Faith Comes First


by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB) 

The genuine Christian is a new creation. He or she will not be the same after regeneration as they were before. Before regeneration they were children of wrath and conformed to this world. After regeneration they were adopted children of God who, from an eternal perspective, are Holy, justified, sanctified, and glorified in Christ. However, from a temporal perspective they are in the process of sanctification that God uses to conform His children unto the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The unregenerate may suffer. They may have a large number of problems. However the suffering of Christians is different. God uses suffering, tests, and trials in the lives of His children to build humility and uproot pride in their hearts. Continue reading

I will strengthen thee


by Mike Ratliff

10 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10 (NASB) 

I saw an Christian encouragement meme a few days ago that went something like this, “When you see a Christian who is at peace in the midst of chaos what you are witnessing is a mature believer who has been through the fire and has learned where their strength comes from and in whom to trust.” Of course the source of their strength is the Lord and the one in whom they trust is also Him. Our enemy has his puppets in power seemingly everywhere right now. What is their message continually? Be afraid! Worry! Doom and gloom! This affects everything. Yes, we are in Christ, but we also must make our way through this fallen world on the way to the Celestial City. That means we have to make a living, prepare for retirement, somehow have the right medical care and insurance, etc. In other countries those things I mentioned aren’t even options. People are just after their next meal and struggle to provide for their families. This world is fallen and Satan has been allowed by God to be the ruler of those in darkness. Continue reading

Talkative


by Mike Ratliff

One of my favorite books is The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This book was published in 1678 after Bunyan had been in prison from 1661 to 1672 then again for six months in 1677. He worked on the manuscript for The Pilgrim’s Progress during the second half of his first imprisonment and finished it during his second imprisonment. Why was he in jail? He was a non-conformist Baptist preacher. He would not submit to the Church of England. He could have been freed after the first three months of his first imprisonment if he would agree to stop preaching. However, he would not do so.

This book has had a huge impact on Christians all over the world. It has been in print constantly since it was first published. It’s success and impact are directly related to the suffering of Bunyan, which leaks through every page of this book. His suffering authenticates the message. Continue reading

They go from strength to strength


by Mike Ratliff

4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house:
they will be still praising thee. Selah.
5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee;
in whose heart are the ways of them.
6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well;
the rain also filleth the pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. Psalms 84:4-7 (KJV) 

As many of you know, I turned 70 this last October. As my wife and I enter this decade of our 70’s together we are discovering that there is indeed many things unanticipated about our health that neither of us saw coming. However, the most frustrating thing for both of us is how difficult it is for us to deal with the bureaucracy of health care. We both know others in our age group who have worse health problems than us and also many older than us who really would need assistance trying to understand the maze of rules, regulations, and other pressures put on us that I for one never saw my parents having to deal with until they both were in their 80’s and had to be housed in an assisted living center because they could no longer take care of themselves. We are a long way from that, but honestly, the healthcare jungle for people in our age group is treacherous and has over that last several months elevated my anxiety way beyond anything I have been dealing with at work. As I was putting that post together last night about worship I was actually worshipping our Lord as I did so and while I did I knew I had to write something about how we deal with these health and healthcare issues and other pressures that God is using as tests and trials so that we come to Him for our strength. It is through this going from strength to strength that my faith not only remains strong, but I continue to mature as a disciple of Christ. Continue reading

Efficacious Faith vs. Man-made Faith


by Mike Ratliff

13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14 (NASB) 

Efficacious adj. producing the desired effect – from The Oxford New Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus Third Edition.

Christian faith has appeared to many an easy thing; nay, not a few even reckon it among the social virtues, as it were; and this they do because they have not made proof of it experimentally, and have never tasted of what efficacy it is. For it is not possible for any man to write well about it, or to understand well what is rightly written, who has not at some time tasted of its spirit, under the pressure of tribulation; while he who has tasted of it, even to a very small extent, can never write, speak, think, or hear about it sufficiently. For it is a living fountain, springing up into eternal life, as Christ calls it in John iv.1

Saving or efficacious faith is not the same thing as the best faith man can muster through the exercise of the will. According to our Lord Jesus in John 4:13-14 (above), efficacious faith is that which is given to the believer by God and this same faith will become in the believer a spring of water welling up to eternal life. This is not belief that is the product of reason or intellectual assent. It is not a belief that the believer must generate and desperately hold onto lest it be diminished and be lost. In the excerpt from Martin Luther’s letter to Pope Leo X, Concerning Christian Liberty, we read that those who conceive of faith as something done by the believer count it as simply a social virtue and that is an easy thing. Luther says that those with this concept of faith believe as they do because they have not experienced efficacious faith and have never tasted the great strength there is in it. I contend that the purveyors of the Seeker-Sensitive, NAR, and WOKE forms of “Christianity” are of the same sort of faith Luther is contrasting in this letter with genuine believers who are so because they have drunk of the water given to them by the Lord that has become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. These of the New Type of Christianity have a faith consisting of works-righteousness. This is a man-made faith not the efficacious faith that is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:1-10).  Continue reading

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

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

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.
Continue reading

Are Christians Saved by Making Decisions for Christ?


by Mike Ratliff

11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
16 However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:11-17 (NASB) 

Look at the passage at the top of this post (Romans 10:11-17). I remember memorizing v13 several years ago when I was in Evangelism Explosion training. We pulled that verse out of Romans 10 and used in part of our gospel presentations. Does this passage show us the human side of the order of salvation? Start in v15. Preachers of the Gospel must be sent. Then from v14 we see that the preachers are to preach the Gospel. Then people hear the Gospel. As they hear the Gospel they believe. Then they call on the name of the Lord and are saved. It is very important that we see that belief comes before a person calls on the name of the Lord. Now let’s compare this with another passage. Continue reading

Do Not Be Anxious


by Mike Ratliff

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25 (NASB)

As many of you know I turned 70 earlier this week. I am planning on retiring from my DBA job in December. We are working with various financial consultants, lawyers, the V.A., Social Security, etc. to prepare for that time when I won’t be getting a paycheck every couple of weeks. Then, I opened my email this morning and there was one of those scary emails from a company that is selling a specialized investment thing that they say works within an I.R.S. loophole, whatever that is. But the trick they use to get your attention is a quote and testimonial from a financial expert who is predicting that the Dollar will collapse at the end of October this year. Of course, with the stage I am in right now this opened me up to that dreaded “spirit of fear” that I have written about on this blog. What would we do if the dollar became worthless? What about our food, our livelihood, et cetera? Then I remembered how I responded to those professing Christians who were giving in to the spirit of fear when the COVID-19 stuff started as they actually contributed to the spreading that fear instead of being Christlike and not fearful as we are told to do in Scripture. Is this any different? Continue reading

Are All Christians Called to Be Holy?


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

Law and Faith


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

The Staggering Question


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.

Continue reading