Joe D. Ballard

Sad Story

This past week we laid one of my good friends to rest.  God amazingly and powerfully changed his life.  He was one of the toughest guys I had ever known, but when God changed his heart, he became one of the tenderest guys I have ever known.  It’s amazing what God can do with rough and tough men, and women I might say.  Tracy and Pattie had been married for 37 years and as a matter of fact, he passed away on their 37th wedding anniversary.  The funeral service was standing room only and the graveside service was unusually crowded.

The sad part of this story, beyond the passing of my friend, is what took place some time after the burial service.  Someone stole the flowers from the grave and destroyed them.  I read the post that followed the findings and people were talking about how low people can go and we know this is pretty low.  Someone said, “I’m going to pray for whoever did this, because Tracy would have done the same.”  Others were talking about those people getting caught and then I read the post that grabbed my attention the most.  The post read, “they have already been caught by God.”  The truth is none of us ever get away with anything, God has already caught us doing what we know we shouldn’t be doing.  God has already caught every deceptive transaction and every sneaking sinful interaction.  Many people today are worried about the authorities catching them, but the greatest authority of all has already caught them.  I’ve been caught and you’ve been caught and not only caught, but our actions are recorded and we all will give an account one day.

We can try to hide and cover up the things we’ve done wrong, but we should confess and come forward and repent.  A truth you can believe is found in Numbers 32:23, “and be sure your sin will find you out.”  We may evade the authorities for a while, but never forever!  God is watching each one of us, so do what’s right, treat people with kindness and respect, and love the way that shows you know Jesus.

Fighting the Right Way

I can promise you that God is not going to fight your battles for you as long as you insist on being in the ring.  But that’s what we do, and that’s what we expect from God.  We love the very thought of God fighting our battles for us and alongside us, but that’s not how God fights our battles for us.  God will fight your battles for you, but you have to first get into your ring-side position for that to happen.

Think about it, what happens most often is that we like to put our energy and efforts into the fight, whatever it may be.  It’s hard not to, and it’s in our nature to resist and to engage and to exhaust our efforts in overcoming what’s coming against us, but God waits for us to get it all out and to get completely out of His way before He starts fighting our battles.  God will fiercely fight for you when you get spiritually still before Him.

Psalms 46:10-11 “Be still, and know that I [am] God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! 11 The LORD of hosts [is] with us; The God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah”

We all want God to fight our battles for us, but it’s the being still part that we struggle with.  We struggle with being still because that calls for absolutely trusting in God and in His ways.  The best way to be still is to be fully aware of the battle you are in and then stay ring-side in prayer.  God fights for us when we are still in trusting and fervent in praying over your circumstance.  So, learn to be still and pray when the battle rages and restrain yourself when the enemy gives you a wide-open opportunity.  Be still, trust God, and wait for the victory.

Shoe in a Boot

Just recently I decided I would wear my boots to church and when I started to put one boot on, I felt something down in the boot. I looked and found my grandson’s shoe in my boot. What’s crazy about this is that the shoe was brand new and he had only had the shoes 2 days before he lost one of them several months ago. At that time he was going through a season of walking around in my shoes. What’s crazy is, I hadn’t worn the boots in about 6-8 months.

When I found this new shoe in my boot, I was reminded of how our children walk in our footsteps, they will do what their parents do. I was reminded of how their little eyes and ears pick up on everything. This is not to say that as they get older they will not be their own person, but it is to say that adults lay out the patterns for their lives. Children are keenly aware of our relationship with God and they see whether or not we pursue Christ. And if you don’t pursue Christ, don’t be shocked if your child doesn’t grow up to pursue Him either. But we have this opportunity to lay out the spiritual pattern and hope and pray they pick it up and never lay it down like a forgotten toy. Since your children and grandchildren are going to do what they see you doing, do the rights things, use the right words, be the person you would like to see them grow up to be. Most likely they will walk in your shoes one day.
Proverbs 22:6
“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

By the way, my daughter had hung onto the other new shoe and he can still wear them! God is speaking to us all the time through life events. What is God saying to you?

How in the World?

To think that an 18-year-old could walk onto an elementary school campus and kill 18 children and a teacher is unimaginable.  How in the world could this ever happen?  Is there an explanation?  Is there any words that can give some kind of closure to families and peace to the community?  There is really only one explanation, and it doesn’t sit well with most folks, and there’s no source of comfort in it.  Who would do such an heinous act of violence and murder to the most innocent?  The only person who could ever do such a thing would be completely and clinically insane and out of their mind.  That’s it!

When a culture is habitually exposed to violence and murder and death through every media outlet, then the results show up through the lives of those who have no restraint and are mentally ill.  This act of violence in Uvalde is a combination of anger, evil, and a completely warped mind.  The enemy, the devil, who we can’t see, speaks into the minds of the most normal person, but they have enough sense not to act on those thoughts and they quickly dismiss them.  However, our world is full of those who entertain those evil thoughts, and sadly, act on those thoughts.  We can’t lay all the blame on the devil, and that’s not what I’m trying to do either, but responsibility for actions starts with the individual and then with parents and then with family and communities.  I would further say that the responsibility for mass murders should be pointed at the movie and game industry more than a lack of care and concern from the healthcare industry.  I know there is no comfort in discovering the root cause of the evil acts of men, but we should know that what causes men to carry out such atrocities is no mystery at all.  We know the causes, but who among our nation’s leaders will call them to accountability and change?

Let me say this to underly what I have already said, the first murder recorded in the Bible is found in Genesis Chapter 4.  Just four chapters in, a brother takes the life of his brother.  Sin against God entered in Chapter 3 and then a murder followed in Chapter 4 and the devil laughs at us because we think the problem with mass murder is because of other things.  Because of sin, and the ungodly violent influence peddled for profit, men will always find ways to kill other men.  We need God’s help and His intervention!

Despite all of this, there is comfort for these family in our Savior Jesus Christ.  The struggle and search for answers will never end, but comfort and peace can be found as we pray for this hurting community.  God is, “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation.”  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

It Won’t Come Naturally!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a restaurant with my wife and the waiter ask me where I work out.  My wife usually chuckles a little bit because she knows I never work out and what that tells me is that you can’t always go by the way someone looks to know if they are in shape or not.  I’m all for being physically fit and in shape, but I know it takes a lot of discipline, desire, endurance, effort, and consistency to stay in shape.  And what is true physically in this regard is also true spiritually.  So think about it, you will never stay in good spiritual shape without a desire to do so.  You will never naturally stay in shape spiritually.  Just like with your physical body, unless you intentionally make the effort and put in the work  you will decline spiritually.

If you want to be in good physical shape, you’ve got to make yourself get to the gym.  If you want to be in good spiritual shape, you’ve got to make yourself get to church.  If you want to be physically fit, you’ve got to make yourself eat right.  If you want to be spiritually fit, you’ve got to make yourself eat from God’s word.  (Matthew 4:4). If you want to be in shape physically, you can’t just go to the gym and stare at yourself in the mirrors, you’ve got to pick up some weights and get on the treadmill.  If you want to be in shape spiritually, you can’t just go to church, you’ve got to apply and practice the truths of God’s word. If you want to be physically fit you should talk to a fitness expert for guidance and direction.  And if you want to be spiritually fit, you need to talk to God in prayer.  Think about it, to be in shape and to stay in shape, there are no shortcuts, you’ve got to take the time and make the effort to make it happen, and once you start seeing the results, it just supplies the drive to keep doing what you’ve been doing.

Here’s my point, no one naturally stays in spiritual shape and those who do, constantly work at it.  Believe this word today!

Philippians 2:12-13 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for [His] good pleasure.”

How many people today have wasted their gym membership?  Untold numbers, and I would be included in that statistic, but I’m not going to waste my membership as a child of God.  I will put in the time, even when I don’t feel like it.  Will you join me?

Running Partners

When my wife and I were in our twenties, we were focused on staying fit and in shape, so we jogged.  It wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but it was effective and brought the results I wanted.  There were many occasions I would have to jog on my own and I noticed that I seemed to struggle more when I was by myself.  When Kristen ran with me and we reached the point of quitting but we knew we needed to push ourselves and go a little further, we used eachother to go further.  Instead of running beside each other, one of us would get behind the other and the one in the rear would focus on the feet of the one in front.  That focus gave us the endurance to press on for a much greater distance.

God’s word encourages running partners who keep us focused and pressing on especially when we feel like stopping.  The disciple’s life is like a race that requires running partners.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares [us,] and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [our] faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

So many times when I was running alone and my side started hurting me, I just stopped.  But every time I had my running partner with me, I found the strength to go a little bit further.  Perhaps you feel like quitting today and completely forget about your goals and why you started the faith-run to begin with.   Let this be an encouragement to you, give to God what’s weighing so heavy on you, get into a place where you can focus on the feet of Jesus, and run with endurance.  He will supply what you need to keep on going.

You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses of your faith-run.  Many of those witnesses are mentioned in Hebrews 11, but you also have those that live with you or those who are near you watching to see if you will quit or keep on going.  Keep going, because at the end of this race the prize is extraordinarily glorious!



What are You Doing Here?

My daughter and family unexpectedly showed up Sunday afternoon.  We thought they were in Washington State, and they were the last time we spoke with them, which was only a few days prior to their return.  In our minds we were not going to see them again for another few months, so naturally we asked, “What are you doing here?”  That’s a great question with deeper meanings than that of a surprised visit.

Think about the question.  This is the question the Lord asked Elijah when Elijah ran for his life from Jezebel.  Elijah had just struck a great victory for God’s people and revival broke out on top of Mt. Carmel, but the revival never made it to Jezreel where Jezebel was waiting.  She threatened Elijah with his life, and instead of standing against her, he ran acting as if he had been defeated.  In just a short period of time, Elijah went from a great victory on a mountain, to a cave of despair as far away from God’s people as he could go.  And the Lord asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:9-10 And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the LORD [came] to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

God knows where you are today, but He would still ask, “What are you doing here?”  God didn’t ask, “What are you doing there?”  That question would imply that God was not there, but “here” implies God is there with you and you are not alone, but where are you?  Can you identify your location?  “What are you doing here?”  Many have joined Elijah in that cave of despair.  Where are you?  Are you in a valley of depression or trapped in a circumstance out of your control?  Are you living loaded down with guilt, shame or burdens?  Have you gone into the far county like the prodigal son?  Are you in the belly of a whale because you’ve ran from obedience to God?  “What are you doing here?”  Are you surrounded in a crowd of those who have no love for Christ?  Are you living in the hurt from something in your past?  Are you stalled out by the doubt in your faith?  Are you living in a constant state of anger?

The Good News for wherever you are is that God visits the caves of our despairs and comes to lead us out.  If you are not where you are supposed to be today, God would ask you, “What are you doing here?”  He already knows the answer to how you got there, but He asks in order for you to recognize where you are and compel you to follow His voice back to a place of victorious living.  It’s time to get back to where you belong in Christ.



Rendezvous with Jesus  

What is it that gives you the most confidence in your walk with God?  I can tell you that many Christians struggle in this area, meaning they don’t have the confidence and strong faith they need to influence people the way they would like to.  I believe that believers in Christ want to have a greater influence than they do but are missing the confidence and courage to do so.  Most of us could be more confident in our walk with God if we just stayed close to those who were overflowing with confidence.  Prayer and God’s word also gives us confidence and seeing lives changed gives us confidence, but there’s something else that could boost our confidence if we lived in the reality of this truth.  It’s what the angel at the empty tomb of Christ told the women resurrection morning.

Matthew 28:6-8 “He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” 8 So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.”

“He is not here; for He is risen,” is incredible news, and we can only imagine the shock they experienced.  But the angel gave another word that should equally give you the confidence in moving forward in your walk with God.  What is it?  The angel said, “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”  The angel said, my paraphrase, “Jesus didn’t just rise from the grave, He is going before you.”

Do you believe that Jesus is going before you today?  If Jesus is not going before you, then you’re going the wrong direction.  But if you believe Jesus is going before you, then you should be able to go forward with unwavering confidence.  If Jesus is going before you, then you need to get going.  If Jesus is going before you, then you should be living with an urgency to do His will.  If Jesus is going before you, you can be confident in your faith with Jesus and the overflow will impact others to experience the same.

It Takes Power

Jesus had the power to lay His life down and to take it up again. We can’t lay down our lives in our our strength, but we need His power. We can’t be His disciples and true followers without denying ourselves and laying our lives down. That’s the only way to follow Christ and make Him the Shepherd and guide of our life. Jesus said,

John 10:18
“No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

We don’t have that power outside of a personal relationship with God and that’s why God calls the death of His Saints “precious.”

Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD [Is] the death of His saints.

The death of His Saints are precious because it’s a decision we make to follow Christ and lay down our lives. To lay down your life means to lay down your agenda and goals and dreams and self ambitions. I know this goes totally against motivational messages. There’s nothing wrong with having goals or dreams, but we need them to come from God and not from desires to be noticed and leave our names splattered all over the place for our legacy. Jesus’ Name is the only name that matters! To lay your life down can be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done! We should be asking God, “God, what do you want? What do You want me to do with My life?”

Holy Father, empower Your people to follow Jesus. Help us to lay our lives down. Amen!

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