The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 10 – The Enduring Heart


by Mike Ratliff

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (NASB)

My natural inclination is to resent uncomfortable circumstances. I want them to end and end now! Believers are spiritual, but their natural man, their flesh, is still within. My natural man does not understand how anything constructive can come out of sorrow and suffering. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit we are all uncomfortable with things not working out the way we want them to. Our problem is we want good things to be the norm in our lives because we love the Lord and are living for Him. When bad things happen or things do not work out the way we want, we hunker down in our self-pity. We ask God and others, “Why is this happening to me?” That is not the response of the Enduring heart. That is the response of the self-focused heart. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 9 – The Winsome Heart


by Mike Ratliff

16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; Matthew 10:16-17 (NASB)

Winsome: generally pleasing and engaging often because of a childlike charm and innocence.

Sometimes I feel like I am walking a tightrope. The Spirit-led walk is truly balanced; however, it is hard work to stay balanced. On one hand we are told we must be wise and discerning because men are evil, but at the same time we must stay harmless, winsome and engaging. Jesus said we must not strike back. Instead, we are to turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39) We are to be that winsome person who reflects Christ’s character to everyone. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 7 – The Tender Heart


by Mike Ratliff

18 But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the Lord thus shall you say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, “Regarding the words which you have heard, 19 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the Lord. 20 “Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.”’” So they brought back word to the king. 2 Kings 22:18-20 (NASB)

Without a doubt, my favorite King in the Bible is Josiah. His father, Amon, was a bad king. His grandfather, Manasseh, was the worst king Judah ever had. However, his great-grandfather was Hezekiah. Hezekiah was a good king in that he remained faithful to the Lord throughout his reign. He took away the high places of idolatrous worship throughout his kingdom. He did away with Baal worship and idolatry where he found it. It has always amazed me how a good king like Hezekiah could have a total pagan for a son like Manasseh. That does not say much for Hezekiah’s parenting skills. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 6 – The Selfless Heart


by Mike Ratliff

18 And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 They answered and said, “John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen again.” 20 And He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.”
23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. 27 But I say to you truthfully, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:18-27 (NASB)

There are times it is easy to be selfless. I wake up on those mornings and have a wonderful quiet time with the Lord. I go to work not letting anyone get me into a circumstance where the enemy steals my joy. It all flows together as I keep my focus on the Lord instead of on me. As I do that I treat those that I work with as far more important than me. I am so full of peace and joy that I start to believe I will never be self-focused again. Wrong! Then reality sets in. Some circumstance that I perceive as unfair and affects me personally slips up on me and I become my old self again. I absolutely hate it when this happens. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 5 – The Contrite Heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
3 O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He answered me,
And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant,
And their faces will never be ashamed.
6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him,
And rescues them.
8 O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.
10 The young lions do lack and suffer hunger;
But they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life
And loves length of days that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
To cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord hears
And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones,
Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked,
And those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants,
And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned. Psalms 34 (NASB)

What is a contrite heart? The word contrite is not used much anymore. The dictionary definition for contrite is grieving and penitent for sin or shortcoming. Grieving has the same meaning as mourning. Therefore, a contrite heart is one that mourns. Is that all? What does penitent mean? Its dictionary meaning is feeling or expressing humble or regretful pain or sorrow for sins or offenses. A contrite heart appears to be one that mourns and regrets sin. Does this mean a contrite heart regrets sin and feels bad about it? That is part of it. Actually, the key to understanding what contrite means is found in its synonym, penitent. That word does mean having the humble or regretful pain or sorrow for sin, but it is also the root word for repentance. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 4 – The Undivided Heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me;
For I am afflicted and needy.
2 Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man;
O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You.
3 Be gracious to me, O Lord,
For to You I cry all day long.
4 Make glad the soul of Your servant,
For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
7 In the day of my trouble I shall call upon You,
For You will answer me.
8 There is no one like You among the gods, O Lord,
Nor are there any works like Yours.
9 All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And they shall glorify Your name.
10 For You are great and do wondrous deeds;
You alone are God.
11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Your name forever.
13 For Your lovingkindness toward me is great,
And You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
14 O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set You before them.
15 But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
16 Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
17 Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me. Psalms 86 (NASB)

The pre-Christian era of the Roman Empire (prior to Constantine), was made up of many diverse ethnic groups. Each had its own religious beliefs. The Romans were good at allowing those they conquered to keep their gods as long as they paid homage to Caesar or the Emperor as lord. In most of those cultures, that was no big deal. However, for the Christians who lived within the Roman Empire it was a very big deal. Why? Jesus Christ is Lord! It does not matter who else claims to be lord. It does not matter who or what we elevate to lordship status. Jesus Christ is Lord of all no matter the circumstances. The Roman Empire sent many Christians to their martyrdom because they refused to bow to Caesar’s statue and call him lord. Those who would try to hang on to their beliefs, but save their lives by worshipping Caesar were compromising. I would hate to have been them when they stood before the Lord after they died. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 3 – The Worshipping Heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
Let the many islands be glad.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
3 Fire goes before Him
And burns up His adversaries round about.
4 His lightnings lit up the world;
The earth saw and trembled.
5 The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare His righteousness,
And all the peoples have seen His glory.
7 Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.
8 Zion heard this and was glad,
And the daughters of Judah have rejoiced
Because of Your judgments, O Lord.
9 For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth;
You are exalted far above all gods.
10 Hate evil, you who love the Lord,
Who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light is sown like seed for the righteous
And gladness for the upright in heart.
12 Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones,
And give thanks to His holy name. Psalms 97 (NASB)

I love to worship my Lord. Why? It is not about me. It is about Him. When we truly worship the Lord, we do so in spirit and truth. We worship and bless Him. Worship is not about us. I have seen many people get upset because they do not enjoy certain types of worship music. When we do that, we have it backwards. I have also seen many people sit through wonderful praise and prayer songs as if they are in some sort of trance. They may even be singing along, but their hearts are somewhere else. Does this bless God? Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 2 – Back to Fundamentals


by Mike Ratliff

1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: 2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.
12 Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. 13 I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind. 2 Peter 1:1-15 (NASB) 

In the 1960s, the premier football team in the NFL was the Green Bay Packers. They won the NFL title in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. They also won the first two Super Bowls. Their coach through all of these winning seasons was Vince Lombardi. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 1 – Introduction


by Mike Ratliff

One of my favorite books outside of the Bible is John Bunyan’s allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan wrote this wonderful book while in prison for preaching without license from the Church of England. He was a 17th Century Baptist non-conformist preacher who was counted among the Puritans. The continuing appeal of this book, even into the 21st Century, is its inherent Christian authenticity. Through this authenticity we learn what real Christianity is and what it isn’t. Continue reading

The Compromised Church and Ungodly Discernment


by Mike Ratliff

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.
3 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:1-6 (NASB) 

One of the most tragic aspects of the Compromised Church, which is a product of its emphasis on numbers, baptisms, relevance, and worldliness is its complete lack of correct theology pertaining to salvation and assurance. Those who are believing they became part of the Kingdom of God in these churches are, for the most part, responding to a doctrine of salvation based upon some form of works righteousness which is the belief that one’s standing before God is founded and maintained by works of merit. These works begin with walking an aisle at an invitation then praying a sinner’s prayer followed by baptism. Assurance of salvation is then always looking back at that moment as when the believer chose to be “saved” by obeying the call at the invitation. Continue reading

Self-Deceived Godliness


by Mike Ratliff

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21 He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:14-22 (NASB) 

The number one disturbing attribute of the leaders of Compromised Church is their rock-hard “conviction” that they are doing what God wants them to do in spite of overwhelming Biblical evidence that they are not. The measure of success or failure in business is profitability. It is that bottom line in the company ledger that reveals whether a company is on the right path or not. Unfortunatly, the Compromised Church leaders have taken the ways of the world and integrated them into their method of “doing church.” Church leader success is now measured in how well the church is managed. Is the church growing? If not, there must be something wrong. That church up the street started meeting in the library just a couple of years ago and now they are three times the size of our church. Their new building looks like a cathedral! What have they done right that we have not? We need to find out what their formula is and make it work for us. Continue reading

Do not be conformed to this world


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in a continual upgrade unto Christlikeness. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading

Chosen in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him


by Mike Ratliff

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6 (NASB) 

For what reason did the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ chose (elect) all in Christ before the foundation of world? It was that they would be holy (ἁγίους) and blameless (ἀμώμους) before him. The Puritans have always been accused of being legalistic and way too concerned about Christians living holy and blameless lives. I heard a Jeopardy clue once that actually defined this aspect of them as being “harsh” and “stern.” Perhaps the Puritans took things a bit too far becoming legalistic while forgetting that the believer’s justification is based on the righteousness of Christ not on any works done by them. Also, the Word is clear that in 1 Corinthians 1:2  that believers are also sanctified in Christ Jesus. These things being true, what does it mean for believers to become holy and blameless before our Lord Jesus Christ? Continue reading

Do not love the world nor the things in the world because If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NASB) 

One of the markers of genuineness in a Christian is Separation from the World. This isn’t a physical removal from planet Earth or a disintegration of the body of a Christian. A genuine Christian’s character should be in “process” of being transformed unto Christlikeness as Paul stated above. That means that as he or she cooperates with God in their sanctification, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, their character will take on more and more of Christ’s character. They will love what He loves and hate what he hates. God is love, but He hates a certain type of love. Continue reading