Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised


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

Be a true worshipper of our Lord


by Mike Ratliff

1 Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him. 3 Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, *said, 5 “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” 6 Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. 7 Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. 8 For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” John 12:1-8 (NASB) 

I am convinced that most professing Christians are absolutely clueless when it comes to genuine worship of the Lord in spirit and in truth. The idea that going to a building once or twice a week to sing a few songs and listen to Bible lesson and a sermon constitutes genuine worship would be foreign to Jesus Christ, the Apostles, and the early Church. Genuine worship is more than singing God glorifying songs or simply praying a prayer that someone else wrote. If it isn’t these things, then what is it? Continue reading

What is spiritual worship?


by Mike Ratliff

19 The woman *said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” 21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:19-24 (NASB) 

In 2006 my wife and I left our old church in Olathe, Kansas because the leadership there began the processes to change it to the Purpose Driven Church model. There were warning signs that something was not quite right well over a year earlier. For instance, some couples had left the church because they wanted less “frivolous worship” and more Biblical preaching. About that time the Pastor created care groups. Each of the Deacons was given families to care for.

There is nothing wrong with that, but when I began calling those in my group I came across some of those families which had left. They were nice to me when I called, but firmly told me that they weren’t coming back. I asked the Pastor what was going on. He told me that those folks wanted “only Hymns” and no “Contemporary” music. I looked at him and suggested that perhaps we could have both. He just shook his head and said that nothing could be done and that I should just cross them off my list. Continue reading

Praise be unto the Lord!


by Mike Ratliff

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. Romans 11:33-36 (NASB) 

I remember several years ago in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, my wife and I were sitting in our auditorium at our church, waiting for worship service to start. In the seats behind us were several ladies who were of my parents generation. We could hear them talking very clearly. They were discussing the music and worship songs that they liked and disliked. Just a few weeks earlier, the contemporary Christian Music group Sierra had performed during our morning worship service. It was awesome. However, the opinions I was hearing from behind us left me thinking. Continue reading

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