Joe D. Ballard

Know Your Enemy

You must become more and more aware of the schemes of the devil.  Ultimately his goal is constant fear for your life.  Fear is what gets him excited the most.  Whatever he can bring into your life or suggest for your life that will cause fear, he will do it.  His schemes including dividing, distracting, depression and discouragement.  Anyway to get you down and alone is his strategy.  Anything to get you off what God has for you is his plan.  Have you thought about his schemes against you?  I can promise you, he is not overlooking you if you are a child of God.

His scheme is to get you to wallow in the guilt and shame of your past.  His scheme is to keep you at a distance from the truth and the light of God’s word.  His scheme is to get you to think that everyone is against you and for you to be swallowed up in self-pity.  He wants you to think you have nothing to offer and are of no benefit to others, especially to God.

He has an opposing scheme as well, and that is to elevate you to a high and lofty place of pride and self-importance.  He wants you to think the world or company or church or family can’t make it without you.  He wants you to think you’re the best thing that ever happened to humanity.  His scheme is to assist you in being self-centered and selfish, rather than to “esteem others more highly than yourself.” Philippians 2:3

His scheme is to make you busy so you wont have time to spend with God, much less be about the Father’s business.  His scheme is to entertain you and to get you to a place where you must be constantly entertained and stimulated.  His scheme is to lie to you by deceptive words and spinning conversations.  His scheme is to cause you to live based only on what you can see with your eyes, but God’s word says, “We walk by faith and not by sight.”  2 Corinthians 5:7

The enemy’s scheme is to get you addicted to something, anything.  He wants you to develop destructive habits so you will self-destruct and bring shame on your life and family.  He wants you to be compulsive and rash rather than a person who lives and seeks God’s wisdom.

The enemy’s scheme is to cause you to constantly compare yourself to others to either puff you up even more or to feel like you’re never good enough.  You can never do what some can do and some can never do what you can do.  Focus on who God created you to be and to do, and you will experience the life He has for you.  Let me ask you, what is the scheme being used against you today?  Whatever you do, don’t fall for it and don’t be afraid.

 

Thanksgiving Grief

For those waking today with heavy hearts because you’re in a season of grief, it’s ok to not want to celebrate like the the rest of the world. Jesus knows full well that you are grateful but your heart is broken.
He doesn’t expect you to ignore it, rise above it, or shove it under the rug. He never once instructed us to ignore our present reality with some sort of pretend super power faith.
He lets us know He is near the broken-hearted and in that alone we can be thankful.
Thankful that He still bottles tears
Thankful that He knows every fear
Thankful that in times of great need
Christ is ready to comfort thee.
Thankful that He is mindful of man
Thankful that He does still have a plan
Thankful that every pain is sure seen
And you can just rest under His wings.
Thankful when blows a refreshing rain
Thankful for the power in His name
Thankful that when the anguish is rough
Christ will prove to still be enough.
As you struggle through the day, close your eyes when you need to and catch a glimpse of the seat that Jesus sits in. It may be right next to yours making sure you know He is holding your hand.                – Shelly Wilson

The Impossible Imperative of Thanksgiving

God’s word is full of commands and imperatives that seem impossible and there is one that involves thanksgiving.  Paul wrote these words in I Thessalonians 5:18:

”In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  

This is Biblical Thanksgiving and God’s will for you and me.  I think we could have handled this imperative had Paul said, “I give thanks in some things,” or “in a few things, I give thanks,” or “in certain things or in important things I give thanks.”  But Paul goes all the way with this impossible imperative so that we don’t get to pick and choose what we are thankful for.  Actually the command goes further than that, and what I mean is that this command is for all Christians no matter what circumstances we go through.

I know you may be asking, how can I be thankful when things hurt me or there is extreme trials God allows to take place in my life?  How can I be thankful when the doctor tells me I have cancer?  How can I be thankful when my house burns down or my child is born with a disability?  How can I be thankful when my spouse wants a divorce?  How is it possible to be thankful when you lose a loved one?  Those are real life circumstances that people go through every day, and to hear someone say, “Be thankful” is almost offensive.  Please hear this, Paul was not telling us to give thanks for the specific trial.  Paul was not saying give thanks because you were injured and can never work again, or give thanks because your friend’s life was cut short by a careless driver.

So what was Paul saying, and how is this even possible to give thanks in everything?  First, right before Paul said, “In everything give thanks,” Paul said, “Pray without ceasing.”  You have to know that praying without ceasing makes the impossible imperative of thanksgiving possible.  That’s where the power to give thanks comes from—prayer.  But there’s two phrases that you need to put together to know how to give thanks in everything, or why, rather.  “In everything give thanks,” and “in Christ Jesus” are the key phrases that go together.

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

The “how” to give thanks in everything comes from the power of unceasing prayer and the “why” comes from more than Paul’s command.  Paul was not saying, “Do this because I said so!”  Paul gave this command because of an unwavering truth present in your life this moment.  We should give thanks in everything because God is with us in everything.  In every circumstance of your life, God is right there with you.  You are not saying, “God, thank you that this happened to me and my family,” but you are saying, “God, thank you for being with me in this trial.”  “God, thank for for not abandoning me when life gets hard.”  “God, thank you that there’s never a moment in my life that you are not with me.”

This the true reason to gives thanks in everything.  This Thanksgiving, give thanks to God that He is with you in everything that you go through in life.

When the Favored of God Fall

It would be hard to believe that God’s favored children could fall from a place of goodness, influence, status and standing, unless we could read in God’s Word where this happened.  God’s favored children fall because we see it happen in Joseph’s life and Job’s life.  We see the fall of the favored in King David’s life.  First, let me tell you that if you are a child of God, you are favored by Him.  None are more favored or less favored than you, because He looked your way and gave you faith to believe in Jesus when you surrendered your life to Him.  So though it seems that you have lost favor, it is only a trick of the devil.  You are still highly favored even when unfavorable circumstances come your way.  It’s not your circumstances that determine your favor with God, it’s your family connection through the blood of Jesus.

King David was on the throne in Jerusalem and his own son came against him, and instead of fighting for his place on the throne, David fled with the people who were loyal to him.  David fled weeping and worshipping.  When you know you are favored by God, you don’t have to fight every battle.

So David said to all his servants who [were] with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or we shall not escape from Absalom. Make haste to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly and bring disaster upon us, and strike the city with the edge of the sword.”  2 Samuel 15:14

But here’s the question,  why would God ever allow you to be in a place of great favor and then allow it to be taken from you?  

  1. Perhaps God allows us to be removed from greater favor as a way to remind us He was the one who placed us in that position of favor to begin with.
  2. God allows us to be moved out of places of favor to humble us and remind us that He is in control.
  3. God allows us to be moved from what looks like favored places and position to set the enemy up for a greater defeat.
  4. God allows us to be displaced from a place of favor because we get comfortable and don’t seek Him as we did before.
  5. God allows us to be moved from outward favored places, so we can know that our favor is not in a place, but it is in His person.
  6. God allows us to be moved from a place of favor so that no one around you thinks more highly of you than they should.  
  7. And lastly, God allows us to be moved from a place of favor to take you to another place of favor.  

Maybe what happened to David and many others in the Bible has happened to you and you’re not sure what to do or even how to live right now.  When the favored of God fall, you can do what David did in this tragic event in his life.  What did he do?

  1. Submit and surrender yourself under the sovereign hand of God.  Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and show me [both] it and His dwelling place. 26 “But if He says thus: ‘I have no delight in you,’ here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him.”  2 Samuel 15:25-26
  2. Wait on a word from God.                                                                 The king also said to Zadok the priest, “[Are] you [not] a seer? Return to the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. 28 “See, I will wait in the plains of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.” 2 Samuel 15:27-28
  3. Pray against/for your enemy.  “Then someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.”  And David said, “O Lord, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!”  2 Samuel 15:31  You can always pray that God will change your enemy’s heart.  You can always pray blessings over them, so they will lose interest in you.  But you can pray against the devil, that his plan and schemes against your life will utterly fail.
  4. Trust in your advocate who is with the throne.                         “And [do] you not [have] Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? Therefore it will be [that] whatever you hear from the king’s house, you shall tell to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. 36 “Indeed [they have] there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s [son,] and Jonathan, Abiathar’s [son;] and by them you shall send me everything you hear.” 37 So Hushai, David’s friend, went into the city. And Absalom came into Jerusalem.“ 2 Samuel 15:35-37

Believe this today, that you are favored by God no matter what condition you find yourself in.  Your circumstances in life will always change, but your favor with God will remain the same.  Live in that truth today!

You Need Some Help

You may think it’s easy, but the ability to abide in Christ and in God’s love is going to take some help.  You need help and so do I, but where does that help come from?  Let me ask you, is the world helping you abide in Christ and helping you draw closer to God?  Think about it, how many people in your circle are pushing you into a closer walk with God?  The world around you is not just not helping you, but it is pulling you away from God with all the unholy and ungodly influence.  I can promise you, it’s ok to admit that you need help.  Let me be the first to say it, “I need help!”  Truth is, I need a lot of help because I haven’t arrived at the place where abiding is easy.  Even my own flesh is against abiding in God’s love.

But praise God, there is the church called to help me abide in Christ.  Praise God, there are those in our lives who do push us closer to the Lord. But is there any other help available?  Does heaven offer any other services to those who want to abide as close to God as they can?  The answer is, absolutely!  And it’s the greatest help available and offered to us free of charge.  But where and what is the help in abiding?

And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever– 17 “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.“  John 14:16-18

If you need help in abiding in God’s love, you got it!  God has given us help on the inside, inside help.  You may not receive much help on the outside and the circumstances around you, but that’s ok because God gives us something so much greater.  What that means is that you can abide and you can experience the fullness of life God intended for you.

You May Not Like This

For those who desire to stay in close fellowship with God and enjoy the blessings associated with that fellowship, there’s a critical truth that has to be understood and applied constantly and consistently.  Here it is, you cannot abide in God’s love without obeying God’s commandments.  Just look at what Jesus said about abiding in John 15.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.”  John 15:9-10

When Jesus taught His followers about abiding He used the analogy of the vine and the branch’s and He talked about how our Father is glorified when we bear much fruit.  You can’t bear fruit without abiding and you can’t abide without obeying.  So just follow me on this for a minute.  What this means is that you can pray all day long, but if you’re not obeying God, you’re not abiding.  You can also read and study the scriptures with passion, but if you’re not obeying God, you’re not abiding in God’s love.  You can go to church every Sunday and Wednesday and every time the doors are opened and even have the keys to the building, but if you’re not obeying God, you’re not abiding in God’s love.  What this means is that all the religious activity you can do can never take the place of obeying what God tells you to do.  Like the title says, you may not like this.  What’s happened is that we’ve become pretty good at religious talk and religious activity, but if we’re honest, we still struggle with obedience.

The specific command to obey so you can abide is, love one another. “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”  John 15:12   There very well maybe some difficult people in your life who you need to love.  Let me encourage you to look beyond them and don’t allow them to kill your ability to abide in God’s love.  Only when your desire to abide in God’s love is matched with your obedience to love others, will God’s joy abundantly flow in your life.  You can actually tell God when you are struggling with loving some one and then ask for the power to love them because you want to abide in Him.

Exhausted

Who knew kindergarten was so exhausting?  At some point in time, the strength you have to go and do and to be engaged in will run out.  That happens in every aspect of our being, including running out of strength spiritually.  God has made it that way to remind us that first, we are all human, and when we run out of strength, we are reminded that our strength needs to be renewed.  Physically we understand this and we renew our strength every night, or at least most people do.  It’s in our nature to get some rest and renew our strength.  But what about renewing your strength mentally, emotionally and spiritually?  How does that work?  Well, it requires rest as well.  You need to take a break from the demands and schedules and be renewed.

You need to give yourself a break, because the world and some people around you certainly won’t.  You may even have the personality where you push and push yourself, and it may be how you are, but it’s not healthy.  What’s healthy is to strike the perfection combination between working and resting.  Ultimately our renewal comes from the Lord.  The renewal that will cause you be endure and outlast everyone else comes from the Lord to those who exercise waiting on the Lord.  Truth is, there’s not many people very good at waiting on the Lord, but it is a necessary discipline of the Christian faith.

Hasn’t the last 2 or 3 years taken it’s toil on most of us?   Let me ask you, are you exhausted?  Are you trying to do more than you should?  Do you realize you don’t have to keep up with everyone else?  Why not start the renewing process today and just begin by saying, “Lord, I’m going to wait on you because the tasks are too many and I need to refocus on the things that matter to you.”

If you’ve ever gone through a season when you have had no strength, it may feel like God is finished with you, but the truth is, He is only wanting you to rest for the next season in your life.  Rest in Him.  Wait on Him.  Be renewed by Him and then serve Him.

That’s Your Part!

Believe it or not, God will not do everything for you, you will have to do some things yourself.  Perhaps you’ve already discovered this truth, but the longer I walk with God in this world, the more I realize my own responsibility for my walk of faith.  Don’t misunderstand this truth, God has already done more for us than we could ever imagine by sending His Son Jesus to take our place on the cross and suffer the punishment for our sins.  God has opened the way of deliverance, just as He did with the Hebrews in parting the Rea Sea, but they had to do the walking.  God made the manna fall from the sky in the wilderness, but they had to go out and gather it up.  God brought down the walls around Jericho, but the people had to march around the city everyday.  God brought His people into the land of promise, but they had to go to battle against the enemy.

Here’s what you can count on with God, and that is, God will always do His part.  God gave us His Holy Book, but we have to open it and read it and study it.  God has opened the throne room for our prayers to be heard, but we have to take the time to pray.  Don’t be guilty of living with a dead faith, for “faith without works is dead.” James 2:20.

Consider today some of the the faith-verbs God has left up to you.  Our part is in bold letters.

John 15:4 (NKJV) “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Luke 11:9-10 (NKJV) 9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Matthew 11:28-29 (NKJV) 28 “Come to Me, all [you] who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Luke 13:3 (NKJV) “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.

Ephesians 6:11 (NKJV) Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

Acts 16:31 (NKJV) So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

James 4:10 (NKJV) Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Luke 6:37-38 (NKJV) 37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Now here’s the final question, what is God waiting on you to do?  You may be waiting on God to do something, but the reality is, God is waiting on you.  Do your part and believe with all your heart that He will do His.

Signs You are Stuck

  1. The scenery of your life never changes.
  2. You are busy, but you constantly complain.
  3. You have no joy and are seldom happy.
  4. You have stopped dreaming.
  5. You get annoyed by people who are not stuck.
  6. You want everyone else to be stuck with you.
  7. You have stopped asking God to change you.

People get stuck in life for many reasons. Many people have this experience, so if that is you, you’re not alone. There is hope. After I realize I’m stuck, I want to know how to get unstuck, and sometimes that depends on how stuck you are, right? If you’ve been bogged down for years, it may take a little longer to get you free than for someone who has only been stuck for 6 months, but whatever the case, don’t live stuck. No one intentionally gets stuck, we try to avoid the areas of life that can potentially capture us. But the reality of life is that none of us are great navigators and there is quicksand everywhere. So if you’re stuck, understand the possibility of living out your life that way. Understand also that the enemy you can’t see is all about trapping you and leaving you there. So, if you’re stuck, take this seriously and take the following steps to be free.

  1. Realize you will need help.
  2. Ask God to help you get free.
  3. Ask God to send you help to get free. God may send you a person or an opportunity or even a problem, but believe that if you are asking God to help you get free, He is all about that!
  4. Start changing the way you think by positive words. Being stuck is mental, emotional and spiritual, so those are your three focus points of change. How can you start thinking differently? 1. Know that your thoughts have a point of origin, they come from some place. 2. Start determining the point of origin your thoughts come from. Romans 12:2. “And do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.” You must become consciously aware of the thoughts in your mind if you want to be free. You must make room for the truth of God’s word to be in the circuit of your thoughts to take down the lies the world and what the enemy speaks. If you can’t detect or tell the difference between a thought that is a lie and one that is truth, you can’t be free. John 8:32. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” To determine the origin of the thoughts in your mind, you have to make a conscious decision about what you watch and what you listen to as far as media is concerned. Cut off the music, videos, movies that feed the lies and keep you stuck, and plug in and turn up the volume on music, videos and movies that give you the greatest advantage of being free.
  5. Start changing what you do. Change does not come easy because we all get comfortable when we get stuck, but begin new and greater efforts to spend time in fellowship with God. That means give God something to work with, like an extra 30 minutes in prayer or listening to worship music and meditating on His word.
  6. Look for the glimpses of joy and resurgence of life in your life. Take note and give God thanks for the little changes that are taking place.
  7. Lastly, give glory to God and get a dream from God. God still has something for you to do and it’s big and life-changing in itself. Jesus Christ has come to “set the captives free,” and not just those captive to their sin, but those of us who have been stuck in circumstances we had no control over. Get unstuck! Get free!

 

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