Sunday, 8 November 2015

Remembrance Sunday All Age Talk 2015

Quiz - getting people to guess opposite words:
  • Day / Night
  • In / Out
  • Up / Down
  • Amateur / Professional
  • Boy / Girl
  • Dark / Light
  • Innocent / Guilty
  • Lack / Abundance
  • Long / Short
  • Parents / Children
  • Young / Old
  • Yesterday / Tomorrow
  • Remember / Dismember (most people would say 'forget')

I would argue the opposite of to Forget— is to Recall, whereas the opposite of remember is to dismember. To dismember is to break up, or tear into pieces.  Whereas as to RE-MEMBER is to bring that which has been torn apart, back together.  To bring HEALING. 

I remember someone talking about this in a Remembrance Sunday service when I was a child, and that imagery of REMEMBERING, as a form of healing has always stayed with me. 

As the saying goes “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  If we forget about the past, we cut ourselves off from it.   That’s why it’s important we remember.

But remembering isn’t always easy.  It can be difficult and painful. Some would prefer not to remember.  But when we do allow ourselves to remember, we allow healing to take place.

When Christians gather for worship, particularly around the Lord’s table, we do it to remember the sacrifice of Jesus.  When Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples he said “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of me.” (Luke 22:19)

It is not just about recalling what Jesus did for us on the cross.  It goes much deeper than this.  It reminds us that Jesus came to bring peace to the world, reconciling us to God.  Remembering what God has done for us brings healing and power; it re-members us—it reunites us—with God, with each other, and with who God has made us to be.  

That is why Remembrance Sunday is so important.  It connects us to the past, as we recall the sacrifices others have made in the past for the cause of peace and justice in the world, but also reminds us the part we also play in bringing peace to our dismembered, fragmented world, so that the wounds caused by war and violence one day may be healed, because as God’s people we are called to be peacemakers and peace givers.  

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Rosa Parks – Black History Month

Article for the Walsall Advertiser - published 22 October 2015

October marks Black History Month, celebrating the contribution black and minority ethnic individuals and communities have made to society.    

For me one of the most inspiring people from recent American history is Rosa Parks.  Rosa Parks was born into a black family on the 4th February 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama.  Segregation was in force in Alabama and many other southern US states, with separate schools, hotels, bars, hospitals, libraries, cinemas and restaurants, for blacks and whites.  Segregation was also in force on public transport.  The law stated that if all the seats on the bus were taken, then a black person had to give up their seat to a white passenger.

On the 1st December 1955, Rosa Parks challenged this law, by refusing to give up her seat to a white man when ordered to do so.  She was subsequently arrested, and fined $14.  This simple act of non-violent defiance changed American history. 

Inspired by her actions, civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr started the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which lasted 13 months, and only ended when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the segregation laws on Alabama’s buses were not legal.

Rosa Parks became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement and today is known as "the first lady of civil rights" and "the mother of the freedom movement".  The Civil Rights Movement faced many struggles, but ultimately succeeded in overturning the segregation laws, with the signing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

Rosa Parks was a devout Christian, and it was her faith that motivated her to take the stand she did.  In her book ‘Quiet Strength’ she writes ‘Since I have always been a strong believer in God, I knew that He was with me, and only He could get me through that next step.’  When she refused to give up her seat, she didn’t realise the impact her actions would have, but as she later said, “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.”  Rosa Parks dedicated the rest of her life to the civil rights movement, and passed away on the 24th October 2005, aged 92.   

Rosa Parks teaches us that even small actions can make a big difference, and that we must never tire of doing what is right, even if that comes at personal cost.  What are the things that you are willing to take a stand for today?    

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Harvest All Age Talk

Talk Part 1 - Gratitude

We’ve just had a reading (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) in which Paul talks about giving thanks in all circumstances. Harvest is first of all about giving thanks to God. 

In the time when people relied on the food they grew, a successful harvest meant they weren’t going to starve during the winter.  It also meant they would have seeds to plant new crops in the spring.  So a successful harvest was a time to celebrate, and to give thanks to God.

Today very few of us grow our own food.  If we need food we pop to the supermarket, where there is always plenty on offer.

But it’s important to recognise and be grateful for the things we do have.  To rejoice and give thanks always to God, for the blessings we have in our lives.

Maybe you’d like to jot down things you’re grateful for in a Gratitude diary – like this person…

What things are you grateful for? Share with your neighbour   

Talk Part 2 - Our Response

I’ve talked about harvest and the importance of gratitude.  But harvest is not just about being grateful, it is also about our responsibility to others, as this reading from the OT highlights…

Reading from Deuteronomy 24:19-22 

In this reading God tells his people that when they are gathering in the harvest they shouldn’t take everything for themselves, but leave some of the harvest for the foreigner, fatherless and widow – in other words the poor, the disadvantaged, the stranger, those people in need. 

Harvest is not just about thanking God for the good gifts we enjoy, it is also about remembering our responsibility to those less fortunate than we are.  We know that there are many people in in our local community who need our help, such as the homeless and disadvantaged, and those who because of poverty have to rely on food banks to feed themselves.  God calls us to love them, and care for them, and to share the resources he has given us, with them.

That is why as a church one of the charities we support, both practically and financially is The Glebe Centre, which supports some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Walsall.  Earlier this year The Glebe Centre celebrated it’s 40th anniversary, this short video gives a brief insight into what difference The Glebe Centre is making.

God calls us not only to care for the people close at home, but to care for people around the world, many of whom live in extreme poverty.  Which is also why as a church we also support charities like Christian Aid and Tearfund, that help some of the poorest people in the world.

So this harvest, we remember the importance of showing gratitude for the blessings God has given to us, and we remember our responsibility to share these blessings with those less fortunate than we are.  Whether they be close to home, or far away, and whether they be the orphan, the widow or the stranger, we are to love them and care for them as if they were Jesus himself.   

What is a Christian?

Talk given at the baptism of a child. The Bible text was Mark 10:35-45

  • Special day as Reuben is being brought to baptism.
  • But did you know that baptism itself does not make you a Christian. 
  • What baptism should do is mark you out as a Christian. 
  • For Reuben baptism marks the start of what I hope & pray will be his life long journey of faith with God.  He hasn’t arrived, this is just the start.  As the Chinese saying goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  Well today for Reuben, baptism is that first step. 
  • The hope & prayer today, is that as Reuben will grow in his Christian faith. 
  • But what exactly is a Christian?
  • There are a lot of misconceptions about what a Christian is. 
    • Lots of people tell me they try to live a Christian life.  What they mean is they try to be a good person.  GREAT!  That’s really important.  But it doesn’t make you a Christian.  After all there are lots of people who lead good lives, who are kind, thoughtful & caring to other people, but that doesn’t make them Christians.  I know many good and kind Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhist and atheists, they’re obviously not Christians!
    • Some people believe a Christian is someone who goes to church.  GREAT!  That’s really important.  But going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger.
  • So what is a Christian?
  • Put simply, a Christian is someone who follows Jesus Christ. 
  • You don’t have to be perfect and to have your whole life sorted out before you start following Jesus.  The truth is, I’m an imperfect person, following a perfect Saviour.   
  • As followers of Jesus Christ, we want to become more like Jesus.  That is what the name Christian means, ‘Little Christ’.  Living life his way.    
  • And what are the signs of becoming more like Jesus?  When people look at Reuben they are able to see something of his family in him, in terms of his physical appearance & but also in the person he is growing into.  The same should be true of people who follow Jesus.  They should be able to see something of Jesus in us.  As we become more like him, we will become more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, full of goodness, and self control.  The Bible calls this the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  It is the outworking of God Spirit in our lives.
  • Jesus summed up what it means to be one of his followers.  We are to love God with our whole being, and love one another, just as God loves us. 
  • It sounds simple doesn’t it?  But it can be hard.  That’s what Jesus was talking about in our Bible reading when he talked about not coming to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  If we’re serious about following Jesus there will be a cost involved. 
  • But that is why God gifts us the gift of his Holy Spirit, and his family, the church, to support us on our journey.
  • If Reuben stayed as a baby all his life, we’d consider that a tragedy.  We want him to grow and mature.  Likewise as followers of Jesus we need to be growing and  maturing.  If Reuben is going to grow as Christian faith, he will need help and support, that’s why baptism alone is not enough. 
  • The way we grow as Christians is through:
    • Prayer – talking to God
    • Reading the Bible, God’s living word
    • Worshipping God with other Christians
    • Putting God at the centre of our lives.
  • Choosing to follow Jesus isn’t choosing to take the easy path in life, but it’s choosing the path that leads to life.  As Jesus said “I have come that YOU may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.”  
  • If you’re sitting there & thinking “I’ve never made the decision to follow Jesus, but would like to”, I want to give you that opportunity today.  It’s so simple.  All you need to do is turn to Jesus, and ask him into your life.  I promise you, choosing Jesus is a decision you’ll never regret.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Hearing, Listening & Acting

Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:19-21

I’m very blessed to be married to a wonderful woman called Beata.  But if you were to ask her about what irritates her most about me, I suspect she would tell you it’s my poor listening skills.  The trouble is when she talks to me, I hear her, but I don’t always listen. 

There is a big difference between hearing someone and listening to them.  As God complains to the people of Israel in Isaiah “You have seen many things, but you pay no attention; your ears are open, but you do not listen." (Is. 42.20)

I imagine we have all had the experience of talking to someone whose attention has not been on us, but on someone or something else, or who is more interested in getting their point of view over than listening to what we have to say. 

In contrast think to a time when you have felt as though you have been properly listened to.  That person would have given you their undivided attention.  You will feel as though you have been understood, and that the person listening to you has responded in some way to what you have said. 

In our Gospel reading today, Jesus makes the point that his true family are those who not only hear God’s word, but also respond to it, by putting it into practice

Jesus was in Capernaum at the time, 30 miles from his home town of Nazareth.  Luke tells us that Jesus’ mother and brothers came looking for him, but they couldn’t get to him because of the crush of people in the house where he was speaking. It has been suggested that the purpose of Jesus’ families visit was to take him away.  On the one hand, they may have thought he was mad or an embarrassment to the family.  Or they might have been concerned that Jesus would get himself or them into trouble with the authorities because of the provocative things he was saying and doing, such as questioning traditional interpretations of the Law.

When the message that Jesus’ family are looking for him reaches Jesus, he responds “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” 

Luke sets this incident with Jesus and his family just after the parable of the sower.  In that parable he talks about how a sower went out to sow seed in a field, and that some of this seed feel on the path and was trampled on, and the birds ate it. Some fell on the rock, and as it grew it withered in the sun.  Some seed fell among thorns and as it grew the thorns choked it.  And some seed fell on good soil, which when it grew produced a crop 100 times more than was sown.  At the end of this parable Jesus says that the seed that falls on good soil represents those who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” 

There is a link therefore between this parable, and the incident with Jesus and his family.  Because both times, Jesus talks about hearing the word of God and responding to it.

There is a challenge here for us.  How do we respond to the word of God?  Do we allow God’s word to challenge us, and to change us?   Or do we hear, but not listen?  Are we people “who hear God’s word and put it into practice”?

Jesus was talking to Jews, people who regarded themselves as God’s chosen people merely by birth and circumcision.  But Jesus makes a radical statement that belonging to God has little to do with blood or race, it has to do with the relationship we establish with God, through faithful obedience. 

Our discipleship too, is just not determined by our being by being baptised, or attending church, or by observing the external requirements of our religion but by our total commitment to the Gospel and to an unconditional following of Jesus. Only then can we truly be said to be his brother or sister.

Are we Sheep or Goats- Paddington Bear Matthew Chapter 25

Text of sermon preached by the Revd Phill Ball

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40

I settled down to watch the new film starring Paddington Bear. The film is as warm and welcome as a pair of slippers and you realize as you watch that Paddington Bear is a very important bear.

Michael Bond created Paddington in 1958. He says the inspiration for him came from seeing Jewish evacuee children pass through Reading station from London during the Kinder transport of the late 1930s. These were Jewish Children who had been whisked out of Europe before the Nazis had other plans for them. They were fleeing War and persecution, and as we now know extermination.

They all had a label round their neck, he says, with their name and address on and a little case or package containing all their treasured possessions. And so Paddington, in his blue duffle coat and red hat, has a sign round his neck from his relatives back in darkest Peru with a simple request: ‘Please look after this bear. Thank you’. 

In the film Paddington’s aunty sends him to England because, she says. ‘they won’t have forgotten how to give strangers a warm welcome there’. I wonder how many of you visiting this country still agree?  What happens is that Paddington gets into the train station and is pushed and shoved around, ignored and left by himself until, of course, the Browns take him in and he becomes part of that rather chaotic family. Paddington never looks happier, the marmalade sandwich never tastier, than when he realizes that he is at last ‘home’.I have the same initials as Paddington Bear, and my own experiences of marmalade sandwiches is of giving them to the prisoners under my care in various cell blocks, they weren’t all as happy as Paddington to receive them.

Now, for all the gathered extras over the centuries, the heartland of the Christian faith is the story of Jesus Christ. He is the gospel in person. Right from the very beginning of his life until he was publically executed, he was a stranger. He was a– born in an outhouse, visited by weirdos from funny places and rough Shepherds social outcasts, a child refugee in Egypt, and then later a preacher whose first sermon didn’t go down well and who then over three years disturbed the establishment by saying that God is more evident in the untouchables, overlooked and imperfect than in the religiously observant, or rich or powerful: even his closest family and friends constantly misunderstand him. When Peter says that he does not know the man as the cock crows, he is lying but he is also telling the truth. He doesn’t really know this man yet. This stranger was putting the odd back into God.This was not welcome. ‘He was in the world yet the world did not know him. He came to what his own and he was not accepted’.

This was strange as his Jewish People, had gone to Egypt as refugees from hunger in the time of Joseph, eventually been enslaved there and escaped as stateless and landless war refugees under Moses. Then been sent into exile under severe oppression under the Assyrians and Babylonians, and been second class citizens in their own lands under the Greeks and Romans. 

It should not surprise us then that for the early followers of this man Christ the Stranger it became very important to welcome the stranger. Jesus had told stories and had encounters where he opened eyes on how we project our fears onto people, often people who can’t speak out or strike back, the vulnerable in some way, and how we become tribal, liking our own types and pointing the fingers at others, and, oh how convenient, God is always on the side of our tribe. And yet, Jesus constantly exposed this religious fantasy for what it is – a blasphemy – and taught and lived to show that all, all, all, misfits, the unsure, the wounded, the unbeliever, the unclean, the totally different from you, all, ,and all of us here today, strange as we all are, are loved and  treasured by God equally and forever. If you are Christ-like you will see, like Paddington, that each and everyone of us here, each and everyone of us in this world, has a sign round our necks asking that you please look after me because I’m fragile, I'm bruised, I’m a bit scared, lonely sometimes, and I need a friend to help me through this life which frankly is not for beginners. Please look after this bear. I’m a bit of a stranger here.

I don’t need to tell you that we live in times when the stranger is fast becoming the enemy. The stranger in strange clothes, with different skin, with other sexuality, with opposite gender, with beliefs and thoughts not ours is being isolated so that the majority can look out at someone else and not in at themselves, so that we can have an easy answer to our complex problems. It happens in workplaces, schools, homes, churches and nations.

It happens in you and in me. But if you are here to follow Christ the stranger, if you believe like our earliest Christian sisters and brothers that you will meet Christ in the stranger because that meeting will make your world new and stretch you more open to God’s grace, then renew that commitment, renew it now, today, because the world badly needs a human heart that sees dignity before money, and a person’s need before appearance or place of birth. Because what will injure the stranger amongst us more that the words of their enemies will be the silence of their friends, the silence of those who taught that you will never recognise his followers by their vestments, doctrine or certainty but by their love.

At the end of the film Mr Brown is putting someone right about Paddington: ‘It doesn’t matter that he comes from the other side of the world. It doesn’t matter that he’s a different species or that he has a very worrying marmalade habit’. He saw that the Browns needed Paddington every bit as much as he needed them so Please look after this bear: for what you do to the least you do also to me says the Lord. Amen

If God is sovereign why pray?

As Christian’s we believe in an all-powerful, sovereign God.

  • "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." (Revelation 1:8)
  • "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account" (Hebrews 4:13)
  • Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. (Psalm 139:4)
  • Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

The argument goes like this: if God is all powerful, and all knowing, then what is the point in praying?  Doesn’t God already know the future?  In which case doesn’t that mean the future is fixed, and therefore prayer doesn’t change anything?

In seeking to answer this question I want to explore
  • The question of free will
  • Example & teaching of Jesus
  • Why prayer matters

If God is sovereign why pray?

At the heart of this question is the question of free will.  If we think that God has predetermined everything, including who gets sick, who recovers and who dies, then what is the point in praying?  Everything has been predetermined, nothing will change the outcome.  It’s very much like the ancient Greek idea of the God’s using humans as play things, moving them around like pieces on a chess board.

The trouble with this view is that God becomes a puppet master, arbitrarily controlling our lives, saying to one person “I’m going to bless you,” and to another “I’m going to cause you suffering and pain.” 

But what sort of God would this be?  Not the God of love that Jesus reveals to us.
Because God loves us, he gives us the freedom to choose, to respond to his love, or to reject it. 
  • Parable of the prodigal son – the father loves his son, and does not want him to leave, but neither does he try to stop him, because he respects his son’s free will. 

  • Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. – the decision to open this door, and invite Jesus into our lives, is our choice alone.  God will not force himself on us. 

God is love, and he wants us to experience his love, but you can’t force someone to love you.  That is why we have the freedom to choose.

Is the Future Fixed?

Rabbi Daniel Cohn-Scherbok of Kent University wrote an article where he argued that if God knows the future, then it must be fixed.    

Responding to this article, Clifford Longley, the former Religious Affairs correspondent of The Times wrote ‘If God lives in the eternal present, he hears all prayers simultaneously.  Therefore he can appropriate a prayer from next week, and attach it to an event a month ago.  Prayers said after the event can be heard before they are spoken and taken into account before the event.’

Or to put it another way, God has all eternity to answer the split second prayer for a driver who is about to crash.

If God is sovereign why pray?

Simple answer is Jesus told us to pray.  Jesus said ‘When you pray’ (Matthew 6:7) not ‘If you pray.’ And Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer as a model for who we should pray. 
Paul says “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes 5:17)

We see how important prayer is, because Jesus himself prayed, and that his relationship with his Heavenly Father was centred on prayer.

Prayer Matters

The goal of prayer is primarily about deepening our relationship with God.

As a parent, I sometimes know what my children need or want before they ask me, but I still want them to come to me with these requests.   And God as our Heavenly Father still wants us to speak with Him, even though he knows what we need.  That is why Jesus said  “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Praying is not about so much about us trying to change God’s mind – but about allowing God to change us. 

Abraham pleads for Sodom Genesis 18:16-33.  God says I will destroy the city of Sodom and Gomorrah for their sins.  Then starts this interesting bargaining taking place between Abraham and God.  What if there are 50 righteous people in the city, will you destroy it? Then 45, 40, 30, 20, 10. In the passage it looks as if God is changing his mind, but actually I think it is about God changing Abraham’s mind.  Abraham knew God was just and that he punishes sin, but he also comes to see how merciful God is as well.

Prayer is about allowing God to change us.  That is one of the reasons why Jesus said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) – because when we pray for those her persecute us, it changes our attitude towards them.

When we pray about situations, we shouldn’t just say “God what are you going to do about this?” but also say “God change my heart, so that I may see the world as you see it.  Show me what you want me to do about this situation, how I can be a channel of your peace, love mercy and grace.”

When we pray, we are asking for God’s will to be done, and that our wills, align with God’s will. That is why we pray for the lost, for those in our church, for those in need, for our family, friends, co-workers, and the many who will perish unless they know Christ. 

Prayer Works

We pray because prayer works.  That is why Jesus prayed, and why we pray.
The more we pray, the more we will see answers to prayer – not always in the way we would expect, but answers non the less. 

That is why James says “The prayer of the righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16) and in the Gospel John we read that God “listens to the godly person who does his will” (John 9:31). 

We don’t pray to impress God with fine words, or to inform God of anything.  We pray to invite God into our lives, and to share in working with God to bring about transformation and change to the world.  God could do this without us, but we cannot do it without Him, and we have the privilege of doing it with Him!

When we pray our relationship with God develops, and so we grow through prayer.
As we pray, we learn to become more dependent on God.  Trusting him, even when times are hard. 

Prayer binds us to God.  The more time we spend in God’s presence, the more like Him we become.  Because at the heart of prayer, is our relationship with the God who loves us, far more than we can ever begin to understand.

I want to finish with this little cartoon, which I takes the question of prayer and the sovereignty of God, that we’ve been exploring today, and turns it on its head…

Thank you for praying, however, I am unable to do what you ask. Please try your prayer again later.

Thank you for praying, however, I am unable to do what you ask. Please try your prayer again later.
Thank you for praying, however, I am unable to do what you ask. Please try your prayer again later.
Thank you for praying, however, I am unable to do what you ask. Please try your prayer again later.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Putting On The Armour Of God

Today I want to talk about a topic that we don’t very often discuss in church, a topic many Christian’s are uncomfortable about talking about, the Devil and spiritual warfare.

Paul in Ephesians writes “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)  And the apostle Peter warns us “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Jesus was fully aware that he and his followers are involved in a spiritual battle.  When he sent out his disciples he gave them this instruction “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:7-8)


Winston Churchill described the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942 as the "worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history". The fall of Singapore came about because the British underestimated their enemy. British troops stationed in Singapore were told that the Japanese were poor fighters, and would never be able to take Singapore.  But when the Japanese attacked, it took everyone by surprise, both because of the speed of the onslaught which didn’t give the British forces time to re-group, and also because they attacked from the land, through the jungle and mangrove swamps of the Malay Peninsula, and not from the sea as the military planners had assumed. 

As Christians we must not underestimate our enemy.

In the Screwtape Letters CS Lewis writes “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.  They themselves are equally pleased by both errors.”

As Christians we need to recognise that there is a battle taking place over our souls.  The devil is the absolute opposite to God, and he wants to destroy our relationship with God, that is why Jesus likened the devil to a thief who comes "to steal, kill, and destroy" (John 10:10). 

As Christians we should not be surprised if we come under attack from the devil.  Spiritual battles can manifest in our daily lives through relational conflict, temptation, persecution, financial pressures, illness, doubt, despair, discourgment.  In these and other situations, our enemy wants to undermine our faith and trust in God. 
The devil doesn’t want to see a thriving flourishing church, and if he can undermine it in any way he will.

So what should our response be to all of this?


When going into battle, it is important to go in properly equipped. In the battle of Rorke’s Drift in 1879,150 British and Colonial troops successfully defended a garrison against an intense assault by 3 to 4 thousand Zulu warriors.  The reason the assault failed, was because the Zulu warriors were poorly equipped with spears and antiquated rifles and muskets, which was no match to the weapons or training that the British soldiers had. 

We need to make sure we are properly equipped for battle against the devil.  We need to equip ourselves with the spiritual armour of God, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit.


The first part of the armour of God is the belt of truth.  When preparing for a battle, a soldier would put on his belt first, because it was designed to keep the other pieces of the soldier’s armour in place. 

Satan is the great deceiver, who often attacks truth with lies. 

·        Adam & Eve
o   God “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;  but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
o   “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”…  “You will not certainly die.” 

The Devil wants us to attack truth with lies, to make us doubt who we are in Christ.  And he often does this by planting thoughts or ideas into our mind, as if they’re our own.  For example, the thought may come: "My life isn't worth living.", "God doesn't care about me," “I’m no good.” “I’m a failure and disappointment to God.” The devil knows we are far more likely to believe his lies if we acknowledge the thoughts as our own.

We need to put on the belt of truth. We need to be firmly established in the truth of God’s word, so that we can resist Satan’s lies and deceit.   Jesus said, If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

This is why knowing God’s word is so important, so that we can resist the attacks of the enemy, by knowing and abiding in the truth.


Next is the breastplate of righteousness.  The breast plate protected the vital organs, like the heart and lungs.

Righteousness is one of those strange words we use in church, but it simply means to be in a RIGHT RELATIONSHIP with God.  We nurture a right relationship with God through prayer, worship, being open to God’s Holy Spirit, walking in faithful obedience to God.  


We are then called to have our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.  In the imagery that Paul uses, there is the idea that we have to go out and face the enemy face on.  And as Christians the way we do that, is to always be ready to carry the message of God’s love to the world.
When we carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the world, the message of love and peace, we are taking the battle to the enemy, we are building the Kingdom of God, tackling head on the forces of darkness in the world.  Because even the smallest candle dispels darkness. 


Next comes the shield of faith.  The purpose of a shield is to deflect missiles. So when we come under spiritual attack, the shield of faith is there to protect us. 
Carrying the shield of faith is about placing our faith, trust and confidence in God, and knowing who God is, and what He is like, because our enemy will try to attack and distort our perception of God, in the hope of diminishing our trust in God.
The devil tries to create a credibility gap between what the Word of God says and our actual experience. Satan may point his accusing finger at God while planting doubts in your mind such as, "What if God has forgotten about you?" Or, "If God really loved you, He wouldn't have allowed this." If the doubts go unchecked, they will tear down your confidence in God and bring about worry, uncertainty, fear, and unrest in our relationship with Him.

This is why, rather than allowing life’s circumstances to dictate our perception of God, we need to allow God’s Word to tell us the truth about Him. 


Satan wants us to doubt Jesus and the salvation that he has won for us on the cross, which is why the next piece of armour is the helmet of salvation, because this protects our minds from doubting God’s saving work for us. 

Wearing the helmet of salvation is also about the conscious decision to focus our minds on God, because many of Satan's battles against us happen in the mind. Whether that be immoral thoughts, lies, doubts, or anything else to discourage our faith.  Which is why Paul tells us to “not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)


The final piece of the armour of God is the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.  A sword can be used for defence and also offense, which is a reminder that we are called to take the battle to Satan. 

Any soldier, before entering into battle, first has to learn how to use their weapon.  And so we need to know how to handle God’s Word properly, because it is a powerful tool. The Word of God is described as living and active, and sharper than a two edged sword, so it has the power to penetrate the heart, and lay open the motives and feelings of those it touches.  The more we know and understand the word of God, the more effective we will be in standing against the enemy of our souls.


On June 6th 1944, allied troops landed in Normandy.  It marked the beginning of the end for Hitler, but it took another 10 months before the fighting in Europe finally came to an end. 

Whilst the spiritual battles may rage on, the war against Satan has also already been won.  Satan was defeated when Jesus died on the cross, and Satan knows he is defeated, and as Christians we have nothing to fear. 

A man went to visit a wildcat in a zoo, as he stood there an attendant entered the cage through a door on the opposite side. He had nothing in his hands but a broom. Carefully closing the door, he proceeded to sweep the floor of the cage. He observed that the worker had no weapon to ward off an attack by the beast. In fact, when he got to the corner of the cage where the wildcat was lying, he poked the animal with the broom. The wildcat hissed at him and then lay down in another corner of the enclosure. The man said to the attendant, "You certainly are a brave man." "No, I ain't brave," he replied as he continued to sweep. "Well, then that cat must be tame." "No," came the reply, "he ain't tame." "If you aren't brave and the wildcat isn't tame, then I can't understand why he doesn't attack you." Then the attendant chuckled, then replied with an air of confidence, "Mister, he's old--and he ain't got no teeth."  That is the devil, his got no teeth, and the only power he has over us, is the power that we give him. 

We mustn’t ignore our enemy, but at the same time we must always remember that Christ has won the victory for us, and we have nothing to fear from Satan, as the apostle James wrote “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) 
Spiritual struggles and attacks of the enemy are inevitable for the Christian, but God has provided His protection. Indeed, "We are more than conquerors though Him who loved us" (Romans 8:37).  But it is important that we stand firm, and daily clothe ourselves in the full armour of God.