Dealing with Discouragement


by Mike Ratliff

23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. (Genesis 40:23 ESV)

My natural tendency is to heartily participate in self-pity, outrage, and unforgiveness thereby opening doors in my heart that Satan enters causing me to become discouraged. When this happens to me, I find that my circumstances drive me to become very negative and impatient. I suppose that this is one of my besetting sins which clings closely to me ready to cut in on me causing me to drop out of the race God has set before me to run with endurance. (Hebrews 12:1-2) My sense of joy that strengthens me as I run this race comes from looking unto Jesus. My focus has dropped from Him to me and my circumstances. When this happens the slide into self-absorption is very quick. I suddenly find myself in this ugly spiritually flat mood whose fuel seems to be anger. I have often pondered how this happens. Prior to my personal restoration in 2004-2005 I was probably in this mood or mode the majority of the time. Since then, however, these falls into this dark ditch have been rare enough so that when I find myself there I am very surprised. Now, I implore the Lord and ask why this has happened. Why am I so full of joy on Tuesday and so fleshly and down on Wednesday? Continue reading

The Dragnet


by Mike Ratliff

47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.” (Matthew 13:47 ESV)

The thirteenth chapter of the book of Matthew is a treasure vault of truth about the true nature of the Kingdom of God. Jesus spoke a great deal in parables. Why? The parables were, for the most part, analogies that used every day, common objects and events that Jesus utilized to present eternal truths in a way that the Holy Spirit used to cement those truths into the hearts of God’s people. On the other hand, those without the Spirit of God were perplexed and could not grasp those truths. For those reading this who are still resistant to the truth that God is Sovereign over ALL things I suggest a very deep study of the book of Exodus. Moses makes sure that the reader understands who calls the shots, who draws people to Himself while pushing others away. He puts His words in the mouths of His messengers and into their minds and hearts to be written down for the Holy Spirit to use to break hearts and enlighten minds. Continue reading

Faith Comes from God


by Mike Ratliff

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” (John 6:28 ESV)

Genuine Christians will be very interested in getting the answer to the question posed to Jesus from John 6:28. If a professing Christian is not interested in that answer then there’s a problem. On the other hand, there are many professing Christians who have answered that question without reading Jesus’ response to it. Instead, they have jumped head foremost into “religous” work that they believe pleases God and is earning them bonus points in eternity. Their “works” may look good to most people, but are they what Jesus tells us are the genuine works of God? Let’s look at this passage in context. Continue reading

Bread from Heaven


by Mike Ratliff

4 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. (Exodus 16:4 ESV)

Most Christians I know do not walk by faith. They may claim that they do, but when their circumstances evolve so as to put them in a corner with a clear black and white choice to trust God or play it safe, they rarely step out on faith trusting God. Instead, they choose the easy way out which is always the wrong choice because it does not lead to the blessings of God or the peace of God or into His light. Continue reading

The Great Physician


I have written many posts in this blog, some books, and many comments about the subject of the subtlety of “works righteousness” and how it keeps Christians in bondage while fooling multitudes of Christian wannabees into thinking they are genuinely saved because of the good works they do. The Bible is very clear that genuine Christians will do good works, which are simply a product of their regenerate hearts. On the other hand those in bondage to “works righteousness” do so in an attempt to “earn” their salvation or to feel better about themselves. The following devotional by Martin Luther, I believe, succinctly explains this. Enjoy and be blessed. – Mike Ratliff

by Martin Luther

But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Colossians 1:22)

A Christian is righteous and a sinner at the same time–both a friend and an enemy of God. The philosophers will not admit this paradox because they don’t accept the right way of becoming justified. That’s why they demand that people keep on doing good works until they don’t feel sin anymore. This teaching has caused many people to become very distraught, because they have strived as much as they could to become completely righteous but could never achieve it. Even among those who spread this godless teaching, countless numbers of them have fallen into despair in their hour of death. This would have happened to me if Christ hadn’t mercifully looked upon me and freed me from this error.

In contrast, we teach and comfort troubled sinners this way: Dear brothers and sisters, it’s impossible for you to become so righteous in this life that you won’t feel sin anymore.It’s impossible for your body to become as bright and spotless as the sun. Though you still have wrinkles and spots, in spite of this, you are holy. But you may wonder, “how can I be holy since I sin and feel sinful?” Recognizing and feeling your sin is good. Thank God, and don’t despair. It’s a step toward health whenever a sick person recognizes his disease. “But how can I be freed from sin?” you wonder. Run to Christ, the Physician who heals the broken-hearted (Psalm 147:3). He makes sinners holy.

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

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God and Myself


LORD GOD ALMIGHTY,

Thy understanding is unsearchable and infinite,

Thy arm cannot be stayed,

Thy agency extends through limitless space,

All works hang on thy care,

With thee time is a present now.

Holy is  thy wisdom, power, mercy, ways, works,

How can I stand before thee

with my numberless and aggravated offences?

I have often loved darkness,

observed lying vanities,

forsaken thy given mercies,

trampled underfoot thy beloved Son,

mocked thy providences,

flattered thee with my lips,

broken thy covenant.

It is of thy compassion that I am not consumed.

Lead me to repentance, and save me from despair;

Let me come to thee renouncing, condemning, loathing myself,

but hoping in the grace that flows even to the chief of sinners.

At the cross may I contemplate the evil of sin, abhor it,

look on him whom I pierced,

as one slain from me, and by me.

May I never despise his death by fearing its efficacy for my salvation.

And whatever cross I am required to bear,

let me see him carrying a heavier.

Teach me in health to think of sickness,

in the brightest hours to be ready for darkness;

in life prepare me for death.

Thus may my soul rest in thee, O immortal and transcendent one,

revealed as thou art in the Person and work of thy Son,

the friend of sinners.

From The Valley of Vision – A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur Bennett

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Who has made Man’s mouth?


by Mike Ratliff

10 But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” 11 Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” 13 But he said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” 14 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well. Behold, he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15 You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth, and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth and will teach you both what to do. 16 He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth, and you shall be as God to him. 17 And take in your hand this staff, with which you shall do the signs.” (Exodus 4:10-17 ESV)

I did not take “Speech” when I was in High School. Nearly everyone I knew at that time in my school took speech. However, I WOULD NOT. Why? It was for the same reason I would not get up in front of any group of people in church or Sunday School. I was terrified of it. When I went to college I made sure that whatever I majored in did not require any getting up in front of any class to speak. Why was I terrified of it? It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. It was because I was terrified of being made fun of or laughed at. Based on what? I don’t really know. I think it sprung from when I was very little and I could not stand for anyone to laugh at me which happened quite a bit when my aunts and uncles would get together with our family. I was not very big for my age. I had pure white hair and a dark complexion. My aunts thought I was cute and my uncles thought I was shy because I shrunk from their comments about my appearance or anything about me personally. Continue reading

Respond With Gentleness


by Martin Luther

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15)

When you’re challenged or asked about your faith, you shouldn’t respond arrogantly. You shouldn’t be defiant or forceful, as if you were tearing trees out of the ground. Rather, you should respond with fear and humility, as if you were standing before God and answering him. If you were summoned before kings and princes and had prepared yourself well in advance with Scripture, you might think, "Just wait; I’ll answer correctly." But the devil will grab the sword out of your hands and give you a shove. You will be disgraced and find out you put your armor on in vain. He can even take your best verses from your hands so that you can’t use them, even though you have them memorized. God allows this to happen to subdue your arrogance and make you humble.

So if you don’t want this to happen, you must stand in fear and not rely on your own power. Rely instead on what Christ promised: "But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Matthew 10:19-20). When you have to give an answer, you ought to arm yourself with Scripture. But don’t pound it home with a proud spirit. Otherwise, God will tear the verse from your mouth and from your memory, even if you were armed with all the verses beforehand. Therefore, caution is needed here. But if you are prepared, you can answer princes, leaders, and even the devil himself. Just make sure you aren’t speaking insignificant human words but the Word of God.

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

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Whitewashed Tombs


by Mike Ratliff

27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:27-28 ESV)

Last week on Friday morning, as I was preparing to drive to work, I was attempting to put my coffee mug and computer bag into my pickup via the passenger door, which I had already opened. I had not yet scraped the frost from the windows. I did not have my gloves on because I needed some dexterity to use my keys while holding my coffee mug in my right hand and my computer bag in my left. Also, I was standing on about 2 1/2 inches of very slick, uneven ice. I had managed to insert the key into the lock and open the door, but as I leaned into the pickup to put my stuff inside, I felt my feet going out from under me. It happened very quickly. I don’t remember much about the fall, but I do remember the landing. My computer bag landed on my right leg. My coffee mug and keys exited in opposite directions from my right hand as it struck the edge of my pickup door then the ice covered concrete. My right hand took the brunt of the fall. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had two cuts on my right hand with a whole section of skin missing measuring about 1/2 inch by 1/4 inch. The pain I felt was mostly in my right elbow and right knee. I grabbed my keys and pulled myself up. I found my computer bag and carefully put in the floorboard of my pickup. My coffee mug, being a very solid and well made stainless steel beauty ended up under my Spirea bushes in one of my flower beds. I retrieved it, put it in the pickup, then gingerly walked around to the driver’s side of my pickup. I put my gloves on as I held onto anything I could grasp to keep from falling again as I got my door open. I started the engine, turned on the defroster and began to scrape frost from the windows. I did the best I could do then got into the cab. I put my seat belt on, shut the door then turned on the windshield wipers in order to run some washer fluid/anti-freeze stuff on it so it would finish the job. The wipers started, went as far as they could vertically, then I heard a popping sound. The wipers quit. They were stuck in the vertical position. I think I got the message. Continue reading

Do Not Love the World


by Mike Ratliff

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is Separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading

What is the Treasure?


by Mike Ratliff

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

Treasure has always fascinated me. As a boy, I loved to read stories and watch movies about people who find buried treasure. Now that I am an adult, the idea of possessing a fortune is compelling. Of course, that treasure is worldly and material. I have found material possessions don’t last. Money doesn’t last and loses its value. Cars wear out. Houses get old and need renovation. Clothes wear out. It makes no sense to look to possessions for fulfillment, yet most people do. Is this what Christians are supposed to do? Continue reading

Tested By Fire


Beloved of the Lord, it seems that the more I write about the apostate American Church the more my personal circumstances descend into chaos. :-) The time that I normally have to research, pray, and write is continually being consumed by other "more urgent" things. This, of course, brings to mind that book The Tyranny of the Urgent that brings to light how the urgent things in our lives can consume all of our time so that we are pulled away from the best of things, which, of course, is spending time in the Word, praying and seeking our Lord’s face. I always thought that if I wrote and shed light into the darkness all around us that the attacks would be more of a physical nature. Instead, it seems that God is allowing the most frustrating of things to come into my life, even though they are important and somewhat urgent, to keep me in a mental and spiritual state of desperation. That desperation is one of deeply desiring to be God’s servant, to write and present cutting edge yet Biblically accurate posts that the Holy Spirit uses in the hearts of those reading them to bring glory to God foremost and to edify the reader. The crux of the problem is that my idea of doing that is one of solace, peace and plenty of time to research, pray and write. Instead, I have to desperately put together these posts by just asking God to speak through me as I write. I never seem to have the time to "do it right." Of course, I’m sure you see that my idea of how it should be done is more of a self-edifying thing even perhaps an ego building thing. On the other hand, the way it has been going for the last several weeks, even months, is more of a hectic, last minute dash. Here is what I have ended up doing. I "listen" to my circumstances and relationships and my heart all day. Then when it’s time to get a post ready, I simply ask God to help me. Using the background of information I have been accumulating all day, I attempt to find a theme or passage in the scripture that addresses this. More often than not, I completely fail at this. In fact, I can’t remember one time that I have been able to write a post like this. What happens is that, as I read scripture, a passage will strike my heart somehow. I will then use reference material to find related passages. Then I pray for guidance. Then I start to write. Sometimes it works very smoothly from there, but usually I have to do more research. My desperation is finally ended as a post is put to bed, but then, of course, the next day dawns and it all begins again. What is so amazing to me is how God uses this despite me and my failings. It has become so hectic that I cannot imagine how I ever found the time to write four books. Oh well, I believe that God is using "Possessing the Treasure" in far greater ways than He has or ever will use my books. I often wonder why He had me write them, but then I see all of that research and time in prayer and Bible study it took to put those manuscripts together and then it all starts to make sense. I am no different than you. I am totally useless to God and the Kingdom in myself in my own inherent abilities. It is only as God uses me despite myself that it works. He puts me in the fires of desperation so that I will be forced to wait on Him and rely on Him to make it work. Praise be to God! – Mike Ratliff

by Martin Luther

Do not be surprised a the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Peter uses unusual imagery to remind us what Scripture says about suffering. Throughout the Bible, suffering is described as a hot, fiery oven. Elsewhere, Peter says that these trials test our faith just as fire refines gold (1 Peter 1:7). In the book of Isaiah, God says, "I have tested you in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10). In Psalms, David says of God, "You probe my heart and examine me at night…you test me" (Psalm 17:3). And regarding Israel, the psalmist says, "We went through fire and water" (Psalm 66:12). So the Bible speaks of suffering as being engulfed in fire or tested by fire. Peter says we shouldn’t become upset or think it’s strange when we experience this fire. We are tested by fire just as gold is refined by fire.

When we begin to believe, God doesn’t abandon us but lays a holy cross upon our backs to strengthen our faith. The gospel is a powerful word, but it cannot do its work without trials. No one will discover its power unless they experience it. The gospel can show its power only where there is a cross and where there is suffering. Because it’s a word of life, it must exercise all its power in death. If dying and death are absent, then it can do nothing. No one would discover that it’s stronger than sin and death.

Peter says painful trials come on us to test us. This fire or heat is the cross and suffering that make us burn. God inflicts this fire for no other reason except to test us, to see whether we’re depending on his Word. That’s why God imposes the cross on all believers. He wants us to experience and demonstrate God’s power.

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

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Walking in the Light


by Mike Ratliff

1 See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. (1 John 3:1-3 ESV)

It seems that the theme so far this month on Possessing the Treasure is a discussion of the veracity of our stance that God’s truth as knowable. Also, His truth is as His attributes and character. He is immutable. His truth is never changing. He is Holy. His truth is Holy, separate from the corruption of the world. His truth, the Word of God, is precise. It supernaturally divides man’s “truth” and understanding from God’s genuine truth. It is sharper than a two edged sword. Continue reading

Comfort for Troubling Times


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We must all be honest and admit that we are in very troubling times. I am not speaking of the political situations all across this globe, but am referring to the growing apostasy in the visible church. It seems that for every pocket of genuine believers I run across who are standing on the promises of God and not compromising their faith by buying into pragmatism or mysticism or outright heresy there is another "Christian leader" falling into the ranks of the apostate. Our error is allowing this to drive us to despair and doubt. When we do this we have lost focus. We are looking at the situation rather than keeping our eyes on our saviour. I pray that the following devotional from Martin Luther will encourage you and help you to not allow our enemy to distract you from the truth. – Mike Ratliff

by Martin Luther

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (John 14:1)

Whenever we feel distressed and anxious, let us trust Christ and strengthen ourselves with his words. We should receive the comfort Christ offers in this passage. It’s as if Christ is saying to us, "What are you doing? Why are you cringing? Are you scared to death? Be encouraged and take heart. All is not lost, even if the devil, the world, or your conscience plagues and terrifies you. You’re not ruined if you don’t feel my presence. Don’t you remember that I told you about this long ago and left these comforting words to strengthen and preserve you?"

From these and other words of Christ, we should begin to know the Lord Christ in the right way. We should develop a more loving confidence in him. And we should pay more attention to his words than to anything that may come before our eyes, ears, and senses. For if we are Christians and stay close to him, we know that he speaks to us. We learn in this passage and elsewhere that he wants to comfort us with his words. Everything he says or does is nothing but friendly and comforting words and actions.

We can be sure of this: a sorrowful, timid, and frightened  heart doesn’t come from Christ. Christ doesn’t frighten hearts or make them depressed. He came to this earth, fulfilled his mission, and ascended into heaven to take away sorrow and fearfulness from our hearts and replace them with cheerful hearts, consciences and minds. That’s why he promises to send the Holy Spirit to his followers after he has left. Whoever can trust in what Christ says in this passage will be in good shape and will have won more than half the battle.

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