far either way on this issue, with too much medication sometimes being a problem (so as to become addicted to opioids, e.g.), and refusal to have anything to do with medication whatsoever also being often unwise (e.g., refusing to take antibiotics if afflicted by a life-threatening infection).

Just as the word "drug" in English may refer to a legitimate medical therapy . . . or also to a dangerous recreational substance, so in the ancient world the word group pharma- could refer to medicine or potions – depending on what specifically they were and who was using them and why. I don't think any Christian needs to apologize for taking prescription medicine (though anything can be overdone as mentioned above, and a little spiritual common sense in this as in all things is beneficial); on the other hand, I don't know of any biblical justification for using illicit drugs.

Alcohol is a good example of where the issue lies. The Bible condemns drunkenness, but it assumes that everyone uses alcohol (with exceptions like the Recabites being notable for that very exceptionality). It's a question of why and how much. If alcohol is used as part of a meal and not in excess, it has healthy properties, I'm told (cf. 1Tim.5:23); but if a person is a drunk or an alcoholic, clearly he/she is abusing the "drug". Paul had a personal physician (Luke), so while we do trust the Lord to heal all of our diseases (Ps.103:3), that does not mean that we ought to avoid means of health and healing He provides.

Marijuana is a special case for a number of reasons. First, in the USA it's still a federal crime to possess and use it; even though many states have chosen to flout these laws, it's a dubious thing for a believer in Christ to do so. As mentioned, alcohol is not prohibited by the Bible – but it is also not mandated that we use it. So if we were around in this country during Prohibition, buying, possessing and using alcohol would generally have been a crime, and believers clearly ought to steer clear of that.

There are other reasons why I personally would be leery of using Marijuana recreationally, even if it became legal throughout the US. First, as I understand things, the active chemical stays in a person's body in a way alcohol does not (fat vs. water-soluble); second, while it's possible to, e.g., have a beer or a glass of wine with supper and not be intoxicated, I've never even heard of people smoking pot and not "getting high" (unless they run out prematurely). Finally, if I'm not mistaken, Marijuana growers have over the last few decades managed to "breed" their plants so that the stuff is much more potent than what occurs naturally. God made poppies and grain too, but while wine rarely can get to 10% alcohol content (and in the ancient world they mixed it with water to dilute the effect), distilled Brandy has much more and Bourbon gets to somewhere near 50%; heroin is a also refined product much more potent than a garden poppy's seeds, and I think that much of the new Marijuana might fit into that "much more potent through human efforts than God designed it" category as well. We can debate medicinal usage – but praise God that you and I don't need that (I'm assuming)! A believer has to take all information into consideration. Here are some links which have more to say on these subjects:

Prop 19

Federal law and Marijauna

Recreational drugs

Pharmakon

Alcohol use

Sleeping pills and alcohol (several Q/As here)

Christians and alcohol (links here)

I'm happy to hear that you've benefited from "Bible Basics". I hope to have the last installment out sometime before the end of this year (or soon thereafter).

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Thanks a lot. Someone I know said the Bible condones slavery and pointed to Ephesians 6:5. I know it can’t be true so what’s going on?

Response #6:

You're very welcome.

On slavery, the New Testament (you mention Ephesians 6:5 which tells slaves to be obedient) was written in a culture / society that did have slavery. That is a fact (in fact, slavery was essentially universal in human history until the 19th century). This does not mean that the Bible condoned it. That culture / society also had intolerant paganism which persecuted Christians – and we can be sure that the Bible didn't condone that! But the NT needed to give Christians guidance about how to behave in a godly way in an imperfect world – not how to "change it". We are here to respond to the truth, not change the world. "Changing the world" is something the devil does – and never for good. God changes people who respond to Him, one believer at a time. And that is what we have been called to do as well, namely, to change ourselves (through spiritual growth), and to help other change for the good through the truth as well in the ministering of our spiritual gifts.

Both Paul and Peter were persecuted and, tradition says, put to death by the Roman state. And yet they both tell us in the Spirit in no uncertain terms to obey secular authority (Rom.13:1-7; Titus 3:1; 1Pet.2:13-17). That doesn't mean they supported the empire or emperor worship or slavery or any of the other rotten things that occurred at that time. But it does mean that Christians are required to abide by the laws of the country into which the Lord has placed them – just as long as we are not being made to do something contrary to God's will for us to do (like worshiping Nebuchadnezzar's statue as the three friends of Daniel refused to do), or being prevented from doing something that is God's will for us to do (like Daniel praying to God even when it was forbidden).

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hello Professor,

I thought I would ask you about a question that has been on my mind for a while now and one that has just came up in our group about relationships and marriage in 21st century Laodicea and "discerning the gift of celibacy".

I must say I'm having difficulty defining this gift and I don't know whether it should be perceived as other spiritual gifts - in the sense of us either having it or not - or is it possibly a case of God empowering us to live alone despite us not being capable of living such a life, or at least us being convinced that we would be incapable.

Is the empowerment a "gift"? Does it mean that it's something we can receive later on? It just seems to me that this gift is perhaps possibly less "fixed" than others. This is not to say that anyone can live a celibate life, but while it is not possible to "acquire" the gift of teaching, for example, I would be inclined to think that living a celibate life is something one can possibly achieve in the power of the Spirit, making the concept of the "gift" somewhat broader when applied to this particular area.

In the grace of our Lord,

Response #7:

On this one, here is what I find in scripture:

For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.
1st Corinthians 7:7 NKJV

And . . .

His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”
Matthew 19:10-12 NKJV

In the first instance, Paul calls this a charisma, "gift", the same word he uses when talking about spiritual gifts; and in the second, our Lord says hois dedotai, "to whom it has been given". So both passages tell us that without God being involved it is not feasible, and that it is only feasible through God's help. But I don't think either passage suggests that celibacy is a "spiritual gift" in the same way that "helps" or "tongues" or "pastor-teacher" is a spiritual gift. The Bible tells us that there is a spiritual gift of administration (kybernesis) – i.e., the Bible gives it a name and mentions it in the context of gifts (1Cor.12:28). Paul is very circumspect in his language above, merely saying that "each has his own charisma", meaning that there are many gifts or "giftings" and that each receives differently from the Spirit and from God. And our Lord's use of "given" specifically talks about the reception of the principle "better not to marry", not any ability to refrain, much less a "gift of celibacy". So I'm not sure that I would put it that way. It's clear that any Christian does have, with the Spirit's help, the ability to refrain from any sinful activity. And unless and until a Christian is married, refraining from sexual activity is required and failure is sinful. Through no fault of their own, many Christians have found themselves in situations where they have not had a partner or have lost a partner. I don't think we can say that all who are in such a position "have the 'gift' " or have been given some temporary empowerment. I don't see that in scripture and it certainly doesn't line up with my observation of the world. Being celibate is a necessity for everyone at times; staying that way one's life long is a choice (sometimes). Being able to bear up under such pressure effectively and still produce for the Lord is something not possible without His help. And He does give that help in the Spirit for all who are "willing to receive it". But I'm not sure it is right to call it a gift in the same sense that we use the word in 1st Corinthians chapters 12-14. In any case it seems more of a burden one has to endure – or one taken on for the glory of Christ – than a "gift".

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

[omitted]

Response #8:

I don't disagree with anything you've written here -- except perhaps to see all this as an absolute zero-sum contrast to the person you are objecting to. As I have probably written before, "gift" is maybe an unfortunate term to plaster on celibacy. For one thing, it doesn't seem much of a "gift"; for another, it isn't described in scripture that way directly (we're falling into the "create a definition and then back-fill theology into it trap" with that), so we shouldn't think of help given by God to stay sanctified outside of marriage as on a par with, e.g., "pastor-teacher". I would be very reluctant to say that free will is not involved in all such choices, or to say that it is beneficial for all men with the gift of Pastor-Teacher to stay celibate. That sounds like the RC church to me. And Paul puts things precisely this same way, I believe: "For I wish that all men were even as I myself BUT . . ." (1Cor.7:7). This is a very big "but". So everyone has to figure out for themselves what is best on this score, and in practical terms I don't think this can be figured out theoretically because by definition (BUT) it is a case by case thing. Put it this way: if the Lord brings Eve to you (equivalent), you'd be crazy to pass her up (IMHO). But if He does not bring Eve to you, you'd be crazy to run after Jezebel (equivalent). That "bringing" is something that is pretty much beyond our control. We have to trust the Lord that if we really do need a spouse, He will provide; and if we really do not need one, then going out and aggressively trying to "help God" solve that problem is a course fraught with all manner of dangers (reminds me of Abraham and Hagar, but at least Abraham had the excuse of having gotten a big push), but that He will help us through if and until He does provide. Trusting Him is always a test when we are tempted to be impatient with.

I also wouldn't worry about the "more or less time" thing. I think probably ALL of us have proven to ourselves and all who know us by now that even though we love the Lord more than life, nevertheless we waste plenty of time and energy living single; and so we will waste plenty of time married too. Getting more efficient is the key there, and that takes spiritual growth and commitment (not marriage or celibacy) to improve.

Best wishes for having a little fun at least with your last few months in college (even it means wasting a little bit of time).

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #9:

[omitted]

Response #9:

I think you lay this out wonderfully in terms of a good argumentative brief. However, I also think that your introductory "third point of view" is well-taken. Celibacy or not is only "either/or" if we are determined to see it that way, which to my mind would be a mistake. Clearly, nearly all men are celibate – at least for a while. And even married men can end up being celibate (through impotence, age, being widowed, dysfunction in the marriage, divorce, possibly through no fault of their own, etc.).

The way I would rather frame the issue is this: these are not really "options" because life only seems to have "options". In fact, there is only one plan of God which has already foreordained everything – taking into account the choices we actually make of course, but with God superintending us for our good in all things (Rom.8:28). Scripture doesn't tell us not to get married; scripture doesn't tell us to get married. We do or we don't based upon lots of factors, and the decisions either way can be good ones or bad ones, depending on those factors and where we are at spiritually when we make them. But we do know that God is for us and that He is working it all out together for good. So we know that if we needed a spouse, we got one; we might have had to wait, but if so, God helped us with the waiting. We might have decided that we were too busy for marriage; if that was a godly decision, God helped us through the temptations and pressures all the way to the end – or all the way until we realized we were wrong about that, if we were wrong about that, and then He provided for us, possibly again after a wait; and the opposite is true as well.

So the only thing we can really tell about ourselves from the passages which deal with this issue is that provision will be made to help us do what we are supposed to do and what we are willing to do – and there is often a gap of some distance between the two which it is our job to close in a godly way. That is very reassuring for unmarried men, regardless of whether – in their present thinking – whether they are determined not to marry or convinced that they need to be married ASAP (or are just not sure one way or the other). So rather than being an occasion for much soul-searching, these passages say to me, "Don't worry about it; you'll be provided for, with everything you need to stay chaste before the provision comes, whether it comes in the form of a spouse or in the growing assurance that you can do without one, and with a spouse in due time, if in fact you need one".

After all, as mentioned before, we don't know everything about what is going to happen to us in our lives. If we are determined to get married, we can only do so in a godly way if the Lord provides the right person; marrying just anybody will be a mistake. And if we are determined to remain single, the Lord can blow that mindset up in a heartbeat by providing "Miss Right". Our best mindset is faith, patience, and humility: faith that God provides (empowerment of celibacy unless and until marriage), patience to wait on what He has for us (marriage or not), and the humility to realize we don't know everything yet, even about ourselves. As Solon said, Γηράσκω δ’ αεί πολλά διδασκόμενος. Amen?

Your friend in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #10:

[omitted]

Response #10:

Since there is no one-size-fits-all command to stay single or get married, this "celibacy" thing (not only do I not like "gift"; I also don't like the connotations that word "gift" has picked up in many Christian circles) or this "staying single" thing is a matter both of choice and circumstance as I have pointed now many times. I agree that a married man is not to be thought of as somehow less dedicated to the Lord because he got married. Paul seems to have been the only apostle who was single (the only one we know about, anyway, and the fact that he makes a point about "the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas" being married suggests that he was unique). Paul will be highly rewarded. But so will "the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas".

It's not out of place to admire Paul for his sacrifice and even to want to emulate his production (which his sacrifice no doubt helped), but it is not appropriate to denigrate the others because they didn't do the same thing in the same way, or to suggest that they – the other apostles at any rate – will not have their names emblazoned on one of the gates of New Jerusalem. They certainly will.

Is Paul "tops" among the twelve? I think so. But will he outrank Abraham, Moses and David? They were all married (all more than once). So if a man considering ministry stays single, it obviously doesn't mean he'll rank higher than these other great believers just because of that sacrifice. It is possible to glorify the Lord and earn top rewards – the very top in Peter and the other apostle's cases and most great Old Testament believers – and yet be married. However, it is doubtful if a man who is going to be so distracted by not being married because he ought to be married is going to do as well as he would have being married (in my opinion at any rate).

Again, this is only partially to be seen as "a choice", because whether we are or are not better off married is an absolute thing which the Lord knows, and also because we can't be married to Mrs. Right unless and until the Lord produces her for us (good luck hunting her up on your own – and there is no such thing as luck). This sort of calculus applies to all other such decisions a man preparing for ministry has to make. In my own case, yes, I thought about these things; yes, I made decisions about them; but the good ones only worked because the Lord empowered them; and the bad ones didn't work out regardless of the effort I put in on them.

I don't think Elijah was married . . . but Moses certainly was – twice. David had lots of wives. If I could do nearly as well as either of these two great believers I'd be thrilled. Clearly, marriage didn't prevent Moses from being effective for the Lord, and even being married to many women didn't keep David from being one of the greatest believers who ever lived. Did the two of them make mistakes? Yes. But so did Elijah. And so did Paul. And so do we all.

When it comes to earning a living, we know – from Paul in particular – that we all have to earn our daily bread (2Thes.3:10). Paul did receive donations from some of the churches in Macedonia in particular. Seems to me that working full time so as to be able to minister the Word of God without ever having those who are ministered provide financial support could also be considered a sacrifice. Paul did make tents. But not all the time. And we know that "the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (1Cor.9:14), and that Paul only resisted this in the case of the Corinthians because of their bad attitude.

It's always a danger to think about things like this the wrong way. If we take excessive pride in being "celibate" or in our "tent-making", that is verging on negating whatever sacrifice we are making by turning it into works. We are all "worthless servants" (Lk.17:10), and anything good we do is always less than we could have done. So on the one hand the Lord is fair and will not "be unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Heb.6:10). Even a cup of cold water given in His Name will not fail to be rewarded.

Of course, more is better, to glorify Him and to bless us with a good eternal reward. And reward motivation is legitimate (Heb.11:6), so on both hands we want to do what we can to maximize our production: for His glory and for our reward, two sides of the same coin. It's all about the objective. That said, in growing spiritually we come to know ourselves better, our strengths and our weaknesses. Once we see that we have the gift of pastor-teacher, we figure out then what's the best way to accomplish the objective of preparing to use it and put it into practice for Jesus Christ. We make the sacrifices we need to make to that end because it is practical to make them – to reach the objective: reward for us, glory for Him.

Taking Greek and Hebrew at university was a sacrifice for you, not at all easy, requiring in your case a change of schools and programs, and in the end more time put in both vertically and horizontally to bring everything to a successful conclusion. Of course. You need the languages. But that is true you see of all of these things. You need a job to support your ministry. The type of job really is neither here nor there except as it fits you and what you are trying to do: the objective. You may need a wife. If so, that then is also a practical consideration. Reading that into the calculus (and that then affects job choice) is not unwise but highly reasonable: how to get to the overriding objective the best way?

If it turns out that we are really being selfish in any of these decisions, the Lord will show that to us sooner or later even if we try to refuse to look at it. But to me, your university work was a sacrifice. Being willing to work full time to support a ministry is also a sacrifice (we can argue about the type of work as we have but that really is a tactical rather than a strategic decision which only you can make). And even admitting to yourself that you are not cut out to be single is a kind of sacrifice as well, being realistic in your prosecution of the ultimate goal, giving up on what others find "admirable" (i.e., "celibacy") as an unworkable option for you (again, even so you have to "wait on the Lord").

If you know you'll never be able to get on with things absent being married, then getting married and being willing to take on the load that entails (and it is far more of a load than unmarried people can really appreciate) is more of a sacrifice to my mind than it is self-indulgent. The way the RC church and many people in our culture think about these things is dead wrong. "Celibacy" can be prideful and arrogant. It all depends on the person. More to the point, it depends on the objective and your plan to achieve it. God is able to give you a wife who is more of an asset than a liability in achieving for the Lord what you hope to achieve – and in winning top rewards – but you'll no doubt have to be patient.

So this all goes back to viewing yourself and your talents and ticks with cold, hard realism, and then planning and pushing for the best way forward to achieve the objective the Lord has given you.

Finally, I think it's good that you have gotten some push back, a little from me and more from our friend. It's always best to get to the point of being able to say that you are certain about yourself and what you want to do and why you want to do it that way (and being challenged on these things is a refining process). Because it doesn't matter what we think (or what anyone else thinks). It only matters what you think and what the Lord thinks. And as you have been committing all this to Him and prayerfully seeking for answers, you've been led by the Spirit to face these decisions – decisions which are yours alone to make and which you are making for the Lord's glory and for your eternal reward. Putting the Lord first is the key, and that means in practical terms putting the objective of a fruitful, rewardable ministry first.

How you accomplish the above is an individual thing that no one else can judge or should even try to judge (Jas.4:11-12; cf. Rom.14:4).

Your fellow workman in the vineyard of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:

[omitted]

Response #11:

On your question, first, I'm only supposing Paul ranks higher (I may be prejudiced about that); the Bible doesn't say which gates of New Jerusalem have the names of which apostles. But, clearly, being in that group out of all the billions of members of the Church is pretty exclusive, and so much so that this is a little bit like arguing whether Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg is richer (it may depend on what the stock market did today). When you're that rich, what are a few hundred billion dollars more or less? Spiritually speaking, I'm sure that will be the same for Peter and Paul regardless of who tops whom. Their rewards will be astronomical.

Secondly, when you say that marriage "is certain to limit ministry production to some greater or lesser degree", I wouldn't agree. That may be true in some hypothetical, theoretical abstract (maybe), but there are no such things in the plan of God. There is actual you and there is actual me and there is actual everybody else. So even if we might allow that marriage would hypothetically detract from production (something I don't necessarily agree with; see below), that has nothing to do with you or me if we need to be married to even get to square one in production. So it's a false choice to pose if there really is no practical alternative in terms of how best for us to do what the Lord wants us to do.

My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?
1st Corinthians 9:3-6 NKJV

If you read further in the context of this passage you will find it verified that Paul is talking about being supported in ministry. So why does he even bring marriage into this? The passage, while it does talk about being married or not, is not talking about the conjugal aspects of marriage. Rather, it is talking, in my view, about the benefits of having a wife to help out. Paul didn't have that help. Nowadays, the idea that you would get married so that your wife could bring in a paycheck and you would be free to study and teach as a pastor-teacher is offensive to many people. But that relationship, at least the wife doing the cooking and the sewing and all of the other necessary tasks while the man did the evangelizing and the studying and the teaching, was not seen as strange. Paul was not married as far as we know, so he had no "help-meet" to come with him and care for his needs. This also relieved the congregations he ministered to of the responsibility of financial support for her as well as for him (and any children, etc.).

Seeing a wife as a practical asset in our present day society is a bizarre way to look at things, but that is how Paul was looking at it. He did not have one – so the Corinthians did not have to pay her meal ticket (and he wouldn't let them pay his), but this is a "sacrifice" because there is no one to do his laundry, mend his socks, cook his dinner, fetch his water, etc., etc. One of my seminary acquaintance's wife worked and paid the bills and kept the house while he got his degree (this has not historically been an unusual division of labor for men preparing for other professions either); it didn't work out in the end but the purpose was noble enough. In Paul's case, having an entourage with wives would make everything less mobile and less responsive (children and nests having to be moved, e.g.); so this mobility and being less of a burden to those ministered to was the positive side of the sacrifice. Does Paul get "points" for that? He gets "points" like we all do for the production he was given to produce which he actually produced. God gave him that based upon what he was willing and able to do – as He does for us all.

So the answer is the same answer I've been giving you all along. We are who we are and we have been given what we have been given and we are judged on that basis not based on what we don't have (cf. the widow who gave the "least coin"). If we are not capable of being unmarried then agonizing over that would be like agonizing over not having the gift of pastor-teacher if we have not been given that gift. Does that limit our production? It certainly changes how we can be and will be used in the plan of God, but after all no woman has that gift and you can be sure there will be many highly rewarded women as well as men at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Paul, who again I hold up as one of the to be most highly rewarded believers, says that he refuses even to subject himself to an evaluation of this sort before the time (1Cor.4:4-5). We don't have a scoreboard; and we should resist the temptation of picturing what would be on it – even as we do legitimately motivate ourselves by running for the reward. That's the balance. Those are the two in and out of bounds markers.

Fifty to a hundred years ago congregations hired pastors but they expected the man to be married and they expected his wife to work just at hard at the job as he did (even though she got no pay and had a husband and family to take care of). That was the way it was with my parents for sure. Finding a wife who is truly an asset to you and to your future ministry could very well make you much more productive than you ever would have been alone. Someone who is truly and fully supportive of what you are trying to do for the Lord would have her ministry in supporting you and yours. Having a companion on top of that would just make it all the more blessed. But before we launch into rapture, we have to remember that marriages also produce tribulation always, even the best of them (1Cor.7:28), and finding an "asset woman" like THAT in today's world is like looking for a needle in a thousand haystacks: you're only hope is that God will plunk her down right in your path. And that is actually a reasonable hope. You just have to be patient and trust Him that He knows what's best for you, who's best for you, and when it's best for you. I certainly can't tell you with specificity what He's got for you on this score – or even that this will ever happen; I can tell you that He is definitely working things out for you for the good in every single way, and this "problem" is no exception. I can also tell you that I'm praying for you.

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Hi, so nice to have found your site while randomly asking questions via Google and finding the topic in your website. I enjoyed reading your work and decided to send you an email on an issue in my life right now. It seems to be controversial so I just wanted to get your thoughts on it all. My sister is gay and she is planning on getting married. As a follower of Christ, I know we are to love but I also know the importance of what an actual wedding is between man and woman. How should a follower of Christ handle a situation like this?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Blessings

Response #12:

Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks for your good words about this ministry.

If you've been reading Ichthys for a while, you know my reluctance to give advice when it comes to matters of personal application. I will say that you seem to me from what you have written here to understand the issues perfectly well.

One thing to keep in mind in terms of this issue being "controversial" as you put it is that marriage is not something God invented just for Christians. Marriage is something God provided for the entire human race. Since marriage is not a "Christian sacrament", that means it is not an institution which has anything to do with the Church. Christians do get married, that is to say, but marriage as a legal matter in any given state or country is rightly regulated by that state or country. That has always been necessary too because of all of the legal and property implications of a marriage contract. The state thus has the right as an agent of God to make the rules, and Christians have to abide by those rules whether we think they are completely just or not (Rom.13:1-7; 1Pet.2:13-17; cf. Tit.3:1-2) – just as long as we personally are not being forced to do anything wrong ourselves and are not being prevented from doing what God has called us to do (Act 4:19).

Practically speaking, unbelievers do all manner of things that no genuine Christian would ever think of doing. That is their business. It is a mistake and a trap for Christians to get involved in judging the behavior of non-Christians or, even worse, to get involved in political efforts to regulate the behavior of others based on (perceived) Christian principles. We are responsible for what we think, do and say – responsible to the Lord. It is not our business to pass judgment on what the world does. There would be no end of that, and crusades always end badly – because God is never in them. So while we would definitely not want to do anything abysmally wrong ourselves as believers in Christ, and while we would not want to suggest that anything abysmally wrong is actually right or associate closely with someone calling themselves a believer who does so, we live in the world, we cannot "go out of the world", and being in the world will bring us into contact all the time with unbelievers who do all manner of things no genuine Christian would ever think of doing (1Cor.5:9-13).

Family constitutes a special case, because while we are free to pick and choose our friends, and while it is incumbent upon us to separate from other believers who are going down very wrong and dangerous paths, we can't very well not be related to the people to whom we are related by birth. On top of that, in many cases we love them very much, even if we don't approve of their actions. Navigating situations such as the one you are describing is the sort of thing that takes great spiritual maturity to "get right". On the one hand, we don't want to send a message that the Bible is not the Bible or that the Lord is not the Lord or that we do not prize Him and His Word above all else. On the other hand, we also don't want to burn all bridges to someone we love and whose salvation we dearly desire. Just what to do and how to do it (if anything), what to say and how to say it (if anything), are matters of application which only the believer in question has a chance of getting right, and only with prayer and God's help – and as I say, being spiritual mature is helpful too.

I do promise to say a prayer for you and for your sister as well.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Well I just had a quick question related to living in Christian love. You will probably get a chuckle at this phrasing when you read the actual question.

So, sometimes random men will ask us girls to smile for them. And I mean, random. You can be waiting at a bus stop, and they will say things like 'you should smile more.' And, my reaction at this point is to ignore, or give an incredulous look silently. I mean, living in Christian love and respecting our elders doesn't mean this kind of thing right? It isn't rude to say 'why don't you mind your own business.' right? We are strangers. I owe you nothing. Right?

Response #13:

The things young women have to put up with these days. What with all the predators out there, I would have to advise anyone to stay away from any forward and inappropriate behavior like this as well of course as from those exhibiting it.

Good argument for a carry permit.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #14:

I mean there is a weird undercurrent I have seen from childhood onward where, superficially there are rules and a way to behave that everyone knows and puts a show of agreeing with and following under certain circumstances, but don't really otherwise and break consistency AND applaud others who break them. As an adult, an example would be like calling in sick when you aren't or stealing paper from work. Even in the Bible it is okay to ignore the letter, or do what feels right even if it is against principle under certain circumstances. It is so weird to me. I have been trying it a bit and it is nice to feel normal.

This actually makes me think of something more important that I struggle mentally with. I tried to find where you talked about what 'one's love growing cold' meant, but couldn't remember or find where. I think you mentioned civility and politeness. But those require some kind of guidelines and rules that can be relied upon so that one could know what will and wont offend and what is and isn't appropriate. We just don't have that. I don't think that can be what love growing cold meant. Otherwise we are faulted for something we cannot control. I don't know. Maybe it is more in related to priority, and necessities (than niceties). In a time like the Tribulation, it seems stupid to open and trusting (one might say rude).

Response #14:

First, I never advise people to put themselves in danger on the one hand, nor to be unnecessarily impolite on the other. This is an area of application. There is someone saying "hello!" and it's clear it's just an innocent pleasantry; and then there is someone saying "hello!" where it's very clear from the circumstances, the person's appearance and demeanor and anything else the Spirit is telling us that it's time to run for it – because said person means to scam us or assault us or rob us or whatever. Spiritual common sense takes both situations into account as well as the myriad others which lie between.

Secondly, we are responsible to the Lord, not to other people. If the Lord were concerned about what other people "felt" about non-essentials, He probably would have told us so. We are concerned for the salvation of others and their spiritual growth; we do what we can to help the willing. We are not concerned about the nutty things that go on in other people's heads (and we can't even guess one percent of that I'm sure) – unless we become aware that said nuttiness is about to boil over in our direction (then it's "fight or flight"). As long as we are truly putting the Lord first in our lives, spending time in prayer and Bible study, trying to apply the truth we are learning to our daily lives and help others do so as well, we have a good reward to look forward to. And it's all about the Lord and how He will be evaluating us – not what other people may think.

On love growing cold in Matthew 24:12, this refers to the civil discord represented by the red horse in Revelation (link). This refers to believers only insofar as they swing towards apostasy (as one third will). The Tribulation will be a time of great lawlessness once the mystery of lawlessness – already in train – is let loose without restraint. So if you think people out there are "difficult" now, just wait. All the more reason for us believers to pull out all the stops, throw non-essentials overboard, and prepare like there's no tomorrow. There is a tomorrow, of course, but the one we're looking forward to is the day of the return of our King.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #15:

Hi Dr. Luginbill,

On Ephesians 6:5-9:

I don't think being a workhorse is what He wants, right? Because some management, for their hard workers, just pile more and more on when you do that. For example I received almost twice as much work as usual every single day this week, and my manager wanted me to take on a project, and I had to request overtime (which they dislike). So instead of at least acknowledgment (forget appreciation) that I am already at double, she is miffed I didn't ALSO do the project within the 8 hours.

Plus we have to last at least six decades working nowadays. I concluded a while back that my goal is to be slightly better than average. What do you think?

PS: On the Church of Ephesus, I finally got what you were saying with their problem being neglect of Bible teaching. I had previously been reading what the 'church' is now into it. Now, I don't see anywhere in the NT where the church is commanded to do charity or worship corporately. The only corporate things I can think of are for prayer and communion, and the goods works left do seem to fit with Bible teaching. Plus first love is a big hint...our first love is God, to seek Him. I am so used to the add-ons I had a hard time letting it go. It is like wearing tinted glasses.

Response #15:

In terms of "six decades", I seriously doubt that there is half time left.  Still and all, for how much time is left, it sounds to me as if considering a different employer would not be a bad idea.

"Bad bosses" are endemic in our culture, in my observation, as is this phenomenon you note of unequal treatment. Lack of appreciation also seems to be the rule, rather than the exception.

I think your intention of trying to do a good job – in fact a better than average job – in spite of everything, is honoring to the Lord. But we are not slaves, so it's not wrong to be on the lookout for something better.

I promise to be keeping your job situation in my prayers more.

Nice comments on the church-visible! I am working away at BB 6B; that will explore and explain all of these issues [posted at the link]. But it will be a bit before I'm done with it (way behind schedule [BB 7 perhaps this winter]).

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #16:

If all goes well, our "graduation" is set. Please pray for me! The other day in "flight attendant school," we were learning how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, and it took me a few tries to get it right. My classmates on the other hand were able to succeed very quickly. Some of then were trying to help me, but others were laughing at my repeatedly failed attempts...and one even commented that she would have died by now if she were really choking. It's been on my mind because it reminded me of how I felt when I was growing up.

I went to a small private academy (only about 30 students in the whole school at the time). I received a classical education there. The curriculum was challenging for me, but everything seemed to come so easily for my classmates. I was always the last one to finish a test, the last person to finish a race in gym class, and I consistently received the lowest grades compared to everyone else.

Subsequently, no one ever wanted to pair with me for class projects, or pick me for their team in gym class... I was laughed at for being so "stupid." I even got held back a year in my math class because I did so poorly. Eventually, I got better at my studies, but I was never as good as my classmates. And my reputation for being "stupid" never quite went away during my time there.

It didn't help how my legalistic church at the time made me feel, if you remember me talking about my experience there. I went to my pastor for guidance. I told him about how my classmates would call me stupid and laugh at me and torment me in gym class and not invite me to their parties or associate with me at all. And he told me to use the experience as motivation to get better at my studies and to exercise more, and then maybe my classmates would treat me differently. I felt even worse after speaking with him.

When I transferred to a different school for high school, my eyes were opened to a whole different world. It was still a small school, but instead of having only 5 other classmates, I had 40+ of them. At this new school, I found out that the curriculum at my old school was a year ahead of their math class, so I was able to be placed in the same math class as the other students in my grade rather then being held back like I was at my old school. This made me start to realize how challenging the curriculum was at my old school compared to other "normal" schools.

Long story short, I ended up graduating with honors at this new school. I was surrounded by "normal" people (compared to the academic geniuses at my old school who never seemed to struggle with anything). I started to realize that I wasn't as stupid as I thought I was. I started to realize that I wasn't a disgusting, idiotic, pathetic excuse for a human being who would never amount to anything and was only worthy of damnation (which I know is an extremely dramatic and ridiculous thing to believe, but is truly how awful I felt growing up).

I have never liked the popular notion of our culture to "love yourself." But I took the opposite extreme as a child, hating myself, which isn't right either. It has been a lifelong struggle to cope with the fact that sometimes it takes me longer to understand things than it does for other people. But now I understand that strength, power, intelligence, beauty -- whatever it may be -- all of these things are gifts from God.

I compare it to what my mother did for me when I was a child. She used to bake the best brownies in the whole world (or so I thought). One time, she let me help her bake them, and we took them to my family's Christmas party where she told everyone that I had baked them all by myself. And I happily took the credit. This is how I understand it when I see others trusting in how "intelligent" they are or how clever or rich or powerful they think they are -- they're taking credit for a gift that God gave them. Any strength that they have can be taken away, leaving them with nothing apart from God's grace. I think about this when I listen to my classmates bragging about their designer clothes or boasting about how "easy" this training program is for them.

I want to end this email by saying that while others may trust in their "horses" and their "chariots," as for me, I want to be like Paul and take heart in the fact that "when I am weak, then I am strong."

In Him,

Response #16:

Wonderful!

I'll definitely be keeping you in prayers – not long now until graduation!

Thanks for the update and for the testimony. I hope you won't mind me posting it (anonymously) at some future date. This is a story almost all true Christians can relate too. After all, "not many mighty" are called (1Cor.1:26). And when it comes to not being immediately proficient in something like what you relate, very few of us don't have similar experiences. When I was at OCS (PLC) working on getting my commission, we had a "field day" at the end of the course, games and contests and whatnot – not optional (this is the USMC we're talking about). Anyway, in one relay race we had to cross the 50 yards or so by doing cartwheels. If it had been a foot race, I'd have been in the front pack. But cartwheels? Well, I had never done one in my life, and I'm not exactly an athlete, so I couldn't pull it off then on the fly. So I practically killed myself doing somersaults to get from point A to point B. Out of a large group of men, I was very surprised to see that I was the only chump who couldn't do it. Still remember it . . . but it did NOT ruin my life (or keep me from getting my commission). Difference here: you actually DID end up doing it. That's a win in my book.

I love your positive outlook my friend, relying on the Lord and not on yourself, and I absolutely agree – and am greatly encouraged by your conclusions. That is really what true godliness is: seeing things from God's point of view, and acting / thinking / speaking accordingly.

Keeping you in my prayers!

In Jesus our dear Savior,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hey Dr and Professor Luginbill,

On the verses where Paul mentions physical exercise: I have read a couple diverging versions. One of them make it seem like he is discouraging exercise and the other like he isn't discouraging, but actually encouraging and simply saying that godliness just comes first. In the Greek, does it show one way or the other?

I feel this is important. I have found that when I exercise, it is possible it helps me in other areas of life too. When I don't I feel more prone to laziness and not straining in other areas as well. Anyway, does the Greek show his feelings about exercise, or does the translations just take a bit too much license?

Respectfully,

Response #17:

Talking about 1st Timothy 4:8, right? I've not seen any good translations of this verse, and many of them are misleading. The critical phrase is πρὸς ὀλiγον which no one seems to understand is about time and corresponds to the last part of the verse. This verse actually says, "physical exercise IS beneficial – for a little while [i.e., in this life and in this world only] – but godliness is beneficial in every way, having the promise of [benefitting our spiritual] life, both here and now and the one to come". In other words, exercise is in fact good; but it's only good for the life "now", whereas godliness (seeing things in truth from God's point of view and acting accordingly) is good for that life "in every way" and also for the eternal one to come. So there is no comparison when it comes to goodness, but that doesn't mean that exercise is not important or beneficial – it certainly is and Paul says so; it does mean that godliness is more important even than such a good thing as physical exercise.

Wishing you a good week ahead!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #18:

[concerned about an unfair grade]

Response #18:

As to your request, I'll be keeping this in mind and in my prayers. Deciding when and how to "fight" over such things is a tricky issue. I only rarely experienced unfairness in grading in all my 15 years of higher education. The one time as an undergraduate was indeed from a TA (he had a crush on my girlfriend at the time who got a much better grade in the class than I did, even though I attended all the labs for her and did all the work!). The other three times were in seminary. Looking back though, all three were more a question of me taking a particular tack of interpretation I knew wasn't going to be well received – because I felt it was the truth. I didn't fight any of these, and it didn't make any difference in the end. The Lord got me into UC Irvine with a full scholarship package and they didn't give a hoot about what I did in seminary anyway.

No one is going to "feel good" about such treatment. What I experienced in seminary would STILL rankle me . . . if I let it. There have been times in my life when I "fought the fight" over related issues with those in authority and when it probably wasn't necessary; other times, it WAS necessary – and very costly.

So contesting this is a decision you have to make for yourself of course. I would be on your side either way, but I do have to say that if a person is doing their job as unto the Lord, there is more peace of mind in letting Him take care of these sorts of issues rather than strapping it on oneself – especially when the consequences are really minimal. That's my life experience, for what it's worth.

Like I said, I'll put this on the prayer list for tomorrow.

Your friend in Jesus Christ – and your fellow shepherd of His sheep.

Bob L.

Question #19:

Hi Dr L!

I was thinking about what you said about believers and politics. I was watching a conservative comedian that I like (I mean, I don't like/agree with everything he says, but, who agrees with everything someone else says?), and he did this one bit where he satirized one of those Bob Ross Joy of Painting vids. And, I get it is a free speech thing and that he is trying to make a few points. But this might be an example of conflict in our minds between political/cultural ideals and what God might want us to do. I mean I really like him, he does often make interesting ideas and bits. Of course that might be that it is just nice to see a counter voice to the mainstream (I mean wanting to be a housewife or devote yourself to God (unless it is a non-Christian god) is like blasphemy to the mainstream). He does have millions of followers (i.e., viewers), so it is not completely off the road.

I don't know. Do you agree with the idea of free speech as we understand it today? Do you think it is something God would want? I am trying to think in the OT when our Lord would speak, what kind of language and speech tactics He would use...cause I think He did use shock value and insults a couple times...

Response #19:

We all have our preferences when it comes to things that entertain us. As I've gotten older – and hopefully as I've grown closer to Christ – there is less and less of it that I can tolerate for any length of time.

Happy is the man who does not walk in the path of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. His delight, instead, is in the law of the Lord, and he meditates on His law day and night. He will be like a tree planted where the waters divide, which will yield its fruit in its season, and whose leaf will not wither.
Psalm 1:1-3

In scripture, parrhesia is courage in speaking the truth. That's the "free speech" scripture is concerned about – and we can probably all use a little work there.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Well, I guess I am a bit more permissive in some ways, simply do to the bit of culture for my gen that I did grow up around. I remember you really disliked my bringing up certain topics, and I definitely understand for someone (I am saying this respectfully) your age.

I used to have a very legalistic and harsh mindset. I was out of the bubble in our culture, so I don't respond the same. I have had strong reactions when I see our society mocking our Lord. What I try to do is look in the Bible and see what is explicitly forbidden, and how He has interacted with the world. I have found all the verses must balance each other to have some verses saying only kind speech, and others where He did not exactly use such speech (just as an example). It may just be my background, and that if I came from a much more permissive foundation like I suppose you did, I might tighten up a bit as I get older. I guess I am doing it backwards. I don't know.

I do respect your say-so though.

Response #20:

No worries, my friend. This is an application issue. I think that the old "rule" of never discussing sex, politics or religion was a great one – except for the last part when it comes to contact with someone genuinely interested in the truth (otherwise, that part holds too). Learning to be circumspect in what we say is not easy.

But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
James 3:8 KJV

And yet we do have particular guidance on this issue.

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
Ephesians 4:29 KJV

Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
Ephesians 5:4 KJV

As mentioned, freedom of speech biblically means courage in sharing the gospel (which also should not be done with foolishness, casting pearls before swine).

I do know what you mean about environment coloring this issue, believe me – I spent four and half years in the USMC. But there can be a "sweet spot" between being a legalistic, holier than thou snob on the one hand, and just "going with the flow" on the other. It takes spiritual maturity to find it.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Bob,

It has been a long time since I reached out to you, and that’s been my loss. I read the posting, and have to say the military analogy is fantastic. The recruit that understands the cost and sacrifice that he is signing up for, is the one that will make it in the service. Your analogy holds true in so many ways. Even though the recruit has counted the cost, and is ready and trained for the work, he needs to be actively working.

When I was a reservist in the Navy, we would do our weekend drills at Camp Smith in NY. Military readiness is obviously of huge importance, and they were periodically having us perform drills to maintain levels of readiness. Unfortunately, the truth was, a lot of time was spent sitting around, talking guy talk, like high school kids. I truly remember feeling a little shocked and discouraged that I wasn’t a part of some “noble” cause. Almost like the honor was removed from it, and we were just warm bodies waiting to be used if they called on us. Reading your analogy, it struck me that the reason I felt that way in the reserves was that I didn’t have purpose. I wasn’t called to a part of a specific plan but called only to be used if, and when, needed.

I think that is what happens to many of us Christians. If we are not taught by our teachers and preachers that God has an expectation of us, that we are called to grow, we sit stagnant. We drift further from the Word and God, and ultimately risk losing ourselves to the world. I think your post makes me realize that the expectation that God has for us. It keeps us in Christ and growing, and not getting consumed by the cares of this world. If our walk is limited to one hour sermons on Sunday, we run the risk of being consumed by the world.

It is the recruit who understands the cost that makes it through boot camp, and it is the soldier with a purpose that has a fulfilling and successful military career. Likewise, it is important to be in the Word continuously, learning and growing in knowledge, but we need to put that knowledge to use. Not only for the benefit of the hearer, but for our benefit.

So glad to call you my friend, and will continue to read your work. You have been a real blessing for me!

Your friend

Response #21:

Great to hear from you, and thanks for this, my friend!

I appreciate all your good words very much.

I'll getting around to posting these wonderful insights at some point (email posting can run as much as a year or more after the fact).

Keep fighting the good fight for Jesus Christ our Lord.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #22:

This conversation has helped me so much and I like your website very much! Yeah, a lot of the churches I've been to have all been about games, food, socializing, and the rest. There were some good messages of course but a lot of the time the pastor starts ranting and forgets about scripture completely. I appreciate you answering my questions. I don't want to force you to answer them if you're busy. I have another: Are soldiers in the military sinning because they kill other people? Also, is lying for a good reason a sin? Like if it's to protect someone? I think I barely remember reading something where you touched on that subject. Please answer any time you like, Mr. Luginbill. You've been a big help.

Response #22:

There are plenty of examples in the Old Testament where God actually gives orders to the Jewish leaders to use the military to exterminate ungodly peoples. We are not Israel, but the principle of self-defense is good for individuals and nations too. So as long as military personal are following legal orders, there is no biblical issue with using force to carry out national defense (the same goes for the police as well, and for individuals who are defending life and limb of self and family before the police can arrive).

As to lying, we are supposed to tell fellow believers the truth (Eph.4:15; Col.3:9, e.g.), but the Jewish midwives who lied to Pharaoh and thereby preserved the lives of Jewish males are commended and blessed by God, and Rahab who lied about the Jewish spies is on the honor role of great believers in Hebrews eleven for doing so. Point: we tell believers who mean us no harm the truth; but we do not owe the truth to those who are going to use the information to harm ourselves and others (see the links: "is it ever permissible to lie?" and "#2").

Yours in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hello Robert,

I remember you saying you served in the USMC. As I reflect on our fallen soldiers and what suffering they endured, I see that in many ways it was similar to the suffering of the faith heroes in Hebrews 11. These men truly were, and are, those of whom the world is not worthy.

I have great admiration for those who live and die for a cause other than feeling good and filling their stomachs, even for the soldiers who are supporting the wrong cause. God knows which of these young men would choose Christ given the opportunity to make an enlightened choice. A choice free from the bias of wrong teaching, devastating life experiences, and intense emotions.

In the heat of battle, there is no time for splitting theological hairs, only for crying out to God even as one engages in combat, Jesus have mercy! Have mercy on my opponent! We only want to defend our countries, obey our commanding officers, and do what is right!

Your comments, Bob....

Response #23:

Absolutely, we honor the sacrifice of those who have suffered and died in battle defending our country.

But of course, every human being is here for the same reason, namely, to decide where they desire to spend eternity by facing the issue of Jesus Christ. That is true of people we admire and of people we don't. All who put their faith in Jesus Christ are saved, whether we admire them or not; all who don't are lost, whether we admire them or not.

As to the rest of us, we're all combat soldiers in our Lord's army too, after all, fighting a spiritual battle that human beings can't see, but one which is real enough and then some (Eph.6:12).  And once we really "hit the beach" during the soon to come Tribulation, I think you'll find that the fight we'll have to fight will be every bit as intense as physical combat . . . entailing in many cases giving up our lives for our Commander through martyrdom (see the link: "The Great Persecution").

It's all about Jesus Christ.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #24:

Dear Bob,

Please clarify Luke 22:38. After the Lord told the apostles to buy a sword: "And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough."

The two is enough is what's confusing unless only two would face the need. This is generally taken as authorization for self defense. That two were enough suggests defense rather than offense. What is unclear is a) was this addressed to a group that two were enough - not really plausible since they would go different directions or b) did one have two swords? Or c) did two have a sword each?

One had a sword (Matthew 26:51) and used it. The Lord didn't object to him using it, He objected to the timing. So I assume two each had a sword. Could this possibly have been an instruction for the others to buy one?

Again, thank you for your weekly email postings. You always reveal aspects I haven't considered.

Yours in our Lord Jesus Christ,

Response #24:

Good to hear from you, my friend, and thanks for your kind words.

On this passage, we're told what we're told. Putting ourselves into the situation, the disciples had a common purse (from which Judas stole) so they had many things in common and that probably included all manner of "gear" that they packed from place to place. The "gear" apparently included two swords which would have been valuable to have for many reasons one can imagine besides self-defense. In any case, our Lord is speaking a principle about the change between the way things were during the brief time He was being offered to Israel and the 2,000 year Church Age to follow. While the 12 and the 72 were miraculously protected in their evangelistic journeys, the same would not be the case for all the future travels of the apostles and their associates – or any missionaries and believers generally thereafter. Our Lord did not need to give an authorization for self-defense since it is a basic principle of life and freedom consistent with everything biblical from the beginning of scripture to the end. What this verse does is to affirm that it may be necessary for them (and us) to use such force in the future once the Lord had ascended to heaven (although it had not been while the Lord was with them).

What Peter did was wrong (in attacking the temple servant and hacking off his ear) as our Lord makes clear . . .

"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."
Matthew 26:52 NIV

. . . meaning wrongly resisting constituted authority or engaging in lawless activity. Self-defense is allowed – other uses of violence are not.

This has import for us on the verge of the Tribulation.  We too are likely to be wrongly arrested, accused and condemned, just like our Lord was.  And in fact, He has given us His suffering as a pattern to emulate (1Pet.2:21-23).  During the Great Persecution, that emulation will be quite literal for many and will end in martyrdom.  Resisting God's purpose for us in this, if that is what has been ordained, will be like Peter wrongly picking up his sword, valid for self-defense, but inappropriate against "the law" even if they are acting under the orders of antichrist.  Moreover, we have nothing to fear from martyrdom if that is what the Lord wants from us: it guarantees the crown of life.

"Demonstrate faithfulness unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
Revelation 2:10b

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #25:

[omitted]

Response #25:

Good point about relying on God when in danger. Of course we do have to strike a balance. We rely on Him to provide our daily bread – but we still go out and work for a living. Self-defense is one of those in-between things where the right balance can be hard to strike and where it certainly depends a great deal on us and our situation and experiences. On the one hand, we don't want to put ourselves into dangerous situations without any protection and think that's godly; on the other hand we don't have to turn our houses into armories to be safe.

In terms of preparation, for women like yourself who are not inclined to firearms, one thing that works: wasp/hornet spray. The stuff sprays a tight stream up to 20 feet, and NO one hit in the face with even a tiny bit will be thinking about anything else for the next few hours besides getting it washed off.

Self-defense vs. pacifism

Biblical view of war and self-defense

Christian Love: The Golden Rule, Christian Military Service and Self-Defense

Turn the other cheek

Preemptive war?

Issues of self-defense

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #26:

[ambushed by family omitted]

Response #26:

Survived the day. Committee work is on the cusp of getting busy, so I have to get into Marathon mode now. The good news is that almost everything will be over that is of any consequence or trouble by the beginning of December [little did we know about the Covid + confrontation spring to come].

I'm glad to hear that you survived these tests, my friend! When it comes to problematic family, there is almost no way to "play the game" where one will be left with a warm and fuzzy feeling and without second guessing. Sure, there's always room for improvement I suppose, but it sounds to me as if you handled things marvelously and wonderfully well -- and have a right to feel good about that. Ambushes are around every corner. If we can come through them without getting shot up too bad, that is about all we can expect.

Still, your good showing AND determination to do even better are a real encouragement to me.

Keep running your good race for Jesus Christ, my friend!

In our dear Lord and Master.

Bob L.

Question #27:

Hey dr,

Sorry for the long question but would like your perspective on this issue if you had any thoughts.

Been dating a girl for almost a year now. We've talked about a lot of topics but the one sticking point we keep having is potential care of my parents and what that looks like. We're talking like nursing home or major medical bills, not "needing" a new car or bbq. [details omitted]

I'm of the mindset that children should take care of their parents if needed. Jesus rebuked the pharisees because they were giving money to the temple instead of helping their parents (Mark 7:11) and Paul said those who don't help their parents are worse than unbelievers (1 tim 5). And then old testament commands of honoring father and mother. I want to live my life as I see God would expect me to, even if this creates a hardship on me. I'll admit I have resistance thinking about my parent/s living with me or me spend my time/money taking care of them but I'd do it if needed because it's the right thing to do and it's something God expects out of me and I want to be there to support them for all they did for me growing up.

My gf is resistive to my parents or her parent living with us because she likes her space/privacy. she's also said she's fine spending money on her immediate family (her, husband, kids) but anyone outside that she has high resistance to. [details omitted]

Where's the balance in taking care of your immediate family and fulfilling your God given role of providing for aging parents? My goal is to fulfill scripture and do what God would expect me. I don't want to wipe out my savings or my future kids' college funds but I also want to make sure my parents are taken care of. I appreciate your time in reading this, thanks for all you do.

respectfully,

Response #27:

Good to hear from you, my friend.

When you say "potential care", this is not an actual, current need? In my life experience, there are enough problems to go around without worrying overly about ones that haven't yet come up. Not that there's anything wrong with planning ahead. But that can easily get out of hand (Matt.6:25-34). God always provides.

We're pretty late in the eschatological clock as well. When the Tribulation begins, most plans will probably go out the window pretty quickly. What we really ought to planning first and foremost is to be prepared for the Tribulation once it arrives. The ark wouldn't have done Noah much good had it started to rain when he was still a few dozen board-feet short on the keel. We will be entering those hard times with what we've got tucked away in our heart and nothing else. Everything material we have can – and in many cases will – be taken away from us, including our lives. We're not carrying these crosses for nothing.

I will say, however, that for those considering marriage in spite of the above, it is definitely a good idea to hash things out with potential spouses as much as possible ahead of time. Sometimes in doing so it becomes clear before getting married what needs to get straightened out ahead of time or whether things are even really workable, objectively considered.

I do promise to keep you in my prayers about all this.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #28:

Dear Teacher

About this, I found this app that gives me access to quite a number of books for about 9 USD per month. The name is Scribd. That's where I found the book. I noticed that it had a low of inspiration not too far into reading it too. But I figured that I should study up on any history that is worth anything at all in Bible studies anyway.

In working through its chapter on Chronology, I've had to reread the bit on the birth of our Lord on Ichthys a few times now, and I just tried to find one of the sources that you cited in the footnotes, specifically the W. E. Filmer one, but I have to buy it on JSTOR for 49 USD. I can't seem to find it anywhere else for free. Is there a place you know I can read it for free, Sir?

Your student in Jesus Christ

Response #28:

Filmer is not really any big deal; what he says about Herod is recorded at Ichthys; that's the only important point in the article IMHO (first page at link will give you an idea of the arcana of chronology it deals with).

As to Scribd, I couldn't recommend it. There is more than enough out there for free to keep you busy for many years to come if you did nothing else but read ancient history. There are certain things that are particularly good to have/read, but the work you cited I wouldn't put into that category, for example. Wikipedia usually has references to free material available online. Internet Archive is a treasure trove of older public domain works which are far better than anything being produced today.

When I was coming up, buying books was a parallel to paying for internet subscriptions. I found out that books have their limits, and most of them are not worth the paper they're printed on – and certainly weren't worth the money I spent (that I really didn't have). If I could sell 95% of my books back at half price today, I'd consider that a wonderful deal. Then we had libraries but not internet. With what's free on the net, you can get a fine ancient history education . . . without paying extra for it. That's my advice for what it's worth – at least it's free!

Your friend in Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

 

 

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