power and authority : treasure in jars of clay

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (Galatians 1:1 KJV) Paul had been given unique authority from Christ to be his representative and the founder of churches (see Acts 1:21-26). In his letters to the Corinthian Christians he identified himself as “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” His apostolic ministry was clearly evidenced by the authority and the life transforming revealed words and power of the resurrected Christ. As a closing to my notes on a meditative journey in 2 Corinthians I have done the following chart on the subject of power and authority. My notes on the Bible verses are in brackets.

God-given power and authority

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. (All authorities on earth will come to an end)

2 Corinthians 10:8 For even if I should boast somewhat more about our authority, which the Lord gave us for edification and not for your destruction, I shall not be ashamed— (God-given authority to men is for constructive and not destructive purposes)

2 Corinthians 13:10 Therefore I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness, according to the authority which the Lord has given me for edification and not for destruction. (same as above)

1:18 [Christ the Power and Wisdom of God] For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (The salvation message is the power to save and transform)

1:24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (The resurrected Christ is the power and wisdom in us)

2:4 And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (Paul’s speeches are confirmed by deeds of spiritual power which manifests in physical realm)

2:5 that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (man’s words are powerless; power of God makes things work)

4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (We are so privileged to be chosen for His glory)

4:19 But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. (No use to boast about your ministry unless your words can be confirmed by God’s power)

4:20 For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. (God’s kingdom is about power in deeds that confirm His words)

6:14 And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. (God’s power raises the dead; power of God is the only source of life)

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Paul’s warfare and weapons

We finally reach a key survival tactic, how do Christians win wars? Apostle Paul is really an expert in this field judging from the long list of challenges he went through and his always emerging as the victor and not the victim! I have done a simple chart with the key Bible verses from 2 Corinthians 10. Please read the whole chapter for a better understanding. Paul’s other letters speak of how we can control and train our thought life. For example, Philippians 4:8 is a good place to start your meditation.

2 Corinthians 10 warfare and weapons

Philippians 4:8  (NKJV)

Meditate on These Things

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

2 Timothy 1:7  (NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.

the new transformer

Revelation 18:4-8

Today we are reminded that the ten plagues only struck those who chose not to believe and acknowledge the righteous God whom Moses and his people believed, the same God we believe. Take note the idolatry arrogant heart of Pharaoh caused him to make foolish and self-destructive decisions. He exalted himself above the righteous and holy God. Pharaoh did not fear God because he thought he himself was god. While he comfortably indulged himself in his luxurious palace wining and dining opulently, his people suffered in prolonged incremental fear and torment. He had no love or compassion even for his own people. Why was his heart hardened? He was obsessed with keeping an ample supply of cheap/free labor the miserable enslaved Israelites provided to perpetuate his wealth and related social-political power. He was consumed with jealousy of Moses, a former prince of Egypt, now the formidable great transformer leader championing for the justice, freedom and wellbeing of the Jewish nation.

Moses, on the other hand, after his miraculous encounter with God, was truly supernaturally transformed into a great and courageous leader who at the age of 80 would leave his comfort zone and even stick out his neck for the love of God and God’s own people. What happened in the end? “Exodus 12:40 Now the sojourn of the children of Israel who lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. 41 And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”  The rest is history.

The life of Moses produced good fruit that lasts to eternity. Pharaoh’s life? Plagues and burning.

The First – Fifth Plague Exodus 7-9
The Sixth – Ninth Plague Exodus 9-11
the Tenth Plague Exodus 12


Paul’s leverages: grace and economics

In recent years the world notes how effective economic leverage works in social-political re-engineering. Today we study another kind of successful leverages from a great master, Paul, a businessman-apostle. Economic (financial) interest is always the top priority in this world. It ties with the micro self-interest of an individual and the macro self-interest of a group, a nation or even the whole world.

In 2 Corinthians chapters 8-9 we continue to reflect on Paul’s motivations and strategies, supporting a broader understanding of mission – one that sees the purpose of the church as going beyond mere evangelism, and including all manner of personal and social reconciliation (including the use of financial and economic resources). Paul presented a sustainable economical and spiritual inter-linked blue-print to the Corinthians who were already well versed with the marketplace and its language. Now Paul teaches them the higher spiritual reality which is an integral part of their physical financial reality. Take note that the Corinthian Christians were just ordinary individuals (not particularly outstanding or privileged in terms of intellect, wealth and status) when they were first converted. But they have apparently been transformed and blessed with bountiful physical prosperity and spiritual gifts after that. (1 Corinthians 1:26) Apostle Paul showed them the way of God’s economy and finance.

Here is my simplified chart on this practical application of grace and economics by Paul. (Please read Chapters 8-9 in 2 Corinthians)

2 Corinthians 8-9

Application regarding Christian giving:

  • Paul reminds us that our source of wealth is God’s grace through Jesus Christ
  • God gives us the ability to make wealth
  • God makes us abound in everything
  • We are to abound especially in giving grace
  • We are to give ourselves to God first
  • Then we will be able to give financial gift to others
  • We (the believers) are expected to give to the ministry of Christ
  • We give what we have (not what we do not have)
  • God will ensure we have more than enough to give
  • We must complete the doing of the giving
  • He who sows sparingly will also reap bountifully
  • The recipients are to ensure that gift be administered with transparent honor

Background:

In the summer of 50 A.D., the apostle Paul left Athens and traveled to Corinth city where he met Priscilla and Aquila, a tent-making couple who greatly aided him in his ministry. He stayed with them and joined them in the marketplace. Following Paul’s visit between 51 and 52 AD, Corinth became the centre of early Christianity in Greece. Paul’s friends and fellow evangelists Silas and Timothy joined him in Corinth. He preached the gospel every Sabbath until he left the city around Autumn of 52 A.D. Paul revisited the city in 58 A.D. during his third missionary journey (see Acts 20:1-3).

Why did Paul choose to leave a somewhat neutral intellectual Athens where he discoursed with civil Jews and Gentiles without being obstructed but instead proceed to a melting pot like Corinth? Because he saw a greater Gospel sharing evangelical opportunity at Corinth with its strategic crossroad location situated between Italy and Asia Minor on the Isthmus and is master of two harbors and a large population with various needs conglomerating for the economic boom and related activities. Corinth city was flourishing by the 1st century AD as an important international center of administration, trade, games and entertainment. Corinth had the largest population in Greece with Greeks, Jews, Romans, even the Phoenicians and Phrygians from the east. Corinth’s financial prosperity was the result of business activities, athletic games, the skills and quality of its statesmen and craftsmen, and immorality. Because of its close connection to the sea, with ports to the east and to the west, the cosmopolitan population of Corinth consisted largely of sailors, merchants, adventurers, and refugees, which included retired and discharged veterans.

Thus, Paul and his team had found a needy evangelistic target as well as a market niche from the Jewish refugees (from Rome), Roman soldiers, the many tradesmen and religious pilgrim travelers and the games competitors and spectators.

Corinthian became the second largest city in the Roman empire, boasting a population of 700,000 people. In eighteen months Paul built the largest church in the history of the world.  The lowest estimates are 40,000 and most historians say the number was more like 80,000 people.

Paul’s Ambassadorship: Rule of law

Today I have done a simple diagram. Let us read this new wine revealed in new wineskin. I am awed that we can actually apply this simple rule of law to every practical aspect of our lives, as ambassadors for Christ, representing the Kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

2 Corinthians 5:11-21 New King James Version (NKJV)

11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Be Reconciled to God

12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not [a]imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:19 reckoning

Just loving aloud: passionately unveiled

cross not loss
Magnify the cross, not your loss!

So I kneel humbly in awe before the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, 15 the perfect Father of every father and child[a] in heaven and on the earth. 16 And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power.

17 Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.

18–19 Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude[b] of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!

20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.

21 Now we offer up to God all the glorious praise that rises from every church in every generation through Jesus Christ—and all that will yet be manifest through time and eternity. Amen!

Footnotes:
Ephesians 3:15 Translated from the Aramaic. It could also be translated “the perfect Father of every people group.” The Greek word for “father” and the word for “family” are quite similar, which indicates that every family finds its source in the Father.
Ephesians 3:18 Or “excellence.”

(Ephesians 3:14-21 The Passion Translation (TPT) Paul Prays for Love to Overflow)

Just drawing aloud: passionate

1 John 1-3
1 John 1:3 New Living Translation (NLT)
3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

Bible in diagram: John 17:6-8

John 17-6-8.001
Bible verses: John 17:6-8

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me. (John 17:6-8)

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

John 14:21 Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

John 17:26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”

Watchman’s encounter: Awesome God waters His people

psalm 119-103
Psalm 119:103 sweet words from above

It was an awesome spiritual encounter. I was woken by the worship song downstairs. My housemate was ministering to a first year correspondence Bible College student group in the living room. The song was powerfully sung. I thought it was a recorded or online video but the guitar was clear and the surround effect was too good not to be live. They only sang one song, a Chinese original composition called “You are Worthy”. I did not know the number of participants. It sounded like a full house. The music was great and powerful too. I could not figure out whether there was one or two guitars. Then they prayed in tongue. It blended into the music and the song. I became wide awake and joined the praying in tongue in my room.

Later, when their class was over they prayed in tongue again. This time I was sitting at my desk, continuing my own study. I was also praying in tongue. I realized that I was singing in tongue, and it was a gentle beautiful song in an unknown tongue. The students then took turn to pray in understanding. The music was playing softly in the background. After their closing prayers I heard people talking and leaving.

I was impressed to open my Bible to see what the Lord has for me about my tongue (spiritual song). And the verses I received were most appropriate. They are taken from Psalm 119:97-104 MEM. Here is a description of what it means:
It means mighty, overpower.
Meaning: God waters His servants. God gives life-sustaining knowledge to His servants. God waters His people with understanding and insight. The two forms of MEM show Moses (in the open) and the Messiah (the “hidden” water).

The above confirms my spiritual song just now. When I was singing I could feel the flow in my spirit, like calm water, gentle, peaceful and refreshing. I could also feel the joy and sweetness in my soul. The Lord indeed gives understanding and insight to me and the students as they too prayed in tongue, expressing their passion and love for the words of the Lord in their spirit.

It was near midnight when the last of the students left. I then found out that there were only ten students. One young couple served as worship leaders and another older couple could sing very well too. One guitar accompanied the singing. But it was a powerful passionate worship team I heard. Who are the rest? Awesome!

Psalm 119:97-104 New King James Version (NKJV)
מ MEM
97 Oh, how I love Your law!
It is my meditation all the day.
98 You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies;
For they are ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
For Your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the [a]ancients,
Because I keep Your precepts.
101 I have restrained my feet from every evil way,
That I may keep Your word.
102 I have not departed from Your judgments,
For You Yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste,
Sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.

Footnotes:
Psalm 119:100 aged

the NOW time for plentiful harvest: Do not limit God

Luke 5-4
Luke 5:4

Luke 5:4 New Living Translation (NLT)
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon (Peter), “Now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.”

What did Jesus tell Simon Peter?
Key words: “Now”, “Go out”, “where”, “deeper”, “nets” and “catch”. Jesus issued a command with a specific time limit and an urgency. He also specified where, with what and for what purpose.

Did it work? Peter and his business partners had been fishing all previous night and didn’t catch a thing. But he decided to do exactly what Jesus said, “But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.”

And what happened when he acted on the word revealed by Jesus?
“And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear!”

Key phrases:
1. Jesus “says so” to Peter specifically. Peter received the revelation.
2. Peter responded to Jesus, “I’ll let the nets down again”. Peter obeyed Jesus’ words exactly. He took the boat back to the deeper place and let down more than one net because Jesus said “nets”. indeed, all his nets were filled to breaking point!

When we receive a word from the Lord to meet our needs we can expect the Lord to give plenty and not a handful. Peter’s case is not an isolated one. God has demonstrated His superabundant supplies in the case of the widow with one last jar of oil in Elisah’s time. He filled all the empty vessels she borrowed and stopped only when she ran out of vessels. (2 Kings 4:1-6) Jesus would have filled more nets with fish but Peter ran out of nets.

The vessels and the nets we put out often limit the amounts we receive.

Lesson learned: Don’t limit God.

Bible in Diagram: John 17:1-5

THE WAY TO ETERNAL LIFE, HONOR AND GLORY

John 17:1-5

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. And this is the way to have eternal life —to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.   I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. Now Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.”

John17-1-5

What Jesus did on earth glorified God. he knew what His assignment was, how and when to finish it. He was totally focused. He knew His original source and was confident of returning there. His journey on earth was not in vain. He accomplished. He also gave us a glimpse of what it’s like:
A place of honor and glory.
Awesome!
(TO BE CONTINUED)