The Holy Spirit is the Treasure Within You

By Nick Westbrooks

Interpreted by Rev. Dr. Earl D. Trent Jr.

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 hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. –2 Corinthians 4:7-10

It was an amazing testimony of the human spirit when Manteo Mitchell broke his left fibula while running his final 200 meters of the preliminary 4×400 meter relay. Most runners would have stopped once they felt the pop and limped off of the track. But determined by his teammates’ dependence, he fought through the pain and finished his leg, allowing Team USA to make the finals. They would eventually earn a silver medal in the event.

Mitchell’s human spirit was the force that helped him finish the race. As followers of Christ, we are filled with the Holy Spirit. It is the force that keeps us going day after ordinary day.

Take the apostle Paul, the author of the first and second books of Corinthians. Before changing his name and undergoing a life-changing experience, Paul was a Pharisee named Saul who used to persecute the same people he advocated for when he was writing to the church of Corinth.

After his life-changing experience, Paul became a missionary, building churches and spreading the word of Jesus Christ. Throughout his transformation and ministry, Paul faced challenges that he had to overcome through only the power of God inside of him.

Paul lets the church know that it was not him that overcame his obstacles. He puts this idea into perspective by comparing the physical body to frail and easily-broken jars of clay filled with a valuable treasure—the spirit and power of God (v7).

Paul’s analogy is a reminder for us today as we endure struggles and challenges daily. It is not us that gets us through tough times, but it is God’s power within us that is the driving force. We are mere frail, vulnerable and easily-broken jars of clay. But in our brokeness, the Holy Spirit inside of us provides the power to finish our race.

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Celebrating the Foundations of the Future: Florida Avenue Baptist Church’s 100-Year Anniversary

“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” –Isaiah 58:12

This week, the historic Florida Avenue Baptist Church of Washington, D.C. celebrates its centennial anniversary. During my summer stay in the District, I’ve had the privilege of visiting the church and being a part of the momentous occasion under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Earl Trent, Jr. Many institutions observe anniversaries, but very few can say they’ve been around for 100 years, especially those established by the hands, heads and hearts of African Americans.

FABC was founded approximately four decades after Reconstruction, a time of illicit racism and segregation all over the United States. Already facing the problem of the “color line” in addition to scores of other challenges, the faith of the founders and members allowed the holy institution to thrive in the midst of those trials.

The 1919 Red Summer gruesomely afflicted Blacks across the country, including the nation’s capital. An exorbitant number of Blacks were violently attacked and killed at the heels of arguably America’s bloodiest race riots circa post-World War I. Despite the riots and the youth of the newly founded establishment, FABC survived the unrest.

In the late 1960s, FABC would also survive the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination. Some of the church’s congregants would faithfully serve and bravely fight in each of America’s conflicts overseas. Through all of the major events–positive and negative—in America’s history, FABC is still standing strong.

It’s a blessing to see three and four generations of families congregating the pews and completing the Lord’s work at FABC. Members rearing their children and their children’s children in the church teaches them to love Jesus and live righteous lives, but it also maintains the church’s rich legacy.

As the Rev. Jeremiah Wright noted when he delivered the centennial Sunday service message on July 8, African Americans are the only group of people that doesn’t document its history or revolution, which is detrimental to our livelihood.

“Failure to write down your revolution means it will die when we die.”

One of the key points Wright had for the FABC family was that people have to teach their history to the youth, because they don’t know it. This isn’t necessarily the church’s history, but Black history in general. Unfortunately, Black children learn distorted and destroyed history from their oppressor; HIStory instead of OUR story. In turn, this disempowers Black children and negatively affects their perceptions of themselves.

With teaching the youth our story, both the good and the bad must be taught. Wright calls this repentance. Despite our achievements, there are many things that we are ashamed of as a people. On many occasions, we’ve turned our backs on our African past, but we have to tell all sides of our story.

Most importantly, the 100-year anniversary is a moment of celebration. It’s a time for the church to rejoice at its wealthy history and the faith that has brought it this far as it optimistically looks toward the future.  The centennial also serves as a reminder that much work remains to be done, and more laborers are needed now more than ever to spread the Gospel and tackle the many issues facing Washington, D.C.’s Black community.

Congratulations to Florida Avenue Baptist Church on achieving 100 years of stewardship, evangelism, missions, social justice and education. You’ve come this far by faith feeling no ways tired. And with that steadfast faith, there’s no limit to where you can go. I wish you 100 more years of continued blessings and success.

We Are One: Unity in the Body of Christ

But speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the head, that is Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself in love, as each part does its work. –Ephesians 4: 15-16

Today I visited Florida Avenue Baptist Church in northwest D.C. for the first time. The guest preacher, the Rev. Janelle Thompson delivered her sermon from the scripture above. The title of the message was “We Are One.”

As the apostle Paul wrote at the start of the fifteenth verse, we should speak the truth in love rather than deceiving and scheming one another. Focusing on that part of the text, Thompson stressed the importance of doing everything out of love. “Without love, what good is what we say or do?” We are able to do everything with love when we feel and identify with love.

The core of the message was the notion that all of God’s people are united as one body in Christ. Here in verse fifteen going into verse sixteen, the writer Paul compares our connection with each other to the anatomy of the human body. Christ is the “Head”, and his people are the “ligaments” joined together through Him. Whether you’ve studied anatomy or not, you know that the body doesn’t function if all of its parts aren’t working together. The same holds true in terms of our progression and relationships with one another.

In the church’s role of spreading the Gospel, all of its members are individuals and have individual gifts. The ideas and perspectives of the individuals usually aren’t homogenous. Despite our differences, we all must be willing to be joined together through Christ’s love with the common goal of delivering the good news and developing our faith.

As Thompson said in her sermon, “The Lord made us different so we can come together in our differences.” Since we are all God’s people—not judged by our social or economic status—we all have value and a purpose regardless of who we are in the secular world. This means listening to and respecting others opinions.

This message of unity can be applied to other instances in the secular world. Many people are employed at jobs where they don’t like their bosses or co-workers, but united under that company, they work together to provide a service and to earn a paycheck for doing so. Too often we see single parents who dislike their baby’s mother of father, but they must be united with the common goal of rearing their child to be the best that he or she can be. Additionally, we can apply this to our human rights movements for freedom and equality. History has proven that mass movements for civil rights and political revolutions were only successful through the unity of its participants.

The soul artist Maze was most likely singing about a romantic relationship in his classic “We Are One.” “We are one, no matter what we do / we are one, love will see us through / we are one, and that’s the way it is.” This too applies to us in a broader sense. I also think of Earth, Wind and Fire’s song “Fantasy.” “And we will live together / until the twelfth of never / our voices will ring forever as one.”  The combination of our gifts, talents and perspectives are valuable individually, but they are the most effective when they’re combined as one. Maurice White and Philip Bailey could have had successful solo careers, but not to the magnitude of EWF’s.

Remember, no matter what the goal or objective is, we each have a specific purpose and gift to contribute. We must unite as one body despite our differences or else we won’t achieve our common goal. If we don’t move together, we won’t move at all.

If we don’t move together, we won’t move at all.