God of All Comfort


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB) 

Suffering is part of life. It is part of the curse that fell upon all creation after Adam’s sin. (Genesis 3) There are some preachers who have taken sections of the Bible out of context to make it say that suffering happens only to those who “have sin in their life.” Well, I suppose part of that is true. We all sin. However, the suffering that comes upon us is not necessarily a punishment from God for some specific sin. Our tests and trials are painful and stressful. They are tests of faith just as much as they are sickness or mental problems. In fact, God uses our suffering for His own purposes in our hearts as well as in the hearts of those whom we minister to. Continue reading

The Lord is the Strength of His People


by Mike Ratliff

8 The LORD is their strength,
And He is a saving defense to His anointed.
9 Save Your people and bless Your inheritance;
Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever. Psalms 28:8-9 (NASB) 

The Genuine Christian walk is actually part of a war. Each believer’s walk is a battle or skirmish in that war. As we see in Ephesians 6:10-20, this war is not specifically against other people. Even if heretics or apostates rant and rave against us or terrorists from some pagan religion threaten our lives, our war is against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. The people who attack us are in some way controlled by these evil forces. Continue reading

Drinking From The Cup The Father Has Given Us


by Mike Ratliff

37 They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” Mark 10:37-40 (NASB) 

The truth, Biblical truth that is, cuts like a sword or the sharpest dagger ever seen. God’s ways are not Man’s ways or the ways of the world. No, God’s ways are antithetical to the ways of fallen Men. Many reading this can testify to losing close friends and having conflict within family groups because God has quickened them by His grace. Their faith is alive. They are regenerate. They now can see the truth and are able to obey God. This new life in Christ belongs to those who have found the narrow gate, which is Christ. They have passed through in belief and now are on the narrow way which leads to the Celestial City.

The conflict arises from this new life when it comes to bear on those around the believer who know not God. They may indeed be religious. They may be professing Christians, but neither of these things are guarantees of eternal life. The genuine believer is a possessor of the truth, God has written it on his or her heart. However, the unregenerate cannot grasp this truth. They see it as utter foolishness. When the regenerate believer walks in this belief with it affecting all parts of his or her life the unregenerate react in many ways. Anger, resentment, skepticism, hostility, and disdain are just a few of the reactions genuine Christians will encounter when they walk by faith. Continue reading

God’s Will is not Constant Comfort and Worldly Success


by Mike Ratliff

7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Hebrews 12:7-11 (NASB) 

As we have been discussing lately, only a fragment of the visible Church is holy. Only a Remnant is truly saved. There is actually a great gulf fixed between this Remnant and professing Christians who are in apostasy. This gulf has many aspects, but one of the main things that separate the two groups is that the Remnant is made up of those who are true worshippers of God. They worship the Father in spirit and truth. Those in apostasy may very well have stirring worship services and sing praise song after praise song in their Sunday Worship Services, but that is as far as it goes. It is simply music, and in God’s ears it is nothing more than a clanging gong. Genuine worship of God in spirit and truth comes from the heart of the regenerate who worships Him with every part of their lives. They serve God in all they do. He is their all-in-all. They do not seek for God to make them happy in all things. Instead, they seek to walk holy before the Lord.

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Humility Under the Lash


by Mike Ratliff

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10 (NASB) 

There is a form of Christianity prevalent in post-modern America that has an incredible hold on some people to the point their conception of God is that He is little more than a vending machine or a kindly grandfather who would never hurt anyone. I speak, of course, of all forms of Christianity that are man-based. Their problem is that they are conceived of by people who have no patience for theology. Instead, they rely on their own conception of God based within the limits of their ability to reason. For instance, their conception of God is that He is too good to be unfair. Then, of course, their conception of what is fair and unfair enter into their reasoning. The end result is that, since God does not seem to come through the same for all people, then the problem must be with the people themselves. If one person is not healed while some are then those who are not healed must not have enough faith because God is fair and would not leave anyone in sickness while healing others. Continue reading

Perseverance in Suffering


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though 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 (NASB) 

When God saves a person, he/she is changed forever. 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

The Word Makes Us Clean


by Martin Luther

3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. John 15:3 (NASB) 

In this passage, Christ is offering us a remedy for the poison of arrogance, which is overestimating your own holiness. Jesus says this so none of us will think that our own suffering, apart from Christ, can attain forgiveness of our sins or make us fruitful branches in the sight of God. Here’s what usually happens: Someone does many good works and endures much suffering. That person becomes aware of producing fruit. In other words, they are aware of achieving something through preaching or some other method. Then that sweet poison begins to make the person think, “Oh, I have now done something that will make God notice me and be merciful to me.” In this way, little wild branches begin growing alongside the true branches. These wild branches steal the sap and energy from the true branches so that they don’t flourish. That is why the Gardener must be alert. He has to restrain such arrogance and presumption by constant application of the Word. Continue reading

Why Trouble Follows the Preaching of God’s Truth


by Mike Ratliff

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came 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 MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39 (NASB) 

Cleansing the heart of man-made religiosity is not fun and games. In fact, it hurts. Many resist God’s truth even to the point of bitterly expressing their anger over what is taught or preached. God’s ways are not man’s ways. The way that seems right unto man is not God’s way. Even the regenerate can cling to a paradigm they have constructed in their hearts that represents God in a way that pleases them, but in fact, can be idolatrous. Their God would not do x,y, and z while the Word tells us that the God of the Bible most certainly does allow things to happen to His people in such a way that their idols comes under direct attack. Many of us have learned the hard way that in this age God sometimes allows His people to be oppressed by their governments, big business, false teachers, or social activists. This could very well be unjust treatment. How are we to react? Continue reading

Testing of Your Faith


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though 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 (NASB) 

There is no guarantee that the Genuine Christian will be immune from suffering. In fact, suffering is the method God uses to prune the branches that abide in the Vine, our Lord Jesus Christ. (John 15) I have found that the form this suffering takes is nearly always a surprise. When atheists or pagans ridicule, the resulting sorrow from that is relatively minor and easily borne compared to that delivered by professing Christians. In any case, we must not be discouraged, even though that is what our enemy seeks to do to us through it. God is allowing him to do this to us, therefore, what should our reaction be? Continue reading

More than Conquerors


by Mike Ratliff

37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37 (NASB) 

How often have you heard Romans 8:37 in support of the concept of a “higher Christian life?” I have heard it in that context, but I have also heard it in its proper context, which is found in the entire chapter of Romans 8. In this context we learn that it is only in the context of suffering that Christians can learn what it means to be “more than conquerors.” Continue reading

Treasures in Jars of Clay


by Mike Ratliff

2 The Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give Midian into their hands, for Israel would become boastful, saying, ‘My own power has delivered me.’ Judges 7:2 (NASB) 

This walk before the face of God is fraught with difficulty and pain. No one who is His will pass through this life unscathed by affliction, perplexity, persecution, and even being struck down. That may fly in the face of much of the teaching in the Church in our time, but the reality is that Genuine Christians walk through this life being molded and conformed unto the image of Christ. That process is quite painful because much of what is the Christian is chiseled and burned away via the fires of sanctification. As the image of Christ is burned into us, we must remember that whatever is afflicting us will not crush us. What is perplexing us will not result in God forsaking us. Whatever has struck us down will not destroy us. Continue reading

The Promise of the Holy Spirit


by Mike Ratliff

26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. John 15:26-27 (NASB) 

There was a time when I sat under the teaching of men who taught that the only difference between a lost person and a saved person was the presence of the Holy Spirit. While only Christians have the Holy Spirit there are other differences. The Christian is Born Again. He or she has been regenerated unto a New Creation. The Christian has faith that the unregenerate do not have. This faith, working in the regenerate heart believes God and has the ability to cause the believer to obey God. The regenerate can repent, but the unregenerate (the lost) cannot. However, all living Christians still must coexist with their sin nature. Also, they live in a world that is hostile to God and all genuine Christians. These two facts seem to stack the deck against the believer ever being able to live in victory in this life.

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Persevering Grace


by Mike Ratliff

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB) 

As one who adheres to the Doctrines of Grace, I believe firmly in the what is referred to as “the security of the believer.” Our confessions refer to it as the Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. R.C. Sproul liked to use the term “Persevering Grace” instead because he believed it put the emphasis on God and His grace preserving His saints rather than His saints working to be preserved.

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Suffering for Righteousness’ Sake


by Mike Ratliff

12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12 (NASB) 

I grew up as a Southern Baptist. I have heard a lot of very good preaching in my 68+ years. However, I have also heard a lot of what I would call now-a-days, humanistic preaching. Until just a few years ago I really didn’t know the difference, or if I did, then it was that the former was grounded deeper into the Word of God than the latter. The biblically based preaching was always geared toward the eternal even if talking about the temporal. The humanistic preaching was always geared to the temporal even when talking about the eternal. Do you see the difference? Continue reading