Using God


by Kim Riddlebarger

It has been said that pride is the oldest sin in the universe and that it shows no signs of growing weaker with age. Pride is the overestimation of our own worth and the inevitable tendency to exaggerate our own accomplishments. If the Bible is clear about anything, it is that ours is a fallen race and that human pride is the inevitable consequence of the Fall. God warned the people of Israel to exercise great care in this regard,

Lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…. Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” (Deut. 8:11-14, 17)

In Romans 1:22, Paul speaks of human pride in these terms: “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Because of sin, we suppress the fact that God is the source of all that we have. We see ourselves as far more important than we are. We act as though all of life rises and sets upon our own shadow. Therefore, we are constantly tempted to use God to suit our own sinful ends. Continue reading

Law and Faith


By Mike Ratliff

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (Romans 6:14-15 ESV)

Most of the formative years of my Christian walk were spent in one church from February 1987 through February 2000.  During that time we had three pastors.  I was in some form of teaching for most of that time. One of the things that always came up when we studied the Old Testament was Romans 6:14-15. It was as if someone always had to make sure that we were not being legalistic. They cast the law as far from them and our church as the East is from the West. Is that how we are to treat God’s Law? Continue reading

Come to Me and I Will Give You Rest


by Mike Ratliff

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. (John 7:37-39 ESV)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:3-12 ESV)

Hell is real. All who do not repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will spend eternity there. Those who repent and believe are those who ‘come to Jesus to drink.’ They believe as the Holy Spirit is poured out on them to the point that their lives are taken over by Him. Those who do will never experience hell. Instead, they come to Jesus and find rest for their souls. Those who do this are poor in spirit. They mourn for their sins. They are not proud, but meek. In their growing godliness they hunger and thirst for Christ’s righteousness to become manifest in them. They become more and more Christlike, therefore, they take on His character. They show mercy as He does. They become more and more pure of heart. They remove themselves from seeking their own. Instead, they become those who live to bring others to their Lord. Conversely, this holy and separate life does not cause them to find peace in the world. No, instead they are persecuted for righteousness sake. Continue reading

The Horror of Hell


by Tom Ascol

“There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell.” So wrote the agnostic British philosopher Bertrand Russell in 1967. The idea of eternal punishment for sin, he further notes, is “a doctrine that put cruelty in the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture.” Continue reading

Acknowledge Christ Before Men


by Mike Ratliff

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”– for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:22-30 ESV)

Several months ago I got into a comment and email exchange with a fellow who insisted that God will not condemn anyone to an eternity in hell. He said that it is only a temporary place that will be emptied when all things are reconciled to God in eternity. It did no good to use clear scripture references to show him that he was ignoring a great deal God’s truth. One thing that struck me was his stance that Romans 5 was blasphemous in reference to the doctrine of Original Sin and condemnation for all men by it, but there is justification and life for ‘the many’ (Romans 5:12-17). Was this a case of ‘blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?’ Continue reading

Who is this Jesus?


by Mike Ratliff

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17 ESV)

Earlier this month the temperature overnight in Kansas City dropped into the 30′s, the morning was clear, and there was very little wind. I took my camera to work with me hoping for a photo opportunity as the Sun rose over the pond across the street from where I work. I knew that with the cold air and the warm water there there might be fog rising up over it. I waited until just before 8am then walked through the wet grass to a spot that would be sunny yet the fog, if there was any that is, would be between it and me. It all worked out better than I had hoped. I took several photos with my digital camera as the Sun poured through gaps in the fog. The best one shows the mirrored image of the trees surrounding the pond on the glassy smooth surface of the water. Click here to see it.

Few who have seen this photo has been able to simply look at it without saying how it makes him or her ‘feel.’ My son-in-law made the comment that he expected to see some hobbits come rolling over the green hill in the foreground. A fellow I work with who took his vacation in New Zealand last year commented that it looked like one of those mystical places up in the mountains he fell in love with. In any case, my point is that everyone’s interpretation of this photo is his or hers. It can mean whatever they want it to mean to them because this photo is somewhat abstract in appearance. Is our Lord Jesus Christ like that? I mean, is who He is open to discussion? Are all those ‘abstract’ versions of Jesus in our time valid? Those who insist they are make a grave error. That error is that the Bible, the Word of God, Sacred Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God. Continue reading

On the Road to Emmaus


by Mike Ratliff

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” (Luke 24:1-7 ESV)

I have been listening to the teaching of R.C. Sproul over the last several weeks dealing with humanistic philosophy and how each form of it has affected the Church. One of those teachings is titled Secularism. This philosophy, Sproul contends, is the driving force behind the collapse of the Christian World View with it being replaced with that of Secular Humanism. This view contends that there is no possibility of any person knowing or finding absolute truth. It demands that all religions be considered equal with each relinquishing its claims of exclusivity. In the visible Church, many professing Christians are secular in their personal philosophy. Since Secularism removes the possibility of absolutes it follows that its proponents must doubt the Bible’s display of the miracles and the supernatural as proof of the deity of Christ for example. It separates Christianity from the sacred and holy and the miraculous. This separation leaves Christianity as just another World Religion. It relegates it to little more than an institution of good works to improve society. Continue reading

Secular Humanism


by Josh McDowell and Don Stewart

from Handbook of Today’s Religions

One of the most organized, most challenging and most clearly non-Christian philosophies of today is secular humanism. It is ably represented and defended by a core of prominent scientists and philosophers at the forefront of new scientific and philosophical thought. Secular humanism has its own meetings, its own “clergy” of spokesmen, its own “creed” called The Humanist Manifesto, and its own goals toward which it desires all of humanity to work. Because of its cohesive world view and strong threat to biblical Christianity, it needs to be examined and answered in this book. Continue reading

When the Tears Fall


by Tim Hughes
 
I’ve had questions, without answers
I’ve known sorrow, i have known pain
but theres one thing, that i’ll cling to
you are faithful, Jesus your true

when hope is lost, i’ll call you saviour
when pain surrounds, i’ll call you healer
when silence falls, you’ll be the song within my heart

in the lone hour, of my sorrow
through the darkest night of my soul
you surround me, and sustain me
my defender, forever more

when hope is lost, i’ll call you saviour
when pain surrounds, i’ll call you healer
when silence falls, you’ll be the song within my heart

I will praise you, i will praise you
when the tears fall, still i will sing to you
i will praise you, Jesus praise you
Through the suffereing still i will sing

when hope is lost, i’ll call you saviour
when pain surrounds, i’ll call you healer
when silence falls, you’ll be the song within my heart

I’ve had questions, without answers
I’ve known sorrow, i have known pain
but theres one thing, that i’ll cling to
you are faithful, Jesus your true

when hope is lost, i’ll call you saviour
when pain surrounds, i’ll call you healer
when silence falls, you’ll be the song within my heart

I will praise you, i will praise you
when the tears fall, still i will sing to you
i will praise you, Jesus praise you
Through the suffereing still i will sing 

when hope is lost, i’ll call you saviour
when pain surrounds, i’ll call you healer
when silence falls, you’ll be the song within my heart

Blessed Be Your Name


by Matt Redman

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

How the Gospel Shapes Pastors to Oppose False Teaching


by Mike Ratliff

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV)

I received an email today from John Hendryx at Monergism.com in which he posted the link to an interview he had given on the Exiled Preacher blog. The last question he was asked during the interview was, “What is the biggest problem facing Evangelical Reformed Christianity at this time and how should we respond?” John’s response is below.

I believe one of the biggest problems facing Evangelicals is the false teaching that Christianity is primarily about what we do for Jesus, not about what He has done for us. This has profoundly negative implications for everything else we exegete in the Bible. Ethics, in this case, has trumped salvation. This error really strikes at the heart of the gospel and there is no doubt the problem has reached crisis levels in our local churches. In the 1980s, some in the church had issue with receiving Christ as Lord, but today the difficulty seems to be with receiving Christ as Savior. It is pretty horrifying. Jesus and Paul seemed to have no difficulty confronting heresy but oddly the spirit of the age drives many Christians to have an aversion to it. Yes, we must respond to the crisis with humility, that is, with personal and corporate repentance and prayer before we boldly confront the heresy.

Continue reading

The Triumph of Grace over the Power of Sin


by Mike Ratliff 

And why not do evil that good may come?–as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.(Romans 3:8 ESV) 

The debate in the visible Church in our time concerning the need for Christians to walk in Repentance is actually quite perplexing to those of us whose hearts and consciences are bound to the Word of God. It clearly exhorts us all to repent and walk in righteousness. I had a conversation with a Pastor a couple of years ago at lunch following his sermon that Sunday morning. We discussed the dreadful condition in the visible Church today in which most professing Christians appeared to be very immature and in bondage to their flesh. I asked for his opinion of why that was so. His response was that it was the result of the Church not being the Church as God designed. There was little or no Church discipline. There was little preaching of the Law and the Gospel together. There was hardly ever a mention of walking in repentance before our Holy God. I agreed completely with his analysis. He also shared that he did not believe that a very large percentage of the professing Christians were genuine.  Continue reading

The Discipline of God


By Mike Ratliff

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:2-4 ESV)

When I was a new Christian I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll in which he stated that before God can use a man for His purposes He must hurt him and sometimes rather severely. That was a quite startling to me at that time since that was so alien to the ‘doctrine’ I was exposed to in the church I belonged to. The focus there was that God was love and that He loved each of just the way we were. If that was so then what Swindoll was teaching wrong. However, as I studied my Bible I found that he was right and what I was hearing in church was wrong. Continue reading

The Test of Patient Endurance


by Mike Ratliff

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. (1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV)

One of the marketing themes of the Democratic Party’s attempt to take control of the White House and both houses of Congress along with Governor of many states in this election year (2008) is a an attempt to cast their opponent’s voting record and their past performance as supporting the wealthy while taking money from honest, hard working Americans. An analysis of what is being said by these demanding change for sake of change reveal promise after promise to take profit from those whose businesses do well and spread that money around to those who are relatively poor. While this may appear attractive to those who would see themselves as benefiting from this, this is nothing new. Continue reading