Spontaneous Compassion


by Joni Earekson Tada

Bureaucracies aren’t programmed to be compassionate. It’s not in the nature of the thing. Take my friend, David Bowie, in his big, bulky wheelchair. After he became a quadriplegic in a car accident and his wife left him, he moved into a cramped one-room apartment and learned to rely on three or four part-time attendants to get him up and put him to bed. Life’s not easy. Continue reading

Thanksgiving


by Mike Ratliff

A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalms 100:1-5 ESV)

O, let us give thanks to the Lord for He is exceedingly good to us. No person born of Adam deserves anything from Him except eternal judgment yet every person, whether they are a believer or not, receives from God His common grace. However, those who are in Christ should joyfully give thanks to Him for the miracle of their salvation along with all of the heavenly promises that go with it. I was in a discussion on Sunday with a friend at church about how awesome it is that God has made Himself known to us through the Son and through His Word. We rejoiced together in our fellowship just seconds before the worship and praise part of our Sunday morning began. What a joy that was! Continue reading

Is Christ Sufficient in Our Salvation or do We Need More?


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)

The root of most heresies springs from those who profess Christ as Saviour, but who believe in various ways that what the Christian receives at Salvation is not sufficient. Something else must be added in order for the Christian to enter into a fuller relationship with God or to go deeper into the things of God. Some even go so far as to say that unless certain things are added to salvation then it is not complete and, therefore, void. A good example of this is found in the book of Galatians. Some Judiazers had entered the churches Paul and planted in Galatia. They were teaching that salvation was indeed by Christ, but it was not complete unless the converts also were circumcised and kept the Law of Moses. Continue reading

Who is it That Has Fellowship With Christ?


by Mike Ratliff 

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15 ESV) 

Contrary to what most believe about Christianity, what one’s own framework is of their conception of salvation and having fellowship with Jesus Christ is irrelevant. Unless this ‘understanding’ is totally submitted to the Word of God and the authority of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit then it will be according to the counsel of the individual’s own conscience. This counsel is according to the value system of the individual not according to what God has revealed. It creates its own image of God and holds that image accountable to the individual’s value system. Continue reading

Christ is the Foundation Stone


by Mike Ratliff

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matthew 21:42-44 ESV)

The message to the Christian throughout the New Testament is to deny self, to view with contempt the temporal or world system, to understand that love of the temporal and genuine discipleship are mutually exclusive because it is from the former which all genuine believers are being delivered. This deliverance is progressive mortification of all carnal affections and impediments. This must be so in order for the Christian to attain more speedily the heavenly Kingdom of Christ. It is to Christ’s Kingdom that all believers are called by the grace of God and it is revealed to them in His Son. All believers have received this by faith, possessed it by hope, and are therein confirmed it by Holiness of life. Continue reading

Who Will Not Inherit the Kingdom of God?


by Mike Ratliff

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:50 ESV)

There are only two religions in the entire world. There is genuine Christianity and then every other form of religiosity including humanism. The latter are all opposed to the truth and are part of the rebellion against the sovereignty of God. Genuine Christianity is made up of those who have been redeemed from the slave market of iniquity. This slave market preys on people and keeps them in bondage to the flesh. On the other hand, Genuine Christianity, which is the Church, is spiritual. Those in it are adopted into the family of God. Those alive right now await the completion of their redemption. Those who have already died are with the Lord now. Those who remain are in process. This process is their progressive sanctification, which is the mortification of the deeds of their flesh, which is sin. However, all outside of the Church are in their sins and can only operate in the flesh. Continue reading

Accepted in the Beloved – Part 2


by Mike Ratliff

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

As we saw in Part 1, the Apostle Paul wrote the epistle to the Ephesians. We also saw that Ephesians 1:3-14 was one glorious sentence in Greek. This wonderful treasure house statement can be broken down into three parts. In vv3-6a we have God’s election of the Church which He did before the foundation of the world. In vv6b-11 we have Paul’s exposition on our redemption. Then the third part is in vv12-14. This part deals with the Christian’s future inheritance with emphasis on the Holy Trinity. In Part 1 we dealt with election. Now let us tackle Redemption and the Christian’s future inheritance. Continue reading

Accepted in the Beloved – Part 1


by Mike Ratliff 

To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:6 KJV) 

Our salvation, our redemption if you will, is God’s handiwork. In all my many years as a believer, I have run across multitudes of professing Christians in spiritual bondage because they believe that it is up to them and their performance in walking in repentance to remain in God’s good graces. It is as if they have the offer of salvation, which they have accepted, but they are in deadly fear that the offer will be revoked if they sin. This is a form of unbelief because God’s Word does not teach that. In fact, it teaches the opposite. I wonder if those in this bondage have every considered the fact that since none of us could do one thing to save ourselves, therefore, the teaching we will be held eternally accountable to a standard of perfection that is impossible for us to be conformed to in this life is not biblical. Continue reading

Hearing and Doing the Word


by Mike Ratliff

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22 ESV)

The visible Church in our time has been compromised for the most part by human philosophy and has succumbed to the pressure from the world to not emphasize God’s truth as absolute. Professing Christians who discount the Word of God as absolute truth are actually placing their intellect, their beliefs, and the counsel of their own hearts above the Word of God as it relates to authority and truth. It is one thing for an atheist to denigrate Christians, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the God the Holy Spirit. That is almost expected and should not surprise us. However, when the majority of professing Christians demand the right to behave contrary to what the Word teaches about Christian behavior can God’s judgment be far behind? Continue reading

Your Sins Are Forgiven


by Mike Ratliff

On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:17-21 ESV)

I have known many through my many years who professed to be Christians, but who held to doctrines that placed the burden and veracity of their salvation on themselves. For the first 20 or so years of my walk with the Lord, I was a Southern Baptist. The SBC is not a denomination of churches that are consistent across the board on doctrine. There are Reformed and Arminian Churches in the convention along with everything in between. In fact, until God woke me up and drew me into the light in 2004 I really had no idea what the difference was. I had never heard of Arminianism. I had only heard of Calvinism in World History classes.  However, as I studied doctrine I found to my great surprise that my own personal doctrine of salvation was a mishmash of Calvinism and Arminianism. Most non-Reformed Southern Baptists believe in a ‘doctrine’ of ‘Once Saved, Always Saved.’ It is not the same thing as the Reformed doctrine of ‘The Perseverance of the Saints.’ The former appears to be a holdover from the old days of the Baptist churches that were predominately Reformed in the doctrine. Continue reading

False Prophets and False Prophecy


by Mike Ratliff

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel, who are prophesying, and say to those who prophesy from their own hearts: ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel. You have not gone up into the breaches, or built up a wall for the house of Israel, that it might stand in battle in the day of the LORD. They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the LORD,’ when the LORD has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the LORD,’ although I have not spoken?” (Ezekiel 13:1-7 ESV)

A false prophet is one who claims to teach the truth from God and His Word, but who actually teaches from the counsel of his or her own heart. God is forever unchanging. He is immutable. His ways never change. His standards never change. At the time of Ezekiel, the kingdom of Judah had become consumed with idolatry. The people mixed Temple worship of YHWH with the worst forms of idol worship. They had taken on the culture and religion of the nations around them. Their culture had become pluralized. They were no longer a separate and unique people from the rest of the nations. The mechanism in people that powers this is compromise. The standard for God’s people has always been to be eternally focused with God in control. Compromise always moves God’s people to make decisions that are temporally focused because obedience to God is always counter to the demands of culture and the temporal. Continue reading

Do Not Be Anxious


by Mike Ratliff

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 ESV)

I was in a discussion earlier today with some friends. We were discussing the current economic issues. I shared some of what I had been reading and hearing about from some very good sources. Then I asked some “what if” questions based on the following scenario. Let us say that sometime next year that the US Dollar fails. It becomes worthless. What would happen to our consumer driven economy/society? What would or could we do to stay in our houses, buy groceries, and put gas in our cars? No one had a clue. Neither did I. I left the discussion and went back to my desk. A few minutes later my phone rang. It was my wife. She asked me how I was doing. I lied as I said, “Oh I am fine.” She knows me too well and I could tell she did not buy it. Then she said she had just come from her morning devotions. She had started by praying about whether we should put away a year’s worth of food in our basement, just in case. Then she prayed for our family and friends. She prayed for wisdom and discernment. Then she realized that there was a question in her heart. That question was, “If you buy all that food, will you be willing to share it with those in need?” Continue reading

Called to Salvation as Exiles


by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV) 

I was inundated with bad news, it seemed, all day today. The financial news is enough to drive us despair. There are predictions of another Great Depression on the horizon that could last for years. However, unlike the one in the 1930′s, which was deflationary, this one will be hyper-inflationary much like the one that plagued Germany after World War I. There are predictions that the U.S. Dollar is going to fall and be replaced with another currency that will eventually be absorbed by a one-world currency. In light of the upcoming devaluing of the Dollar, I know some who are buying caches of food that can support them and their families for a year. Their faith in the Dollar and our consumer driven economy has failed. Continue reading

Pragmatic Expediency


by Mike Ratliff 

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV) 

The proponents of the seeker-sensitive church growth model may very well have had good intentions when through it was spawned the rise of contemporary mega-churches such as Willow Creek and Saddleback Valley Baptist and their clones. The focus was outreach to the unchurched. That is a proper function of the New Testament Church, however, one of the model’s fundamental components is actually an antithesis of the clear instruction to Church leaders found in God’s Word. That component is pragmatism.  Continue reading