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

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


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

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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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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Joy in the Fellowship of God

by Mike Ratliff

1 O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. 9 But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; 10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. 11 But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped. (Psalm 63:1-11 ESV)

In yesterday’s post, “The Calves of Jeroboam,” I revealed my besetting sin of despondency, melancholia, and depression as I grew up which continued until God saved me in my mid thirties. Even after He saved me, I fell into despair for short periods of time as I struggled in the fires of sanctification. My depression was an expression of dissatisfaction with my circumstances. The root of bitterness was growing in me and resentment was continually present as I dealt with the ups and downs of life. These are symptoms of a heart in bondage to pride. After I was saved I heard a sermon once where the preacher stated, “Depression is nothing more than an internal temper tantrum.” That really got my attention. Over the first several months after God saved me, I was battling my tendency to express resentment when things were not going to suit me. The difference between then and how I was when I was lost was amazing. Before, I almost relished my right to be depressed or cast down. However, after God touched my heart, I knew it was wrong. After I heard that sermon, the Holy Spirit cemented that knowledge to my consciousness so that when I started going down the path of least resistance into resentment, anger, despondency, depression or melancholia I would realize that I was being self-absorbed and committing a great sin of idolatry of the heart. Continue reading

The Calves of Jeroboam

by Mike Ratliff

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. (Colossians 3:1-6 ESV)

We are born from our Mothers’ wombs depraved and separated from God because we are sinners. Unless God intervenes in our lives we will be self-absorbed and temporally focused in every part of our lives. We are “depraved” because we desperately seek fulfillment from our only avenue open to us for any circumstance which will tell us we are special or deserving of a positive “feeling” of contentment or fulfillment. That avenue is the flesh. Our flesh is all about self. Even seemingly selfless acts are done from a motivation of some form of self-gratification. Continue reading

Pour Your Sins on Christ

Since I am one of those Christians who struggle very much with despair and self-loathing because of sin, this devotion by Martin Luther really struck me right in the heart. I never considered this before as part of our Mortification of Sin. I pray God will use this in your heart as well for your edification. – Mike Ratliff

by Martin Luther

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

When you become aware of your sin and frightened by it, you must not allow the sin to remain in your conscience. This would only lead to despair. Rather, just as your awareness of sin flowed to you from Christ, so you must pour your sin back on him to free your conscience.

So be careful you don’t become like the misguided people who allow their sin to bite at them and eat at their hearts. They strive to rid themselves of this sin by running around doing good works. But you have a way to get rid of your sins. You throw your sins on Christ when you firmly believe Christ’s wounds and suffering carried and paid for you sins. As Isaiah said, “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Peter said Christ himself “bore our sins in his body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24). And Paul said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

You must rely on these and similar verses with your whole heart. The more your conscience torments you, the more you must rely on them. For if you don’t do this and try to quiet your conscience through your own sorrow and penance, you will never find peace of mind and will finally despair in the end. If you try to deal with you sin in your conscience, let it remain there, and continue to look at it in your heart, your sins will become too strong for you. They will seem to live forever. But when you think of your sins as being on Christ and boldly believe that he conquered them through his resurrection, then they are dead and gone. Sin can’t remain on Christ. His resurrection swallowed up sin.

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

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Faith’s Checkbook by C.H. Spurgeon for Friday January 5, 2007

A Wonderful Guarantee

I will strengthen thee. (Isaiah 41:10)

When called to serve or to suffer, we take stock of our strength, and we find it to be less than we thought and less than we need. But let not our heart sink within us while we have such a word as this to fall back upon, for it guarantees us all that we can possibly need. God has strength omnipotent; that strength He can communicate to us; and His promise is that He will do so. He will be the food of our souls and the health of our hearts; and thus He will give us strength. There is no telling how much power God can put into a man. When divine strength comes, human weakness is no more a hindrance.

Do we not remember seasons of labor and trial in which we received such special strength that we wondered at ourselves? In the midst of danger we were calm, under bereavement we were resigned, in slander we were self-contained, and in sickness we were patient. The fact is that God gives unexpected strength when unusual trials come upon us, We rise out of our feeble selves. Cowards play the man, foolish ones have wisdom given them, and the silent receive in the selfsame hour what they shall speak. My own weakness makes me shrink, but God’s promise makes me brave. Lord, strengthen me “according to thy word.”

Brought before Kings

I believe that we are where we are and associated with those around us specifically to be used by God to affect His will and message to them. We are to give testimony of Christ and be ready to give the Gospel message to all. This message is so radical and exclusive that the world hates it. Any who claim to be adherents of it, but suppress its message are false. Bob DeWaay has written this piece that compares the authentic disciple of Christ with the example of Rick Warren. Prayfully read it and I pray that God will move in your heart to show you the truth. – Mike Ratliff