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

Christ came to fulfill the Law


by Mike Ratliff

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:4-9 ESV)

I grew up as a Southern Baptist in Oklahoma. Even before I was saved in 1986 I had heard from teachers and preachers that Christians are under a dispensation of Grace while Old Testament believers were under a dispensation of the Law. The work Christ did on the cross did away with any need to be concerned about keeping the Law. Now, while that statement, in a sense, is true it is not true in another sense. What am I talking about? As we study the Law of God in the Old Testament we find two distinct sections of the Law. There is the ceremonial Law that includes the very complex system of festivals or feasts and a very detailed system of sacrifices. All of the ceremonial law was intended to be a type or picture of Christ and His work of atonement on the cross. This is a very complex topic and out of topic for this post. Maybe later. 🙂 The other section of God’s Law contains the Ten Commandments and all other commands that reveal God’s standards about sin. 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

Victory through Death


by Mike Ratliff

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1Corinthians 15:54-57)

There are times when I, like most of you, allow temporal things to cause me to focus on the here and now rather on the eternal aspects of all things. These temporal things are always God allowed distractions that test my faith. Lately, God has allowed some people to post comments on this blog that challenge things I have either posted or commented on here or on some other blog. Of course, my first reaction is to strike back with all of the intellectual capacity that God has given me. At times, of course, that reaction is based in pride and is, therefore, sinful for me to pursue it. Other situations do call for a rebuke from me especially when the comment comes from a basis in apostasy or heresy. Even so, I must not step into the fray from a basis in pride. If I do, then what I have actually done is forget that this life here is temporal and my focus must be on living in it from an eternal perspective. Continue reading