Prayer is Powerful

by Mike Ratliff

Why do we pray? Don’t we pray because we have been instructed to do so in the Bible? Sadly, most Christians probably aren’t praying in a way that honors God or builds faith. Martin Luther wrote much on prayer. In his chapter “Of Prayer” from Table Talk, we learn the Biblical concept of prayer rather than one from Man’s reason. The following lesson is numbered CCCXXVIII.

by Martin Luther

None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience. It is a great matter when in extreme need, to take hold on prayer. I know, whenever I have earnestly prayed, I have been amply heard, and have obtained more than I prayed for; God, indeed, sometimes delayed, but at last he came.Ecclesiasticus says: “The prayer of a good and godly Christian availeth more to health, than the physician’s physic.”

O how great a thing, how marvellous, a godly Christian’s prayer is! how powerful with God; that a poor human creature should speak with God’s high Majesty in heaven, and not be affrighted, but, on the contrary, know that God smiles upon him for Christ’s sake, his dearly beloved Son. The heart and conscience, in this act of praying, must not fly and recoil backwards by reason of our sins and unworthiness, or stand in doubt, or be scared away. We must not do as the Bavarian did, who, with great devotion, called upon St Leonard, an idol set up in a church in Bavaria, behind which idol stood one who answered the Bavarian, and said: Fie on thee, Bavarian; and in that sort often repulsed and would not hear him, till at last, the Bavarian went away, and said: Fie on thee, Leonard.

When we pray, we must not let it come to: Fie upon thee; but certainly hold and believe, that we are already heard in that for which we pray, with faith in Christ. Therefore the ancients ably defined prayer an Accensus mentis ad Deum, a climbing up of the heart unto God.

Let’s remember that God’s beloved can come boldly unto the throne of grace to pour out their hearts to their Lord who only wants their best.

The Grace of the Cross

O My Saviour,

I thank thee from the depths of my being

    for thy wondrous grace and love

    in bearing my sin in thine own body on the tree.

May thy cross be to me

        as the tree that sweetens my bitter Marahs,

        as the rod that blossoms with life and beauty,

        as the brazen serpent that calls forth the look of faith.

By thy cross crucify my every sin;

Use it to increase my intimacy with thyself;

Make it the ground of all my comfort,

            the liveliness of all my duties,

            the sum of all thy gospel promises,

            the comfort of all my afflictions,

            the vigour of my love, thankfulness, graces,

            the very essence of my religion;

And by it give me that rest without rest,

     the rest of ceaseless praise.

O My Lord and Saviour,

Thou has also appointed a cross for me to take up and carry,

    a cross before thou givest me a crown.

Thou has appointed it to be my portion,

    but self-love hates it,

    carnal reason is unreconciled to it;

    without the grace of patience I cannot bear it,

        walk with it, profit by it.

O blessed  cross, what mercies dost thou bring with thee!

Thou art only esteemed hateful by my rebel will,

    heavy because I shirk thy load.

Teach me, gracious Lord and Saviour,

    that with my cross thou sendest promised grace

    so that I may bear it patiently,

    that my cross is thy yoke which is easy,

    and thy burden which is light.

From The Valley of Vision – A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions compiled by Arthur Bennett

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Fine Tuning Purity and Seeing God

by Mike Ratliff

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8 ESV)

How important is it for Christians to be pure in heart? If we look at Jesus’ statement from Matthew 5:8 we see that those who are pure in heart shall see God. What does that mean? Is this a promise that the only ones who do attain a pure heart will be in eternity with God? Or, does it mean that our English/American understanding of the terms used in this statement by Jesus are inadequate to convey the truths correctly? Perhaps it is both. Also, what does it mean for a Christian to be pure in heart? Jesus is telling us that this is very important. I have heard teachings on the Beatitudes that say that the Christlikeness demanded by Jesus in this sermon is only possible for people who have been glorified. That means that they believe in a Millennial Reign by Christ some time in the future where Christians now will live in perfection for 1000 years ruling and reigning with Christ. In other words, they are teaching that Christ’s call for Christian’s to be pure in heart is not possible for us here and now. Continue reading

A Genuine Evangelist

by Mike Ratliff

The Church in the “West” appears to have lost its way. Around the middle of the 20th Century the method used to “do church” in the United States changed. Prior to this, most churches held two “services” each Sunday. One would be primarily devoted to evangelism while the other would be used to exhort and encourage the body. Along with the evangelical service there would a associated prayer meetings. The “message” preached during this service would start with God and end with God. Those in attendance would hear about God’s Holiness, Righteousness, Justice and Wrath against all sin. They would hear about God’s requirements for eternal life. Only after these realities were on the table would the good news be preached. Continue reading

It’s Time to Grow Up

by Mike Ratliff

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11 ESV)

When the Lord circumcised my heart in August 2004, I was truly amazed at the level of spiritual discernment that came with that blessing. Leading up to this, God had drawn me ever deeper into our relationship. I had been in a deep, close, intimate walk with Him over a period of several weeks. I was fasting from anything that distracted me from my devotion to Him. I was praying, worshipping, studying my Bible, and researching doctrine, all in obedience to His drawing me to Him. Just a few days before Labor Day in 2004 I woke up one morning and knew that everything had changed. It was probably the most joyous and humbling experience I have ever had. I realized right then that I no longer cared for anything except to do His will. His glory was paramount. For someone who was had been in bondage to self-focused, flesh oriented, desperate pursuits for self-gratification for over 50 years, this was a genuinely miraculous thing.
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Fasting and Feasting

by Mike Ratliff

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6 ESV)

My dear Christian brothers and sisters, God took me away from writing and blogging for a week. He made it so that I had no time for anything but being a good husband, father, father-in-law, son and friend every day since Tuesday last. I spent a week in Oklahoma preparing for the marriage vow renewal ceremony for my wife and I. My time during this period was mostly with my wife and daughter during the day and my son-in-law in the evening. The ceremony was very well done. My son and my son-in-law took care of picking up my parents, making sure they made to the ceremony then taking them home afterward. I got to see some friends from our old church in Oklahoma whom I rarely get to see. After the reception, my wife and I drove to Guthrie and spent the next two nights in a Bed and Breakfast there complements of our children.
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Wives and Husbands

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:22-27 ESV)

This will be my last post this week. My wife and I are traveling from our home in the Kansas City area to Oklahoma City for a week. While there we will be renewing our vows. Our 25th wedding anniversary is the 19th. We will be having the ceremony at the chapel on the campus of the University from which I graduated in 1985. My children have arranged and set up everything. They have also got us two nights in a Victorian Bed and Breakfast in Guthrie, Oklahoma. I should be back home sometime next Monday the 23rd. I don’t think I will have time to write, post or moderate much for the next week, but I will try to check Possessing the Treasure to make sure everything is okay when I can.

In the mean time, I would just like to take this time to encourage each one reading this with Paul’s exhortation to husbands and wives from his Epistle to the Ephesians. None of us are perfect. The environment of a husband and wife living under the same roof is ripe for conflict. That is, it is if one or both of them are selfish, self-centered and looking out for number one. These things poison a marriage. My mom and dad are in their eighties and have been married since 1945. Probably the number one thing I learned from that marriage is that selflessness is vital to a healthy marriage. This is not selflessness by one party and selfishness by the other. If both seek the best for the other in all things, with a determination to love the other by choice, not feelings, then that marriage will be healthy. Notice, I did not say anything about money or possessions or children or a job. These are part of any marriage, but they are not what makes the marriage. Children are blessings from God, but they do not necessarily make a marriage healthy automatically. I love my children, but I love my wife more.

How can we do this? Having a deep personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ is key. Married Christians who are growing unto Christlikeness will also treat their spouses as Jesus would. I heard a pastor say once that he was counseling a woman who was complaining about her marriage because it was full of conflict. The pastor then asked this question, “Do you think your spouse would be in this conflict with Jesus?” She was stunned and replied, “No, of course not.” So, if we treat our spouses as Jesus would, will we struggle with hurt feelings, anger over harsh words, or worry about everything?

Finally, love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole heart and with your entire being. Give Him your all then watch how all of your relationships, including your marriage, become subject to Him.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

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God is Sovereign

by Mike Ratliff

But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old. When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’– for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. (Acts 4:19-28 ESV)

When we make statements like, “God is Sovereign.” we sometimes include a qualifier in that statement like this, “God is Sovereign over ‘something.” That is a fallacious statement though meant well. God is Sovereign. There is no need to add any qualifier to that statement. I have heard many well meaning people say, “God is Sovereign over salvation.” Well, He is, but He is also Sovereign over all of creation. There is nothing He is not sovereign over.
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A Colloquy on Rejoicing

Remember, O My Soul,

It is thy duty and privilege to rejoice in God:

He requires it of thee for all his favours of grace.

Rejoice then in the giver and his goodness,

Be happy in him, O my heart, and in nothing but God,

for whatever a man trusts in,

from that he expects happiness.

He who is the ground of thy faith

should be the substance of thy joy.

Whence then come heaviness and dejection,

when joy is sown in thee,

promised by the Father,

bestowed by the Son,

inwrought by the Holy Spirit,

thine by grace,

thy birthright in believing?

Art thou seeking to rejoice in thyself

from an evil motive of pride and self-reputation?

Thou hast nothing of thine own but sin,

nothing to move God to be gracious,

or to continue his grace towards thee.

If thou forget this thou wilt lose thy joy.

Art thou grieving under a sense of indwelling sin?

Let godly sorrow work repentance,

as the true spirit which the Lord blesses,

and which creates fullest joy;

Sorrow for self opens rejoicing in God,

Self-loathing draws down divine delights.

Hast thou sought joys in some creature comfort?

Look not below God for happiness;

fall not asleep in Delilah’s lap.

Let God be all in all to thee,

and joy in the fountain that is always full.

From The Valley of Vision – a collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur Bennett

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Faith and Hope

by Mike Ratliff

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2 ESV)

What is the difference between faith and hope? Are they the same thing? They are not the same, but they are two sides of the same coin. If I want my old College to win in football against our biggest rival that is hope. On the other hand, if I believe it will happen then it is faith. With this faith, my hope is enhanced. It becomes active. On the other hand, if I have little faith that it will happen then my hope becomes simply wishful thinking. What about our faith through which we are saved by grace? Is this faith simply working up enough belief so that our hope becomes strong, or is there more to it than that?
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What is Truth?

by Mike Ratliff

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. (John 18:33-38 ESV)

There are times that I wonder why I continue to write these posts, to do the research, answer questions, and continue to contend with those who have their own idea about what “The Truth” is. It seems that I have become an open target for some people bound and determined to prove to the world that I don’t know what I’m talking about nor do I present the truth to their liking. Perhaps God has allowed this to happen so that I can exercise my faith and discernment and rely on Him even more. What I find very interesting in this is that this seems to have occurred after I decided to fast and pray with a friend on Monday the 16th of October. We will be fasting and praying for many things, but my primary purpose in this fast will be to pray for the “remnant” of the Church in the USA to repent and turn their hearts back to God. I think I made the mistake of making this fast public last week as the discussion was in the comment section of one of my posts.
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In Prayer


In prayer I launch far out into the eternal world,

    and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs

    over all evils on the shores of mortality.

Time, with its gay amusements and cruel disappointments

    never appears so inconsiderate as then.

In prayer I see myself as nothing;

    I find my heart going after thee with intensity,

    and long with vehement thirst to live to thee.

Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit

    that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.

In prayer all things here below vanish,

    and nothing seems important

    but holiness of heart and the salvation of other.

In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear,

    and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.

In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts

    at what thou art doing for thy church,

    and I long that thou shouldest get thyself a great name

    from sinners returning to Zion.

In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life,

    and taste heavenly joys;

    entering into the eternal world

    I can give myself to thee with all my heart,

    to be thine for ever.

In prayer I can place all my concerns in thy hands,

    to be entirely at thy disposal,

    having no will or interest of my own.

In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers,

    sinners, the church, thy kingdom to come,

    with greatest freedom, ardent hopes,

    as a son to his father,

    as a lover to the beloved.

Help me to be all prayer and never to cease praying.

From The Valley of Vision – A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions by Arthur Bennett

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Secret Prayer Distinguishes Sincerity from Hypocrisy

by Mike Ratliff

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1 ESV)

Of all of the things Christians do that sets them apart from non-believers, prayer is both practiced heavily and not well understood. There is controversy about what genuine prayer is and isn’t. The Word-Faith people go so far as to use prayer like a vending machine. I could write a post everyday on prayer in this blog from now until the Lord takes me home and never run out of things to write about. Before we go any further in this discussion I want to state here that I am no expert on prayer. My favorite place and time to pray is in my home office in the morning right after showering and dressing before I eat breakfast. I am still learning how to pray. Public prayer like in church prayer meetings or in a Bible study class or a Deacon’s meeting are things that I struggle with. I am not good at it. I hear other people pray out loud and am amazed at the depth and intricate wording of their prayers. Mine are short and sweet. It’s not that I don’t see the value in public prayer, but it seems somewhat pointless to ask someone to pray before a bunch of people who is not prepared or is in the midst of a personal struggle of some kind or is just having a bad day. Then when that person struggles with praying like that there are some who are positive that person’s spiritual maturity is nil. Continue reading

Salt and Light

by Mike Ratliff

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 14:25-35 ESV)

Thomas More was one of the 16th Century’s most promising scholars before he became one of Henry VIII’s men. He was friends with Erasmus. These two Roman Catholic apologists would write enlightening works and were, therefore, allowed access to the higher echelons of society and the church. They would defend the Pope and the Roman Church with vigor, but in private they would write letters to each other making jokes about the corruption in the monasteries and with the Pope himself. To them, Christianity was all about religion not about faith. The Church was their means to their scholarly pursuits. More had a certain nobility of character that opened doors to wealth and power. When he was young he wrote his first book, Utopia, with Erasmus in mind. It was published in 1516. In it, he gave notice that there was a great humanistic scholar in England. He had graduated from Oxford and thereby became a Latin and Greek scholar. He had the tools to become a great Biblical apologist. However, his rise to power in English society took him down another path. He was knighted in 1521. He became Speaker of the House of Commons in 1523 because Henry VIII favored him. He became Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in 1525. Continue reading