Thanksgiving


A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. (Psalms 100:1-5 ESV)

Even though the national holiday Thanksgiving Day has pretty much lost it’s meaning within our culture, Christians should understand the significance of having a grateful heart in all they do. That gratitude should be directed toward the only source of all they have, The Most High God. Their jobs, their possessions, their children, their parents, their extended families, their churches, and especially their salvation all came to them by the grace of God. Let us worship our awesome Most High God with a grateful and undivided heart. Oh, be glorified in your people Lord!

Give Me Jesus


Give Me Jesus

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus

You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

And when I am alone
Oh, and when I am alone
And when I am alone, give me Jesus

Give me Jesus
Give me Jesus

You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

And when I come to die
Oh, and when I come to die
And when I come to die, give me Jesus

“Give Me Jesus” is a traditional Black Gospel song. The author is unknown and when it is performed reverently, with all focus on the Lord, not on self, I find myself worshipping and often weeping with joy. Many artists have recorded this song like Jeremy Camp and Fernando Ortega. I have both in my library. I seem to listen to Fernando’s version the most though there is nothing wrong with Jeremy Camp’s. In any case, this last Sunday in church we sang this song as part of our worship service. Man oh man! Everything came alive! Why? Our focus was on Jesus as our all-in-all! Who needs the nonsense this lost and dying world has to offer? Where is your treasure? If you are clinging to the stuff of this world as your treasure then you cannot sing this song and worship the Lord in spirit and in truth. Please mediate on this today and repent as the Lord leads.

Christians worship the Lord by being Spirit-filled


by Mike Ratliff

16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NASB) 

16 Πάντοτε χαίρετε,
17 ἀδιαλείπτως προσεύχεσθε,
18 ἐν παντὶ εὐχαριστεῖτε· τοῦτο γὰρ θέλημα θεοῦ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς ὑμᾶς.
19 τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ σβέννυτε,
20 προφητείας μὴ ἐξουθενεῖτε,
21 πάντα δὲ δοκιμάζετε, τὸ καλὸν κατέχετε,
22 ἀπὸ παντὸς εἴδους πονηροῦ ἀπέχεσθε.
23 Αὐτὸς δὲ ὁ θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης ἁγιάσαι ὑμᾶς ὁλοτελεῖς, καὶ ὁλόκληρον ὑμῶν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ τὸ σῶμα ἀμέμπτως ἐν τῇ παρουσίᾳ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τηρηθείη. 24 πιστὸς ὁ καλῶν ὑμᾶς, ὃς καὶ ποιήσει. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 (NA28)

The Christian walk that John Bunyan set before us in his masterpiece The Pilgrim’s Progress is not one of “having your best life now” nor is it having all of your problems suddenly replaced with “opportunities.” No, Bunyan understood, and we need to as well, that no where in God’s Word are we promised that all we have to do is “come to Jesus and all our problems are over.” No, in fact, the opposite may very well be true. Jesus was not exaggerating when he said in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Why does the world hate real Christians? They are not of the world, but have been chosen by Christ out of the world, regenerated and made part of His Kingdom. This change is radical. This salvation is by grace through faith not according to merit or works, but, according to Ephesians 2:10, good works are part of what this Christian walk is all about, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” In fact, our Lord Jesus went so far as to say it very plainly in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Therefore, genuine Christians will be evident to the world because they will serve their Lord with their lives in obedience walking in the good works set before them by God Himself. That means also that they will not be those compromising all over the place with false religions seeking unity with false brethren and obvious wolves in sheep’s clothing for the sake of a friendly, false peace. Doesn’t this explain why the world hates us?  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 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 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

Reverence and worship


by Mike Ratliff

37 But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ Matthew 21:37 (NASB) 

In the Old Testament the Hebrew word translated “reverence” is usually שׁחה or shâchâh. It is the same word used for worship as well because it speaks of assuming a humble posture before royalty for instance. However, in the New Testament we find a most remarkable word translated as respect or reverence or even shame. It is found in the passage above (Matthew 21:37). Here is the Greek from the NA28, “ὕστερον δὲ ἀπέστειλεν πρὸς αὐτοὺς τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ λέγων· ἐντραπήσονται τὸν υἱόν μου.” Here we have ἐντραπήσονται the plural, future tense, indicative mood, passive voice form of ἐντρέπω or entrepō, which literally means “to turn into oneself, to put self to shame, to feel respect or deference toward someone else.” If you are at all familiar with the parables of our Lord then I am sure you recoginze from where I drew the passage above. You may be asking yourself, what has this got to do with worship? Let’s see…  Continue reading

What is spiritual adultery?


by Mike Ratliff

4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:4 (NASB) 

Worship is that vital part of the relationship between God and His people that we see so often corrupted and wrongly focused in our time to the point that the end result is that even if people believe they are “worshiping” God they are actually guilty of spiritual adultery. The division line between what true worship is, that which glorifies and pleases God, and that which is no more than spiritual adultery is actually very easily drawn. Those on the side that is “friends of the world” and are, therefore, making themselves enemies of God, are part of “systems” whose values, loves, and deeds are wholly at odds with what pleases God (1 John 2:15-17). Carefully read James 4:4 (above). Those whom James was accusing were betraying Christ and following after the world by embracing the worldly way of treating people because they were being motivated by the things of this world in this rather than the mandates of Christ. One way that “churches” do this in our day is to seek to meet people’s felt needs first rather than preaching the truth of the Gospel. In these churches, the focus becomes all about the people in “worship” instead of about God and His glory. How can that be called “worship?”  Continue reading

Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised, And His greatness is unsearchable


by Mike Ratliff

4 We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. Psalms 78:4 (NASB) 

God is good. He is beyond our comprehension in His magnificence and the depths of His mercy. He is Holy, Righteous, and Just. He is Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Immutable. Oh, let us praise Him from grateful hearts.  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

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

Glory Praise and Worship


by Mike Ratliff

28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. (Luke 9:28-32 ESV)

As we continue in our discussion and deeper look at the makeup of the dividing line between genuine Christianity, that which is God centered, and counterfeit Christianity, that which is man centered, let us look the vast difference in how each side understands the concepts of God’s glory and the praise that is His due. The word most often translated as praise in the New Testament is δόξα or doxa. It is also translated even more often as glory. However, in secular Greek, δόξα means opinion or conjecture, especially favorable human opinion, which then includes an evaluation placed by others, such as fame, repute, honor, or praise. Is this what is meant in God’s Word when δόξα is used in reference to God’s glory and the praise that His due? I submit that that definition exactly defines most professing Christians’ understanding of praise and worship, but is not in any way shape or form what is true δόξα. Continue reading

Psalms Hymns Spiritual Songs


by Mike Ratliff

18 And do not become drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled by the Spirit, 19 speaking among yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord, (Ephesians 5:18-19 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

In our last post, Be Filled By the Spirit, we studied exegetically what Paul meant by commanding Christians to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Joy is one of the primary evidences of the Spirit-filled life and how that is often expressed is in song as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:19 (above). The Spirit-filled Christian is a singing Christian regardless of talent. In this post we will look a few aspects of what is often called “church music” using the terms Paul used in this verse. I believe if you compare this study with what goes on in the name of “worship” in many churches nowadays there will be big difference.  Continue reading

Word and Sacrament in Worship


Having been in this apologetics battle for quite some time, I have become used to our enemy being allowed to counter-attack us viciously as our standing firm in the name of the Lord has caused light to come to bear into places of confusion and deception he has caused. However, I have never become used to how vicious these attacks are nor how those who are being used by our enemy are so convinced that they are actually the ones serving God and what we are doing must be stopped because after all we are stirring things up by being so unbending, unyielding, and not politically correct, et cetera. God is Love isn’t he? After absorbing several charges of legalism, being overly harsh, and losing some readership and subscribers because of that, I think it is time to make some things more clear. Just because I use what God says as the truth and insist that there is no other because that is what he says, does not mean that I do not also have religious affections. I do worship my Lord. I could not bear to have a form of Christianity forced on me that consisted of mere intellectual assent devoid of joy and fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. That being said, I pray that you carefully read Kim Riddlebarger’s excellent article below about proper worship. – Mike Ratliff Continue reading