by Mike Ratliff
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
by Mike Ratliff
8 He came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For on the first of the first month he began to go up from Babylon; and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, because the good hand of his God was upon him. 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel. Ezra 7:8-10 (NASB)
If we study God’s Word from cover to cover we will find that only God is perfect. He is Sovereign. He is Holy. He is complete and perfectly righteous. On the other hand, people are none of the above. We are a fallen race who, even after God’s gracious regeneration of our hearts, must continually work our salvation with fear and trembling. That implies that we still sin. We still fall into temptation and become entangled. Even when God graciously allows us to walk in victory for awhile, we get our eyes off of Him and onto ourselves and begin to believe that we are invulnerable to the worst our flesh can throw at us. That, of course, sets us up for a next stumble.
by Mike Ratliff
33 “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 “ Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. 36 Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Luke 12:33-36 (NASB)
One recurring warning throughout the New Testament is that Christians should live in such a way that they will be ready when their Lord returns. What would that life look like? How should we live in order to be ready when He comes and knocks? I doubt that it would look like the self-indulgent, pop-culture oriented, heavily marketed, so-called Christian lifestyle that waters down the gospel and breeds “Christians” who are both theologically and scripturally ignorant. They follow “another Jesus” whose creators have designed to fit the image that draws the crowd they want. The “followers” of this “other Jesus” resent any call to live lives of repentance before a Holy God who is to be feared. What does the life look like that is prepared for our Lord’s return? Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:8-10 (NASB)
Many years ago in a much younger season in my life, I worked with a fellow whose theology was quite different than mine. I had small children at that time and whatever diseases they brought home from school, my wife and I always contracted them. I would come to work suffering from the plague given to me by my children causing my coworker to admonish me for having sin in my life, which, according to him, was the cause of my misery. His theology was that God’s will for His children was that they be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous instead of disease ridden, living within humble means, and not always “winning.” Continue reading
By Mike Ratliff
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. 2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB)
When I was a new Christian I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll in which he stated that before God can use a man for His purposes He must hurt him and sometimes rather severely. That was a quite startling to me at that time since that was so alien to the ‘doctrine’ I was exposed to in the church I belonged to. The focus there was that God was love and that He loved each of just the way we were. If that was so then what Swindoll was teaching wrong. However, as I studied my Bible I found that he was right and what I was hearing in church was wrong. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)
The enemy of our souls has from the beginning worked against all believers’ knowing and understanding the veracity of their eternal standing before God. God says that those who believe Him and obey Him, denying themselves in the process, have indescribable blessings awaiting them in eternity. Satan’s lie to us has never really changed. His goal is to distract us from the eternal promise then manipulate our flesh to demand that we focus on our own desires and needs in light of the temporal. Sadly, there is a growing movement that calls itself ‘Christian,’ but it’s message is focused on the here and now, not eternity. It is the Word Faith movement. For example, think of Benny Hinn and Todd Bentley who make incredible claims about their ability to heal with ‘signs and wonders.’ Related to it are preachers such as Joel Osteen who preach a message of prosperity and salvation by professing Christ in order to receive temporal blessings. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. 2 For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. 8 So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (NASB)
Holiness is commanded by God. He wills it. Our Lord Jesus Christ requires it and the Word of God calls for it. The goal of our redemption is that we become Holy as God is Holy. Our Lord died on the cross in order that all of His people would be justified. This justification is God’s declaration that we are righteous having Christ’s righteousness imputed to our account. This had to come first in order that we may be sanctified and made Holy. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 (NASB)
A study of the First Great Awakening which took place 1730-1755 in the British Colonies in America contains fascinating historical and personal information about George Whitefield, the Lightening Rod of the Great Awakening, and his relationship with John and Charles Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards. Whitefield and the Wesleys were not well educated in doctrine. They were devout believers and had a heart for the lost. However, their understanding of doctrine was no deeper than any other new believer’s. Over time Whitefield’s doctrine became more conformed to that of Jonathan Edwards’ after spending time with him in the Colonies. This changed his preaching drastically.However, Wesley stayed with his understanding of doctrine that he held from the day he was born again and that was Arminian. The reason Wesley was such a powerful revivalist, however, was not that he was an Arminian, but that he was a preacher of righteousness. He did preach that all men are dead in their trespasses and sins and would go to Hell if they did not repent and accept Jesus and Lord and Saviour. Whitefield was indeed the Lightening Rod of the Great Awakening. He was also a preacher of righteousness, but his doctrine was centered in the doctrines of grace. As believers surrender more and more to the Lordship of Christ in every area of their lives they are also surrendering to the sovereignty of God. This is a huge part of the process God uses to transform us unto the image of the Son. What is our part? Continue reading
By Mike Ratliff
14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Romans 6:14-15 (NASB)
Most of the formative years of my Christian walk were spent in one church from February 1987 through February 2000. During that time we had three pastors. I was in some form of teaching for most of that time. One of the things that always came up when we studied the Old Testament was Romans 6:14-15. It was as if someone always had to make sure that we were not being legalistic. They cast the law as far from them and our church as the East is from the West. Is that how we are to treat God’s Law? Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”
“Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.”
18 “I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the LORD Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NKJV)
As I have stated several times, I have been doing hours and hours of research on the various Eschatological views that we have all had to deal with. It is utterly amazing how confusing this gets if you dig down past the veneer of each one to look at each one’s foundation and then see the inconsistencies, the outright attempts to say something is Biblical when it is found nowhere in Scripture, the overwhelming use of Biblical Eisegesis and cherry picking of scripture rather than relying solely on solid Biblical Exegesis and context. I have followed claims by so many “prophecy experts” who claim they have disproven this or that view of Eschatology only to find out that they are simply giving their opinion based on more Biblical Eisegesis and cherry picking of scripture. I have had this headache that has gotten worse and worse over the last few weeks that I simply cannot get rid of unless I relax, get away from my books and computer, drink some hot tea, and ask God to help me sort things out. I mean, after all, there is no way all these people could be right. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 2 He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, You know.” Ezekiel 37:1-3 (NASB)
As Christians walk through their days that turn into weeks that turn into months that turn into years that turn into decades that turn into the length and breadth of their lives, they are continually put into circumstances where they must either believe and obey God or disbelieve and disobey Him. Most believers I know have a horrible habit of limiting God by their lack of faith. Tragically, these decisions can result in walls of spiritual blindness to become erected in their hearts. With this spiritual blindness can come apathy or, worse, apostasy. Their decision to limit God with their lack of bold brokenness is based in idolatry. This idolatry consists of self-protection that, at least in the beginning, seems to alleviate the fear that comes from their timidity that keeps them from believing God and obeying Him. Timidity is a product of pride that masquerades as humility. The world sees a timid person and believes he or she is humble when, in fact, they are full of pride and will not take risks that could involve them to suffer from some perceived threat if they obey God.
by Mike Ratliff
8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness. 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12 (NASB)
As I stated in yesterday’s post, I have been doing a great of research on the “order of things” Paul was referring to in 2 Thessalonians 2. I have been lining up those things with our Lord’s Olivet Discourse and, of course, the Apostle John’s account in Revelation. Why? I said yesterday that I simply cannot get past this and when this happens I know God is working. Also, our enemy knows this and I have been hammered from every direction with “doubts” about doing this and thoughts like, “if you continue to pursue this you will lose all your friends or may even have to change to another church!” Now, would God put those sorts of thoughts in my mind? Of course not! That is not how God works. I have been sifting through all sorts of articles, sermons, videos, and scripture pertaining to this topic along with the “Mark of the Beast,” “who is the Beast,” “who is the False Prophet,” and I assure you this data gets mucky in a hurry. Then I listened to a sermon where the preacher was addressing whether the Covid-19 vaccinations were the Mark of the Beast and whether a believer could take the Mark unintentionally. While I didn’t listen to the whole sermon I did agree with what he said right up front. He stated that genuine believers are saved by Grace through Faith and are sealed by the Holy Spirit at that point with the Mark of God and so could never receive the Mark of the beast. I rejoiced when I heard that, but why? Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NASB)
1 Ἐρωτῶμεν δὲ ὑμᾶς, ἀδελφοί, ὑπὲρ τῆς παρουσίας τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ ἡμῶν ἐπισυναγωγῆς ἐπʼ αὐτὸν 2 εἰς τὸ μὴ ταχέως σαλευθῆναι ὑμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ νοὸς μηδὲ θροεῖσθαι, μήτε διὰ πνεύματος μήτε διὰ λόγου μήτε διʼ ἐπιστολῆς ὡς διʼ ἡμῶν, ὡς ὅτι ἐνέστηκεν ἡ ἡμέρα τοῦ κυρίου·
3 Μή τις ὑμᾶς ἐξαπατήσῃ κατὰ μηδένα τρόπον. ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ ἔλθῃ ἡ ἀποστασία πρῶτον καὶ ἀποκαλυφθῇ ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς ἀνομίας, ὁ υἱὸς τῆς ἀπωλείας, 4 ὁ ἀντικείμενος καὶ ὑπεραιρόμενος ἐπὶ πάντα λεγόμενον θεὸν ἢ σέβασμα, ὥστε αὐτὸν εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ θεοῦ καθίσαι ἀποδεικνύντα ἑαυτὸν ὅτι ἐστὶν θεός. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NA28)
1 Now we ask you, brothers, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 for you to not be quickly shaken from your mind nor to be alarmed, neither by a spirit, nor by a word nor by a letter as if it has come by us that the Day of the Lord has come.
3 Let not anyone deceive you any way because it will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the Man of Lawlessness be revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or an object of veneration so that he takes his seat in the Temple of God presenting himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
As you can probably tell, I have been doing a great deal of research into these very important eschatological elements. It is as if I cannot get past this study. When that happens I pay attention. God is working. What is Paul talking about in these verses? The Thessalonians had contacted him and were very upset because someone had told them, pretending to be him in some way, that the persecution they were experiencing was part of the Day of the Lord. That meant they had missed being gathered together with the rest of the saints. That meant they were experiencing the Wrath of God and that is something all believers should know that we will never experience. Yes, we will experience tribulation θλίψις (thlipsis) because the world hates the truth and if we are walking in the truth and are obedient to the Word of God then the world will hate us as well. So, Paul was telling the Thessalonians that they were experiencing thlipsis, but the events that must happen that precedes the coming of our Lord to gather the saints have not happened yet. Let’s look at those events. Continue reading
by Mike Ratliff
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. Philippians 2:14-16 (NASB)
The more I study the End Times or Eschatology the more I understand how important it is for us to walk before the Lord right now as spirit-filled, obedient believers no matter what our circumstances are. Why? Carefully read that passage I placed at the top. Are we not living in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation? Oh my yes, but our calling is to appear here in this world as lights and we do this by holding fast to the word of life, that is, we walk before our Lord living Godly, obedient, lives that are marked by repentance. We should walk this way knowing that time is short and God is using us to bring more and more into the Kingdom. Continue reading