Sermon and Bible reading by David Ball - Sunday 29 November 2015
My text this morning is taken from the King James Bible: Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Chapter 4, verses 4 – 13.
V4) Rejoice in the Lord always and, again, I say rejoice.
V5) Let your moderation be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.
V6) Be careful for nothing; but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.
V7) And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
V8) Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report. If there is any virtue, if there is any praise, think on these things.
V9) Those things which you have both learned and received and heard and seen in me; do. And the God of peace shall be with you.
V10) But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, but now, at last, your care of me has flourished again, where you were also careful, but you lacked opportunity.
V11) Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be contented there.
V12) I know how to be humble and how to have plenty. Everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to have plenty and to suffer need.
V13) I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Sermon / Address
Paul was about 30 when he converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus. He spent the rest of his life, approximately another 30 years, preaching the message of God to communities from Rome through Greece, Syria and Turkey, as well as in Jerusalem. Philippi was situated in northern Greece. No jetting from one country to another. No trains or car to take you from the airport to your destination. For Paul it was just a hard slog from one community to another, often on foot. Many were hundreds of kilometres apart. And, to cap it all, he was put in jail on several occasions for preaching the message of Jesus.
It is hard to imagine that Paul actually wrote this epistle from prison as its theme is one of joy and rejoicing. What a remarkable man Paul must have been. Most of us would be depressed and despairing if we were sent to jail but not Paul. Prisons in those days were quite different. No air conditioning. No regular nourishing meals. No TV to relieve the boredom. But even under such hardship Paul was urging the Philippians to rejoice in God.
Here is a lesson for all of us. In adversity, be positive. Notice, he wasn’t trying to blame God or anyone else for his predicament. It is all too easy to blame someone else for your own misfortunes, but not Paul. He was telling them: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report. If there is any virtue, if there is any praise, think on these things.” In other words, think happy, beautiful and positive thoughts and they will get you through adversity. They got Paul through hard times and they could help you get through hard times. Next time you are feeling depressed, don’t dwell on the negatives, look for the positives. Count your blessings. Give it a try.
He continues by explaining that whatever state he is in (e.g., if he is in jail), to be contented or accepting there; because there is little point in crying over spilt milk. Paul’s message to us is: What’s done is done. Accept it and move on. Getting upset about it almost certainly won’t fix the situation. Quite the reverse. It will depress us and end up making us feel worse. If it drags on it will end up affecting our physical health and well-being so that even getting out of bed in the morning will become too hard. Remember the words of Monty Python: “Always look on the bright side of life”.
Take Paul’s advice. Focus on the good things, the happy things, the positive things in your life. Count your blessings and remember Jesus is always there to give you a helping hand. You only have to ask Him.
God bless you.
Sermon and Bible reading by David Ball - Sunday 13 December 2015
As we near the joyous season of Christmas when we celebrate the wondrous birth of Jesus I thought it fitting to take my text from Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 2, verse 7.
Text is from the King James Bible:
V. 7) And Mary brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.
Sermon / Address
That was just a small part of the story of Jesus’s birth on that first Christmas. It only appears in Luke’s Gospel but it has captured the imagination of all Christian down through the ages.
We even have special hymns for Christmas; carols, which are always a joy to sing. After Jesus’s death and resurrection at Easter, it is the most important event in the Christian church’s calendar. Yet, it is such a humble story.
Born in a stable. Laid in a manger.
It is estimated that today there are approximately 2.2 billion Christians in the world. If you asked them who was the most important person that ever walked this earth I am pretty sure most would say Jesus; because being a Christian means a belief in or follower of Christ, as we do in this Church. If you asked English Christians who was the 2nd most important person ever, some might say Winston Churchill or, maybe the Queen or maybe another king or queen from history.
With the exception of Jesus, all of them were born in or lived in a palace, including Churchill, who was born in Blenheim Palace. But the most important of them all, Jesus, was born, not in a palace, not even in the maternity ward of Bethlehem hospital but in the most humble surroundings imaginable. A stable, and then put not in a cot but in a manger which is used to hold feed for animals. Can you imagine anything more humble or more basic for what John said in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 19, verse 14, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Jesus didn’t need a palace in which to be born or live in. He knew that was not the way to get to the people and to get his message across. In order to do that, he had to be among them, to mix with them, to almost be one of them. And it worked. The worst thing he could have done would have been to be aloof, like King Herod or Pontius Pilate. People would then only have come to listen to him if they were forced to.
Jesus was sent by God to save people from their sins; to forgive them when they did, to help them help one another; to lead a better and spiritually rewarding life, and to prepare them for the next life. He couldn’t do that from the confines of a palace. Instead, Jesus had no difficulty attracting crowds of followers, eager to hear his message. He also gathered together 12 disciples who helped him with day to day tasks. But he was preparing them for the time when he would be forced to leave this world. Jesus then wanted them to continue spreading his message far and wide, which is exactly what they did.
Today there are more Christians in the world than any other religion (2.2 billion) and it all started just over 2,000 years ago in a humble stable in a small town in Israel with no one apart from the proud parents, some shepherds and farm animals to witness the event.
God bless you.
Sermon and Bible reading by David Ball - Sunday 15 November 2015
Today’s Bible reading is from Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 19, verses 16 – 24.
My text is taken from the King James Bible:
V16) And, behold, one came and said to him; “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
V17) And Jesus said to him; “Why call me good? There is none good but one, that is God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments”.
V18) He said to Jesus; “Which?” Jesus said; “You shall do no murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness.”
V19) “Honour your father and mother. And, you shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
V20) The young man said to him; “All these things have I kept from my youth. What do I lack yet?”
V21) Jesus said to him; “If you will be perfect, go and sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me.”
V22) But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
V23) Then said Jesus to his disciples; “Truly, I say to you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
V24) “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
The rich man is asking Jesus; “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So many people think that if only they were rich all their problems would be solved and they would live happily ever after as they drive off in their Mercedes limousine into the sunset. Wrong. The rich man has realised that all his wealth has not brought him everything. It has not brought him spiritual fulfilment. It has not put purpose into his life. He is worried he may not have secured himself a place in heaven. So he is asking Jesus what he has to do to inherit eternal life. “Simple” says Jesus. “All you have to do is sell everything, give your money to the poor and follow me.”
Jesus makes it even clearer by telling his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Not easy. There are different explanations as Jesus didn’t give any further details. The one I like is that there was a small gate in the Jerusalem city wall which was open at night after the main gates were shut. But anyone with a laden camel would have to unload their camel in order to get it through; just as Jesus wanted the rich man to unload his wealth in order to get through to Heaven. Jesus was trying to get his message across to his disciples that, however hard you try you cannot take your riches with you into Heaven. The same as the cameleer could not get his loaded camel through the small city gate: the eye of the needle.
Unfortunately, it was too hard for the rich man to sell everything as he was so attached to his wealth, and it is too hard for so many people today, particularly in Australia, to forego their wealth. Their obsession is to get rich, so they can have all the materialistic things that they think are so important to have in this life. Their motto is; “The richer the better”. But is it?
Will all that wealth bring spiritual fulfilment and purpose to their lives, or will these people ultimately feel like the rich man in Matthew’s Gospel? Remember, we came into this world with nothing and I can guarantee we will leave this world with nothing but life’s experiences and lessons.
Jesus has made it clear that you cannot take your riches with you. So, no, you can’t drive into Heaven in that Mercedes limousine. But once in Heaven, you will end up spiritually richer and fulfilled. So prepare now. I am not advocating you sell all of your assets but get things into perspective. Don’t spend all your time trying to make more and more money, because you can’t buy your way into Heaven.
Spiritual wealth is far more important than material wealth. Spend more time helping others, particularly those worse off than yourself.
Then, as Jesus said, you shall have treasure in Heaven.
God bless you.
Sermon and Bible reading by David Ball - Sunday 1 November 2015
Today’s Bible reading is from the First Epistle of John, Chapter 4, verses 1–3 and 7-9
My text is taken from the King James Bible:
v.1) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
v.2) Hereby, know you the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.
v.3) And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God; and this is that spirit of the antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come, and even now already is in the world.
v.7) Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God.
v.8) He that loves not, knows not God; for God is love.
v.9) In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
Sermon / Address
It is generally accepted that the First Epistle of John was written by John the Evangelist, the same John who wrote the 4th Gospel. He is also known as John the Apostle and is reputed to have been the longest lived apostle and the only one to have died from natural causes. He probably wrote it towards the end of the first century AD whilst in Ephesus where he is thought to have been buried. Ephesus is on the south-west coast of modern Turkey. What message is John sending us? I think there are 2 main messages, both of which are very relevant to us today.
Firstly, beware of bad spirits. Here, we are very careful to only communicate with spirits from the light. We are a Christian Spiritualist Church. We pray to God and his son, Jesus. At the beginning of this service we had a few moments of silence to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony. We have spirit guardians in the Church who protect us from bad spirits. It’s not quite so safe once you leave the sanctity of our Church. But I am not trying to scare you. Remember, good thoughts and good deeds will attract good spirits. Bad thoughts and bad deeds may attract bad spirits. I think the message is clear.
Whilst on that subject, just look at what is happening in Syria and Iraq. 2,000 years ago John said that there were many false prophets that had gone out into the world. He said this was the spirit of the antichrist and was already in the world. 2,000 years on and we can still see the spirit of the antichrist in the form of the terrorist group known as Islamic State. Please don’t misunderstand me. I have a lot of respect for Islam. After all, we both worship the same God. But a group of evil people is using the Muslim religion in an attempt to legitimise their acts of terror and violence, mainly on other Muslims. They want to cause chaos and mayhem in the Middle East and, if given half a chance, around the world. We must all stand up against this evil, both Christians and Muslims alike. Only then can it be defeated.
That leads me to John’s 2nd message which is the complete opposite but is meant to counter the 1st. He tells us to love one another. This is the second of he Seven Principles of Spiritualism, namely, the brotherhood of man.
Back in the sixties, Dionne Warwick sang Burt Bacharach’s song; “What the world needs now is love sweet love.” That is just what we need at the present time. There is too much hatred in the world today. Too many people are only interested in looking after themselves. They can’t be bothered helping others. Jesus said in Mark 12 verse 31 that the second most important commandment, after loving and respecting God, is to love your neighbour as yourself. John is echoing Jesus’s words. More love in the world would help to drive out evil and hatred and allow peace, harmony and goodwill to prevail.
God bless you