R.I.G Rest In Glory!

Chris Ball

R.I.G – Rest In Glory!

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Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise”
Luke 23:43

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This past weekend I received some bittersweet news. My friend and brother in Christ, Chris Ball, passed away from a drug overdose.

As many of you may have come to know through my writings, I am not the sort to dance around difficult topics. Neither was my buddy Chris. So because I know intimately of his great love to see others come to know the Lord, today I’ve chosen to use this opportunity as I truly trust that he would’ve wanted to, to address something rather difficult.

Now many of you might be wondering…

Brother in Christ? Drug overdose? How are these two things even synonymous?

Well, when you think of some distant person whom you’ve never met but only heard of, or some relative you barely see, many of you could probably find many justifications for writing off such relationships as toxic or hazardous to your own faith and growth. You may not view a faith that sometimes fails and even fails greatly as one of substance.

But luckily for all of us who have been so intimately graced with experiencing the love of Christ know, our Heavenly Father holds no such hesitations.

In fact, Jesus came to save sinners – just like Chris and I!

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Jesus said to them “it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:17

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Just as love compels any good mother to stay up so late until the early hours of the morning praying and waiting for her son to safely arrive home, the Bible tells us that we serve a God who never sleeps or slumbers, and lives to intercede for us. (Psalm 121:4, Hebrews 7:25)

And just as a good father seeks beyond the “what” his son does, to intimately try and understand the deepest depths of the question ‘why‘ he does what he does, so our Heavenly Father intimately knows every last thing we’ve ever been through and why we are the way we are.

He knows the first time we were ever abused, and whether that hurt has ever had the chance to heal.

He knows our first loss, and how it sometimes causes us to reframe our personal view of self worth.

He knows our first let-down, and if that disappointment has diminished our hope in our future aspirations.

He knows our betrayals, and how that has significantly impacted our ability to trust.

And yes, He also perfectly knows our indifference, and how uncommon it is for us to demonstrate faithful, ongoing, loyal, unceasing love because we ourselves have not had examples of it demonstrated in our own life.

And some of you might be thinking of how you have failed in many ways in one or all of these areas in your own life for someone you love because of how you’ve let these outward circumstances come between you, but if your focus ends there, with some sort of selfish sentiment of self-abasement, then maybe you have never truly understood the true breadth of Gospel hope.

You see, it’s because our Heavenly Father so intimately knew all of these things about us – the repercussions of just one bad decision thousands of years ago that happened in a Garden, and it’s influence over all of us ever since – that he even sent Jesus to earth to do what He alone has done.

And you might think that if ever we had a person who was truly so perfect and sinless and spotless as we believe Jesus to be ever come visit earth that we would somehow know exactly how to treat Him and hold Him in highest esteem, but, well, you’d be wrong.

Because of our own brokenness and depravity, we only do what we know how to do best:

We’d slander him.

We’d tell lies about him.

We’d ridicule and mock him.

We’d hide ourselves from him.

We’d selfishly take from Him when beneficial to us.

Then we’d betray him.

And we’d be indifferent to His sufferings.

But because of His great love and intimate understanding of what the depths of our depravity produces, Jesus instead looked beyond it to the day when those who through faith would be made perfect, and He called it a joy (Hebrews 12:2) – and that joy was ever so great that He would gladly bear the sufferings of being beaten to beyond recognition and nailed to a cross by the very ones He came to save, since He knew that it was the only way to see the insurmountable hope He held in His pure and holy heart for all of us come to pass one day – a promise that extended even to my brother Chris through his faith in Jesus.

When we believe in this hope, the process of that change worked out into our present lives of our future glorified selves only begins.

For some of us whose hearts have been responsive and open, the change begins and carries underway very quickly. They’re hungry for the bread of life, and thirsty for living waters, and so healing can come like a rushing river, permeating many areas of their lives.

But for others whose hearts have been continually discouraged, continually let down, continually betrayed, continually unloved, with little or no healthy community, there poses far more obstacles to seeing the fruition of that work because so many other foundational stones that need to be in place in their lives to help them to find firm footing until they can stand for themselves.

Even in my earnest attempts to walk with Chris these past few years, and how privileged I feel to have been considered a friend to him and be a part of his journey, I know it hasn’t always been perfect, and that even I have let him down in so many ways.

But I know my friend Chris, and I know he believed in Jesus and was filled with His Holy Spirit.

One such occasion that made it clear to me was two years ago when I was stirred up in my Spirit with the idea to go and begin reaching out to families in prison waiting rooms. I did not have a vehicle to even get to the nearest prison, so I got on my knees one evening before the Lord and prayed and asked Him that if this idea was truly stirred up by Him, to please provide a vehicle for me to get there, and then I would know that He was leading it.

Well, across town Chris had just recently bought a new truck and got a call to pick up his mom one afternoon.

It was an unexpected call and if anyone knew anything about Chris, it was that he loved his family and never wanted to let any of them down – especially his precious daughter. So even though he had a few drinks that morning, he reasoned that it might be close enough to his home to go and get her.

Unfortunately, while Chris was waiting outside for her, he had also parked in a handicap spot by accident, and this drew the attention of a nearby officer who walked over and smelled the alcohol on his breath.

After completing a breathalyzer, Chris’s license was suspended for a year, he was fined, and now he had a new truck that he would not be able to use.

But Chris saw the truck as a blessing from God that he felt confirmed in his Spirit about buying after a long and arduous search and knew it was maent to serve a purpose. So he prayed and asked God “What should I do with this truck now?”

And the Lord said to him:

“Call Raymond, he needs it”

So obediently, Chris called me just two or three days after my prayers, and we met up and talked about it with each other, and since we recognized that it was truly the Spirit’s leading, I took over his truck for a year to pursue the beginnings of my own journey into prison ministry that accompanied where I am today.

What did I learn about Chris?

Without question, Jesus speaks to Chris.

Chris may not have always felt like he knew how to, but he was always more than willing to do his part among the community of believers.

Without question, the things that Chris were clear that Jesus was ever asking him to do, Chris was willing to do.

And who knows, maybe this was the only thing that Chris ever felt asked by our Lord to do since he came to faith, I don’t know.

But I do know that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Chris’s willingness to act on his faith, despite any personal issues he was going through in life.

Chris had faith.

And if I could only see these glimpses of Chris’s faith and recognize it beyond his obstacles… How much more does our Lord who intimately knows all that he has been through also know all of what Chris believed?

That’s why I am confident that just as Jesus said to the thief on the cross beside him, “today you will be with me in paradise” because of Chris’s faith, he is also now experiencing the fullness of God’s love and God’s peace in unhindered glory.

I am so grateful to have gotten to know him so well that I can be so absolutely sure of this today.

Today might be a sad day for many of you to know that he has passed away.

But today, even despite my many tears for my beloved friend, my heart is also so overwhelmingly happy to know that Chris can now experience the fullness of everything I’ve tried so earnestly tried to explain to him these past few years about the perfect love of our Blessed Lord and Saviour, Jesus, the Christ!

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For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9
In memory of my friend, Chris Ball.

Uncertain about so many brother, this I know… we shall definitely meet again!

Trust 👑 Jesus!

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Justified By Faith

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Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Romans 5:1-2

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A very dear friend and brother in Christ came to visit me the other day. We had some errands to run so I got into his truck and began on our way.

As we drove along, it was not long before I took notice of the awful state in which the inside of his vehicle was kept: Open chip bags on the floor. Three millimetres of thick grime on the dashboard. Smudgy stained windows. Empty beer boxes in the back. Seat covers that were barely hanging on from being ripped to shreds.

But the outside of the vehicle, from which I normally would see it, was in really great shape!

As I reflected on the difference from the outside to the inside, I began to ask some questions to see if there was something I was not understanding. But not knowing exactly how to begin a conversation about it, I found myself skirting around the issue directly.

“So, what’s been going on in your life lately bro? Has everything been okay?”

“Yep, God is good!” he replied.

But since that got me absolutely no where, I decided that since I had seen this sort of thing in my own life, that maybe a better way might be to share about my own journey…

“You know, you should’ve seen what my townhouse basement looked like when I used to live there before I came to know the Lord. The wall was stained from water rot. The ceiling was falling apart and unlevelled. The ground was cold grey concrete and it depressed and discouraged, but it was a pretty good indicator of how I was feeling inside at the time. But if you ever saw me out in public, I always wore nice clothes and hid my problems. You’d never know how I felt about life or how my living conditions looked by looking at me”

“oh really?” he replied, “yea, people hide their true problems all the time. I guess they don’t feel like they have anyone they trust that they can talk to about them.”

At which point I asked him again…. “so how’s everything been going with you? Are you doing okay?”

To which he replied, “God is good! All the time!”

Confused and now getting a bit frustrated, I felt like I needed a more direct approach so I said:

“So, I look around and I noticed that your car looks great on the outside, but the inside looks like it’s being occupied by homeless people on a regular basis. (jokingly) If everything is okay, I’m trying to understand why you would keep your vehicle this way?”

He laughed and said, “I don’t think there’s a reason. My mom has asked me about it too. I guess I just don’t think it’s that important.”

I realized that maybe I was just assuming too much, so I decided to let it go.

But a few days later, we got together again. This time with a few other friends.

While we sat there, one of the sisters commented on how nice his vehicle was while looking at it from a distance across the parking lot as we sat in a local coffee shop.

But what was most interesting to me was his reply:

“Oh that old thing… It was a really nice vehicle when I first bought it, but it’s been through like five accidents already and had to get a ton of things fixed on it. I’m just glad it’s still running. But really, I can’t wait to get a new one.”

It was then that it occurred to me…. His lack of desire to keep the inside of his vehicle clean was directly influenced by the way he viewed it in light of all the accidents it had been in.

Later on when we were alone since I was the last person he dropped home, I decided to ask him a new question.

“Hey bro, tell me something. When you first got this vehicle, did you use to keep it clean?”

“Of course!” he replied. “I cleaned it all the time!”

It was then that it all began to make sense.

You see, all of us do the same thing from time to time throughout our lives.

When we get a new job, start a new relationship, begin a new ministry, or buy a new vehicle, the value that we see those things with causes us to hold them in the highest esteem. We never think about what kind of terrain we will encounter in our journey.

But then as we begin to face hardships in our work, have a few fights in our relationships, have our first failure at ministry, or get into a few accidents with our vehicle, all of a sudden, the way we once looked at those things diminishes in our sights. We no longer see it with the same ‘newness’ and excitement that we once held for it.

And if we’re not careful, we can do this with our faith too.

After our first sin, or our first failure, or our first fall, or maybe after many, we begin to reframe in our minds how much we think we can be used by the Lord. We feel like disappointments and ‘less than’ what we should’ve been. And this can limit the capacity in which we think the Lord ‘can’ or ‘will’ use us in the future.

But the Gospel offers us something that completely shatters this false paradigm, and gives us a renewed perspective about what is possible for our futures.

We aren’t like bandaged animals with a broken leg simply limping along.

No. Instead, we’ve died! And what we are is completely brand new with never fading glories!

What was raised to life in us is like having a brand new vehicle that is driving off the lot for the very first time again!!!

It’s like being able to start over your job of thirty years with the wisdom of those year on your first day all over again.

It’s like a relationship that has carried along for twenty five faithful years with all of that wisdom and maturity while getting to know each other like it’s the first time all over again!

God Word tells us that the way He see’s us is just as if we had never even sinned before in our entire life!

Now THAT’S Gospel revelation!!!

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Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

You will be faithful to Jacob, and show love to Abraham, as you pledged on oath to our ancestors in days long ago.
Micah 7:18-20

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Today, I sensed that it was time to remind you of the wondrous hope that we have through the Gospel.

Our God wants to give us all a renewed perspective about our cars, our marriage/relationship, our kids, and yes, even about our lives!

Despite our failures

Despite our flaws
Despite our imperfections…

He wants to begin stirring up hope that is necessary to take you and I into this next season of our lives.

But there’s one simple catch.

This gift of God’s grace can only be received by faith!

Not by giving

Not by effort
Not by works

Only by receiving what has already been accomplished through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

So if the enemy is trying to remind you of the ‘truth’ by saying,

“Look at how many times you’ve fallen. Look at how many times you’ve failed. Surely God has forsaken you!”

You remind him of the *whole* truth and reply back:

“Look at what great lengths my Saviour has gone to pursue me, to shower me in His endless love, to suffer on my behalf, and to purchase me back from death so I can be made white as snow before Him”

He is certainly worthy of all praise!

For which I implore you,

*Trust 👑Jesus!*