To the ones who love God, He works all things together for their good according to His purpose


by Mike Ratliff

28 Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι τοῖς ἀγαπῶσιν τὸν θεὸν πάντα συνεργεῖ εἰς ἀγαθόν, τοῖς κατὰ πρόθεσιν κλητοῖς οὖσιν. Romans 8:28 (NA28)

28 And we know that to the ones who love God, He works all things together for their good according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In last night’s post, God’s purpose in our discouragement, I shared a great deal of how God had used my circumstances over the last several years, in and out of the fires of tribulation, to transform me according to His will. I shared how this should be an encouragement for us not a discouragement. In this post, we will look at some of those “circumstances” in greater detail. Continue reading

God’s purpose in our discouragement


by Mike Ratliff

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

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

Boldness is not insolence


by Mike Ratliff

7 οὗ ἐγενήθην διάκονος κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ.
8 Ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων ἁγίων ἐδόθη ἡ χάρις αὕτη, τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαι τὸ ἀνεξιχνίαστον πλοῦτος τοῦ Χριστοῦ 9 καὶ φωτίσαι [πάντας] τίς ἡ οἰκονομία τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ἐν τῷ θεῷ τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι, 10 ἵνα γνωρισθῇ νῦν ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἡ πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ, 11 κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων ἣν ἐποίησεν ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, 12 ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ. 13 διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν δόξα ὑμῶν. Ephesians 3:7-13 (NA28)

7 Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God having been given to me according to the working of his power.
8 To me, the least of all the saints, this grace was given to the gentiles to preach the unsearchable wealth of Christ 9 and to enlighten all men as to what is the stewardship of the mystery hidden from the ages in God, the one who created all things 10 that it might be made known now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies through the Church the many faceted wisdom of God 11 according to the plan of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord 12 in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through faith in him. 13 Therefore, I ask you not to despair concerning my afflictions for you, which is for your glory. Ephesians 3:7-13 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

If you have been reading our last several posts then you know that God has had me focusing quite a bit on humility contrasted with pride. Pride in Christians is never right. However, if we are honest, we must all agree that that there is a growing disrespect for God in today’s various teachings on prayer along with current expressions in contemporary worship. My brethren, these things are products of pride! While boldness does mean that those who are truly in Christ need not have any inhibitions as they come before God, they must still never forget that God is God. To treat God as if he is a “buddy,” to bring him down to our level in any way, is truly blasphemous. It is insolence in action to do any other than respect and worship God as he deserves. He is not our “buddy” or “pal,” but our heavenly Father and our God. What does it mean to come before him in boldness while not being insolent? Continue reading

Forgiveness and perseverance


by Mike Ratliff

17 One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. 18 And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. 19 But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. 20 Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Luke 5:17-21 (NASB) 

I have known many people over the 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 member in 5 different Southern Baptist churches in two states. 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 their doctrine. Continue reading

Be ready for every good deed


by Mike Ratliff

1 Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Romans 13:1-2 (NASB) 

There are some who teach that our salvation is something of a crapshoot. Oh, they don’t ‘use words like crapshoot to describe their Soteriology, but their insistence that a person’s salvation is a mere decision means that their approach to the Gospel is one of mood and emotion manipulation that can be resisted by a person and, therefore, results in nothing more than some emotional decisions amidst many equally emotional rejections. Is this the means that God uses in the building of His Church? Continue reading

Humility is the mark of a genuine disciple


By Mike Ratliff

17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:17-21 (NASB) 

Arrogance, boasting, retaliation, and self-protection are just a few of the fruits of Human pride. The natural mind exalts pride while demeaning humility. Timidity is often confused with humility. Timidity is actually a fruit of pride and is a form of fear. It is the method pride uses for self-protection. On the other hand, boldness is often confused with pride. Biblical boldness is actually a fruit of humility. Biblical boldness is the method humility utilizes in our obedience to God. It is an expression of self-denial as our flesh is crucified as we submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

When we are bold as we obey our Lord we are often accused of being full of pride. Those opposed to our message use this argument as we proclaim the truth and refuse to compromise with those insisting that Christianity must contain multiple versions of “truth.” As Elijah stood in the gap against overwhelming numbers as well as spiritual oppression, we must remain humble and bold. If we become timid then we are operating from a base of fear and will become self-protective and will not obey God nor stand for His truth. Continue reading

Pride goes before destruction


by Mike Ratliff

18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18 (NASB) 

8 To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, Ephesians 3:8 (NASB) 

At the root of hypocrisy is, of course, pride. Pride is the antithesis of humility, which is exemplified for us by Paul’s attitude to the Ephesian church in Ephesians 3:8 (above). On the other hand, pride is absolutely never portrayed in the Bible in a positive way. Never is pride tolerated. Never is it praised as it is today. However, in the visible church in our time don’t we hear sermons and read teachings about “positive pride” and the building up of self or the searching inside to find that real “you” that God is deeply in love with and only wants you to find it so He can show you what a fantastic you that you really are? Well, I have a Greek word for that, σκύβαλον. In any case, let’s look at the Greek words in the New Testament translated as “pride,” “proud,” and “puffed up.”  Continue reading

Clothe yourselves with humility


by Mike Ratliff

25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (NASB) 

27 καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος ἔσται ὑμῶν δοῦλος· Matthew 20:27 (NA28)

There are a group of men who I do not allow to comment on my blog, but who attempt to do so anyway. Their comments go immediately into the SPAM folder. I usually just dump it once a day without reading them. However, once in a while when I know that, through the discernment ministry God has given me, I have hit a precious target of our enemy, certain men in that group start commenting in direct, vicious attacks meant to do one thing alone. That one thing is to discourage me and thwart me from continuing obeying my Lord as His δοῦλος in exposing false teachers and their doctrines to the Body of Christ. It is an interesting way to gauge whether I am on target or not at times. I also find it very interesting that the accusations in those attacks are always meant to rouse me to some sort of self-defense or rebuttal type of response meant to “put them in their place.” When my anger reaches that point I know that my flesh has taken over and it is time to spend some time in humble repentance with my Lord before the Throne of Grace. What is my response to the attacks after that? I simply erase the SPAM and move on.  Continue reading

The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world


by Mike Ratliff

3 ἀρκετὸς γὰρ ὁ παρεληλυθὼς χρόνος τὸ βούλημα τῶν ἐθνῶν κατειργάσθαι πεπορευμένους ἐν ἀσελγείαις, ἐπιθυμίαις, οἰνοφλυγίαις, κώμοις, πότοις καὶ ἀθεμίτοις εἰδωλολατρίαις. 4 ἐν ᾧ ξενίζονται μὴ συντρεχόντων ὑμῶν εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν τῆς ἀσωτίας ἀνάχυσιν βλασφημοῦντες, 1 Peter 4:3-4 (NA28)

3 For we have wasted enough time participating in the desires of the Gentiles, having proceeded in licentiousness, lusts, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and unlawful idolatry. 4 Wherein they think it strange you are not running with them into the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. 1 Peter 4:3-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

I got the following A.W. Tozer quote from a friend.

The Loneliness of the Christian

“The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way.

“The man who has passed on into the divine Presence in actual inner experience will not find many who understand him. He finds few who care to talk about that which is the supreme object of his interest, so he is often silent and preoccupied in the midst of noisy religious shoptalk. For this he earns the reputation of being dull and over-serious, so he is avoided and the gulf between him and society widens. He searches for friends upon whose garments he can detect the smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia out of the ivory palaces, and finding few or none he, like Mary of old, keeps these things in his heart.

“It is this very loneliness that throws him back upon God. His inability to find human companionship drives him to seek in God what he can find nowhere else.”

AW Tozer

I know of what Tozer was talking about. I was amazed when this happened to me at a Deacon’s meeting one Saturday morning when I wanted to share that my walk with Christ had a great deal more to do with my time in the Word, in prayer, in worship, than it did in being a Deacon or whatever. I did indeed long for some of those men, perhaps just a few of them, would be in that same spiritual place. However, I remember the cold stares and from that day forward, I became an outsider looking in even through I was one of the senior deacons and was a Bible teacher at that church. It was only about 6 months or so later that all that Purpose Driven stuff started. I fought it, but it became apparent that those who made the decisions there were not going to listen to anyone that did not agree with them so my wife and I left. Continue reading

In the world you have tribulation, but I have overcome the world


by Mike Ratliff

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18-19 (NASB) 

I write this on Monday evening the day after the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas. I wanted to address it in last night’s post, but decided to wait until more details came out about the shooter. The church was the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Sutherland Springs has a population of around 400. It is about 30 miles S.E. of San Antonio. The shooter, Devin Kelley, was from New Braunfels, a suburb N.E. of San Antonio. At first the reporters on the scene could not understand how someone would randomly drive from a town like New Braunfels about 35 miles into the country to this little town, park his car across the street from a church as services were going on, walk over there and just start shooting it up, killing as many people as possible. However, as I watched their coverage I knew there would eventually be some sort of connection and today it was learned that the shooter was a very troubled individual with connections to people who were part of that church.   Continue reading

Apostates


by Mike Ratliff

3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. 4 For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jude 1:3-4 (NASB) 

Carefully read the passage above my brethren. The writer of the Epistle of Jude is the brother of James, the well-known leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21;18; Galatians 2:9) and, therefore, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus Christ. In v3 we read that Jude had intended to write a letter on salvation as the common blessing enjoyed by all true believers. This intent was probably to emphasize unity and fellowship among believers as he reminded them that God is no respecter of persons, however, his plans were changed. He doesn’t say why he “found it necessary” to write something else, but what we have in this letter is actually a call to battle for the truth in light of the appearance and infiltration into the Church of apostate teachers.  Continue reading

False prophets and false prophecy then and now


by Mike Ratliff

1 Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! 3 Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing. 4 O Israel, your prophets have been like foxes among ruins. 5 You have not gone up into the breaches, nor did you build the wall around the house of Israel to stand in the battle on the day of the Lord. 6 They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, ‘The Lord declares,’ when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfillment of their word. 7 Did you not see a false vision and speak a lying divination when you said, ‘The Lord declares,’ but it is not I who have spoken?”’” Ezekiel 13:1-7 (NASB) 

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

Subjectivism is the great danger of private interpretation


by Mike Ratliff

13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:13-14 (NASB) 

Even though it is discounted by many today, the Protestant Reformation was a wonderful work by God in that the Gospel was freed from the captivity of the apostate Roman Catholic Church. Over the centuries the Gospel had become obscured as the Bishop of Rome was declared perfect with authority over Scripture. Any resistance to his authority was dealt with through excommunication followed by being burned at the stake. The Reformation not only recovered the Gospel and Justification by Faith, the Bible became available to the common people whereas before this, no one was allowed to read it by the edicts of the Pope.

At Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms when pressed to recant of His teachings he proclaimed, “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” Continue reading

God is our Sovereign Lord


by Mike Ratliff

19 But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; 20 for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” 21 When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened; 22 for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.
23 When they had been released, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them. 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, 25 who by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
And the peoples devise futile things?
26 ‘The kings of the earth took their stand,
And the rulers were gathered together
Against the Lord and against His Christ.’
27 For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. Acts 4:19-28 (NASB)

When we make statements like, “God is sovereign.” we sometimes include a qualifier in that statement like this, “God is sovereign over ‘something.” That is a fallacious statement though meant well. God is sovereign. There is no need to add any qualifier to that statement. I have heard many well meaning people say, “God is sovereign over salvation.” Well, He is, but He is also sovereign over all of creation. There is nothing over which He is not sovereign.
Continue reading