The Winning Ticket

Did anyone else notice the looks of disappointment on the faces of the second and third place winners in the 2012 Olympics? It was obvious that second or third place was not the reason they put their bodies through years of intense training, nor was it the object of their sacrificed blood, sweat, and tears. It was not what they had invested their entire lives in. Clearly, they were out to win the gold and nothing less! It was little consolation to simply finish for any athlete who intended to win the race. Yet as Christians, we are in danger of settling for second or third, or perhaps last place, in our race to live the Christian life. The reason is simply this: we have the wrong goal.


If our goal is good health, we will be disappointed. If our goal is more wealth, we will be disappointed. If our goal is bigger and better jobs, careers, positions, houses and cars, we will be disappointed. All of those things eventually rust, decay, or go away. We will grow old; lose our strength, our waistline, our hair, and our appeal. Jobs, careers, and positions all topple eventually, as a younger and stronger work force takes over. Houses deteriorate and cars wear out, not to mention that they go out of style. Replacement and retirement are in our future. Even when we succeed at reaching any of these goals, we will be disappointed.


Why? Because of God’s extravagant love for us, He will not allow lesser goals to fill the void in our hearts that only a relationship with Him can fill. When we pray for those things, we might actually be praying in direct opposition to His goal for our lives. And then we wonder why God doesn’t always answer our prayers. Go figure. The sooner we learn the futility of chasing the wrong goals, the sooner we can get down to business pursuing the right goal.


The right goal for every Christian is not a happy life; not a successful Christian ministry; not even a good reputation as a devote saint. It is not more experiences; not more blessings; not more goodies. The right goal for every Christian is God Himself. The goal that matches the yearning in God’s heart for you and me is to KNOW HIM. He wants us to reach that goal. He will move heaven and earth for us to reach that goal. He will defeat the works of Satan in our lives so we can reach that goal.


Because many religious organizations and spiritual teachers have the wrong goals themselves, we have not been taught the right goal or how to reach it. I’ve heard mature Christians say they are still hoping God will “stir” them or “zap” them, or do something beyond a mundane, lifeless, powerless, repetitious, hope-we’ve-got-it-right-relationship-with-God existence. Dear Christian friends, we were made for more! Are you tired of the up-and-down cycles; committed one day and defeated the next; feast and famine experiences; thinking another “how to” book will surely fix the gnawing hunger and emptiness in your heart?


Well, hang on to your hat because I have some great news for you! God is ready to do that very thing. The blessings of God Himself, His presence, Christ’s life exchanged for yours is right there at the top of God’s To-Do-List! And He’s simply waiting for you to make Him your goal! He’s been ready all along. It’s like mega-lotteries who announce the winner, but the winning ticket holder never steps up to claim the prize. Isn’t it about time for you to step up and claim what God has for you? ~ Janie Kellogg

God IS Up to Something

(I love it when God shows me a spiritual insight just for me. Yet, I was totally taken by surprise a few days ago when I was working on this blog post—thinking I was writing it for others—and the Holy Spirit told me to apply what I had just written to a recent development in my own life. Sure enough, when the newest blow to my faith was analyzed in light of this new truth, I had to walk in my own words of instruction. Ouch! Sometimes these growing pains just plain hurt.)


Ever wonder if God is up to something? Ever think that maybe this hard place where we currently find ourselves is God’s doing? Most of us have a tendency to blame all of life’s ills on Satan, and rightly so, as he is the source of all evil in the world. But God in His extravagant love for us uses even the works of the devil to accomplish His purposes. It is a fact, that in the life of every Christian, God IS definitely up to something.


In order to discern the difference in Satan’s attempts to derail believers as we walk with God from God’s holy intent to bless us, we must use our spiritual eyes and ears. A scripture from the Old Testament story about Joseph confirms that God uses bad things for our good. Many years after Joseph’s jealous and conniving brothers sold him into slavery, he told them: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20).


Read the following statement carefully. Every trial God allows to come our way always has two purposes:

1)  To reveal the power and glory of God at work in the world, and

2)  To conform, train, and mature us to be just like His Son, Jesus.


Knowing the objectives of God’s dealings with us will make it easier for us to endure and even use these trials to our advantage. Furthermore, God promises that nothing He allows will be too hard for us, but He will make a way through every trial we face. He even provides an escape hatch in case we find ourselves in water over our heads (1Corinthians 10:13).


We can be assured that whatever is going on in our lives today, whether we see it as small and insignificant or gigantic and overwhelming, God IS up to something! He has a plan to make something of eternal value out of our lives, and He is using this very circumstance to shape us for that perfect plan. Actually, He fully intends for us to do the same works that Jesus did (John 14:12). We ask, “What works did Jesus do?” Jesus continuously did two things while He lived on earth—He always pleased His Father, and He always brought glory to God. God expects no less from us.


The ability to see and understand that God has a purpose for everything that comes our way is a giant-grown-up step in learning to trust Him. When we learn to truly trust God, we will find the rest and peace that we have longed for. We will begin not only to believe that God is good, but that He is good all the time, even when things appear to be going against us. With our new-found confidence in His love for us, we will soon be able to rejoice in this very trial, and “in everything give thanks for this IS the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).


Never doubt that God IS up to something! As we move forward, we will study more about what He is up to and how we should respond to Him. God earnestly desires that we discover His goal for our earthly lives and how to tap into His resources to help us reach that goal. Oh, and by the way, when we do, we’ll have found what Jesus called the abundant life. ~ Janie Kellogg

The Biggest Scam Ever

We Americans love our goals. We come in all varieties from record breakers, to trend setters, to fund raisers, to weight losers, to mass marketers. Modern technology helps us track our goals; Facebook and Twitter enable us to announce our successes to the world. Seems if we don’t have goals, we may not accomplish much. But if we believe goals serve a purpose, doesn’t it makes sense to have our sights on the right ones? If goals have power to move us in a new direction, isn’t it important that we’re headed in the right direction?


As promised, we are going to take a closer look at the goals of the Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest Christian ever. His number one goal was clear. We read it in Philippians 3:8 “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” and again in Philippians 3:10 “That I may know Him.” Excellence means superior, better, higher, past supreme; and know means to be aware of, feel, perceive, be sure, and to understand. When Paul wrote Philippians, he was no wet-behind-the-ears, greenhorn convert. He was a mature Christian imprisoned for preaching the gospel. After years of serving God, I hear Paul say he was reaching for a superior, surer awareness, feeling and understanding of God than he currently had. Now don’t misunderstand—he already had plenty, but he wanted more. He wanted it so desperately that he counted everything else a lost cause.


I doubt my goals would have been the same as Paul’s in that jailhouse circumstance. No way! I’d be clanging my cup against the bars hollering “Someone get me out of here!” and “Can’t I at least have a cell phone?” or maybe “How about a little decent food around here!” It would not be a pretty picture as I demanded some rights.


Paul could probably have walked out of that jail at any time, if he had denounced Jesus as the Son of God and returned to being a Pharisee. But Paul’s aim was higher than physical freedom. He wanted to know God more than he wanted to breathe—literally! Ever wonder how he arrived at that goal or what about God made Paul willing to give his life for Him? (A topic we will explore later.)


I believe the biggest scam ever has taken place in our generation! Christians have been conned into seeking the good life rather than seeking God Himself. We have been deceived, as Eve was deceived, causing her to make a bad choice. By the way, deceived people don’t know they are deceived. We too are fed continuous lies about God. They sound something like this: “God isn’t a good God. He doesn’t really love you. His rules keep you from finding happiness.” Satan tempts people to settle for anything but God’s plan. Maybe you’ve heard him cleverly whisper to you: “Take this substitute; it will be better than God’s plan.” I certainly have.


Here are some of the substitutes I believe Satan has sold to modern-day Christians. Like Paul, we are encouraged to seek something bigger and better than what we have, but the object of our goals are very different from his. We are coached to reach for our destiny, a more successful career, a larger paycheck, more expensive houses, cars, and vacations, a greater ministry or larger organization. We’re told that bigger is better and better will make us happy. It is all skillfully packaged as the “abundant life.” I’m confident that Paul had none of these things in mind, yet our bookshelves are filled with books on “how to.”


We have indeed been scammed! Yet God longs for us to discover the truth about Him, His extravagant love for us, and His real plan for our lives. He wants us to drink deeply from the well of Living Water and eat of the Bread of Life. My spiritual life and possibly yours are starving for the real thing. Hear Jesus say, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10 NLT). What are you asking Jesus to give you? ~ Janie Kellogg

My One Political Paper of the Year

(It is an election year, so why not? At least one political paper should be expected from most any writer. So here it is—my one political paper of the year. I apologize for its length, but I got on a roll and could not help myself. Whatever you do, don’t miss reading this one and sharing it with a friend. I promise you will be blessed!)


For months, I have been watching all (and I do mean all) of the news coverage on the 2012 Presidential election. I came through the two national conventions with my sanity somewhat intact, but shortly thereafter, I began a downward spiral. I found myself sick at my stomach, my nerves on edge, and my head pounding. I was mad at everyone who had anything to do with the mess our nation is in. I continued to rant and rave, wondering why other people don’t think the way I do. It was beyond my comprehension why all Americans cannot see our over-the-cliff and down-the-slippery-slope demise. And furthermore, the non-stop-over-the-top accusations that filled the airwaves were enough to throw me into hysteria.


Finally, I realized that I had worked myself into a tizzy, and knew that I probably could not physically, mentally, or emotionally endure another two months of the dirtiest political campaign in history. It clearly was time for a change, so I called on God for divine direction to guide my out-of-control thinking.


In the next few days, it came to me from several directions that in order to survive this election and its results, I must keep my eyes on Jesus. I cannot look to the right or the left, but only look up. I must not focus on circumstances, but on God, His power, and His promises. Isaiah 26:3 says “You will keep him (her) in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he (she) trusts in You.” Anything less will cause me great distress.


In trying to keep my eyes on Jesus, I found myself crying out “Lord, help me do this! How can I stay focused on Jesus with the noise of the world blaring around me?” The Apostle Paul gave some good advice in 2 Corinthians 10:5 “Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” To me this means that I should carefully review all thoughts, words, ideals and actions in the light of God’s Word, and reject the ones that don’t pass the test. Clearly, I had some practicing to do.


As the week progressed, I spent more time in prayer and in God’s Word, and I replaced news programs with Christian programming. I slowly began casting down some of the heated political arguments of the day with principles from God’s Word. Instead of allowing troublesome current events to exalt their importance, I began to declare God’s preeminence over all things. I gradually realized that a new perspective was emerging in my mind and in my spirit. I had turned a corner.


Today I openly confess that I belong to another kingdom, not a kingdom of this world. It is a heavenly kingdom whose ruler is King Jesus, and the government squarely rests on His shoulder. His kingdom is not in disarray; it is not confused, divided, or in debt. The economy there is booming, particularly the housing industry as a large influx of new citizens is expected to arrive any day. Unemployment is non-existent; everyone is in the employment of the King. Because of the King’s priority to provide for the greatest citizens in the kingdom first—the multiplied millions of babies and children—the job market is saturated with well-paying, rewarding jobs to nurture and train them. There are no illegal immigration problems since there is only one Door into the entire kingdom, and no one is allowed to enter unless their name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. There is no lack of food or water, as the Bread of Life is plenteous and Living Water flows freely. There is no sickness or disease, therefore no one cares what’s in the healthcare bill. There is no IRS, ICE, DHR, DOL, DEQ, or EPA. Because no one grows old and retires, there is no need for Social Security, 401K’s and IRA’s. Death and sorrow are unheard of, and no gravestones mark the hillsides as the residents live forever. Neither are there any prisons since everyone has been declared not guilty and set free, making the DOC, DOJ, CIA and FBI completely unnecessary. The Supreme Court is unequivocally supreme having only one Judge. Enemies are no threat to King Jesus; rather they serve as His footstool. Peace permeates throughout that kingdom because the Prince of Peace resides there. Oh, the best part of all is that there are no term limits. Christ shall reign forever more and of His kingdom there shall be no end.


It is true! “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard…. what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). This kingdom is more wonderful than my mind can conceive and my heart can believe, mostly because I am still locked into this earthly form. In the limited state I am currently in, I can only imagine!


So, dear Christian brothers and sisters, it is time to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, the One to whose kingdom we belong. We have nothing to be depressed about or afraid of. Unlike earthly rulers, King Jesus always makes good on His promises. His record is impeccable! The best use of our short time left on earth is to focus on our next step. It is, in fact, time for us to prepare ourselves for the transition, help as many others to prepare as we possibly can, and then look up for our redemption is drawing very near (Luke 21:28). ~ Janie Kellogg