Spiritual Darkness Unbelief and Unrighteousness


by Mike Ratliff

4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” 5 And He could do no miracle there except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He wondered at their unbelief.
And He was going around the villages teaching. Mark 6:4-6 (NASB) 

The joy of the Lord is a tremendous gift to God’s people from him. Without it we would be left to deal with far more evil, disappointment, tragedy, distress, and despair than we could ever do on our own. We have prayer and the promise that we can always come boldly to the Throne of Grace.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB) 

I watched some videos today while at lunch that showed the reaction of many of the spokespersons from the Main Stream Media and other politically leaning left groups as they reacted to the outcome of the 2020 Presidential Election. These reactions were from the immediate two days after the 3rd of November. Some of the people from CNN for example could not even make complete sentences they were so overcome with emotion. The one that really got my attention though was a spokesperson for a Social Justice group. He said that the attempts by the Trump Campaign and his supporters to force recounts and expose corruption in the election process were “Racist.” Yes, that is what he said.

During and after the 2016 election I lost a boatload of Facebook friends. During the 2020 election I lost a lot of friends on Facebook as well, but these were different. These were people I had been reaching out to with the light of the Gospel. I had been giving them the truth yet as it became clear that I was not participating the ‘you must live in fear tyranny’ coming from certain government institutions as they proclaimed that the Covid-19 outbreak had become a “Pandemic” when it was really far less lethal than the seasonal flu and I refused to allow anyone to bash our President with all sorts of outlandish accusations then I ended up having to sever a lot more Facebook relationships.

However, what is most disturbing to me during all this is when professing Christians fall into that pit of hate and lies I just described. They have become part of that “darkness” and because of that, they will no longer listen to reason. They will no longer listen to clear Biblical evidence that “the way” they are on only leads to destruction. Isn’t it interesting that those professing Christians doing that are also on the Social Justice, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality way?

Continue reading

Prayer Fasting and Forgiveness


by Mike Ratliff

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

9 Therefore, thus pray you; Matthew 6:9a (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The context of Matthew 6:9-13 from which we 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 to not demonstrate 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 the examples of prayer, fasting, and forgiveness, which will be the subject of this post.  Continue reading

Access not Impetuosity


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)

Those truly in Christ have indeed been given the incredible privilege of unimpeded access to the Throne of Grace (Hebrews 4:16), and that means they can come “boldly” to their Heavenly Father in Christ-confidence, not self-confidence. From this passage we also see the “access” all in Christ have as a granted privilege. This access to come boldly to God in prayer has been granted only to those in Christ, no one else. Even so, this privilege is not to be taken for granted by Christians being impetuous or impulsive, that is, doing things hurriedly, or rushing about. I often despair of my lack of time in prayer each day as I take small parts here and there and pray hurriedly through them. What good is that? When we do that, our prayers become habitual and rushed and nothing more than a form of idolatry. Continue reading

Daniel’s Terrifying Vision


by Mike Ratliff

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (NASB) 

There is a great deal more going on in the spiritual than those of us in the temporal know about. All in Christ who still live and breathe are in the world, but are not part of it. Some, of course, live as if they are part of it, but we are called to be separate from the fleshpot world while being filled with the Spirit. Why? Of course if we are in love with this world, this present age, we will become encumbered and distracted from what we should be doing. Also, the world system, its things and its ways are all controlled by our enemy and his rulers, authorities, cosmic powers who do all they can to keep people blind in this present darkness. When believers are temporally focused they are being influenced by evil, if not controlled by it. Continue reading

Effectual Fervent Prayer


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)

Notice that my ability to do these “works” of apologetics or theology or whatever are within a very specific framework. 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. Outside 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 tackle any “issue” that affects the the Church, what must I do? Continue reading

Strange Fire


 

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, but I interpret it as a severe and necessary heart transplant. He may have simply circumcised my heart. I don’t know. However, 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 was all mine. I was fleshly. I was focused on my own desires. However, I was very frustrated with my lack of self-control. I desperately wanted victory over these things. Continue reading

Not Peace, but a Sword


by Mike Ratliff

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34 (NASB) 

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. Continue reading

Unworthy to Pray


Prayer is a huge struggle for me most of the time. It seems that God must wring my heart and drive me into deep despair at times in order for me to pray in such a way that bears fruit. Why do I struggle so? I think the following piece by Martin Luther nails this right on the head. Enjoy and be blessed – Mike Ratliff

by Martin Luther

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)

Some say, “I would feel better about God hearing my prayer if I were more worthy and lived a better life.” I simply answer: If you don’t want to pray before you feel that you are worthy or qualified, then you will never pray again. Prayer must not be based on or depend on your personal worthiness or the quality of the prayer itself; rather, it must be based on the unchanging truth of God’s promise. If the prayer is based on itself or on anything else besides God’s promise, then it’s a false prayer that deceives you–even if your heart is breaking with intense devotion and you are weeping drops of blood.

We pray because we are unworthy to pray. Our prayers are heard precisely because we believe that we are unworthy. We become worthy to pray when we risk everything on God’s faithfulness alone.

So go ahead an feel unworthy. But know in your heart that it’s a thousand times more important to honor God’s truthfulness. Yes, everything depends on this alone. Don’t turn his faithful promise into a lie by your doubts. For your worthiness doesn’t help you, and neither does your unworthiness hinder you. A lack of faith is what condemns you, but confidence in God is what makes you worthy.

From Faith Alone – A Daily Devotional – James C. Galvin General Editor

What is effectual fervent prayer?


by Mike Ratliff

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:16 (NASB) 

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

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

I have received many requests through many different channels from brethren who desire to know how to stand firm in these last, dark, and evil days. My reply is that we must pray for ourselves and each other for God to mature us, to give us the ability to stand, to give us wisdom, discernment, personal holiness, Christlikness and as He does this that he gives us boldness to stand in obedience. The issue is that many are confused about prayer. The “Name it and Claim it” heresy has corrupted the view of prayer for many. While that is in no-way Biblical and Satan has used it to keep many of us from praying as we should, we are given all sorts of examples in scripture of how to pray and why to pray. In this post we will look at James’ encouragement to us to pray and why. Continue reading

Make me know Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths


by Mike Ratliff

1 To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in You I trust,
Do not let me be ashamed;
Do not let my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none of those who wait for You will be ashamed;
Those who deal treacherously without cause will be ashamed.
4 Make me know Your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
5 Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait all the day. Psalms 25:1-5 (NASB)

Doubting God and His promises, worrying about things that are in God’s control are sins. Our enemy focuses primarily in his attacks on us on attempting to bring us to a place where we doubt God. This struggle comes to all who commit themselves to serving God with their lives. The closer they draw to God, the more Satan or his forces attempt to bring discouragement and despair to bear on these believers in an attempt to thwart their devotion to their Lord. Continue reading

Does prayer change things?


by Mike Ratliff

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:16-18 (NASB) 

I participate in many online and offline theological discussions. Some them have to do with today’s topic and for those whose faith is focused on the here and now rather than the eternal it is perplexing. However, just so we can address this issue, let us ponder it in the correct fashion. In light of the fact that God is sovereign over all and has ordained whatsoever comes to pass according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:11), why should we pray? If God already knows what is going to happen and, indeed, if He has already determined what will happen, what is the point of praying at all? Continue reading

Be anxious for nothing


by Mike Ratliff

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7 (NASB) 

Where I work, we are having a great deal of turmoil with a lot of turnover with people departing including my boss. The person over all the technology departments has put one of my coworkers over our DBA group as a “team lead,” whatever that means.  She is quite a bit younger than me. She is competent as a DBA. I have been getting signals from her emails and phone calls over past several days and also from my fellow DBAs that she is really pushing the envelope hard to look like a competent manager and is asking for all sorts of reports and for us to do goal setting, etc. I am 67 years old and a few weeks ago had made up my mind to continue to work for a few more years in order to get some things paid off before I retire. However, these things are very frustrating. Last week I “pushed back” on a few of her requests telling her that it was something that was not what a DBA could ever do nor needs to do. We solve problems. We do installs. We don’t goal set. We don’t play management games. She told me I had to do it anyway. We’ll see. In any case, I no longer want to go to work. I no longer want to have anything to do with the company I work for. They have been very good to me since 2001, but this is too much. I am really not in the financial position to simply retire yet. So I started praying about it more and more. Continue reading

Genuine prayer is powerful


by Mike Ratliff

Why do we pray? Don’t we pray because we have been instructed to do so in the Bible? Sadly, most Christians probably aren’t praying in a way that honors God or builds faith. Martin Luther wrote much on prayer. In his chapter “Of Prayer” from Table Talk, we learn the Biblical concept of prayer rather than one from Man’s reason. The following lesson is numbered CCCXXVIII. Continue reading

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