Wednesday, March 30, 2011

God Loves...God Hates

God Loves, God Hates
By Kevin Probst

I know you've heard that God is love. You've heard it hundreds of times. You've seen those three words on billboards, on bumper stickers and probably tattooed on someone's arm. They are three of the most wonderful words available in the English language. But those three words may also reveal a distorted view of God. God is indeed love but God cannot be God if he were not also a God of wrath.
Walk the aisles of the local Bible Book Store and discover a plethora of books about how loving God is. It’s a popular topic. It is a topic preachers love to preach about because it brings warm 'fuzzies' to their congregants. There are but a few books about God's wrath. Loves sells, wrath does not.
To get a balanced view of who God really is we must also admit his wrath. God has many attributes and they must all be perfectly balanced. Many refuse to see the other side of God's love. God not only loves, he hates. He only hates one thing, sin. His hatred for sin was expressed in a most amazing way. That most common verse we all learned as children says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…" but it could have very well said, "For God so hated sin that he gave his only begotten son…"
Thomas Watson said, "Is God so infinitely holy? Then see how unlike to God sin is. Sin is an unclean thing. It is called an abomination. God has no mixture of evil in Him; sin has no mixture of good. It is the spirit in quintessence of evil, it turns good into evil, it has deflowered the virgin soul, made it red with guilt and black with filth. It is called the accursed thing. No wonder therefore that God hates sin."
God's wrath is demonstrated throughout scripture. He revealed his wrath when he rescued the Israelites from an Egyptian culture that was saturated with idolatry and disobedience to the true God. God revealed his wrath when he decided to destroy most of mankind in the flood because of the pollution of sin. God expressed his wrath by dropping fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah because of their vile sin.
We have little problem understanding the wrath of God and that he continually hates sin. Our problem is that we humanize God by comparing his wrath and anger to that of man. When we get angry there are elements of selfishness and pride intermingled in our passion. When God gets angry there is no pride, there are no hurt feelings. His anger is a response to his perfect justice. He is holy and sin is an attempt to destroy his holiness. He ceases to be holy if he doesn't get angry at sin. So, to maintain his very 'Godness' he must hate sin wholly and entirely.
The first public act of Jesus when he began his ministry in Jerusalem was to form a whip and drive the moneychangers out of the temple. I'm sure his followers thought, "It's on, now. He'll swing that whip all the way to Rome." Jesus wasn't trying to establish himself as a leader. He wasn't trying to build a macho reputation. Jesus was furious because God was being dishonored. It wasn't about him. It was about defending the holiness of his Father.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) We all have sinned and we all deserve nothing less than eternal punishment in a fiery hell. John also reveals the truth about God's wrath, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36) "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment."
A loving and holy God reveals his love by his hatred for sin.
I rejoice every time I read in our local paper that the police have nabbed another rapist or murderer or thief. We have a jail filled with people who deserve to be there. If they were released they would be a danger to our community. Christians will one day inhabit heaven and be very grateful that there is a hell. God reveals his love for his own children by casting those who would do us harm into an eternal prison where they will receive a just penalty for their crimes.
God protects his holy nature by giving man free will. Those who dwell in hell are there, not because of a God whose heart is full of vengeance and retribution, but because of their own decision to refuse the invitation to be adopted into the family of God.
I am grateful that God hates evil because it proves so strongly his love for mankind.
One of my co-workers was recently received bad news from his doctor. He had been diagnosed with cancer. The doctor immediately followed the bad news with good news, "we have a cure." The bad news is that a holy God must demonstrate hatred for sin and he must display his wrath toward those who are sinful. The good news is that he has devised a cure for his own wrath. The only way to save us from the wrath of a just God was for his sinless Son to present himself a sacrifice for our sins. The ultimate penalty for sin is death. God poured out his wrath for sin on his only Son. Christ, in response to the father's love for man and his hatred for sin, died for all.

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, March 28, 2011

Rob Bell: No Hell

Rob Bell: No Hell for Bell
By Kevin Probst

The evangelical movement in America erupted in controversy recently in reaction to Rob Bell’s new book; Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Bell is being both defended and demonized by passionate evangelicals. The conversation has reached volcanic proportions which could benefit Bell greatly in the sale of his book.
Rob Bell was born in 1970. His father was a federal judge appointed by Ronald Reagan to the federal judiciary. Bell grew up in a traditional Christian home. He attended Wheaton College and later achieved a Master of Divinity Degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.
Bell and his wife, Kristen, moved from California to Michigan and started a church in Grandville. Ironically, he named the church ‘Mars Hill Church’ after the place in the New Testament where Paul declared “I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” (Acts 17:23) Mars Hill runs nearly 10,000 people on any given Sunday.
The theological beliefs on the Mars Hill website are written in narrative form. They affirm a belief in the inspiration of God’s Word and the sacrifice of Christ. The emphasis is on relationship. There is no mention of ‘hell’ and it appears they promote strongly the idea that the primary reason for the sacrifice of Christ is to restore relationship both to him and among ourselves. There is also no mention of ‘sin’. The narrative does indicate that the children of Israel disobeyed God and neglected the poor and ‘mistreated the foreigner”.
The controversy regarding Bell’s latest book involves his leanings toward universalism. If your ultimate goal is to appeal to the masses, especially youth, then universalism is the way to go. I’ve discovered in my teaching of apologetics and in my conversations with college-aged youth that well over 50% of them have no problem with accepting the idea that Jesus saves not only Christians but also Muslims, Buddhists, etc. They are either unaware of or they easily slough off the verse found in John 14:6 “Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me”
The Universalist believes that all men will be saved in the end. But Jesus taught us to “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) Many Christians today are pondering the absence of hell in Rob Bell’s theology. The natural conclusion is that Bell is a Universalist. If God eventually saves all men there is no need for a hell. They believe if there is a hell, then it is temporary. Those in hell experience judgment for their sins but finally God’s love wins. Hell is emptied as each and every suffering soul responds to the grace of God. This teaching clearly contradicts the teaching of Christ. “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt. 25:46)
Not only is Bell’s belief in hell questioned, his belief in the unique saving power of Christ is questioned. Pluralism is the belief that there is legitimacy in all religions and belief systems. Every major religion prepares a person for an eternal existence with God. Rob Bell stated, "I affirm the truth anywhere in any religious system, in any worldview. If it's true, it belongs to God." I too believe that all truth belongs to God. But, I believe in a hell and hell is full of God’s truth but hell is a curse, not a blessing. Though there may be some truth in every religious system it doesn’t mean that system is of God. Indeed, many religions that oppose Christianity were specifically designed to draw people away from Christ, not to him. It seems Rob Bell is promoting universalism and pluralism.
Truth is not something we can just pick and choose. The post-modernists would like to decide for themselves just what is and is not truth. The belief in hell is particularly despised in today’s culture. The argument goes something like this: God is so good he couldn’t possibly send any one to an eternal torment.
Theodicy is the defense of the divine attributes, especially the goodness and holiness of God in view of the evil that exists in the world. A multitude of modern ‘theologians’ have run to the defense of God. They believe God’s reputation has been sullied by theologians who, down through the centuries have attributed the existence of hell to him. I’m reminded of a statement Sarah Palin made recently, “I need NOW’s defense like a fish needs a bicycle.” Our omniscient, all-wise, all-knowing God is in no need of being defended by the puny minds of men.
It is incomprehensible that men who would bring mega-destruction over the last few decades, men who would allow multimillions of babies to be aborted, men who would delve into a lifestyle of immorality and unbelief think it their duty to demand that God answer for the existence of hell and redefine himself to suit their whims.
This failure to recognize hell is non-sensible. If there is light there must be darkness. If there is good there must be evil. If happiness exists then sadness must also exist. Is light not defined by darkness and good by evil and happiness by sadness. If you ask the typical fellow today if there is a heaven he will say ‘yes’. But if you ask if there is a hell he will say ‘no’. If there is a heaven must there also not be a hell? Is one not defined by the existence of the other?
The removal of hell from our theology will changed who God is. There must be equilibrium in our understanding of God. When we choose only to see the love of God we tend to diminish the justice of God. The existence of hell clarifies the love of God. God sent his only begotten Son to deliver us from such a place. If hell doesn’t exist then what has Christ saved us from? I’m not sure if those in heaven can peer into hell but if they can, would they not be even more convinced of the love of God?
Kevin Probst - Is a teacher of Apologetics and History at Calvary Christian School and Associate Pastor of Crosspointe Nazarene Church church in Columbus, Georgia.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Road Less Traveled (audio)

*This sermon contains material from sources other than the original thoughts of Rev. Kevin Probst. Several resources were used in the construction of this sermon including the work of Dr. Frank Moore. Many authors and contributors are not sited or noted here. Much of my preaching material is gleaned from others whose sources are not noted. Might God – the originator of all thought and blessings – receive all glory.

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

23rd Psalm (audio)

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

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nothing Less Than Holiness

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

Dumbed Down by Technology

Dumbed Down by Technology

By Kevin Probst

My family never had a television in our home until I was six years old. When we finally got a TV our lives changed. I was only allowed to watch TV for one hour a night but that rule soon evaporated as my brothers and I greatly pressured our parents for more TV time. The consequence was less family oriented entertainment in the home. We developed an affection for the television and it somehow became like a family member. We talked less as a family. I never knew how hard my Dad’s life was as he worked two or three jobs to try to make ends meet. My mother could have shared so much more of her medical knowledge she acquired as a nurse working daily in the operating room. I had no idea what was going on in the lives of my two older brothers and as the youngest I could have benefited so much from information that was never communicated to me.

The internet has joined the television as a partner in the crime of destroying family relationships. It’s difficult to disciple our children because we are not living in relational context. Entertainment is becoming less and less family oriented. Kids have their own television sets in their bedrooms. We put televisions in family vans and kids listen to their i-pods so they can have a total ‘me centered” experience. They don’t know what is going on around them and they fail to build meaningful family relationships. A father who awakens to the fact that he hardly knows his son may have to take a hammer to the i-pod in order to correct the problem.

We now have relationships with newscasters, radio personalities and T.V. stars. People who watched Friends thought they had more friends they people who did not watch friends. We call these famous celebrities by their first name as if they are best friends to us. We accumulate a thousand friends on face book and we feel good about ourselves because we have so many friends. We live in a surreal world with pseudo friendships and when on occasion we are forced to face true reality we are shocked and confused.

Most high school students don’t know there father and if they do they have no relationship with him. I teach in a Christian high school where most of our students have fathers but many have no idea what their father does at his job. Families don’t sit down and eat and converse together anymore. Instead, each family member takes their supper tray to their own television or their own computer. We don’t talk to the neighbor over the fence anymore. We don’t sit on the front porch together anymore. We live in a world of selfish isolation. We wonder why others don’t talk to us and interact with us. We don’t realize how our own isolation has made us unapproachable.

We will pay $200 dollars an hour for a counselor to try to help us with our broken relationships. We do better for awhile but we finally return to our own technological addictions. We don’t communicate with our children anymore and when they ‘act out’ to try to get our attention we medicate them and turn them into little zombies and they passively return to their video games and their i-pods and we’re happy because they are finally leaving us alone so we can pursue our own selfish interest.

It didn’t start with television or even radio. It probably started with Gutenburg’s printing press. You’ve probably known a book-worm who fails to interact with people because they prefer to live in a fantasy world provided by the book. I used to have a friend who would occasionally make a seven or eight hour trip cross country to see relatives. He said it was the loneliest drive. His wife would read a book the whole way hardly saying a word to him.

The internet teaches us, just like television, to have a short attention span. As a teacher, I have to change gears every twelve minutes because the attention spans of my students are conditioned by the thousands and thousands of hours they’ve watched television. They watch for twelve minutes and then watch an advertisement. I teach for twelve minutes and then tell a joke or move on to another activity as I adapt to their mindsets. We now rush from website to website in just seconds. The newer generation lives on sound bites here and there. They have a very difficult time participating in creative or critical thinking. There is very little originality anymore. The music and poetic artists in our culture aren’t producing much creative, original material. How many songs do you hear that are remakes? It’s as if we can’t think for ourselves anymore so we have to reach back and grab material from the past.

Many of my students have difficulty stringing sentences together. Writing a succession of sentences to form a paragraph is challenging for them. Actually linking a number of paragraphs together to build on a theme is almost impossible for many of them. I don’t want to tell you how many in a class of thirty sophomores have never read an entire book! Even our country’s most powerful political leaders must lean heavily on technology (teleprompters) to assist them in communicating in a rational and thoughtful way. Compare the speeches of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams with our modern politicians and you will discover that speeches given two hundred years ago are far more complex than the stunningly inferior teleprompter speeches of modern times.

We don’t write thoughtful letters anymore. The average email is six sentences of four or five words each. We are communicating much more but the communication is very shallow. We text and we twitter and we hardly get beyond three and four letter words. We love to LOL and we TGIF. Is this really communication or are we like cavemen just grunting at each other. Are our abbreviated conversations promoting shallow minds?

Governor Palin is making a lot of political hay off of tweets. There is no possible way to develop any sort of in depth political idea on Twitter. You can only send out sound bites and bumper sticker type statements. This may very well make a politician seem shallow when in reality they may not be.

We need to recover those deep relationships with family and friends. But, these relationships are built on language and communication skills. It feels like our modern day ‘bumper sticker’ communication is more destruction than constructive. It feels like the modern technology is producing shallow minds and shallow hearts and these in turn produce superficial relationships. Shakespeare would weep.

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

G.O.S.P.E.L. -

God Our Sins Paying Everyone Life = GOSPEL

G.O.S.P.E.L. from Humble Beast Records on Vimeo.

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, March 22, 2011

Marshmellow Experiment

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

Deceptive Road Signs

Deceptive Road Signs

By Kevin Probst

Jesus said, "I am the way…" (John 14:6). He also said that in the latter days "many will come in my name, claiming 'I am he'" and will present alternative ways (Mark 13:6). Jesus warned about these alternative ways. He said they would be many in number and they would be presented as easier alternatives. He was very honest with his followers when he warned them that the way that leads to righteousness and holiness is "narrow and hard." (Matt. 7:14) So, many in these days are leaving "the straight way and wandering off". (2 Peter 2:15)

Satan throws up all sorts of road signs along the way. These are all lies to try to discourage traveling pilgrims. Sadly, many believe the lies, get discouraged and return to the easy way that leads to destruction. Imagine traveling on our nation's highways and encountering road signs that were bogus. It could be devastating to see a sign indicating the road would curve to the right when it actually curved to the left. It's much more devastating to us spiritually when we see deceptive road signs along our spiritual journey..

One very common deception of Satan is to try to convince Christians that they can never really have victory over sin. Our great travel theme along this way has become, "I must sin every day in thought, word and deed." If you look at the back bumper of the vehicle in front of you there is probably a sticker that says, "Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven." or perhaps one that says, "Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet." Have we elevated these clich├ęs to the point where we are excusing sin?

The Bible teaches us that Jesus Christ gave his life on a brutal cross to become conqueror of sin. God is powerful enough to enable us to become conquerors over sin and evil. He enables us to live in such a way that "sin is no longer our master." (Romans 6:14) Where is the omnipotence of God if we must always be servant to sin?

If a prowler was to enter my house in the night and I heard him moving about I would reach for my gun and try to get the drop on him. With my little red laser light shining on his forehead I would lead him to a closet and close him in. I would then pull up a chair and guard the door to make sure he doesn't get out. Might I ask how much rest would I get? There would be no peace in my life. I don't want him hidden away in a closet. I want him removed from my property. In like manner, I don't want my sin to be covered or concealed or suppressed…I want it to be conquered by the precious blood of Christ.

The whole idea that we have no choice but to live in perpetual sin contradicts the whole idea repeated throughout scripture that the people of God are recipients of a Sabbath rest. (Hebrew 4:9) It's not that Christians live in some sort of spiritual perfection so that they cannot sin. They can sin and occasionally they do sin. But the difference between a Christian sinning and an unbeliever sinning is that the Christian hates his sin, feels tremendous remorse when he does sin and immediately seeks forgiveness. A Christian calls on God to strengthen him so that he will not commit that sin again. An unbeliever loves his sin. He enjoys his sin and searches for opportunities to rationalize his sin.

Unfortunately, many want to imprison sin while God wants to execute sin.

Another deceptive road sign Satan will throw up on the way of Christ is a sign that says that you must understand his plan of salvation before you can experience it. I once knew a young man who wanted very much to be saved from his sin. He would pray often and many would pray with him. He never seemed to be able to claim victory. "I just don't understand. I don't know how this is supposed to work," he would say. His demand for intellectual understanding was standing in the way. Salvation comes through faith by His grace. (Ephesians 2:8) We are to trust God with all our hearts and "lean not on our own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5)

If you are having trouble understanding the divine plan of salvation, take comfort. The great doctrines of God do not lend themselves to the simple minds of men. If we could understand salvation we wouldn't need God. If we understood salvation we wouldn't be serving God, we would be worshipping an idol. Salvation wouldn't be supernatural if we understood it.

No one can understand how God could allow his only begotten Son, the only man to live in absolute sinless perfection, to be dragged to a cross and die for sinful humanity. There is no justice in that. We can't comprehend such love. The wonderful this is, God made it possible for us to experience full salvation without having to understand.

God wants us to accept the fact that we will never totally understand and reject Satan's suggestion that we must understand. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD.

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, March 20, 2011

When we stand at the crossroads

When we stand at the crossroads

By Kevin Probst

“There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it's easy.” I don’t know the author of this quote but he/she expresses skillfully the idea that sometimes we come to a crossroads in life and we simply choose one way over another because it will bring us less discomfort, it’s the easy way. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.” Choices are available to us. We are responsible for our own success or failure because we are free to make a choice. We too often choose the easy way, the way of least resistance, the way that most everyone else is taking. Unfortunately, the easy way usually leads to failure. Those who seek the way that leads to Christ, the way that leads to a deeper relationship with God, the way that leads to heaven, choose a way that is not an easy way.

When Jesus said, “Narrow is the way that leads to life and broad is the way that leads to destruction” (Matthew 7:13-14) he was saying that the way of Christ is narrow and difficult. It’s not easy to choose Christ. There will be ridicule, there will be persecution. Jesus commended those who were willing to endure hardship for his sake, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10) It’s easy to choose the way that leads to sin and destruction. This way is broad and easy to travel and there are far more people who choose the easy way to destruction rather than the more difficult way to holiness.

“Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest till stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” (Hebrews 4:1) If you find yourself at the crossroads today, don’t miss it. This is too important. This is your future. A decision you make today will determine your destiny for all of eternity.

Many have heard the gospel but “the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” (Hebrews 4:2) Choosing the more difficult way is often fearful. That’s why it must be accompanied by faith. We need faith in the grace of God to overcome our fear of failure. We must believe in the power of his blood, in the comfort of his Spirit, in the truth of his word and the surety of his promise. “Now we who have believed enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:3)

But most do not enter the rest made available through Christ Jesus. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7)

Agrippa hardened his heart when he came to the great crossroads of his life. “Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Almost you persuade me to be a Christian.’” (Acts 26:28) ‘Almost’ will surely be a one-word theme for many who spend an eternity in a hell without God.

Thomas was at a crossroads when he said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25) Surely no one dies without having some sort of revelation from God. There is an opportunity for all to recognize him. There is a moment in every life when he stands at the door waiting for an opening into every heart. Many come to this crossroads in their lives and they refuse Christ. Maybe someone is experiencing that moment as they read these words?

Jesus said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (Acts 20:27) Thomas then replied to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” (Acts 20:28)

Joshua stood at a crossroads when he opposed the 10 other spies at Kadesh. God has presented the children of Israel an opportunity to enter the Promised Land and find rest. They were fearful of the giants in the land and they made what seemed to be an easier choice. They shied away from hardship and battle with a formidable enemy. But Joshua saw things differently. Joshua captured the theme of his life in his last words: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:25)

God invites us to a rest, to something deeper, He doesn’t want an engagement, he wants a marriage. There is a fork in the road. The pathway of holiness looks attractive indeed but this pathway is not well worn. There doesn’t seem to be great crowds and multitudes traveling this way. Enjoying he sanctified life requires that we knock down the gate of fear. The fear of what my spouse or my family will think. The fear of being pegged as a religious fanatic. The fear that my friends will ostracize me.

There is a cost when we choose the more difficult way. It will cost you….EVERYTHING. There are no special deals or discounts when it comes to the purchase of our souls. Christ paid the price and he demands the whole product. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be (radically) transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

The right path to take is the more difficult path. When we are overcome by our own fears and weaknesses God provides us with courage and strength: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

God Calls Us To A Deeper Relationshp

God Calls Us to a Deeper Relationship

By Kevin Probst

The modern church in America seems to be in a day of trouble. Many in the church today have lost their power. The powerlessness of the church coincides with her lack in purity. Isaiah said, “This day is a day of distress and rebuke and disgrace, as when children come to the point of birth and there is no strength to deliver them. (37:3) There is trouble and distress in the church. There is a great sorrow as a woman who feels the stress of her labor but she has no strength left to deliver. Our weakness is a result of refusing God’s invitation to a deeper relationship. We refuse to go deeper with God because of the commitment it requires.

I love Charles Dicken’s Christmas classic, The Christmas Carol. The story centers around Ebenezer Scrooge. Angels appear to scare the living daylights out of Ebenezer. When fear finally retreats the angels teach him the real meaning of life by forcing him to relive his own. The Angel of Christmas Past takes Ebenezer back to the time of his romantic relationship with a girl named Belle. Belle had reached a point where she wanted a deeper level of commitment from Ebenezer. Ebenezer was hesitant to commit. He was weighing his relationship with Belle and his work in the balance and Ebenezer chose work. Ebenezer was challenged to overcome his fear of poverty and step out on faith by making Belle his bride but he couldn’t do it.

Ebenezer thought the relationship was just fine as it was. “Why is Belle asking me to commit at a deeper level?” Everyone who has ever been in a serious relationship eventually reaches this point; “am I going to make a total commitment and make her my bride or am I going to be hesitant, am I going to commit to something or someone other than this relationship?” Ebenezer could never bring himself to commit to the relationship and he lived a very restless life.

Christ invites us to a deeper intimacy. Many fail to realize this. They think their relationship with God is just fine.

The story of Ebenezer parallels the story of the Israelites as they journey from Egypt to The Promised Land. Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea and they trod through Sinai until they finally arrived at a place called Kadesh. God was so faithful to them. He miraculously provided for them and protected them. Kadesh was a crossroads for them. It is a place in their journey where they must choose one way over another.

We all come to crossroads in our lives. A place where you make a decision that will determine the very course of your life. After you’ve chosen your path and traveled far, perhaps many years down that road, you look back at the crossroads and ask, “What would my life have been like had I chosen the other path?”

The Lord said to Moses at Kadesh, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan.” (Numbers 13:1-2) So they sent out twelve men to spy out the land. When the spies were debriefed regarding their mission their information was astonishing. What they saw was awesome. They saw a land flowing with milk and honey. It was a land of many resources that would make them very prosperous. Ten of the spies declared there were giants in the land that were fearsome. Their fortresses were impenetrable.

But two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, saw the land through a lens of faith and hope. They saw the fulfillment of a promise. They saw an oasis after a long desert journey, a place where the people of God could rest. They saw God delivering the giants of the land into their hands. Unfortunately, the people of Israel turned away and wandered for forty years in the desert. A whole generation passed away without seeing the Promised Land because of a decision at a crossroads called Kadesh.

I love Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken.” Frost tells of coming to a crossroads in a yellow wood. He pauses as he must choose one path or the other. He finally makes his choice and the last stanza of his poem says:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

God is inviting us to take a road less traveled and if we choose this road it will make all the difference in the lives we live. Isaiah speaks of the way in his 35th chapter, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.”

Jesus said that the way that leads to life is narrow and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:14) It seems so few find it because of unbelief and unwillingness. They can’t bring themselves to believe that a deeper intimacy, a deeper relationship with God is possible. They seem to be unwilling to step out on faith and make the commitment, offer the sacrifices and practice the disciplines necessary for a deeper walk with God.

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, March 17, 2011

Whatever Happened to Holiness?

Whatever Happened to Holiness?

By Kevin Probst

Many of the older generation (those my parent’s age) believed in entire sanctification. They professed it and modeled it in their lives at home and at work. The next generation received the message of entire sanctification but it didn’t quite work for them like it did for their parents. The following generation, my young adult sons, heard the message but they were very skeptical. They were ignorant and indifferent because they haven’t heard the message so often nor as clearly as the previous generations.

The message of entire sanctification is now shrouded in doubt among many in the holiness movement. A large number in my generation were disillusioned by the strong legalism attached to the movement in their younger years. Others were soured on holiness when professing members in the movement erupted in anger and failed to get along with each other. Some drifted away from the message of holiness because of the antiquated words that were being used to describe the experience. 17th century English made it more difficult rather than easier to understand.

Some have doubted second blessing holiness because many of the Biblical texts used to defend the doctrine were skillfully refuted by well-respected preachers and theologians who opposed the movement. Many were frightened away or overwhelmed with doubt when they saw that larger numbers were choosing a different path to follow. Others were turned off by the “my four and no more” attitude within the movement, a sort of isolationism that contradicted Wesley’s idea of ministering to all levels of society.

The very meaning of sanctification is to separate ourselves from sin, to separate ourselves unto a holy God. This idea may be misinterpreted by skeptics as a snobbish refusal to interact with the present culture, a sort of creepy monasticism. Those who are leery of holiness often envision a people who are border-line weird because they refuse to flow with the cultural trends. Christ was the perfect example of a man who separated himself from the sin of a culture, but he never withdrew from the culture itself. He was very much a part of the community. He interacted, he worked as a carpenter, he went fishing with the guys. Jesus organized a fish fry on the beach for his best friends and he loved to celebrate at weddings.

What will happen to the movement proclaiming holiness? It’s not going to disappear. It is founded in the Word of God and God’s word is eternal. Leviticus 19:2 is always going to say, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Doesn’t sound like an option to me, sounds more like a command. Hebrews 12:14 is always going to say, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” This holiness proclaimed in both the old and the new testaments is essential if we are to live in complete obedience to God and if we are to receive our passport into the Kingdom of Heaven.

The holiness movement seems to be floundering about looking for direction. Ironically, while those who call themselves holiness are looking for ways to revive the movement there is a growing, healthy and vibrant interest in holiness among denominations and people who have not been a part of the movement traditionally. There is a great interest among the younger generation in purity and morality. They want very much to address immorality in the culture and they are extremely motivated to express their Christian beliefs by performing acts of service for those who are needy in our society. They are most put off by those in the older generations who claim Christianity but fail to demonstrate it in their daily lives.

The holiness movement has been hurt by the many distortions we’ve introduced as time has passed. As a government teacher I often tell my students that democracy as we practice it today is not at all what our founding fathers intended it to be. As the tree grows we tend to follow the branches further and further away from the tree. I’m not sure the Wesleyan movement is anything at all what John Wesley intended it to be. I’m not even sure our practice of Christianity is anything like Christ intended for it to be.

I don’t believe embracing a plethora of new ideas that are emerging from the seeker -friendly movement or the ‘big’ church movement is going to revive the holiness movement. I think it would be better to prune the tree and try to return closer to the trunk. Wouldn’t it be better if we simplified things and erased all the distorted human contributions and returned to and reevaluated our favorite proof-texts. Wouldn’t it be better to make the Bible our primary source for learning about holiness rather than the works of Wesley, Brengle or Bresee? Wouldn’t it be wiser to find a scriptural truth and apply it to human experience rather than find a human experience and try to find a scripture to justify it?

I think in some ways our culture has outrun our doctrine. Truth never changes but it must be reborn in the heart of every generation. Words become archaic and obsolete. Phrases that held meaning to our grandfathers don’t hold the same meaning to our grandsons. The holiness movement needs the reaffirmation of scripture but it also needs revision and renewal. The nails in the house are rusty and weak. It may be time to tear down and rebuild or at least remodel.

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, March 14, 2011

Why is there no looting in Japan?

No Looting in Japan

By Kevin Probst

My older brother has been a missionary to Japan for 30 years. Presently he is living in Kentucky. When I called to ask about the tragedy in Japan he assured me that if any people could survive a disaster of this magnitude surely the Japanese people could. He has a great admiration for them as a very strong people who seem to come together in times of crisis. I couldn't help but think of the great comeback of the Japanese people following their devastation during WWII.
One morning, earlier in my brother's ministry, he boarded a train to go to work. He put his camera on the luggage carrier over his head. When he disembarked he forgot his camera. After work that day he was very sad as he made his way to the train station. The camera was expensive and the loss was painful. He managed to board the same train and sit in the same area. He looked up at the carrier where he had left his camera and was astonished to see it still there.

Why does it seem there are so few thieves in Japanese society? My mind goes back to the L.A. riots of 1992. Rodney King lived his 15 minutes of fame when he uttered the words, "Why can't we all just get along." I watched the rioting on television and the next day I entered the classroom of an inner city school here in Columbus where I was a history teacher. I showed my class a picture of a group of individuals looting furniture and grocery stores. I commented that I was appalled at such thievery and the great pain it brought to innocent store owners. It was one of those moments in life when you have an astounding revelation that never leaves you. My students disagreed strongly with my assessment.

"Coach, don't tell us that if you were there you wouldn't take a television or grab a microwave," they asked. They gave me that deer-in-the-headlight look when I adamantly declared that I would not steal. I realize that day that an entire generation of youth had failed to embrace the noble and biblical idea that breaking the 9th commandment was an affront to a holy God and a violation against humanity.

Chile experienced the a horrible earthquake last year and the military was called in to control extensive looting. There was uncontrollable looting in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina demolished most of the city. There was looting, robbery and rape in Haiti after they suffered an earthquake in 2010.

But Japan seems to be an altogether different story. It was reported that one small store had all its windows and its glass door were broken. The store was totally exposed. It had an ATM and there were food products on the shelves. There was no guard there to protect its contents but no one entered the store, nothing was taken. Can you imagine this happening in the U.S.?

Gregory Pflugfelder who specializes in the Japanese culture said, "Looting simply does not take place in Japan. I'm not even sure if there's a word for it that is as clear in its implications as when we hear 'looting'". He pointed out that the Japanese are very committed to the community before the individual. It is totally unacceptable in their culture to commit violent crimes and take something that does not belong to you. Americans take great pride in individualism while the Japanese are communal.

There is something noble about a society that chooses to look out for one another before fending for their own selves. Japan has suffered a horrendous tragedy but they are a very special culture. They exhibit an unusual strength so far as cultures go. I am saddened by what happened in Japan but I would like to put those who read this on alert: These people will join in a phenomenal solidarity to rise again and conquer the natural beast that has threatened to destroy them.

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, March 13, 2011

RIP - Victims of Japan's earthquake and tsunami

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, March 8, 2011

Trampling on His Grace

Trampling on His Grace

By Kevin Probst

We often buy gifts for those we love. When we invest much time and thought into it the gift is an expression of our love. After many hours of attentive analysis and studious reflection the purchase is made and you can’t help feel an excitement as you carry the gift to its recipient. Trying to wrap the gift as perfectly as possible is tedious but it is done with tender care. Finally, the time comes to present the gift and your eyes are full of sparkle as you present something you hope will be pleasing to one you love. The gift is received and the wrapping paper is removed but, alas, the look in the eyes says it all. This is not what was expected. The gift is set aside, a silent awkwardness settles in as one party is disappointed and the other is deeply hurt because the gift is being rejected.

We often talk about God’s gift of grace. Grace is that undeserved favor and love that God gives so freely to us. What must God feel like when we reject his gift of grace? What does it do to the heart of God when we trample on his grace, when we take his gift, a gift of unlimited value, a gift that is precious because it reveals the heart of a God who loves us dearly, and cast it aside?

There are several ways we tread on the grace of God. God’s heart must surely hurt when he extends his forgiving grace and we choose to return to a sin once forgiven. The woman who came to the well did not expect to receive such a wonderful gift. She met Jesus and he offered her saving grace. By faith she received forgiveness and Jesus said to her, “Go and sin no more.” She ran back to her village eager to tell others about a “man that told me all things I had ever done.” It is strongly assumed that she continued in her faith but would it not have been painful for Jesus had she trampled on his grace and returned to her previous lifestyle?

We certainly crush the heart of God when we choose to sin simply because we are under grace and no longer under the law. Paul was saying as much when he asked, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? God forbid!!” The very thought was repulsive to Paul. A person who sins because forgiving grace is available could be likened to a bride taking the wedding ring of her groom and flushing it down the sewer. When we try to manipulate the grace of God to satisfy our own fleshly desires his grace is ineffectual. Grace is a gift that can be rejected. A gift loses its meaning if rejection is not possible. If we refuse the gift of grace a loving and polite God will never force grace upon us.

We often trample on the grace of God when we expect less than he has to offer. The Bible is full of examples of those who received more. There was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He lay beside the Pool of Bethsaida. There were a great number of blind, deaf and disabled people who lay near the pool. This man certainly did not expect Jesus to come directly to him and speak exclusively to him. But Jesus did the unexpected. “Do you want to be healed?” Jesus asked. The man wanted to be put in the pool but what he received was complete healing when Jesus said, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

A group of Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman caught in adultery. They humiliated her in front of a large group of men. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The Law of Moses commands us to stone such women. What do you say?” Jesus picked up a stick and scratched something in the dust. “If any of you is without sin let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” They began to go away, one at a time. I’m sure this woman was expecting to receive what the law demanded, death. But instead, she received grace and forgiveness and a demonstration of unconditional love.

Jesus loved his disciples and all of his followers, he loved his enemies as well. But Jesus seems to have had a special affection for a group of siblings; Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Jesus received word that Lazarus was sick. He turned to go toward Judea and heard his disciples warn him, “But Jesus, they tried to stone you there a short while ago.” Jesus replied, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, I’m going there to awaken him.” The disciples failed to understand that Jesus spoke of Lazarus death.

An amazing thing happened when Jesus arrived in Bethany. He had a short conversation with Martha whose heart is broken because her brother died. Mary then approached him weeping and sorrow permeated the place as friends and relatives grieved. Jesus then wept! But why, he knew that he would soon raise Lazarus from the dead? He wept because he felt empathy for those whom he loved so dearly. Does Jesus weep when you weep?

Jesus approached the tomb and Martha said, “But Jesus, by now he is beginning to have a bad odor.” Obviously Mary and Martha were expecting less than Jesus was about to do. Jesus prayed to the Father and then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out! Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

When I was growing up we had number of large 30 to 40 feet trees in our back yard. My two brothers and I made an art out of tree climbing. As we climbed ever higher in an attempt to make our father proud we could sense the tension growing in the yard below. Mother was begging us to come down but dad was urging us to conquer our fears and climb ever higher and higher. I always climbed until I saw my father clap his hands and with a big smile on his face motion that I’d climbed far enough.

God provides us a more abundant grace so that we might experience a more abundant life. We grieve him when we are satisfied to climb half-way up the mountain and then stop. He is saddened when we are resurrected to spiritual life but we fail to live abundantly. He is disappointed when we enter and sit down at the gate instead of reaching for the whole experience of full salvation. We traipse on his wonderful gift of grace when we settle for less than he has to offer.

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

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Whatever Happened to Hell?

Whatever happened to hell?

By Kevin Probst

Dr. Andrew Schiller used data collected by the FBI to determine that a neighborhood in the city of Chicago is the most dangerous neighborhood in America. They average a violent crime per day and your chances of being a victim there are one in four. Ignorance and apathy are best friends to the criminal. If no one knows or cares then he has much more freedom to comb for victims.

As a minister of the gospel I’ve often wondered if Satan uses the same tactic. If we are ignorant of his power or his determination to damn us to hell it serves as a great advantage to him. If we are apathetic about evil and hell he has so much more freedom and power to destroy souls.

Ignorance and apathy seems to be flavor of the day. The Bible doesn’t mince any words when it comes to the truth of hell. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:15) Jesus believed in and taught a literal hell. “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from his kingdom everything that causes sin as well as all lawbreakers…and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41, 50)

Barna Associates have researched the question of hell and discovered that 32 percent of adults see hell as "an actual place of torment and suffering where people's souls go after death." That means that two out of three of us fail to believe in a literal hell. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that only 59% of Americans believe in some sort of hell, compared with 74% who believe in heaven.

It seems that John Lennon’s suggestion has become a reality. “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us….” So, why have we abandoned belief in hell?

I grew up in Northwestern Pennsylvania and almost all my friends were Catholic Italians. They reminded me often that I was going straight to hell because I was not Catholic.

Since moving to the deep south (Georgia) I have acquired many wonderful Calvinist friends. They are quick to tell me that God decided before the creation of the world who would and who would not make it to heaven or hell. This seemingly random, pick and choose method meets some sort of quota to satisfy the desires of God. Amazingly, God has chosen every one of my Calvinist friends and all their family members to go to heaven.

My Arminian brothers believe that God doesn’t send anyone to hell. God prepared hell for Lucifer and the fallen angels and a man never finds himself in hell as a result of an arbitrary decision made by God, he finds himself in hell because of his own decision to reject and disobey God.

There is a very strong movement that has been capturing the minds of our countrymen since the Revolutionary War. The Universalists believe that God is so good and so loving that he couldn’t possibly send anyone to hell, therefore, we will all make it to heaven regardless if we have been born-again and have developed a relationship with God or not.

It seems that common sense alone would convince us that there must be a hell. If there is a God, there must be a Satan. If there is light there must be darkness. If there is sin there must be such a thing as holiness. Why would anyone think that if there is a heaven there must NOT be a hell? It doesn’t make sense. Why do we believe that God is grace but God is not wrath? There is no grace without judgment.

Many Americans now believe that those who go to hell will get a second chance, and maybe a third and a fourth chance. This smacks of reincarnation to me. This belief contradicts Hebrews 9:27 “It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment.”

The Annihilationist believes that those who find themselves in hell will be quickly vaporized by the intense fire and heat to exist no more. This too is unscriptural because the Bible teaches us that we will live eternally either in heaven or in hell. John 5:28 teaches that those who have died will NOT be annihilated, rather, they shall be resurrected, “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice”

Perhaps Americans don’t believe in hell anymore because America’s preachers have bought into the creed of the culture. R.C. Sproul said, "I can't think of anything more politically incorrect to preach in 21st century America than the wrath of God, or the justice of God or the doctrine of Hell," Pastors are shying away from preaching on this difficult subject because they fear the culture will proclaim them irrelevant. Almost everyone in the culture believes most everyone is going to make it to heaven. “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor. 9:16) Preachers are not to pick and choose what truth they want to preach, they are to preach the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Would it be even possible to find any pastor in the United States preaching about hell and God’s justice this upcoming Sunday? It seems, by our silence, we are declaring we don’t believe in hell anymore or we just don’t have the courage, the backbone to preach a painful truth.

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

Friday, March 4, 2011


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

Jesus bridged the gap

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, March 1, 2011

This video helps explain why we are in such an economic mess!!

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