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

Self-Righteousness vs Inward Cleanliness


by Mike Ratliff

24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Matthew 23:24 (NASB) 

A huge trap that Christians can fall into is self-righteousness. It is a form of idolatry and that always causes spiritual blindness (Romans 1:24-25). Self-righteousness puts all effort towards godliness in the wrong place. It creates a form of piety that is all about outward appearances while putting little or no priority on matters of the heart. It is all about being concerned about appearances and what others think rather than being totally committed to abiding in Christ from within first. The self-righteous are consciously holy. However, that is not what we are called to be. Christians must be consciously repentant and unconsciously holy. The difference is huge for these are totally opposite walks. 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

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

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 13 – The Discerning Heart


by Mike Ratliff

11 Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. Hebrews 5:11-14 (NASB)

A couple of decades ago, I was sent to training by the bank I was working for. It was a Microsoft NT Networking class. The teacher was great. I learned many new skills and honed old ones. I became part of the network rollout team after I came back from training. One of the things the teacher taught us was how to get under the covers of the operating system. He called it looking under the hood. He made it clear it was impossible to do proper diagnostics without digging into what was happening under the covers. 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 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