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Living in Light of Two Ages



ISIS and Islamic Eschatology

As politicians throughout the West debate what to do about the rapidly increasing threat of ISIS, I wonder how much we in the West actually understand about the intellectual underpinnings of the movement.  Here are several articles I found helpful in sorting some of this out.

First, ISIS is driven by Islamic eschatology--an especially virulent apocalyptic eschatology.  As one writer points out . . .

Many Shi'ites from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran are drawn to the war because they believe it paves the way for the return of Imam Mahdi - a descendent of the Prophet who vanished 1,000 years ago and who will re-emerge at a time of war to establish global Islamic rule before the end of the world.

According to Shi'ite tradition, an early sign of his return came with the 1979 Iranian revolution, which set up an Islamic state to provide fighters for an army led by the Mahdi to wage war in Syria after sweeping through the Middle East.

"This Islamic Revolution, based on the narratives that we have received from the prophet and imams, is the prelude to the appearance of the Mahdi," Iranian cleric and parliamentarian Ruhollah Hosseinian said last year.

The entire article can be found here:  The Role of Islamic Eschatology in ISIS

A second factor driving the movement is a new and dangerous combination of eschatological, political, and terrorist ideologies, making the movement difficult to assess even by the jihadists themselves. (Apocalyptic, Political, or Just Plain Terrorists?)

So what is Isis essentially – violent millenarian cult, totalitarian state, terrorist network or criminal cartel? The answer is that it is none of these and all of them. Far from being a reversion to anything in the past, Isis is something new – a modern version of barbarism that has emerged in states that have been shattered by western intervention. But its influence is unlikely to be confined to Syria and Iraq.

Finally, the jihadist movement in Iraq/Syria is beginning to fracture and a "civil war within a civil war" seems to breaking out among jihadists.  (A Civil War Within a Civil War?)

Islamic militants who poured into the embattled nation to help the Free Syrian Army in its bid to topple dictator Bashar Assad are now fighting Assad, the rebels and each other in a barbaric free-for-all. At the center is the split between Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate, Jabhat al-Nusra, and the newly emerged Islamic State, which are fighting each other on the battlefield and in the war for recruits to the cause of Islamic terrorism. 

“The two groups are now in an open war for supremacy of the global jihadist movement,” according to Middle East scholar Aaron Zelin in a research paper published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a U.S.-based think tank.

Throw in the jihadist-led insurgency in neighboring Iraq, which has become intertwined in the insurrection in Syria, and the shifting alliances are becoming for many even harder to understand.


"Praise the Lord" -- A Sermon on Psalm 146

A Sermon on the 146th Psalm

My guess is that almost everyone reading this can recite the 23rd Psalm from memory.  Yet can anyone recite Psalm 146 from memory?  Probably not.  Although not as well known as the 23rd Psalm, Psalm 146 is certainly worthy of our time and study.  Consider the fact that Christians frequently use expressions like “praise the Lord,” and “hallelujah.”  Where do these expressions come from and why are they used?  These expressions come from biblical passages like Psalm 146.  Like many other Americans, Christians are prone to place their trust in great men (politicians, military heros, people of wealth and power), because such people can exercise influence upon over lives and our ways of thinking.  But in Psalm 146, we are reminded not to place our trust in anyone or anything other than God, who is the creator and sustainer of all things.  And then it is our Lord Jesus who alludes to this Psalm when beginning his messianic mission.  So there is much here for us to consider in the 146th Psalm.

As we continue our series on select Psalms, we take up Psalm 146 as a representative of an important group of five Psalms at the end of the Psalter, the so-called Hallel Psalms (146-150).  As we will see, Psalm 146 is a joyful Psalm of praise.  Together with Psalms 147-150, these five Psalms bring the fifth Book of the Psalms (Psalms 107-150), as well as the entire Psalter, to a close.  The five Hallel Psalms are classified as “Psalms of praise,” and are used as daily prayers in most synagogues.  Collectively these Hallel Psalms reflect a sense of joy and delight and although not as well-known as other Psalms (such as Psalm 23, our subject last Lord’s day) this group of Psalms does include Psalm 149 (in which we are urged to “sing a new song”) and Psalm 150 (with its famous refrain, “let everything that has breath praise the Lord”).

So far in our series on select Psalms we’ve covered Psalms written by David, Moses, and the sons of Korah.  We have looked at Psalms used in the temple (for worship), royal Psalms (with messianic implications), wisdom Psalms, and a Psalm such as the well-known 23rd Psalm, often classified as a “Psalm of trust.”  We take up yet another genre (or form) of Psalms–a Psalm of Praise.  This Psalm has been used as the text for several German hymns, and Isaac Watts’ hymn “I’ll Praise My Maker While I’ve Breath” is also based upon this Psalm.  The 146th Psalm is a Psalm which directs us to offer praise to the Lord, as well as to exercise great care in choosing in whom we place our trust.

As a so-called Psalm of Praise (and part of a section of the Psalter devoted to praise), this Psalm is often called a Song of Zion (because of the reference to Mount Zion, in v. 10).  It was almost certainly composed for use in the temple.  As with other Psalms (especially those used for worship in the temple), the authorship of Psalm 146 is unknown.  Ancient Jewish tradition identifies Psalm 146 and 147 as coming from prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and therefore to the fact that these Psalms were written for use in the temple after Israel returned from the exile in Babylon, making these Psalms among the most recently written in the Psalter.  There is nothing in these Psalms which ties them to either of these prophets, so it is probably best to consider this Psalm’s authorship as undetermined (unknown).

To read the rest of this Psalm:  Click Here


This Week at Christ Reformed Church (August 25-31)

Sunday Morning (August 31):  We are continuing our series on 1 Peter.  We'll be covering the verses 3-12 and Peter's discussion of the salvation of our souls.  Our Lord's Day worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday AfternoonKen Samples is leading our afternoon service.  The catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study:  Resumes September 10.

Friday Night Academy: The Academy will resume in September of 2014.  Our first class will be a four-week reading/discussion format centering on Dr. Robert Godfrey's book, John Calvin:  Pilgrim and Pastor (Crossway, 2009) and Mike Horton's book, Calvin on the Christian Life, (Crossway, 2014).  If you plan on attending, you may want to start reading now.

For more information and directions, check out the Christ Reformed website:  Christ Reformed Church


"Elect Exiles" -- 1 Peter 1:1-2

Here's the audio from this morning's sermon, the first in a new series on 1 Peter:

Click Here


This Week's White Horse Inn

Reformation Brazil (Part 2)

Many project that by 2020, the majority of Brazil’s Christian Population will be Evangelical Protestant, ninety percent of whom come from charismatic or Pentecostal churches. But according to our guest on this program, there is a new interest in Reformation theology among Brazil’s Pentecostals. Michael Horton discusses this trend with Walter McAlister, who is the Bishop of what he refers to as a network of over two hundred “Reformed Pentecostal” churches. In the second half of the program, Michael Horton will be speaking with Herber Campos Jr. about the state of Brazilian Christianity.

Click Here


Friday Feature -- The Trololo Guy Sing Along Version!

Caution --if you watch this, either the tune will get stuck in your head, or you'll catch yourself joining in . . .  This has 23 million hits since going viral.


Badgers? We Don't Need No Stinking Badgers!

If you live in an urban setting like Orange County, you know that it wasn't all that long ago that various critters (coyotes, foxes, martens and weasels, etc.,) were commonplace.  Driven into the local foothills by human encroachment (areas which are now being developed as well) these various species adjust to life with humans, and slowly but surely begin re-populating their former turf.  Seems that badgers are now moving back into urban areas like the City of Orange.  Badgers Are Back!

Speaking of critters, I, for one, am sick and tired of Orange County residents being told by city and county officials that the uptick in the coyote population is something "we'll just have to learn to live with."  Citizens of one local community--whose missing pets number in the dozens--are demanding that city officials quit bowing to the Animal Rights activists and that those paid to protect them and secure the public welfare, actually do something to remove the coyotes from the area.  I've had them in my yard, and you see (or hear) them all over the place at night.  Enough!  Sadly, it will take a child or an elderly adult getting attacked for anything to be done.  No, coyotes do not have rights!  Coyotes Need Killin'

Air-Traffic Controllers are worth their weight in fine gold.  This is an amazing video of them guiding flights into Atlanta during a recent spate of thunderstorms.  Truly amazing.  Air-Traffic Controllers in Action


I'm on "Issues, Etc." Today (Updated)

I'll be discussing C. I. Scofield and dispensationalism, from 1:30-2:30 p.m., PT.  You can listen here:  Issues, Etc, Live


"Our Dwelling Place" -- A Sermon on Psalm 90

A Sermon on The 90th Psalm

Life is fleeting.  The average life span of an American is 78.2 years (75.6 for men, 80.8 for women).  That seems like a long time until we consider that the last veteran of World War One (1914-1918) died last year.  World War 2 ended sixty-seven years ago.  My high school class is holding its fortieth reunion this summer.  9-1-1 occurred more than a decade ago.  When viewed in that light, an average life span of 80 years is not all that long.  Yet, time keeps marching on.  As each and every day goes by we struggle with our sins, we face suffering and calamity, we wonder what tomorrow holds (given the mysterious providence of God), and we worry about facing the wrath of God when we die.  In Psalm 90, Moses speaks to this struggle of daily life as he exhorts us to number our days and to live this life in light of eternity.   

Throughout our study of the Psalter we have covered select Psalms associated with various authors (David, the sons of Korah, etc.) and Psalms with different content and purposes (royal Psalms, wisdom Psalms, Psalms used in worship in the Jerusalem temple, and so on).  As we have done throughout our series, we will look first at the historical background to the composition of Psalm 90, then we will work our way though the text of the Psalm, before we look at the application of this Psalm to the Christian life.  We’ve also sung each of the Psalms we have covered during this series–something the Reformed and Presbyterian churches are well-known for doing, since Reformed Christians consider the Psalter to be the primary hymn book of Christ’s church.  

We will now take up Psalm 90, the only Psalm written by Moses, which likely makes Psalm 90 the oldest Psalm in the Psalter.  As for the historical background to this Psalm, recall that Moses lived about 1500 BC, and David about 1000 BC., so the origin of this Psalm goes back to that time described in the closing chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy when the people of Israel arrived on the plains of Moab, just across the Jordan River from the promised land of Canaan before they crossed the Jordan and conquered Jericho.  This puts the composition of Psalm 90 about 500 years before the temple was built in Jerusalem, and well before Israel’s kingdom extended all the way from Damascus to Egypt (under David and Solomon).  This is why Psalm 90 has such a different feel than the other Psalms.  

Psalm 90 is the first Psalm in Book Four of the Psalter (i.e., Psalms 90-106).  Most of the Psalms in Book Four are anonymous (the so-called “orphan Psalms”), except Psalm 90 which was written by Moses, and several Psalms which are attributed to David.  The Psalms in Book Four tend to deal with difficult questions about human frailty and the meaning of life, the nature of justice and God’s faithfulness, and the difficult question of why it is that God does not immediately punish the wicked.  These difficult questions about life in a fallen world were raised in Psalm 89 (which closes out Book Three of the Psalter, and which is a Psalm of lament because of Israel’s sin).  These questions are addressed, in part, throughout the various Psalms found in Book Four.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here


I'm Back . . . This Week at Christ Reformed Church (August 18-24)

Sunday Morning (August 24):  I am beginning a new series on 1 Peter.  We'll be covering the opening verses (vv. 1-2) and doing some background.  Our Lord's Day worship service begins at 10:30 a.m.

Sunday AfternoonI am returning to my series on the Canons of Dort.  We will be reviewing the articles in the third/fourth head of doctrine we've covered so far (1-11). The catechism service begins @ 1:15 p.m.

Wednesday Night Bible Study:  Resumes in September (TBA)

Friday Night Academy:  The Academy will resume in September of 2014.  Our first class will be a four-week reading/discussion format centering on Dr. Robert Godfrey's book, John Calvin:  Pilgrim and Pastor (Crossway, 2009) and Mike Horton's book, Calvin on the Christian Life, (Crossway, 2014).  If you plan on attending, you may want to start reading now.

For more information and directions, check out the Christ Reformed website:  Christ Reformed Church