To whom be glory for ever


by Mike Ratliff

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NASB)

All of the mature Christians I have known were not focused in any way on themselves except where it came to self-examination, repentance, prayer and service. We all have to live in this sin soaked, evil world, which God uses as part of our sanctification so that means we must not do what the monks do, that is, escape from the world in an attempt to earn God’s favor through asceticism. No, we are to be in the world, but be not part of it.

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:13-19 (NASB) 

So, our Lord clearly tells us that we are actually “sent into the world,” however if we are in Him then we have already been spiritually removed from it though we are physically still here. Therefore, our focus as believers needs to be eternal rather than temporal. We need to take our Lord’s command on how to pray.

9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB) 

Carefully read v10. That is a prayer about God’s sovereignty. It places it and His kingdom above all our needs. We put Him and His kingdom first and our needs will be met, but more importantly, we will be used by Him in the furtherance of His kingdom. Continue reading

The Lord’s portion is His people


by Mike Ratliff

8 “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
When He separated the sons of man,
He set the boundaries of the peoples
According to the number of the sons of Israel.
9 “For the LORD’S portion is His people;
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 (NASB)

Over the years I have been part of and have witnessed many debates and discussions about our salvation and what parts God and we play in it. I have heard more than a few times professing Christians protest against the truth of passages such as John 6:44 and Ephesians 1 & 2 saying things like, “Whatever Jesus or Paul meant there, it couldn’t mean that!” Or, “I can’t see how you could have any assurance if that is true!” The “that” they were referring to, of course, was our salvation is 100% God’s work from beginning to end. It is that we are saved by Grace through Faith and that not of ourselves, it is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). To be honest, I am baffled by that reaction because I know for certain that unless God did everything to save me, I would still be lost. However, I am His and I worship Him daily praising Him for His grace and mercy from a grateful heart knowing full well that this sinner deserves nothing but His wrath for my sin, but He has forgiven me and cleansed me of all that, regenerated me unto a new creation and I am now one of His people. This is possible because of the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. Now, if you are in Christ, like me, then you are also one of His people, the Lord’s portion.

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Do I really love the Lord?


by Mike Ratliff

37 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ· ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου· 38 αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή. Matthew 22:37-38 (NA28)

37 And He said to Him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your understanding. 38 This is the great and first commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

In v37 (above) the word “heart” translates the Greek noun καρδίᾳ (kardia). It is from this word which, of course, is derived the medical terms such as cardiac and cardiologist. Its significance is enormous.It was used in secular Greek both in the literal and figurative sense, but the figurative was the most profound, picturing the heart as the seat of emotions and spirituality. In Homer’s time (eighth century BC) and onward, however, it took on the even more significant meaning of both spiritual and intellectual life, including man’s will and decision-making. Continue reading

The trial of your faith


by Mike Ratliff

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: 7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: 8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: 9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9 (KJV) 

Just a few years after God had mercy on me back in the mid-1980’s we moved from the Tulsa area to Edmond, OK. then just a few months later we moved again back to my home town, Yukon, OK. It was here that we joined the church in which was a huge part of us raising our children then rejoined it after 15 years of living again in Tulsa then Kansas then Edmond. One of the pastors of this church now was a Bible teacher back then and it was in his class that my wife and I were placed. It was from this man’s teaching that I learned so much of what I teach you. His name is Scott. One of his lessons I will never forget was about how God takes us and tries our faith in the fires of tribulation. He compared what God does to a gold refiner who holds the gold in fire until all the dross is burned away. He knows the process is complete and the gold can be taken from the flames when he can see his own reflection in the gold. Yes, I will never forget that lesson and every time I go through a trial I remember that and know what God is doing is actually answering my prayers to make me more Christlike. Continue reading

Underneath are the everlasting arms


by Mike Ratliff

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
by A.J. Showalter
What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Refrain:
Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.
O how sweet to walk, In this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
O how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Refrain
What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.
Refrain

Growing up in Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s I learned to love some, but not all, of those old hymns we sung. Even to this day I can still hear those voices in our church sing in those tones that were not loud or harsh or meant to entertain, but were directed to the throne in Heaven in praise. When my mother grew older and could no longer attend church because she was in an assisted living center I used to love to pick her up and take her to church, however, I could tell she would rather hear those old hymns than some of the newer stuff that our churches seem to be in love with these days. I am pretty much the same way. Give me real worship music and hymns with meaning and sermons rooted deep in solid Biblical doctrine and my soul is well pleased. I believe they call that edification. Continue reading

Overcoming the World


by Mike Ratliff

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. John 15:18-19 (NASB) 

I grew up as a Southern Baptist, however God did not haver mercy on this sinner until I was 34 years old. I have remained in Baptist churches for the most since then except while living in Kansas. The SBC churches there were either very pragmatic or too far away. The last church we attended before moving back to Oklahoma at the end of 2012 was Mission Road Bible Church in Prairie Village, KS. The pastor was Rick Holland. It was a very solid church. When we moved back to the OKC area we were shocked at first at how many churches there are here compared to the KC area. In any case, we ended up back in my home town and were invited back to the church in which I had served as a deacon and Bible teacher for many years in the 1980’s and 1990’s. That being said, the idiotic politics going on the SBC seem like light years away from what we are doing, but I do know that it causes each of us to question what is going on and ask what we should do to stem the liberal takeover of our denomination.
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Is it Slander or is it Discernment?


by Mike Ratliff

8 But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11 But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:8-12 (NASB) 

This discernment ministry stuff is not for everyone. I often wonder if I am cut out for it at all. I do not like conflict. On the other hand, God gifted me with the makeup that loves the truth and seeks justice because it is His truth and I am compelled, quite often, to speak out when false prophets besmirch His truth and the Gospel is treated as optional by certain “evangelicals.” However, there is a fine line between exposing that which is false and slander. That fine line has to do with intent and evidence. Continue reading

The Second Battle


by Mike Ratliff

I have taught and written much about the battle believers have, and will always have in this life, with their flesh. Most believers are enslaved to their flesh. Why? We were made with an insatiable desire for fulfillment. At birth we inherited our Sin Nature from Adam. We were all born that way. Prior to our salvation we sought fulfillment via it. It primarily utilized our flesh for that purpose. At our salvation through the washing of regeneration, our Sin Nature was cleansed from us. We are no longer hopeless sinners because of that.

However, if believers are not discipled correctly to become Spirit-filled, they may remain Christian babies for much too long. These believers have not learned to crucify the flesh. Instead, they still seek fulfillment from via the flesh, which is sin. The first battle that all Christians are in, is the battle to become free from the flesh’s dominance in our lives. We must learn to mortify our sins as we become Spirit-filled. We will always be in this battle, but there are victories available. Continue reading

What is a True Jesus Follower?


by Mike Ratliff

18 Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19 And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. Matthew 4:18-22 (NASB) 

It seems just like the other day, but I suppose it was about 15 years ago or so that the old Slice of Laodicea blog was going full tilt, Ken Silva and Ingrid were taking it as well as giving it from those who hated to hear the truth that there actually is a dividing line between Orthodox Christianity and everything else that calls itself Christian, but isn’t, that is, apostasy in one form or another. I came into the battle seeking the truth. I was desperate because my church was being sucked into the Purpose Driven paradigm and no one there would listen to my warnings. Ken was a great help to me. In any case, it was during all of that that we witnessed a group of individuals declare war on the Orthodox Christianity we defended, refusing to be called “Christians” any longer, preferring to be called “Christ followers.” I always looked at that with humor because that seemed so “self-righteous” and “pretentious” and if we look carefully at what these people were trying to say by that, they were driving themselves even further into a “works righteousness” religion. Let’s look at our Lord’s own words in his calling people to follow Him.  Continue reading

The Effect of the God-Centered Gospel


by Mike Ratliff

1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. 1 John 1:1-4 (NASB) 

Most, if not all, of the contention that I have experienced in this ministry has to do with people’s demand to be “justified” on their own terms. For instance, one fellow angrily told me that the genuine gospel was to do good works, to feed the hungry and minister to the homeless. Another one insists that all he has to do is love God and love everyone and that is how he experiences “salvation.” Are these valid forms of the Gospel? Continue reading

Perfectionism and the Second Blessing


by Mike Ratliff

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 1 Corinthians 15:50 (NASB) 

It is a very dangerous thing to interpret things extra-biblically that occur in our spiritual growth. For instance, in my own walk I was in a very stagnant spiritual state for over a decade from around 1990 until 2004. I had some growth spurts during that time, but they were always followed by years of mediocrity. Then in 2004 God took me through about 8 months of spiritual boot camp. I emerged a changed man. I really thought that I had come across some sort of ‘second blessing’ in which I had entered into a new level of spirituality that was easily accomplished simply following some sort of plan or formula. Continue reading

Paradoxes


by Mike Ratliff

24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Romans 7:24 (NASB) 

All genuine Christians have one thing in common—they are imperfect people who, no matter how much they desire to be Christlike, will struggle with the paradox of being new creations slowly becoming conformed to the image of their Savior while being mired in a body of death that wants to be ruled by their old sin nature. How often do we cry out to God to release us from this prison? What good can it do for us to struggle so with the demands of the flesh?

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Christians Should Bear Their Crosses With Patience


by Mike Ratliff

33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NASB) 

The natural man in each of us wants to paint God as a combination of a spiritual Santa Claus and the Genie from Aladdin’s Lamp. We tie our good works into how well our lives go. If we do good things then God will surely see to it that we don’t lose our jobs or we get a great raise each year or our health is good. Equity or fairness is our cry. Just look at our society. Even though it isn’t a reality everyone seems to demand that no one be offended or that everyone be treated fairly. This has bled over into the Church in the 21st Century.

Christians who are driven by their flesh are very superstitious. These folks are the suckers that the hucksters of the Word Faith movement prey upon. These folks give their money away to evangelists and faith healers hoping to be blessed. I remember when I lived in Tulsa in the mid-1980s that Oral and Richard Roberts were preaching “seed-faith” theology. That meant they asked people to send in their money to show their faith and in return God would bless them by multiplying their seed. In other words, send in some money and we guarantee you that God will give back to you even more. Continue reading