Mutual Encouragement in Christ
Thank you. You are truly blessed and you have blessed me. I am only part way in and realize that what you have written is most beautiful. It is written clearly so that I can really understand the answer to the question everyone asks, "What is the meaning of life?" I wish everyone would read this. I have come to a most blessed point in my life where I wish to throw off all the cares of the world and be overtaken by my Lord. To come to the realization that there is not one part of me that I would trust and to finally see the futility that is 'me', it becomes so clear. I am about to journey on a path that is unknown and one I never envisioned myself on, not that I couldn't fathom it, just that I couldn't fathom that I would be worthy or able. The point is that I wasn't able, alone, but I am not alone. I am a bit scared, but I wish to see through 'new' eyes and to let go of the worries that plague me about, me, to become a weapon, a blessing, a tool of our Lord, not for myself, but for others. Just when one thinks they understand, they then understand. I am at a loss for words and can only once again say thank you.
In Christ, Lord of Lords, King of Kings
And thank you for continuing encouragement. I genuinely appreciate it. Your words express what I also wish, namely, for Jesus to "be all" to me in every way that I may truly be able to say "for me to live is Jesus Christ".
I hope this email finds you and yours doing well – I am keeping you in my prayers.
Keep on persevering on this straight and narrow road for His glory.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Please remove all my emails from your site, as I never gave you permission to republish them. Thank you.
Done. Please note, however, that I have removed your comments as a matter of courtesy. There is certainly nothing "illegal" about publishing emails that, technically speaking, are the property of the recipient under the "fair use" doctrine (otherwise, forwarding any email one receives to a third party without prior written permission would be "illegal", and that would make virtually all emailing problematic).
There is no profit motive at Ichthys. The only benefit gained is by those who access the site for spiritual growth and encouragement. All emails posted to Ichthys are done so anonymously with identifying features removed, and, generally speaking, only after some substantial amount of time has passed. The only identifying feature in the link you mentioned was your website reference (and I felt it would be unfair to you to leave that out since it was germane to your argument).
Yours in Jesus,
Thanks, Bob. I appreciate it.
HE IS RISEN!
You're very welcome.
Apologies for any misunderstandings or inconvenience caused. These emails are helpful for all who read them – let me know if you have a change of heart.
In Jesus our Lord,
Dear Dr Robert,
I have accidentally come across your website on search for some information during one of my google searches.
Before this, I was about to sign up some online studies on some bible studies and now I think i don't need to do so as i have found your website to be so informative, rich in its contents and lots of discoveries to be done.
Thank you and may the Lord bless you for such a great job and great efforts!
You are very welcome!
Welcome to Ichthys, and please feel free to write me any time with questions.
Thank you for all your good words and encouragement.
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.
Thank you for sharing through the Internet your vast knowledge, revelation, and obviously many years of study in the Word of God. Your site is very refreshing.
In Scripture, I discover joy, rejoicing, and laughter concerning spiritual things (i.e., Sarah and Abraham), but I don’t seem to find levity or "secular" laughter (i.e., funny) in Holy Scripture. Can you recall any instances? It seems to me that Holy Scripture deals with the heavy and serious, but not light-heartedness. Is this correct?
Also, your audience, along with their questions, often opens up to you sharing their weaknesses, faults, doubts, and even at times confessing sin. We all have feet of clay; what are some of your shortfalls?
I share your perception of what we find in scripture regarding humor. There are actually many things one finds in secular life which may be completely innocuous or downright sinful but which do not occur in the Bible. One finds no direct mention of secular hobbies (which may often benefit others as well as oneself) and no mention of recreational drugs (which have no positive benefits) – both of which things did exist in the ancient world, though not, of course, to anything like the degree and variety one finds today. I believe you are essentially correct that it is the subject mater of scripture which explains this phenomenon: there is no need to mention what is either unquestionably wrong on the one hand or of no particular spiritual moment on the other. In terms of laughter, I am also unaware of anything even resembling a "joke" or of any incidents of laughter in reaction to something "funny". Part of this may be cultural as well. We have tens of millions of words of ancient Greek, for example, but it seems only one instance of vocalized laughter actually expressed in writing (but try to find a single novel in English where someone does not say "ha, ha" or the equivalent). I use a collection of ancient Greek jokes with my first year Greek class (compiled some centuries after the New Testament), and the humor therein is "different", to say the least. Still and all, I do believe that the scriptures are focused on what is truly important, and that this is the key reason for the absence of humor and the like. For example, we find no pets in scripture either, as far as I am aware, except for Nathan's story to David, where the pet lamb served to illustrate a very important point. For me this reinforces the principle that "all scripture is God-breathed", inspired by the Lord in its every detail; all of it is important for our spiritual growth and none of it is there merely for entertainment.
As to your second question, it is a most interesting one. I don't think anyone who has stuck with this ministry for any length of time will be under any illusions about my own "feet of clay" as you put it; I have many shortcomings and shortfalls. We are all sinners, we are all imperfect, we all stumble and fail in many ways. And we are all called to get up when we do, confess to the Lord, forget, and move on. That is the message of scripture on such matters and that is the message I always try to impart, ever counseling those who do share their own personal failures with me to "forget what lies behind and strive for what is ahead" (Phil.3:13). That is what I try to do myself as well, drawing encouragement from scripture and endeavoring to help others do the same.
I know that it is very popular nowadays in some Christian circles for people to publish their personal testimonies et al. My approach is to make this ministry as little about myself as possible. I don't try and remove my own personality from what I write (that's impossible) nor avoid all references to my own life an life experiences (sometimes it is appropriate and helpful to draw parallels, and everyone has a right to know just who it is who is ministering to them; see the link: Current C.V.), but I do try to keep my personal opinions (as opposed to what I believe scripture teaches), my personal likes and dislikes, and my personal business generally to myself. After all, this really is the Lord's ministry (as is true in the case of every genuine Christian ministry: 1Cor.12:4-7), and what really helps people is the truth of the Bible. It is on that truth of the Word of God that I try to keep focused, and I have never regretted the policy.
Thank you for your encouraging email. I shall try and walk worthy of it.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
My soul is trouble to the point where I feel defeated. I constantly hear the Lord's name being taken in vain in my head and I can't shake that from my mind no matter how hard I try. I heard it and now it keeps being repeated in my head and it brings me to tears because I would NEVER say this, and that last time I said this out loud was more than 15 yrs ago and I love the Lord with all my heart. Why would God allow this to happen to me if I love Him? I have prayed without ceasing and in tears fervently and this still occurs. I feel abandoned by God and I cannot figure out what I've done to God for Him to allow me to want to be dead rather than deal with this. It grieves me because I feel that God is being offended by this even though I don't mean it and would never say such things. I also feel that each time it is repeated in my head that I am sinning even though I don't mean it. I can't help but feel that Satan is tormenting me but why is God allowing this? I dread that this will NEVER go away and it lingers in my mind like it has become part of me making it seem impossible for me to get rid of these thoughts. Don't know what to do anymore...
Please excuse the brief response: I am visiting family and accessing my email at a local library. I do want you to know that I am indeed keeping you in my prayers, and will write you again when I return home later this week.
Until then, I do know what you are talking about. When I face similar satanic attacks, I try to remember that Jesus has already died for all my sins: all the sins I've committed and all the sins I ever might commit. The evil one cannot separate me from Him, regardless of his tactics or my weakness. Instead of worrying about these attacks, therefore, I try to make it a point to put the matter in the Lord's hands and go back to playing offense instead of defense, advancing in my personal Bible study and helping others to do the same.
Hang in there – Jesus knows who you are and what you are going through: Jesus is in you.
In our dear Lord who already paid the price for all of our missteps, mistakes, and sins.
Your friend in Him,
. . . . . . .
I hope this second email finds you doing better. I wanted you to know of a certainty, to remember and never forget, that God does love you and that He will never forsake you. If you are still being tested, please remember that in scripture the true believers who are genuinely living for our Lord are the ones who come in for special attack from the evil one (as in the case of Job). But please, please remember that God never allows anything to befall us beyond what we are able to endure; we may think that we cannot endure it, but if it is happening, then we can be sure that God will in all faithfulness deliver us in His own way and His own time. That is not necessarily an easy truth to hear, but it is an important one. Nothing will ever be able to separate us from God's love, as long was stay faithful to Him.
And we know that, for those who love God, He works everything together for good – [that is to say,] for those who have been called according to His plan.
For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angelic nor human authorities, neither things present nor things to come, neither heavenly powers, be they the highest [of the elect] or the lowest [of the fallen], nor any other created thing [on this earth] will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It may be that the evil one is making these suggestions; we are judged and evaluated not by the temptations, suggestions, attacks which befall us, but by our reaction to them. I would say from my admittedly imperfect vantage point that as long as you are rejecting these suggestions, then you are actually winning the battle. Keep fighting, and eventually the evil one will flee (Jas.4:7). What goes on in our heads/hearts is always a very complicated thing; we inhabit a body infused with corruption and have sinned plenty in our lives, and have exposed ourselves to all manner of negative things. That gives the devil quite a powerful ally right inside the gates, so to speak. But we can say "no!", and we can resist. When we do, God gains glory. For He knows who we are deep inside and what we actually think and feel and esteem. Please don't become discouraged. The only way to fail this test is to doubt God; as long as you are resisting, you are doing His will. Even if you are not sure about exactly what is going on in these encounters (and in this you are not alone – every Christian must fight the fight of controlling his/her thoughts and emotions on a daily basis), remember that God knows everything and certainly knows that you are in pain; you belong to Him, and He surely does know it and will never let you down.
By this we know that we are of the truth, and before Him we persuade our heart, that if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows everything.
1st John 3:20
Don't despair. God will bring about your deliverance.
Please feel free to write me back; apologies for the delay (I just got back and am just working my way through my emails). Please also see the following links which may be of some help and encouragement:
Who controls our thoughts and emotions?
Christian Trials and Testing.
On the firing line: Encouragement in Christian Trials.
Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.
Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.
Encouragement, Isaiah 6:11-13, and the Hope of Repentance.
Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.
In need of encouragement.
Waiting on God.
Feeling desperate and alone.
The Peter Series: Coping with Personal Tribulation
In our dear Lord and Jesus through whom and for whom we live,
Dear Dr. Luginbill!
I am no longer tormented by these thoughts any longer. And even if it does try to find it's way into my mind, it does not stay there as it did when I was plagued with these thoughts. It seems as if the devil gave up trying to use this against me and now he has found other ways to try to attack me with his fiery darts. My workplace seems to be a battleground for strong spiritual warfare. It mainly has to do with co-workers accusing me and slandering me and these come from out of the blue. An example would be a co-worker who has some prejudice or bias towards me and speaks evil of me falsely and gossips to other co-workers about it, and by the time the next day arrives, most of the co-workers who were deceived by the first prejudiced co-worker will have a negative opinion about me which is untrue. This is Satan attempting to damage my testimony at work as a believer. As God is my witness, it is almost unbelievable at how such evil can be spoken about me out of thin air and completely untrue. And the worse part about it is the one's who slander me make the point of telling others that they're "Christian" and that they have SO much "love, joy, peace for others" which is a lie from the enemy. I almost feel like the devil has a personal vendetta against me because of the daily trials that occur in my life. But in all of this I thank the Lord for my family in Christ that pray for me fervently such as you because they always come to pass. I look forward to the day when we can rejoice together and glorify God in heaven to the degree that we were made to. Thanks again for your prayers and heartfelt concern. God Bless you and your ministry!
I am very pleased to hear that some progress is being made (even if you are not completely "out of the woods"). It is certainly true that the evil one delights in attacking Christians "where they work and live", and you are certainly amidst very good company in this trial. As our Lord said:
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Matthew 5:11-12 NIV
It is always most encouraging to hear when my brothers and sisters are persevering under such testing – and continuing to fight the good fight of faith even so.
Thank you so much for your kind words, and please know that I will continue to keep you in my prayers.
In anticipation of that great day of reward when all things will be revealed and made clear.
In Jesus our Lord,
Hello. I have got to say that you are the most patient man I have ever met. That gentleman, I will call him, "shalom", was very persistent. I am wondering what are your thoughts about his intents. Do you believe he was playing with you or do you believe he truly couldn't get what your study puts forth and what you tried explaining in your email? It was almost strange that each time I scrolled down, there he was again, almost seeming to test you or trying to push you. I could be wrong, but I have to say how much I admire the way you handle these communications; they teach me much. I remember when I was reading this part of your study and it was hard to understand at first, but I think you explain it so well. Everything on your site just sinks within me and gives me the understanding I need. I just thought you should know that so that when someone writes in like this it doesn't make you feel there is anything with your studies that is hindering anyone. I'm just guessing he was pretty firm in his own ideas and was trying to convert you to them. I don't know. He reminds me of that other chap who was pretty forthright with you about the infinite universe or something, I can't remember exactly.
Anyway, continue on in your wonderful work and thanks for being such a strong leader, even in the behaviors of us human beings and how we should treat others. I know I can get pretty heated and emotional in discussions as these. I truly have to be very cautious when I am typing in order to not show them in my words, especially when many others will be reading what I will write. I hope all is well with you, your work and family. Remember how much 99.9% of us truly appreciate what you do here.
Also, in CT 3A section I.5 don't you mean Luke 21:11 in your quotation?
Always great to hear from you. Thank you for noticing the typo too. You are absolutely right, of course. Numbers have always given me trouble. I'll have a verse citation in mind and by the time I look from the book to my computer screen I have changed the number somehow in my head. This happens all too frequently (thank you for catching this one!).
I believe you are probably right that this fellow was determined to stick with his own unique twist of interpretation. I had almost decided against ever posting this particular exchange, but as I read it over it did occur to me that the points of interpretation at issue are indeed a little bit "hard to get". Long story short, I thought to myself that for many people having the point explained several times from slightly different points of view might be very beneficial – it was for me!
Thanks as always for your encouraging and supportive words. They mean a lot.
You and your family remain in my prayers.
In Jesus our dear Lord,
Dear Dr Luginbill!
Please pray for me as I have very little strength left because of the enormous trials that occur in my life. I will always love the Lord, but my strength in serving the Lord is depleted and I have prayed fervently that the Lord will see me through these ordeals. There is not one day that passes by where the enemy does not seek to ruin me (slander at my job in an attempt to damage my testimony, my apartment falling apart literally, health issues, family issues, etc.) These are just a small portion of the trials I deal with on a daily basis. I stayed at home all day to see if I can avoid some sort of trial and lo and behold it finds me at my home. Rain dripping in my apartment (a stand alone unit with no landlord) dripping on dangerous places (heater, electrical outlets, etc.). Even after the company that rented the place out to me sent a maintenance person to fix the problem, the same problem would occur again, but in different places in my unit. Sometimes they would begin immediately after the maintenance person leaves, or just when I am about to go to bed to wake up early for work where no maintenance person is available. It's almost as if the devil and his demons go all out and work overtime to cause trouble in my life whenever and wherever I am. My family member who I witnessed to and seemed to believe for a while has lost contact with me and this seems to be related to the parable of the soils where the enemy snatches away that which was sown in his heart. It is literally impossible to go one day without something troublesome occurring. It distresses me when I see people who call themselves Christians never experience any trials and how I deal with them on a daily basis. I know full well that another problem or trial will arise tomorrow. Please pray that the Lord will grant me the strength to overcome these trials. Thanks!
I am very sorry to hear that your situation has continued to be such a terrific challenge. I most certainly have not forgotten about you and do remember you in my prayers every day. I promise to continue to be faithful in holding you and your trials up to the Lord in prayer. While it most definitely does not seem so at present, everything we are going through in this life really constitutes "light afflictions" compared to the exceedingly great glory to be revealed when our Lord returns and takes us to Himself (2Cor.4:17; cf. Rom.8:18; Jas.1:2). It is important to remember that all advancing believers are undergoing trials and tribulations which, while they may be very different in type, are certainly equally distressing in effect:
Stay sober and stay awake [on guard]. Our adversary the devil roams about like a roaring lion, looking for someone he can devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, remembering that your fellow believers in this world are undergoing the exact same sort of suffering [that you are].
1st Peter 5:8-9
It is also important at such times to keep one's eye on the overall objective: the eternal rewards that attend a life of spiritual growth, spiritual progress, and spiritual production. Spiritual growth is based upon taking in the Word of God, personally and through careful attention to good, sound Bible teaching (and believing the truth one receives); spiritual progress is based upon meeting and overcoming through faith the various and sundry tests that come our way, tests and trials great and small, fighting the battle of our thoughts, our words and our deeds against all the opposition of the evil one; spiritual production is based upon what we do for our fellow believers in the world primarily through the exercise of the spiritual gift(s) which we have been given in the prosecution of the ministry to which we have been severally called (with genuine ones seldom fitting the pattern of what most traditional Christians would think of as "ministry"). In persevering in this course in spite of all opposition, there is great blessing and satisfaction in this life; what our rewards will be in the next we can only dimly imagine, but we know that they will be wonderful beyond compare (please see the link: the Judgment of the Church and Christian Rewards). This battle is fought with the truth of the Word of God. Keep taking in, believing and applying the truth.
One thing in particular I would wish to share with you: God always gives us a way out of these pressures.
You have not suffered any testing beyond normal human [experience]. And God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tested beyond your capacity, but, along with the test, He will grant you the way out, so that you can bear up under it.
1st Corinthians 10:13
The "way out" may not come easy and it may not come quick, it may not be at all what we would wish or expect, but I would encourage you not to become discouraged and imagine that things will always be this bleak and that there will always be this trouble and trial in your life. In my experience of the Christian life – and in my reading of scripture – God most definitely cares about us, hears us when we pray, and takes all these things into consideration. He will not let you stumble (Ps.121:3), if you continue to have faith in Him for deliverance. Wait on the Lord, my friend, and He will give you the victory. Many in this life "give up", thinking that the night will never end just when the day is about to dawn. We do not know when God will deliver, but we know by faith absolutely that He will, if only we are resolved to wait on His perfect timing. I have in my life seen many occasions when the Lord has seemed to tarry long in answering the cries for deliverance from myself and my fellow believers in pain and trouble, but in retrospect I can honestly say that He always came through, and that the time was indeed perfect. None of these things are a surprise to God. Job, after a very noble fight of faith, got tired and began to doubt God's deliverance – on the very day that God began to work deliverance for Him! We are not as great as Job, but are blessed to have his example and the words of truth and comfort the scriptures bring, if only we give them heed and our full attention. Jesus cares about you, and He is working all these things out together for good, even though it may not seem like that to human eyes – but we walk by faith, not by sight.
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."
Psalm 91:14-16 NIV
Hang in there, my friend. God is coming. We will lift our banners in the Name of the Lord and rejoice when we hear of your deliverance (Ps.20:4-5).
In our all sufficient and merciful Lord Jesus Christ,
In the spirit of Galatians 6:6 I just want you to know how much my faith has increased by virtue of your ministry. I consider the knowledge the Lord has revealed to me and the re-instituting and refining of my faith over the past few months to be the most valuable thing that has ever happened to me, and I would not trade it for anything this world has to offer. I pray for you often.
After countless hours searching for the truth, I finally sought our Lord on his terms, and He made your ministry known to me. I have read all of the studies you have posted, and I can't get over how all of the material accomplishes one thing more than anything else, and that is seeing more clearly with the eyes of a more abundant faith.
When you quoted 2nd Timothy 2:19 in a previous email, it really hit home. "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness." I still stumble often, but sometimes I also resist temptation more than I could previously imagine. He makes His strength available in such abundance if we really want to use it.
The unbelieving, sinful path I went down previously has left me without a surrounding of believers. I feel I have lost any semblance of a ministry because I hardly have anyone to minister to outside of work. I pray most often for the restoration of service in the time that He sees fit. Please pray for me as well. I feel I should find a church, and sometimes think that even if it's hard to find the truth being taught that being around believers in that setting will allow me to go on "offense" with whatever gifts I have. I am not sure if that is the divine point of view or not. I have read many of your thoughts on that topic, and I guess the bottom line is that He will work it out for me just like He does everything else.
If I could in any way give of my time to your ministry, please let me know. And please understand none of my words are meant to flatter, but to encourage.
In His name.
Thanks much for your email. I am always heartened to learn that these writings have been of some help to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Building faith through truth is indeed the object and goal of Ichthys, the collective spiritual growth that we as one Body are meant to pursue with all our heart. I rejoice that you are on that path, and am truly gratified to learn that some of these things have been of use in your spiritual advance.
I want to encourage you not to be discouraged about any feeling of isolation you may be experiencing. None of is perfect, all of us have "baggage", and those who claim they have never sinned "make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us" (1Jn.1:10). Regardless of how recently we have turned to the Lord and begun to make Him and His truth our first priority, our personal experience has nothing to do with the current state of the church-visible late in the era of Laodicea (see the link). Simply put, the chances of finding a fellowship of believers who are likewise genuinely committed to spiritual growth through learning and believing the truth, spiritual progress through applying the truth in the crucible of life, and spiritual production through ministering it to others that they may also advance, is very small. It is a constant theme of emails I receive from believers like yourself who are devoted to Jesus, His Word, and His Church, that they cannot seem to find "the right church". For those who have decided to make God's Will for their lives the top priority, a certain amount of loneliness is unavoidable these days.
You have clearly heard me on the subject of the difficulty of trying to change things from the inside, so I will not belabor the point. In serving the Lord, we all have our own gifts, our own ministries, and our own effects, given to us by the Spirit, the Son and the Father respectively (1Cor.12:4-6). I am confident that as you pursue this noble goal of fulfilling your God-given spiritual potential, our Lord will lead you to just that "sweet spot" He has always intended for you.
Thanks again for all your encouraging words, for you offer of help – and especially for your prayers. I promise to pray for you too.
Keep the faith.
In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,
About your beliefs: You are a blithering idiot.
[no comment sent]
Hi Doctor Luginbill,
I was just going thru the new set of questions and answers this week. I've enjoyed and learned so much with your website over these years.
I must say the Spirit of patience is with you! "Let not a foul thing come from your mouth" which seems to be so hard for the new generations to do when they meet opposition. Your patience is quite an example!
I try to tell my son to not argue with anyone, just state the facts. Let them be the one to hoot and holler. Jesus never argued!
The worse thing Jesus called somebody was "Tell that 'fox' I'll be there" I love that line!
Anyway, I pray that the Lord keeps you safe and healthy and I thank Him for the work you do and thank you to you too.
Thanks so much for this. On formatting this posting I was a little upset with myself that I had perhaps been a bit too testy with this person, so if you felt my responses demonstrated some patience, I will take comfort in that. Your advice to your son is terrific, and easier said than done when it comes to verbal discussion:
I said, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence." But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased. My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.
Psalm 39:1-3 NIV
On the other hand I have often observed that a well-placed word can outweigh dozens of eloquently spouted hostile remarks.
A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
Proverbs 25:11 NIV
The key to "getting it right" is indeed the Spirit without whom our words will never be "salted with grace" (Col.4:6). I think that if we keep in mind the real objective, namely, the influence of others for good for their salvation and spiritual growth, rather than being concerned instead about our own egos, reputation, and standing, then we have a chance of doing it right. Jesus was never worried about Himself but was always looking toward the ultimate good for everyone else, and it definitely takes that kind of perfect love to be able to bless others with our tongues instead of cursing them.
Thanks again for your encouragement!
In Jesus with whom we endeavor to walk,
I'm intrigued and enthralled by your sight. I thought of an analogy between you and Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of Little Round Top Fame. I know you will figure where I'm coming from, even though you don't really fit that analogy.
Chamberlain was a Professor of Languages of Antiquity. In that day, that apparently included Koine Greek. Chamberlain had an interest in spiritual matters since his early goal was to become a missionary. This was a time of transition, since Europe's Higher Criticism influence was spreading to America. New England was a seat for this new intellectual pursuit and another new movement, the social gospel of Harriet Beecher Stowe, etc. I'm of the opinion that what motivated him was not the Holy Spirit, but an intellectual/altruistic/patriotic passion. I've skimmed over a couple of his writings (there is a paucity of them). I detect a searching for the spiritual, but there is very little mention of spiritual things. In fact the writings that I read were more like memoirs, with military detail (necessity apparently revealed his gift for tactics, and he apparently never abandoned the passion he developed for this topic). The only spiritual or nearly spiritual portion of the two writings that I skimmed was the lament over the discovery of a young 16 year old Rebel who died propped against a tree while "...reading a familiar text out of Scripture" (I'm afraid that I've forgotten the title of this borrowed library book). His desire for intellectual pursuits is evidenced by his long term as president of Bowdoin College, but there is little evidence of spiritual pursuit that I can see. He did display some spiritual attributes through his conscientiousness and bravery, however, it appears to me that other indicators of spirituality are woefully lacking.
You, on the other hand have incorporated your spirituality with your natural intellectual gift. I'm an intellectual wannabe, but have no natural gift, so I've decided to devote all my remaining old age energy toward a degree in chaplaincy. I'm not an expert on anything, and I make that clear. By this I hope to be transparent and can be a witness to a small number, while trying to redeem what little time is left.
I'm hoping I have discerned your situation correctly, since I'm going to try to study your material and use it for reference. Thanks for making your writing available.
Sincerely your student (unwittingly to you),
Thank you for your email and your enthusiastic support. I will endeavor to be worthy of your praise and the comparison.
I commend you for your determination to serve our Lord in ministry, and I am particularly encouraged by your understanding that spiritual "ammunition" (as long as we are into military analogies here) is absolutely essential for the spiritual growth upon which all effective ministry for Jesus Christ is based. In adopting this course of action, namely, legitimate spiritual growth coupled with diligent preparation and effective ministry, there is the greatest reward: the potential winning of the "triple crown" to which all Christians are called but few attain (if you have not already done so, please see the link in CT 6: "Christian Rewards"). In this way we most honor and glorify our Commanding Officer.
Very good to make your acquaintance! Please feel free to write me back about any of these matters.
Your fellow soldier of Jesus Christ,
Thank you so much for your reply. The 70th week has never been an issue with me because as I studied it along with your website, it flowed beautifully. I wasn't confused. It seems the more I read this other website, and although I think highly of the people there, they were doing nothing more than confusing me to no end. I found myself trying to see it from their perspective and I've decided I don't really want to! How can it be that I, a very unlearned woman can see it so clearly, seeing it flow so smoothly and understand and yet these who know so much more than I can allow themselves to wade into such perilous ideas and so wholeheartedly believe it. They then go on rampage trying to ram it down everyone's throat. Please pray that I never ever leave what is written upon my heart, Bob.
As to my family situation, well, I am myself in a deep depression [details left out]. With school out and I can't find a job, I spend the days unhappy and trying to study the word. My mind always wanders though and I get frustrated. I feel alone and unsure about my future. I sometimes get to the point of just not wanting to be here any more. Not that I am thinking of suicide, but just terribly tired of the life that I have. I know the Lord has a plan, but I've been
waiting so long and feel impatient. I find my mind thinking about things I shouldn't. And so I feel even worse. I need something to fill my mind with better things. So, I try to study but I find that I can't. I just feel so empty and at one point felt like the Lord was leaving me. I got myself very upset. I was utterly in fear for my very soul. Sometimes at night I feel like evil is all around me and I have to pray for the Lord to send His angels to protect me and to make His presence known. I don't know if it is just me being so tired and a mind that is just bored and empty of any stimulation or if I am being stalked at a weak time in my life. I desperately need your prayers. I hate asking you for you must have so many people asking you for this gift, but please. I have no one else who would do it for me. That too makes me feel even lonelier.
Although I know that the world is headed for worse than what I see right now, I need to know how to still shine in such a world. And if I can't stand strong now in lighter times of trouble, I will be no good to anyone, even myself in future times of horrors. Sorry to be so depressing, Bob, but you seem to be the only one who understands on this here earth. Thank you.
Most sincerely and in Christ,
I am sorry to hear that your struggle continues. I have, as I said, been keeping you in my prayers daily, and I promise to continue to do so. It is always a mystery why some believers seem to have been given so much to deal with while other seem to have so little trouble. That of course is only how our human eyes discern things. "Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy" (Prov.14:10 NIV). We don't really know what burdens our fellow believers, what their strengths and weaknesses are. What would be hard for me may be easy for you to bear and vice versa. We also don't the precise plan God has for anyone – even for ourselves. We have to take on faith that He is leading us to good things for good purposes (Rom.8:28), and likewise for our brothers and sisters in Christ. For one thing is sure: all true believers who are serious about following Jesus Christ will come in for Satanic attack of one sort or another:
In this world you do have tribulation. But be courageous. I have overcome the world.
[They were] strengthening the hearts of the disciples, and encouraging them to remain in the faith, and saying "We must pass through many tribulations to reach the Kingdom of God".
Indeed, all who are willing to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2nd Timothy 3:12
Stay sober and stay awake [on guard]. Our adversary the devil roams about like a roaring lion, looking for someone he can devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, remembering that your fellow believers in this world are undergoing the exact same sort of suffering [that you are].
1st Peter 5:8-9
We also do not really know where individual Christians are in terms of their spiritual status and advance, or what their attitude is towards serving Jesus Christ. If I were an athletic coach with a perfect ability to read talent and motivation, I would probably work with those rare individuals with great talent and great motivation more intensively, being much harder on them than on those who couldn't do what's necessary or didn't care to do so, precisely because I expected that I would be able to get more out of the dedicated ones. God reads us perfectly, so that it is certainly possible that greater trouble may be a sign of greater spiritual potential:
I am the true vine and my Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch [that is] in Me which does not bear fruit He removes, and every branch which does bear fruit He prunes so that it might bear more fruit.
Scripture also says that we do have comfort at such times (2Cor.1:3-11); that we can have joy at such times (Jas.1:2); and that these times of testing do not last forever (even if it is our fault – how much more so if it is not: Ps.30:5). So even if our suffering and tribulation is severe and of biblical proportions, we can be confident that waiting on the Lord is still always the right thing to do:
As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.
James 5:11 NIV
Enduring undeserved suffering is the stuff of spiritual maturity, and in many ways it is the fulfillment of our purpose here in the devil's world.
For it is to this [sharing in the sufferings of Christ] that you have been called, for Christ also died on your behalf, leaving you an example so that you might follow in His footsteps: He committed no sin, nor was any guile found in His mouth. He did not return slander when He was slandered, did not threaten when He suffered, but entrusted Himself to the One who judges righteously.
1st Peter 2:21-23
For it truly is "sharing the sufferings of Christ" (Acts 5:41; 2Cor.1:5; Phil.3:10; Col.1:24; 1Pet.4:12-13), demonstrating to all who see us, men and angels, believers and unbelievers, elect and fallen, that we care more for Jesus than anything or anyone else, no matter what may betide. We can have confidence that persevering in this rock-like faith is the correct course of action, because we have seen with the eyes of faith the character of the One with whom we have to do:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121 NIV
In my own experience and observation, the Lord often allows us to be tested, not beyond what we are able (cf. 1Cor.10:13), but beyond what we think we can handle (and often beyond what others imagine we are capable of as well). It has often seemed to me that in order to help us stretch our trust in Him, He brings us to the point of the impossible, then asks to take one more small step forward . . . to deliverance. As a result, when we are delivered in these miraculous ways, we demonstrate to ourselves and all who see that He is the God of the impossible – and that we have trusted Him beyond the point of any worldly sense. This is the sort of faith that gains our Lord Jesus' good pleasure, this is the faith that moves mountains, this is the faith provides proof of things unseen:
(1) It is faith [in the Living and written Word], moreover, that substantiates what we hope for. [Faith] provides proof of things unseen. (2) For it is by this [faith] that men of old gave a witness approved [by God].
Faith in the midst of the fiery trial is never easy to maintain, but in perseverance there is great reward – and deep satisfaction when the trial is done. Hold fast to the Rock. He will not let you down.
In the One who died for us, giving up His life that we might live eternally with Him, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.