The Lord Is My Strength and My Song

by Mike Ratliff

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. (Isaiah 12:3 ESV)

Our dear brother in the Lord John Bunyan who lived in 17th Century England, was no stranger to the ups and downs of this life and God gave him a special insight into His workings through these high and low points in our own pilgrimage to the Celestial City. Bunyan was a gifted preacher and writer yet God allowed the government authorities at that time to imprison him for 12 years because he was a non-conformist. He was not an ordained pastor in the Church of England. He was a Baptist and preached to all who would hear. While in prison he supported his family by making bootlaces. He was imprisoned twice. It was during the second period in jail that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress. John Owen helped him publish it when he was released. Even though Owen, who had a great deal of influence with the King and the rest of the government and tried very hard to have Bunyan released from prison, was unable to end the persecution. It did not end until the book had been completed. Through all of this, Bunyan never doubted his Saviour. He knew that his and his family’s hardships was simply part and parcel with the Christian’s partaking of the sufferings of our Saviour. Continue reading

The Unfathomable Depth of Spiritual Blindness

by Mike Ratliff

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 ESV)

God’s truth, which is the truth and there is no other, is true regardless of whether people believe it or not. I pray for wisdom and discernment every morning before I go to work. God answers this is surprising ways sometimes. One way He does this is when I receive an email or comment from one who is opposed to what we teach here. As I read what they have to say, I often have to retreat into prayer right then in order to grasp the direction the deception is coming from. Other times I can see it quite readily. In these cases, it is very easy to spot the error because their suppositions or arguments are based on one or more invalid assumptions about God’s truth. Never forget, it is very easy to build a very deep case on an invalid or wrong point. When people do this, then their entire case is nothing but a house of cards ready for the strong wind of truth to come in and blow it away. In the other cases in which I must retreat into prayer in order to ascertain how to respond to the attack, I have found that our enemy or one of his minions has caused this through some level of spiritual protection for those serving him. However, their power is nothing when compared with God’s. We may not, on our own, be able to see through the mist or haze or whatever that protects the lie(s), but when we humbly and boldly take the attack to the throne of grace, God is good and will reveal the truth to us in His timing. Through this, we know how to respond or whether to respond at all. Continue reading

God is My Strength and Portion Forever

by Mike Ratliff

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:23-26 ESV)

For those who labor in ministries dedicated to rightly dividing the Word of Truth, there will be times in which it seems that no one is “with” them as they were before. This is the period known as “out of season.” However, we are commanded to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). It is imperative that during these “dry seasons” that the worker not labor according to the wrong motives. If he or she ministers with the goal of gaining the approval of people then they have already compromised. Many ministers use numbers as the measuring stick of how they are doing. If the numbers do not look so good then they change the focus of their ministries. I received a plea for prayer today for a mission trip. This plea was a breath of fresh air to one who is continually under siege by the enemy to be discouraged and, therefore, compromise or quit this ministry. The one preparing to go on the mission trip to another country made it very clear that the focus of all he would be doing was for God’s glory alone. Below is the message. Continue reading

False Teachers and True Contentment

by Mike Ratliff

1 But understand this, that y in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be z lovers of self, a lovers of money, b proud, b arrogant, abusive, b disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, c heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, d not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, e swollen with conceit, f lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but g denying its power. h Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV)

Life is a continual hunt or search for circumstances that will result in contentment. That is the focus for the natural man. When societal norms become relaxed from the “bonds” that restrict certain forms of self-expression” we witness rising levels of aberrant behavior that are simply attempts by seekers of this “contentment” to find, experience, and practice them hoping to finally reach some level of passion or peace or whatever that will last and leave them in that “contented” state. We see this in Christianity as well. What we understand as Orthodox Christianity is not very satisfying to the unregenerate. However, religiosity is an integral part of the human makeup, therefore, with this volatile combination, we witness increasing levels of bizarre forms of “Christianity” as those desperately seeking what “satisfies” go after the “feelings” as they vainly try to fill that hole in their soul that demands fulfillment. Continue reading

Church Marketing?

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)

My wife and I just returned from a trip to Oklahoma. To get to where we are going each way we must drive over part of I-35 that goes through a town in Oklahoma called Guthrie. On the East side of the road, as we drove past this city, is a church very close to the highway. Someone at this church has erected a very large sign that says in bold letters, “I LOVE THIS CHURCH!” This really puzzled me and caused me to think of what the intent could be in the erecting this sign. As I thought through all of the possibilities, the only one that seemed to make sense was that someone wants to draw people to this church BECAUSE he, she, or they love it. In other words, this is an attempt to market this church using the ploy that since they love it, others will be sure to “come and try it.”  Continue reading

Mystery and Victory

by Mike Ratliff

17 And Jesus answered him, e “Blessed are you, f Simon Bar-Jonah! For g flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, h but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:17 ESV)

I have been in discussion with a dear friend today about our puzzlement over the seemingly strange mixture of theology in some people who appear to be very genuine in their faith while holding to obviously heretical doctrines or following false teachers with joy. We must never forget my brethren that just because someone expresses that they have faith and believe does not mean that he or she actually does. One’s genuiness in Christ is not revealed by confession. The Bible teaches of only one way to know if one is truly in Christ. That is perseverance in the faith to the end. Christians are not saved through the good works in their walk or even by the fact that they do persevere, but they prove their Christian authenticity through these things. Faithfulness is a mark of genuineness. When professing Christians wander off the path for whatever reason, this does not mean that God will forsake them, refusing to have mercy on them and bring them back. That was a large part of our discussion today. In John Bunyan’s monumental work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, we see how easy it is for pilgrims to be deceived by all sorts of things, to become distracted; and this blinds them spiritually so that they lose sight of the spiritual and, therefore, see things through eyes of flesh. Then they find themselves off the path in all sorts of deception and trouble. God is good. He will draw His genuine believers back to the narrow path, but those who are not truly His will reside in their spiritual blindness and remain deceived in their fleshly pursuits or false doctrines.  Continue reading

Behold the Man!

by Mike Ratliff

5 So Jesus came out, wearing t the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, u “Behold the man!” (John 19:5 ESV)

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not an “add-in” to our faith that is editable and open to interpretation to the point that each person can have and hold his or her own version. No, the Gospel is simple, clear, and concise. It is clearly defined for us in the Word of God. However, the Emergent movement has as one of its main tenets that nothing about Christianity can be defined to a fine focus at all. They demand looseness and flexibility. However, as Ken Silva, Chris Rosebrough, and the rest of the CRN team have been saying from the beginning, the Emergent movement is nothing more than repackaged liberalism. Oh, it may have some new “twists,” but it still exists to deconstruct the Gospel in such a way so as to make it null and void. One of the major culprits behind this is Rob Bell. I suggest that you follow this link to Apprising Ministries and then listen to the podcast from Chris Rosebrough detailing a sermon by Mr. Bell. If you love the Lord and the facts of the Gospel–the creator of the Universe went to the Cross to pay the price for your sins, to redeem you, and make you part of God’s family, et cetera–drive you to you knees in eternal gratitude then Mr. Bell’s sermon, which Chris plays on his radio show, should cause some righteous indignation to rise in your spirit.  Continue reading

Straining Toward the Goal

by Mike Ratliff

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives s the prize? So t run that you may obtain it. (1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV)

Back in the late 1970’s, through the 1980’s and even into the late 1990’s I was a runner. I trained on long daily runs between 6 and 7 minutes per mile. During a race, I could lower that by quite a bit when the time was right, like the last few hundred yards to the finish line. You would never believe that that was true by looking at me now that I am nearing 60. My left knee will not allow me to run anymore. I miss it. However, I do remember very well preparing for a race and that high anxiety, high-energy period leading up to the starting gun. Then there would be the mad sprint for the first few hundred yards before the experienced runners would settle in and run according to their strategy. My favorite races were those in which the finish line was around a turn instead of at the end of a long straight. In those, I could hear the people at the finish line, but I could not see them. Then as I made the last turn to sprint to the finish line the people would begin applauding, some cried encouraging things. Then there was the last 50 yards or so in which I would run as fast as I physically could. As I crossed that finish line, it was incredible to look up at the clock and be amazed that I was physically able to cover that many kilometers or miles in such a short time. I would look back and the line of runners still on the course would stretch down the road. There was one common thread for me in all those years of running. If I trained well, I raced well. If I could not put in the miles in training for whatever reason, I simply could not compete. This is a direct parallel for us in how we walk before the face of God in our daily walk in this life. There is no way we can have the spiritual acumen to run the race set before us by God if we do not prepare correctly to do so. Then as we run the race, we must do so correctly or we will run poorly and may even fall out in shame. Continue reading

Wisdom From the Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV)

When the Word of God ceases to be the plumb line of one’s faith, walk, understanding of truth, and knowing God then what replaces it is human reason which, outside of the Grace of God, is completely unable to know God’s truth when it sees it. There seems to be a large number professing Christians who raise a protest when I teach on doctrine. Their contention is that they simply refuse to believe that what I am teaching is the truth. Upon what do they base this? It is all based within their own reasoning. Never do I receive a clear Biblical indictment against the truths I share. Instead, the protests are couched in feelings, human reason, common sense, or philosophy. My brethren, we must not flinch from these protests. God’s truth is knowable because the Holy Spirit imparts divine wisdom to His children for this purpose. Never forget, it is falsehood that cannot stand scrutiny. The truth has nothing to fear from deep examination, therefore, let us defend it in the power of the Holy Spirit. Continue reading

The Light of the Gospel

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1-2 ESV)

All this week I have had my son who I get to see only a few times a year and my daughter and grandson who also live in another state visiting my wife and I in our home. During this time, I deliberately did not spend any time online with the purpose of keeping up with what is going on the ongoing battle for the truth and of what the real Gospel consists. After we took my son to the airport this afternoon one of the first things I did was open up the Christian Research Network website. It was as if that insulation that my rest had built around me during my “vacation” was immediately blown away. As I read those articles from the last few days, I kept asking God to show me what He wanted me to do; what should I address? Ken Silva and Chris Rosebrough both did a fine job of addressing the apostasy and outright heresy coming from Rob Bell’s church and Jay Bakker among many others. I knew that I could not add anything to what they said, but I could address the truth and how the genuine Gospel is known by those to whom it is given by God and how it is unknowable by those to whom it is not given.  Continue reading

Out of Pocket

My son, my daughter and grandson are visiting this week. Time is precious right now as I spend it with those I do not get to see very often. I will attempt to post again sometime this weekend – Mike Ratliff

Spiritus Sanctus

by Mike Ratliff

11 b “I baptize you with water c for repentance, but d he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you e with the Holy Spirit and f fire. (Matthew 3:11 ESV)

In yesterday’s post we looked at the necessity of lectio coninua for the continued health of a local church. Through our discussion, however, it was also made clear that it can be misused and not do what God intended if the Pastor does read through the Bible, but does not preach according the moving of the Holy Spirit, but instead, according to man focused topics and outright false doctrines. The only way it is effective and works as God intended is if the Pastor follows the leading of the Holy Spirit, the Spiritus Sanctus. Continue reading