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FOUNTAIN OF MY SOUL By Pst. Victor Okereke (De Edifier)

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I AM LIFE-STREAM

“A fountain of joy alive in you”: How Music Tunes the Soul

I recorded this collection during the month of October 2018. Having a clear calendar for the month, I felt the Lord telling me that there was a reason I had no ministry obligations for the entire month. As I asked the Lord ‘why?’ I felt led to record this project, coupling some of my favorite songs. Worship with me and find rest for your soul as you walk intimately with Jesus through these song. I AM LIFE-STREAM

A fountain that flows from above;
I have passed from the waters of strife
And come to the Elim of love;
I have drunk of the heavenly well,
In the depths of my being it springs.
No mortal can measure or tell
The gladness the Comforter brings.

Fountain of my soul


Oh, come to the Fountain of Life,
The fountain that never runs dry;
Oh, drink of the boundless supply,
For Christ is the Fountain of Life.

I have come to the Fountain of Blood
That for guilt and uncleanness doth flow;
I have washed in its sin-cleansing flood
And my garments are whiter than snow.
I count not my righteousness mine—
’Tis Jesus that lives in my soul.
I partake of His nature divine,
And in Him I am perfectly whole.

I have come to the Fountain of Health,
A boundless and endless supply;
’Tis a secret man’s wisdom or wealth
Can never discover or buy.
But the secret my Lord hath revealed
In the fountain that flows from His side,
In the stripes by whose pain we are healed,
In Himself as He comes to abide.

I have come to the Fountain of Joy;
His joy is the strength of my heart.
My delight is unmixed with alloy,
My sunshine can never depart.

From my spirit within flows a fountain of life—
The Triune God flowing in me;
God the Father’s the source, Christ the Son is the course,
And the Spirit imparts life to me.

And my soul-life at last I lay down;
O Lord, deepen the pure flow of life;
At Your coming may life be my crown.

In the fresh, tender grass Jesus makes me lie down;
He leads me by waters of rest;
No more struggle and strain; all self-effort is vain;
In the flow I am perfectly blessed.

Jesus called me one day to the Holiest Place,
To live in His presence divine;
Hallelujah, I’ve heard an encouraging word:
“Abide—you’re a branch in the vine.”

Who can satisfy my soul, like You
Who on earth can comfort me and love me like You do
Who could ever be more faithful and true
I will trust in You, I will trust in You, my God

Who can satisfy my soul, like You
Who on earth can comfort me and love me like You do
Who could ever be more faithful and true
I will trust in You, I will trust in You, my God

There is, who is a King
(There is a fountain, who is a King)
Victorious warrior
(Victorious warrior and Lord of everything)
My rock, my very own
(My rock, my shelter, my very own)
Blessed Redeemer, who reigns upon the throne, oh yes

There is a fountain, who is a King
(Who is a King)
Victorious warrior and Lord of everything
(Victorious warrior)
My rock, my shelter, my very own
(My rock, yes He is, He is, my very own)
Blessed Redeemer, who reigns upon the throne
(Blessed Redeemer, who reigns)

Who could ever be more faithful and true
I will trust in You, I will trust in You, I will trust in You, my God

I’ve got peace like a river,
I’ve got peace like a river,
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.
I’ve got peace like a river,
I’ve got peace like a river,
I’ve got peace like a river in my soul.

I’ve got joy like a fountain,
I’ve got joy like a fountain,
I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul.
I’ve got joy like a fountain,
I’ve got joy like a fountain,
I’ve got joy like a fountain in my soul.

I’ve got love like an ocean,
I’ve got love like an ocean,
I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.
I’ve got love like an ocean,
I’ve got love like an ocean,
I’ve got love like an ocean in my soul.

SERMONS

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God

Sermons is a piece of earthly advice with a heavenly meaning , Religious Speech and Talks can be described as Sermons.

According to Wikipedia , Sermons address a scriptural, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law, or behavior within both past and present contexts.

Here are the 7 Characteristics of good Sermons:

The Wealthy

1. PREACH WITH BORROWED AUTHORITY

The best preachers do not preach from their own authority, but from God’s.

You are an ambassador of Christ. You are representing Him. Stay true to His word. Anything you say is just an opinion. Anything God says is law. Don’t apologize for what He says.

2. PREACH WITH FLEXIBILITY

The best preachers keep an open ear to the Holy Spirit.

Plan and prepare thoroughly, but don’t be so tied to your script that you have no room for the Spirit to move. Often the best moments of a message are the ones that were unscripted. Some of the most powerful things we say are the words that come to us in the middle of a message.

3. PREACH WITH THE BODY

The best preachers don’t just preach with their lips, but with their whole body.

Body language says a lot. If you stand still and don’t move, chances are your people will not be moved by the message either. Loosen up.

When you are passionate about something you move. Think about your body language the last time you had a heated argument, were comforting someone who was crying, or watched your team win in the final seconds of the game. These natural emotions and movements should carry over into your preaching as well.

4. PREACH WITH CONVICTION

The best preachers have been personally convicted by the message God has given them long before they ever preach it.

If the message has not deeply affected you, it will not affect your listeners. Let it change your life first. You can only lead your people as far as you have gone yourself. This is how a preacher comes across as being authentic. It won’t just be theoretical talk. You will be preaching from experience.

People will be able to feel that you actually practice what you preach. They will sense that you actually buy what you are selling. In todays culture of many fakes, there is nothing more attractive than real authenticity.

5. PREACH WITH PASSION

The best preachers are passionate. They preach with a sense of anticipation of what amazing things God might accomplish in His people through His word in this moment.

If you are not excited about what you are saying, how can you expect anyone else to be? It is tragic to make the most amazing story ever told boring.

Get fired up about the message. Bottle it up and stir it up within you all week so much that by Sunday (or whenever you preach) you cannot contain it anymore and the message explodes out of you.

6. PREACH WITH URGENCY

The best preachers preach with a sense of urgency. They feel the urgency of the Gospel. They know that time is short and eternity is long.

We have a message that is literally the difference between life or death. The implications are Heaven or Hell. Our time is short. Life is a vapor. We never know if this will be our last message or theirs.

Don’t act like the people listening have forever to make a decision. The time to act is now. We are never guaranteed another moment. Preach the gospel like there is no tomorrow, because one day there won’t be.

7. PREACH WITH COMPASSION

Last but not least, the best preachers preach with heartfelt compassion for their people.

Loving to preach and loving those we preach are two very different things. You need to know their greatest pain, fears, failures, and struggles. Once you know your people on a more intimate level, your preaching will naturally flow out of your compassion for them.

If you do all the above and miss love, you will be nothing more than a man making a lot of noise. (1 Corinthians 13:1) But when you preach with love for your people, you can say a tough word or two and they will understand that you are only saying it out of love, like a father warns his child not to play in the street.

7 GREAT CONFESSIONS OF OUR SOLID FRONT

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The Wealthy

Colosians 2:5 (Amp) For even though I am absent [from you] in body, nevertheless I am with you in spirit, [delighted to see your good discipline [as you stand shoulder to shoulder and form a solid front] and to see the stability of your faith in Christ [your steadfast reliance on Him and your unwavering confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness].

1. God is to me who the WORD says He is

(God is love) 1John 4:8

John 20:17, 1John 3:1

Deut.33:27 (Amp)

Psalm 23:1 (The Lord is my shephered)

Psalm 27:1 (The WORD says God is my light

2. Jesus is to me who the WORD says He is

1 Cor. 1:30

Jesus is my

wisdom, righteousness, salvation and redemption

3. The holy spirit is to me who the WORD says He is

John 14:16 (Amp)

He is my comforter

Holy spirit is to me who God says He is

4. I am what the WORD says I am

2Cor. 5:17,21 (I am new creature)

Eph. 2;10, Rom. 8:16

5. I have what the WORD says I have

1Cor. 3:21

Mala. 3:13 (Amp)

HEART – SPIRIT

MIND – BRAIN

FAITH IS A NOUN

BELIEVE IS A VERB

Action of faith is believing

So you don’t say, seeing is believing

Believe is a verb of faith

6. I will be where the WORD says I will be

Jere 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

7. I will do what the WORD says I will do

Daniel 11:32

And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.

IMPRESSION THAT TURNED DEPRESSION DOWN: Beloved, watch my latest video and please don’t forget to subscribe to my you tube channel. My God bless you https://youtu.be/mLkzsGcZDEI

OR

ANOTHER KIND OF THEM (Cont.)

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De Edifier

Text: Exodus 33:18-23

INTRODUCTION
When we talk about another kind of them, we are talking about men who are carriers of glory atmosphere. Glory Atmosphere is what robs on a man in the place of fellowship; it compels your generation to regard you. Moses carried it and his face shown; he had to cover it with a veil.

The Fellowship between Divinity and humanity is what produce glory atmosphere; Glory is life’s force of glory atmosphere. Men see glory when they push out their potentials; a man is powerful as his potentials. When the glory tempers with your ordinary it results into extraordinary occurrences.

To exist in glory is to ‘exist’ full, lacking, needing nothing. Glory is God’s best given to handle the worse of the devil; it separates us from the rest of the world; it makes much with your less. Glory is living in the realm of God while you’re still alive; no longer are you controlled by natural elements or forces.

Glory atmosphere is the lifestyle of heaven on earth. You can’t be belittled by Satan. We are not the rest of them; we are the best of them.

The real character and content of God in the life of a believer is made possible by glory (Acts 5:11). It is the glory that demarcates you from the rest and strategically positions you above. It makes you owned by God and under the control of the Holy Ghost; here you can’t operate in sin under the glory atmosphere.

TO MANIFEST ANOTHER KIND OF THEM THERE ARE THINGS NATURAL MEN CAN’T HANDLE THAT YOU MUST HANDLE:
1. Kindred Spirit
2. Go beyond the gate (Acts 3:1-8)
Gates are symbolically used as satanic barriers (Psalms 24:1). Gates are breeding ground for Satanic Activities; here people are caged and rendered small. Also gates are where God use to demonstrate His power.
3. You must deal with negative altars

I pray for you, any gate/altar that will not let you experience another life, be swallowed and destroyed in the mighty name of Jesus.

ANOTHER KIND OF THEM

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Great

Text: Luke 1:57-64

INTRODUCTION
The man in our text served God with his wife all their lives but they had no children. God remembered them in the end; history said Elizabeth was 86 years and Zachariah was almost 90 years old. The glaring thing was that their persistence wearied their resistance; though at the point of deliverance, Zachariah doubted which made him dumb for some time. The Bible is about the workings of God and principles interwoven with human experience.

Before the child was born, his assignment was given before arrival; he was packaged for destiny. But the elders wanted to name him Zachariah according to custom in order for him to continue his father’s name and experience; but his mother said NO, she said his name will be called JOHN.

NB: You are supposed to be a different breed from your family tree. You can’t suffer what they suffer; defy kindred spirit! Why? Because YOU ARE ANOTHER KIND OF THEM! I know people don’t last in your family, etc but you are different… you are not supposed to be like the rest of them, YOU ARE THE BEST OF THEM!

THINGS TO DO IN ORDER TO BE ANOTHER KIND OF THEM
1. Deal with Kindred Spirit (Genesis 12:1-4).
Kindred Spirit has a way of packaging you for the life you don’t want to experience; if you can’t break loose from family devils, you can’t fulfil your assignment.
Read: Hebrews 5:7
The attempt to kill Jesus was made eleven times (11) but He escaped all because He prayed. Kindred Spirit has no respect for the anointing only for covenant. Check whatever you are going through, it is not new, it is in the family line, your insistence in prayer and covenant details will bury Satanic aggression.
In the case of Saul there was no kingship in his lineage, so powers fought him and he lost it; many are pursued until they lost it in marriage, business, etc
NB: It is not the person of Jesus that lifts men; it is His principles. So you can be in church for donkey of years with nothing to show if you only know the person of Jesus without the understanding of His principles.

HOW TO BECOME ANOTHER KIND OF THEM:
1. Fight to be different
2. Know your history
3. You must avoid their lifestyle
4. Engage covenant practices e.g of giving.
5. Engage prophetic assistance
6. Sacrifice (live a life of sacrifice).
7. Always go for impartation

I pray for you, receive covenant impetus to break the backbone of devil; refuse to be limited by the powers, impediments, and forces in your family line. By fire be loosed from any kindred spirit in the mighty name of Jesus.

THE GLORY CAN NOT DEPART

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De Edifier

Men raised by God cannot be erased by men” if you like give them poison as tea; they will buy bread and butter and enjoy it as breakfast

Nebuchadnezzar thought he was roasting the three Hebrew boys not knowing he was sponsoring their crusade.

Roman Catholic soldiers thought that killing Jesus and covering his grave with stone will end the issue of salvation. But they didn’t know they were dealing with the chief corner stone

Israelites thought the Glory has left them not knowing that God needed to break the hands and legs of DRAGON and also force him to die a permanent death……..

Sir/Ma, affliction may rise again and again unless you handle it from the root and not on the roof……

Kidnapping the Ark of God by the Philistines was God’s divine means of transportation and invasion into the shrine of DAGON; If you know you know.

I see God invading the shrine of your enemies. I see Him terminating your problem from the root.

What matters more: Container or content?

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De Edifier


In ministry, what matters most is not the container, but the content. “Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and under stood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

“If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at” (2 Cor. 4:5-7, The Message).

As a minister, I have an odd job. Don’t misunderstand I love it. But it is an odd job, and that is because of the two realities Paul states in the above passage.

NOT ABOUT US

The first reality appears in these words: “Our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master” (2 Cor. 4:6, The Message).

In 2 Corinthians, Paul defends his call to apostleship. Some have depreciated his call to ministry, questioning his apostolic credentials, so he addresses the issue. In so doing, he speaks to any called to ministry: “This call to ministry is not about us, it’s about someone else.” This is the reverse of what is commonly the case in professional life. Ministry, there fore, is an odd job, first of all, because it’s an upside-down job.

It’s upside down to the way we normally do things. We say, “If you don’t take care of yourself, no one will.” Our world is pock marked by shameless self-promotion. In the world we work to advance our own agendas, not those of other people.

Throughout his football career, Deion Sanders was a flashy, brassy personality. A while back, Sanders, a Christian, stated that the position he plays on the football field ought to be renamed. Instead of calling it “cornerback,” Deion says that he has so redefined the way this position is played that it should be called by his name. In other words, when a professional football scout asks a prospective player, “What position do you play?” the player shouldn’t respond, “I play cornerback.” No, says Sanders, the player should now simply answer, “I play Deion!” Maybe this is just part of his act. Most would never be so brazen. Yet we all are tempted to self-promotion. Even our most noble accomplishments come from mixed motives. But Paul says, “We do not preach ourselves. We preach Christ.” In fact, we’re simply errand runners, delivering messages for the King.

D. M. Canright was a gifted but vacillating and volatile preacher in early Adventism. During the summer and fall of 1880, along with a number of students from Battle Creek College, Canright attended Professor Hamill’s School of Oratory in Chicago. Canright and his friends sought to fine-tune their develop ing oratorical skills so they could communicate the gospel more successfully in the pulpit.

Each student was assigned a critic. Canright’s teacher and critic was D.W. Reavis. During the time they spent together, they became quite well acquainted.

A gifted speaker, Canright was invited to preach in many Chicago churches. Reavis attended to analyze his application of oratorical principles. Canright was so accomplished that invitations flowed in, and eventually he accepted invitations only from the largest and most popular churches.

One Sunday night he addressed more than 3,000 people in the largest church on the westside of Chicago. When he finished, people mobbed him, thanking, praising, and lauding him. It took some time for the crowd to disperse so that Canright and Reavis could leave.

Finally, at a late hour, they went to a park where Reavis could offer his criticisms and suggestions. But he had been so absorbed in Canright’s presentation of Bible truth that he had no criticisms to offer, no suggestions to extend. They talked for a while, when suddenly Canright sprang to his feet. “D.W.” he said, “I believe I could become a great man were it not for our unpopular message.” Reavis replied,

“D.M., the message made you all you are, and the day you leave it, you will retrace your steps back to where it found you.”

Canright’s wish? “If I could do my own thing, be the source of the missive and not just the errand runner, I could become great!” But Paul steps in and says, “We do not preach ourselves. We preach Christ.” We’re delivering mes sages for the King. In this job, we don’t promote ourselves. In fact, the whole job is about Someone else.

CONTENT, NOT PACKAGING

Paul adds a second reality about the ministry of the gospel that warns us that it’s an odd job. Not only is it an upside-down job; it takes place in an inside-out world. He says: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” This job is not about the package, but about what’s in the package. It’s not about the jar of clay, but about the treasure inside the jar. In the world of ministry, the value of what is done cannot be judged by what it looks like on the outside, because it is what’s on the inside that counts.

Distinguishing the Contents From the Container (2 Cor. 4:7-15)

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De Edifier

Introduction

As a student years ago, I sat in a class taught by a Minister. The Minister waxed eloquently on the need to be fresh and creative and to avoid getting into a rut. Rather than following our old patterns, he urged us to do something different. “When you drive home, take a different route,” he urged. After class, my friend and classmate, collected his books and lunch sack to go eat. “Why don’t you do something different today, ” I teased, “like eating your lunch sack and throwing away your lunch?”

Eating the container rather than the contents might be better for one’s health in some cases. I remember reading about an experiment conducted to test the nutritional value of a certain breakfast cereal. One group of rats had been fed the breakfast cereal; the control group had been fed the box the cereal came in (ground up, of course). Sadly, the rats who ate the container were healthier than those who ate the cereal.

There is a marked difference between the “container” and the “contents.” Usually, the contents are far superior to the container. In our text, Paul addresses a very serious problem in the Corinthian church by contrasting the value of the contents of the gospel with the container in which they are stored and displayed, the saints, who are likened to clay pots. This is a humbling lesson, but one that desperately needs to be heard in our day and age. The truths of our text are essential to our Christian life and service.

Background

Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians gives us a fairly clear picture of the problems he is trying to address and correct at Corinth. Allow me to summarize those problems which Paul seems to address in our text:

(1) In 1 Corinthians 1:10-31, Paul indicates that there are factions in the church at Corinth. People are dividing themselves according to certain leaders, one of whom is the leader of each group. Their leader seems to be the one who baptized them. These leaders are revered as wise and powerful. Paul reminds the Corinthians that the gospel is foolishness to the lost, and that those who are saved are those whom the world disregards.

(2) Taking up this same matter in chapter 3, Paul reminds the Corinthians that those men whom they follow and revere are merely servants whom God has used to bring about blessings in their lives. It is God’s work through men so that no one should boast in men, but rather in God (3:4-7, 21).

(3) Paul and his fellow apostles (4:6-13) stand in contrast to these “super leaders,” who are so esteemed by some of the saints in Corinth. The Corinthians who have aligned themselves with the “super leaders” feel smug and superior to the other saints, including Paul. Paul and his colleagues have become “as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things” (4:13). They are looked down upon as an embarrassment to the church, while their new leaders give the Corinthians a sense of pride since they are so smooth, so persuasive, and so wise. In reality, these leaders, in whom all too many of the saints take pride, are “false apostles,” as Paul spells out in 2 Corinthians 11. Because these messengers are so attractive and winsome, some are only too happy to give up the gospel, as preached by Paul and the apostles, and to embrace whatever “gospel” these false apostles might offer (see 11:1-15).

Tracing the Argument of This Text
(4:7-15)

The easiest approach to our text is to follow the flow of Paul’s argument. The following points seem to capture the essence of Paul’s words.

(1) The gospel is the Christian’s true treasure (4:4-7); we who believe in Christ are merely containers of the gospel (“earthen vessels,” 4:7), and not glorious ones at that. In chapter 3, Paul makes much of the fact that the gospel ministry, the ministry of the new covenant, is a glorious ministry, one whose glory surpasses the glory of the ministry of the old covenant. The glory of this ministry should sustain us in difficult times, but it should not cause us to feel proud or superior to others. Paul therefore begins verse 7 with the word “but,” indicating that the glory of the new covenant ministry given to us is in contrast to the humble state of the Christian who is but a “clay pot,” a container of the glorious gospel.

The true treasure is the glory of God in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, as presented and proclaimed by the gospel. In contrast to this glorious treasure are the vessels which contain the treasure. Christians are merely “clay pots,” while the gospel is the treasure. Earthen vessels (clay pots) are common and cheap, ones like those red flowerpots we can buy today for very little money. Earthen vessels are also fragile and easily broken. I have broken a significant number of clay pots. Earthen vessels are “earthy” and “earthly”; they are of this world. (Remember that we were made of the dust of the earth—see Genesis 2:7.) Earthen vessels are fashioned by the potter, who creates them for his own purposes (see Romans 9:20-21). Clay pots have nothing in which to boast; they have no basis for feeling superior. The treasure gains nothing from the pots; if anything, the pots gain from the glory of the treasure.

When it comes to the gospel, the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Christian’s “self-image,” Paul tries to put matters into their proper perspective. The false apostles in the Corinthian church think far too much of themselves, and they have duped a number of saints into thinking too highly of them also. Paul’s words give us the proper perspective. We who believe in Jesus Christ are merely clay pots, who have nothing to glory about in and of ourselves. We are the containers, and the contents have all the glory.

Paul’s words must have startled some of the Corinthian followers and even stunned their pompous leaders. If these men wish to represent themselves and their ministry as gold-plated, Paul informs the church that even the apostles are mere clay pots. Are these gold-plated frauds willing to forsake the gospel of Jesus Christ and replace it with a gospel which appeals to human wisdom? Paul reminds the church that the gospel is the treasure, and thus it had better not be put into the trash.

(2) Our lives are like earthen vessels, which, when broken by suffering, manifest the light of the gospel (see Judges 7:15-25Matthew 5:10-16). Reading Paul’s words in verses 8-15 in the light of the “clay pots” imagery of verse 7, one cannot help but feel that Paul draws upon the imagery of Judges 7:15-25. In this text, Gideon’s tiny army of 300 men is about to do battle with the host of Midianites and Amalekites who have assembled against the Israelites. These 300 men are divided into three different companies, who surround their enemies at night with torches hidden within earthen pitchers, held by their left hands. At the blast of the trumpet, the pitchers are smashed, and the light of the torches is broadcast around the camp. Simultaneously, these 300 men blow the trumpets they are holding in their right hands. The enemy armies panic, turning on each other with their swords, bringing a great victory for Gideon and his men.

Paul may be employing this imagery in his letter to the Corinthians to make an important point, one that has never been very popular. We are like the clay pots of Gideon and his men; when we are broken, the light of the gospel is shed abroad. And when we are broken like clay pots, our strength or power is not seen, but God’s. When we are broken by adversity, opposition, and suffering, God’s power is revealed, and God’s work is accomplished in a way that does not glorify the “clay pots” but manifests God’s surpassing power and glory.

Here again is a most important lesson for the Corinthians. Men are brought to the light of the gospel not by the exaltation of the messenger, but by the exaltation of Christ. As we, the clay pots, are broken by suffering, men see the light. Several analogies come to mind. In a sense, we are windows whose purpose is not to be seen, but to be seen through. Men should not see the glass, but in looking through the glass, they should behold the majesty and glory of God, whom we have the privilege of proclaiming. We might say Christians are like the glass in a fire alarm box, which must be broken so that lives may be saved. Or we might compare the Christian to the piata, which is filled with various treats. As the piata is beaten and broken, the “treasure” within is poured out, much to the delight of those seeking it. It is not by the exalting of the messenger that God’s power and glory are revealed, but by the breaking of the container that the contents are dispensed.

(3) The suffering Christian’s experience may seem as though it will break us, but as intense as it may be, God never allows such intense suffering that it defeats or destroys us, or defeats what God purposes to accomplish through it. By means of suffering, we, God’s “clay pots,” are broken, so that the glorious light of the gospel and the power of God are evident. In the midst of our brokenness, it may appear that our suffering will utterly defeat and destroy us, but this is not true. Paul assures us in verses 8 and 9 that no matter what our affliction may be, and no matter how severe, God will not allow us to be destroyed by it. The Christian is afflicted in every way (verse 8), suffering the full orb of afflictions of mankind. In the context, it seems that our affliction arises from our status as Christians, who profess and proclaim Christ. Paul enumerates four forms of intense suffering; each followed by an assurance that our affliction will not result in complete failure or destruction. (1) afflicted — but not crushed; (2) perplexed — but not despairing; (3) persecuted — but not forsaken; (4) struck down — but not destroyed.

Paul says that he and other saints are “afflicted” (verse 8). This word is used for the squeezing or pressing in upon our Lord by the crowds (Mark 3:9). In spite of great external pressure, we may be assured that we will not be crushed, like a submarine which has descended to depths and pressures beyond its limits. We are “perplexed” but “not despairing” (verse 8). This word is used to describe Herod’s inner turmoil in listening to the preaching of John the Baptist (Mark 6:20). The Christian will face many unanswered questions, many perplexing circumstances. But while we acknowledge there are questions for which we have no immediate answers, we also stand assured that there is an answer, and that someday in eternity we will know what it is. Thus, we may be perplexed, but we do not despair as though there are no answers at all, as though there is no hope.

We are “persecuted” but “not forsaken.” If anyone knows persecution, it is the Apostle Paul. He is a man who dished out persecution as an unbeliever. He is a man greatly persecuted as a Christian. But while men may reject us and our message, as Christians we are never completely abandoned. Like Joseph in Egypt, or Daniel and his three friends in Babylon, the Lord is with us, even in the fiery furnace. Paul witnessed this in a dramatic fashion at the stoning of Stephen. In his dying moments, as he was rejected and persecuted by his fellow Jews, Stephen saw his Lord standing at the right hand of God, waiting to receive him into heaven’s glory (Acts 7:54-56). Even when it seems so, we are never alone, though the whole world seems against us and the message of the gospel we proclaim.

Finally, we may be “struck down,” but we can never be “destroyed” (verse 9). One can hardly think of a more dramatic illustration than Paul’s experience at Lystra described in Acts 14 (see especially verses 19 and 20). Paul was stoned and left for dead, but when the disciples gathered around him, he arose and entered the city. Paul is not assuring us that we will never die a martyr’s death, but that if we do die, we may be assured of our future resurrection. There is no suffering, no affliction, which God will allow to ultimately defeat and destroy us, for He causes all things to work together for His glory and for our good (Romans 8:28).

Not until we have reached the limits of our own capacity do we find it absolutely necessary to cast ourselves on God. God uses our suffering and adversity to take us beyond our own capacities, so that we will turn to Him for strength and survival. Thus, it is His power which sustains us, and it is He who must receive the praise and glory. God does not leave us with a full tank of gas, but with a tank virtually empty. As the gauge reads “empty” and the red warning light begins to flash, we must seek reserves which are not our own.

I am reminded of the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath recorded in 1 Kings 17:8-16. As Elijah arrives, the widow’s flour and oil are gone. She has only enough to prepare one final meal for herself and her son. Elijah promises the widow that if she provides for him, her flour and oil will never run out, but she will be provided for until the time the drought ends. God does provide for Elijah, the widow, and her son, but He never gives her a full barrel of flour. Instead, He continues to provide just enough for the next meal. The flour barrel is always nearly empty, but it never runs dry. God does not give a full barrel of flour, as He could do, because He wants this widow to trust Him daily. Is this not why our Lord prayed, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11)?

(4) The suffering we are called to endure, which will never utterly destroy us, is the divinely appointed, irreplaceable means by which God manifests His life in our mortal bodies. Paul writes in Philippians 1, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I have always understood these words to mean, “For to me, living is glorious, and dying is even better.” Just what does it mean to live Christ? Paul tells us in our text. But let us be very clear: he is telling us nothing new at all. Over and over again in the Bible, we are informed that to live Christ is to live out His life, experiencing the same things He experienced, and exhibiting the same responses and the same manifestation of God’s power.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:10-16).

21 But He warned them, and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” 23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:21-26).

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18-20; see also Matthew 10:16-23).

These same men have written to us what Jesus taught His disciples: we live out the life of Christ by living righteously in a wicked world, thereby experiencing the rejection and persecution of those who want nothing to do with Christ and His gospel:

21 And after they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21-22).

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me (Colossians 1:24-29).

5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6).

12 And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12).

18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable. 19 For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. 21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 2:18-25).

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Peter 4:12-13).

God chose to use us, His “clay pots,” because He wishes to display His power and His glory through our weaknesses and brokenness. As we mere “clay pots” are broken, God’s power and glory are revealed through us. The process of being broken is now referred to as “dying” (see 2 Corinthians 4:10-12). There is the once-and-for-all death of our Lord in our place, whereby our sins are forgiven as we are joined to His death and resurrection by the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:1-71 Corinthians 12:13Galatians 2:20). This once-for-all-death which we die in Christ is played out by our daily “taking up our cross” and dying to the flesh and its desires, our persecution at the hands of unbelievers, and perhaps even our martyrdom for the sake of Christ. In our daily living out the dying of Christ, we also live out His resurrection life and power.

As we first must reckon ourselves dead in our trespasses and sins, powerless to save ourselves by any work we can do (Ephesians 2:1-10), we must also realize that, even as Christians, we are powerless in and of ourselves to live a godly life. We, like Paul, must conclude daily, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). And as we die daily, the resurrection power of God works in and through us to produce His righteousness:

10 And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you (Romans 8:10-11).

We are not made righteous by trying to live for Christ, but by dying to self and to sin so that Christ’s life is lived out in us. This principle is absolutely crucial. Paul repeats it three times in our short text:

Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (verse 10).

For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh (verse 11).

So death works in us, but life in you (verse 12).

Dying is not an option for the Christian. As unworthy sinners, we had to die with Christ and be raised with Him from the dead in order to be saved. As weak and powerless saints, to live out the life of Christ, we must die daily to the world, to sin, and to the flesh.

25 “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25).

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

Paul says in our text that as clay pots, we must be broken for the light of the glory of Christ to be shown forth. He says that in order for the life of Christ to become evident in our bodies, we must die first. No wonder our Lord speaks of being “lights” in the world in the context of suffering and persecution:

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. 12 Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:10-16).

Do some Corinthians take great pride in some of their leaders? Do they glory in their appearance, their homiletical style, their persuasive powers, their mind-boggling wisdom? Do they look down upon Paul, his physical infirmities, his apparent weaknesses, his simplistic message and methodology? Paul is weak, and he constantly lays down his life so that they might live. Paul is like Christ. What does this say to the Corinthians concerning those who oppose Paul, those “false apostles”? Paul’s words in our text spell out the fundamental differences between true apostles and false apostles. The very things for which Paul is disdained and rejected are those things which make him Christ-like, the very things which certify him as a true apostle (see 11:16-33).

(5) The suffering which breaks these “clay pots” should not result in our silence, but should become the basis for our proclaiming boldly the good news of the gospel. Peter speaks of a kind of silence which is godly in the midst of suffering as a saint (see 1 Peter 2:18–3:6). In the midst of our sufferings, it is all too easy to use our mouths to fight back. This we must not do, but neither should we become silent about our faith to avoid further persecution and suffering. Just as we have experienced the resurrection power of God in our salvation and daily walk, we should hope for our ultimate resurrection at the return of our Lord. If we will be raised from the dead, then men cannot take away our future hope, even by taking our lives. We need not fear death. And if we do not fear death, we need not become silent in times of opposition and danger. This is the intent of Paul’s teaching in verses 13 and 14.

Paul turns in verse 13 to the words of the psalmist to underscore that Christians can boldly proclaim the gospel in the face of opposition and danger, knowing that God will raise them from the dead. The words, “I believed, therefore I spoke” are virtually the same as those found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. Translations of Psalm 116:10 vary considerably in the way they render this verse.

In our text, Paul is not simply borrowing a phrase, he is establishing a principle. Psalm 116 is about the believer’s confidence in God, even in death. Verse 15 is a favorite for many Christians and a text often employed in funeral messages: “Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones” (Psalm 116:15).

When the psalmist writes, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” he then goes on to write as his next words, “I am greatly afflicted.” I believe this psalm expresses the psalmist’s faith in God, a resurrection faith. He can call upon God when in great danger, knowing that God may rescue him from death, or that He may rescue him after death by resurrecting him from the grave. Strengthened and encouraged by his faith, the psalmist can face and endure persecution, adversity, danger, and even death. He need not be, and he will not be, silent about his suffering, for his faith sees beyond his suffering and death.

In this same spirit of faith, Paul says that just as he can be bold in his witness, even though it may bring persecution and even death, so can we. We need not hide our suffering and affliction or be silent about the good news of the gospel, for the life of Christ is manifested in our death. If the worst men can do is kill us, and if God has already promised to raise us from the dead, then what should we fear, and why should we keep silent? If suffering and dying are the divinely appointed means of revealing God’s power and glory in our lives, why should we seek to conceal our afflictions? There is little justification here for the “silent witness” approach. There are times when we do need to be silent, especially when our speech will not glorify God or edify others. But when the time comes for us to declare our faith and proclaim the gospel, we must speak (see Romans 10:9-10). When our silence is the result of our shame or our fear, it is evil (see Luke 9:21-26).

(6) Being broken as an earthen vessel means dying to one’s self so that we can serve others and glorify God. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul indicates that he and others can be bold in their speech concerning Christ because of the vastly greater glory of the ministry of the new covenant, the ministry of the gospel (see 3:12). Repeatedly, Paul speaks of the glory of the gospel ministry of which every saint is a part. The gospel is the revelation of the light of the gospel, which is the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (4:6). The glory is not ours, but God’s. The gospel is the treasure, and, as we are broken, we are but the earthly vessels God has chosen to contain and display His gospel. What marvelous grace and privilege God has bestowed upon these earthen vessels.

Some believe that we are to love ourselves first, God next, and others last. They are dead wrong. But many others believe we are to love God first, others next, and self last. Perhaps there is a sense in which this is true, but Paul does not present his argument this way in our text. Paul speaks of our being broken, our dying, so that others may benefit and God may be glorified. I am to die to the world, the flesh, and self-interest so that I may serve others and glorify God. Paul writes in verse 7 that God has entrusted the true treasure of the gospel to “clay pots,” so that the “surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.” There is no ground for boasting or pride here, other than that boasting and pride directed toward God.

As Paul concludes his argument in verse 15, once again his emphasis is on serving others and glorifying God: “For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.” Paul’s sufferings are the sufferings of Christ. They are his dying—dying to self-interest, fleshly desires, worldly ambitions and goals. They are like Christ’s sufferings in that they are for the blessing of others. Paul’s dying brings life to the Corinthians (verse 12). Paul’s suffering is for the Corinthians’ sakes (verse 15). And ultimately, as people are brought to faith in Christ and saints are strengthened in their faith, praise and thanksgiving are offered to God, to His glory.

Here is the perspective every believer should have. Here is where Paul and the true apostles stand apart from the false apostles. The false apostles are self-serving, seeking power, glory and personal gain for themselves. Paul and the faithful servants of Christ are, like Christ, sacrificing themselves for the good of others and the glory of God. The false apostles appeal to men on the basis of the flesh, focusing on the satisfaction of fleshly lusts. Like Christ, Paul calls upon the saints to take up their cross and follow Him. The gap between the true and the false apostles grows ever greater as Paul’s letter continues.

Conclusion

I believe Paul’s argument in this passage may be summarized in this way: As Christians die daily, by living righteously and boldly speaking forth the truth of the gospel, we live out the death and life of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the consternation of those who reject the gospel, to the benefit and blessing of those who believe, and ultimately to the glory of God.

This passage clearly distinguishes between the container (clay pot) and the contents (the glorious gospel). But at the same time it distinguishes between the true apostles and the false. Slowly, the veil is being lifted, and the false apostles are exposed. Are the false apostles gold-plated vessels? They think so. Is Paul a mere “clay pot”? He knows so, and he rejoices in the privilege that is his, as an unworthy vessel, to contain and display the gospel for the good of others and the glory of God.

This passage speaks not only to the Corinthians centuries ago, it speaks to us as well. There are many today like the false apostles of Paul’s day. They are something like Job’s friends in that they seek to rebuke the sufferer for his suffering, insisting that those who are godly must prosper. The sufferer is not encouraged to faithfully endure, and all the while to proclaim the gospel to a lost and dying world; the sufferer is subtly, or not so subtly, encouraged to keep quiet and look inward to discover what sins lurk within, causing him to suffer. False apostles are able to gather many followers because they disdain suffering and promote self-indulgence. True servants of God are not those whose faces have been frequently touched up so that evidences of age are concealed; they do not often live self-indulgent lives and promise peace and prosperity to those who follow them (contributing to their programs, of course). True servants of God make much of Christ and much less of themselves. True servants are much more scarce than the false. True servants are like Christ, often unrecognized and persecuted. They give their lives for the good of others and the glory of God.

One can hardly avoid mentioning the current fixation on “self-esteem” as the root of success and the cause of failure in our society. I do not like the term “self-esteem” (or its synonyms) because it is not a biblical term, and it is hardly a biblical concept. Some attempt to correct the error by telling us that our self-esteem is rooted in Christ. There is a measure of truth here, perhaps, but Paul’s words cause us to ponder much of what is accepted today by Christians on the subject of self-esteem. Let us remember that we, as Christians, are “clay pots,” meant to be broken, so that the glory of God may be displayed.

Another contemporary application to our text comes in the area of evangelism. I have been involved in prison ministry in past years, and I have a real heart for the men and women behind bars. But so often prison ministries come into the prisons to evangelize by bringing in the superstars. Highly talented, highly regarded men and women are brought in, often drawing large crowds and producing a number of professions of faith. These are the “Weekends of Champions,” and I do not doubt that some are genuinely saved as a result. But would the apostles have been invited as guest speakers to such events? For Paul to speak, there would have to be a “Weekend of Scum” or “Days of the Dregs,” for that is how he is regarded (see 1 Corinthians 4:13). If we want people to be saved, do we not also want them to become like Christ? And if they are to live out Christ, must they not also be rejected and persecuted and disdained by the world? Is a champion in the eyes of the world the model for the saint? These questions need more consideration, especially in light of Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians.

Finally, Paul’s words here underscore the on-going value of the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, which we and many others observe every week. The celebration of communion is a reminder of Christ’s incarnation, His sinless life, and His sacrificial death by which we were saved. But it is also a reminder of what God expects of us, if we are to live out the dying of Christ to the glory of God. As the “bread” is without leaven, because our Lord was a perfect sacrifice, free from all sin, so our lives are to be godly as we die daily to sin. Ours will not be a perfect obedience, but that should be our desire and our goal. And as our Lord poured out His life, symbolized by the “wine,” we must die daily, becoming broken vessels so that the life of our Lord might be manifested in and through us.

Have you ever recognized that you are a sinner, dead in your sins (see Ephesians 2:1-10)? Have you ever cast yourself upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who died for your sins, who bore the guilt and penalty for all your sins, and who rose from the dead to give you life? This is the good news of the gospel. God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for unworthy sinners, to forgive them of their sins and to give them eternal life to the glory of God. This can be yours, when you acknowledge that you are an unworthy sinner, and when you trust in what Christ has done on the cross of Calvary for you. And this is the pattern which should ever be before the Christian, who is to live Christ before a lost and dying world.

Discerning The Difference Between Containers and Content

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the difference between containers and content in our meetings. “Container” describes what’s going on during a particular portion of the meeting. In a more formal church the containers might be listed out in a bulletin and include things like Call to Worship, Prayer of Confession, Assurance of Pardon, Worship in Song, Pastoral Prayer, Giving of Tithes and Offerings, Lord’s Prayer, Sermon, the Lord’s Supper, and Benediction. In a less formal church containers still exist, but are generally assumed. They could include the “worship time,” “ministry time,” announcements, sermon, testimony time, special song, prayer for the sick, welcoming of guests, communion, and the closing song.

In either case, we can get caught up in focusing on the “containers.” How they fit together, how much time each one requires, whether or not we’re approaching them with creativity, and other administrative and aesthetic questions. We think the meeting has gone well when we fit all the “containers” in to the allotted box of time, or when things flow smoothly. “Worship didn’t take too long.” “Smooth transition from announcements to the special song.” If we’re really on top of things, we assign a theme to the containers so that they all relate to the same topic or have a similar focus.

The problem with this thinking, as helpful as it may be in some ways, is that we can neglect what actually fills those containers. In other words, the content. No liturgy in itself – traditional, contemporary, emerging, orthodox, or otherwise – has the power to change a person’s life. Yes, God instructs us to do everything “decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40), and liturgies and forms make a difference, but our greatest concern should be using every opportunity in our meetings to magnify the greatness of God in Jesus Christ in people’s minds and hearts. To rehearse, celebrate, and be changed by the gospel. (For an in depth treatment of this topic, check out Bryan Chappell’s Christ-Centered Worship.)

When we focus on content more than containers, no part of the meeting has to be “routine.” Each container becomes an opportunity to experience the glory of Christ in a unique way. Here’s what I mean.

The “call to worship” becomes more than a perfunctory few words to start the meeting. It’s a personal invitation from God himself to encounter his presence in the midst of his people, to dwell on his greatness and goodness, and to remind ourselves that we have been called out of darkness to proclaim his excellencies.

“Worship in song” becomes more than a set list, a pre-sermon filler, or a time to try out a new song or arrangement. It’s an opportunity to revel in the glorious gospel, to display the unity Jesus has made possible through his substitutionary death, to watch the Holy Spirit stir up deeper affections for God’s worth and works, and to teach and admonish one another.

“Tithes and Offerings” becomes more than an awkward moment where we make sure the church has enough money to make it through the week. It’s a time to remember that God always does more than we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20), that our giving is always a response to his overwhelming generosity toward us, and that we have experienced the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who though he was rich, yet for our sake became poor, so that we by his poverty might become rich (2 Cor. 8:9).

The “sermon” becomes more than a pastor proving his relevance or persuading people they should come back next week. It’s a transcendent, sacred moment when God addresses his people through God’s eternal and unchanging Word, when hearts are opened before the living God, Holy Spirit surgery is done, and life-changing gospel hope is imparted. It’s also a time to educate people on how to read, study, interpret, and apply Scripture.

The Lord’s Supper becomes more than an interruption to the meeting or a dutiful, uninformed response to Jesus’ command. It’s seeing the gospel in visible form, experiencing real spiritual union with Christ and each other, and declaring to ourselves and each other that the Lord really is coming again.

Prayer provides more than an opportunity for the tech crew and musicians to move things around and get in place. It’s conversing with our heavenly Father, expressing our desperate need, expecting him to do abundantly more than we could ask or think (Eph. 3:20), asking him to conform our hearts and wills to his own, and teaching the church how to pray.

Even the announcements are an opportunity to demonstrate how the gospel motivates us to do what we do, provide testimonies of how individuals are joyfully laying down their lives, make known what God’s grace is accomplishing, and highlight ways people can live out their faith before a watching world.

Whenever we do something repeatedly, week after week, we have two tendencies. One is to revert to a formalism that requires no faith or Spirit-given power. It’s easier. It’s more efficient. And it’s deadening.

The other tendency is to become more creative with the containers at the expense of what’s being said. That too is deadening. Focusing on content over containers doesn’t negate creativity. It just gives it the right focus, direction, and purpose.

As we think about, plan for, and lead our meetings, let’s never lose sight of the fact that gathering as the church is one of the most significant events on earth. More dramatic than any movie, more exciting than any sporting event, and more life-changing than any political rally. We are the people of God, met together in his presence, joining with innumerable saints and angels in heaven, proclaiming the greatness of the Lamb who was slain, edifying each other through the use of spiritual gifts, and being transformed into his image as we feed on his Word and behold his glory (1 Pet. 2:9-10Mt. 18:20Heb. 12:22-24Rev. 5:9-101 Cor. 12:4-72 Tim. 3:162 Cor. 3:18).

The Container and the Contents

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Theologically and objectively speaking, we are created in union with God from the beginning (e.g., Ephesians 1:3-6). But it is very hard for people to believe or experience this when they have no positive sense of identity, no strong boundaries, and little inner religious experience. Thus, the first part of the spiritual journey is about externals, formulas, superficial emotions, flags and badges, correct rituals, Bible quotes, and special clothing, all of which largely substitute for an actual spiritual journey (see Matthew 23:13-32). Yet they are all used and needed to create the container. Yes, it is largely style and sentiment instead of real substance, but even that is probably necessary. Just don’t devote your entire life to it. This familiar motto, which Pope John XXIII echoed, is apt: “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, and in all things, charity.” That is second-half-of-life, hard-won wisdom.

In the first half of our lives, we have no container for such content as true love or charity, no wineskins that are prepared to hold such utterly intoxicating wine. Authentic God experience always “burns” you, yet does not destroy you, just as the burning bush did to Moses (see Exodus 3:2-3). But most of us are not prepared for such burning, nor even told to expect it. By definition, authentic God experience is always “too much”! It consoles our True Self only after it has devastated our false self. We must begin to be honest about this instead of dishing out fast-food religion, which only wants consolation—and largely about non-essentials.

Early-stage religion is primarily preparing you for the immense gift of this burning, the inner experience of God, as though creating a proper stable into which the Christ can be born. Unfortunately, most people get so preoccupied with their stable, and whether their stable is better than your stable, or whether their stable is the only “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” stable that they never get to the birth of God in the soul.

As a priest for over four decades, I find that much of the spiritual and pastoral work of churches is often ineffective at real transformation of consciousness. As a spiritual director, I find that people facing the important transformative issues of social injustice, divorce, failure, gender identity, an inner life of prayer, or any radical reading of the Gospel are usually bored and limited by the typical Sunday church agenda. And these are good people! But they keep on doing what Bill Plotkin calls their survival dance because no one has told them about their sacred dance. [1] In short, we have not found a way to do the age-appropriate tasks of the two halves of life.

Most churches just keep doing the first half of life over and over again. Young people are made to think that the container is all there is and all they should expect; or that they are mature and home free because they believe a few right things or perform some correct rituals. The would-be maturing believer is not challenged to any adult faith or service to the world, much less mystical union. Everyone ends up in a muddled middle, where “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity,” as William Butler Yeats put it. [2] I am convinced that much of this pastoral and practical confusion has emerged because we need to clarify the real differences, the needs, and the somewhat conflicting challenges of the two halves of our own lives.

MAY, THE 5TH MONTH “DIVINE GRACE”

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GRACE

Beloved, welcome to the month of DIVINE GRACE

God’s Grace Is Mind-Blowing

Have you ever felt restless? Maybe you feel anxious right now but can’t put your finger on why. I think we’ve all experienced it, not realizing this feeling can come from the fact that we’re not content with our life. We think we’re missing something, so we begin to search for it. Maybe it’s from a lack of fulfillment at work or happiness in a relationship or satisfaction at home. Unfortunately, a lot of times we look in all the wrong places for something to fill our empty spaces. Some people look to food while others look to alcohol or drugs. Some try to find meaning and purpose through other people’s lives on social media.

This song will Bless your heart.

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#UnstoppableGrace

Now what is GRACE? unmerited favour of God. Grace is the love of God shown to the unlovely; the peace of God given to the restless; the unmerited favor of God.

Grace is most needed and best understood in the midst of sin, suffering, and brokenness. We live in a world of earning, deserving, and merit, and these result in judgment. That is why everyone wants and needs grace. Judgment kills. Only grace makes alive.

A shorthand for what grace is – “mercy, not merit.” Grace is the opposite of karma, which is all about getting what you deserve. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and not getting what you do deserve. Christianity teaches that what we deserve is death with no hope of resurrection.

DIVINE GRACE: of or relating to God, especially the Supreme Being. addressed, appropriated, or devoted to God; religious; sacred: divine worship. proceeding from God: divine laws; divine guidance. godlike; characteristic of or befitting a deity: divine magnanimity.

DIVINE MEANS: GOD IS INVOLVED

Divine grace is a theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial and resist temptation; and as an individual virtue or excellence of divine origin

Grace in Christianity is the free and unmerited favour of God as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowing of blessings.Common Christian teaching is that grace is unmerited mercy (favor) that God gave to humanity by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross, thus securing man’s eternal salvation from sin.

Within Christianity, there are differing concepts of how grace is attained. In particular, Catholics and Reformed Protestants understand the attainment of grace in substantially different ways.God has imparted Divine Grace upon humanity and uses the vehicle of sacraments, which are carried out in faith,as a primary and effective means to facilitate the reception of his grace.For Catholics, sacraments (carried out in faith) are the incarnational or tangible vehicle through which God’s grace becomes personally and existentially received.Reformed Protestants, generally, do not share this sacramental view on the transmittal of grace,but instead favor a less institutionalized mechanism. For example, in the Catholic Church, the primary initiation into a state of grace is granted by God through baptism (in faith) instead of by a simple prayer of faith (sinner’s prayer); although, Catholics would not deny the possible efficacy of even a simple prayer for God’s grace to flow (Baptism by desire).

Scriptural usage

In the New Testament, the word translated as grace is the Greek word charis (/ˈkeɪrɪs/Ancient Greekχάρις), for which Strong’s Concordance gives this definition: “Graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude)”.Spiritual gifts or charismata which comes from the word family charis, is defined in the New Bible Dictionary as “grace coming to visible effect in word or deed.”A Greek word that is related to charis is charisma (gracious gift). Both these words originated from another Greek word chairo (to rejoice, be glad, delighted).

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term used is chen (חֵן), which is defined in Strong’s as “favor, grace or charm; grace is the moral quality of kindness, displaying a favorable disposition”. In the King James translation, chen is translated as “grace” 38 times, “favour” 26 times, twice as “gracious”,once as “pleasant”, and once as “precious”.

Two things we all need to know about grace

Economists say, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Nothing in this world comes for free. Even when we don’t pay and a friend picks up our meal, someone is still paying for it. 

Grace works the same way. Now, before you say that I’m wrong because grace is free, don’t forget that grace was not free. It was costly. It cost God His son, and it cost Jesus His life.

You Can’t Earn What Is Free

What does that mean for us? It means we can’t earn our salvation or buy God’s favor. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin (Ephesians 1:7). Paul tells a church in Ephesus, “For it is by grace 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). 

Salvation comes by grace through faith. It is not earned through attending church, memorizing your Bible, or avoiding alcohol. No amount of good works will earn God’s favor. God can’t love you any more than He already does. He loves us fully and completely. If we miss this, we’ll spend our entire lives trying to earn something we already have — like that person who searches for their glasses that already sit on top of their head. Instead of joyfully serving such a gracious God, we’ll find ourselves slaves to fear and doubt, spending our time trying to grasp and maintain God’s approval.

Grace Never Runs Away

Sometimes grace is hardest when we’ve messed up big time. When we sin and feel rightful regret because we have hurt the God we love, we want to earn His love back. Like a husband bringing home flowers for his wife to reconcile after a fight, we want to bring God something, anything, that will make us feel worthy of His love again. There is nothing we can bring God to change His disposition toward us. It is not your behavior that merits grace; it’s faith. C. S. Lewis wrote, “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”

Maybe a free lunch and free grace do not exist, but because of God’s great love, He picked up your tab. And through faith, you have been lavished with free grace (Ephesians 1:8).

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