Courage found to pray


by Mike Ratliff

27 For You, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. 2 Samuel 7:27 (NASB) 

There is a difference between how a genuine believer should pray and how most professing Christians actually pray. Our perception is that we pray as we feel or desire or as the result of viewing both our needs and other’s needs. What we often overlook is that God is heavily involved in all aspects of our sanctification and that includes leading us in prayer. God loves those who are His and blessing them is part of His expression of that love. Continue reading

Pray at all times


by Mike Ratliff

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:17-20 (NASB) 

Ungodly focus is the focus that everyone has except for the Spirit-filled believer. This focus is oriented to self. Believers who are self-focused are either baby Christians or they have succumbed to Satan’s attacks against them. These attacks are designed specifically to render each believer powerless and without a Christlike testimony. He does this with temptations, fiery darts, that are designed to bring believers to be self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and spiritually arrogant. Of course, these are the marks of a Christian who is not humble, but whose pride is in control. Continue reading

The nature of hypocrisy


by Mike Ratliff

6 “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.
My heart does not reproach any of my days.
7 “May my enemy be as the wicked
And my opponent as the unjust.
8 “For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off,
When God requires his life?
9 “Will God hear his cry
When distress comes upon him?
10 “Will he take delight in the Almighty?
Will he call on God at all times? Job 27:6-10 (NASB)

One of the easiest accusations that Christians can hurl at one another is the epitaph “Hypocrite!” I probably receive at least half a dozen emails or comments a week with that accusation firmly pointed at me. Most of those never make it through the spam process. What is a hypocrite? A hypocrite may be a very neat imitation of a Christian. He professes to know God, to converse with him, to be dedicated to his service, and to invoke his protection: he even practices prayer, or at least feigns it. Yet the cleverest counterfeit fails somewhere, and may be discovered by certain signs. The test is here: “Will he call on God at all times?Continue reading

Prayer that is powerful and effectual


by Mike Ratliff

16 ἐξομολογεῖσθε οὖν ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων ὅπως ἰαθῆτε. Πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη. James 5:16 (NA28)

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray on behalf of one another so that you may be cured. The petition of the righteous, being effective, has great power. James 5:16 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Prayer, to me, has always been a very personal thing. Yes, I have always admired those people who can pray those long eloquent prayers publicly, but I am not one of those. When I pray, I do so with a one-on-one between me and God. Of course, there is always Paul’s exhortation from 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

17 ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NA28)

17 unceasingly pray, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

That exhortation is talking about how we walk through each day, that is, with our focus being eternal rather than temporal. I, for one, believe that this is more important for me to do than learning how to pray long eloquent prayers in public. In any case, prayer is important and it is far more important to pray as James described, don’t you think?
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Enjoying Christ’s fullness as mine


by Mike Ratliff

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. John 1:14-16 (NKJV) 

There is a certain hysteria currently amongst many of our 21st Century Puritans. While I gladly count myself as a Puritan, I also know that our enemy desires to shackle and nullify our witness and divert our focus, by feeding our heightened perceptions as to what is godly and what is false with misleading and derogatory information that cause us to turn on one another. Having experienced this against my own ministry since its inception I can say that it is very frustrating and eye opening. Continue reading

Pray without ceasing


by Mike Ratliff

17 pray without ceasing; 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NASB) 

Of all of the commands from 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 I am sure that the one from v17, which I placed above, has caused the most consternation and possibly the most bad theology of all the others combined. What does Paul mean that we should “pray without ceasing?”  Is this even possible without becoming a monk in some monastery locked up in a cell to spend the rest of your days praying and doing nothing else? Some have actually taught that and tried to put it into practice just like I described. Let us take a closer look.

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The prayer of God’s people


by Mike Ratliff

27 For You, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made a revelation to Your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house’; therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. 2 Samuel 7:27 (NASB) 

Is there a difference between how a genuine believer should pray and how most professing Christians actually pray? Our perception is that we pray as we feel or desire or as the result of viewing both our needs and other’s needs. What we often overlook is that God is heavily involved in all aspects of our sanctification and that includes leading us in prayer. God loves those who are His and blessing them is part of His expression of that love. Continue reading

What is strange fire unto the Lord?


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Leviticus 10:1-2 (NASB) 

9 But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NASB) 

Until 2004 I could not stand to read some Old Testament books such as Leviticus and Job. I would read them only to find my mind wandering off in all directions. It was frustrating. However, something wonderful happened after God changed me over a period of about 8 months from January through August. I don’t know exactly what He did or how He did it, but I do know that until that time I was very religious, but very self-focused. I loved the Lord, and served in many capacities in church. I was a Bible teacher. However, the rest of the time I was totally self-focused. I was fleshly. I was focused on my own desires. However, at the same time, I was very frustrated with my lack of self-control. I desperately wanted victory over these things. Continue reading

The root of a godly focused life


by Mike Ratliff

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:17-20 (NASB) 

Ungodly focus is the focus that everyone has except for the Spirit-filled believer. This focus is oriented to self. Believers who are self-focused are either baby Christians or they have succumbed to Satan’s attacks against them. These attacks are designed specifically to render each believer powerless and without a Christlike testimony. He does this with temptations, fiery darts, that are designed to bring believers to be self-satisfied, self-sufficient, and spiritually arrogant. Of course, these are the marks of a Christian who is not humble, but whose pride is in control. Continue reading

Justified


by Mike Ratliff

23 πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ 24 δικαιούμενοι δωρεὰν τῇ αὐτοῦ χάριτι διὰ τῆς ἀπολυτρώσεως τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ· 25 ὃν προέθετο ὁ θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ [τῆς] πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι εἰς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων 26 ἐν τῇ ἀνοχῇ τοῦ θεοῦ, πρὸς τὴν ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ νῦν καιρῷ, εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν δίκαιον καὶ δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ. Romans 3:23-26 (NA28)

23 for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus, 25 whom God displayed as a propitiation by his blood received through faith. This was in order to display his righteousness because in his divine forbearance, he passed over previously occurred sins. 26 This was to display his righteousness in the present time, for him to be just and the justifier of the one having faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26 (translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

In my mornings before work or before anything else if it is the weekend or a holiday I spend some time in prayer as the coffee brews. I write down what I pray as this helps me focus. There is nothing legalistic in this. There is nothing mystical about it. This just helps me pray. It also gives me a record of what I pray, which is pretty cool when God answers one of those requests. Part of all of my prayer contain something similar to this,“…I pray for your glory in and through me this day. I pray for your kingdom to come into fulfillment soon. I pray for you to be glorified in my worship of you this day in church and in my walk and service. Use me as you will. I pray for wisdom and discernment…” There is alway more of course. Some days are better than others, but on those days when God’s Word really speaks to me and as I pray I do indeed worship. It is on those days that I have a deep sense of the magnitude of our Election, the Atonement, and our Justification. On those days, I worship, Oh yes, I worship our Lord and Saviour!  Continue reading

The prayers that are effectual and fervent


by Mike Ratliff

16 ἐξομολογεῖσθε οὖν ἀλλήλοις τὰς ἁμαρτίας καὶ εὔχεσθε ὑπὲρ ἀλλήλων ὅπως ἰαθῆτε. Πολὺ ἰσχύει δέησις δικαίου ἐνεργουμένη. (James 5:16 NA28)

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray on behalf of one another so that you may be cured. The petition of the righteous, being effective, has great power. (James 5:16 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

My ability to serve God in this ministry is now, and has always been, within a very specific framework. Whether I am working on apologetics or discernment or a Bible Study, or anything else, it must be for God’s glory alone and for the edification of the Body of Christ. I can only do these things if it is God’s will for me to them and as my will to do them is lined up with His in this regard. Out side of this framework, it would be like chasing after the wind. It would be me motivated according to the ways of the world with the flesh in view, would not bring glory to God, and would only cause confusion and who needs that? Therefore, before I write these posts, what must I do? Continue reading

Strange fire and the royal Priesthood


by Mike Ratliff

1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. (Leviticus 10:1-2 NASB)

9 But you are A chosen race, A royal priesthood, A holy nation, A people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not A people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 NASB)

 

What is Peter talking about in his second epistle where he describes Christians as a royal Priesthood? Since the elect is this Priesthood then each one of us who are in Christ are priests in Him. It would be safe to say that we are witnessing in our day the culmination of a period in which this truth has become distorted within the visible Church.  The necessity of personal holiness for each believer has been neglected and discounted by antinomians whose cry is “Free Grace!” On the other hand, legalistic Christians have made the acts of obedience to God’s commands into idols unto themselves. My brethren, both of these extremes are Strange Fire unto the Lord. Continue reading

And whenever you pray, do not be as the hypocrites


by Mike Ratliff

Οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς· (Matthew 6:9a NA28)

You, therefore, pray in this way: (Matthew 6:9a translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The context of Matthew 6:9-13 from which get what is traditionally called “The Lord’s Prayer,” is, of course, Matthew 6, which is part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. The theme of Matthew 6:1-18 (the context of vv 9-13) is found in v1, “Προσέχετε [δὲ] τὴν δικαιοσύνην ὑμῶν μὴ ποιεῖν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι αὐτοῖς· εἰ δὲ μή γε, μισθὸν οὐκ ἔχετε παρὰ τῷ πατρὶ ὑμῶν τῷ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.” Or, “But be careful of demonstrating your righteousness before men with the aim to be seen by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven.” Our Lord gives an example in vv 2-4 of believers giving alms to the needy. Their motive is to be seen by others in order to receive praise from men. Then in vv 5-18 our Lord gives uses and examples of prayer, fasting, and forgiveness, which will be the subject of this post.

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To that end keep alert with all perseverance


by Mike Ratliff

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:22-27 ESV)

We are exhorted throughout God’s Word to persevere even in the most rugged of circumstances. We are given a promise of what awaits those who do persevere, the adoption as “sons” and redemption of our bodies, which is positional for all truly in Christ. Yet, we look forward to these and other promises with eyes of faith. This temporal part of our life as Christians can be quite a battle with the flesh to the point of crying out like the Apostle Paul, “O wretched man that I am!” Weakness in this battle is directly attributable to a lack of praying as we should, while, conversely, victory in this battle is directly attributable to proper praying in the spirit, that is, in harmony with the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than according to one’s own agenda. There are many “church” things out there that are not good for us. These “church” things are the product of those scoffers who have entered the Church to divide it.  Continue reading