Friday, August 17, 2012

The Truth About America: Has The Glory Departed?

The Bible teaches Christians to be aware of falling into deception.  The Great Deceiver tempted Adam and Eve in the garden.  When he was told that God had forbid them eat of the fruit, Satan asked, “Did God really say that?”  The message of Christ is no different today than it was 2,000 years ago.  “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No man comes to the father except by me.” – (John 14:6)  The Great Deceiver still asks the same question;  “Did Jesus really say that?”  The truth about America is that millions have embraced the deception that there are many paths to God.

Our lust for power and our lean toward pride prevent us from understanding the truth.  History’s wisest man wrote these words to describe the dilemma of man:  “There is a way that seemeth right unto man, but he end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) The truth about America is that there are many false prophets portraying themselves as angels of light when actually they are devils of darkness.  The Apostle Paul was compelled to leave the Church at Ephesus and go to Jerusalem and this was his warning before he left.  “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” (Acts 20:29)

Why are there so many false prophets?  Why do so many embrace lies rather than truth?  Why is the modern American church becoming so powerless?  I must ask a dreadful question.  Has the glory departed?  Truth and deception are like water and oil.  They cannot coexist.  Is the Spirit of God fleeing our culture because of the prevalence of deception and evil that exists, not only in our culture but also in our church?

Good beginnings are meaningless when followed by bad endings.  This story repeats itself thousands of times all across this nation.  A young man, Spirit-filled and enthusiastic, feels called of God to minister to others.  He invites several couples into his home and shares the gospel.  God blesses his efforts and his small gathering grows into a small church.  He is gung-ho for God and the gospel and his church experiences tremendous growth, from twenty to two hundred to two thousand and before you know it the pastor has grown a mega-church.

He realizes he can no longer shepherd the flock, he must now drive the herd.  He can’t manage the herd any longer without turning the church into a corporation.  He hires others to do the counseling and to develop policies and programs.  The people he has hired yearn to climb the corporate church ladder.  They become competitive and loyal to their superiors and the institution becomes man-centered as they slowly and progressively forget God.  Unwelcome and forgotten, the Spirit of God departs.

Will you consider 1 Samuel chapter 4 with me for a moment?  May I paraphrase to save time?  The Israelites and the Philistines battle one another and the Philistines win the contest.  It was a day of great mourning for many mothers and wives and daughters.   4,000 Israelites are killed.

The leaders of Israel pondered this horrible defeat and decided they needed to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh to protect them.  They were ready to battle again under the deception that simply carrying the ark with them would assure defeat of the Philistines.  So many today fail to experience outward victory because they’ve never realized inward change.  They were smashed again by their enemy and lost 30,000 men.

During this tragic time, Israel is ruled by a great priest and judge, Eli.  Eli waits to hear of the outcome of the battle.  He sees a weary and dusty messenger in the distance approaching.  Eli is 98 years old and he lifts his weakened voice to the runner.  “What has happened, my son?”  (1 Sam. 4:16)  “Thousands are dead, your two sons have perished and the Ark of the Covenant is in the hands of the enemy.”  The news was so shocking and overwhelming to Eli he passed out, fell backwards off his chair, broke his neck and died on the spot. 

Eli’s daughter-in-law, wife of one of his sons, was pregnant at the time.  When she heard her husband and her brother-in-law and her father-in-law were all dead she went into labor.  The midwife was able to deliver a son before the mother died in labor.  The midwife named the boy, Ichabod, which means, “The glory is departed.”  The ark of God is captured, the Spirit of the Lord has departed, the presence of God no longer abides.

The truth about America is that we have done much to offend the living God.  Our national sins are many.  We have put out a “Do Not Disturb” and made clear that we don’t want to be bothered.  We have clearly indicated we want our sin more than we want His grace.  We no longer fear the Mighty God.  We question his word and ask, “Did God really say that?”  We question the existence of heaven and hell, his virgin birth, his death and resurrection.  We question the very existence of God himself.  We are driving him from our schools.  We no longer welcome him in our courts and halls of government.  There is no longer a hallowed place provided for God in our midst.  Without the protective presence of God we have become dangerously vulnerable.

The truth about America is that we need desperately to repent of our sins and humbly seek the one and living God in all his grace and mercy.

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

Saturday, August 11, 2012

“Beware Lest You Forget”

My wife labored long and hard in the kitchen after putting in a 10 hour day as a teacher and cheerleading coach on her first day of school.  She prepared a delicious meal with chicken, rice and lots of other ingredients I am unaware of.  After studying the recipe and investing over an hour in actual preparation, she sat three steaming plates on the supper table and my family gathered for our evening meal.  Kameron, my seven-year old tasted of his meal and crinkled his nose and said, “I don’t like this.”  I saw the hurt on his mother’s face and tried to intercede to lessen the pain she felt from his unappreciative spirit. It was painful for me to remember how many times I had said similar things after my mother, who has passed, saw her labors of love go unappreciated. 
The failure to show or feel gratitude seems to plague our modern society.  A progressive callousness has infected our hearts.  A large number of Americans are more interested in acquiring entitlements they haven’t earned rather than invest a fair day’s labor in exchange for a fair day’s wage.

We now live in cities we did not build.  We occupy homes filled with things we did not put there.  We draw water from wells we did not dig and we eat the fruit that falls from trees we did not plant.

When I was a child I used to sit quietly and listen to my father and my uncles talk of their experiences fighting in the Second World War.  That war changed them forever.  They crossed the ocean as young, reckless, daring men who felt the invulnerability common to all youth.  They returned with a humility acquired from watching their colleagues demonstrate superhuman courage in desperate moments.  I listened as they pondered why they had survived and others had not.  They had a deep appreciation and patriotic love for the country their comrades had shed blood for.

Now I sit quietly and listen to my grown sons and their friends discuss politics and talk about their country.  The conversation of the generation to follow mine is much different than the conversation of the generation that preceded mine.

Very few Americans favor the politicians that fill the halls of Congress and they wonder what is happening to the country.  There is a self-consuming selfishness and egotism that infects modern day ‘statesmen’.  Why do they not appreciate and deeply love the country their fathers founded?  Is it not because one tends to remember his own sacrifices but he forgets the sacrifices of others?  If you’ve not sacrificed anything for the purchase of freedom and liberty you assign less value to those virtues than those who paid dearly.

The Lord God cautioned the Israelites as they were about to enter the land that flowed with milk and honey.  God was going to give them “large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill.”  They were about to inherit “hewn-out wells they did not dig” and fruit from “trees they did not plant”.  (Deuteronomy 6:10-11)

When I was a youth I asked my father to buy me a bike because all the kids in the neighborhood were riding really cool bikes their father’s had bought them.  He taught me a lesson I’ll never forget and I hope my own sons learn well.  “I won’t buy you a bike, but I’ll help you get a job so you can buy your own bike,” he told me.  He purchased a paper route from my friend Bruce and I rose every morning at 4:30 AM so I could cover the three-mile route before catching the bus to school at 7:00 AM.  After a couple months of collecting fees, I had earned enough money to buy the best bike in the neighborhood… banana seat, sissy bar, streamers…the whole nine yards.  I was so proud of my ‘wheels’. 

The lesson:  my dad knew I would cherish and care for a bike I had earned with my own labor much more than I would had it simply been given me.  The investment of blood, sweat and tears makes the object obtained precious to the owner.

I fear for my country because I believe the truths taught in the Word of God.  My father served his country well in WWII.  I never served in the military.  I’ve not had to make any real sacrifices to preserve freedom for my sons and grandchildren.  Neither of my two grown sons chose to serve in the military.  My family may very well live through three generations without having to fight to preserve the precious purchase of those who gave their limbs and lives in previous wars.

The danger is that we will forget the price paid and having invested so little we may fail to understand the value of our blessings.  God foretold and warned the Israelites what would happen when they drank from wells they did not dig:  “Beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 6:12) 

Alexander Solzhenitsyn sought an answer as to why the Soviet Union had deteriorated so quickly and totally.  He listened to the older ones speaking about the disasters that had plagued the Russians.  He heard them say, “Men have forgotten God: That’s why this all happened.” (1)

We have reached the point where we eat the meal provided and we push back from the table without even a thought as to the amount of effort and preparation that was invested to provide it for us.  We have forgotten God.

1.  Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, as quoted by Tom Pauken in “Bringing Home America,” p. 101.

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

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A New World Coming

I was in my early 20's working my way through college in a local hospital.  I was the only orderly on the evening shift.  I floated from floor to floor and for the most part I enjoyed my work.  One task I didn't enjoy was doing 'post-mortems'.  It was my job to arrange the body of the deceased so he would be symmetrical before rigor mortis set in.  I was to assure proper identification by tying a name tag to the big toe and then remove false teeth, jewelry, etc.  The first post-mortem I performed I was so overwhelmed by the reality of it I nearly passed out.  But then, after several more experiences, I adapted to the emotional stress of performing such an unpleasant task and before long it became 'old hat'. 

            Then one day I was called to pediatrics.  A young child had passed away.  Decades later it's hard to find words to describe the feelings that surged through my heart.  I was overwhelmed with sadness.  It is one thing to prepare a man who has lived his three score and ten for the morgue.  It is quiet another to prepare a five year old child who has been deprived of a life lived.  Sadness turned to confusion.  Why?  Why would a loving and gracious God in heaven allow something like this to happen?  When I failed to find an answer my confusion turned to anger and anger to bitterness.  For a period of time, I, like so many others, questioned the very existence of God and if he did indeed exist then I questioned the nature of a God who would permit such a tragedy?

            We experienced a horrible moment in our community last May when a mother driving with three small children in her car crossed the center line of the highway and caused a head-on collision with a car driven by a young, female college student driving in the opposite lane.  The mother survived the accident but her two pre-school children and the driver of the other car perished.  If there is a God and he really is good, why does he allow such tragedy?  Why do babies die?  Why does evil sometimes prevail?  Why does a just God allow so much injustice to exist in the world he created?

            With a little more maturity I was finally able to answer my questions about what seemed to me to be inconsistencies in the nature of God.   God is not the cause of tragedy.  Sin is what has caused this world to spin into a state of corruption and suffering.  Mankind has lived in a corrupt and depraved world since the Adam and Eve chose their way over God's way.  Since their indiscretion, our world has been plagued by disease, death and destruction.  These things are not what God wants for his creation.  They are a consequence of the sinfulness of his creatures.

            Hear the good news!  This world is not always going to stay this way.  God has promised to restore the hearts of those who are willing to repent.  He was so earnest about his desire to save us that he sent his only son to die on a cross to make salvation a possibility to all and a reality to many.  Not only has he determined to salvage the souls of the penitent, he also is determined to restore the earth and deliver his creation from the cancerous corruption she is plagued with.

            If you want to know how the story ends, go to the end of the book.  Revelation 20 describes the events that will lead up to the one thousand year reign of Christ.  (Rev. 20:4)   When we visualize the great contest between good and evil we tend to equate the opponents and wonder how the contest will end.  Satan is no equal to an all powerful God.  God doesn't sully his hands with the filthy stench of the evil one.  He sends an angel (Rev. 20:1), just one angel, to seize that "dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years." (Rev. 20:2) God doesn't need an army, he doesn't even need a group of Navy Seals, he simply called on one of his angels to bind the enemy and drop him into a pit with no bottom, lock the gate and lose the key for 1,000 years.

            In the millennial reign of Christ the earth will be healed and restored.  It will be the time when God remembers his throne promise to David and Jesus Christ, descendent of David, will reign for one thousand years from his capital in Jerusalem.  God will also remember his land promise to Abraham and the land of Israel will be restored to those to whom it was promised.

            This millennial reign was prophesied thousands of years ago by the prophet Isaiah:  "I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.  Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years;  he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed."  (Isaiah 65:19-21) 

            Isaiah speaks of a time when infant mortality will be non-existent.  Has there ever been a time like that since the fall of man?  So, the time he speaks of cannot be referring to time past.  Some would say, "He must then be speaking of heaven."  Isaiah says that it will be considered a tragic thing when men don't live well past one hundred.  It will be quite normal for men to die after having lived hundreds of years.  He cannot be referring to heaven because there is no death in heaven.  The only period of history Isaiah could be speaking of is the millennium, the one thousand year reign of Jesus Christ.

            God will soon embark on a new building project, a new construction project that will bring radical reform to the entire creation.  It would pay well to invest in that project now while there is yet time.

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sermon: What's Wrong With America

The Truth About America - Why are so many in America feeling like something is just not right.  There seems to be a troubling spirit hovering over us.  It is a feeling of fear and of uncertainty.  69% of Americans believe the country is in decline.  83% are worried about America's future.  What is happening and what can Christian Americans do about it?

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

Defending the Cross - Heath Park, Columbus, Georgia. July 2012

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