Shame and a tender conscience


by Mike Ratliff

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and *said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:31-38 (NASB) 

One of the major weapons of our enemy is attacks centered on provoking our pride, to incite us to be deeply concerned about what others think of us in relation to our profession of faith and how we walk the narrow path set before us by God. Our Lord warned us that this sort of attack would be coming our way and it causes professing Christians to lose their boldness as they actually seek to preserve “their life” for their own sake. When we are more concerned with our image and standing before men rather than for Christ and His gospel then we compromise because we have set our minds on the things of man rather than the things of God. Continue reading

Yes—But…!


May 30
My Utmost for His Highest
Yes—But…!
By Oswald Chambers

Lord, I will follow You, but… —Luke 9:61
Suppose God tells you to do something that is an enormous test of your common sense, totally going against it. What will you do? Will you hold back? If you get into the habit of doing something physically, you will do it every time you are tested until you break the habit through sheer determination. And the same is true spiritually. Again and again you will come right up to what Jesus wants, but every time you will turn back at the true point of testing, until you are determined to abandon yourself to God in total surrender. Yet we tend to say, “Yes, but— suppose I do obey God in this matter, what about…?” Or we say, “Yes, I will obey God if what He asks of me doesn’t go against my common sense, but don’t ask me to take a step in the dark.”
Jesus Christ demands the same unrestrained, adventurous spirit in those who have placed their trust in Him that the natural man exhibits. If a person is ever going to do anything worthwhile, there will be times when he must risk everything by his leap in the dark. In the spiritual realm, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold on to or believe through common sense, and leap by faith into what He says. Once you obey, you will immediately find that what He says is as solidly consistent as common sense.
By the test of common sense, Jesus Christ’s statements may seem mad, but when you test them by the trial of faith, your findings will fill your spirit with the awesome fact that they are the very words of God. Trust completely in God, and when He brings you to a new opportunity of adventure, offering it to you, see that you take it. We act like pagans in a crisis— only one out of an entire crowd is daring enough to invest his faith in the character of God.

Afterward


“Afterward.”-Hebrews 12:11

How happy are tried Christians, afterwards. No calm more deep than that which succeeds a storm. Who has not rejoiced in clear shinings after rain? Victorious banquets are for well-exercised soldiers. After killing the lion we eat the honey; after climbing the Hill Difficulty, we sit down in the arbour to rest; after traversing the Valley of Humiliation, after fighting with Apollyon, the shining one appears, with the healing branch from the tree of life. Our sorrows, like the passing keels of the vessels upon the sea, leave a silver line of holy light behind them “afterwards.” It is peace, sweet, deep peace, which follows the horrible turmoil which once reigned in our tormented, guilty souls. See, then, the happy estate of a Christian! He has his best things last, and he therefore in this world receives his worst things first. But even his worst things are “afterward” good things, harsh ploughings yielding joyful harvests. Even now he grows rich by his losses, he rises by his falls, he lives by dying, and becomes full by being emptied; if, then, his grievous afflictions yield him so much peaceable fruit in this life, what shall be the full vintage of joy “afterwards” in heaven? If his dark nights are as bright as the world’s days, what shall his days be? If even his starlight is more splendid than the sun, what must his sunlight be? If he can sing in a dungeon, how sweetly will he sing in heaven! If he can praise the Lord in the fires, how will he extol Him before the eternal throne! If evil be good to him now, what will the overflowing goodness of God be to him then? Oh, blessed “afterward!” Who would not be a Christian? Who would not bear the present cross for the crown which cometh afterwards? But herein is work for patience, for the rest is not for to-day, nor the triumph for the present, but “afterward.” Wait, O soul, and let patience have her perfect work. – C.H. Spurgeon from Spurgeon’s Evening by Evening for for May 18

Simul Iustus et Peccator


I began reading John Owen’s book Communion With The Triune God edited by Dr. Kelly Kapic and Justin Taylor back in 2008 as we awaited the birth of our grandson. I read in the waiting rooms prior to the various ultra-sound tests and other doctor visits that go with that. On the day of his birth, I read a few pages and stopped as that blessed event finally arrived. For some reason, I put the book back on the shelf with the bookmark in place and left it there when I got back home. Then at the end of April of this year, I reached a level of mental and spiritual exhaustion that required that I take some time off. It was about that time that I had my stroke. A few weeks later  I looked for some books to help me get my focus back and my eyes fell on this long neglected book. I selected it and started reading right where I left off back in 2008. I read it now every chance I get. God is still blessing me through the excellently edited version of the text.  Continue reading

We Must Walk in the same manner as our Lord walked.


The following Devotion is from Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning for May 17.

6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. (1 John 2:6  LSB)

WHY should Christians imitate Christ? They should do it for their own sakes. If they desire to be in a healthy state of soul—if they would escape the sickness of sin, and enjoy the vigour of growing grace, let Jesus be their model. For their own happiness’ sake, if they would drink wine on the lees, well refined; if they would enjoy holy and happy communion with Jesus; if they would be lifted up above the cares and troubles of this world, let them walk even as He walked. There is nothing which can so assist you to walk towards heaven with good speed, as wearing the image of Jesus on your heart to rule all its motions. It is when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are enabled to walk with Jesus in His very footsteps, that you are most happy, and most known to be the sons of God. Peter afar off is both unsafe and uneasy. Next, for religion’s sake, strive to be like Jesus. Ah! poor religion, thou hast been sorely shot at by cruel foes, but thou hast not been wounded one-half so dangerously by thy foes as by thy friends. Who made those wounds in the fair hand of Godliness? The professor who used the dagger of hypocrisy. The man who with pretences, enters the fold, being nought but a wolf in sheep’s clothing, worries the flock more than the lion outside. There is no weapon half so deadly as a Judas-kiss. Inconsistent professors injure the gospel more than the sneering critic or the infidel. But, especially for Christ’s own sake, imitate His example. Christian, lovest thou thy Saviour? Is His name precious to thee? Is His cause dear to thee? Wouldst thou see the kingdoms of the world become His? Is it thy desire that He should be glorified? Art thou longing that souls should be won to Him? If so, imitate Jesus; be an “epistle of Christ, known and read of all men.”

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning


the following devotional is from Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning for May 13th.


 

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”—Psalm 30:5.

CHRISTIAN! If thou art in a night of trial, think of the morrow; cheer up thy heart with the thought of the coming of thy Lord. Be patient, for

 

“Lo! He comes with clouds descending.”
Be patient! The Husbandman waits until He reaps His harvest. Be patient; for you know who has said, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.” If you are never so wretched now, remember

 

“A few more rolling suns, at most,
Will land thee on fair Canaan’s coast.”
Thy head may be crowned with thorny troubles now, but it shall wear a starry crown ere long; thy hand may be filled with cares—it shall sweep the strings of the harp of heaven soon. Thy garments may be soiled with dust now; they shall be white by-and-by. Wait a little longer. Ah! how despicable our troubles and trials will seem when we look back upon them! Looking at them here in the prospect, they seem immense; but when we get to heaven we shall then

 

“With transporting joys recount,
The labours of our feet.”
Our trials will then seem light and momentary afflictions. Let us go on boldly; if the night be never so dark, the morning cometh, which is more than they can say who are shut up in the darkness of hell. Do you know what it is thus to live on the future—to live on expectation—to antedate heaven? Happy believer, to have so sure, so comforting a hope. It may be all dark now, but it will soon be light; it may be all trial now, but it will soon be all happiness. What matters it though “weeping may endure for a night,” when “joy cometh in the morning?”

The Basis for Genuine Christian Living


by Mike Ratliff

1   “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-grower. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleans it so that it may bear more fruit. (John 15:1–2 Legacy Standard Bible)

Something has changed. Of course, I am sure the changes I am referring to have not suddenly taken place, but are, in fact, the result of years of God’s judgment upon nations, church groups (denominations), church leaders, and professing Christians because Christians at the core along with their leaders have compromised. Adherence to preaching Jesus and Him crucified has been replaced with feel good sermons that are designed to draw people in to large church bodies that have little to nothing to do with how the Bible defines the role of Christians and their relationships with Christ, each other and the world. Let us look at John 15, which was one of our Lord’s final teaching to His apostles just prior to going to the Cross. Continue reading

Created in Christ Jesus for Good Works


by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB) 

As many of you know, I grew up as a Southern Baptist. After God saved me in 1986 I was a Southern Baptist until 2006 when our former church was overtaken by the Purpose Driven paradigm. I was bitter about that for a while. I and many of you found common ground having had our churches ripped away from us and in many cases finding it nearly impossible to find a good Biblical local church remaining in our area after the Seeker-Sensitive tsunamis had moved through devastating what were once good churches, leaving behind man-centered, store fronts for Rick Warren’s brand of man-focused religiosity.  However, God is good and through this devastation and some personal fiery trials, which actually began in 2004, He has worked in me to grow me into a more mature Christian, stronger in the Word of God than ever, more knowledgeable in Biblical Greek, and deeper in the more cerebral areas of our faith that are sorely needed in our day such as presuppositional apologetics. When I was a Deacon teaching Sunday school at our local SBC church, I was extremely mediocre in most of that and hardly knowledgeable at all in the area of apologetics. Why? I was serving and operating from within a mindset that was extremely spiritually immature compared to today. My understanding of the Gospel and theology was probably deeper than most of my peers at that time, but compared to now, it was probably surface level at best.  Continue reading

Are You Working to Earn Everlasting Life?


by Mike Ratliff

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” John 6:28 (NASB) 

The flesh is still with us all, even those who have been born again unto eternal life. The flesh does not understand grace. The flesh does not understand the relationship to the Christian being born again unto good works (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, the visible church is ripe with false teaching at this time that emphasizes all the wrong things, and, coupled with rampant Biblical illiteracy, most professing Christians are like those Jesus was confronting in John 6 who could not conceive what our Lord boldly told them in vv35-40 that belief and salvation was a gift from God not something earned or deserved.  Continue reading

Cynicism Bitterness and Sacrifice


by Mike Ratliff

29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:29-32 (NASB) 

Steel is made through the smelting of iron ore. Iron becomes steel as carbon is added while the iron is very hot. What makes steel much harder than iron was not really understood by the ancients who created it. All they knew was that at a certain point in the shaping of a sword they would lay the red hot blade into the coals for a few minutes then resume the process of hammering, cooling in water, re-heating, hammering, cooling in water, et cetera. The finished product was a sword that would not bend in battle and could be sharpened over and over. The blade was actually made up of many pieces of iron rods that were heated, flattened, and folded upon itself over and over. It was hard work, but that was what it took to create a fine, usable steel sword.

17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB) 

When we are born of the Spirit at regeneration we are new creations. However, that does not mean that we become instantly sinless. Nor does it mean that we are instantly mature and able to know the will of God in walking before Him for His glory alone. No, these attributes come over time and after much “smelting, hammering, cooling, re-heating of us in the fires of sanctification. When I was a young Christian I remember many times being on the verge of walking away from my faith. Why? It seemed that I was “in the fire” all the time. I am very glad that God preserved me, but I want to share with all of you reading this that God has not stopped this process in me. I have been a believer since 1986, but I am no where near complete and this is obvious as God has not relented in showing me how much I must suffer for the name of Christ. Continue reading

Lights in the World


by Mike Ratliff

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 (NASB) 

While Joel and Victoria Osteen believe that our Lord’s command to let your light shine before others is to prosper and show everyone how God is blessing you, this is not what He was talking about at all. We are not to be conformed to this world, we are to unified with our brothers and sisters in Christ while not being yoked to professing Christians who are not genuine, and we are to lay up our treasure in heaven not here on earth. Living like this makes one stand out because it is a way of life that is conformed to God and His ways, which are not the ways of the world. It will get the attention of the unregenerate. Continue reading

The Eyes of the Heart


by Mike Ratliff

15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:15-23 (NASB) 

I have used the term “Spiritual Blindness” quite a bit here in my posts and I have done so assuming that you all know what I am talking about. There are times, however, when I am utterly amazed at the depth of spiritual blindness in some professing Christians. I am not God. I am not omniscient so I do not know if some of these people are false believers or if they are simply very immature. If I knew them more personally perhaps I would know, but, in any case, when someone professes to be a Christian, but holds the view, “we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14), therefore, we need not bother with the law at all. We may do whatever we please even if it is condemned in Scripture.” This is the error of antinomianism. That term, antinomianism, means lawlessness – being against law. Those who are afflicted with this disease are so because God has not enlightened the eyes of their hearts with His truth.  Continue reading

I will strengthen thee


by Mike Ratliff

10 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10 (NASB) 

I saw an Christian encouragement meme a few days ago that went something like this, “When you see a Christian who is at peace in the midst of chaos what you are witnessing is a mature believer who has been through the fire and has learned where their strength comes from and in whom to trust.” Of course the source of their strength is the Lord and the one in whom they trust is also Him. Our enemy has his puppets in power seemingly everywhere right now. What is their message continually? Be afraid! Worry! Doom and gloom! This affects everything. Yes, we are in Christ, but we also must make our way through this fallen world on the way to the Celestial City. That means we have to make a living, prepare for retirement, somehow have the right medical care and insurance, etc. In other countries those things I mentioned aren’t even options. People are just after their next meal and struggle to provide for their families. This world is fallen and Satan has been allowed by God to be the ruler of those in darkness. Continue reading

They go from strength to strength


by Mike Ratliff

4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:
they will be still praising thee. Selah.
5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee;
in whose heart are the ways of them.
6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well;
the rain also filleth the pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. Psalms 84:4-7 (KJV) 

As many of you know, I turned 70 this last October. As my wife and I enter this decade of our 70’s together we are discovering that there is indeed many things unanticipated about our health that neither of us saw coming. However, the most frustrating thing for both of us is how difficult it is for us to deal with the bureaucracy of health care. We both know others in our age group who have worse health problems than us and also many older than us who really would need assistance trying to understand the maze of rules, regulations, and other pressures put on us that I for one never saw my parents having to deal with until they both were in their 80’s and had to be housed in an assisted living center because they could no longer take care of themselves. We are a long way from that, but honestly, the healthcare jungle for people in our age group is treacherous and has over that last several months elevated my anxiety way beyond anything I have been dealing with at work. As I was putting that post together last night about worship I was actually worshipping our Lord as I did so and while I did I knew I had to write something about how we deal with these health and healthcare issues and other pressures that God is using as tests and trials so that we come to Him for our strength. It is through this going from strength to strength that my faith not only remains strong, but I continue to mature as a disciple of Christ. Continue reading