Are the Locust Swarms in Africa a Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy?

Reports out of north Africa tell of a massive swarm of locusts that has been plaguing the region since December. Some news agencies have connected the swarm of locusts with Biblical prophecies of the return of Jesus. Thousands of acres of crop land in east Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, have been destroyed. Reports are now saying the swarm has reached the borders of China. This epic swarm is destroying crops and threatening the well-being of millions. It is an international catastrophe. Some preachers have said this swarm fulfills Biblical prophecy of tragic plagues that will hit the earth shortly before Jesus returns. Does it?

Locusts and plagues of locusts are a familiar theme in the Bible. A plague of locusts was one of the ten judgments of God upon Egypt when He brought the Israelites out of slavery. Locust swarms were a familiar sight to the Israelites during the entire Old Testament period. God warned Israel in the book of Deuteronomy that if they did not obey Him, their land flowing with milk and honey would be laid waste by droughts, disease, swarms of locusts and other pestilence. In Joel the totality of God’s judgment on Israel was prophesied to be like crop lands stripped bare by a swarm of locusts. The Bible also speaks of locusts to depict huge armies or other large groups of people. In the book of Nahum the Assyrian empire was compared to locusts. The prophet decreed that even if the Assyrians multiply themselves like locusts, they would all be destroyed.

The book of Revelation refers to locusts in its description of the series of judgments that will come on the earth during the Tribulation. A scene described in Revelation 9 is very dramatic. An angel sounds a trumpet and the bottomless pit was opened. Like a volcanic eruption, smoke filled the skies and blotted out the stars. A massive swarm like locusts came out of the smoke. However, the locusts described in Revelation 9 are not normal locusts. These are not crop eating insects. These are horrible beasts with the ability to sting men and cause terrible, prolonged pain.

The swarms of locusts in Africa and the Middle East are causing great harm, but they are not a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. The Bible never says plagues of crop eating insects will be a sign or precursor of the return of Jesus. The Bible teaches that the normal troubles of this world will continue and increase until the return of Jesus. In the final years before His Second Coming the entire earth will be shaken with terrible catastrophes unlike anything the world has seen since the flood of Noah. Droughts, earthquakes, forest fires, pandemics and insect swarms are terrible, but they are nothing compared to the truly terrifying calamities that will ravage the earth in the days to come. When God pours out His judgments on the earth, none will confuse them with natural disasters. In the meantime, we must live soberly, righteously and godly, looking for the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:12-13)

Happy Thanksgiving

Every year America sets aside the fourth Thursday of November as a day to give thanks to God. On that day many gather together with friends and family to express their thankfulness for the many blessings recieved during the previous year.

The pattern of Thanksgiving in the United States was set by the pilgrim fathers. They endured great hardship, suffered much loss of life and faced many difficulties. Yet they did not fail to pour out thanks to God for His provision. They model obedience to the command, “Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)

Christians today are still required by God to give thanks in the midst of difficult and sorrowful times. Many may consider their lives right now and say, “What do I have to give thanks for?” Some may look at the challenges facing the nation and wonder what cause America has for thanksgiving. With a little thought it soon becomes apparent that we have many things for which to be thankful. We have more than the daily provision of all needs and an of abundance physical blessings. (Philippians 4:19; James 1:17) We live in relative peace. Grocery stores overflow with an extravagant assortment of food. We have homes and warmth. We have our choice of clothing. We have a vehicle to quickly transport us long distances, often more than one. Many have a wide variety of toys and entertainment. We have the ability to read, count and think. We have the freedom to speak, assemble, pray, worship, protest and give thanks however we desire. We have much for which to be thankful.

Christians have the ultimate cause for thanksgiving. Every sin has been forgiven. Guilt and condemnation under the wrath of God has been removed. Our iniquities have been taken away by Christ and we are made righteous in Him. No matter how bad your life is, if you are a Christian, your rotten life is temporary, is still far better than the eternal suffering of hell you deserve and it will be replaced with eternal joy. Give thanks for your salvation!

The wonderful salvation of the Christian is abundant cause for rejoicing, but it is not the only reason to give thanks. Christians can give thanks because of the great promise that the abundant grace of God will be continually at work them. His grace abounds far more than sin (Romans 5:20) but also far more than need. (Ephesians 3:20) The grace of God is sufficient for all times and seasons. The grace of God is always working to do far beyond what we ask or even imagine. We can give thanks because God’s abundant grace is still overflowing.

The Bible also reveals a vast array of blessings and promises from God which are the Christian’s daily benefits. (Psalm 103:2) Your bank account may be empty and your future health may be doubtful, but God’s abundance is not diminished. For that we should always give thanks. Give thanks to God because He gives you many physical benefits and He gives you an infinite treatsure of spiritual blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Should Christian’s Support Kanye?

Kanye West has won 21 Grammy awards, 29 BET awards, 10 Billboard awards, 16 MTV awards and 140 other awards for his work in the music industry. He has sold over 21 million albums. Seven of his nine studio albums have gone platinum. Kanye is a hugely successful hip-hop artist. Recently he underwent a dramatic conversion to Christianity. The new message of Kanye is far different from the message that filled his music a few years ago. His latest album is entitled “Jesus is King.” He now sings of Jesus to thousands of people as he tours America hosting his Sunday Services.

Whenever a well known figure has a dramatic and public conversion many people, Christian and non-Christian, struggle to understand and respond. Some have accused Kanye of engaging in a huge publicity stunt. Others have said Kanye is using his Sunday Services to fuel album sales. Some Christians are concerned that Kanye’s conversion is not real and others wonder if church leaders should be promoting him so soon after his conversion.

Conversion happens in a moment. A person who calls upon Jesus for salvation is immediately taken out of the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of Jesus. Salvation is immediate, but the evidence of salvation is not. Some new believers find their life is dramatically transformed. They turn aside from all the things of their former life and make a clean break with the sins of their past. Most believers find the transformation of life is slow and gradual. We should not necessarily expect Kanye to show immediate victory over sins that have been a major part of his life for many years. What we should expect to see is a diligent effort to put away sin in his life.

The best evidence of salvation is long term continuance in the faith. In the parable of the soils, Jesus points out that some false professors spring up quickly and give early signs of growth before shriveling under the assaults from sin. Those who remain and bear fruit show they were truly saved. Only time and eternity will tell if Kanye’s profession is genuine. However, Kanye is not beyond redemption. No one should doubt Kanye’s salvation because of any terrible thing he has done in the past. The grace of God is far greater than any of Kanye’s sin. The blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin, even sins we may find particuarly offensive. If Kanye believes Jesus is God who died and rose again for his salvation, and if Kanye called out to Jesus for forgiveness of sin, then Kanye is saved.

The question that must asked and answered by Christians is if Kanye should be given the pulpit and platform of Christian churches so soon after his conversion. Kanye has his own platfrom from which he has long proclaimed his message, but should the church give him their’s. Kanye has clearly taken a leadership role in American Christianity. James 3:1 says that any one who is given the authority to teach the church is held to a greater accountability. Is it wise for any church to put a newborn Christian in a position where he will be accountable for what he teaches to thousands of Christians? Instead of giving him the pulpit, the church should be giving Kanye time and training to grow in doctrine, in faith and in Christlikeness.

The monthly pastor’s roundtable will be discussing further the question of Kanye on November 24. Tune in to 92.7 FM at 9:30 AM to hear the answers they give to this timely question.

How Should Christians Respond to the Recent Violence?

Our nation has once again been stunned by outbursts of unthinkable violence. Acts of terrorism and mass shootings are happening far too frequently. Murder remains a regular feature on the evening news. Every time someone shoots up a church or unloads into a crowd Christians are confronted with the need to address these tragedies with compassion and thoughtfulness.

Christian love demands we show genuine concern for all affected by these awful crimes. Whether the victims be Christians in Syria, partiers in Paris or abortionists in Colorado, the Christian should respond with heartfelt compassion for all who suffer at the hands of others. At no time should the child of God act like a victim got what they deserved. Murder is despicable no matter the morals, character or wickedness of the person murdered. The wanton taking of a human life is always a horrible evil because every person is created in the image of God. To harm a person is to attack the image of God. Every murder is a direct affront to the dignity and glory created in every person by God. Christians must clearly denounce any murderous act as a horrible evil without attempting to justify, excuse or mitigate the wickedness of the attack.

Horrendous deeds remind us the corruption of sin has filled this world with evil. Even those who might be inclined to deny any moral absolutes are forced to admit mass shootings are a terrible evil. The Christian need not argue about whether the problem is caused by guns, mental illness, religion, lack of religion or the shooter’s upbringing. The Biblically informed believer can say with confidence that whatever the immediate contributing factors to individual acts of violence, the tragedy occurred because everyone is corrupted by sin. The present excess of violence, hatred and destruction shows that sin is all too real.

The problem of evil drives us to seek a solution. The Christian knows the only hope for mankind is Jesus. Gun control, mental health solutions and better education may be worthwhie goals, but they are unable to solve the problem of sin. Those with murder in their hearts will find a way to execute their desires. The heart is only transformed by Jesus. In Christ evil desires begin to be replaced with good. Only in Jesus does humanity find hope for genuine righteousness and an end to the evils of this world.

Above all else, the Christian must never forget that in the end God’s righteous kingdom will be victorious. Psalm 2 says, ” Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD . . . He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Wicked men will rage against God and man, but in the end Jesus will punish all evil and will establish His righteous kingdom.

What is Relativism?

Relativism is the philosophy that truth and morality are dependent upon the perspective of the individual. Absolutes that transcend time, culture, society or personal opinion do not exist. No one can rightly say the Christianity of Western Europe is right and the animism of central Africa is wrong, or vice versa. Relativism views truth and morals as products of their time. For example, according to relativism, the wrongness of homosexuality was just a product of Victorian and Puritanical cultures which sought to repress human sexuality.

According to relativism, truth and morality are determined by the individual, the culture, and the particular situation. What is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. Relativism is the foundation of the postmodern world view, and is one of the most dominant views of truth in America today. Because of relativism, all truth is negotiable. Even truths which were once strongly held by many people can now be set aside if they are deemed inconvenient, unpopular or unpalatable. According to relativism, all truth claims are to be tolerated and doubt is a virtue. The only real sins in relativism are being dogmatic, too certain or attempting to force a particular view of truth upon someone else.

Relativism is evident in the ancient fable of the blind men and the elephant. The different religions of the world are like three blind men trying to explain an elephant. The one at the front holds the trunk and declares an elephant is a thick, muscular cylinder able to move about in all directions and grasp things. The one at the back disagrees quite strongly. He feels the tail and decrees an elephant is a thin, rope like object which is able to move rapidly. The one in the middle says they are both wrong. He touches a leg and describes the elephant as a thick, strong, leathery pillar. All determined truth based upon their perspective. Each defined a part of truth, but none were entirely right.

Christianity does not dispute the inability of individuals to fully see and understand truth. A Biblical worldview affirms that perceptions of what is true and right are affected by the perspective of the individual. What makes Christianity unique, and contradictory to relativism, is the assertion that truth is absolute and is given by One outside humanity. Reality, truth, justice and oughtness are defined by One who is above mankind and human culture.

Sin has damaged man’s ability to understand and apply truth to life. But human inability to see truth does not lessen its truthfulness. The blind men of relativism are limited by their inability to see and comprehend the entire elephant, but the elephant is still an elephant. Their mis-definition does not change the reality of the elephant. If a sighted zookeeper described in full detail the true nature of an elephant, the blind men would be obligated to accept as true the expert testimony of one who knows. The rejection of the authoritative declaration of what is true for a limited, incomplete understanding is folly.

Should Christian’s use Marijuana?

In the November elections the state of Michigan passed a ballot proposal to legalize recreational marijuana. Ten states now allow recreational marijuna us. Thirty-three allow the use of medicinal marijuana. In the two years since the following article was originally posted the legal landscape has changed significantly. For Christians, the major issue remains the same.

The acceptance of marijuana use has increased significantly in America. We have come a long way from the 1980’s “Just Say No” anti-drug campaign. Today marijuana is praised as a marvelous medicine for those suffering from ailments like glaucoma, persistent pain and the lack of the munchies.

Over half of the states in America have legalized some form of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. Seven states now allow recreational use of marijuana. If the progression continues many Christians will find themselves living in a state which permits relatively unrestricted use of marijuana. Will Christians then have the freedom to use marijuana?

The legalization of marijuana is a complex subject involving many aspects that do not fall under the scope of this ministry (this is not a political, scientific or medical blog). The question being discussed today is limited to using marijuana recreationally. Using THC or CBD based substances that are prescribed and overseen by a competent physician is an entirely different issue.

Though marijuana use is legal in some states, it is still illegal across America because of federal statutes. Marijuana is classified as a schedule one drug and is thus a controlled substance whose use and distribution is subject to federal prosecution. In other words, using marijuana is forbidden by the federal government and you can be arrested for it even if you have a prescription.

Christians in American are citizens of a state and the nation. Romans 13 says, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” “Ye must needs be subject . . . for conscience sake.” Christians are obligated by God to obey the governing officials. In those cases where the laws of the state and the laws of the nation disagree, the Christian is still bound to obey them all. Though the state where a Christian lives may allow the use of marijuana the nation does not. Consequently, obedience to the higher powers requires the Christian to obey the federal government and abstain from using marijuana.

Though the federal government may not enforce the law, or at least not enforce the law consistently, yet that law is in place. Until such time as the nation repeals the ban on marijuana use Christians are bound by their Scriptural duty to the government and not smoke marijuana. If the federal government eventually permits the use of marijuana those living in a state which forbids it must obey the state’s prohibition.

However, even if the nation were to permit the use of marijuana Christians have a higher obligation that forbids their use of the drug. The Christian is not to participate in anything that would enslave him. Marijuana is an addictive and mind altering substance. The Christian must never be under the power of any addiction. The Christian must never be under the control of anything but the Holy Spirit. If the child of God is forbidden to get drunk (Ephesians 5:18) then certainly being high on other substances must be equally inappropriate. Christians have no business using marijuana or any other drug for the purposes of getting high, relaxed, buzzed or stoned. The believers mind, heart and life is to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, not intoxicating substances.

How should we respond to the Brett Kavanaugh debates?

The strife regarding Brett Kavanaugh continues to hold America’s attention and promises to dominate the news for some time to come. Christians, like everyone else, are struggling to understand this long and contentious process. Few, if any, judicial nominees have been the subject of such a vicious conflict. How should Christian’s respond to this whole situation? Does the Bible give any principles to guide us through this ordeal?

This article is not intended to address whether or not Kavanaugh’s nomination should be confirmed, but how to think about and respond to the controversy of the situation. The before the Senate has moved away from whether or not Mr. Kavanaugh should be confirmed to whether or not he perpetrated various acts of sexual misconduct, including sexual assault. The accusations against him are serious. Sexual violence is never excusable. God clearly forbids all sexual immorality and sexual violence (Deuteronomy 22:25). Assaults upon any person are evil. No Christian should brush such an accusation aside as unimportant because the accused shares our political leanings. If the events happened as described then Brett Kavanaugh committed a great evil. The statute of limitations has run out so he is not criminally prosecutable, but he and any who have sinned in this matter will be judged by God. God fully knows the truth and will bring every sin into judgment.

It is impossible for anyone to know the full truth of the matter, especially those of us who are getting their information second hand from news reports or online news feeds. Proverbs says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto Him.” (Proverbs 28:13) In this situation the average person will never properly hear the matter. The Christian needs to speak with care and reserve judgment or rigid opinion about the truth of the accusations.

In all things act charitably and graciously. “Let your speech be always with grace seasoned with salt.” (Colossians 4:6) No matter what happens, and how strong your feelings may be on this topic, always speak words that minister grace to others. Never speak words that defame, enrage, slander, embitter or belittle.

Regardless of personal opinions about the issue and the people involve, always speak respectfully of the appointed leaders. Speak respectfully of Brett Kavanaugh and the Senators involved in his hearing. They are the ministers of God appointed for our good and the good of the nation. (Romans 13) We must always treat them with honor and respect, even when we don’t think they deserve it. One way in which the Christian honors his government is through prayer. Pray for Mr. Kavanaugh, Congress and all who are involved in this process. (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

In all the turmoil, do not lose sight the importance of the Supreme Court. Whoever sits on the Supreme Court weighs significant matters of law that deeply effect the lives of every American. Whether they be issues of hurman life and marriage or issues of healthcare and international trade, the Supreme Court is entrusted with a huge responsibility. The character of those who sit on that court matters. Righteousness still matters. Integrity in government matters. The principle of Proverbs 14:34 is still true, “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”

Are people today guilty for the sins of their fathers?

The Bible seems to indicate that descendants bear some weight of the sins of their ancestors. The Old Testament prophets confessed the past sins of Israel and included themselves as sharing in that guilt. However, the book of Ezekiel rejects the idea that a son is held guilty for his father’s actions. How are these things to be understood? Are Christian’s today guilty for sins committed by their fathers?

Consideration needs to be given to office of prophet. The prophets of Israel spoke to Israel on behalf of God. Moses, Daniel and Nehemiah show that prophets also spoke to God on behalf of Israel. As prophets they held a position and responsibility that is not held by any man in the church today. The prophet’s ability to speak to God for the nation does not exist in the New Testament church. Even if the prophets could be said to represent a principle that Christians today should follow, this kind of confession is very rare. Though Israel spent a thousand years in miscellaneous rebellions against God, the prophetic kind of confession only occurs a few times in the Old Testament.

When God decrees a fathers guilt is passed down to the children He does so primarily for the purpose of salvation. All are guilty in Adam that we all may be redeemed by Jesus. (Romans 5:19; 11:32) God does not hold children guilty as a way of penalizing them for sins they have not committed. God condemned all men in Adam that He might have mercy upon all.

In the books of Moses God warned that later generations would suffer as a result of the sins of their fathers. When one generation began to worship God they were taken into captivity. Of course, their children went with them. These children grew up in captivity, and at times had their own children in captivity. The sins of the fathers brought suffering to their descendants, but God did not hold the children guilty for that which their fathers did.

The book of Ezekiel is clear that all guilt for sin falls upon the people who commit it. While later generations may suffer because of the sins of their forefathers, God only holds them guilty for their own sin. The New Testament makes this even more clear. Romans 14 says, “So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God.” The New Testament never calls converted slave-holders, government officials, tax collectors or false teachers to confess any sin but their own. Herod came in a long line of despicable Herods yet John the Baptist called him to repent of his own sin, not the sin of his father.

This does not mean Christians today should ignore the sin of previous generations. We ought to honestly acknowledge the errors of those who have gone before us, but we do not confess those sins as if we somehow bear responsibility for them. If a denomination, church or Christian engaged in racism or allowed racist practices, then they should repent of their own sin without making excuse for the sin of previous generations. The sinner ought to acknowledge that he has disobeyed God. However, the Bible does not place upon him any extra burden of guilt because of what his fathers did.

Should Christians confess the sins of their ancestors?

From time to time, especially when racial tensions flare up in America, various Christian groups confess the sins of their ancestors. A group of Presbyterians who formed their own Presbyterain denomination in support of the South during the Civil War recently apologized for its racism and support of slavery. The Southern Baptist Convention has long faced pressure to apologize for its support of slavery during the Civil War. Some groups are quick to say Christians should apologize for the actions of their antecedents. Others deny Christians bear any responsibility for the actions of earlier generations.

Do Christians have a Biblical responsibility to repent of the sins of their ancestors? This is not a question about the evils of racism. Christians should oppose slavery, but that is not the issue. The question is whether Christians ought to repent of sins committed in previous generations by their spiritual or physical fathers. What does the Bible teach about an individual’s responsibility for the sins of his ancestors.

The Bible addresses this issue, but reaching a clear conclusion from its teachings is not easy. The answer is a bit more complicated than yes or no. The Old and New Testaments teach that later generations bear the consequences of the sins of their ancestors. In the books of Moses God warned that He would judge later generations for the sins of their fathers. “For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” (Exodus 20:5) The New Testament, especially the book of Romans, presents a powerful case that all generations of humanity are guilty and suffer under the curse of sin because of the sin of our common father, Adam. A Biblical case can be made that generations alive today bear some weight of the sins of their ancestors.

The Old Testament also shows certain prophets confessing the sins of Israel and previous generations of Israelites. In Daniel’s marvelous prayer he confessed the past sins of the nation. He includes himself in that confession when he says, “We have sinned, we have done wickedly.” (Daniel 9:15) Nehemiah said, “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned.” (Nehemiah 1:6)

However, in the book of Ezekiel God specifically rejects the idea that children bear the guilt of their fathers. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” (Ezekiel 18:20) How is one to understand this apparent contradiction? The next article will seek to provide some clear answers.

Does the Bible forbid suicide?

Suicide is always tragic. Often it is the last despairing step of those who have lost all hope. Christianity has long taught that suicide is a sin. Now the wrongness of suicide is being questioned. What does the Bible say about suicide? Though the Bible mentions seven acts of suicide it does not specifically condemn any of those acts. The context of several of those accounts, like that of Saul and Judas, gives the impression that suicide is the act of a wicked man.

An understanding of the Biblical view of human life is essential to answering this question. All human life is sacred. Space does not allow a full exploration of this idea, but from the very first mention of man the Bible makes clear that human beings are unique creations. Man was created in the image of God. The destruction of that image is a great evil. God told Noah after the flood, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6) In Numbers 35 God instructs Israel how to deal with murder and murderers. He impresses upon them the seriousness of taking a human life, “for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.” (Numbers 35:33) Any violence against a person is an assault against the image of God. This is why God forbids murder. This is why suicide is a sin.

The Bible’s commands against killing people must logically include killing oneself. The same reasons that make murder a sin, the desecration of the image of God and the extreme selfishness necessary to murder another, are the same reasons suicide is a sin. The individual has no right to plot the destruction of any human life. The person has no more authority over whether he lives or dies than he does over whether his neighbor lives or dies.

Suicide is an extreme act of selfishness. Whatever other motivations are behind suicide, the person ultimately decides to value his own escape from discomfort over the grief it will cause those left behind. Suicide sees the person’s own suffering as more important than anything or anyone else. Suicide declares “I will make the decision when my time on earth is done.” Such arrogant selfishness violates the command of God to love Him supremely and to love others selflessly. (Luke 10:27)

The example of the Psalmist is instructive of how to consider despair and death. David knew the brevity of life and many times felt the approach of death. His life was by the violence of men and grief of soul. In all things, David trusted the Lord. David went through times as dark and difficult as any faced by a person, yet he trusted the Lord. He gave no voice to suicidal thoughts, but said “My times are in thy hand.” (Psalm 31:15) His example shows how to respond in those times when, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:15) The right response is, “My soul fainteth for thy salvation; but I hope in Thy word.” (Psalm 119:81)

Suicide is not unforgivable. But, whether it be through a self-administered gunshot or a physician administered lethal dose, the willful killing of self is a sin.