A Riches-to-Rags Story

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

The history of America is filled with rags to riches stories. In fact one of our Presidents began life as an impoverished orphan and rose to hold the highest office in the land.

But the story of Jesus is not a rags-to-riches story; it is a riches-to-rags story. It is a story of leaving the glory of Heaven to come to earth. Jesus could have been born in the most elegant mansion on the ritziest boulevard in Rome. He could have had aristocratic parents who boasted of their pedigree. He could have had the finest clothes from the most exclusive shops. He could have had legions of angels as an army of servants to respond to His every whim. But He had none of that. Instead, Jesus humbled Himself.

God came into our world. He was like any other baby who needed to be cradled, needed to be nurtured, and needed to be protected. The Creator of the universe was born in a stable in Bethlehem. He made Himself vulnerable to two young humans, Joseph and Mary.

Like everything else in the Christmas story, we have romanticized this aspect. I think, in many ways, we miss its raw, powerful meaning. This stable or barn (or maybe even cave) where Christ was born was cold and damp. It also would have smelled of manure and moldy hay. God incarnate was born on the dirt floor of a stable. Our Savior came not as a monarch draped in gold and silk, but as a baby wrapped in rags.

Jesus rose from His throne and went to earth. He went from being a Sovereign to a Servant. He went from the glory of God to a stable filled with animals.

Think about what Jesus left to come to us. Jesus stepped into the world in a manger so that we might have a home in Heaven.


David Ball

Citizens of Another Kingdom

Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It seems that no matter how much we attain in life, we always want more. We want the newest, the latest, the coolest thing out there. Part of that is the way God has wired us. As much as we live life, as much as we experience, as much as we see, it’s never enough. Why is that? The Bible says that God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

We know instinctively that this world doesn’t deliver on its promises. As Jim Reeves sang, “This world is not my home. I’m just a passing through.” The Bible says that we are citizens of another kingdom. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you become a citizen of Heaven. That is your real home, not Earth.

We are told in Philippians, “We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for His return as our Savior.” That is why we have this longing deep inside, a longing for something this Earth can never deliver.

That is also why we are always a bit out of step with this world and all it celebrates. That is why certain things the world parades before us will leave us cold. As followers of Jesus, we want something more. We want much more.

C.S. Lewis describes it as the “inconsolable longing.” He said, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”

Earth can’t deliver on its promises, but Heaven will. As Christians we’ll live happily ever after—in Heaven, in the presence of God.


David Ball

Bringing Your Best

Malachi 1:8 ‘But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor?

The prophet Malachi ministered around 432 BC. The nation of Israel had been reestablished for about 100 years by this time. They started out strong, worship was real and the people were sincere in their devotion to God. But now, 100 years later, things had begun to wane. The people were lukewarm towards God and their worship was weak.

They offered blind, lame, and sick animals as a sacrifice. So, God asks them, ‘why don’t you give them to your governor? See how impressed he is with your gift. And God says, ‘you wonder why I don’t receive you kindly when you bring Me junk’. The people of Israel had cooled over time in regard to their love for God. The same thing can happen to us.

When we bring blind or lame sacrifices to God it is an indication that our love for Him has cooled. In what ways do we bring lame and blind sacrifices to God? Certainly, we don’t bring farm animals to church each week to sacrifice on an altar. The sacrifices we bring are our time and talents, we bring a heart to serve the body of Christ. So, when we bring ‘blind and lame’ sacrifices to God we bring things that are not our best.

Every summer when people get ready to move to their next assignment I usually get a few who will ask me if they can donate something to the church. I have to confess I’m always a little skeptical. I have had too many people try to unload their old, beat up stuff on the church so they don’t have to move it.

What does it mean to give our best? It means to give God the very best we have. The best of our time. The best of our talents. Bring God your best to God. He deserves it. And when we do He will receive us kindly.


David Ball

Be Courageous

Acts 23:11 That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well.”

Have you ever been discouraged? Have you ever felt as though your life were a failure? Or, have you have been frightened about the future?

The apostle Paul experienced discouragement. After he said goodbye to the elders of Ephesus, he made his way to Caesarea, where he stayed with Philip. Philip had a visitor named Agabus, a prophet. And Agabus said that if Paul went to Jerusalem he would be arrested and bound. Well, Paul made the journey anyway. And sure enough, just as Agabus had prophesied, he was arrested and bound.

So, Paul found himself sitting in a prison once again. And it appears that Paul was discouraged. He was concerned that he had blown a once in life time opportunity. But then we’re told that Jesus appeared and said, ‘Paul, be encouraged. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well’. Jesus said to Paul, “Be courageous.”

It takes courage to follow Christ and to share our faith with others. Where do we get that courage? God has all the power we need to face whatever might come our way. He won’t necessarily give us that power before we need it. But we can be certain that He will give us all the power we need when we need it. So trust the Lord. His power gives courage.


David Ball

Our Calling

Zechariah 11:16 I am about to raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who’re going astray and he will not seek the lost or heal the broken. He will not sustain the healthy but he’ll devour the flesh of the fat sheep and tear off their hooves.

During the Great Tribulation a man will arise and take power. He will be a great leader and orator. He will mesmerize the masses with his abilities and intellect. We know him as the Antichrist. Zechariah gives us more details about him in this verse.

But I want to look at this verse from a different perspective. God tells us that the Antichrist, the foolish shepherd, will not watch out for those who are going astray, nor seek those who are lost, heal the broken, or sustain the healthy. These are things a good shepherd does.

And so hidden in this description of the Antichrist we find our marching orders. These are the things a good shepherd does, these are the things God wants us to do. We need to keep an eye out for those who are going astray. Do you know a believer who is off track? Reach out to them. Do you know those who are lost? Speak to them.

Do you know people who are broken hearted? Pray with them, seek to heal them. And for those who are healthy, stand with them and sustain them. If we will follow these simple instructions the church will be much healthier.


David Ball

Be Strong

Zechariah 8:9 The Lord of Hosts says this: ‘Let your hands be strong’

God encouraged these men because they needed it; there was very little, outwardly speaking to inspire them. They had traveled hundreds of miles and over the course of four months to get to Jerusalem. When they arrived they found a city in ruins. They spent two years rebuilding the temple and it was only half way done. And what they had been able to accomplish was a shabby shadow of Solomon’s Temple.

So, God says to them ‘let your hands be strong’. They were discouraged because after all their effort they produced something that looked pretty pathetic.

We are a results driven society. Everyone expects to be a winner, and to take home the trophy but only a few actually do. So, it is easy to get discouraged when we look at the results of our efforts. We are told to be a witness to friends, and raise our kids to love the Lord. But when we do most of the time all we get is push back. It seems like we are plowing in concrete.

God said to the men in Zechariah’s day and He says to us, ‘keep it up’. You may not see the results you want or the outcome you expect but as you bear witness to friends and neighbors, as you raise your kids, you are doing the work God has given you. Let your hands be strong!

Don’t let material results be your motivation; let His voice, the words of His mouth inspire you.


David Ball

History is His Story

1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

What is your personal testimony? It is simply the story of how Jesus changed you.

Paul was a great orator and communicator, not to mention being an apostle. But in almost every instance when he was talking to a nonbeliever, Paul began with his personal testimony.

Every person’s testimony is valid, by the way. Over the years I have heard some crazy testimonies, as I am sure you have. But I can tell you everyone’s testimony has the same basic structure. Once you were lost. Now you are found. Once you were dead but now you are alive in Christ. That is your testimony.

However, the power is not in your story; the power is in the story of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. That is why Paul said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Sometimes in our attempt to build a bridge for people to cross over we forget the cross. Don’t forget the cross.

Once Billy Graham was asked: “After all of these years of preaching, what should you have preach on more?” Without missing a beat, he said, “I would preach more on the cross of Christ and the blood, because that is where the power is.”

When you share your testimony, share it in a way that honors the Lord. When you tell your story, never boast of what of you gave up to follow Christ; rather, boast about what He gave up to restore you. Your story is really His story.


David Ball

When You’re Overwhelmed

Psalm 61:2 “From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Are you facing a personal crisis? Maybe a problem at work or a financial problem. Maybe your marriage is going through a rough spell or you have a son or daughter who is away from the Lord. Maybe you have a life-threatening illness. Or maybe you’re paralyzed by fear as you think about an uncertain future.

When we’re facing a crisis, we like to have a backup plan. Then we like to have a backup plan for our backup plan. And then a backup plan for the backup plan for the backup plan. But sometimes the Lord puts us in a circumstance where there are no backup plans. There is no safety net. There is no way out but Him.

In Acts, chapter 12, that is what the early church was facing. Things were looking very bleak. Herod had put James to death and then arrested Peter. If God did not come through, it would be a complete disaster. So what did the believers do? They prayed.

Philippians 4:6–7 tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

David wrote, “Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:1–2).

God promises that He will give us a peace that passes understanding, not a peace that comes from understanding. When you are overwhelmed, pray and know that He is God.


David Ball

God’s Heart

Jeremiah 31:2b-3 When Israel went to find rest 3 the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.

When my granddaughter was a toddler, she wasn’t very good at playing hide and seek. She would hide and then giggle while she called out to me to come find her. I would play along and say, “Abi, where are you? I can’t find Abi! Where are you?” She would jump out, laugh, and then go back to the same hiding place again. She wanted me to find her.

In the Garden of Eden God called out to His son who was hiding, “Adam, where are you?” Was God unaware of Adam’s whereabouts? Of course not. God knew exactly where he was. He was saying, in effect, “Adam, I miss you. Adam, why did you eat of the forbidden fruit? Adam, why are you trying to hide from Me? Adam, I want to talk with you.”

That is the heart of God. He says in Isaiah 1:18, “Come now and let us reason together… Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

If you want to see how God feels about those who are lost, look at the three stories Jesus told in Luke 15. He compares God to a woman who lost a coin, a shepherd who lost a sheep, and a father who lost a son.

If we learn nothing else in the Bible, we learn that God loves all of mankind and longs for fellowship and friendship with us. We learn that God doesn’t want any person to go to Hell, and the best evidence of this is that He poured His wrath on His Son, who had never committed a single sin, so that we could be pardoned.

God cares for us, He searches for us, and He wants to walk with us every day.


David Ball,

Moved by Compassion

Mark 6:34 “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things.”

Sometimes it is easy for Christians to see nonbelievers as the enemy. Preachers sometimes rant and rave about the sins nonbelievers commit. But let’s remember something: behind their sin is an empty, searching, lost person whom God loves.

We are not called to condemn. We are called to appeal to nonbelievers with the message of hope, the gospel. We need compassion. Jesus was overflowing with compassion. He was moved by the needs of others.

When He saw Mary and Martha weeping over the death of Lazarus, He “groaned in the spirit and was troubled”. That phrase carries the idea of physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish. Jesus is the only one who can accurately say, “I feel your pain.” As He watched Mary and Martha weeping, His heart went out to them. He was in anguish, too. He hurt for them. He hurt with them. That’s our Savior.

Jesus knew that the same people who cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! He who comes in the name of the Lord is the blessed One” as He entered Jerusalem would soon shout, “Crucify Him!”

Yet He felt compassion, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”. We should seek to imitate the Lord and have compassion on those who annoy us and even those who wish to do us harm.

If we want to be used by God in any capacity, this must be foremost in our minds and hearts. And it can’t be an obligation, or mere duty, not guilt, but a God-given burden for people.


David Ball,