Infinite Obligation

Excerpt from a prayer in The Valley of Vision:

Let me never forget that I have an eternal duty to love, honour, and obey thee [God], that thou art infinitely worthy of such; that if I fail to glorify thee I am guilty of infinite evil that merits infinite punishment, for sin is the violation of an infinite obligation.

John Frame says,

To glorify God is to reflect that light wherever we are, so that we image God more perfectly, so that people everywhere can see Jesus in us.

The Lord Jesus says,

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.

The Apostle Paul says,

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Living for the glory of God, yes, it is that important; an infinite obligation.

Praying Encouragment

Here is a sample from the great prayer book The Valley of the Vision.

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Holy Lord,

How little repentance there is in the world, and how many sins I have to repent of!  I am troubled for my sin of passion (anger), for the shame and horror of it as an evil; I purpose to give way to it no more, and come to thee for strength to that end.  Most men give vent to anger frequently and are overcome but it, bringing many excuses and extenuations for it, as that it occurs suddenly, that they delight not in it, that they are sorry afterwards, that godly men commit it.  They thus seek peace after outbursts of passion by entire forgetfulness of it, or, by skinning over their wound, they hope for healing without peace in Christ’s blood.  Lord God, I know that my sudden anger arises when things cross me, and I desire to please only myself, not Christ; There is in all wrongs and crosses a double cross – that which crosses me, and that which crosses thee; In all good things there is somewhat that pleases me, somewhat that pleases thee; My sin is that my heart is pleased or troubled as things please or trouble me, without my having a regard to Christ; Thus, I am like Eli, the subject of punishment for not rebuking sin; whereas I should humbly confess my sin and fly to the bloom of Christ for pardon and peace.  Give me, then, repentance, true brokenness, lasting contrition, for these things thou wilt not despise in spite of my sin.

I know when I’m struggling with a lack of prayer in my life, this little prayer book often encourages my soul back before the throne of grace where it belongs!  It is there that I am reminded…

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!

One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!

Our Great God says in Jeremiah 33:3 and Psalm 62:8,

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.

Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.

Jesus with Popcorn and a Coke

I recently had the opportunity to take my wife to the movies.  No kiddos, just my wife!  Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the movies with my kids, but sometimes it’s nice to watch a grown up movie in the theatre.  We saw Saving Mr. Banks, and it was a great movie.  Tom Hanks is a genius on the big screen!

This post, however, isn’t about the accolades of Tom Hanks, as great of an actor as he may be.  It is about a preview that came on before the movie started.  Another movie portraying the life of Jesus.  The movie “Son of God” comes out in February 2014.  You can read about it here:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/jesus-christ-movie-son-god-648539

This morning as I read Matthew 5:43-48, I thought of that movie preview.  Hollywood actually gets it right a lot more than you may think.  Often times, without even knowing it, they are proclaiming the biblical messages of depravity, redemption, love etc.  Sometimes you have to look hard to see it, but it is there.  Ironically, it is when Hollywood tries to do a biblical movie, that they miss the mark.  Jesus is frequently portrayed in a feminine light, or simply mischaracterized as just a great example and not the Saviour of sinners.  You probably know what C.S. Lewis had to say about that in his great ‘Lord, liar, lunatic’ polemic.

But even when Jesus spoke words that people think they love to hear (such as The Sermon on the Mount), the heart of the message is often difficult.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you , love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so?  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Hollywood can present a “beautiful” Jesus to try and water down messages like this, but at the end of the day it is true believers who understand that Jesus spoke difficult words that the glamour and glitz of the big screen will never get right.  Hollywood is better off sticking to movies where they proclaim gospel messages without even really realizing it, because when they try to do the real thing they usually just make a mess of it.  So if you’re looking for Jesus with popcorn and a coke, I hope at least you enjoy your snack.

Come, Let Us Worship!

Psalm 136:3-4 and 25 say,

3-4: Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever: To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever;

25: Who gives food to all flesh, For His mercy endures forever.

So often I am guilty of simply failing to worship the Sovereign God of the Universe as I should.  These verses remind us that giving thanks to the Lord of lords should be a daily thing.  There is much to be thankful for!  Worship him because his mercy endures forever!  Worship him because he alone does great wonders!  Worship him because he gives food to all flesh!  Huh?

Yes, that’s exactly what the Psalmist meant.  Worship Sovereign God because he gives us food to eat.  Yet even deeper than that, worship Sovereign God because he sustains all flesh today.  From the mightiest to the meekest of creatures!  No lion can prey and no ant can harvest without the Sovereign Lord of the Universe giving unto them!  What a merciful God of condescension and power!

Psalm 136 is chock full of the wonders of God that should elicit worship!  And yet somehow we treat worship rather illicitly!  God made the heavens and he made the earth!  He delivered the Israelites from Egypt, and moved them across the sea on dry land!  He overthrew Pharaoh and his army!  He led his people through the wilderness!  He slew great kings!  He gave his covenant people their land!  Come, let us worship him for all these mighty wonders, and even for the wonders that we often fail to consider to be mighty, God says, “Come and adore!”

So the next time we sit down to that big slab of beef, let us worship our Sovereign Lord!  He is the one who feeds us with it.  And he is the merciful Lord God who fattened that same animal with a peaceful life of grazing.

As John Frame puts it in Salvation Belongs to the Lord,

We usually don’t think of that [feeding all flesh] as miraculous, but when you think about it, it’s pretty wonderful.  Feeding a few million Israelites in the wilderness was a wonderful thing; yet, in a way it is even more wonderful that God feeds absolutely every living thing on the earth.  So, perhaps from one perspective, God is doing miracles all the time all around us (p. 17).

May we never be found wanting to worship our Sovereign God for his miraculous wonders and deeds!  Come, let us worship!

 

Why I am a Reformed Christian Libertarian

In Daniel 2 we are reminded that God’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, unlike the kingdom’s of men. In his commentary on Daniel, Ralph Davis says,

“They [Israel] should at least see that the kingdom of God is not going to come as soon as Babylon passes off the political scene. Daniel 2 is not trying to rob Israel of her hope but wants her to have a true and realistic hope and so says: it will be a long historical road before the kingdom of God comes. What to do then? Iain Duguid suggests that verses 48-49 may hold an answer: ‘It is not coincidental that the chapter ends with Daniel and his friends promoted to responsible positions within the Babylonian system…These men didn’t isolate themselves from the kingdom of this world as they waited for God to establish his kingdom; rather, they poured themselves into seeking the welfare of their temporary home in Babylon.’ We are to serve where we have been placed within the fading kingdom as we go on waiting for the final kingdom (cf. Jer. 29:5-7).”

For years, I never found much interest in politics.  I went to the poll booths and checked the politician that had an [R] by their name.  I was o.k. with that, because I bought into the old adage that you can complain so long as you vote!  So I voted, and I complained.  Half the time I didn’t really know what I was complaining about, and the other half of the time I simply didn’t care.  Then things began to really transition in my life.  I was pastoring a small baptist church at the time, and God began to open my eyes to Reformed theology.  I became a lover of said theology, and out of respect to my congregation that didn’t have the same convictions, I resigned as pastor.  I still catch a lot of flack from a lot of people for becoming one of those “Reformed guys.”  I really believe I have friends and family members who no longer think I’m a Christian as a result of this transition in my life.  Truthfully, I’ve never been more alive to Christianity than I have been since studying the Reformed Doctrines of Grace.  It’s ironic because opponents of Calvinism will accuse us of being robots, but looking back at my Christian walk before making this transition, I could not think of a better term to describe me than a Christian robot.  God released me from that!  Glory to his name!

This blog post is not meant to be pejorative toward those who do not agree with me.  I am simply explaining why I am a Reformed Christian Libertarian.  So, now that we have the reformed part out of the way, why libertarianism?  Isn’t that just another way of saying I am one of those people who politically believe in hedonism; anything goes?  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  It is interesting that God has placed me in a position in life where I belong to two of the most misunderstood groups in America: Reformed theologians and political libertarians.  I feel like I constantly have to write blog posts like this, just to state my positions.  I have felt the isolation of being a Reformed Christian Libertarian.  As an introvert, I don’t mind isolation nearly as much as an extrovert, but the pain of being constantly misunderstood can be overwhelming even to the most introverted introvert.  I even get badgered from within my own camps.  One particular individual posted this picture in a recent conversation on a Libertarian Facebook page:

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The caption read: “Ryan Barnhart selfie.”  Its sheer stupidity made me chuckle, but why did someone who claims to be a libertarian post this picture?  It was simply because I was stating a case that Winston Churchill was one of the biggest statist and warmongers this world has ever known.  From that argument you then see a fallacious leap to this picture.  Nothing I said about Winston Churchill was factually incorrect.  I wasn’t even referring to his role in WWII (though he made mistakes a plenty there), but rather his role in the Cold War.  Another poster, more of a gentleman than the first, claimed that though I knew my history well and could actually be beneficial to a lot of people, I was a confrontational elitist that could not spread my message in love.  Even though I was called a Nazi, a weak libertarian, an unloving elitist and (my personal favorite) asshat in the course of the conversation, I was the confrontational one.  All for simply stating historical facts about Winston Churchill.

I’m rambling on about these things to make the point that it’s not just those that theologically and politically disagree with me on every level that can bring the hammer down.  And I probably spent a little too much time dwelling on this the last few years.  And then God led me to the  commentary on Daniel by Ralph Davis that I quoted above.  I read those quotes this morning and it almost felt like a burden lifted that I can’t explain.

I’m a 38 year old man who has an undergraduate degree having studies business and history.  I’ve been to seminary and studied greek and hebrew.  Now I’m working on my Master’s in Public Policy.  I mentioned this to a friend the other day, and said, “So vote Governor Barnhart when the time comes, o.k.?”  He said, “Is that a possibility?”  And that leads me to where I am right now…uncertain.  I’m not uncertain about my convictions, but I am uncertain about my role in the future.  Does God want me to plant a church somewhere?  Maybe.  Does God want me to become a missionary to India?  Maybe.  Does God want me to go into local politics?  Maybe.  I simply don’t know right now, and I can’t tell you how badly that has bothered me in the past, and I’m sure will continue to do so on some level in the future.  We are just dust after all.  What doesn’t bother me, however, is that I a carry the title of being a Reformed Christian Libertarian.  It often brings isolation, but I’m getting used to it.  Here’s what I know, and I’m thankful for Davis quoting Duguid in his commentary,

These men [Daniel and his friends] didn’t isolate themselves from the kingdom of this world as they waited for God to establish his kingdom; rather, they poured themselves into seeking the welfare of their temporary home in Babylon.

Whether in ministry or politics or both, I will take that statement and this one by Davis:

We are to serve where we have been placed within the fading kingdom as we go on waiting for the final kingdom…

and I will continue to be a Reformed Christian Libertarian.  I will no longer worry about whether my convictions bring isolation, loss of relationships, loss of opportunities, or whatever else may come.  These are not things that I relish or even want, but they are all part of the life of a Reformed Christian Libertarian.  And for the first time in my life, I’m o.k. with that.

If you’d like to read more about my political convictions I would direct you to one of America’s most renowned Christian Libertarians, Laurence M. Vance.  His articles can be found at Lew Rockwell’s site: http://www.lewrockwell.com/author/laurence-m-vance/

For an understanding of most of my theological convictions I would direct you to Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.

Cautiously Optimistic

That’s what I am right now.  By nature I can be rather negative and cynical when it comes to the motives of others, and my prayer is that God’s grace will sanctify me in this area.  With that said, when I am optimistic about something, it still tends to be a cautious optimism.  And right now I am cautiously optimistic that the American people are waking up!  There is no denying that the majority of the people are against an United States strike on Syria.  Yes, there are some that are for it.  These are the same people that would justify most anything that Obama executes.  And yet, I wonder…I just wonder if as many people would be against this attack if a neoconservative, and not Obama was in office right now?  I say neoconservative because a true conservative would not even think about bombing Syria.  Hello Ron Paul!

Don’t let the silence on the subject of Syria by Hollywood elitists discourage you.  They don’t speak for the heart of this country, and quite frankly I don’t give a rip about what Sean Penn or Susan Sarandon think about Syria, or Iraq, or any political point for that matter.  What I do care about is the fact that the American people are against this strike, and that makes me cautiously optimistic that the American people are tired of being lied to.  That makes me cautiously optimistic that the American people are tired of soldiers losing their lives because American can’t stay out of foreign entanglements.

Some might call me a simpleton. I would tell you to read Washington’s Farewell Address, particularly those parts about foreign alliances:

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp

There is much more work and progress to be made!  If America is to get back to her roots, We the People will have to continue to make our voices heard, and stand up against what is wrong.  Can we do this?  I remain cautiously optimistic.

For other well-written articles/blogs on the subject, please see:

http://benswann.com/the-two-major-problems-with-president-obamas-syria-address/

http://natepyle.com/questions-that-need-to-be-answered-before-attacking-syria/

http://blogs.wsj.com/peggynoonan/2013/09/10/making-sense-of-syria/

 

 

Daily Dose of Durham

The more I read 17th Century Presbyterian minister James Durham, the more I enjoy my daily dose of Durham.  Hope you enjoy today’s….

It may be some will say, that the covenant is not broad enough, because all are not elected, all are not redeemed nor appointed to be heirs of salvation; upon which ground, temptation will sometime so far prevail, as to waken up a secret enmity at the gospel.  But how absurd is this reasoning?  Is there any that can rationally desire a covenant so broad, as to take in all, as necessarily to be saved by it?  There is a much greater reason to wonder that any should be saved by it, than there is if all should perish.  Besides, we are not now speaking to the effects, but to the nature of the gospel; so that, whoever perish, it is not because they were not elected, but because they believed not; and the bargain is not of less worth, nor the less sure, because some will not believe.  And to say that the covenant is not good enough because so many perish, it is even as if you should say, it is not a good bridge, because some will not take it, but adventure to go through the water, and so drown themselves.