Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why America is not experiencing revival.

Why America is not experiencing revival.

By Kevin Probst

God is moving in wondrous ways in the Middle East. There are stories of wonderful conversions to Christianity coming from Iran, Egypt, Syria and other Muslim countries daily. Joel C. Rosenberg covers this great movement of God in his book, Inside the Revolution. Aljazeera satellite television confirmed that Muslims were converting to Christianity by the millions. Sheikh Ahmad Al Qataani was not happy when he shared statistics for conversions: “In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity.” Rosenberg goes on to say that these statistics cannot be confirmed but that there is definitely a noticeable trend of Muslims turning to Christ. (Page 381, Inside the Revolution)

“In the last 20 years, more Iranians have come to Christ (than in) the last 14 centuries,” said Lazarus Yeghnazar, an Iranian-born evangelist now based in Great Britain. “We’ve never seen such phenomenal thirst…I believe this phenomenon (will) snowball into a major avalanche. This is still a rain. This is not the avalanche coming…But it will be happening very, very soon.” (“Behind the Black Veil,” Charisma, June 2004)

Many of the conversions in these lands are a result of dreams and visions. Rosenberg shares the story of an Iranian woman who had had a dream in which God told her, “Whatever the two women you are going to meet with tomorrow tell you, listen to them.” She had no intentions of meeting anyone but she desired to obey. The next day she was approached by two Iranian women who shared with her the gospel message of salvation. She listened, she obeyed, she confessed and received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of her life.

In Rosenberg’s novel, The Ezekiel Option, he tells a true story of two Christians traveling in Iran with a car load of Bibles. The steering wheel of their car jammed and they slammed on their brakes to avoid going in the ditch. When they looked up, an old man was knocking at their window. He asked them, “Do you have the books?” They were astonished and replied, “What books?” “The books about Jesus,” he replied. The old man told them that an angel had given him a vision and told him about Jesus. His entire mountain village had had the same vision. The old man later had a dream in which Jesus told him to go down the mountain and wait for the books that would come. These books would tell them how to be Christians.

Americans are mostly unaware of the rapid spread of Christianity in Muslim countries. It’s not a topic the American press gets too excited about. Many Muslims who converted to Christ had become disillusioned with the hopelessness and despair of radical Islam. Some turned to alcoholism, some to drugs, some focused on fighting and killing for a radical cause but the result was emptiness, a desperate void in hearts that whispered a suggestion that the only peace to be found is that in another world achieved through suicidal sacrifice.

Why does it seem revival is prevalent in other parts of the world but absent in our own country? We have had revivals in our past, great revivals that reached thousands of souls and extended for many, many years. But now, America seems to be spinning its spiritual wheels in a rut of despondency.

Could it be that those previous revivals were a result of the Spirit of God responded to Americans yearning for the truth? Did we experience revival because preachers were preaching the truth and congregants were responding to truth? Isaiah 5:11 says, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” We heard truth, we responded to it, we loved it and cherished it. But as humans are so likely to do, we allowed something of great value, something precious beyond words to become a mediocre thing in our mediocre lives.

In our early years millions filled our churches to search for and hear this precious truth that could so transform lives. But then we lost our way. We began to fear rejection. We were embarrassed to be called a “peculiar people”. We began to replace scriptural truth with pop psychology. We took words like “hell” and “sin” and “the blood of Jesus” out of our sermons and we replaced them with “Seven ways to financial success” and “five ways to satisfy your spouse”.

So people began to leave America’s churches because there was little truth to be found. In an attempt to lure their congregations back our pastors failed to turn to what people were really searching for, truth, and instead decided to create a big tent. More people will come if we become more inclusive. Who could possibly argue with that? We dropped doctrinal words from our church names, like “Grace” or “Faith” in an attempt to please potential clients. We then decided to drop denominational words like “Baptist” and “Methodist” so as to be even more inclusive and now we have churches named “The Bridge”, “City Beat”, and “New Tribe.”

In an attempt to satisfy the masses did we not sacrifice some of our doctrine? The big tent was a great marketing idea but in the process did we not water down the truth so as not to offend the customer?

In our frantic desire to grow churches we sacrificed theology along the way. Pastors were hired not to shepherd the flock but to be CEO’s and managers. Sermons were shortened and watered down. Many Americans now believe they are going to heaven, not because they have been saved by grace, but because they have never been told that there is a hell. Many churches have replaced true worship with entertainment designed not so much to bring glory to God as to bring in tithe-paying clients. Pastors stand in long, flowing robes and proclaim that all is needed to experience salvation is to say a one-time prayer and you’re in forever. So, our churches are full of millions who have never been truly transformed because they see no need for transformation. They said the prayer.

More and more people will leave the church. Even the mega-churches will see members walk away. They will realize they can learn twelve ways to achieve material prosperity from a book at Barnes and Noble. If its entertainment they seek there is plenty of that available in the secular world. The darkness in the unredeemed human soul will naturally seek out entertainment that will satisfy sinful lusts and desires. The church can’t compete with the world in that realm.

The church in American will continue to decline until we offer real, true, scripture-based hope to those who so desperately seek it. The reason other nations are experiencing phenomenal revival is because they are seeking after real truth. We, too, can experience that kind of revival. But the American church needs to be cleansed before it can be revived.

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Power of God's Word

The Power of God's Word
by Kevin Probst

Fill your mind with the Word of God and miraculous things happen:

1. Never again will I say I can’t…”I can do all things through him who strengthens me” – Philippians 4:13
2. Never again will I confess lack… for “my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19
3. Never again will I bow before weakness…”The LORD is the stronghold of my life” – Psalm 27:1
4. Never again will I live with worry and frustration…”Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” – 1 Peter 5:7
5. Never again will I confess condemnation – “there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” – Romans 8:1
6. Never again will I plead ignorance - “Christ Jesus…has become for us wisdom from God” – 1 Cor. 1:30
7. Never again will I tremble before sickness = “For with his stripes I am healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

Sermon "Holiness Attitudes" - Stan Toler, General Supt. of the Nazarene Church

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Monday, February 21, 2011

True Salvation is more than a Simple Prayer

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What Drives Ahmad Ahmadinejad?

What Drives Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Who would ever have believed that the baby boy born on October 26, 1956 would one day grow up to be the 6th president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was the 4th of seven children and his father was a poor, though a highly devout and religious man. Mahmoud’s father skipped from job to job trying to support his family. At various times he was a grocer, a blacksmith, and a barber.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inherited his father’s religious zeal. Although he is only 5’4” he seems to have made up for any physical deficiencies with his intellectual prowess. It has been reported that Mahmoud was 132nd of over 400,000 applicants for entrance into the Iran University of Technology and Science in 1976. Though one might think a man of such religious fervor might have a degree in Islamic theology, he instead earned a doctorate in 1997 in transportation engineering.

Ahmadinejad’s role in the Iranian military is a bit shady. Intelligence sources say he was a senior officer in a Special Forces unit with the Revolutionary Guard. In 2003 he became the major of Tehran. He began to spout his radicalism from his mayoral soap box. “Today our great nation’s duty and prophetic mission is to prepare for the formation of the universal rule of the Mahdi.” Ahmadinejad’s prophecy of the coming of the Mahdi has had a primary affect on his foreign policy as president of Iran. His foreign policy in a nutshell is to nuke Israel into oblivion and hope for an implosion of the U.S. A. similar to what happened to the U.S.S.R. The Mahdi is the redeemer of Islam who will return to earth in the years preceding the judgment of God. He will reign alongside Jesus Christ and they together will rid the world of evil and injustice. Christians resist such an idea and are much offended that by those who would propagate a concept of Jesus sharing his throne with the Mahdi. To a Christian this borders on blasphemy.

Ahmadinejad announced his candidacy for president in April of 2005. Thousands of candidates were eliminated by the government. There remained only 8 on the final ballet. It seemed highly unlikely that Ahmadinejad, who was barely elected mayor of Tehran in 2003, would win an election for the presidency. He was dead last while polling only 2.8 percent of the vote. He declares it a miracle of Allah that he won the presidency in a landslide run-off against his opponent, Rafsanjani. Surely, this long shot for the presidency was chosen by Allah. On the contrary, western intelligence tells us that politics in Iran is not that much different than politics in Chicago.

Iran’s unusual leader has reiterated over and over his claim of being a sort of forerunner or John the Baptist to the coming Mahdi. He believes the end of the age is but a few years away and the Iranian people are not to sit passively by waiting for the preparation to fall from the sky. He sincerely believes that he is the ‘chosen one’, he is to actively, aggressively instigate war between Iranian forces and those of the U.S. and Israel. The Mahdi cannot come to establish his kingdom until the “Great Satan” (America) and the “Small Satan” are lured into confrontation. When Ahmadinejad says he will use the atomic bomb once he gets it he isn’t kidding. He feels a divine calling to destroy as many ‘infidels’ as possible to pave the way for the Mahdi.

When addressing The United Nations General Assembly in September of 2005 he shocked the peoples of the world by ending his presentation with this bold prayer, “O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the One that will fill the world with justice and peace.” Again, this is a blasphemous statement to Christians who believe that Jesus Christ was the only perfect and pure human being. His perfection qualified him to sacrifice himself on the cross to become an effective propitiation for the sins of mankind.

Humility seems to be a trait foreign to Ahmadinejad. He declared that during his speech to the United Nations he was engulfed by an aura of mysterious light and “for the duration of the twenty seven or twenty eight minutes, they did not blink. I am not exaggerating. I looked up and I saw them. They were transfixed. It was if a hand was holding them.” Strange that no one else reported this strange occurrence that day.

Some would argue that the radical theology of the Christian would affect foreign policy in the same way the radical theology of Ahmadinejad might. Some might fear a repetition of the crusades. That very well might be possible but Christ never encouraged nor directed his followers to pick up the sword. Ahmadinejad has his followers are panicked in their attempt to reign down destruction quickly before the appearing of the Mahdi. Christians are not instructed to do such a thing. We are told that no man knows the day nor the hour of his (Jesus’) coming and so we are to “occupy until I come.” (Luke 19:13) Christians are not stressed about waging a battle. We live in peace and relief knowing that “the battle is the Lord’s”

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Miracle of the Universe

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Signs Part 2 Miracle of the Body

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Genetics and Theology: Is sin in our genes?

Genetics and Theology

Scientists are suggesting strong evidence that we may have certain genetic predispositions that may cause us to lean toward certain 'sins'. Alcoholism seems to run in some families. Certain ethnic groups seem to be more susceptible to alcoholism than others. Do humans have genetic tendencies or predispositions toward drug abuse or homosexual behavior? If it is proven that a person is genetically inclined toward those 'sins' then are they as 'liable' for those sins as those who are not genetically inclined? How might such genetic influences on our behavior affect our hamartiology? (study of sin)

I suppose it would be a huge boost to those who believe we are predestined were the genetic theory proven to be true. Though this paper is written to consider serious questions raised by the research, I am a firm believer in free will. I believe God was willing to take a huge risk when he gifted us with free will. He knew some of us would reject him and it would cost the life of his Son to reconcile us but he valued a reciprocal relationship enough to sacrifice his son to mend the broken relationship.

I am also a firm believer in instantaneous, transformational conversion. Genetic inclinations are a non-factor when it comes to the power of His blood. I believe the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient in bringing about such a radical transformation in a willing heart. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to assist believers in their journey toward Christ-likeness.

Is there a gene present that gives a person a stronger likelihood of becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol? Is the pleasure receptor gene hyperactive in such individuals? Is there a gene that breaks down the resistance one might have toward the pleasures that can be wrought from viewing pornography? Why are certain activities a temptation to the homosexual while these same activities are repulsive to others?

Men who suffer from a gene disorder called Huntington's disease are several times more likely to commit a serious crime. They are seven times more likely to be arrested for DUI. (1) One look in our prisons will indicate that those who have been assigned the Y chromosome are much more likely to commit serious crimes.

Burtin Webb and Keith Drury of Indiana Wesleyan University have written a paper exploring the implications of some of these questions regarding genetics and theology (2) Many Christians who believe in original or inherited sin believe this is exclusively a spiritual, not a physical inheritance. If a connection can be made between genes and our sinful actions our doctrine of original sin would certainly be affected.

Drury states that if genetics proves to be a factor in our desire to sin we may return to the idea of Monism, that a "human cannot be fully human without a body." The idea of a physical resurrection might be more strongly considered by its critics. What happens to the spirit when it is separated from the body? Will we be reunited with our original bodies or will we receive newly created bodies? Does the soul sleep until it is finally reunited with a body?

Drury defines sanctification as the "doctrine of how God helps us put off sin and put on righteousness, becoming more like Christ." Sanctification is a spiritual transformation that takes place in our hearts. Drury asks an intriguing question: "When a person is trapped by a 'besetting sin' like pornography, drunkenness or homosexual behavior we usually urge them to seek God's changing grace so they can be 'delivered' through a wholly spiritual transaction." What if the tendency toward sin could be genetically removed? Could a person be sanctified through genetic manipulation? Would genetic sanctification 'count' in the eyes of God?

It's amusing to consider questions that seem to border on absurdity. These issues might also provide great dangers to the soul. Many might take comfort in the fact that they have a genetic predisposition to sin and use that as a license to commit that sin.

Drury and Webb remind their readers that proof for a genetic predisposition toward sin is still lacking. It seems miraculous that God could make a complex salvation simple enough for a child to understand. We don't have to be a scientist to be saved and we don't have to have a perfect theology to be saved. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." - 1 John 1:9

1. Per Jensen, Crime in Huntington's disease: a study of registered offences among patients, relatives, and controls. (1998) Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychology.

2. Possible Influence of Genetic Factors on sin, Sanctification, and Theology, Burton Webb and Keith Drury, Indiana Wesleyan University.

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Five Senses of God

Five Senses of God

By Kevin Probst

The great philosopher Aristotle is credited with categorizing the five senses that humans enjoy. They are: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The senses are a means by which humans can perceive outside stimuli. They are the keys to unlocking the world in which we live. Does God have senses? It might be questionable because God is a spiritual, not physical. But Jesus, as one fully God and fully human certainly experienced all sensations. Men are created in the image of God therefore it would seem God does surely experience senses beyond even what men are capable of experiencing. Spiritual beings have a perception of the physical world.

God sees. Who is to know if he sees in the same manner a human sees? We know he sees. Remember the story of Abraham and Sarah? The tension between Sarah and her maid servant, Hagar, eventually led to a painful separation. Hagar was forced to flee. It was a difficult time for her. She and her child were sent out into the desert with just enough provisions to survive. While plodding along to only God knows where, Hagar encountered an angel that offered words of encouragement. At the end of her conversation with the angel, Hagar became the only person in scripture to name God. She named him El Roi, God sees. “He looks to the ends of the earth and he sees everything under the heavens.”

God hears. A study released in 2008 by Brandeis University found that 90% of Americans pray. The figure seems a bit high to me considering another study claims only 76% of Americans claim to be Christians. Looks like a lot of people are praying to a non-Christian God.

Our God is a listening God. He bends his ear to hear the voice of his own children. He delights when we come to him with our praises and our supplications. He promises not only to hear us but to answer as well. “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)

Hagar was wandering in the desert of Bathsheba and her water skins were empty. She put Ishmael under a bush and walked off and slumped down with the despair a mother feels when she knows her child is dying, “I cannot bear to see my son die!” (Gen. 21:16) God sent the angel to minister to Hagar because “God heard the boy crying” (Gen. 21:17)

Is it ironic that the name Ishmael means “God hears.”

God smells. What is your favorite smell? I love the smell of the Christmas tree at Christmas. I feel a special warmth when I come in on a cold winter day and I smell the aroma of a hot meal cooked by my wife. I love the fresh, brand new smell of a new born baby. I love the smell of freshly cut grass on a cool summer day.

There were special ingredients the priests were to add to the sacrifice. The formula included certain grains, olive oil and frankincense. Leviticus 1:17 says that this produced an “aroma pleasing to God.”

Paul admonished the Ephesians (5:2) to "Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God." God was pleased with the aroma of perfect love demonstrated by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He is pleased when we exude an aroma of love for Him and for others.

God tastes. If God can smell he can also taste. 75% of what we perceive as tastes actually comes from our sense of smell. Surely our disobedience leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of God. But when we are cooperative and submissive to his will it leaves a taste of sweetness. Job may have experienced that same bitterness God tastes when he proclaimed, “"As surely as God lives, who has denied me justice, the Almighty, who has made me taste bitterness of soul” (Job 27:2)

The children of Israel “could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter.” God experiences the taste of bitter water when he calls the lost sheep but the sheep will not respond. It is bitter water when people for whom Christ bled and died for on the cross crucify him all over again with the sin of their rebellion and refusal. Surely, the cries of those who are lost in hell for all eternity bring a bitter taste to God.

God touches. The leper came to Jesus in humility and faith and Jesus touched him. (Mark 1:40-45) The wonderful touch of God is indescribable. What are we to do after he touches us? We are to reach out to him. We can receive healing by merely touching the hem of his garment. (Luke 8:40-48)

“But the Master comes and the foolish crowd

Never can quite understand

The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought

By the touch of the Master’s hand.” (The Touch of the Master’s Hand – Myra Welsh

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

How Atheists Prove the Existence of God

How Atheists Prove the Existence of God

By Kevin Probst

It was Augustine who said, “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts cannot find rest until they rest in you.” The Psalmist expressed his longing for God by singing this song, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my heart longs for you, O God.”

C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis pondered the question: Why would there be a desire, a seeking, for something beyond the earthly, if there weren’t something beyond the earthly to desire and to seek? Augustine struggled with the same yearning,

“I searched, I read, I wanted.”

“You came, You touched me, You spoke.”

There does seem to be an empty space, a vacuum in the heart of every human. We try desperately to fill that space with things and people but those pieces never seem to fit the puzzle. Some people enter deep depression because of the despair due to the emptiness in their soul. Some even choose to end their lives rather than live with the pain.

Those who believe in God say that he and he alone is the piece that brings completion to the soul. All people need God. The theist admits it, the atheist demonstrates it. What we really need must surely exist, therefore, God exists.

It is important not to confuse what we want with what we need. Everyone wants to find the treasure at the end of the rainbow. It doesn't mean its there. Theists don't believe that we get everything we need. If so, no one would die of hunger or from lack of medicine.

C.S. Lewis once said, "A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water." The heart has a longing for God. If you really need something that something can be found. We wouldn't have an insatiable need for God in our lives if no God existed.

Of all places to find this great hunger and need for God it is most evident in the lives and demonstrated in the words of those who deny the existence of God:

John Paul Sarte

John Paul Sarte - "I need God…I reached out for religion, I longed for it, it was the remedy. Had it been denied me, I would have invented it myself."

Sigmund Freud speaking of God admitted that "it would be very nice indeed if there was a God." There is "a sense of man's insignificance or impotence in the face of the universe." He referred to his god as the Logos. Reason was god to Freud.
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche - "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, the murderers, of all murderers, comfort ourselves?" Nietzsche was asking where could man find comfort now that he had eliminated God?

Listen to the longing for a solution to the emptiness in Nietzsche's heart: "I hold up before myself the images of Dante and Spinoza (believers), who were better at accepting the lot of solitude….My life now consists in the wish that it might be otherwise…And that somebody might make my 'truths' appear incredible to me…" Was Nietzsche plagued by doubts in his own beliefs?

Listen to Nietzsche again through Zarathustra, the main character in his novel, Thus Spake Zarathustra: "And the last flame of my heart Up it gloweth unto thee! Oh, come back, Mine unknown God, my pain! My last happiness!..." Nietzsche was certainly one of the greatest atheists who ever lived yet he seems to be desperately crying out for God to fill the emptiness.
David Hume

David Hume was among the greatest of all skeptics yet he seemed to have no tolerance for skepticism. He was forced to get away from his own skepticism in order to retain his own sanity. "Most fortunately it happens, that since reason is incapable of dispelling these colds, nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium. I din, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends; and when after three or four hour's amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold and strained and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther." Hume's Treatise on Human Nature.

Albert Camus

Albert Camus, the French philosopher who wrote The Fall. "…who is alone without God and without a master, the weight of days is dreadful..." Camus made a strange declaration for an avowed atheist. He said, "Despite the fact that there is no God, the church must be built." Why would the church be necessary? I think he wanted the morals and ethics that might be taught in the church but without the God from which those morals originated.

Walter Kaufmann
Walter Kauffman, German American Philosopher, "Religion is rooted in man's aspirations to transcend himself…Whether he worships idols or strives to perfect himself, man is the god-intoxicated ape." Kauffman believed men have yearning hearts with an enduring hunger for God. He claimed that what men need is not available, it doesn't exist.
Will Durant

Will Durant, an American writer, historian and philosopher was interviewed by the Chicago Sun-Times. Durant agreed that the morality of man would disintegrate without religion. "I survive morally because I was taught the moral code along with religion, while I have discarded the religion, which was Roman Catholicism. You and I are living on a shadow…because we are operating on the Christian ethical code which was given us, unfused with Christian faith…but what will happen with our children…? We are not giving them an ethics warmed up with Christian faith. They are living on the shadow of a shadow."

There is a need in everyone's heart for God. It is revealing to recognize the hunger in the words of these atheists but it is also saddening to know that the greatest of minds can resist the truth of God's existence. Jesus felt the sadness too: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." (Matthew 23:37)

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jonah: An Appointment With God

Jonah: An Appointment With God

By Kevin Probst

Jonah shook his fist in the face of God. God could have said 'good riddance' to Jonah but instead he pursued Jonah with patience and love.

Do you remember the dread of being called to the principal's office when you were a kid? I suppose some were so well behaved as to have never had to experience that dread. It seems I was as familiar with the principal's office as I was my own room at home. I spent a lot of time there.

I learned as a kid to distinguish the tone in my mother's voice. She often would say, "You're dad wants this or your dad wants that" but when she used the word FATHER I knew I was in trouble. "Kevin, your FATHER wants to see you." She stretched the word 'father' like a rubber band.

Jonah was, in a sense, called to the principal's office. "Jonah, I want to see you. I've prepared a special place, a secluded and private place where we can sit down and talk without interruption." Jonah 1:17 says, "…the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah." God didn't just prepare a fish, he 'appointed' a fish. The fish was sent on a mission to find a man floundering in the sea.

When we get in the habit of ignoring God he sometimes chooses to go to extraordinary means to get our attention and arrange for a serious discussion. God took Jonah into the belly of a fish. I know of no one else who has experienced anything quite like that. But God has taken me to places of seclusion in my past. He has spoken to me on the roof of my college dormitory, he has spoken to me as I walked along a secluded country road, he has spoken to me as I've studied with half dozen other students in the quietness of the library. He most often speaks to my heart in moments of quietness.

There were no interruptions in the belly of the whale. No television blaring. No telephones ringing, No voices of children playing or sounds of music. Jonah was totally focused on God. If we choose to obey God when he speaks we can avoid a lot of hardships in life. Immediate and total obedience will allow us to avoid a lot of storms, shipwrecks and whales.

I'm glad God pursued Jonah. The people of Nineveh were especially grateful that God didn't give up on Jonah. I'm glad that God didn't give up on me when I was disobedient and full of myself. A loving God was determined to seek out his wayward servant. I take great comfort in realizing how faithful and persistent God is when I pray for lost friends and loved ones.

Jonah teaches us that God is a God of second chances. "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time." (Jonah 3:1) Haven't we all been in need of a second chance? The second chances I've received in my life are numerous. When you are floundering about in the belly of a whale, when you are tired of having no direction in your life, when you're tired of the suffering brought on by your own disobedience God is waiting with open arms.

In my darkest hour, in my lowest moment when there seemed to be no hope he tepped in and he reminded me that if I would "ask anything in his name, he would do it." (John 14:14) He whispered into the darkness of my soul, "I am the Door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:9)

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Jonah: There is a price to pay when we run from God.

Jonah: There is a price to pay when we run from God

By Kevin Probst

Every decision and every action has consequences. Jonah went down to Joppa where he found a ship heading to Tarshish. "After paying the fare, he boarded the ship." (Jonah 1:3) There is a price to pay, a fare is collected when we disobey God and run from him.

There was a horrible storm going on. The pagan sailors were throwing cargo overboard in an attempt to save the ship. God hurled a wind into the sea that caused a great chaos in the waters and panic in the hearts of men. We don't know but what other vessels on the water had been destroyed.

You might think that God was trying to reach the pagans with the message that he could save them. That may be true but it seems God was primarily trying to reach a rebellious and disobedient servant. God allowed all of that chaos because he wanted Jonah to say 'yes'. Has God asked you to say 'yes' to his will? If you are experiencing chaos and great trouble in your life it may be God's attempt to get you to think about the consequences of running from him.

Recently America's debt was reported to be over $14 Trillion. We are experiencing economic breakdown. We have less money to spend on weapons and armies to defend ourselves. Unemployment, bankruptcies, foreclosures and unemployment figures are very troubling. Gas and food is becoming unaffordable to many. Life in our country is not as pleasant or easy as it once was. Is God trying to reach the pagans or is God calling a prodigal home? Our political and economic storm may be God's attempt to call us back to himself.

If Jonah would have only listened to God in the storm the great fish would have been unnecessary. But this is a reluctant and very stubborn prophet. Jonah went into the bottom of the ship "where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep." (Jonah 1:5) Many are sleeping today. We are comfortable and apathetic in our distress. While many other nations are experiencing great revivals and witnessing thousands coming to Christ it seems Americans are sleeping under the deck. The ancient prophets would shout to Americans, "Awake, Awake!"

The pagan sailors came to Jonah and urged him to pray. "Jonah," they said, "we are calling on our gods, why don't you call on yours? Maybe, just maybe he will take notice of us and we will not perish." (Jonah 1:6) Jonah is desperate to escape a determined God. "I'm the reason for the storm. Throw me overboard and all will be well." What stubbornness! He would rather die than obey God!

Have you ever known those who enjoyed their sin so much they would rather perish than give up their sinful life-styles. Many who are blinded and bound in their sin will say, "Go ahead and send me to hell. I'll have my sin. I'll enjoy it and if there is hell to pay, so be it."

I read a stream of conversation this morning on facebook. A young man was making fun of his friends who attended church. He played the hypocrite card like so many do. "I don't want to go to church with all those fake Christians." Then he commented that he guessed he would just go on and party in hell. Another asked him to reserve a place and they would party together.

I was shocked that they would take hell so lightly. But many in our society are so engrossed in their sin and so blinded to the truth that it's not unusual anymore to hear statements like, "Go ahead and send me to hell. I'll have my sin. I'll enjoy it and if there is hell to pay, so be it."

Jonah is shaking his fist in the face of God and saying, "I'll not obey. I'll die first!"

Every action and every decision has consequences. The lie many believe is that there will be no consequences or that the severe, eternal consequences described in the Bible for disobedience and a refusal to humble oneself and repent don't really apply to them.

Thankfully, God will sometimes bring storms into our lives and allow chaotic things to happen to get us to refocus. He will then offer us a better path to follow. The secret to replacing the chaos with peace is found in 1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness". He then leads us into a "peace that passeth understanding."

Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.