Traveling


I am in Nashville, TN until Wednesday this week. Then I am flying to Oklahoma City to spend the holiday weekend with family. I will try to keep up with comments, but I may or may not be able to post much until next week.  – Mike Ratliff

Looking Unto Jesus


“Looking unto Jesus.”-Hebrews 12:2

It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that “Christ is all in all.”

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee-it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument-it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hop e, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith. We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking unto Jesus.” Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him. Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”

From C.H. Spurgeon’s Morning Devotional for  Saturday June 28, 2008

The Offense of the Cross


 

by Mike Ratliff

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (Galatians 5:6-12 ESV)

In Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians he delivers a scathing indictment against all  who teach works salvation or any version of the Gospel that has been edited from the original. If these false gospels be true then, as Paul says, the offense of the cross has been removed. However, the Apostle, in fact, is declaring that the offense of the cross never has cease, and never can cease. Any attempt to soften the offense is folly. While genuine Christianity is peaceful, mild, and benevolent, history shows us that it has been attacked with the bitterest hate from the beginning. Why? It is clearly offensive to the unregenerate mind. Continue reading

Walk in Light


 

by Mike Ratliff

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. (Ephesians 5:6-11 ESV)

Intentional godliness is the product of a spirit-filled walk. No Christian becomes godly by simply wanting it. Neither do they become godly through self-righteousness. Instead, the walk that is truly godly is one that is not self-focused at all. It is one that is totally wrapped up and empowered by a consistent, deliberate attempt to discover or discern what is pleasing to the Lord, then doing it. If we analyze this, and we should, we will see that the intentional walk in the light of God is one that separates the Christian from both non-Christians and professing Christians who bear no eternal fruit. 

This separate walk does not include promises from God that all will be easy. There is no fine print that states that the obedient Christian will not become ill or lose their job or find themselves having to part with the world’s goods or even having a spouse walk out on them. No, we find examples in Sacred Scripture of God taking His saints through very heavy trials even though they were exemplary in their walk in the God’s light. Think of Joseph and Job. It is during these times that we discover who the real Christians are as well as those who either have a long way to go in their sanctification or are not genuine at all. The more mature believers are the ones who will come along side the suffering saint to help bear the burden while the others say insipid things like, “You must have committed some horrible sin and God has struck you down for it.” Continue reading

Decided Ungodliness


by Mike Ratliff

O LORD, do not your eyes look for truth? You have struck them down, but they felt no anguish; you have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent. (Jeremiah 5:3 ESV)

Obstinate refusal to bow the knee to the Lordship of Christ is not always apparent or observable in professing Christians. Unlike men such as the late George Carlin, their rebellion is often shrouded in ceremonies, religiosity, morality, good works, and the like. They may have been convicted to repent, but instead of doing so they remain turned from God as they pursue their own way of placating their conscience. This is attempting to be a Christian on ones own terms. Continue reading

Christ The Cause of Division


by Mike Ratliff

If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19 ESV)

One of the first accusations that comes forth from the apologists for the Purpose Driven paradigm in response to any attempt to show the unbiblical nature of it is that we are being divisive. They insist on unity at all costs regardless of the fact that the doctrinal stances held within the Church Growth movement do not line up with biblical orthodoxy. If we are to be obedient to the commands from scripture to be in the world, but not part of it, we cannot attempt to be unified with those who are not obedient to them. Continue reading

A Cake Not Turned


 

by Mike Ratliff

Ephraim mixes himself with the peoples; Ephraim is a cake not turned. (Hosea 7:8 ESV)

The Gospel is not something given to us in such a way that gives us the right to edit it. Nor is it our prerogative to change the focus of our local churches from what God intended. The Church Growth movement does both. Of course, this movement has at its core pragmatism. It is actually a philosophy. This philosophy says that if something produces the desired results then it must be right and, therefore, the will of God. However, there is a major flaw in this philosophy. It begins with a false assumption. Continue reading

Everyone Must be a Theologian


 

by John H. Gerstner

Christian laymen, the average persons sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning, sometimes think they need not be theologians. That, however, is a very great mistake. They do need to be theologians–at least they should be amateur theologians. In fact, that is the one vocation every man is obliged to follow. A layman does not need to be a plumber, a carpenter, a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a laborer, or a housewife. These are all possibilities, but not necessities. A layman may be one or the other of these as he chooses. But he must be a theologian. This is not an option for him, but a requirement! Continue reading

What is the Gospel?


by R.C. Sproul

“There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel. Continue reading

The Plumbline


by Mike Ratliff

This is what he showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. (Amos 7:7 ESV)

In John Bunyan’s classic The Pilgrim’s Progress, the characters’ names usually define their character. For instance there is Ignorance. He refuses to believe Christian and Hopeful when they tell him that unless he goes through the narrow gate to begin his pilgrimage, he will not be allowed into the gate of the Celestial City. Then there is Talkative who equates making a fuss about one’s sin with actual repentance. Early in Christian’s pilgrimage, he comes across two other pilgrims named Formalist and Hypocrisy who come from a country called Vain-Glory. They tell Christian that the shortcut that they took to the path, bypassing the narrow gate, was necessary because it was too far to travel from Vain-Glory to it. All were revealed to be counterfeit Pilgrims and none of them made it into the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ save Christian, Hopeful and Faithful. Continue reading

Sin Grace Faith Righteousness Flesh and Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

“Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.” (Matthew 13:51-52 ESV)

Charles Spurgeon spent the last several years of his ministry contending with “liberalizing” efforts within the Evangelical churches in England in what came to be known as the “Great Downgrade Controversy.” That “downgrade” gained momentum not only in England, but here in the United States and around the world. It began in the 19th Century when Seminaries began embracing “higher criticism” of the Bible. This caused many promising Biblical Scholars to eventually cast loose that which moored them to orthodoxy, the belief that the Bible is God’s Word, inerrant, and complete. Even though movements came forth to contend with this liberalization, this downgrade, instead of dying, has only changed form many times while still poisoning the Church like a parasite, sucking the spiritual life from it. Continue reading

Do Not Rejoice in This


by Mike Ratliff

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” f(Luke 10:17-20 ESV)

There was a period back in the late 1990’s in which I found myself in a spiritual desert. In late 1991 I was elected as chairman of the Deacons at our church in the Oklahoma City area. However, just a few weeks later we lost our pastor and associate pastor. For most of 1992 we had no pastor. We had men come in to fill the pulpit during that time, but that is not the same thing as having a pastor. I and the other Deacon officers did much of the administration work and decision making and ministry to the body. Just a few weeks after this started I was informed by the company I worked for that they were laying off nearly everyone and I was not one of those they were going to keep. Continue reading

Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven? Part 5


Spiritual Gifts and Community Service

By Berit Kjos – July 2004



“The Church of the 21st Century is reforming itself into a multi-faceted service operation.” Bob Buford, founder of Leadership Network and founding president of the Drucker Foundation for Nonprofit Management.[1]

“More and more social needs are being met by these private organizations rather than large government bureaucracies…. Peter Drucker has called this private sector of social services the fastest growing segment of economies around the world.”[2]

“[Rick] Warren says, ‘I read everything Peter Drucker writes…. Long before words like ‘empowerment’ became popular, Peter was telling us that the secret of achieving results is to focus on your strengths, and the strengths of those you work with, rather than focusing on weaknesses.”[3]Community Connections

“[God] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.'” 2 Corinthians 12:9


“God has a unique role for you to play in his family,” writes Pastor Warren. “This is called your ‘ministry,’ and God has gifted you for this assignment: ‘A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.[1 Co 12:7-8, NLT] Your local fellowship is the place God designed for you to discover, develop and use your gifts.” [4, page 134]

Yes, that’s partly true. God calls each of us to specific roles in the Church. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul wrote,

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant…There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge…. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

Yet, His work through us isn’t limited to “the local fellowship.” God will use the gifts He gives us wherever He sends us. He will equip us for any assignment He gives us — when we hear and follow Him. “He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it.” [1 Thessalonians 5:24] While your service to Him may start at our local church, His true Church reaches around the world. Pastor Warren points that out in a later section of His book.

Today’s popular church surveys and “continual assessments” are misleading tools for discovering our spiritual gifts and place of ministry. Yet they — along with peer opinions and personal “experimentation” — are among the tools new members of Saddleback Church are encouraged to use to “discover,” record, and develop their spiritual gifts and potential for service. Though God doesn’t command us to “discover” our gifts, the man-made rules of the new church-growth hierarchy do. Continue reading

Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven? Part 4


      


Dealing with Resisters

by Berit Kjos

 

 


 

 

 

 

“I also believe that pastors are the most strategic change agents to deal with the problems society faces.”[1, page 20] Rick Warren

A “change agent… should know about the process of change, how it takes place and the attitudes, values and behaviors that usually act as barriers…. He should know who in his system are the ‘defenders’ or resisters of innovations…. Try to identify resisters before they become vocal….”[2, pages ix, 122]Ronald G. Havelock, The Change Agent’s Guide to Innovation in Education.

“Change leaders must also be prepared to deal with members who choose to ‘stay and fight.'”[3, page 91] Leading Congregational Change (published byJossey-Bass)

 

“The purpose driven life is being promoted in almost every church in my town. The banners are hanging everywhere! … We pretty much stand alone with a few friends.” A visitor to our website

 


   

Part 3 of this series, “Small Groups and the Dialectic Process,” triggered a stream of letters from troubled Christians around the world. They had watched as the focus of their churches shifted from Bible-based teaching to purpose-driven experiences. Many had sensed something wrong but couldn’t define the problem. Some wondered how God’s guidance fit into this tightly controlled man-made system. They had asked questions, but no one could calm their concern. They had tried to warn their pastor and friends but had been rebuffed. Some were even told to find another church. All shared the pain of rejection. The following letter from Pat Johnson illustrates the struggle faced by those who cannot, with a clear conscience, go along with a church that embraces the world’s transformative marketing and management methods:

“I just read ‘Small Groups and the Dialectic Process.’ Absolutely dead-on! At the end of it, I read this paragraph which took my breath away: ‘In today’s Church Growth Movement, resisters are usually sifted out fairly early in the process. In the next installment, we will look at some of the ways non-conformists are assessed, exposed, vilified and dismissed from the church families they have loved, served and supported.

“I have been forced out of two churches for being such a ‘resister.’ I am a normal wife and mom and teacher who would not conform and, as you stated above, have been shunned and vilified. This has caused me considerable heartbreak and torment. For years I have struggled to cope with the shock of losing my church family and being branded as divisive.

“The ONLY way I have been able to come through this is to return to my Lord and trust His Word only. For years, I didn’t really realize that I had drifted away from Him. Then when the storm hit, I didn’t have the means to withstand it. By His grace and mercy, I have emerged from the mind-hell that shaming and shunning create….” Continue reading