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

Joy within trials


by Mike Ratliff

2 Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, 3 γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. 4 ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι. James 1:2-4 (NA28)

2 Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith works endurance; 4 let endurance work to fulfillment, that you be mature and complete lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The word joy in my translation (above) is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά or chara, “is an antonym of grief and sorrow. It denotes ‘joy, happiness, and gladness.’” In other words, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling Christians to not grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when they “fall into various trials.” The words “you fall” translates the verb περιπέσητε, which is the Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, and Active voice of περιπίπτω or peripiptō, which is a compound of περί or peri, “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω or piptō, “fail, fall (down), light on” with the result coming to mean, “to fall into something that is all around, that is, light among or upon, be surrounded with: – fall among (into).” Doesn’t that “figuratively” describe how we so often have found ourselves in the midst of something that seems “overwhelming?” The word trials translates the noun πειρασμοῖς, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός or peirasmos, “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.” Continue reading

Where is your treasure?


by Mike Ratliff

16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Revelation 3:16-18 (NASB) 

I have stopped listening to the media on anything having to do with politics. Since the entertainment elites are bound and determined to have their say in the political fray I have also stopped watching much of that, of course, I don’t watch that much TV anyway so this isn’t a great sacrifice for me. This morning on Facebook a good friend posted something where she was venting about the stuff that had gone on at the Emmys last night. I didn’t see it so I had no idea what it was, but I had a good idea by reading some of the comments. I made this comment:

I quit watching the news several months ago. I guess I don’t know what is going on, but then again, my hope is not in a President or a political party. My hope is in Christ. Pray for your family. Pray for your lost relatives and friends. Be that person always ready to be the hands and feet of Christ in all situations. Racism is for fools. Our enemy is using all those negative things to divide us. Get you focus back on Christ and follow Him. I have to work on this as well…

As we walk out our lives here in the Church age where should our focus be? I know many professing Christians who are all about using politics and political parties to maneuver things around in such a way that they believe they can bring about a national revival of some sort. I was serious in my comment that our hope cannot be in those things. No our focus, our hope, must be in Christ and our treasure, therefore, must not be here in this lost and dying world, but in Heaven.  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

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him


by Mike Ratliff

2 And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous. Psalms 143:2 (NASB) 

3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:3-4 (NASB) 

24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
To the person who seeks Him.
26 It is good that he waits silently
For the salvation of the Lord. Lamentations 3:24-26 (NASB) 

Despite the prevalent “Christian” teachings in our time that suffering is never God’s will for His people, a close, sober, and honest study of scripture reveals that the fires of tribulation are used by God to form and refine His people. The view that God desires of each Christian to always be healthy and prosperous is based on many false assumptions. One false assumption is that salvation is somehow deserved and those who profess faith can claim anything they want from a god who is bound to meet all their requests. Another false assumption moves the focus of salvation from God’s glory to the person’s glory and their “having their best life now.” Sin is seen as simple mistakes that God overlooks because He is all love. Continue reading

Transformative thinking


by Mike Ratliff

8 Τὸ λοιπόν, ἀδελφοί, ὅσα ἐστὶν ἀληθῆ, ὅσα σεμνά, ὅσα δίκαια, ὅσα ἁγνά, ὅσα προσφιλῆ, ὅσα εὔφημα, εἴ τις ἀρετὴ καὶ εἴ τις ἔπαινος , ταῦτα λογίζεσθε· Philippians 4:8 (NA28)

8 As to the rest, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever righteous, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever well-spoken of, if there is any virtue, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on these things. Philippians 4:8 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Philippians 4:8 is one of the most profound statements in the New Testament. This is part of the Apostle Paul’s closing statements to the church at Philippi. His epistle to the Philippians is a wonderful letter, full of encouragement and deep spiritual truth about how to live this Christian life no matter what fiery trials we are going through. In chapter 4 v8 we come upon this profound statement and we stop. We ask if this is even possible for us. How can we do this since we must live in this life in which we are pulled in every direction and so must find the time for such things. Perhaps a deeper look at the underlying Greek would help. Continue reading

The Christian’s new walk


by Mike Ratliff

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. Ephesians 4:17-19 (NASB) 

The vast majority of professing Christians in the United States and in other countries, whose churches are patterned after American churches, are enslaved to their flesh. Why? The trend that I have witnessed in our churches for at least the last 25 years or so is a de-emphasis of discipleship. Evangelism or outreach has crowded out in-reach and Bible study. Why? Church growth has become the golden calf of the new evangelism. Because of that, church leaders strive to be culturally relevant even if it means dummying down the Gospel and no longer putting any resources into biblical discipleship. 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

Why should we be partakers of the very thing that leads to eternal death in those who do not know the Lord?


by Mike Ratliff

8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just. Romans 3:8 (NASB) 

The debate in the visible Church in our time concerning the need for Christians to walk in Repentance is actually quite perplexing to those of us whose hearts and consciences are bound to the Word of God. It clearly exhorts us all to repent and walk in righteousness. I had a conversation with a Pastor several years ago at lunch following his sermon that Sunday morning. We discussed the dreadful condition in the visible Church in which most professing Christians appeared to be very immature and in bondage to their flesh. I asked for his opinion of why that was so. His response was that it was the result of the Church not being the Church God designed. There was little or no Church discipline. There was little preaching of the Law and the Gospel together. There was hardly ever a mention of walking in repentance before our Holy God. I agreed completely with his analysis. He also shared that he did not believe that a very large percentage of professing Christians were genuine. Continue reading

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus


by Mike Ratliff

1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:1-8 (NASB) 

Any attempt to please God by rule keeping or law keeping in order to “earn” right standing with Him is fruitless effort. Not only is it impossible, failure is inevitable. Also, for Christians to “evangelize” through legalism is a total waste of time. These well-meaning people tell unbelievers to stop sinning instead of preaching Jesus to them. I find this a ludicrous mind-set since no one who still lives in the temporal can be sinless. On the other hand, as we see in the passage above (Romans 8:1-8), those in Christ are in right standing before God because the law of the Spirit of life has set them free in their Saviour from the law of sin and death. However, this does not mean they are free to live this life as antinomians, that is, taking the grace of God for granted and living any way they choose. How can we live this life as we should my brethren? As we see in Romans 8:1-8 (above) those who walk correctly before the face of God do so according to the Spirit.  Continue reading

What are the roots of bitterness and cynicism? 


by Mike Ratliff

29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:29-32 (NASB) 

Steel is made through the smelting of iron ore. Iron becomes steel as carbon is added while the iron is very hot. What makes steel much harder than iron was not really understood by the ancients who created it. All they knew was that at a certain point in the shaping of a sword they would lay the red hot blade into the coals for a few minutes then resume the process of hammering, cooling in water, re-heating, hammering, cooling in water, et cetera. The finished product was a sword that would not bend in battle and could be sharpened over and over. The blade was actually made up of many pieces of iron rods that were heated, flattened, and folded upon itself over and over. It was hard work, but that was what it took to create a fine, usable steel sword.

17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB) 

When we are born of the Spirit at regeneration we are new creations. However, that does not mean that we become instantly sinless. Nor does it mean that we are instantly mature and able to know the will of God in walking before Him for His glory alone. No, these attributes come over time and after much “smelting, hammering, cooling, re-heating of us in the fires of sanctification. When I was a young Christian I remember many times being on the verge of walking away from my faith. Why? It seemed that I was “in the fire” all the time. I am very glad that God preserved me, but I want to share with all of you reading this that God has not stopped this process in me. I have been a believer since 1986, but I am no where near complete and this is obvious as God has not relented in showing me how much I must suffer for the name of Christ. Continue reading

The Pilgrim’s Heart Part 14 – Conclusion


by Mike Ratliff

37 For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Hebrews 10:37-39 (NASB) 

As we end this study of the Pilgrim’s Heart, let us take notice of the vast difference between the self-focused Christian, the Flesh-bound, and the God-focused Christian, the Spirit-led. The former is fleshly. He or she may very well be a genuine Christian, but they struggle mightily with besetting sins and are still focused on self-gratification as a means of fulfillment. His or her heart is relatively hard or callous towards God. The latter is not nearly as fleshly. He or she is a genuine Christian, and besetting sins are actively fought via mortification. The Spirit-led believer seeks to obey God and deny self. He or she has learned to take every thought captive so that sin does not have a chance to take root. His or her heart is relatively tender towards God. The Spirit-led believer, in his or her obedience, is Spirit-filled. That means he or she walks and obeys God by His grace. These fundamentals are the basis for all aspects of the victorious pilgrimage.

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