Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Family Was Raptured

I was 12 years old when I attended children’s church in a small United Brethren in Christ church near Meadville in northwestern Pennsylvania.  I loved children’s church for all the wrong reasons.  Separation from a father who determined to make me toe the line was a relief.  I was the kid every teacher would love to take behind the woodshed.  I was the real deal when it came to causing trouble.

      My teacher’s name was Carolyn, she always smiled and hugged me when I came in the door and I knew she didn’t mean it.  I entered the Sunday School classroom in the basement of our church on one particular Sunday morning in the Spring of the year not knowing that I was about to learn something that would change my life.  She took out the flannel graph and told us of an event that would happen in the future.  I was spell-bound.  I sponged up every word she said about the rapture.  That morning I left that room fearing that I might be left behind because I knew my life was full of sin.

      I went to school the next week and tried to forget about that silly Children’s church lesson but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. 

      On Friday of that week I was meandering on a path through the woods that led from Neason Hill Elementary School to my home.  With my trumpet case in one hand and a load of books in the other, one mile felt like three.  As I approached our white, two-story home on that April afternoon I looked over the hill beyond and saw the darkest cloud approaching I’d ever seen.  I heard distant thunder and saw lighting flashing in the cloud. 

      I picked up the pace and dashed to the house.  What did I find when I got there?  I found nothing.   There was no one there.  This was the first time I’d come home to find it empty.  The silence was deafening.  I called out for my parents and my older brothers. No one replied.  I felt a knot form in my throat.  I knew….oh, I just knew that the rapture had taken place and I had been left behind.  I went out in the yard and called for our dog, Buster.  Buster was always quick to meet me when I arrived from school but there was no sign of him.  Can dogs be raptured also?  I was all alone.

      I began to form a plan for survival.  I was going to have to live alone.  I knew there was food in the refrigerator and the cupboards.  I knew Dad had planted a garden and I knew Mrs. Henry has also planted a garden and she lived up on the hill.  Now, Mrs. Henry was the holy, saintly mother figure in our church.  She was old, very old.  She had already outlived three husbands. 

      The thought of Ms. Henry brought hope to my heart.  I stepped out in the yard and peered toward her house and I thought my heart would explode with joy.  Ms. Henry was out working in her garden.  That could only mean one thing.  I hadn’t been left behind.  God would never, ever rapture his saints and leave Ms. Henry behind. 

      I didn’t know where my family was but there was no possible way any one of them was going to be raptured ahead of a saint like Ms. Henry.

      It seemed Ms. Henry lived to be about 100.  When she died everyone knew she had a special place in heaven.  Two things happened to me on that day:  I wanted to know I was ready for Christ’s return and if I died before he returned I wanted to have lived a saintly life so that I could die in confidence and everyone would know that I had gone to heaven.

      We recently commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  Everyone knows about the Titanic but few people know about the Titan.  Morgan Robertson wrote a short novel about an enormous passenger liner called Futility.  The Titan was said to be unsinkable and it carried an insufficient number of lifeboats.  In the month of April, the Titan, on its maiden voyage from South Hampton to New York, hits a mammoth iceberg and sinks in the North Atlantic. 

      Morgan Robertson’s novel and the actual event are not exactly the same.  In Futility, the fictional ship, Titan, is 880 feet long.  The actual Titanic was 882 feet long.  The fictional Titan was able to displace 70,000 tons of water. The actual Titanic was able to displace 66,000 tons of water. 

      Why would Morgan Robertson go to the trouble of writing a fictional account of a real event and not take more care in the accuracy of the facts?  It is because he didn’t yet know what the facts were.  The Titanic sunk on April the 19th, 1912.  The book Futility was published in 1898.  Morgan Robertson wrote his book 14 years before the sinking of the Titanic.

      Is it amazing that a book 14 years ahead of its time could predict the events of the Titanic?

      We have a book that tells us the future, not 14 years ahead of time, but thousands of years ahead of time.  The Bible contains 2500 prophecies.  Over 1/3 of it is prophetic.  2,000 of the biblical prophecies have been fulfilled to the letter with no errors.  The remaining 500 prophecies extend into the future and they are being fulfilled rapidly as time progresses. 

      The Bible is 100% accurate in the fulfillment of its prophecies.  One of the most amazing and exciting prophecies yet to be fulfilled is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17.  It is the one my children’s church teacher, Carolyn, taught me about years ago, “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
      These words spawn joy and hope in the hearts of true believers throughout the world.  We are to encourage each other with this great hope.

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Emancipation Proclamation: Was Lincoln Motivated By Political Expediency or Religious Conviction?

“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”  --January 1, 1863 Emancipation Proclamation

The question for consideration is this:  In what way was Abraham Lincoln driven by his own religious convictions when developing policy regarding the Civil War and the institution of slavery?

The Religious Views of Abraham Lincoln are chronicled in a book by Reverend O. H. Pennell who indicates that there was a strong attempt by various religious groups like Universalists, agnostics and deists to hijack Lincoln for their own cause.   

Lincoln seemed to measure religion by the inevitability of the progress of ideas and society.  I don’t know if Lincoln could have been too familiar with Darwin’s Origin of the Species because it wasn’t published until 1859 but he certainly seemed to entertain a belief in the idea of the evolutionary progress of society and this idea most certainly was shattered by a country divided by war.  He may have embraced the idea that as society matured slavery would eventually fade away but the war brought that hope of peaceful resolution to an end.

Lincoln was a bit of a religious skeptic in his younger years.  He did not attend church and he was very secretive about his religious convictions.   He was much influenced by the deism of the enlightenment.  But he seemed to become a deeply religious man after several political failures, the death of his father and especially the death of his son, Willie.  After church attendance became a priority to him he began to attend the Old School Presbyterian Church in the 1850’s. 

Mathew B. Brady. Willie Lincoln, Third Son of President Lincoln . . . , ca. 1862. Facsimile. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (139)  Digital ID # ppmsca-19390

His friend, Frank Carpenter, recorded that Lincoln shared his conversion experience with an acquaintance and told her that he began to understand the tenants of Christianity when his son, Willie, died.  “I think I can say with sincerity that I hope that I am a Christian.  I had lived until my boy, Willie, had died without fully realizing these things.”  (The Religious Views Of Abraham Lincoln, p. 27)

The words of Lincoln’s widow also lend credibility to his claim to Christianity , “…from the time of the death of our little Edward, I believe my husband's heart was directed towards religion and as time passed on - when Mr. Lincoln became elevated to Office...then indeed to my knowledge - did his great heart go up daily, hourly, in prayer to God - for his sustaining power. When too - the overwhelming sorrow came upon us, our beautiful bright angelic boy, Willie was called away from us, to his Heavenly Home, with God's chastising hand upon us - he turned his heart to Christ.”  - Mary Todd Lincoln to Rev. James Smith, June 8, 1870

Lincoln became very sensitive to the will of a sovereign God.  He was haunted by the idea that Christians from the north and Christians from the south were praying to the same God for favor.  In his commentary The Will of God Prevails he wrote, “God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.”  (Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, The End of Slavery in America.  By Allen Guelzo)

Two preachers and two layman from Chicago met with him carrying a petition for emancipation.  He declared to them his right and intention to declare an Emancipation Proclamation .  But he seemed wearied by such men who often declared their knowledge of God’s will and he testily declared to them that if God had revealed his will to them then surely he would reveal his will to him upon whose shoulders this burden did lay.

Was Lincoln’s motivation for declaring the Emancipation Proclamation a move to satisfy political expediency or was it a personal conviction of his that slavery was immoral?

I think it could be safely argued that in the beginning of the war Lincoln interpreted the conflict as a contest to preserve the union. In his letter to James Conklin Lincoln wrote, “You say you will not fight to free negroes. Some of them seem willing to fight for you; but, no matter. Fight you, then exclusively to save the Union. I issued the proclamation on purpose to aid you in saving the Union. Whenever you shall have conquered all resistance to the Union, if I shall urge you to continue fighting, it will be an apt time, then, for you to declare you will not fight to free negroes.”

“If they (slaves) stake their lives for us, they must be prompted by the strongest motive--even the promise of freedom. And the promise being made, must be kept.” – (Letter written to James Conklin.)  Was Lincoln using freedom as a ‘carrot at the end of the stick’ to lure slaves into fighting to preserve a union that had thus far failed to free them or did he genuinely believe slavery was immoral in the eyes of God?

By the end of the war it is reasonable to believe that Lincoln saw himself being used as an instrument of God to emancipate the slaves.  Lincoln’s statement to Salmon Chase, Republican Governor of Ohio from 1856-1860, indicates his reinterpretation of the war, "I made a solemn vow before God, that if General Lee was driven back from Maryland I would crown the result by the declaration of freedom to the slaves." (Six Months At The White House, p. 90, Frank Carpenter)

Although Lincoln was conflicted about the fact that good Christians were warring against each other while calling on the same God for favor and grace.  His final conclusion to this dilemma is found in his Second Inaugural Address:

“Both (North and South) read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rapping Priest - Father Pontifex

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Election 2012: Change Tracks Or Wreck The Train?

The future of our country may very well pivot on the election in November.  Many believe if we don’t change course a derailment is imminent and a train wreck is unavoidable.  We have but few options to avoid catastrophe.  

If you are a tax payer, you owe the federal government $1 million.  Our government has squandered the wealth of our nation as the national debt approaches $16 Trillion.  It feels like we are bobbing our way down the river toward socialism and perhaps even dictatorship.  Our first president, George Washington, demonstrated his humility by refusing the title of ‘king’.  Barack Obama may not have the title, but he certainly acts as if he is a king ruling over his subjects rather than a president answering to his people.

The economic survival of our nation is at risk.  Unemployment and foreclosure of homes has sent many families into a state of economic desperation.  Hope is like a ship drifting out to sea and the change we’ve experienced is nothing like those American voters envisioned when they cast their votes for Obama in 2008.

Absurdities abound!  The American government has been spending like a middle school teen armed with mom’s credit card in the world’s largest mall. Our juvenile acting congressmen have failed to balance the budget for three consecutive years.  All the talk of cutting spending goes in one American ear and out the other because sensible Americans realize that spending cannot be cut without a budget.

The U.S. economy looks like a train wreck.  Americans are worried, they are very worried.  Friday’s check is buying less and less.  Our government must borrow money to pay interest on the money they’ve already borrowed.  Surely, Americans will go to the polls in November screaming for the insanity to stop.  The message of ‘hope and change’ is the right message but Americans are weary of hearing cheap talk from egotistical politicians.  Americas want the real deal.
How often have you heard, “I voted for Obama last time but…”?  This year’s election will differ from the election of 2008 in that Democrats won't be able to play the race card in November: 'You are a racist if you don't vote for our guy".  If whites couldn't find reason to vote against Obama in 2008, there is plenty of reason to vote against him in 2012, and race has nothing to do with it. Of course, the election will swing on the economy.  Predictably, Obama will continue to blame any other living soul for this nation’s poor economic performance while denying that he and his administration now must claim ownership of this economy. Unfortunately, the Republicans seem to be running on a simple platform slogan of ‘Beat Obama’ and their economic plan to save the economy provides little substance revealing a dangerous attitude that says, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, let’s just win the election first.”

The college kids were disillusioned by the thrill of making history when they voted for the first black president.  They bought into the idea that the wounds of racism in the U.S. would be healed by the young ‘messianic’ politician from Chicago.  Four years later, those young men and women have graduated from college, they have their degree but they’ve gone home to live with mom and dad because they can’t get a job.
They now see anything but a messiah.  They see a president who shoved his healthcare plan down the throats of unwilling Americans.  They see a president who, unlike Reagan, sees big government as a solution rather than a problem.  Many previous supporters will choose to vote against a president who has overseen the theft of economic security from future generations.  This young generation now sees The Great American dream setting like a sun about to dip below the horizon leaving a dark emptiness American’s are unfamiliar with.

Former supporters are beginning to see a vote for Obama as a vote to continue our slippery slide toward socialism and irresponsible government.  If they were motivated by hope in 2008, they will surely be motivated by fear in 2012.  They are asking themselves “Can this country survive another four year term of Obama’s smoke-filled, backroom politics?”  In less than four years, the Obama generation has morphed into the debt generation and those who are awake and alert think it is unfair that they are being forced to carry that pile of rocks on their back.

America is in desperate need of a great president, but this country needs more than that.  Many would question if America is in serious decline.  Are we witnessing the demise of a nation blessed with wealth and power and influence as no other country has been blessed in all of history? Is the great American experiment in democracy about to end….in failure? 
A serious student of world history will observe that countries and empires have come and gone throughout the ages.  No empire exists indefinitely.  Eternality belongs to God alone?  The fall of this great country cannot be avoided, but it can be delayed. 

Our problems are not just economical.  Our government is faltering in corruption and dishonesty.  Our society seems to be imploding right before our very eyes.  The influential cultural icons that have tremendous influence on our youth are unabashedly shaking their fist in the face of God and blasphemously denying his existence and even promoting a spirit of anti-Christ.  It is as if we have discovered that Christ will carry a great load of patience and long-suffering so we are now piling on to see just how much he can carry.

We can only label some of the things we are observing as nothing less than demonic.  The murder of 50 million unborn, the shocking incidents of cannibalism and a rural population losing their minds on meth are signs of societal implosion.  We have become a nation of zombies, hypnotized by our technological toys.  We are fleeing the doors of the church and avoiding the relationship we might have with God, a relationship purchased by the blood of his only begotten Son. 

Is there a judgment coming?  Of course there is.  Many believe that the economic failure and social implosion is indeed God’s judgment on a nation that has turned its face from him.  A holy and just God ceases to be God if he allows a defiant people to push him into a canyon of disbelief.   What can we do?  Options are limited.  We must either; humble ourselves, seek the face of God and repent of our sins or God must be true to his nature and bring his judgment on a nation that no longer has a fearful respect for The Almighty.

2 Chronicles 7:14   “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Does God Choose Us Or Do We Choose God

Predestination or Free Will?

The question so often debated among Christians, especially those who call themselves Calvinists and those who identify as Arminians, is this:  Does a man have free will or is a man’s free will submerged under the flood waters of God’s sovereignty?  God woos us, he pursues us and he draws us to himself, but does he override our ability to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)

Norman Geisler, author of Chosen But Free, reminds us that “With the exception of the later writings of Augustine, virtually all the great thinkers up to the reformation affirmed that human beings possess the power of free choice, even in a fallen state.”  John Calvin had a voracious appetite for all things Augustinian and is credited with creating the great emphasis on predestination.  Though Calvin was certainly a proponent of this doctrine, he didn’t emphasize it nearly as much as his successors. Calvin quotes Augustine more than any other in his Institutes of Christian Religion along with Thomas Aquinas and Martin Luther.

Among the early church fathers, Augustine’s opinions seem to have been in the minority.   Calvin was strongly drawn to Augustine while ignoring majority opinions.  Whereas Calvin and Augustine would argue that man is so utterly depraved that he cannot possibly make a choice for anything good, other church fathers argued that because man was created in the very image of God, he retained limited freedom of will as a result of God’s image within his nature.  Man’s will was certainly corrupted by the invasion of evil within his heart, but the image of God within man prevented the complete obliteration of his will.  In other words, a corrupt man is still capable of willing to do some good. 

Among those early church fathers proposing the freedom of man’s will:
Iraneous, (130-200, Against Heresies), “God made man a free agent from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God.  For there is no coercion with God.”
Tertullian, (155-225, Against Marcion), “I find, then, that man was by God constituted free ,master of his own will and power; indicating the presence of God’s image and likeness in him.”    

Gregory of Nyssa, (335-395, On Virginity), “Being in the image and the likeness of the Power which rules all things, man kept also in the matter of a free will this likeness to Him whose will is over all.”

What most Christians believe about free will can be traced to the teachings and interpretations of three men; Pelagius, Jacob Arminius and John Calvin.  Pelagius denied that men had need of any assistance from God when seeking salvation.  Jacob Arminius believed that God freed the will of man so he could choose to obey and be saved.  John Calvin believed that man is so totally depraved that he cannot possibly make a decision to follow Christ and God must decide for him (predestination). 

A summary of these positions follows:

1.  Palagian:  We are free to choose God or not.  The fall of mankind into sin had no adverse affect on his ability to make a choice.   God makes his offer and we simply say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

2.  Semi-Palagian:  This is a softening of Palagian’s limitations on God’s part in the salvation of man.  Men can make a decision for God but only with the help of god.  Sin has had devastating effects on the will of man and God must bring healing to the will before the will can respond to his call.
3.  Arminian: God is not willing that any should perish so he extends his invitation to all men.  Man, in is depraved state, cannot seek God, therefore, God extends to all men a pre-emptive grace, a prevenient grace, that affectively prepares the heart for the indwelling of God.  Men may will to receive this grace or reject it.

4.  Calvinism (Augustinianism):  Man is so entirely depraved (dead) in his state of sin that it is impossible for him to make a choice for God.  Therefore, God must make the choice for him.  Man’s salvation is monergistic, meaning that God’s will works independently and alone for the salvation of man.  God may decide to save someone or he may very well walk on by, in that case, he declares the person one of the unelected.

The first three preserve man’s free will in some form and fashion.  Only the last, Calvinism, eliminates man’s freedom to choose.
Moses came off the mountain and presented his people with the Ten Commandments from God.  The assumption is that if God formulated these ten rules and identified them as ‘commandments’ then he fully expected them to obey and live by them.  When Jesus preached his Sermon on the Mount, was He setting a standard too high for his followers?  Would it not be a cruel thing to expect the impossible?  Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Matthew 5:48) This sounds like an impossible command but Jesus is not calling us to absolute perfection, he is calling us to completion.  Much of our ‘perfection’ is measured by our motive, not a flawless performance.  Our completion is finalized when we leave this life and enter a glorified state with Christ.    

The elimination of man’s free will makes a pure and holy God responsible for the sin in the world.  Norman Geisler points out in chapter four of his book, Chosen But Free, a chapter he entitled “Why Blame Me?” that the common statement ‘The devil made me do it’ leads to another question, “Who made the devil do it?”  The answer must be God.  When we make attempts to eliminate our own free will we eventually cast the blame for sin on a pure and holy God incapable of authoring sin. 

What are God’s expectations of those who call themselves ‘followers’?  Geisler teaches that ‘ought implies can’.  If God gives us Ten Commandments and expects that we ought to keep them then he will provide us with the necessary grace and power to do just that.  "..God never prescribes anything without providing the way to accomplish it. If we are morally bound, then we must be morally free." Geisler says. 

Free will is a gift of God to mankind.  We messed up when we began to make poor choices.  Therefore, the responsibility for sin and suffering in this world rests squarely on our shoulders and God has no accountability for the evil we created with our own choice to resist God and refuse his favor.

Calvin and Augustine would refute Arminius’ idea that the image of God in us has profound meaning and provides us with the ability to practice freedom of our will.  Therefore, we can ‘choose this day whom we will serve’.  If ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, then the verse found in Deuteronomy 30:19 is not meaningless when it clearly states that we ‘ought’ to “choose life”. 
How might we answer the question ‘does God choose us or do we choose God?’  God first chooses us.  “For God so love the world that he sent his only begotten son,” and then he enables us to choose him “that whosoever believes in him”.  This cooperative (synergistic) effort does not in any way limit the sovereignty of God.  It preserves his sovereignty and accentuates his love and the result is a voluntary, non coercive eternal relationship… “shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why the perpetual ‘God is love’ message can lead to despair

I have heard many preachers in my 50+ years.  Some have been the ‘fire and brimstone’ type.  Some have been intellectual, some emotional.  Others have been more about themselves than they ought to have been.  While still others were so full of God they seemed hardly human.

What I have observed in the last couple of decades is that there are very few Jeremiahs preaching the gospel.  There are few John the Baptists who are willing to sacrifice themselves for the truth.  Preaching the gospel has now become more about pleasing those who fill the pews.  Our pulpits are full of fearful and timid preachers satisfied to preach a gospel that is a mile wide and an inch deep.  The goal is longer to share truth in spite of the circumstances and bring glory to God in doing so.  The goal is to be sure no one is offended so everyone will come back again next week and write another check to the church.

Topical preaching has replaced expository preaching.  The most popular topics are love, love and love.  Unpopular topics include sin, judgment and hell.   The goal is for everyone to feel uplifted and happy at the end of the service and avoid the possibility of anyone feeling the sadness that a true conviction for sin brings.  In a nutshell, the preaching of the gospel has become more about us and less about God.  The focus is on our happiness instead of God’s glory.

I have heard so much of God’s love that I’m beginning to feel despair.  I hope I’m not misinterpreted.  I believe in God’s love.  It was his love and mercy and longsuffering that spared my wretched soul from an unspeakable judgment and for that I am eternally grateful.  But do we not do God an injustice by portraying him as a God of love only and not at all a God of justice?

If our portrait of God is love alone and no justice, then when will suffering end?  If we preach only the love of God have we no compassion for the immense amount of suffering in this world?  If God unconditionally loves the child molester, the wife beater and the abortionist who has dedicated his life to a large bank account even if he has to murder thousands of innocent children to do it, will God not love these sinners with an immensity that is immeasurable and eternal?  If there is no end to God’s patience for the sins of mankind against each other then when will he reveal his justice by putting an end to the horrible suffering?  This overemphasis on the love of God diminishes the justice of God.  If we take either of these traits away from God, he ceases to be God.

It is not the love of God that finally terminates the sin of those who refuse to repent.  It is the justice of God that ends the torture of the wicked over the innocent.  It is not the love of God that sends wicked, deserving monsters of iniquity to hell.  It is the justice of God that does it.  What brings an end to all suffering?  It is not the perpetual love of God. Again, it is the justice of God.  The purpose of God’s justice is not to simply punish the wicked.  It is also to rescue the oppressed.  At some point God must answer the voices of the oppressed who call out for justice.  Perhaps the ultimate expression of God’s love is when he puts an end to the pain caused by a baby killer or a child molester by sending them to an eternal punishment.

This is why those in heaven have no sorrow.  They rejoice that there is a hell because it is evidence proves that God is just and that he is determined to put an end to wickedness and suffering.  The existence of hell reveals a righteous, holy God who is victor over an evil, God defying enemy whose intentions is to damn us all to the pit prepared for he and his imps. 

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ronald Reagan's Secret

Every day I run into people who loved Ronald Reagan.  Why was he so loved by so many?  What was the secret of his success?  Why was he so different than other presidents we've had?  What was it that motivated him?  See this short film to discover his secret.

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.

Socialism: The Destructiveness of Dependency

Colorado Cub Looking For A Handout

A friend of mine was about to take her small grandchildren for a walk.  As she opened her cabin door to a deck that overlooks the beauty of the Colorado wilderness, she was shocked to see a happy, small brown bear delighting itself with the sugar water from her hummingbird feeder.  She quickly retreated into the cabin, closed the door, grabbed her camera and postponed her walk.

The bear had come looking for a free handout.  This bear had learned very young that it is much easier to raid someone’s garbage can than it is to forage through the woods laboring for its next meal.  If my friend would habitually feed the bear, the bear would soon be conditioned to daily climb the deck, consume its meal, retreat to its den for a post-meal nap and come back later for its next handout.   

In Pavlov’s conditioning experiment he linked two stimuli with a reward.  He conditioned his dogs to behave in the manner he wished by first ringing a bell and then following its sound with a tasty morsel.  Soon, just the ringing of the bell would cause the dogs to salivate as they expected food to follow. 

The behavior of millions of Americans has been conditioned and controlled by a manipulative government.   America was founded on the idea that anyone with a willingness to work hard could come to our country and build a successful life.  In more recent times, America has been the place immigrants are literally dying to come to because of all the free stuff they can get.  The land of hard work has devolved into the land of handouts. 

Our politicians ring the bell indicating there is more free stuff coming.  The mouths of the populace begin to water and they experience a sense of satisfaction, not because they feel good about working hard for an honest day’s wages, but because they were successful in getting free stuff. 

My father always told me that the idea that one can get something for free was an illusion.  Nothing is for free.  Free stuff is the carrot on the end of the politician’s stick.  After the appetites of the masses have been sufficiently whetted, the crafty politicians demand payment.  That payment comes in the form of votes that will keep them in office for at least another term.

Here is an amazing irony.   The U.S. Department of Agriculture has distributed the greatest number of food stamps ever.  Meanwhile, the U.S. Park Service which belongs to the U.S. Department of Agriculture admonishes park visitors to refrain from feeding the bears because it will lead to dependence and they will not learn to fend for themselves!  We understand the destructiveness of dependency in the lives of bears, but we choose to ignore it’s destructiveness in the lives of humans!

One might ask the question, “Where does the government get all of the free stuff it gives away?”  The answer is simple, the government plays Robin Hood, it takes from those ‘who have’ and giver to those ‘who have not’.  This sounds like a good thing on the surface but things are not always as they seem to appear.  We would like to believe that most of these government policies were formed with good intentions in an attempt to help the poor and disadvantaged.  Unfortunately, many shysters have learned how to manipulate these policies and fatten themselves on ‘entitlements’ they don’t really deserve.   

The scale of justice has been weighing only what people lack, not how hard they have worked.  Injustice clothes itself in deception as Fannie May and Freddie Mac declares that everyone deserves a house, even if they are able bodied couch potatoes who refuse to offer their services and contribute to society.  Hard working Americans are enraged by the all too common practice of taking more and more of their hard earned money and giving it to those who are undeserving.  Isaiah the prophet warned about the practice of twisting justice for personal benefit, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  (Isa. 5:20)

It is very important to keep the dogs salivating, the bears returning to the deck for their next handout.   President Obama often uses scripture in his attempts to justify the policies of his failed administration.  At a prayer breakfast earlier this year he claimed to have Jesus’ backing for his Healthcare Reform bill because Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” (Matthew 19:19)   His healthcare reform also includes using our hard earned tax money to fund abortions.  Can anybody say, “Thou shalt not kill?”  (Lev. 19:11)

Jesus had a plan for caring for the poor.  In the Old Testament the farmers were instructed to leave some of the fruit for those who were poor, “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.”  (Lev. 19:10)  Notice, this wasn’t a handout, the poor still had to get up off their duff and go pick grapes. 

Jesus’ never, ever advocated taking from those who worked hard and giving the fruit of their labor to those who are undeserving.  “You shall not be partial to the poor nor honor the person of the mighty.”  (Lev. 19:15)  There are certain expectations that should be applied to both poor and wealthy.  Jesus’ plan for taking care of the poor was not a compulsory taxation, it was an impulse planted in the heart of those who were converted to his way.  Christ followers feel a voluntary compassion for the disadvantaged. 

Caring for the poor is a volitional act of love.  When asked why she was so motivated to care for the dying, the poor, the destitute, Mother Teresa said, “They are all Jesus in disguise.”  Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.  (Matthew 25:40)

Perhaps the church is not blameless for the condition we find ourselves in.  Has the church abdicated its responsibilities to the government?  Care for the poor has become something that is government mandated rather than an act of compassion on behalf of those who live for the glory of God alone.  Our sin of unbelief is often revealed when we transfer belief in God to belief in an idol, an empty, impotent alternative to God himself.  Have we put our trust in government and relegated God to a back seat?

Kevin Probst - Teaches History, Government and Apologetics at the high school level in Columbus Georgia.