Daily Archives: July 15, 2017

July 15, 2017: Verse of the day

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Steadfastness in the Faith

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were thus occupied were not benefited. (13:7–9)

I believe the primary appeal of this passage is for Jews who had heard and professed the gospel not to return to legalism. The New Covenant in Jesus Christ has standards, very high standards, but they do not involve ceremonies, rituals, holy days, and formalities. They are internal, not external.

Just as those who led [us] who spoke the word of God, and just as Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, so we should be in our doctrine and practices. We are not to be carried away by varied and strange teachings. One of Satan’s most subtle approaches to the Christian is to move him away from sound doctrine, to get him wrapped up in beliefs that are unfounded, uncertain, and changing. Bad doctrine results in bad living.

Purity of Doctrine

One of the saddest things in the world is for a Christian to get drawn into false doctrine and be rendered ineffective, to lose his joy, reward, and testimony. Yet such has been happening since the earliest days of the church. Paul was amazed that some of the Galatian believers were “so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6–7). Sometimes false teachers are kind, likable, and perhaps even sincere. It is often difficult to believe they would teach anything false or misleading. But we are to judge doctrine by God’s Word, not by the appearance or personality of the person who holds it. “Even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (v. 8). In other words, even if Paul changed his teaching from the revealed truths he had been preaching, he should not be followed. Even an angel is not to be believed above God’s Word. The point is so important that Paul repeats it in the next verse: “As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”

These Galatians had started out in grace but were falling back under the law. They had begun in the Spirit, but were now trying to continue in the flesh. The Jews being addressed in Hebrews 13 were in danger of doing the same thing. The varied and strange teachings were not necessarily new teachings. They are not named, but it is likely that many, if not most, of the teachings were traditional Jewish beliefs. But they were strange to the gospel of grace.

Paul also warned the Ephesian elders of this danger. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29–30). The apostle commended them to God’s Word, the only resource they had for staying true to the faith (v. 32). The closing appeal of the book of Romans is, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Rom. 16:17).

The worst false teachers are those who go under the guise of orthodoxy. An avowed liberal, cultist, or atheist is easily seen for what he is. Satan’s best workers are the deceptive ones, who know they will get a better hearing from God’s people if their heresy is coated with biblical ideas. “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:13–14). Satan’s primary target is the church. He does not need to pervert the world, because it is already perverted, already in his camp. This is why the New Testament is so filled with warnings for Christians to beware of false teaching. Satan does wish to destroy the power of the truth in the church.

God knows that the greatest battle His church faces is purity of doctrine, because that is the basis of everything else. Every bad practice, every bad act, every bad standard of conduct, can be traced to bad belief. The end result of the work of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, and of believers becoming unified in the faith and maturing in Christ, is that “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). A church that is not sound in doctrine is unstable and vulnerable.

One of the marks of small children is lack of discernment. They have no way of telling what is good or bad for themselves. They judge only by feeling and whim. If something looks attractive, they may try to pick it up, even if it were a poisonous snake. If something looks remotely like food, they try to eat it. A child of three left to select his own diet would never live to four. He would either sweeten or poison himself to death.

Some Christians, unfortunately, show little more discernment than this in the spiritual realm. They have been so little exposed to sound doctrine, or so long removed from it, that they judge entirely by appearance and feeling. Consequently, the church is filled with babes, who swallow almost any teaching that is put before them, as long as it is not blatant heresy and the teacher claims to be evangelical. As a body, and as individual Christians, we cannot be steadfast in Christ unless we are “constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). As long as believers are immature, false doctrine is a major danger (cf. Eph. 4:11–16).

Rejection of Legalism

Jews were used to having religious regulations for everything, and it was hard for them to adjust to freedom in Christ. It was difficult for them to accept the truth Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 8:8, that “food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat.” All their lives they had been taught and had believed that what you ate and did not eat was extremely important to God. Even how it was prepared and eaten was important. Now they are told that those who were thus occupied were not benefited. Spirituality comes not by foods.

Being spiritually concerned about food is unnecessary under the New Testament. In fact, insisting on dietary regulations for religious reasons is against the gospel. Paul uses the harshest possible words to describe those who propagate such ideas.

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. (1 Tim. 4:1–5)

God had a hard time convincing Peter that the dietary and ceremonial restrictions of Judaism were no longer valid. Peter even argued with God when He commanded him in a vision to kill and eat a variety of unclean animals. The Lord had to tell him three times, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (Acts 10:15). Christ has rendered all external observances invalid and useless. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). The Colossians were exhorted: “let no one act as your judge in regard to food” (2:16). As Christians, our hearts are only strengthened by grace.[1]


8 This famous verse has neither verb nor immediate link with what precedes and follows to clarify what is its intention in context. Probably it is to be understood as summing up the faith of the church’s founders (its epigrammatic form suggests a well-memorized creedal “motto”), which the readers are now called to imitate. Following the mention of the “outcome” of these earlier leaders’ lives, it serves to reassure the readers that, whereas their founding fathers may have died, Jesus remains and always will remain a secure foundation for their faith. The unexpected word order that separates the first two time references from the last—“Jesus Christ yesterday and today the same, and forever”—is perhaps intended to emphasize that the fact that he has proved unchanged so far (“yesterday and today”) assures us he will remain the same for the future. Following the assurance of vv. 5–6, this verse thus locates the reliability of our unfailing God more specifically in the unchangeability of Jesus—and thus, as so often in this letter, places Jesus alongside God without distinction. (Cf. 1:12, where our author has quoted the description of God’s unchangeability in Ps 102:27 [using the same phrase “the same”] as though speaking of the Son; for the threefold division of time, cf. the doxologies of Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8.)[2] 13:8. Former leaders have died, but Jesus Christ remains the same. The constancy of Jesus enables us to follow the faith of great Christian leaders. The lives of the former leaders declared memorably the changelessness of Christ. Both the readers of Hebrews and believers today have access to the power and example of the unchanging Christ. Because of his past and present work, Jesus Christ can meet our every need.

Christ’s work of yesterday was to suffer for our sins on the cross. His work of today is to serve as our High Priest (Heb. 4:14–16; 7:25). His future work is to return and conclude God’s saving purposes (Heb. 9:28). Jesus never needs to be replaced, and his work needs nothing added to maintain its perfection.[3]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1983). Hebrews (pp. 435–438). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] France, R. T. (2006). Hebrews. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 185). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, p. 238). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

CultureWatch: Theological Liberalism and “Progressive Christianity”

At the turn of last century battles raged between theological conservatives and theological liberals, especially in Britain and America. The historical background to all this goes back another century to Europe – more on that in a moment. The issues however are still very much relevant to battles over the faith in the contemporary western world.

Today Christians who have a low view of Scripture and who reject many of the crucial doctrines of biblical Christianity like to refer to themselves as “progressives”. They somehow think they are making an improvement on things by rejecting much of the central content of New Testament Christianity.

Of course they are in fact regressive, and are engaged in some of the very things that Jesus and the disciples warned against. But I have written about this more recent form of theological liberalism elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/23/progressive-christianity/

liberalismHere I just want to repeat some of the vital warnings that Christian champions of the past had made concerning the inroads of theological liberalism into the churches and seminaries of that time. Whenever apostasy and heresy breaks out, God raises up his soldiers to defend the faith and challenge the harmful revisionists.

So if we want to combat the more recent attacks on the faith by progressive Christianity, simply reading about what the defenders of biblical orthodoxy said about their theological predecessors is of use here. But first let me offer a brief explanation of what I mean by theological liberalism.

Springing from movements such as the German Enlightenment, human reason became the source of all truth as opposed to biblical revelation. Mankind, aided and abetted by science and rationality, became the final authority of all things – not Scripture. Enlightenment naturalism replaced biblical supernaturalism.

Thus the Bible was criticised as being outdated and errant, and core doctrinal truths were downplayed or denied. And the miraculous – including the resurrection of Jesus – was strongly attacked. In his important 1958 volume, “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God, J. I. Packer lists five “characteristic tenets of liberal faith in America.” Here is a slightly abridged version of his five traits:

1. God’s character is one of pure benevolence, that is, without standards. All men are His children, and sin separates no one from His love. The Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man are alike universal.
2. There is a divine spark in every man. All men, therefore, are good at heart, and need nothing more than encouragement to allow their natural goodness to express itself.
3. Jesus Christ is man’s Saviour only in the sense that He is man’s perfect Teacher and Example. We should regard Him simply as the first Christian, our elder brother in the worldwide family of God. He was not divine in any unique sense.
4. Just as Christ differs from other men only comparatively, not absolutely, so Christianity differs from other religions not generically, but merely as the best and highest type of religion that has yet appeared. All religions are forms of the same religion, just as all men are members of the same divine family.
5. The Bible is not a divine record of revelation, but a human testament of religion; and Christian doctrine is not the God-given word which must create and control Christian experience.

Today’s progressive Christianity basically runs with the same destructive, watered-down agenda. Packer goes on to say this about it all:

Liberalism was an attempt to square Christianity with these anti-supernatural axioms. The result was tersely summed up by Machen: “The liberal attempt at reconciling Christianity with modern science has really relinquished everything distinctive of Christianity, so that what remains is, in essentials, only that same indefinite type of religious aspiration which was in the world before Christianity came on the scene. . . the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend.” Liberalism swept away entirely the gospel of the supernatural redemption of sinners by God’s sovereign grace. It reduced grace to nature, divine revelation to human reflection, faith in Christ to following His example, and receiving new life to turning over a new leaf; it turned supernatural Christianity into one more form of natural religion, a thin mixture of morals and mysticism. As Hebert rightly says: ‘Religion was being substituted for God.’ It was in protest against this radical refashioning of the historic faith that ‘Fundamentalism’ arose.

Appealing to Machen was very helpful indeed. He was one of the main defenders of biblical Christianity at the time, and his writings still repay careful reading today. His classic work on this – the one Packer just quoted from – is of course his brilliant 1923 volume, Christianity and Liberalism.

Let me offer a few more select quotes from it, also just from his introductory chapter:

“In the sphere of religion, in particular, the present time is a time of conflict; the great redemptive religion which has always been known as Christianity is battling against a totally diverse type of religious belief, which is only the more destructive of the Christian faith because it makes use of traditional Christian terminology. This modern non-redemptive religion is called ‘modernism’ or ‘liberalism’.”

“But manifold as are the forms in which the movement appears, the root of the movement is one; the many varieties of modern liberal religion are rooted in naturalism, that is, in the denial of any entrance of the creative power of God.”

“[W]hat the liberal theologian has retained after abandoning to the enemy one Christian doctrine after another is not Christianity at all, but a religion which is so entirely different from Christianity as to be long in a distinct category.”

“[D]espite the liberal use of traditional phraseology modern liberalism is not only a different religion from Christianity but belongs in a totally different class of religions.”

“[L]iberalism in the modern Church represents a return to an un-Christian and sub-Christian form of the religious life.”

Machen was not alone here. Many others were challenging the destructive theological trends of the day. For example, in the 1930s H. Richard Niebuhr was lamenting the emptiness of liberal Protestant theology. He nicely summed it up as something in which “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

Yep, that about captures its essence. Another champion of Christian doctrine was the fiction writer and English layperson, Dorothy Sayers. She delivered a short address in 1940 called “Creed or Chaos” which has since been printed in various forms.

A few quotes from this piece are well worth offering here:

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine – dull dogma as people call it. The fact is quite the opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man – and the dogma is the drama. Christ, in His divine innocence, said to the Woman of Samaria, ‘Ye worship ye know not what’ – being apparently under the impression that it might be desirable, on the whole, to know what one was worshiping. He thus showed Himself sadly out of touch with the twentieth-century mind, for the cry today is: ‘Away with the tedious complexities of dogma – let us have the simple spirit of worship; just worship, no matter of what!’ The only drawback to this demand for a generalized and undirected worship is the practical difficulty of arousing any sort of enthusiasm for the worship of nothing in particular.

 

The thing I am here to say to you is this: that it is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology. It is a lie to say that dogma does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let people suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe. It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealistic aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism. And it is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.

Many other defenders of the faith during this period could be cited here. But let me conclude with a humorous take on all this. It may have come from a television comedy, but what it says hits very close to the sad reality. I refer to a 1986 episode of Yes Prime Minister entitled “The Bishops Gambit” which dealt with the state of play of much of the Church of England at the time:

James Hacker: Humphrey, what’s a Modernist in the Church of England?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Ah, well, the word “Modernist” is code for non-believer.
James Hacker: You mean an atheist?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: No, Prime Minister. An atheist clergyman couldn’t continue to draw his stipend. So, when they stop believing in God, they call themselves “Modernists”.
James Hacker: How could the Church of England suggest an atheist as Bishop of Bury St Edmunds?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, very easily. The Church of England is primarily a social organization, not a religious one.
James Hacker: Is it?
Sir Humphrey Appleby: Oh yes. It’s part of the rich social fabric of this country. So bishops need to be the sorts of chaps who speak properly and know which knife and fork to use. The sort of people one can look up to.

You can see it here starting at the 9-minute mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3NGFFDQq0U
See also the 6-7 minute mark for more on theological liberalism as presented by Yes Prime Minister.

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The post Theological Liberalism and “Progressive Christianity” appeared first on CultureWatch.

What Is Wrong With the Church In America? Let’s Begin With Paula White

Absolute Truth from the Word of God

Anyone who has read my articles knows that I do not believe that the Word supports women as “Pastors.” Women should not exercise authority over a man in the church. Women should teach younger women (in the Lord) to love their husbands. Women should teach children in the church.

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven” (1 Corinthians 11: 3-5).

“The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young…

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The ‘New Breed’ Among Us (Part 1): Todd Bentley

Did you know Todd Bentley is a New Breed?

Most people are unaware that New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) leaders genuinely believe that little ‘gods’ actually walk the earth. We already have given examples of Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton trying to teach people to tap into their divine natures and encouraging them to walk as ‘little Gods’ or glorified ‘Christs’.

New Breed MSOG

This is because Apostles in the NAR follow a commission (as explained by Rick Joyner) known as the ‘Apostolic Commission’. This secret commission is given to Apostles in order to raise up a ‘New Breed’ of Christians. If you want to know why the ‘glory’ or ‘supernatural school’ started appearing in churches around the world, this is because leaders of these ‘churches’ are trying to raise up a spiritually supremacist race to lead the end-time Joel’s army church.

However, the NAR use a a range of words and phrases to…

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The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 4 – The Undivided Heart

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me;
For I am afflicted and needy.
2 Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man;
O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
For to You I cry all day long.
4 Make glad the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
7 In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You,
For You will answer me.
8 There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord,
Nor are there any works like Yours.
9 All nations whom You…

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The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 3 – The Worshipping Heart

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
Let the many islands be glad.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
3 Fire goes before Him
And burns up His adversaries round about.
4 His lightnings lit up the world;
The earth saw and trembled.
5 The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare His righteousness,
And all the peoples have seen His glory.
7 Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.
8 Zion heard this and was glad,
And the daughters of Judah have rejoiced
Because of Your judgments, O Lord.
9 For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth;
You are exalted far above…

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The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 2 – Back to Fundamentals

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control…

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The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 1 – Introduction

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

One of my favorite books outside of the Bible is John Bunyan’s allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan wrote this wonderful book while in prison for preaching without license from the Church of England. He was a 17th Century Baptist non-conformist preacher who was counted among the Puritans. The continuing appeal of this book, even into the 21st Century, is its inherent Christian authenticity. Through this authenticity we learn what real Christianity is and what it isn’t.

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The Compromised Church is a Friend of the World

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 3 I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
6 Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory…

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The Compromised Church and Ungodly Discernment

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:1-6 (NASB) 

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The Compromised Church and Humanism

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

13 “But He is unique and who can turn Him?
And what His soul desires, that He does. Job 23:13 (NASB) 

2 “I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2 (NASB) 

5 For I know that the Lord is great
And that our Lord is above all gods.
6 Whatever the Lord pleases, He does,
In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. Psalms 135:5-6 (NASB) 

9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10 as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not…

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The Compromised Church and spiritual blindness

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 (NASB) 

Since God placed me in this ministry back in 2006 I have been immersed in a battle against a most disturbing phenomenon in the Church in America. In this post we will take a closer look at it. What is it? It is the willful ignorance in our spiritual leaders.

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Self-Deceived Godliness

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may…

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