Redeeming your time because the days evil


by Mike Ratliff

12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalms 90:12 (NKJV) 

It seemed that the moment I posted Walking Circumspectly that the pressure came to bear upon me from nearly every direction in an effort to distract me from doing that very thing. To walk circumspectly is to walk in light of the gifts of wisdom and discernment from God. However, we all have people and circumstances in our lives that are the sources of fiery tests and trials that are allowed by God to buffet us so that we will see clearly our dire need of His grace and cause us to draw closer to Him in repentance. Lay on top of that circumstances that are clear affronts to our concepts of what is “fair” and “right” and given no recourse then our emotions can certainly take over. As I reflected on these things before I prayed and sought God’s will for this post I actually “felt” completely unworthy to do this. How can I teach from God’s Word when I have been struggling so much with my own battles over these very things?  Continue reading

You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead


by Mike Ratliff

1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1 (NASB) 

My brethren, the message from Revelation 3:1-6 goes contrary to most of what is taught in Evangelicalism today. The church at Sardis had a name that it was alive yet our Lord bluntly said that even so, they were spiritually dead. Since 2006 when I became involved in this ministry, I have seen good friends like the late Ken Silva, along with all of those associated with him, denigrated because we stood firm with what God’s Word says about what constitutes real Christianity and what doesn’t. When we point out that certain ministries do not measure up, we are called divisive, haters–and many other ugly things–and then some of our critics resort to worldly things such as lawsuits and even denial of service. Excuse me, but how can anyone justify this and call it Christian behavior?  Continue reading

My brethren, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good


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) 

In our daily Christian walk it is a rare day in which we take every thought captive and, through our active repentance, successfully deny ourselves through every circumstance. I don’t think I could claim that I have successfully done this the majority of the time. However, our God is wise and omniscient. It should be a matter of great rejoicing on our part that our perseverance is in His hands and is based on the work of the Holy Trinity on our behalf, not on our will power. Continue reading

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him


by Mike Ratliff

2 And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous. Psalms 143:2 (NASB) 

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:3-4 (NASB) 

24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
26 It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-26 (NASB) 

Despite the prevalent “Christian” teachings in our time that suffering is never God’s will for His people, a close, sober, and honest study of scripture reveals that the fires of tribulation are used by God to form and refine His people. The view that God desires of each Christian to always be healthy and prosperous is based on many false assumptions. One false assumption is that salvation is somehow deserved and those who profess faith can claim anything they want from a god who is bound to meet all their requests. Another false assumption moves the focus of salvation from God’s glory to the person’s glory and their “having their best life now.” Sin is seen as simple mistakes that God overlooks because He is all love. Continue reading

Shame and a tender conscience


by Mike Ratliff

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and *said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” Mark 8:31-38 (NASB) 

One of the major weapons of our enemy is attacks centered on provoking our pride, to incite us to be deeply concerned about what others think of us in relation to our profession of faith and how we walk the narrow path set before us by God. Our Lord warned us that this sort of attack would be coming our way and it causes professing Christians to lose their boldness as they actually seek to preserve “their life” for their own sake. When we are more concerned with our image and standing before men rather than for Christ and His gospel then we compromise because we have set our minds on the things of man rather than the things of God. Continue reading

How should Christians communicate with apostates?


by Mike Ratliff

8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,
Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
11 “He must turn away from evil and do good;
He must seek peace and pursue it.
12 “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears attend to their prayer,
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12 (NASB) 

This era of the Church is one of extreme deception due to compromise with the standards and focus of the world. Separation between the Church and the world is not being kept. Instead, the holy barrier between the two has been breached as false prophets have welcomed in not only the world and its ways into their churches, but have also embraced the mysticism of the Eastern religions. Syncretism is the new byword. On the other hand, God is good. He keeps His promises. The Lord told Peter that He is the one building His Church and no evil will ever be able to destroy it. (Matthew 16:18) If this is true, and it is because our Lord spoke it, then how do we reconcile the rapid apostasy of so much of the visible Church with what He said? God always keeps a remnant during times of rampant apostasy. These Christians are the small group whom God has reserved who have not bowed the knee to Baal. These are also the ones in whom God is developing Christlikeness and through the fires of persecution by those in the visible Church who have succumbed to the heresies and ungodliness going on in it, He is teaching them how to stand firm and never compromise with evil. In this they learn the difference between debate and dialogue and know that the former actually clarifies the truth and why they hold to it while the latter is only a conversation which has the intent of compromising the truth. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 14 – Conclusion


by Mike Ratliff

37 For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:37-39 (NASB) 

As we end this study of the Pilgrim’s Heart, let us take notice of the vast difference between the self-focused Christian, the Flesh-bound, and the God-focused Christian, the Spirit-led. The former is fleshly. He or she may very well be a genuine Christian, but they struggle mightily with besetting sins and are still focused on self-gratification as a means of fulfillment. His or her heart is relatively hard or callous towards God. The latter is not nearly as fleshly. He or she is a genuine Christian, and besetting sins are actively fought via mortification. The Spirit-led believer seeks to obey God and deny self. He or she has learned to take every thought captive so that sin does not have a chance to take root. His or her heart is relatively tender towards God. The Spirit-led believer, in his or her obedience, is Spirit-filled. That means he or she walks and obeys God by His grace. These fundamentals are the basis for all aspects of the victorious pilgrimage.

Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 11 – The Assured Heart


by Mike Ratliff

36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36 (NASB) 

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24 (NASB)

When I was a teenager in the Youth Group at the Baptist church our family attended in Oklahoma, I remember hearing several of the leaders say things like, “You can know for certain you’re saved if you know that you know that you know…” I guess they went on to infinity with it. I never really grasped what they were saying at that time. However after God had mercy on me in 1986, I had a sense of assurance that I have never doubted. Until recently, I did not understand where that was residing or how it worked. Let’s take a close look at our common salvation and on what we are basing our assurance. Continue reading

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 8 – The Spirit-filled Heart


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.
3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. 14 For this reason it says,
“Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. Ephesians 5:1-21 (NASB)

There is much confusion about what it means to be Spirit-filled. Some will say the filling of the Spirit is the culmination of “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Others will say it is a miraculous work of God to empower believers to do miracles. Unfortunately, there is a great deal of false teaching about this. The truth, however, is right in front of us. It is in the Word of God, the Bible, in plain sight. Before we take a closer look at what the term Spirit-filled, means let us remember what we are studying. We are attempting to learn all about becoming Mature Christians. We are trying to learn our role in this process. Let us not stray down any unfruitful bunny trails. 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 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