What Is The Effect of the God-Centered Gospel?

by Mike Ratliff

1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1-4 ESV)

Most, if not all, of the contention that I have experienced in this ministry has to do with people’s demand to be “justified” on their own terms. For instance, one fellow angrily told me that the genuine gospel was to do good works, to feed the hungry and minister to the homeless. Another one insists that all he has to do is love God and love everyone and that is how he experiences “salvation.” There are others who insist that Christians are to live the Gospel rather than being concerned about preaching the message of it. Are these valid forms of the Gospel? Continue reading

What Is The True Fruit of the Fear of God?

by Mike Ratliff

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)

The total lack of the fear of God is what marks the ungodly. (Romans 3:18) On the other hand, genuine believers in scripture are described as those who do fear Him. Tragically, when moral issues between professing Christians and the unchurched are compared there is very little difference. There is the same level of divorce, adultery, pornography, dishonesty, etc.; in both groups. This evening on Facebook I was notified of a post by a friend that contained the following statement:

“..attending Church feels like returning to the scene of a crime.” ~ comment on a blog

What was my response? I simply said, “???” Then I began reading the discussion which had to do with the experience so many of the commenters had had with pastors, “…holding the people in bondage, or lying to them, or saying things that are just NOT from the Spirit of Jesus.” There were also examples of pastors manipulating their flocks with messages designed to instill fear in attempts to get them to support some sort of political agenda. My brethren, these sorts of things should not be happening within the Body of Christ.

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Blessed Is The One Who Is Not Offended By Me

by Mike Ratliff

2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:2-6 ESV)

Do you remember the first time that someone ridiculed you for your faith? How did that make you feel? What you were enduring is called The Test of Shame. It comes upon all professing Christians. This test is designed to separate the genuine from the disingenuous. Many may fail this test, but are still genuine, but in their hearts they will bear a shame that is worse than the ridicule and persecution they sought to avoid. The beauty of God’s ways is that the path of forgiveness is there for those who repent. Peter’s denial of Christ during Jesus’ trial is a perfect example of this. There are also many during the reign of Queen Mary of England, Bloody Mary, who initially failed this test as they were persecuted or their families were threatened with persecution unless they abjured. However, as the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts they would go public with their faith and then they endured the fires of martyrdom in the joy of the Lord. Continue reading

Living Christ’s Words Rather Than Simply Practicing Religion

by Mike Ratliff

28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (1 John 2:28-29 ESV)

All who are truly in Christ must admit that this walk is fraught with doubt as well as pressure to conform to a form of godliness that has no power, to be faithful at doing church as the indication of our genuineness, as well as to live up to the idea that lost people have of what a Christian must be. As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. While I am grateful for the deep Bible knowledge that I gained through being in Church every Sunday, I have also learned that much of the focus of organized religion is geared more to creating religious faithfulness rather than to disciple believers to abide in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Is practicing righteousness the same thing as being in church every time the doors open? Is church attendance, volunteering for every job in a church, dressing a certain way, looking a certain way, boycotting the right companies while doing business with only those approved by religious leaders the same thing as abiding in Christ? How about boycotting the A&E Channel for firing Phil of Duck Dynasty for saying exactly what the Bible ways about homosexuality? How about boycotting all companies who follow suit with A&E?

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But I Say Walk By The Spirit And You Will Not Gratify The Desires Of The Flesh

by Mike Ratliff

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 ESV)

Any honest research into Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Spirituality will reveal a serpent’s nest of Emergent writers who, with ease, take passages from Sacred Scripture out of context and attempt to force them to support their mystical paradigm. If you do this you will find a great deal of emphasis on Christian Authenticity and what that means as well as becoming Christlike or like Christ, which is also the emphasis of this ministry. What is is disturbing in this research, however, is how those in the Emergent movement take the passages from God’s Word I use to teach believers to deny themselves, take up their crosses daily and follow Jesus to mean something quite different from how they are used in Biblical Orthodoxy.  Continue reading

Counterfeit Christianity vs Genuine Christianity a Biblical Contrast

by Mike Ratliff

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

Deception is our enemy’s most powerful weapon. When a person is deceived into believing a lie they are not intending to participate in something that is wrong. No, they believe they have the truth and all those who oppose what they believe are just wrong. When the lie leads people to believe that their form of ‘religion’ is true Christianity, regardless of how unbiblical it is, they are not actually intending to be evil following an evil system. They are ‘sure’ they have the truth. They are sincere. I am sure the priests of Baal whom Elijah defeated at Mount Carmel were sincere as well. Continue reading

Perseverance Through Suffering

by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)

When God saves a person, he or she is changed forever because they are new creations. However, they are not at the spiritual maturity level that God desires for His people. Therefore, from that point until they go home to be with their Lord, all genuine Christians will go through a series of tests and trials that put pressure on their faith. This pressure is spiritual, but the circumstances applying it come from all directions and sources. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in the flesh that put his faith to test to the point that he implored the Lord to take it away. Continue reading

Let Us Run With Endurance The Race That Is Set Before Us

by Mike Ratliff

1 Τοιγαροῦν καὶ ἡμεῖς τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων, ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάντα καὶ τὴν εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν, διʼ ὑπομονῆς τρέχωμεν τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα 2 ἀφορῶντες εἰς τὸν τῆς πίστεως ἀρχηγὸν καὶ τελειωτὴν Ἰησοῦν, ὃς ἀντὶ τῆς προκειμένης αὐτῷ χαρᾶς ὑπέμεινεν σταυρὸν αἰσχύνης καταφρονήσας ἐν δεξιᾷ τε τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ κεκάθικεν. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NA28)

1 So, therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by such a cloud of witnesses, let use lay aside every weight and sin which so easily ensnares us and so run the race with endurance that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who because of the joy set before him, he endured  the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the Throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In 1978 I decided to become a runner. I was 26-27 at that time. I began running a mile or so out from my apartment in Forestville, Maryland then running back. As I was able, I added distance to that run in half-mile increments on the outbound route. That would add a mile to my run. By late 1979 I was able to run 5 miles in about 30 minutes or so. In 1980 I moved from the Washington, DC area to the Oklahoma City area. By this time my Dad had taken up running. He could not run the distance at my speed, but he could run all day. He ran marathons. Continue reading

I Have Not Come To Bring Peace But A Sword

by Mike Ratliff

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter- in- law against her mother- in- law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (Matthew 10:34-36 ESV)

The number one accusation against those who proclaim the truth from God’s Word in the face of apostasy is that they are being divisive. I believe we should seek to have peace with all men, but we must be prepared to encounter conflict with those who refuse to submit to God’s truth. We are never called to be at peace with false teachers or false prophets or apostates. We don’t have to go to war against all of them either (Proverbs 26:4,5). From Jesus’ own teachings we learn that the cost of being His disciple is very high. Grace is free, but becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ costs us everything. We are told that no one is worthy of the Kingdom of God who is in love with this world. We cannot serve God correctly if we love our own life more than Him. We cannot love our families more than Him. We cannot love possessions more than Him. We are called to be the interim or peacemaker between those whom we love and God. We are to be the one God uses to bring them into the Kingdom. However, we are also called to not waiver and turn our backs on God and His ways because pressure is put on us to compromise our walk with God for the sake of peace.

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And Many Who Are First Will Be Last And The Last First

by Mike Ratliff

27 Τότε ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Πέτρος εἶπεν αὐτῷ· ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήσαμέν σοι· τί ἄρα ἔσται ἡμῖν; 28 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ὑμεῖς οἱ ἀκολουθήσαντές μοι ἐν τῇ παλιγγενεσίᾳ, ὅταν καθίσῃ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐπὶ θρόνου δόξης αὐτοῦ, καθήσεσθε καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐπὶ δώδεκα θρόνους κρίνοντες τὰς δώδεκα φυλὰς τοῦ Ἰσραήλ. 29 καὶ πᾶς ὅστις ἀφῆκεν οἰκίας ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν τοῦ ὀνόματός μου, ἑκατονταπλασίονα λήμψεται καὶ ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσει. 30 πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι καὶ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι. (Matthew 19:27-30 NA28)

27 Then Peter answered, “Behold, we left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man sits upon His Throne of Glory, you who have followed me will also sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And anyone who left home or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my name’s sake will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 And many who are first will be last and the last first. (Matthew 19:27-30 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

God awoke this believer from a spiritual stupor in 2004. From my rebirth in January 1986 through the end of 2003 I rode a roller coaster of faithfulness and backsliding to the point that I despaired of ever being able to be consistent in my walk. What always amazed me during that period is how God still used the spiritual gifts He had given me despite my own sorry spiritual state. It did not help that I was also suffering from depression after the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing in 1995. I confess that from April 19, 1995 through 2003 I was a very angry, resentful person. Then God drew me to Himself in January 2004 in such a way that ‘reversed it all and changed it all.’ It took 8 months of drawing closer and closer to Him, but He did a wonderful work in this heart.

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All Christians Are Called to Tell the Truth

by Mike Ratliff

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18:17-19 ESV)

There was a time when the English and American cultures were decidedly “Christian.” Those days are long gone. Whatever it is that God is doing through this, the “Remnant” of genuine believers within the visible Church must awaken and become prepared for what is coming. We cannot be complacent any longer. Why? No matter where we turn, we either encounter growing apostasy within the visible Church or neo-pagans, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or New Agers being included in the “many ways to God.” Atheism is gaining ground all over the Western World.

The Christian world view is no longer prevalent in the West. It is under attack from every direction. What should be astounding to us, however, is that what is replacing it is highly irrational. It claims tolerance yet will not tolerate Christians having a say in anything. Personally, I see these trends as the beginnings of a very hostile environment for the uncompromising Christian. While that may be something we look to with foreboding, I believe it is going to be used by God to cleanse His Church in preparation for the return of her Bridegroom. Continue reading

Textual Criticism and Sola Scriptura

by Mike Ratliff

12 ζων γαρ ο λογος του θεου και ενεργης και τομωτερος υπερ πασαν μαχαιραν διστομον και διικνουμενος αχρι μερισμου ψυχης τε και πνευματος αρμων τε και μυελων και κριτικος ενθυμησεων και εννοιων καρδιας 13 και ουκ εστιν κτισις αφανης ενωπιον αυτου παντα δε γυμνα και τετραχηλισμενα τοις οφθαλμοις αυτου προς ον ημιν ο λογος. (Hebrews 4:12-13 Textus Receptus)

12 Ζῶν γὰρ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐνεργὴς καὶ τομώτερος ὑπὲρ πᾶσαν μάχαιραν δίστομον καὶ διϊκνούμενος ἄχρι μερισμοῦ ψυχῆς καὶ πνεύματος, ἁρμῶν τε καὶ μυελῶν, καὶ κριτικὸς ἐνθυμήσεων καὶ ἐννοιῶν καρδίας· 13 καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν κτίσις ἀφανὴς ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ, πάντα δὲ γυμνὰ καὶ τετραχηλισμένα τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ, πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος. (Hebrews 4:12-13 NA28)

12 For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than every doubled-edged sword and penetrating as far as the division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and able to discern the thoughts and insights of the heart. 13 And there is not a creature hidden from before Him, but all things are bare and having been exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13 translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13 ESV) 

12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight:but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (Hebrews 4:12-13 KJV)

I suppose it is because I am a political conservative and a Christian that I am exposed (by email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other discussion media such as blogs and websites that my friends want me to see) at times to some very distressful and destructive behavior by adults who should really know better. Oh, I am not blaming my friends because what they are showing me are things that are disturbing to them as well. What causes me such grief in these things is what some of these people do and say in the name of Christ and claim they are attacking a fellow brother in Christ as if he is the seed of Satan to do service to God Himself. If they really thought that through I think it would expose their hypocrisy even to their hard hearts, but since they are spiritually blind, I doubt it. You see, we cannot do the work of our Lord using the tools of our enemy. Lying, stealing, killing, innuendo, slander, intimidation… you get the idea. Did Jesus ever do any of those things? Did he ever condone us doing any of those things? Continue reading

For Judgment I Came Into This World

by Mike Ratliff

3 “Son of man, speak to the elders of Israel, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God, Is it to inquire of me that you come? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you. (Ezekiel 20:3 ESV)

The “visible church” has become largely corrupt and apostate. Some are going the direction of Joel Osteen’s Word of Faith gospel that tells us that God wants to bless us, but cannot because we are not asking Him for it or we are not doing something right. Then there are those denominations and “church” leaders that are affirming same-sex marriage, which is expressly condemned in God’s Word. There are apostasy examples all across the board and there is not room enough or time enough to address them all here. However, these things all have one thing in common. These are people seeking to be seen as “christian,” but on their own terms rather than what the Word of God clearly teaches us.  Continue reading

The High Cost Being an Authentic Christian

by Mike Ratliff

10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra-which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:10-13 ESV)

“Christians” in the United States and other so-called “civilized” countries do not exist in a climate of a fear of persecution like those in China and India. Some would say that is because of our culture or that there are huge numbers of Christians here. However, the truth of the matter is that Christians who live in total obedience to their Lord will be persecuted. So, what does that say about Christians who live at peace with the world around them? The truth of the matter is this; the reason Christians are not persecuted in the US is that very few of them are walking in the level of obedience to their Lord that would draw attention to them from those who hate the real Jesus and the Word of God. However, if they were living holy lives, sharing their faith, actively making disciples, and preaching the whole Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ the wrath of Satan and his seed would come upon them. Continue reading