Joe D. Ballard

Change

It seems like things never change, but the reality is, things are always changing.  On a personal level and on a global level you need to know and prepare yourself for the change that is coming.  Our hope is that life will always change for the better, but we have learned from our own experiences and the life of other people, that that is not always the case.  God takes us through a variety of spiritual landscapes meant to mold and shape us and draw us closer to Him.  There are changes in our families, health, jobs, and places where we live, again some incredibly good changes, and others we would rather skip.  What you see now, you will not always be able to see.  Who you are with now may not always be with you, so you and I should live not in suspense of life changing, but always clinging to the only One who does not change.

Whatever you do, don’t stop preparing your heart and mind for the radical change that is coming on this world.  It will be a global change and it will directly change your life and the way you live.  Our great God and King is coming, but before He gets here, the landscape is going to change.  Don’t be like the one who says, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of creation.” 2 Peter 3:4. Those are the words of a mocker who does not understand the tender mercies of God.  Change is coming and you should feel it in your heart, and it’s nothing to be afraid of, but certainly something to prepare for.  But how do you prepare for change?  Whether it’s personal change or much bigger, train yourself to keep your eyes on Jesus, the unchanging One.

Covered

If you are going to survive in a world of adversity, challenges, and outright opposition, you are going to be need to be covered.  Being covered is what happens when you go to bed at night and pull the comforter up to your neck.  People cover themselves when they pop up the umbrella when walking in the rain.  You also cover yourself when you step out of the shower and put your clothes on, but there is another covering that everyone needs.

In I Samuel 19, David was the number one man on King Saul’s hit list.  Saul wanted David dead, and he made it known to all his servants.  By persuasion, Jonathan tried to be a peacemaker, but his efforts backfired and almost got David killed and David went home.  Saul sent messengers to David’s house to take him and kill him, but instead David got covered.

SCRIPTURE

“So Michal let David down through a window. And he went and fled and escaped. 13 And Michal took an image and laid [it] in the bed, put a cover of goats’ [hair] for his head, and covered [it] with clothes.“  I Samuel 19:12-13

To cover someone means to protect them and shield them from harm.  Michal went to great lengths to cover David from her own father.  She knew that David would not survive unless she provided the cover for him.  What a great example Michal gave for covering her family, one spouse covering the other.

Covering someone is Biblical.  It’s what happened when the Pharisees threw a woman caught in adultery at the feet of Jesus.  Jesus covered and protected her.  It’s what Jesus did for the women who broke open the alabaster jar of ointment to anoint Jesus.  Jesus covered a woman from the religious and the greedy.  And Michal covered her husband from a jealous man who wanted to be praised.  The greatest covering of all is what took place on the cross where Jesus died and shed His own blood.  As children of God, we are covered by the greatest covering of all, the blood of Jesus.  Jesus has covered you if you have accepted Him as Savior and Lord.

So how can you cover?  You cover people sometimes in practical ways, but mostly you cover them when you lift them up to God in prayer.  You also cover people when they have done wrong, helping them see there is a different way.  Be a cover for someone today because you may need a cover tomorrow.

 

The World is a Mess, but…

The world we live in is a mess, but God is still good.  If we’re not careful we can get fixated on all the troubles, and what appear to be unresolvable issues in our society, and forget that God is good!  When I think of all the things right now that are causing divisions and are being fueled by those with power with world-wide agendas, I tend to forget that God is good.  When I focus on my personal issues and struggles, I tend to forget that God is good.  I know there is hurt and heartache all around, but I know that God is good.  God is good even when things are bad and out of control and have turned our world upside down.  God is good when I am alone and God is good when I feel rejected.  God is good because He can’t be anything else, whereas, you and I have an option.  Jesus said these words,

So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one [is] good but One, [that is,] God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”   Matthew 19:17

The rich young ruler thought he was good enough to be accepted by God into eternal life.  He thought he had done enough and had been good enough to get into heaven.  According to what Jesus said, no one has met the standard of goodness, but then that’s why Jesus came.  God is good because He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins and meet the standard for us so that we could be accepted by God.

Perhaps you need to be reminded today that God is good, even when life is hard and painful.  Because God is good, one day He is going to right every wrong, and you need to rest in that truth.  Because God is good, you can expect your situation to turn around or for God to show you another perspective.  Because God is good, you can turn to Him and pour out your heart, all your struggles and issues, and know He still loves you with an everlasting love.  When things are bad in your life, tell God, “I know You are good.”

You Can’t Afford to Miss!

Recently I had the opportunity to visit with a young lady who was struggling with some life issues and some choices she was making.  She was also struggling with some of the people in her life and trying to decide whether she needed to separate herself from them or not.  She told me flat out she was not going in the right direction.  I started asking her about what church she attended and how that was going, and she said she hadn’t been to church in two weeks.  At that I looked at her and said, “You are not the kind of person who can afford to miss a single Sunday.”  She looked back at me in silence.  I began telling her that she had not traveled far enough in her walk of faith to have the leisure of missing a Sunday sitting under the preaching and teaching of God’s word and being surrounded by God’s people in fellowship.  I then looked at her and said, “You might think I’m being judgmental, but listen, you can tell me the same exact thing.”  What’s amazing is that even though this young lady was silent at my first statement concerning missing church, she said, “You’re right.”  She wasn’t offended because she knew the truth about her life.

Do you know the truth about your life concerning your relationship to the gathered body of Christ, called the church?  Do you think that Hebrews 10:24-25 applies to you?

You can afford to miss the hunting trip or golf tournament and you can afford to miss the trip to the lake on Sunday.  You can afford to miss the ball game and the concert and a huge list of other things people do on Sundays, but you personally and me personally cannot afford to miss when God’s people come together.  The truth is, we—including myself—can’t afford to miss a gathering on Sunday because we are not as spiritually mature as we think we are, or as spiritually grounded or spiritually strong as we think we are.  In addition to that, God has so uniquely gifted you that you have something the church body needs to be all it can be in Christ and for the world.  God, help us love the church You sent Your Son to die on the cross for, and help us to show up every Sunday to consider others and get ready for that Day that is coming!

What’s So Funny?

I noticed when talking to someone recently that every time the subject of faith in Christ and eternal life was mentioned it somehow turned funny, like it was a joke.  There’s certainly nothing wrong with laughing and having fun and I believe God wants us to do that, but there should be moments when we are serious about our eternal future.  I’ve had moments in my life and you probably have too when something was funny, and you couldn’t stop laughing.  That’s not good especially when you’re in a place where it’s not appropriate, but you still can’t stop.

What the Lord showed me is that when someone laughs when you are trying to be serious about spiritual matters is, that is their defense mechanism.  I’ve even heard people laugh and make jokes about spending eternity in hell with all their friends.  My response is, you may go there and be surrounded by a thousand people, but you would never know it because of the agony of that place.  If laughing and making light out of spiritual matters is not a defense mechanism, it is an outright defiance of God and a way of mocking the faith.  Mockers laugh and try to joke their way out of the issues of their heart.  It’s true and this reaction is exactly what Peter spoke of concerning the last days.

“Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in [both of] which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers/mockers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of creation.”                           2 Peter 3:1-4

Those mockers Peter spoke of may not come right out and ask the question, “Where is the promise of His coming,” but they will live their lives in such a manner that dismisses even the notion of the Lord’s return.  Unfortunately the mockers are not just outside the church today, but inside and even in many pulpits trying to get a laugh out of people.  A day is coming when there will be nothing at all to laugh at and the defense or defiance mechanism won’t work.  The sound of laughter will be completely absent in hell, never to be heard again.  You should laugh today and enjoy your life, but when the subject of spiritual matters comes up, don’t try to dodge it with a joke.  Be serious about God, because He is very serious about you and me.

Driving at Night Without Lights

I was recently pulled over by a city police officer for driving without my headlights on.  I’ve never been pulled over for such a violation, but on this occasion I was preoccupied with what my wife spoon feeding me some amazing ice cream we had just stopped and picked up.  When we left the store, the parking lot was so well lit I never turned my lights on and once I turned onto the street, there were so many cars around me with their headlights lighting the way that I wasn’t even aware my lights were not on.  The fact that my headlights were not on hit me right after I saw the red and blue flashing lights in my rearview mirror.  Fortunately, the officer only wrote me a warning ticket and let me go.  What I was doing was not only dangerous to me and my wife, but to other people as well.

God showed me that what happened to me driving at night without lights happens more often than we might think.  God wasn’t speaking to me about the dangers of driving at night without headlights, but He was speaking to me about a great deception that happens in the church today.  There are those in the church who have no light at all because the Spirit of God doesn’t live in them.  They have no light, but they live so close to those whose lights are shining and lighting the way that they can’t see their own need for light.  Many only have the light of their religion, when what is needed is the light that comes from a relationship with Christ.  I was driving by the light of the vehicles all around me and the street lights over me, but not my own lights.  I wasn’t doing it on purpose, and I don’t think those in the church who live off the spiritual light of others do it on purpose either.  It could be they have always lived on the spiritual light of others and the false glow of religion.  It could be the enemy has just deceived them into thinking the light is coming from them, but they are living in danger.  When Jesus told His disciples, “You are the light of the world,” He didn’t intend for them to be the only lights.  Our lives should shine so bright that it is obvious to those who have no light.

Let me ask you, are your spiritual lights on, or have you been living on the lights of those around you?  Your spiritual light will never come on by itself, but God must command the light of Jesus to shine in your heart as He did in the beginning of creation.  Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”      John 8:12

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  I Peter 2:9

There must come a point in your life that you no longer live off the spiritual lights of those around you.  There must come a point when you evaluate whether the spiritual light is yours or someone else’s.  If you truly have the light of Jesus in you, then let it shine!

 

Airplane Mode

You don’t have to turn your phone off in order to disable it’s ability to send and receive a signal.  It’s called “Airplane Mode.”  You have to go into the settings feature of your device to turn on this operational feature.  When you turn it on, you automatically turn off the phones normal communication functions.  The mode is named because most airlines prohibit the use of equipment that transmit RF signals while in flight.  So what does that have to do with you and me?  And how often do you use your airplane mode or have you ever used it?  You may never use it, but if it depended on you safely arriving at your destination, you would use the airplane mode.

God has designed you and me to go into an airplane mode personally and spiritually.  One of our greatest needs is to turn off the signals we are getting from the world, so we can be alone with Him in prayer.  If you take your phone with you into your quiet time with the Lord, it’s not a bad idea to put it on airplane mode so you won’t be distracted.  But then you need to go into airplane mode because there’s only one signal you need to be in contact with and that is with Him.  One of the highest marks of spiritual maturity is found in your ability to shut everything off and to patiently spend time alone with God.  It’s probably the greatest need in the Christian community today, to have meaningful time alone with the Lord.

SCRIPTURE

“And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” Mark 6:31

“Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at the posts of my doors. 35 For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD”  Proverbs 8:34-35

You don’t have to board an airplane and fly to high altitudes in order to go into airplane mode, but you can cut off all signals from the world wherever you are.  You have been seated in the heavenlies according to Ephesians 2:6, so the airplane mode is right for you.

 

Living in Danger

You live in danger every single day whether you know it or not or sense it or not.  Some dangers are definitely greater than others, as are the threats and consequences.  When you get into your vehicle to drive to work or pick up the kids or drive to church on Sunday morning, there is a level of danger there with every vehicle you pass going the other direction.  Another level of danger is for those in professions that put them directly in harm’s way, such as first responders and our military and even health professionals.  But there is still another great danger for the child of God that is often overlooked.  David faced great danger when he went out to fight against Goliath, but he also faced great danger playing the harp for King Saul.

SCRIPTURE

“And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played [music] with his hand, as at other times; but [there was] a spear in Saul’s hand. 11 And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice.”  I Samuel 18:10-11

You’ve probably never had anyone throw a spear at you and neither have I, but we have still been in great danger.  What was the danger?  David faced great danger because he was doing God’s will.  It may sound strange, but doing God’s will can put you in great danger.  If you struggle with that truth, you might ask the apostle Paul about the dangers he faced in spreading the gospel or ask Daniel who was thrown into the lion’s den.  Jesus would really be the one to ask about the dangers of doing the will of the Father!

Our greatest danger is not the circumstances we face in life, but the greatest danger is that you don’t escape those circumstances and situations that stop you from doing God’s will.  God’s will was for David to get to the throne of Israel and to reign as King.  God has a will for your life and the enemy does everything possible to see to it that you doing something else.  The danger is in not escaping to keep doing God’s will.  God wants you to escape whatever it is that is hindering you from doing His will.

But how do you escape those dangers that kill your divine mission?

  1. Stay away from anyone who has a spear in their hand.  You really need to be aware and discerning of those around you who live on the edge of explosion, ready to verbally explode on you.  When Saul prophesied in his house, he wasn’t telling the future, but he was angry, demanding and loud.  And David was called in to help with playing music and minister.  David escaped because he knew that what was coming out of Saul’s mouth and what was in his hand were not a good combination.
  2. Believe that you may need to escape from the same person more than once.  David could have taken the spear and taken King Saul’s life in that moment, but he was innocent of King Saul’s life.  There are some Goliaths God wants you to take down, and there are some Sauls God wants you to remain innocent towards.
  3. You can escape by physically leaving.  That’s what David did.  He didn’t hang around to get an apology, nor did he act like nothing happened.  He physically left the house.  There may be times you need to leave the house to escape.  It’s good to leave at times so you don’t say or do something you’ll regret later on.
  4. You can escape when God is with you.  Two things God wants you to do in life is endure to the end and you will be saved, and escape to keep doing His will for your life. 1 Samuel 18:14 “And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the LORD [was] with him.”  The odds of you escaping all that life throws as you is so much higher when God Himself is right there with you.

God’s great mission for your life to be a light to the world and a proclaimer of His love and forgiveness all depends on you continually escaping every circumstance.  Stay close to Him, escape, and keep doing God’s will.

Do Not Doubt

You cannot live expecting God to do something in your life and at the same time doubt He will do anything.  Doubting is an issue in most of our lives and it’s like pulling the plug on all our prayers to God.  When we speak faithless words of doubt it’s like throwing needles at balloons of faith.  People of faith have always been diseased with the plague of doubt.  One reason is because we don’t feed our faith the powerful truths of God’s word.  Wherever faith is not, doubt will surely be present, active, depressing and confusing.  We doubt because it’s just easier, and the old nature fosters unbelief and discredits the power of God.  We doubt many times because we surround ourselves with doubters and faithless people.  We doubt because we hear the doubters voices saying, “You can’t do that,” “Nothing will happen,” “Don’t count on it,” “It will never work.”  Oh what a blessing it would be to silence those voices that will also sing, “Victory in Jesus,” but then pray and live in unbelief.  Listen to what Jesus said can happen when faith is not tainted with doubt.

SCRIPTURE

“So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”  Matthew 21:21-22

Among the twelve, it was Thomas who doubted Jesus’ resurrection.  While the other disciples lived in the joy and peace of the resurrection, there was Thomas left in his defiance and doubt.  He refused to believe unless he could actually see those nail scars in Jesus’ hands.

You don’t have to be like Thomas, but that means you have to examine your life, words and thoughts for any traces of doubt.  Once doubts set in, they are not going to decrease, and they will continue to increase until you see that doubt is what’s killing the joy and peace in your life.  Don’t entertain an attitude of doubt and don’t be a spiritual skeptic, but believe, believe, believe in the power of God and fight for a strong faith in your life.  Ask God to help you detect any doubts that try to rise up and take the place of your faith.  Start this moment living in faith and get out of doubt!

Get Past the Past

God does not need to recreate your past in order to give you a blessed future.  So many people want what was and not what is or can be, and they seem to be forever tethered to life as it used to be.  I can certainly understand that, especially if the past was a more pleasant experience than the present one.  But not only should we get past the hurts and disappointments of the past, but it would serve us well to embrace the wonderful possibilities of what God has for our future.  God is too creative to have to repeat what He has already brought us through.  He is the God of creation, not only of heaven and earth, but of our futures.  Is it possible that the victories and successes in your past pale in comparison to those God will give you in your future?  Unfortunately, the way the earth looked in the beginning is the way many see their future today.

SCRIPTURE

“The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.“ Genesis 1:2-3

Imagine the life of someone who only sees their future as, “without form, and void, and darkness.”  Maybe this is for you or someone you know who can’t enjoy their life because all they can see is behind them, and what is in front of them is without form and void or empty.  Believe that what it took in the beginning with the creation of heaven and earth is what it takes today to have faith in a blessed future.  It takes faith, but it also takes the Spirit of God to hover over our lives and for God to speak into our darkness and create something new.  However, the Spirit of God cannot hover over you unless you learn to be still and allow God to reveal His plans for you.  Take this message to the Lord today and tell Him you really want to get past the past and experience the glory and light of His creation for your life.  God is the One who gives meaning to what has no meaning and gives fullness to what is empty, and gives light to what is darkness, and He does it all through Jesus.  Solomon said it right, “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “All [is] vanity.” Ecclesiastes 12:8.  How depressing is that?  The point is that life is empty and always will be, past, present and future, without a relationship with God.  Let God create your future and get past the past!

 

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