There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness


by Mike Ratliff

6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NASB) 

In the passage above some may say that Paul’s crown of righteousness would be based upon how well he fought the good fight and finished the course while keeping the faith. However if you read down to end of v8 it is clear that the same award will be for all who have loved His appearing. Is that you? I know what my life was like before God had mercy on me. I know what it was like to be blind to His truth and see Christianity as just another religion. However, I remember clearly that day when the Spirit took over and regenerated me and I saw the truth with a heart that was alive instead of one that was stone cold dead. That was 36 years ago this month, but I can remember the details of how things happened that day just a vividly as it if was just a few days ago. As I have grown and matured as a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ since then I have learned that we are accepted by our dear heavenly Father because of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, not because of our religiosity or good works. We are saints because of His work not ours as we saw in last night’s post Saints. Since this is true then how should we look at what awaits us in Heaven? Continue reading

Saints


by Mike Ratliff

1 Παῦλος δοῦλος Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, κλητὸς ἀπόστολος ἀφωρισμένος εἰς εὐαγγέλιον θεοῦ, 2 ὃ προεπηγγείλατο διὰ τῶν προφητῶν αὐτοῦ ἐν γραφαῖς ἁγίαις 3 περὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ τοῦ γενομένου ἐκ σπέρματος Δαυὶδ κατὰ σάρκα, 4 τοῦ ὁρισθέντος υἱοῦ θεοῦ ἐν δυνάμει κατὰ πνεῦμα ἁγιωσύνης ἐξ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν, 5 διʼ οὗ ἐλάβομεν χάριν καὶ ἀποστολὴν εἰς ὑπακοὴν πίστεως ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν ὑπὲρ τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ, 6 ἐν οἷς ἐστε καὶ ὑμεῖς κλητοὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 7 πᾶσιν τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Ῥώμῃ ἀγαπητοῖς θεοῦ, κλητοῖς ἁγίοις, χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. Romans 1:1-7 (NA28)

1 Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, 6 among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ;
7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1-7 (NASB) 

What is a saint? I grew up as a Southern Baptist with a lot of Roman Catholic friends just down the street from a Catholic school and large Catholic Church. I am retired now, but for the last 20 years I have worked for a corporation that was owned by a Roman Catholic Hospital not-for-profit corporation. So, with that being said, I know what the RCC’s concept of a “saint” is, but what is the Biblical definition? I believe the passage I placed at the top of this post is a good starting place, but we will look at the Greek word that is translated as “saint” and what it means Biblically. Continue reading

Holy to the LORD!


by Mike Ratliff

36 “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ 37 You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. Exodus 28:36-38 (NASB) 

I have written much over the years about our battle with pride pretending to be humility especially when it comes to service and worship. I struggle with this as much as any of you. When I was a new Christian I had the mistaken concept that the more I served the Lord and better the quality of that service was, the more I would acceptable to Him. It took many years and many trials and a personal revival to cleanse me of that. A huge part of being cleansed of that is to understand that God is Sovereign and we are saved by Grace alone through Faith alone. We are acceptable to God because of the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ, not our works. Yes, we are given works to walk in (Ephesians 2:10), but that is also by and through God’s Grace. Continue reading

Take Up Your Cross


by Mike Ratliff

23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26 (NASB) 

Many years ago when I was much younger I made a commitment to become fit enough to run one mile in under 5 minutes, run 5 Kilometers in under 18 minutes, run 5 miles in under 30 minutes, run 10 Kilometers in under 37 minutes, and run 10 miles in under an hour. By the time I was 33 years old I had accomplished the first three. I had missed my goal for the 10K by less than a minute, however, my best time for a 10 mile race was 1 hour and 4 minutes. These times are no where near competitive at the highest level, but in the Oklahoma City Running Club it was. It took a great deal of commitment. I had to train by doing miles and miles of road work and then compliment that with speed work. I had to work on my upper body strength and had to eat right. Some of my friends and relatives accused me of becoming obsessive. I couldn’t have done any of this without commitment. When God saved me in 1986 I remember my mother saying, “Watch out! Michael will get into the Bible just like he did running…” I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant by that, but I have found that commitment to the Word of God is just part of becoming the Christian God wants all of us to be. It also takes commitment to obedience to our Lord’s commandments, God’s glory, denying self, dying to self, submitting to others, and loving our Lord foremost.  Continue reading

Grow in Grace


by Mike Ratliff

17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:17-18 (NASB) 

I have been praying a lot lately for healing not just for this nasty head cold I picked up just before Christmas, but also for my wife’s healing after her shoulder surgery which really put her into a very painful condition with the use of only one arm. The surgery was about a week before Christmas. I was preparing to leave work as my retirement date approached and suddenly both of us were smacked with these things, but we were still expected to participate in family Christmas events. She cannot even lie down to sleep. I wake up at night every couple of hours not being able to breath. Our enemy has really been working on me trying to get me to despair. Here we are now with no job and seemingly at the mercy of Medicare and the V.A. Then I was contacted by my sister who told me that my brother has Covid and is in the hospital. He is on oxygen and not doing well and his wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Do we despair? No! Why? We have the throne of grace and prayer. Continue reading

Faith Comes First


by Mike Ratliff

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10 (NASB) 

The genuine Christian is a new creation. He or she will not be the same after regeneration as they were before. Before regeneration they were children of wrath and conformed to this world. After regeneration they were adopted children of God who, from an eternal perspective, are Holy, justified, sanctified, and glorified in Christ. However, from a temporal perspective they are in the process of sanctification that God uses to conform His children unto the image of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The unregenerate may suffer. They may have a large number of problems. However the suffering of Christians is different. God uses suffering, tests, and trials in the lives of His children to build humility and uproot pride in their hearts. Continue reading

The Incomparable Christ


by Mike Ratliff

13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:13-20 (NASB)

This is the 1st day of 2022. In October last year I turned 70. Just a month earlier I celebrated 20 years as the Senior Database Administrator at the hospital corporation where I worked. Just a couple of week after I turned 70 my wife and celebrated 40 years of marriage. Lastly, December 24th was my last day at work as I retired. I must confess it was that last thing that has caused the most stress for my wife and I. Why? Well, now we are not getting that paycheck every couple of weeks nor the health insurance that goes with the job. As we prepared for this my prayer time changed quite a bit. I found myself praying extensively along the lines of the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Why? Here it is.

9 “Pray, then, in this way:
‘Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10 ‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.
12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB) 

Continue reading

Christian Character


by Mike Ratliff

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. 19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner.
20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:18-21 (NASB) 

R.C. Sproul shared the following story in the September 2007 issue of Tabletalk magazine. “Several years ago I was participating in a discussion with some business men in Jackson, Mississippi. In the course of the conversation, one of the men made reference to a man who was not present at the meeting. He said, ‘He is an honorable man.’ When I heard this comment, my ears perked up as I thought for a moment I was hearing a foreign language being spoken. I realized that I was in the middle of the Deep South where customs of old had not entirely been eradicated, yet I still could not get over that somebody in this day and age was using the word honor as descriptive term for a human being.” Continue reading

The Pelagian Captivity of the Church


by R.C. Sproul

Shortly after the Reformation began, in the first few years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he issued some short booklets on a variety of subjects. One of the most provocative was titled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In this book Luther was looking back to that period of Old Testament history when Jerusalem was destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon and the elite of the people were carried off into captivity.

Luther in the sixteenth century took the image of the historic Babylonian captivity and reapplied it to his era and talked about the new Babylonian captivity of the Church. He was speaking of Rome as the modern Babylon that held the Gospel hostage with its rejection of the biblical understanding of justification. You can understand how fierce the controversy was, how polemical this title would be in that period by saying that the Church had not simply erred or strayed, but had fallen — that it’s actually now Babylonian; it is now in pagan captivity. Continue reading

There is only one Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ


by Mike Ratliff

8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:8-12 (NASB) 

The title of this article may surprise many. I have been in “conversation” on this topic for last several days with many who disagree that there is only one gospel. Their stance is that no one can know everything about the gospel. We must be tolerant of others views of salvation because the gospel is inherently unknowable. Before our Lord saved me I may have bought that argument, but not anymore. Our God is a very precise God who does things His way in His timing and always for His glory. Continue reading

The Hypocrite


 

by Mike Ratliff

6 “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go.
My heart does not reproach any of my days.
7 “May my enemy be as the wicked
And my opponent as the unjust.
8 “For what is the hope of the godless when he is cut off,
When God requires his life?
9 “Will God hear his cry
When distress comes upon him?
10 “Will he take delight in the Almighty?
Will he call on God at all times? Job 27:6-10 (NASB) 

One of the easiest accusations that Christians can hurl at one another is the epitaph “Hypocrite!” I probably receive at least half a dozen emails or comments a week with that accusation firmly pointed at me. What is a hypocrite? A hypocrite may be a very neat imitation of a Christian. He professes to know God, to converse with him, to be dedicated to his service, and to invoke his protection: he even practices prayer, or at least feigns it. Yet the cleverest counterfeit fails somewhere, and may be discovered by certain signs. The test is here: “Will he call upon God at all times?” Continue reading

Do Not Grow Weary


by Mike Ratliff

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28 (NASB) 

When things appear dark and perhaps the bottom just fell out of a major part of our lives, we may fall into doubt about God’s sustaining grace. However, God is faithful. He is also Sovereign and never taken by surprise by the good and bad events in the lives of His people.

On April 19, 1995 I was at work at Bank of Oklahoma in my office at the BOk Plaza in Oklahoma City, which is just a block South of where the Murrah Federal Building used to be. I was preparing to walk outside into the elevator lobby to go up to the main plaza level to help a person who was having network problems on her PC. I had made an appointment with her for 9:00am. It was about two or three minutes before the hour so I stood up to tell my coworkers where I was headed.

My phone rang so I went back to my desk to answer it. The call lasted until just after 9:00am. I was going to be late for my appointment, so I did all I could do to get through the call, hang up, and head for the door. When I hung up I stood up then turned to tell everyone where I was going and before I could get halfway to the door the strangest sound moved through the ceiling over our heads. It was the shock wave from a massive explosion just up the street, but we didn’t know that at the time. One of my coworkers was sure an elevator had crashed into the basement. Another one said it sounded like a plane or helicopter had crashed nearby. Continue reading

I will strengthen thee


by Mike Ratliff

10 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Isaiah 41:10 (NASB) 

I saw an Christian encouragement meme a few days ago that went something like this, “When you see a Christian who is at peace in the midst of chaos what you are witnessing is a mature believer who has been through the fire and has learned where their strength comes from and in whom to trust.” Of course the source of their strength is the Lord and the one in whom they trust is also Him. Our enemy has his puppets in power seemingly everywhere right now. What is their message continually? Be afraid! Worry! Doom and gloom! This affects everything. Yes, we are in Christ, but we also must make our way through this fallen world on the way to the Celestial City. That means we have to make a living, prepare for retirement, somehow have the right medical care and insurance, etc. In other countries those things I mentioned aren’t even options. People are just after their next meal and struggle to provide for their families. This world is fallen and Satan has been allowed by God to be the ruler of those in darkness. Continue reading

Comfort for Troubling Times


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

We must all be honest and admit that we are in very troubling times. I am not speaking of the political situations all across this globe, but am referring to the growing apostasy in the visible church. It seems that for every pocket of genuine believers I run across who are standing on the promises of God and not compromising their faith by buying into pragmatism or mysticism or outright heresy there is another “Christian leader” falling into the ranks of the apostate. Our error is allowing this to drive us to despair and doubt. When we do this we have lost focus. We are looking at the situation rather than keeping our eyes on our saviour. I pray that the following devotional from Martin Luther will encourage you and help you to not allow our enemy to distract you from the truth. – Mike Ratliff Continue reading