Unable to See the Forest For the Trees


by Mike Ratliff

6 And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
7 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’
8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” Mark 7:6-8 (NASB) 

About 15 years ago before my old church in Kansas was taken over by the PDC madness, it became a haven for several families and single adults from a Fundamental Baptist church in our area that had forced them to leave. They were disciplined and expelled from membership because they refused to sever relationships with others in their families who the leadership in that church determined “were in sin.” I became close to several of the couples and taught them in my Bible Study class and what I discovered was that they were actually starved for the Word of God. They were not being fed the truth regularly as they should have been, but, instead, were fed the commandments of men.  Continue reading

True Humility


by Martin Luther

46 And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. Luke 1:46-48 (NASB) 

A good deal of pride lurks behind the outward show of humility we see in the world today. People put themselves down but don’t want others to look down on them. They decline honors, but they really want more honors to follow them. They appear to avoid prominence, but they still want to be praised and don’t want to deal with unimportant matters. Continue reading

The Way of Wisdom and the Way of Folly


by Mike Ratliff

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.
9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:6-9 (NASB) 

As we live in a time of great deception, let us reflect on our Lord’s ways in contrast to the way of men. God’s ways are not man’s ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. No matter how high and lifted up we perceive that God is, He is higher. No matter how good we come to believe that we are, we are nothing compared to God. Without our Lord, we can do nothing.

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

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?

Continue reading

Judging Correctly and Incorrectly


by Mike Ratliff

1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:1-2 (NASB) 

It is impossible to walk through one’s day without having to make judgments. In fact our Lord Jesus who made the oft misquoted and misunderstood command found in Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37 to “Judge Not!” also made the following command.

14 But when it was now the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and began to teach. 15 The Jews then were astonished, saying, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?” 16 So Jesus answered them and said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.
19 “Did not Moses give you the Law, and yet none of you carries out the Law? Why do you seek to kill Me?” 20 The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who seeks to kill You?” 21 Jesus answered them, “I did one deed, and you all marvel. 22 For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath? 24 Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:14-24 (NASB)
Continue reading

Hypocrisy


by Mike Ratliff

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 6:1 (NASB) 

In this post we will look a something that all Christiaans need to take care to tourn from not only because not only are they “evil,” they are actually markers of a heart that is following hard after the flesh rather than God as a living sacrifice. This is, of course, hypocrisy. Our Lord gave us two good examples of this in Matthew 6:1-6 which is part of His Sermon on the Mount.  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

The Discipline of God


By Mike Ratliff

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. 2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB) 

When I was a new Christian I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll in which he stated that before God can use a man for His purposes He must hurt him and sometimes rather severely. That was a quite startling to me at that time since that was so alien to the ‘doctrine’ I was exposed to in the church I belonged to. The focus there was that God was love and that He loved each of just the way we were. If that was so then what Swindoll was teaching wrong. However, as I studied my Bible I found that he was right and what I was hearing in church was wrong. 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

Have mercy upon me, O God!


by Mike Ratliff

1 Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin. Psalms 51:1-2 (NKJV) 

One of the most abhorrent things I encounter in my walk is a professing Christian who believes they are in Christ because they deserve it. These same people will always want us to look at their works. They want us to see them in their religiosity. In the following devotional by Charles Spurgeon he uses William Carey as the example for whom we should be our model of humility. Continue reading

A Rest for the People of God


by Mike Ratliff

7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95:7-11 (NASB) 

Those who insist that we are in a ‘post-evangelical era’ and must, therefore, radically alter not only how we do church in order to reach unbelieving people in our time, also insist that this must be accompanied by a toning down of one’s Christian convictions about the truth. We are told that the culture we are in now will not respond to those who are militant, aggressive, preachy, and extremely sure of their convictions. I ask, since when has pragmatism become how the Gospel works? Also, did our Lord ever elevate social justice above the Gospel? Did Jesus preach and teach pragmatically or did what He taught cause a huge division between those who believed and those who didn’t? You know the answer to these questions. He pulled no punches. The reality of His ministry was the epitome of God’s ways not being man’s ways. All we are told to do until our Lord returns is make disciples, teaching them all that He has taught us. In the meantime we are to abide in Christ, love one another, deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. We are to be the antithesis of world and its ways, not conforming to it in how we minister. Continue reading