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If you are challenged by the silent struggles of a difficult journey (As did Naomi in the Book of Ruth) be encouraged that you are still on course. Trust God to see you through days that may be difficult from the ones you en-counted earlier but worship, worship God. Seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit because as the story of Naomi demonstrates it will never ever fail. As God is a restorer of the human heart.

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I always remember my uncle sharing with me his experience of battle in the WW2 siege of Tobruk. To keep the German and Italian troops on their toes and to hamper their siege, they would send out at night small squads of men to sabotage the enemy; blowing up trucks, laying mines and anything else that could harass and hamper the enemy.  These were increasingly dangerous missions as the enemy got wise to their tactics.

Uncle Eric said they had one man who was particularly fearless. Nothing seemed to make him afraid and just before they headed out on a mission he would always be quietly excited at the prospect of battle.  This man was unusual.  My uncle said that often men were sick just before they were sent out on these missions.  However regardless of how they ‘felt’, when the order came to go, everyone obeyed and did their duty magnificently.   When retelling this story he said to me, “Courage is not displayed in those who have no fear, but in those who despite their fears do what they know is right.”

Our greatest battles, like those nauseated soldiers, occur within us. Who do we allow to win? Our spirit witnessing to us of the goodness of our Heavenly Father, or our natural self that will keep us held to fear, past hurts and a false or distorted image of who the Father is. The degree to which we are surrendered to a belief that our Heavenly Father loves us, is good, and is worthy of our trust, will determine how ready we are to obey Him when his call comes.

Over the years I’ve often observed that those most able to hear and respond to God’s call, growing in an understanding of the goodness of God, are those who practice teachability before God and others. The other morning I read Proverbs 20:27, “The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.”

The thing which grows the illuminating presence of God is how surrendered we are to our spirit being the conduit of light and truth to our natural (or flesh) desires. I think as Christians we have a real issue with a lack of transparency and teachability, and the stunted powerless Christianity that emerges from it.  The more I have thought about this, the more I have concluded that our lack of honesty with ourselves and others comes from a wrong or diminished view of how much the Father Loves and adores us.

I have been for many years an advocate of accountability but accountability on its own is not enough.  Our ‘first’ priority is to draw near to God, not others.  However our drawing near to God will display itself in a growing willingness to be taught, corrected and encouraged by the Spirit speaking to our spirit and through other Christians- even when the prospect might be nauseating to our flesh.

Jules was showing me a chapter of a study book she is doing with a group of people on Tuesday’s. The chapter was on teachability and included a little self assessment questionnaire.  I have attached a modified version as a self examination tool for how teachable we are. (See Dave if you want this)

I hope it encourages you to move closer to the Father of all compassion and towards an increase of his light in you.

General news.

This Sunday is the last of our Sunday’s dedicated to Mission (where we send support but don’t go).

  • Cards from CBtB are still in the foyer for those who would like to sign one before we send them off to the aid, cross cultural and mission workers.  I’d really encourage you to sign them
  • Envelopes are still available for you to prayerfully consider a financial gift to; Brendon and Virgina Short in Niger, Bushikori in Uganda, Operation Uganda pastors sponsorship and Free to be Kids Child rescue. These are some of the Missions we as a church support. There is other information you can check out in the church foyer.

Blessings for the rest of the week,

Dave

Denis covered the main themes of Genesis and Exodus including the 10 commandments. He showed how the old testament is foundational for the full understanding of the new testament.

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Morning everyone.

Today’s e-news (in blue) has been written to us by Beth Rogers.  Beth has written about her involvement as a Reflectors leader. Its an honest reflection of the joys and challenges Beth experiences in life and ministry.  Thanks Beth for sharing with us!

It was Saturday evening and I had that feeling of dread again… I was leading Reflectors tomorrow morning and once again I had left it to the last minute to organise. I get the kids to bed and finally sit down to prepare. Once again I start to question why I volunteered to lead and a series of grumbles enter me head….I’m so busy, I’m involved in so many things, I can’t be bothered doing this, is it really worth my effort? I push them aside and start to read through the program. We’ve been following Paul on his travels and have even got passports that get stamped each week as we journey to a new town. This week we go with Paul and Barnabas to Lystra. The program outlines a play the kids do in which we need a crippled man costume, a priest’s costume and a couple of bull’s costumes. Great! Where am I going to get all that for tomorrow morning? ‘Why haven’t I organized this earlier? Somebody else would do a much better job of leading this. I can’t be bothered’, I whinge to myself.

I get to church early in the morning and meet with my fantastic team. Again, I don’t feel inspired and I’m a little resentful that I’m stuck downstairs while everything is happening upstairs. I’m also a little nervous about how the whole session will go and whether I’ll be able to keep some resemblance of order amongst twenty or so kids. Before long, the kids spill down into the room, jostling and giggling with each other. All of a sudden I am filled with their energy and excitement. I have a confidence  and a purpose that I didn’t have earlier. The kids set to work finishing their passports whilst we leaders are able to mingle amongst them, chatting and laughing with them. I see the children developing friendships and a sense of belonging. The play goes well albeit our ‘Paul’ (who will remain nameless!) decides he might retaliate while being stoned and starts to stone the ‘stoners’. Chaos reigns for a little moment as a scrunched up newspaper stones are hurled around the room.

Control is finally gained amongst much hilarity and we discuss with the kids that they too, like Paul are missionaries for our God. Whilst we may not really travel to distant lands, we have a mission to spread the good news to all we meet just as Paul did. I explain to the kids that God has put them right where they are in their school, footy groups, neighborhood etc to share the good news. The kids volunteer real-life stories of when they’ve been able to share with their friends and my heart leaps. And then it hits me… I am an integral part of God’s army. Through the fun and games and chaos of Reflectors, I am training up missionaries, not just for the future but for the now! I’m a partner with Paul in spreading the good news.  Whilst I may not have to endure being physically stoned, I do feel the barrage of enemy attack through my business, tiredness and lack of inspiration. With these precious children is where God has placed me and what an honour it is that He has trusted me with such an important mission.

What a great story Beth!  It reminds me Jesus’ spiritual law of reaping and sowing. When we in obedience to God’s call sow our lives for the building of His Kingdom and for the blessing of others we should expect to “reap” a blessing.  In fact its mockery towards God to not expect blessing.

Paul said to the Galatians Christians “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. People reap what they sow. Those who sow to please their sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; those who sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.“ 6:7-10.

In the EOFYS (End of Financial Year Sale) culture, getting a bargain is something to be celebrated, I wonder if that thinking sometimes translates into the Gospel.  We look to God (and the church) as a resource to be consumed, rather than a relationship. Beth and the rest of the Reflectors leaders are moving in the opposite Spirit.

God’s Call to ministry is not just for Beth. A few weeks ago Craig got this verse as we were praying what God’s vision is for us as a Church.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12.

What does this verse say to you? Some of us don’t know where God is calling us to plant;  the ground is hard and God is distant.  My encouragement to you is draw near God with others, seek his call for you life!   For others of us we are ploughing and planting but it’s tough, Don’t give up!  Draw close to the Father with others, look for the increase and blessing, expect it, our gracious Father promises it (Matthew 7:11).

See you Sunday,

David Rock

Church By the Bay,

Crn Waterview & Geelong Rd

Portarlington, 3222.

Email; davidrock@churchbythebay.com

Mobile; 0407 871 684

Office; 03 5259 3378

Fax; 03 5259 3378

Web; www.churchbythebay.com

Mail; PO box 182, Portarlington, 3223.

Phil delivered a message from Brendan and his wife Virginia who are in Niger, Africa ministering to the desert tribes.
Phil is the father of Brendan Short. He also ministers in Africa.

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Doing a ‘Do’
Two weeks before Jules’ Mum Dorothy died, I was sitting with her in hospital when Malcom Ward came to visit her in hospital. Malcom is the Pastor at Nerringal Baptist (Just near Warrnambool). Years ago he was Jules’ youth group leader and after we both had begun pastoring, someone I studied with.

Recently Malcom and I were at a pastors development day that the Baptist Union put on. The guy running it, Ron Jessop, was encouraging us to keep an “encouragement file.” That is a place where you keep notes and memento’s that have encouraged you with direction, purpose or through difficult times.

Malcom said he came home that day and went and checked his, “encouragement file.” As he did he was reminded that nearly every note in it had come from Dorothy. Over a 30 year period going back to when he was still a diary farmer, youth group leader and part-time preacher there had been notes from Dorothy.

He went onto say that these encouraging notes had often come in defining moments of life. When he was seeking God’s will and direction, when he doubted himself or was under stress and that they had been a significant instrument of God to encourage him.

The Hebrew writer encouraged Christians to, “..let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24&25”

We just can’t follow Jesus on our own. God created us for relationship and Jesus always spoke of following him in the context of family, friendship and community. So who around you needs some encouragement today? Perhaps a note, a text/email, a small gift or a letter.

How blessed am I to have had the influence of Dorothy, my mother in law. Not only encouraging me but being a model of encouragement. Do a “Do” today, don’t underestimate what God can do with it.

Alpha
I had a really encouraging response to the Alpha email I sent out last week. We have 6 people who have said they are interested in coming and the Alpha “Team” is really coming along. We still need a prayer co-ordinator, arguably the most important role and another facilitator.

If you’re interested in exploring more about what it means to be a part of the team, we are meeting tomorrow night 8:00pm sharp at Heather and David Whitehands, 103 High St Drysdale (just up from Mortimer’s Petrol station).

Otherwise, have a think about inviting to Alpha the non christian family or friend you have been praying for. Our Introduction night will be July the 14th.

Blessings,

Dave.

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As a family we are walking through the grief, after Julie’s mum’s passing. I know many of the ‘pat’ answers to pain but to roll them out can seem hollow just now. So where do we start when we are faced with the pain of a situation that can seem unjust and unfair?

C.S.Lewis famously said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” While this could be very true, there is a part of me that responds poorly to this quote. It makes me look at God like someone who uses pain to bang on the table to get our attention.

Pain and evil are probably the most difficult moral questions for anyone to face, including Christians. When pain appears unjust and unreasonable, in light of a God who says that he loves us, it can cause a dilemma. “Does God love me?” “Have I done something to deserve this?” “Does God hear my prayers?” “If he does hear my prayers, why is he silent?” and lastly, “Does God care?” or “Is God unable to do anything?”
The need to know “Why?” is the premise for the book of Job. Job was a “righteous man.” He was faithful to the Lord, something both God and Satan recognized. Yet Job goes through tremendous suffering. Though he never blames God for the pain (much to the frustration of others who want him to), he does want to know “Why God?”

We are able to undergo all sorts of hardship and suffering if we can see a purpose for it. Physical training, study, child birth, physio rehabilitation and surgery. But when there seems to be no reason, then things get difficult.
It was this ‘not knowing’ that drove Kelvin Templeton to loose his faith. He was a contemporary of Billy Graham. When Billy and Kelvin began preaching at Christian crusades, Billy played second to Kelvin. Many thought Kelvin the more talented and dynamic of the two. However a series of events unfolded for Templeton and the ‘why’ questions ultimately caused him to renounce his faith. “…I started considering the plagues that sweep across parts of the planet and indiscriminately kill – more often than not painfully – and it just became clear to me that it is not possible for an intelligent person to believe there is a deity who loves.”
Templeton’s conclusion, and his renouncing of his faith, is the inevitable outcome of believing that God is either impotent (no power) or does not care enough to help.
Unlike many of us who want God to answer us in our pain, God did respond to Job. Phillip Yancey describes God’s response to Job in this way – “What could God say to Job? He might have layed a gentle hand on Job’s head and told him how much his personhood would grow through this time of trial. He might of expressed a little pride in Job who had just won for him a decisive victory…God might have delivered a lecture on the necessity of preserving human freedom, or the tragic results of the Fall (When Adam and Eve sinned)…a few kind phrases, a smile of compassion, a brief explanation of what went on. God did nothing of the kind. To the contrary he turned the tables on Job.

“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?

3 Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.” Job 38-2-3.

From there, God proceeded to sweep Job off his feet with a series of questions – not answers…Did God answer Job’s questions about suffering and unfairness? Not really. He seemed to deliberately avoid a logical, point by point explanation. Why then the combative tone? What did God want from Job? God wanted simply, an admission of trust. The message looming behind the splendid poetry (of God’s reply to Job) reduces down to this. “Until you know a little more about running the physical universe Job, don’t tell me how to run the moral universe.”

So does this mean we are called to have ‘blind faith’ when we are faced with unreasonable pain? The short answer is “Yes”, but it’s a yes that is in the shadow of the Cross. Can you imagine all of the “Why” questions that were running around through Jesus’ disciples between Friday night and Sunday morning after his crucifixion? But all of their ‘why’ questions (and ours) are caught up with Jesus’ why question – “My God, my God why have you forsaken me!” Many people have used this statement to suggest Jesus felt abandoned. That in this defining moment he didn’t see himself as God, or dying for the sins of humanity but rather it was the desperate cry of a man who felt abandoned in his (unreasonable) pain and agony.

Jesus that day quoted these words from Psalm 22:1, which prophetically outlines many of the things he endured that day. However many times through the Gospels Jesus would quote a small section of the Bible, knowing that his audience would not only know the passage themselves, but know what comes next. The end of this psalm is not of a man abandoned in agony and unjust pain but a man who exalts God. “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord and all the families of the nations will bow down before him…They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn, He has done it!” In Jesus’ death not only was he the savior of the world, but he was a sign post to the greatness of God, in the midst of horrendous pain.

There might be many reasons God allows pain and suffering, but one of them is so that we are a sign post to God in the midst of it, something I am proud to say, my mother in law did magnificently.

In an interesting aside, Kelvin Templeton, when interviewed by Lee Strobel as to his renouncing of his faith, was also asked about Jesus. “He’s the most…” He stopped, then started again, “In my view, he’s the most important human being who has ever existed.” That’s when Templeton uttered the words I never expected from him. “And if I may put it this way…” he said as his voice began to crack, “I miss him.” With that tears began to flood his eyes. He turned his face from me, his shoulders bobbed as he wept.”

Pain and suffering is hard and difficult, not doubt, but without him it’s a whole lot harder.
If you would like to read up on this subject there are few books I’d suggest.

C.S. Lewis – The Problem of Pain.

Lee Strobel – The Case for Faith.

Phillip Yancey – Where is God when it hurts.

Ravi Zacharis – The Grand Weaver.

Blessings for a great week,
Dave

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