The Test of Shame


by Mike Ratliff

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:2-6 ESV)

Do you remember the first time that someone ridiculed you for your faith? How did it feel? The Test of Shame is one that comes upon all professing Christians. This test is designed to separate the genuine from the disingenuous. Many may fail this test and still be genuine, but in their hearts they will bear a shame that is worse than the ridicule and persecution they sought to avoid. The beauty of God’s ways is that the path of forgiveness is there for those who repent. Peter’s denial of Christ during Jesus’ trial is a perfect example of this. There are also many during the reign of Queen Mary of England, Bloody Mary, who initially failed this test as they were persecuted or their families were threatened with persecution unless they abjured. However, as the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts they would go public with their faith and endure the fires of martyrdom in the joy of the Lord. Continue reading

Good Works vs. Works Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 ESV)

When I was a young man and even prior to that when I was a teenager, I was quite religious. I went to church with my family and tried to emulate what I saw my parents do in their devotion. I tried to reach a point in my own devotion where I could be fulfilled, wanting to serve God with the joy and fervor I saw in other believers. However, I just could not do it. I found myself bored in church. I found no inner drive to read my Bible. I had no desire to have a consistent devotion to God because there were so many other things in my life that were more important to me than that. I was tormented by the fact that I could not behave consistently “Christian.” I had no self-control in certain situations. Then I would visit my family and attend church with them on Sunday full of remorse and guilt. I would exit the service determined to do good works and not sin anymore. I look back on that time now and almost laugh except it was a horrible conflict in my life at that time. I was convinced that being a Christian consisted of doing Christian things. In that unregenerate mind, a Christian was a Christian because they did those things. That, of course, is what works righteousness is. Continue reading

Drinking from the Cup the Father has Given Us


by Mike Ratliff

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:12-17 ESV)

This being the day after Christmas 2006, God has, as He always does with me, made sure that I reflected much over the last several days on the drive we all have to attempt to find a sense of happiness, peace, joy, or what have you in our circumstances. I caught myself several times over the last few weeks waxing melancholic in a attempt to “be happy” because of supposed circumstances where I could relax and be fulfilled because of Christmas causing things to happen that brought back special memories. Depression seemed to be gaining ground several times because that “Christmas Spirit” didn’t seem to be taking hold. Continue reading

Lying in a Manger


by Martin Luther

She gave birth too her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7)

All of us should use the gospel to evaluate ourselves. How near or far are we from Christ? How are we doing in faith and love? Many become inflamed with dreamy devotion when they hear about how impoverished Christ was when he was born. They grow furious at the people of Bethlehem and criticize their blindness and ingratitude. They think that if they had been there, they would have served the Lord and his mother. They wouldn’t have allowed them to be so miserable. But these people don’t even notice their own neighbors who are nearby and need their help. They ignore them and leave them as they are. Who on earth doesn’t have miserable, sick, blundering, or sinful people around them? Why don’t they show their love to these people? Why don’t they do for their neighbors what Christ did for them?

Don’t deceive yourself by thinking you would have treated Christ well when you don’t presently do anything for your neighbors. If you had been at Bethlehem, you would have paid just as little attention to him as everyone else did. You only want to serve him because you know who his is. Let’s say that he were to come, lie in a manger, and let you know that he is the one you now know so much about. Of course you would want to do something to help. but before that, you wouldn’t have done anything.

Similarly, if you could see your neighbors now as they will be in the future, and if they were lying in front of you, then you certainly would take care of them. But because you only see them for what they are now, you ignore them. You fail to recognize Christ in your neighbors.

From Faith Alone – A Daily Devotional - General Editor James C. Galvin

Powered by Qumana

I Heard The Bells


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was filled with sorrow at the tragic death of his wife in a fire in 1861. The Civil War broke out that same year, and it seemed this was an additional punishment. Two years later, Longfellow was again saddened to hear the his own son had been seriously wounded as a lieutenant in the Army of the Potomac.

Sitting down to his desk, one Christmas Day, he heard the church bells ringing, and ringing. It was in this setting he wrote:

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep,
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.

At this Chirstmas time whether you are in sorrow or in joy you can know that God is not dead, nor doth he sleep. He knows all things and is the source of the only remedy we have for the bleakness of this life in this flesh. Seek Him this year instead of the outward manifestations of the season. He will give life real meaning and your heart real peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

Powered by Qumana

Puritan Quote


“Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent…If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time.”
- Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 187

Faith’s Checkbook by C.H. Spurgeon – Tuesday December 19, 2006


Afflictions, But No Broken Bones

He keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken. (Psalm 34:20)

This promise by the context is referred to the much afflicted righteous man: "Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all." He may suffer skin wounds and flesh wounds, but no great harm shall be done; "not a bone of him shall be broken."

This is great comfort to a tried child of God, and comfort which I dare accept; for up to this hour I have suffered no real damage from my many afflictions. I have neither lost faith, nor hope, nor love. Nay so far from losing these bones of character, they have gained in strength and energy. I have more knowledge, more experience, more patience, more stability than I had before the trials came. Not even my joy has been destroyed. Many a bruise have I had by sickness, bereavement, depression, slander, and opposition; but the bruise has healed, and there has been no compound fracture of a bone, not even a simple one. The reason is not far to seek. If we trust in the Lord, He keeps all our bones; and if He keeps them, we may be sure that not one of them is broken.

Come, my heart, do not sorrow. Thou art smarting, but there are no bones broken. Endure hardness and bid defiance to fear.

Powered by Qumana

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing


by Mike Ratliff

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15 ESV)

With the ever increasing move away from Orthodox Christianity into various forms of Experiential religion that we are witnesses of here and now, it seems that the bottom is falling out of Christianity, at least in the USA. It’s bad enough that we have all of these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” drawing the unaware into false religions while pretending to be Christian, but there are seemingly endless numbers of our “Christian” leaders falling all over themselves embracing these heretics. It was not that long ago that someone like Robert Schuller was known for the heretic he is. When John MacArthur spoke about Mr. Schuller’s heresies none of our “Christian” leaders objected. Now, we see some of them shaking hands and buddying up with Mr. Schuller as if they have been best friends forever. No one seems to mind either. It’s not that we have heretics among us, we always have them, but there are now many of our leaders either falling in bed with these people or revealing their fleshly side in some of the grossest sins imaginable. What is going on? Continue reading

True Humility


by Martin Luther

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in god my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)

A good deal of pride lurks behind the outward show of humility we see in the world today. People put themselves down but don’t want others to look down on them. They decline honors, but they really want more honors to follow them. They appear to avoid prominence, but they still want to be praised and don’t want to deal with unimportant matters.

Yet in this passage, Mary says little about herself except that she is a servant. She was content to remain in her lowly position the rest of her life. She never gave any thought to her own glory or honor. She wasn’t even aware of her own humility. Humility is so fragile and sensitive that it’s not capable of looking at itself. Only God can look at it, as we read in Psalm 113:5-9.

If we were able to look at our own humility, we would conclude that we deserve to be saved because we know that God saves humble people. That’s why God reserves the right to look at humility for himself. He hides it from us by making us look at unimportant things and by keeping us busy with them so that we forget to look at ourselves. That’s the reason we have to endure so much suffering, death, and all the other kinds of hardships here on earth. Pain and difficulties force us to get rid of envy within us.

By using the word humble, Mary shows us that she served God with the attitude of a despised, unimportant, lowly servant. She had no idea that her humility was so highly regarded by God.

Powered by Qumana

God Became A Man


by Martin Luther

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

"The Word became flesh." We can never fully grasp this teaching concerning our salvation and eternal life using human reason. Nevertheless, we must believe it, and we must cling tightly to what Scripture says about it. The Bible says that Christ, our Lord, is true and natural God and true and natural man. The Bible says that in his divine essence and nature, Christ is coequal with the Father. The heretics have cast doubts on both the divine nature and the human nature of Christ. During the lifetime of the apostles, some heretics claimed that Christ was not human. Some of our contemporaries teach similar things. They claim that because he was conceived solely by the Holy Spirit, Christ could not have been a human being like we are. He could not have had the same kind of body that we do. They insist that because he was a man from heaven, his body must have been from heaven too.

That’s why I urgently warn believers to beware of religious splinter groups. If Christ isn’t true and natural God, born in eternity of the Father, and if he isn’t the Creator of all creatures, then we are doomed. What good are Christ’s suffering and death to us if he was only a human like you and me? If he were just a human, he couldn’t have overpowered the devil, death, or sin. He would have been too weak for them and never would  have been able to help us. We must have a Savior who is true God and Lord over sin, death, hell, and the devil. Christ is eternal in nature, lacks nothing in his being, and is perfect in every way.

From Faith Alone A Daily Devotional General Editor James C. Galvin

Powered by Qumana

Called to be Holy


by Mike Ratliff

45 For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:45 ESV)

The resistance in today’s version of the Church of Jesus Christ to commands such as the one above is rooted in rebellion. Yes, I know that is a blunt statement. Yes, I know that there are huge segments of the church in America that believe that the Old Testament is not for them. However, the truth does not stop being the truth simply because people refuse to believe it. I run into this quite a bit. I teach something or write something that is a clear command of God that we must obey and someone will say or write something like, “well everyone knows that that can’t mean that because God isn’t like that.” Excuse me but since when does what people believe about God change what God is like or diminishes the veracity of His commands? Continue reading

For those suffering right now


I decided to post this over the top of last night’s post, The Apostate Church, because I felt led to do so by the Spirit. There are many believers suffering through tribulations right now and it may seem that there is no end in sight. Please read the following devotional from Charles Spurgeon’s Faith Checkbook. It was exactly what I needed to hear today. :-) Also, I received the following quote this morning from my friend Mark Kettler and I think it fits very well here.

If you have been reduced to God being your only hope, You are in a good place. – Jim Laffoon

In Christ

Mike Ratliff Continue reading

The Apostate Church


by Mike Ratliff

30 “As for you, son of man, your people who talk together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, say to one another, each to his brother, ‘Come, and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ 31 And they come to you as people come, and they sit before you as my people, and they hear what you say but they will not do it; for with lustful talk in their mouths they act; their heart is set on their gain. 32 And behold, you are to them like one who sings lustful songs with a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument, for they hear what you say, but they will not do it. (Ezekiel 33:30-32 ESV)

In the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3 contain the seven letters Christ dictated to John to be sent to seven churches that existed in John’s time in Asia Minor. I have heard several sermons and read some exposits of these chapters that were geared towards these seven churches each representing one of the seven church ages. For this to be true there would have to be seven separate, distinct church ages that we could clearly line up with the each church description in these two chapters. First, let me say that I am not 100% convinced that this is valid, but it is intriguing. Continue reading

True Godliness: Separating Regenerate Christianity from Counterfeit Christianity


by Mike Ratliff

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-39 ESV)

For those of you reading this who have also read my series on the Counterfeit Church, I pray you will also read this post. It springs from a conversation I had with a coworker today as well as a continual perplexity on my part about why it has been so difficult for my wife and I to find a new church. God is sovereign. I believe God is a Covenant God who has not relinquished any of His sovereignty nor has He left His people’s eternal status up to their fickle, fallen natures. Continue reading