The Power of Togetherness (2)

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“In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Ro 12:5 NIV

An American veteran who was part of the D-Day invasion described meeting Churchill prior to the launch of that bloody offensive against the forces of Nazism. He said D-Day was the most frightening experience of his life. “In fact,’ he said, ‘I don’t think some of us would have been able to do what we did if it weren’t for a visit we got just before we crossed the English Channel.” That visit was from Winston Churchill. He rode up in a jeep, got out, and mingled with the troops. “He shook hands with us and even hugged some of us,” the veteran recalled. “He spoke of his own wartime experience and identified with our emotions. Then, he stood up in his jeep and gave a five-minute speech. He spoke the whole time with tears in his eyes.” Here’s what Churchill said: “Gentlemen – I know you are afraid. I remember being afraid when I was a soldier. I had the privilege of defending my country…through dark days when we didn’t know whether we would accomplish what we had been given to do. But this is your moment. We are counting on you to rise to the occasion and achieve everything you have set out to do. The fate of the free world rests on your shoulders. May this be your finest hour.” The veteran said, “Needless to say, our group of frightened soldiers turned into a band of men who were ready to take on anybody.” Togetherness – it’s a powerful thing when you put it into practice!

The Power of Togetherness (1)

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“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell to-gether in unity!” Ps 133:1

The word “synergy” pictures a group of people working together in a great cause, each functioning at their highest level and enjoying it. John Wooden, former coach of the championship UCLA basketball team, said: “During my coaching years and ever since, I have made a point of refraining from referring to the UCLA Bruins as ‘my team’ or the individuals on it as ‘my players.’…When asked, ‘How did you win the game, Coach?’ I would correct the reporter and say, ‘I didn’t win the game. The players did. Our team outscored the opponent.’ This may be a small issue, but it is important to me because it reflects my idea that a team is ‘owned’ by its members. When every member of a team takes ownership, ‘good things happen.’ In celebrating victory, a wise leader always takes the accolades and passes them on to others.” Paul regularly paid tribute to those who worked with him, acknowledging their contribution: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles” (Ro 16:3-4 NKJV). There’s no doubt that God could get the job done without you, but you can’t get the job done without the help of others. Musician George Adams said, “We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken one word of encouragement to us, has entered into the makeup of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”

PBPGINFWMY

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“Don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work.” Jas 1:4 TM

Life is lived in seasons; if you don’t understand that, you’ll be constantly frustrated. Some seasons are for sowing, some for waiting, and some for reaping. Sometimes you have a short, intense burst of growth followed by a longer period of stabilizing and testing. “But what about my problems?” you ask. Pray for a miracle, but don’t be disappointed if your answer comes through gradual change. Over time, a steady stream of water will erode the hardest rock and turn giant boulders into pebbles. You may feel frustrated with the pace of your progress, but God is never in a hurry. He took eighty years to prepare Moses, including forty in the wilderness. For 14,600 days Moses wondered, “Is it time yet?” But God kept saying, “No.” Contrary to pop psychologists, quick-success seminars, and the “no-money-down” guy on TV who made a fortune in real estate, there are no easy steps to maturity. When God makes a mushroom He does it overnight; when He makes a giant oak He takes a hundred years. God sets the schedule, not us. When you get discouraged about how far you still have to go, stop and look back at how far God has brought you. Weren’t there times when you just wanted to quit? Yet He never stopped loving you, believing in you and developing you. “If we are faithless, He remains faithful” (2Ti 2:13 NKJV). Years ago folks wore a popular button with the letters PBPGINFWMY (“Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet”). And He’s not finished with you!

Who Advises You?

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“Listen to advice…and…you will be wise.” Pr 19:20 NIV

You may be good at what you do. Indeed, you may be better than most, but without the help of others you will never be as good as you could be. You will never reach your highest potential without a good adviser. It’s impossible. Why would a world-class tennis player need a coach, especially one who is not as good on the court as he or she is? André Agassi answered the question this way: “Tennis requires subtle adjustments crucial to winning, and my coach, Gill, is the best at making them. The older I get the more valuable he becomes.” Why is that? Because age and experience don’t necessarily make you better; often they just deepen the rut you’re in. In life, as in sports, you never reach the point where you don’t need good input. Yet many of us operate under the misguided assumption that because we lead, we don’t need to be led. We make the mistake of measuring ourselves against others instead of our own God-given potential, and in the end we never become what we could have been. Self-evaluation is important, but the evaluation of others is crucial. A good coach measures your performance against your strengths, not somebody else’s. That’s because he or she knows what you’re capable of, and they will push you to your limit. And by the way, good coaches are constantly on the scene observing, not back at the office waiting for a report. That’s because they are personally invested in your success; a win for you is a win for them. Ruth needed Naomi, and Timothy needed Paul. Who advises you?

Looking in the Right Mirror!

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“Your beauty should come from within you.” 1Pe 3:4 NCV

The world’s best fashion designers are concerned with the total look of the models they send down the catwalk. They must have perfect accessories and the right hairstyle, makeup, etc. And it’s the same with God. He created you as a whole person with specific features, personality traits, and emotional strengths. He designed you to be a vibrant, thinking, feeling, and fully-functioning human being with your own unique attractiveness. But He endowed you with more than just physical appearance. He gave you talents and spiritual gifts – inner qualities He wants you to develop and use for His purposes. What you are on the inside should determine how you see yourself on the outside. When your looks determine your worth, a few extra pounds can wipe you out; so can magazine covers that trumpet beauty without character. You’re looking in the wrong mirror! The Bible says, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourself instead with the beauty that comes from within” (vv. 3-4 NLT). When your self-worth comes from God instead of people, you can wear a $10 outfit from a thrift shop or a $1000 one from an upscale boutique. You are fine either way, because you recognize that your outer appearance doesn’t define who you are, or determine your worth in God’s eyes. Inner beauty can’t be bought, taken off a rack, applied like makeup or put on like a new suit. It’s an “inside job.” So look at yourself today in God’s mirror and try to see what He values most – inner beauty.

Jesus Can Heal You

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“Jesus saw her…and said, ‘Dear woman, you are healed of your sickness!’” Lk 13:12 NLT

The Bible says: “As Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, he saw a woman who had been …bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight…he called her over and said, ‘Dear woman, you are healed’…Then he touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God! But the leader in charge of the synagogue was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day” (vv. 10-14 NLT). Notice three things about this woman: (1) She had a long-term problem. It was a visible condition everyone could see. But many of the people we meet have problems within: situations they’ve wrestled with for years; issues so painful that it causes them to “act out” what’s going on inside them. They need to be handled with care and compassion. (2) No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t straighten up. She had a burden that nobody but Jesus could lift, and she would never be free until He did. Can you relate? Are you trying to medicate your pain through tireless work, wrong relationships, or mood-altering substances? Have you gotten so used to your problem that even when you’ve a chance to be delivered, you won’t let it go; it’s like your security blanket? Jesus will set you free if you turn to Him! (3) What she needed was a touch from Jesus. The church she went to couldn’t help her. The pastor actually condemned Jesus for healing her on the Sabbath. Away with powerless religion that has no answers! Today turn to Jesus, by whose stripes we are healed, within and without.

The Teacher (2)

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“The Spirit will…make it known to you.” Jn 16:15 NIV

The Holy Spirit, Who is your Teacher: (1) Wants you to search God’s Word for answers and direction. He doesn’t want you to be passive and simply accept whatever comes into your life. He wants you to turn to His Word for insight; to find divine solutions to the human problems confronting you day in and day out. He wants you to stand on His Word instead of lying down and saying, “I guess this is just the way it’s got to be.” Your Bible is a road map that will never steer you the wrong way. It’s a sword you can fight with, and win every time. “Meditate in it day and night…do according to all that is written in it. For then you will… have good success” (Jos 1:8 NKJV). (2) Wants you to grow by following in the footsteps of Jesus. The word “disciple” comes from the Greek word mathetes, which means “a learner or student.” In Jesus’ day disciples not only learned from the teacher’s lectures, but also by observing and experiencing every aspect of the teacher’s life. That’s how Jesus trained His twelve disciples. And finally the time came when He could say to them, “The works that I do shall [you] do also” (Jn 14:12). Peter, James, and John, “the inner circle,” had a more intimate relationship with Christ. That was not because He loved them more, but that He had a particular plan in mind for them. What’s God’s plan for you? That’s what the battle in your life is about. Satan will do all he can to put distance between you and God. Don’t let him!

The Teacher (1)

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“The Holy Spirit…will teach you all things.” Jn 14:26 NKJV

Jesus said the Holy Spirit is the greatest Teacher of all. Here’s why: (1) Because He will interact with you. When you are interested enough to ask questions, the learning process has really begun. Your questions don’t bother God if they come from a hungry heart. Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find” (Mt 7:7). It’s okay to be inquisitive. God doesn’t want you to be passive and just accept everything that comes into your life. He wants you to question Him so that you can find clarity and direction. (2) Because He wants to teach you how to live. That means showing up every day for class, and not just every once in a while. It means listening intently, taking notes, and doing the reading assignments you’re given. It means trusting that the Teacher knows what He’s talking about, and that the knowledge you’re receiving will equip you to go out and succeed in life. You may not see much value in what a teacher is telling you right now, or think it relates to you personally. Perhaps you’re only interested in passing the test, graduating, and getting out of school. No, passing tests only proves you’ve a good memory, not that you’ve really learned! A good teacher’s goal is to create in you: (a) a hunger for knowledge; (b) an ability to seek out and understand things when he or she is no longer around; (c) a willingness to put what you’ve learned into practice. You say, “How can I know I’m truly learning?” John answers, “Continue to live in Christ, as [he] taught you” (1Jn 2:27 NCV).

Keep Praying and Believing

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“Teaching them more about prayer, he used…story.” Lk 11:5 NLT

Your need moves God’s heart, but your faith moves Him to action. So keep praying and believing. Jesus gives us two illustrations of this: (1) “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves…he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and [we] are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this – though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.” (Lk 11:5-8 NLT). Why will God answer your prayer? To protect His reputation as One who makes covenants and keeps them. (2) “There was a judge in a certain city…A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice’…The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said…‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’ Then the Lord said, ‘Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly!’” (Lk 18:2-8 NLT). Bottom line: the God you serve is just, compassionate, able and willing to meet your needs, so keep praying and believing.

Let God Show You Where to Go

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“Leave…go to the land I will show you.” Ge 12:1 NIV

Where you are matters. You can’t grow bananas in Alaska, but you can grow them in Jamaica. What’s the point? Simply this: sometimes you need to change your location in order to succeed in what God’s called you to do. Look at the life of Elijah. “The word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘Get away from here and turn eastward, and hide by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. And it will be that you shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there’” (1Ki 17:2-4 NKJV). Ravens normally don’t deliver food, they eat it. But when you do what God tells you and go where He sends you, you move from the natural realm to the supernatural one. God not only has a plan for your life, He has a place for it. Yes, you must have the right strategy, but you must also be in the right spot. “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go” (Isa 48:17 NIV). If your heart’s desire is to honor God in all things, He will show you the best location to succeed in. Indeed, He will go ahead of you and rearrange circumstances to your advantage. He did it for Abraham. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb 11:8 NIV). Ask God, and He will show you where to go.