Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Of Course Arminians Believe In Predestination?

With certainty, there will be both Calvinists and Arminians in heaven.  A Calvinist may arrive in heaven to find out he was right all along.  Perhaps the Arminian will discover that he was right all along.  But one thing is certain, both the Calvinist and Arminian can never conclude that they were both right. These two Christian doctrines are in such contradiction a shipwreck for one is assured.  I still firmly believe that both ships will arrive safely in the harbor.

As one sailing on the Arminian ship I would like to address a myth that is common on that other ship; the idea that Arminians do not believe in predestination.  Arminians shake their heads at the absurdity of this accusation.  Of course Arminians believe in predestination.

 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." - Romans 8:29.   Arminians are strong proponents of predestination. We see no conflict between free will and predestination. But, we struggle with the idea of making free will compatible with determinism. We believe in God's foreknowledge, of course. God foreknows every person' ultimate and final decision regarding Jesus Christ. We believe the focus of predestination should be primarily on Jesus Christ. God foreknew that Christ would make the right choices regarding the cross. God predestined Christ’s death and resurrection based on the decisions he knew Christ would make..

We believe Calvinism ship wrecks on the issue of double predestination. It is illogical to believe that God predetermined some to believe and go to heaven but he did not predetermine others to NOT believe and go to hell. We believe that a holy and pure and sinless God cannot predetermine individuals to hell. This is contrary to God's nature.   Can God do all things?  Can God do anything he wants?  Some may be surprised that he answer is no.  He cannot do anything that contradicts his nature. It is unimaginable, had I power to condemn one of my sons to spend eternity in hell that I would do such a thing. It is even more unimaginable to believe that God would assign people to hell based on his own arbitrary nature even before they had an opportunity to make any decisions or participate in any actions that might make them responsible or accountable.

 Scripture teaches that God extends salvation to all men. "Whosever believeth in him...", (John 3:16) "If any man come to me..." Luke 14:6 "For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people." (Titus 2:11) “He is a propitiation for the sins of the whole world” [1 John. 2:2.], “He tasted death for every man” [Heb. 2:9.], “He gave himself a ransom for all” [1 Tim. 2:6.]. It is a gracious decree given of God through his Son Jesus Christ that he is determined to justify and adopt all who will believe. Does not God become a hypocrite if he so clearly extends this invitation to all men knowing that he has already determined some of those men to be lost? Therefore, Arminians believe in predestination but it is conditioned on the choices men make. We don't believe they can make those choices apart from the spirit of God.

 Most would agree that it is logically impossible for God to predestinate to heaven but not to hell. To choose some for heaven and not all to heaven is going to assure that some are chosen for hell. Where are those verses in the Bible that indicate that an arbitrary God sends men to hell unconditionally? I believe this is unproven in scripture because it makes God the author of sin and this, too, is illogical and non-sensical because the Bible teaches that it is God's will that none should perish and all should come to repentance. (Tim 2:4, 2 Peter 3:9) God declares a universal desire that all men be saved.  But, he gives them the gift of free will and in so doing he realizes that some will not use their gift in the manner he wishes and therefore must be punished for their disobedience.  He places the onus on man.  Believe and be saved, or rebel and be lost.

Arminians do not downplay the role of faith in salvation. Faith is the condition for being elected, a gift of God. Faith is NOT the cause of election, God alone is the cause of election. Therefore, God causes the election of those who will have faith in Him. Election is conditional, not on the provisions of God, he will! It is conditional on whether man will choose to believe, he may, he may not. God allows this freedom of man's will because he is not a club-bearing God who will arbitrarily take people to heaven whether they want to go or not and cast people in hell whether they have any accountability or not. "Election and predestination are not the unconditional and mysterious choosing of certain individuals known only to God, but is rather the election and predestination of those who have faith in Christ their Redeemer. Election is in Christ but no one is in Christ without faith." - William Witt

Though I don't agree with all of Philip Limborch's theology, I certainly agree with him regarding 'absolute reprobation'.  "The doctrine of absolute reprobation (Because God elects some to heaven he must therefore elect others to hell) is repugnant to the divine perfections of holiness, justice, sincerity, wisdom, and love."  (A Complete System, or, Body of Divinity, p. 371).  The core problem for Arminians is that unconditional predestination is totally incompatible to the very nature or God.  It is not who God is.  "Surely it is dishonorable to the name of God to suppose that he would charge on sinners a resistance which was to them a necessity, and complain of outrage on His Spirit whose influences were only partially put forth." -  William Burton Pope.  Would God infect a man with sin, determine him to never have an opportunity to be free of it and then, in a rage, condemn him to an eternal hell?  This is an absurdity in the minds of Arminians. 

Those who respond to the call of the Spirit of God and who, with God’s help, choose to believe (have faith) are predestined to an eternity with the Savior.  Who said Arminians do not believe in predestination?

Kevin teaches Bible and Apologetics to high school students at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange, Georgia. He loves writing about theology, apologetics and politics.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Why would you call that Arminianism?

In my discussions with those friends who are persuaded by Calvinism and especially by the doctrine of predestination, I find they often do misunderstand or display a healthy ignorance of what true Arminianism really is.  I cringe when I hear Arminians accused of believing that they must earn their salvation through good works.  It is eye-popping and heart-stopping to hear that Arminians believe that they have an equal part with God in the salvation of their souls.  Here is their misconception in a nutshell:  that Armininians must initiate their own salvation and then maintain it through the accumulation of good works. 

Classical Arminianism has always given God all the glory for salvation and reserved no credit whatsoever for human endeavor in the work of salvation.  All true classical Arminians will declare that the human soul is completely and entirely dead in trespasses and sins and every man would  be hopelessly lost without the prevenient grace (that grace which prepares the way) extended by the Holy Spirit of God.  This prevenient grace is taught throughout scripture, although, like the word ‘trinity’, ‘prevenient grace’ is never found in the Bible. 

In spite of the opinions of uninformed Calvinists, Jacob Arminius had a passionate commitment to the grace of God.  Arminius’ theology was clearly sola gratia.  To interpret the theology of Arminius by the beliefs of those who followed is an error committed by many who have never studied the original works of the man.  Thus, Arminians get a bum rap by being compared to Pelagians, semi-Pelagians or devotees of the Remonstrants who successfully twisted the original doctrines of Arminianism so as to make them at least unbiblical and at most heretical.

Arminius didn’t deny the work of God’s grace in the salvation of man.  He did question whether that grace was irresistible.   The Calvinist would argue that if grace is resistible then salvation cannot be all of grace.  The Arminian wonders why the Calvinist believes that resistance to the gift causes the gift to be sullied or diminished.  Why, asks the Arminian, is the gift not worthy of reception if it is accepted willingly?  It is only worthy of reception if we are forced to receive it.

Simon Episcopius and Arminius, unlike Philip Limborch and later Remonstrants, believed that prevenient grace is the grace that goes before to prepare the soul to respond freely to the calling of the Spirit of God to salvation.  Through the ages true classical Arminians have lamented the fact that Limborch’s theology has been labeled ‘Arminian’.  Limborch believed that the fallen human will needs only assistance, mainly through access of knowledge, not renewal, in order to acquire salvation.  Arminius would say that man is totally depraved and it is impossible to do or think any good without prevening grace.   Limborch would counter by saying that man is not totally depraved, he is only weakened by his lack of knowledge and limited capabilities.

John Wesley redirected Arminianism back toward its original form.  Although he has been falsely accused of being a Pelagian for several hundred years now.  A careful reading of Wesley’s sermon “On Working Out Our Own Salvation” should remove all doubt as to his position on the grace of God.  “Whatsoever good is in man, or is done by man, God is the author and doer of it,” Wesley proclaimed.  Wesley taught that we can only respond to God because he did first extend his grace to us.

Prevenient grace does not remove the free will of man so that he can be forced to salvation by an arbitrary God.  Prevenient grace simply prepares the heart of man so that he can choose to not resist the grace of God.  Having received prevenient grace he can choose not to reject it or he can choose to resist it but not without consequences.  Thus, the only role of the human in his own salvation is the nonresistance to the grace of God.

Adam Clarke summed up the Arminian position by saying, “God gives the power (to believe).  Man uses the power thus given, and brings glory to God:  Without the power no man can believe; with it, any man can.”  (quoted in H. Orten Wiley’s Christian Theology, pp. 369-70)  Faith is an expression of man’s free will only after it is recognized as a work of God.

Free Will Baptist theologian Leroy Forelines summed Arminian’s interpretation of grace by saying: “The Holy Spirit must work before there can be a successful communication of the gospel to the sinner and before there will be conviction and response from the sinner.”    

Arminians believe salvation is impossible without the effectual preparatory grace of God.  The application of this grace to the human soul does not eliminate or diminish the soul’s freedom.  It simply enables the soul to no longer resist the grace of God.  Arminianism promotes the scriptural teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone.  God makes this possible without diminishing the responsibility of man to practice non-resistance toward his grace.

Kevin teaches Bible and Apologetics to high school students at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange, Georgia. He loves writing about theology, apologetics and politics.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Three Little Frogs


Kameron, my eight year old son, has a healthy fascination for all living creatures.  I have heard his mother’s alarm go off many times in years past as Kameron dragged another living discovery into our home.  These have included spiders, roly polys, centipedes, baby birds and box turtles. 


I came home the other day to find three small frogs in a plastic container just inside the garage door.  They had grass, water and several sticks and stones to jump about on.  All three of them were jumping like Mexican jumping beans, trying to escape their plastic prison.


I called for Kameron and we had a long conversation about how wild creatures don’t do well in captivity and it might be wise and merciful to release the three frogs.  This idea was met with strong resistance.  I decided to let the matter rest and address it later.


Another conversation regarding the release of the frogs was unnecessary.  Several hours later I saw Kameron talking to his new friends and walking them to separate areas of our property.  I assumed he was releasing them and I was pleased that he had decided to do the right thing without further persuasion from his father.


Later that evening I asked him about his frogs.  His answer was surprising and disturbing.  “I took the first frog to the end of the lot where I had decided to throw him into the burn barrel.  I set the second frog in the garden where he has plenty to eat and much to make him happy.  When I returned to get the third frog he had decided to hop away on his own.”   Needless to say I was speechless.


While I was trying to compose a response I began to wonder why Kameron thought he had the right to take the lives of two innocent frogs.  It was obvious that any compassion he might have felt for the frogs was overcome by his intoxication with the power he had over them.  Because my mind tends to lean toward theology I found myself following another train of thought. 


Three people come to the end of their days and are called to face their judge.  They are anxious as they approach one whom they have been told is powerful and sovereign yet loving and compassionate.  The first one approaches the bench to plead his cause but the judge cuts him short by making a stunning declaration,

 “I conducted a lottery before I created the earth and your destiny was determined before you were even born.  Your lot is to perish eternally in hell,” the judge declared.

“But if you predetermined that my destiny would be hell, then how am I responsible or accountable?” the first one asked.

“No answer to your question is forthcoming because the things you ask me of are a secret matter and will remain secret,” the Judge sternly answered.


A second person approached the bench in fear and trembling having heard the preceding interaction.   But, much to his relief he was ushered into heaven by the same God who had so coldly cast off the previous person.


Finally, the third person approached the bench with strong reservations about whether he wanted to go to hell and live in eternal misery or go to heaven and live with a god who seemed to be so arbitrary, even capricious.  Had he been deceived by those who had taught him about the love of God?  Was the goodness of this God totally dwarfed by his greatness?  He was told over and over again that “God is love.”  This may be true but observing what had just happened caused the third man to believe this God not very loving.  Would a loving God desiring true fellowship and relationship with his creatures not gift them with the ability to choose or reject that relationship? 


The third man looked closely into the eyes of the judge in search of evidence to back the claim that “God is love”.  He decided there was no love to be found or if there was any love it was so miniscule it could not be detected.  The fear peeled away as he realized he was seeing an imposter.  He turned around and walked away determined to search until he found the one and true God who gave his Son for ALL those who would choose Him.


It is unthinkable that “God is love” would predetermine evil.  The Calvinist would believe that the love of God is defined by his greatness.  The classical Arminian would believe that the power of God is clearly defined by his great love.  We can do no justice to the sovereignty of God by diminishing his love.  God created man to have relationship with him and to derive glory from him.  Relationship is always a two way street.  No relationship can exist if only one party makes all the decisions.


“God is love” indeed!  He loved us so much he was willing to limit his own power to grant to us free will.  Our freedom to choose is a gift from God.  Why did he do this?  Obviously he wanted to lay the foundation for a relationship with us.  Why did he send his Son to the cross?   Was it not because he wanted the relationship to last forever?

Kevin teaches Bible and Apologetics to high school students at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange, Georgia. He loves writing about theology, apologetics and politics.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Do You Know Who You Are Talking Too?

Do You Know Who You Are Talking To?


I took my family to visit Callaway Gardens, one of west Georgia’s best kept secrets.  This Eden-like place is only a twenty minute drive from our home located north of Columbus, Georgia.  In 1930, Cason and Virginia Callaway picnicked in Harris County, Georgia. They fell in love with the natural beauty of the area and by 1932 they had acquired 2500 acres of area they planned to develop.  In 1952, the gardens were opened to the public for the purpose of connecting “man and nature in a way that benefits both.”


Callaway Gardens is like a Garden of Eden nestled away in the southern most foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in west central Georgia.   A descent southward off of Pine Mountain is the beginning of a journey that leads across the plains of Georgia toward the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico.  It is a paradise of Azaleas and Magnolias, of lakes and streams and well manicured golf courses.  An astounding variety of birds and wildlife experience a ‘heavenly’ existence in the man-made sanctuary.


We were at Callaway to see the Birds of Prey presentation in June of 2013.  My eight year old son, Kameron, was fascinated and thrilled as owls and hawks flew in out of ‘nowhere’, landed on the presenter’s arm and demonstrated their beauty and prowess to a captivated audience.  Small children duck their heads as the flying birds swoop low enough to cool us with the breeze created by their wings. 


I watched with interest as a woman wheeled an elderly man into the arena.  This man with the white, bushy eye-brows was eager to find a seat and watch the presentation.  His nurse navigated his chair to our row and helped transport him to a bench where he occupied a seat next to me.  We made polite introductions and I asked him to repeat because his speech was obviously impaired due to a stroke.


“Hi, I’m Bo. Pleased to meet you.”  We exchanged handshakes and began a pleasant and informative conversation.  He shared a lot of facts with me as I tried to make all the connections.  He said that his parents were instrumental in establishing the gardens.  He was 86 years old.  His mother had outlived his father by 35 years, never remarried and dedicated her life to developing the gardens.  It finally dawned on me that this man was Howard Hollis “Bo” Callaway, the third son of Cason and Virginia Callaway, founders of the gardens.


Bo Callaway is a very important and influential man in our community.  The man who came within a hair’s breadth of becoming governor of Georgia in 1966, a man whose family had given away millions to worthy causes over many years was humble, ordinary and unassuming that day at the Birds of Prey presentation. 


As we drove homeward I was reminded of a verse in the Bible that alerts us to be prepared for the unexpected:  “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 )  I was flattered that this important man was comfortable, even eager to strike up a conversation with someone who was unknown and had no importance in the community.


I thought of another passage in the Bible.  "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?  (Psalm 8:3-4) 


Every morning I walk down a long and lonely country road and talk with God. Every morning he meets me there.  Occasionally I don’t show up but I have never been stood up by him.   If I am flattered to sit with and speak to Bo Callaway, how much more amazing is it to meet with and speak to the God of the universe.  He lowers his ear to hear my supplications.  He reminds me that he is a God who “understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.” ( Hebrews 4:15)


I am overwhelmed that:

“…God should love a sinner such as I
Should yearn to change my sorrow into bliss
Nor rest till He had planned to bring me nigh
How wonderful is love like this?


That for a willful outcast such as I
The Father planned, the Savior bled and died
Redemption for a worthless slave to buy
Who long had law and grace defied.”  (Such Love by Robert Harkness)


He meets with me every day.  He walks with me, he talks with me.  He encourages me and sometimes he lovingly chastises me.  The Creator of the universe befriends me.  He desires that I might spend eternity with him.   


I experience this miracle every day and it’s enough to blow my mind.

Kevin teaches Bible and Apologetics to high school students at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange, Georgia. He loves writing about theology, apologetics and politics.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why is this happening to me? (Part Three)

Isaac’s wife, Rebekkah, felt the twins wrestling within her womb.  She was to become the mother of two nations (Gen. 25:22)   “The babies jostled each other within her, and she asked, “Why is this happening to me?  So, she went to inquire of the Lord.”  Have you ever asked that question? Do you go to God for answers?

Before we look at the possible reasons we may be experiencing difficulties in our lives let’s answer another question.  What does it look like when you are traveling through a dark valley or when you are being battered by a ruthless storm?  

1.         A man’s wife comes home from work, just like she does everyday only on this day she tells her husband that she is leaving him and running off with another man she has fallen in love with.  Her husband is asking “Why is this happening to me?”

2.         A teen-aged son is arrested for smoking and selling pot at school.  He is charged with a felony and expelled from school.  This family finds itself in a deep, dark valley

3.         A husband/father has learned that he has terminal cancer and he only has months to live.  He will leave behind a wife and several children.  This man is asking, “Why is this happening to me?”

4.         A young daughter tells her parents that she is pregnant and she is running away with her boyfriend, the father of her child.  This family is living in a storm.

5.         A young couple loses a child to a miscarriage.  Several years later they have another child that is plagued with birth defects.  Are they not going to ask, “Why is this happening to us?”

6.         A young college student decides to tell the family around the dinner table that he is homosexual.  A wife/mother struggles with alcoholism.  A husband/father can’t shake a gambling and pornography habit.   What should these families do when they are tossed about in the storms of life?

 “Why is this happening to me?” may be a question far more common than we realize.  Let’s explore some possible answers:

1.  We may be in the storm because of our own flesh.  The ‘flesh’ is that sinful part of us that wants to believe that we don’t need God so we leave him out of the equation.  When we are more intent on satisfying our own fleshly desires rather than pleasing and obeying the Savior we are going to go into the valley.

This is double-mindedness.  (James 1:1)  “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” 

You stay out of the valley by being single-minded.  Put God first in every situation of life.

We are often like Peter on the water.  We begin to sink into the valley of despair when we take our eyes off Jesus.  The waves of anger and bitterness overwhelm us.  We find ourselves sinking into the deep, black waters of hopelessness and fear and anxiety. These are all fleshly responses to the dangers we are confronted with when we experience the stormy seasons of life.

Jesus told a parable about the seed falling into shallow soil.  (Mark 4:6)  “When the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”

Find time to build spiritual depth in your life.  Not after the storm arrives but before the storm arrives.  Be prepared for the storm by deepening your relationship through prayer and living in the word of God.

2.)  We may be in the storm because we are out of the Word of God. 

We often fail to read God’s word, not because we don’t have time, but because we are stubborn.   Especially those of us who are men, we don’t think we need to refer to the owner’s manual.  We like to figure it out on our own.  We don’t need instructions.  Reaching for your Bible is admitting, “I need help.” It is an act of humility.  “I can’t figure this out on my own.”

My wife reminds me often of how important it is to have alone time.  Spouses need time alone with each other. They need time to get to know each other, time to catch up on what might be going on in each other’s life.  This time is crucial for the relationship.

Does God not occasionally lead us into the storm because he senses the need for some ‘alone’ time.  Our God is relational.  The storm brings an intimacy with God uncommon for some.  He teaches us things in the storm that we will not learn when “the warm south wind” is blowing.

3.  We are in the storm always, always to bring glory to God.

Those crisis moments in life help us to define what is really important.

 After I struck a deer on my motorcycle and lay in the hospital with a broken collar bone, two broken ribs and a punctured lung…I suddenly didn’t care about the lawn getting mowed, or the car getting vacuumed.  I cared about staying around to be a husband to my wife and a father to my child and a grandfather to my grandchildren.  I rearranged my priorities.

Paul and his fellows began to throw the cargo of grain off the ship in order to be saved.  That cargo had great value.  It was worth thousands of dollars but in the moment of crisis it had no value at all to them.

When you are trying to find your way through the storm please realize that the most important thing is your relationship with God.  He wants you to use that crisis to demonstrate your faith in him.  You can glorify God by putting him first in your life and demonstrating to others that you have your spiritual priorities together.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace.  They wouldn’t bow, they wouldn’t bend and they wouldn’t burn.  In the midst of their trial they revealed the Son of Man right there in the midst of the fire with them.  God allows storms to come into our lives to provide us opportunities to reveal Christ at work during our most difficult moments.

4.  God is always enough.  

My faith has found a resting place,

 Not in device or creed;

 I trust the ever living One,

 His wounds for me shall plead.


I need no other argument,

 I need no other plea,

 It is enough that Jesus died,

 And that He died for me.

Christ is always enough.  We often find ourselves running to other people rather than to God and this is a demonstration of our lack of faith.  He never fails. He never runs out of patience.  The fountain of his wisdom never runs dry.  His strength abounds forever. 

We live in a culture where millions are turning to drugs and doctors, health guru’s and self-help books and amateur counselors.  All of these things may have their place but we must first consult One who knows us best. 

Maybe we don’t turn to him because we don’t know Him.  Do you really know the Savior today?

I have taught many students in my 30 years as an educator.   Many have fathers but they lack confidence in their fathers love them for them.  Some of their fathers are absent, some are negligent, and some are abusive.

How many Christians doubt their Father’s love for them?  If you don’t spend time in his word you will start doubting his love.  If you claim a relationship that you have never experienced you will doubt his love.  To be confident of his love you have to know him.  He brings rest and confidence to our souls when we spend time with Him.

I took my son for a walk one night after dark.  We walked to a cemetery not far from our home.  I confess our adventure was more about testing his courage than actually spending time with him.  As we got closer to the cemetery the dogs and coyotes began to howl and bark.  I spoke to my son,  “Kameron, are you scared?”  He looked at me incredulously and said, “Why no, Dad.  Are you?”  I wasn’t too sure how to answer him.

I know my son well.  Had he been on that old gravel road alone on that moonlit night approaching that cemetery he would have been very fearful.  He wasn’t scared because of the faith he had in his father.  He knew I loved him and I would defend him with my very life.

Don’t walk through the valley alone.  Don’t endure the storm by yourself.

In those moments of crisis, God is all you need.  Your Father loves you.  He will take care of you.  He will walk with you through the storm.

Deut. 31:6   “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.”

Kevin Probst - Teaches Bible and Apologetics at Lafayette Christian Academy in LaGrange, Georgia.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why is this happening to me? (Part Two)

 We often find ourselves in the valley of despair because God wants to reveal his nature to us but also because he wants to teach us things about ourselves. 

“These [trials] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”   (1 Peter 1:7)

When you find yourself in the stormy trial:

            1.  You are in a place of wandering.  You are in a place where you don’t know what your next step should be.  You are not sure which direction God wants you to go.  This can be a frightening place to be.

            My father took me to his Uncle Tom’s house to hunt deer.  It was my first deer hunting experience.  I was only 12 years old.  The snow began to fall gently.  They set me up on a small hillside and attempted to drive the deer my way.  But I got impatient.  I became restless so I began to wander away sure I’d see a deer just over the next hill.  The snow fell harder.  It was near blizzard conditions.  Darkness was approaching.  I could hardly see.  I had been wandering about for a couple hours when I saw tracks in the snow.  I was so relieved.  I would follow the tracks out of this dark and dreary valley.  But the tracks were mine.  I was going in circles.

            I escaped that valley by climbing.  I climbed to the top of the mountain and when I got to the top I could see my uncle’s house on the hillside across the valley.  I made a beeline for safety.

            When we are in a place of wandering it can become confusing.  We can get disoriented.  Our way can seem like the right way but until we choose God’s way we will only be traveling in circles. “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” – (Proverbs 14:12)

            2.  You are in a place of waiting.  Are you feeling the weight of circumstances over which you have no control?  How often does God ask us to wait and waiting can be the hardest thing to do because it goes against our nature to want to rush forward. 

            I recently broke three bones in a motor cycle accident.  After six weeks I went to the doctor for x-rays and an evaluation.  I wanted to mow the lawn again and carry my grandchildren but he instructed me to hold off for another six weeks!  Waiting is so hard to do but it is often necessary for total healing.  The wounds of the heart are often healed with much passing of time.

            There are great benefits to waiting:  “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. – (Isaiah 40:31)

            3.  You are in a place of warfare.  Your Christian faith glorifies God but it annoys and enrages Satan.  If Satan can destroy your faith he can destroy your soul.  Satan is battling for your eternal soul.  If he can rob you of faith you become weak and vulnerable like Samson with his hair shorn off. 

            God allows the testing because he wants you to grow, to mature, he wants to sanctify you.  He wants you to be aware of your own strengths and weaknesses. 

            I think most of the trials we suffer are to teach us humility and dependence on Him.  The chief end of man is to bring glory to God and when we are too much in the way we can’t glorify God.  Trials test our humility

            a.  We fail the test of humility when we complain.  How often do we find ourselves whining about the battle?  We become ‘sunshine soldiers’ unwilling to endure the difficulties and discomforts of warfare.  We sin when we gripe about things.  We fail when we refuse to submit and humble ourselves before God.

            There are seven things listed in the Book of Proverbs that are hated by God.  The first listed is pride.  God hates a proud heart.  (Prov.6:16-19)

Pride is comparative.  No one is proud because they have nice clothes, or a nice car or a nice house.  We are proud because we have nicer clothes, a nicer car or a nicer house than someone else. 

            b.  We fail the test of humility when we boast.

            “Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father…” (James 1:17)

            God’s word to the people in the wilderness:  “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deut. 8:2)

            “You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…” – (Deut. 8:17-18)

            We must learn to see God as the source of all things.  But there is one more step he expects us to take.  He also wants us to allow him to regulate what he has given us. “Thank you Lord for what I have, now, how do you want me to use it?” He gives us gifts for our enjoyment but he also gives us gifts to be used to bring glory to Him.

Kevin Probst - Teaches Bible and Apologetics at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange, Georgia.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Why is this happening to me?  (Part 1)



Every pilgrim on this journey must suffer some storms in life.  If you have lived long enough, you have suffered some pain, some heartache.  It is not if the storms will come, it is when the storms will come.


            Thomas Paine, one of our early founding fathers was seeing a storm approaching the colonies when he said:   “These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country.” 


            How many young Christians have started out on the journey only to be confronted by a treacherous storm and then they threw in the towel, saying:  “This is not for me.”  They were ‘summer soldiers’ and ‘sunshine patriots’.  When they were eating the summer fruits and experiencing the thrill of victory after victory they were happy and content.  But when they experienced their ‘Valley Forge’ the ‘sunshine patriots’ were ready to quit.


            Acts 27 is a marvelous piece of literature.  It tells the story of Paul and some other prisoners who were loaded onto a ship to be taken to Rome.  Paul must surely have doubted that he could be tried fairly for his Christian beliefs in pagan Rome. The future must have looked pretty bleak for him but we don’t see Paul moping about the ship feeling sorry for himself.  Instead, Paul was transforming a desperate situation into an opportunity to witness to the scores of prisoners who were soon to be used as bait for the lions and entertainment for the masses. 


            Paul issues a warning:  “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.” (v. 10, 11)   


             When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along.”  V. 13-15   


            The men in this boat reached deeply into their maritime experience to try every trick they could think of in their attempt to survive.  First, they tried to bind the hull of the boat together with ropes to  keep it from splitting to pieces.  Then they began to throw cargo (wheat from Egypt) overboard in order to save themselves. 


             “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.”  (v. 20)   


            How tragic it is when a soul has given up all hope.  Not long ago, Michael Jackson’s daughter tried to commit suicide. She had surely ‘given up all hope.’  But hope is always there in the worst storm, in the deepest valley and sadly, people can’t see it, they can’t sense its presence and some give up.


            “My hope is built on nothing less Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”


            When the storm was raging at its worst, Paul rose up to speak:  “Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me  and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’  So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”  (v. 23-25) 

What are some of the reasons this is happening to me?


            1.  Sometimes we bring the storm on ourselves.  God asked Jonah to go preach in Nineveh but Jonah did an about face and high-tailed it to Tarsus where he had an unfortunate encounter with a big fish.  We often bring the storm upon ourselves because of disobedience.


            Paul was probably the only Christian on the boat.  He was a man of God.  But “instead of listening to what Paul said” they took advice from non-Christians, from pagans.  


            I often see young people who are feeling anxiety about their future.  They gather about them a list of people who might give them advice and this seems like a wise thing to do but they often go down the list until they find enough people to tell them what they want to hear and then they are off to do what they want to do.  This is foolishness dressed in wisdom’s clothing.


            “When a gentle south wind began to blow” they cast off.  Don’t be deceived by the “gentle south winds” in life.


            We should first get on our knees before God and then seek council from those Christians who have learned lessons that can only be learned from being battered by the storms of life.


            2.  Sometimes God brings storms into our lives.  He sent Job through a horrific storm.  He asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son.  There are many instances recorded in the word of God that indicate His willingness to subject us to great difficulties in order to test our faith.


Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and cross the sea.  They encountered a terrific storm.  He knew they would.  The best learning takes place in the storm, not when the “gentle south wind” blows. The storms God brings into our lives are opportunities to bring glory to Him.


            3.  Sometimes others bring storms into our lives.  I’ve done some marriage counseling for engaged couples.  A week before the marriage they are basking in the ‘warmth of the south wind’.  The tempest has not yet come.  God sanctifies us in our marriages.  What better way to teach you the fruits of the Spirit than to match you up with someone NOT like you.  What magic is shared by the older couple that makes them so sweet after fifty years of marriage?  It wasn’t the “gentle south wind” that did it.  It was enduring and learning from the storms of life that created sanctified sweetness in their character. 


             I met a man a few weeks ago.  I observed him in the setting we were in for a couple of hours.  He has a severely handicapped granddaughter that he and his wife have permanent custody of. I watched him love her and dote over her and constantly worry about whether she was comfortable.  It was obvious to me, as I watched, what impact the grandfather was having on the life of the granddaughter.  I left wondering what affect the granddaughter was having on the grandfather.  It must be a difficult trial to be burdened with someone so needy.


            Several weeks later I discovered that a lot of people in my circle knew this man.  He was associated with a former church that I was also associated with. I began to ask, “Do you know Mr. Taylor?”  “Oh yes, what a wonderful man of God.”   He didn’t become a wonderful man of God by accident.  He didn’t attain his deep spirituality and close walk with the Savior by basking in the “gentle south winds”.   There is little doubt he was purified by the fiery trials of his life.


 If you have the courage to pray to be more Christ-like expect to endure some very difficult storms.  The storm is God’s chisel to knock off the rough places in your character.

Kevin Probst - Teaches Bible and Apologetics at Lafayette Christian School in Lagrange, GA.