Producing Much Fruit


by Mike Ratliff

1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. John 15:1-8 (NASB)

Have you ever heard a preacher say in one of his sermons something like this:

“God wants everyone to have a vision and so every Christian needs to try really hard to pursue a vision until it aches within them. Then they know its from God and then they need to run after it as hard as they can!”

Unfortunately, I have heard this in sermons online and while doing research. What passages from the Bible do you suppose they use to support that? Well, since its not found anywhere in God’s Word, they attempt to use passages out of context to do that and then misrepresent Jesus completely alien from the His Holy nature that we are given in Scripture to one of being more like a servant of these people. I believe they call this stuff either “vision-casting” or “vision-questing,” but, in any case, there are some so-called “evangelicals” who not only have those who preach this stuff come and preach it to their people, but they go to their “churches” as if they are all part of the same good ol’ boy network of ‘evangelicals.’ I think not. Oh, they may all be part of the same good ol’ boy network, but that ‘group’ has nothing to do with the Church and genuine Christianity.  Continue reading

The Open Door


by Mike Ratliff

24 They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. 25 When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. 27 When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. 28 And they spent a long time with the disciples. Acts 14:24-28 (NASB) 

Not all of the letters to the churches from our Lord in the book of Revelation were as harsh as the one to Laodicea. In his letter to the church in Philadelphia he commended their faith and good works. In that letter He made one marvelous statement (v8) that we will be the focus of this post. Continue reading

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God


by Mike Ratliff

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE,
AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-19 (NASB)

Genuine humility is found only in genuine believers. What the world sees as humility is often just self-deprecation, which is pride in reverse masquerading as humility. Then genuinely humble believer is the one who sees their true position before God. God’s ways are not our ways. The way people conceive of things naturally is not the way God does. For instance, when the Jews conceived of their Messiah coming they envisioned a conquering hero on a white horse defeating the Romans and setting up His capital in Jerusalem. However, what they got was a baby born in stable who had only a feeding trough for a bed. He did not come into the world at the head of an army to live in palaces. Instead our Saviour came as a man who lived a perfect sinless life, preached the truth, healed the sick, raised the dead then laid His life down as a perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, to take away the sins of His people. Continue reading

A Word Study


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, 2 ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις 3 περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, 4 τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, 5 διʼ οὗ ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ, 6 ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς κλητοὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 7 πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἀγαπητοῖς θεοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Romans 1:1-7 (NA28)

1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, a called apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ, 7 To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Part of the process I go through to determine what God wants me to write about or what to study is, of course, prayer and meditation. That meditation involves searching Sacred Scripture, seeking God’s truth. Sometimes that involves going deeper where I stop and dig deeper into a certain word or truth.  I became convinced that I needed to look up the Greek lexical definition for our English word “obedience.” From there I decided to do a study of how it is used in the New Testament and that would give us the understanding of the writers of those books of the Christians’ obligations to know and obey God’s commands. Continue reading

Humility Under the Lash


by Mike Ratliff

9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10 (NASB) 

There is a form of Christianity prevalent in post-modern America that has an incredible hold on some people to the point their conception of God is that He is little more than a vending machine or a kindly grandfather who would never hurt anyone. I speak, of course, of all forms of Christianity that are man-based. Their problem is that they are conceived of by people who have no patience for theology. Instead, they rely on their own conception of God based within the limits of their ability to reason. For instance, their conception of God is that He is too good to be unfair. Then, of course, their conception of what is fair and unfair enter into their reasoning. The end result is that, since God does not seem to come through the same for all people, then the problem must be with the people themselves. If one person is not healed while some are then those who are not healed must not have enough faith because God is fair and would not leave anyone in sickness while healing others. Continue reading

I Am Who I Am


by Mike Ratliff

14 God said to Moses, “ I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:14 (NASB) 

In our look at the Bible and the Christian view that it is the living Word of God, His communication to His people, we see that it is not just a collection of writings or a simply a history. The Holy Spirit not only indwells Christians he also indwells Sacred Scripture. When believers read and study the Word of God, The Holy Spirit works through it to accomplish spiritual, eternal work within them. God communicates with His people primarily through His Word. One of the main goals in this is His revelation of Himself to those who love Him.

Jesus Christ is the interpretive key to Sacred Scripture. Any other hermeneutic will lead people into various forms of heresy or unbelief. However, if we view all of scripture from this key, it enables us to see clearly the utter depravity of fallen man because it imparts this to us via God’s Word by the Holy Spirit working in our consciences and minds. We see that the Gospel is not what most of us have conceived of as we have listened to some preacher’s water-down version of it. No, we see that Christ is the center and purpose of all creation and that the Word of God clearly shows us God’s plan of redemption of those chosen before the foundation of the World. Continue reading

Dead to Sin Alive to God and Slaves to Righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NASB) 

The older I become as I journey down this narrow way the more what passes for Christianity seems more and more absurd. Why? I suppose it is that I have become very convicted that we are very guilty of taking God for granted. Instead of worshiping Him for who He is, we seem to be totally focused on His works. While we should worship Him for His works with a grateful heart, we are leaving out direct worship of our Wonderful, Awesome, and Majestic God for who He is.

Our salvation is an incredible gift by His grace. That is why it troubles me so when Christian leaders cheapen it with their man-focused, easy-believism. Easy-believism produces professing Christians who believe their salvation came as a result of something they did. I know this because I was one of them for nearly 20 years. If this is our mindset about our salvation, we believe that our walk as Christians is also totally dependent upon our will power. It is as if what the Bible teaches about regeneration is unheard of or at least completely misunderstood. Also, Jesus’ own words about the exclusivity of who are His disciples and who aren’t seems to be in code because few seem to grasp what He is saying. Continue reading

God Justifies the Ungodly


by Mike Ratliff

1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
7 “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN,
AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.
8 “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.” Romans 4:1-8 (NASB) 

I was in a discussion with one of our elders recently about the worship “style” at our church. I am almost 70 years old. He is about the same age. He and I both would prefer a more “traditional” music format, but he told me that it was not going to happen because the population in our area is predominantly made up of people who would not go for that at all, but are very much attracted to the more “up-to-date” music with the musicians and loud volume along with the videos with the lyrics, etc. However, he did say that our new worship leader has changed the music to be more focused on worshipping God alone and not about us. I did agree with him on that. I thought a lot about what he said and also about the fact that our church is really growing in spite of the Covid-19 stuff. Our pastor also preaches the full gospel, that is, Law and Gospel. On Easter Sunday I lost count of how many people were Baptized. My elder friend also told me that our church is structured in such a way that new Christians are encouraged and discipled while more mature believers are encouraged to serve. No one has demands put on them that are beyond their maturity level.  Continue reading

Not Legalism but Christ


by Mike Ratliff

6 τοῦτο γινώσκοντες ὅτι ὁ παλαιὸς ἡμῶν ἄνθρωπος συνεσταυρώθη, ἵνα καταργηθῇ τὸ σῶμα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, τοῦ μηκέτι δουλεύειν ἡμᾶς τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ· 7 ὁ γὰρ ἀποθανὼν δεδικαίωται ἀπὸ τῆς ἁμαρτίας. 8 εἰ δὲ ἀπεθάνομεν σὺν Χριστῷ, πιστεύομεν ὅτι καὶ συζήσομεν αὐτῷ, 9 εἰδότες ὅτι Χριστὸς ἐγερθεὶς ἐκ νεκρῶν οὐκέτι ἀποθνῄσκει, θάνατος αὐτοῦ οὐκέτι κυριεύει. Romans 6:6-9 (NA28)

6 Knowing this that our old humanity was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:6-9 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

As one who has been accused of being a Pharisee bound to legalism more times than I could ever recount, I was very pleased today when I heard a definition for “legalism” that I had never heard before. This definition of “legalism” states that the “legalist” is one who attempts to make legal and binding what is never addressed to be so by God. For instance, I was taught growing up by my well meaning parents that even to take a sip of an alcoholic drink was a sin. I have read the Bible cover to cover many times and I know for certain that there is no such command in scripture that is even close to that admonition. However, I did find several references to not becoming drunk with wine or strong drink. Our Lord turned water into wine at Cana. He drank wine at the Last Supper. Paul counseled Timothy to take a little wine with his food to help his stomach.  Continue reading

Spiritual Blindness


by Mike Ratliff

1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:1-3 (NASB) 

Not that long ago whenever I learned of a pastor or other “church leader” going off the rails morally I would be shocked as did most other believers I know. However, now, it seems that some things have changed. I read this article this morning and was not really that surprised at all. Of course, I was disgusted and wondered at the leadership of that church and the members of it that they would put up with such unchristian behavior. It is unquestioned that just as the Church in Europe has lost its way because of these things the very same thing is happening in the United States at an accelerating rate. The Church is apostatizing and it seems that many within who are standing firm against it are some who are attempting to cause division with attacks rooted in self-righteousness fueled by conspiracy theories such as King James Onlyism. Continue reading

Who is this Jesus?


by Mike Ratliff

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He *said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:13-17 (NASB) 

The career our God has graciously given me that provides for me and my family is a Database Administrator, however I have worked in nearly every area of Computer Technology since 1973. However, my passion outside of serving my Lord and Savior is photography. Some have said I should be professional photographer. I think I am a bit too old to start a new career. In any case, there have been some photos I have taken over the years that have struck a chord with some people in ways that has surprised me. I knew the shot was good. I knew it when I took it. I knew it was when I developed it on my computer as well, however, there is an artistic aspect to some of these shots that cause some people to react to them in ways that really surprise me at times. This “abstraction” is open to interpretation. Some react one way, others another way, while some other people don’t even like that shot while others love it. Art is like that. It can mean whatever you want it to mean depending upon the level of abstraction. Is our Lord Jesus Christ like that? I mean, is who He is open to discussion? Are all those ‘abstract’ versions of Jesus in our time valid? Those who insist they are make a grave error. Their error is that they ignore that the Bible, the Word of God, Sacred Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus Christ is God. Continue reading

You Are of Your Father the Devil


by Mike Ratliff

7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:7-8 (NASB) 

Relativism is the fatal disease of the unregenerate heart. Of course, it is a self-focused relativism. Everyone is unique, of course, but we have this built-in sense of ‘fairness’ that is antithetical to God’s Sovereignty. Several years ago my late friend and colleague Ken Silva was the subject of a satirical article meant to attack his character. If you think through that then you should immediately recognize the tactics of our enemy. Since he cannot refute the truth then he and his minions go after those who uphold the truth by attacking them directly. The article was a satirical portrayal of Ken killing a beast on the beach called an EvanJellyFish even though every now and then the beast said something that might be considered edifying. Ah, now we are back in that comfortable realm of relativism. It goes something like this, “Hey man, why are you attacking this brother in Christ? Look, he may practice Yoga and Contemplative Prayer and lead his congregation to pray to Mother God, but hey, look at all the edifying and nice thing he says in this book he just wrote!” That my brothers and sisters in Christ are the words of someone who thinks that the truth is truth because they think it is, but they do not know the words of God, the truth, because they do not hear them (John 8:46).  Continue reading

He Will Abundantly Pardon


by Mike Ratliff

4 “Behold, I have made him a witness to the peoples, A leader and commander for the peoples. 5 “Behold, you will call a nation you do not know, And a nation which knows you not will run to you, Because of the LORD your God, even the Holy One of Israel; For He has glorified you.” 6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  (Isaiah 55:4-8 NASB)

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is not editable. It is not open to change. No matter how much anyone  wants it to be otherwise, it is unchangeable. It is God’s Good News to be proclaimed to all fallen man. This good news is the proclamation that there is a way, only one way, for sinful people to be reconciled to God. It is good news because all people suffer from the same condition. They are born dead in trespasses and sins and are not morally able to do anything about it. This separates all of us from God because He is Holy and must judge all sin. The Gospel declares that Jesus Christ went to the cross and became sin on our behalf, our propitiation. God judged our sin in Him. This “atoned” for our sins. Now let us look at the pardon available to all who believe.

Continue reading

True Godliness: Separating Regenerate Christianity from Counterfeit Christianity


by Mike Ratliff

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36 and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39 (NASB) 

For those of you reading this who have also read my series on the Counterfeit Church, I pray you will also read this post. God is sovereign. I believe God is a Covenant God who has not relinquished any of His sovereignty nor has He left His people’s eternal status up to their fickle, fallen natures. However, those God saves are truly saved. Their hearts are regenerate. They are eternally His. None of eternal security is in their hands. Instead, they are held in His capable and omnipotent hands. Continue reading