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.

Continue reading

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

COMFORT FOR CHRISTIAN PARENTS OF UNCONVERTED CHILDREN


By Jim Elliff

All Christian parents wish that God would show us something to do to secure our child’s salvation, and then “we’ll do it with all our might” because we love our child so much. Yet, God has not made salvation the effect of somebody else’s faith; our son or daughter must come to Christ on his or her own. John shows us that all Christians are born into God’s family “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, [that is, somebody else’s will] but of God.” (John 1:13) Continue reading

I have not come to bring peace, but a sword


by Mike Ratliff

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 ESV)

The character and the mission of our Lord Jesus Christ is not well understood by the majority of people on planet Earth. In fact, many professing “Christians” have an image of Him in their understanding that is based upon fleshly reasoning. This “other” Jesus is not Biblical for the most part. They have given their Jesus a whole new set of values and traits that conflict sharply with the Jesus presented in the Gospels in His own words. In fact, many of their attributes of “their Jesus” come directly from how he is portrayed in pop culture.  Continue reading

Pray with boldness not insolence


by Mike Ratliff

7 οὗ ἐγενήθην διάκονος κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ. 8 Ἐμοὶ τῷ ἐλαχιστοτέρῳ πάντων ἁγίων ἐδόθη ἡ χάρις αὕτη, τοῖς ἔθνεσιν εὐαγγελίσασθαι τὸ ἀνεξιχνίαστον πλοῦτος τοῦ Χριστοῦ 9 καὶ φωτίσαι [πάντας] τίς ἡ οἰκονομία τοῦ μυστηρίου τοῦ ἀποκεκρυμμένου ἀπὸ τῶν αἰώνων ἐν τῷ θεῷ τῷ τὰ πάντα κτίσαντι, 10 ἵνα γνωρισθῇ νῦν ταῖς ἀρχαῖς καὶ ταῖς ἐξουσίαις ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις διὰ τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἡ πολυποίκιλος σοφία τοῦ θεοῦ, 11 κατὰ πρόθεσιν τῶν αἰώνων ἣν ἐποίησεν ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἡμῶν, 12 ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν παρρησίαν καὶ προσαγωγὴν ἐν πεποιθήσει διὰ τῆς πίστεως αὐτοῦ. 13 διὸ αἰτοῦμαι μὴ ἐγκακεῖν ἐν ταῖς θλίψεσίν μου ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, ἥτις ἐστὶν δόξα ὑμῶν. (Ephesians 3:7-13 NA28)

7 Of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God having been given to me according to the working of his power. 8 To me, the least of all the saints, this grace was given to the gentiles to preach the unsearchable wealth of Christ 9 and to enlighten all men as to what is the stewardship of the mystery hidden from the ages in God, the one who created all things 10 that it might be made known now to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenlies through the Church the many faceted wisdom of God 11 according to the plan of the ages, which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord 12 in whom we have boldness and access in confidence through faith in him. 13 Therefore, I ask you not to despair concerning my afflictions for you, which is for your glory. (Ephesians 3:7-13 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

If we are honest, we must all agree that that there is a growing disrespect of God in today’s various teaching on prayer let alone worship. While boldness does mean that those who are truly in Christ need not have any inhibitions as they come before God, they must still never forget that God is God. To treat God as if he is a “buddy,” to bring him down to our level in any way, is truly blasphemous. It is insolence in action to do any other than respect and worship God as he deserves. He is not our “buddy” or “pal,” but our heavenly Father and our God. What does it mean to come before him in boldness while not being insolent? Continue reading

Why Christians must walk humbly before the Lord


by Mike Ratliff

Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother? (Genesis 43:5-6 ESV)

Unforgiveness is poison for the Soul as it ensnares those who refuse to forgive by binding them into the prison of bitterness. This world is not a peaceful, easy, benign place. It is fallen. The world system is the product of Man’s rebellion against God. There is war. There is crime. There is oppression. People wrong other people. They place their wants and desires and perceived needs ahead of the wants and desires of others. The world system is marked by people pursuing their own no matter who gets hurt. The Christian is called to respond to the hurts and wrongs done to them in a vastly different way from the ways of the world. Continue reading

My Nephew is Out of Surgery


Here is the latest update relayed to us:

“Travis is out of surgery, and seems to be doing well. He is in recovery and slowly waking up – most likely the result of the extra medicine that was administered during the surgery. The surgeon described the operation as “challenging” because the tumor had grown about 25% larger since the MRI in Corpus 12 days ago. Dr. Lang felt very confident that he was able to remove almost all of the tumor, but felt certain that individual tumor cells remain.The encouraging news is that Dr. Lang was able to administer the Delta 24 virus at the dosage level that has proven most effective to date. It is likely that Travis will undergo both radiation and chemotherapy to target any remaining tumor cells. Travis will spend some time in ICU and will have a post-op MRI tomorrow to verify the preliminary results from today.
Prayer requests:
1. Travis will continue to wake up and recover full consciousness.
2. Peace for Jennifer (Travis’ wife), family and friends as they absorb and deal with the situation.
3. That the Delta 24 will work as it has shown to do and will provide the CURE for which we all hope and pray.
4. For Jacob (Travis and Jennifer’s oldest son) as he balances starting school with the stress and changes at home.
5. For Connell (Travis and Jennifer’s youngest son) that he will continue to be happy and a source of joy for the rest of the family.”
Please continue to lift them up in prayer my brethren.
Soli Deo Gloria!

The Throne Room of Heaven


by Mike Ratliff

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
(Revelation 4:11 ESV)

The natural mindset is that we thank God and praise him when he has greatly blessed us or delivered us or comforted us in some way, but a study of the Psalms or Romans 8, for example, shows us that Christians worship their God from grateful hearts even in the midst of fiery trials. While the world sees that as a paradox, we who are in Christ know from what we have been saved. Sadly, in our time, there are so many who call themselves Christians who are ignorant of the propitiatory sacrifice deliberately made by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in order that all who would believe and obey the gospel would be justified by grace alone through faith alone as God’s gift alone. God has imputed the righteousness of his Son to all those he has justified just as he imputed their unrighteousness to his account as he hung on that cross paying the penalty for their sins. This knowledge and the power given to believers as they abide in their Lord enables them to have this paradoxical world-view that the “world” cannot understand nor will it ever understand this side of Judgment Day.  Continue reading

The Sermon on the Mount Part 16


by Mike Ratliff

14 And having come to the crowd, a man came to him kneeling down before him 15 saying, “Lord have mercy on my son for he is an epileptic and suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples and they were not able to heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered saying, “O faithless and depraved generation, how long with you will I be? How long will I endure you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out from him and the child was healed that hour. 19 Then the disciples approaching Jesus privately asked, “Why were we not able to cast it out?” 20 And he said to them, “On account of your little faith. Amen I say to you, ‘If you have faith like a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain move from there and it will be moved and nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matthew 17:14-20 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

We have reached that part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:7-11) that has been used by the Word of Faith preachers and the Health, Wealth and Prosperity hucksters as a “proof-text” of sorts for their agenda. In fact, in some Study Bibles with outline headers, this section is often labeled with something like “Ask and it will be given…” All through this sermon we have seen how our Lord has drawn the distinction between those truly in his Kingdom from those who are not. Some of those who are not may very well believe they are and may even look like it to most of us, but these distinctives do indeed mark the genuine one who is of the Kingdom of heaven from those who are not. Continue reading