Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

A Hard Pill to Swallow March 26, 2013

I struggle to obey my Lord and repent again. I nearly think I am hopeless. Could God have intentionally made it this hard?

 

I doubt that I am the only one who struggles with this. Recently, in an online devotional, The Pursuit of Righteousness, Gary Wilkerson confirmed that I am not. He wrote: “God will not bless an effort to establish one’s own righteousness.”

 

Is that what I am trying to do when I attempt to discipline my flesh? Certainly, it needs to be done, but why am I such a habitual failure at doing it?

 

Could the problem be my motive? If I could do this thing—which obviously I can’t—I would become proud and say, “If I can do it, so can you.” But I can’t make myself righteous or keep myself righteous. A simple, true, cold hard fact!

 

Wilkerson ends with these words, “This calls for a repentant heart and brokenness—a humble acknowledgement that His power alone restores us to right standing.”

 

To be honest, I have gone in circles for years. My journals are written testimony against me. So why do I keep trying? How many failures does it take to make the point? Albert Einstein said it well, “Insanity is doing the same thing, over and over again, but expecting different results.”

 

I can’t do it within my own power. Finally, there it is—a true confession, an acknowledgement of my utter helplessness to change myself. Depravity in a nutshell!

 

Depravity (dē-prav′ ə tē) crookedness; a depraved condition; corruption; wickedness.1

 

It just lies there in Webster’s dictionary, mostly unused and unwanted. It’s certainly not needed in the American culture—the land of plenty, of the educated, of the successful. This land where anyone can be all that they can be; the land of rights—individual, personal, equal—clearly the land of increase.

 

It is a hard pill to swallow—this word depravity. The flesh resists it with all the strength it has. The enemy of our souls will desperately try to talk us out of it—sidetrack us to somewhere else, anywhere else. Just don’t go there—not to depravity.

 

Yet, John the Baptist said this about Jesus:2

 

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (KJV)

“He must become great; I must become less. (NIV)

“He must come greater and greater, and I must become less and less. (NLT)

“He must become more important, but I must become less important.” (ISV)

 

How much plainer must it be said? If we look closely with seeing eyes, one mystery of the Kingdom of God is opened to us. It’s the decrease that is so painful, so against the grain of our beliefs, our life-long pursuit for promotion. Yet, the clear call to Jesus’ followers is to decrease; become less; become less and less; and become less important.

 

We are so unaccustomed to the word depravity. It almost seems, well, you know—small—so undesirable, unattractive, and certainly not my desired destiny.

 

Think again. Jesus plainly told His followers their destiny: “Whoever wants to be my disciple, must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me.”3 Or, “whoever wants to be great among you must become your servant.”4

 

Depravity has a message of great value for us. We just haven’t seen it. No one told us to look for it, as if it is a despised word. Even in Jesus’ teachings, it eludes the proud, the religious, and those who lord themselves over others. But it is there, a clear message tucked within this inverted gospel.

 

Depravity makes the cross more understandable—yet that kind of love so non-understandable. We couldn’t do it for ourselves, so for love, Jesus did it for us. Why do I keep trying to accomplish something I can’t do and not fully accept that which has been done for me—my salvation and my sanctification?

 

Seek depravity. Chase after it. Hunger and thirst for its value. When you catch a glimpse, ask for more. Don’t settle for a glimpse; plead with God to see it fuller still. Grasp it. Embrace it. It is a long-forgotten, overlooked word that renders great treasures to our Christian lives. ~Janie Kellogg

 

1Webster’s New World College Dictionary; 2John 3:30; 3Matthew 16:24 (NIV); 4Matthew 20:26 (NIV)

 

Other Related Posts at Treasure in Earthen Vessels:  The Inverted Gospel – Archives – January 23, 2013; Just For Love It Was Done – Archives – March 20, 2013

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Just For Love It Was Done March 20, 2013

The words of a song run through my head again and again. Like water over a falls, they keep coming and coming—“Just for love it was done.”

 

That single line from the song Broken and Spilled Out1 drives me to take a fresh look at the familiar story told in Matthew 26. Mary broke that alabaster box of rare perfume—her own special treasure—and spilled it out on Jesus only days before His crucifixion. The song says she lavished it on him. One of the meanings of lavished is heaped. Picture that—heaping something on Jesus.

 

The second verse of the song reverses the concept:  God gave His own special treasure—His beloved Son—and poured Him out for me. It too was lavished, or heaped on me. The whole idea baffles me, but the words that continue to pour through my mind are the reason God heaped this special treasure on me:  Just for love it was done!

 

Just for love it—with it being the garden, the sleeping friends, the betrayal kiss, the cock-crowing denial, the false accusers, the illegal trial, the scourging, the thorny crown, the heavy cross, the climb up Golgotha, the nails, the mocking, the jeering, the spit, the tossed dice, the mother’s broken heart. It, all of it —was done just for love.

 

How could God love me that much? Me—a sinner, a betrayer, a less-than-faithful follower, a denier, a failure! It just doesn’t make sense. If I were a prize or maybe some great person, but I’m not. God only knows how many times I’ve tried and failed to live holy; made the promise again; then broke it again.

 

I can’t get my mind around those words.  “Just for love it was done” doesn’t require a condition of greatness by the object that is loved; they simply reveal the character of the Lover.

 

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one2….For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”3

 

I am among the “all,” one of the “worthless.” Yet, just for love it was done. How am I to respond to such love? The only thing that seems suitable is returning in-kind love. In-kind means to give something that is equivalent to what has been received.

 

Is that not exactly what God longs for –those who will receive His love and respond in-kind? After all, what else can we give God in return? We have no money or possessions for they all belong to Him.4 Even our days are in His hands; our children on loan. What can I give in return for that kind of love?

 

In-kind love. Equivalent love. Am I capable of giving equivalent love?

 

“Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”5

 

Could seeing and assessing my own depravity be the key to loving God much? To giving Him equivalent love?

 

Depravity is a word that demands exploration. Rejected by human reasoning, it could be the very key that unlocks the mysteries of God for us. We must carefully peel away the layers from around it lest we miss the tremendous value that awaits us within this one single word. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Broken and Spilled Out ~ written by Gloria Gaither and Bill George; 2Romans 3:10-12; 3Romans 3:23;   4Deutronomy10:14; 5Luke 7:47

 

 

 

What Is the Treasure? March 13, 2013

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 1:17 pm
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Whether you are reading my weekly blog Treasure in Earthen Vessels by accident or by choice, you might be asking “What is the treasure?” You are not alone. Actually, that is the most asked question generating hits to my website.

 

It has been my question too, ever since God brought this scripture to my attention: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Even though it has taken years to unearth its hidden message, my quest to find it has been worth every effort. My blog is about that treasure in 2 Corinthians 4:7 and here is why.

 

After leaving the busy, corporate world to work from home, I decided to pursue my love for writing in my spare time. I anticipated sitting beside my fireplace every morning and writing about the goodness of God to my life and my family—a picture of perfect bliss with a pen in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

 

Within months, my husband was diagnosed with fast-growing prostate cancer. Instead of the fireside chats with God that I had envisioned, my journals filled with real life experiences—more closely akin to scripts from reality TV shows as my faith was tested, tried, and stretched. Out of my search for God during this painful chapter of my life, that left me widowed at 53, I found an amazing truth. It had much to do with 2 Corinthians 4:7.

 

I had never been satisfied with the status-quo of Christianity. My thirst for more took me on an intense search into the writings of Oswald Chambers, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Andrew Murray, Brother Lawrence, Henry Nouwen, and many others. I longed to find the secret they had found, yet had seemingly slipped through the cracks of much modern-day teaching.

 

What did they have? What did they know? What power were they able to tap into that set them apart as great men and women of faith? As I pursued “the pearl of great price,” I became the one who, when she discovered the treasure in the field, sold all, and bought the field that she might have the treasure also.1 My efforts were not in vain.

 

Today, I am a work-in-progress, and although discouraged at times with my lack of progress, the Holy Spirit continues to connect the dots for me. He has led me to the secret place, and through the writings of my faithful friends who made this journey before me, He is teaching me how to abide there.

 

Somewhere along the way, the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:7 became perfectly clear—the Treasure is the Indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

My blog—also a work-in-progress—is dedicated to encouraging others to press on in their journey to find the Treasure. I post my findings, and yes, my struggles, as I continue to seek how to incorporate this immeasurably valuable truth into my everyday life.

 

I hope you will decide to join me in this pursuit—something I believe God fully intends for all of us to find. A comment by writer Chris Tiegreen points us in the right direction: “We never discover truth. It is always revealed.”2

 

Ann Voskamp yields another clue: “Because the God-likeness within our smallness speaks to Father-God in His magnificence. I hadn’t understood….that all wonder and worship can only grow out of smallness.” 3

 

Much awaits us. Clue after clue—may we seek to remove the earth, the worldliness that keeps God’s truths buried and unrevealed, except to those who make the effort to find them.

 

My post on November 22, 2012, The House Guest – A Short Story4, reveals some of my own personal findings in a fictional format. I hope you will check it out. And then, let’s get on with our spiritual expedition! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1 Matthew 13:44-46

2 Chris Tiegreen, The One Year at His Feet Devotional, Tyndale House Publishers, March 12

3 Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 167

4 The House Guest @ www.treasureinearthenvessels.net, Archives – November 22, 2012

 

Since Self is on the Throne March 6, 2013

“Take up your cross and follow Me,”

I heard the Master say.

But denying myself to answer Your call,

Is a price too high to pay,

Since Self is on the throne.

 

Love my enemies; bless those who hate;

Pray for those who spitefully use me.

Surely, Lord, You don’t require that,

For much too vulnerable I’d be,

Since Self is on the throne.

 

Forgive one another as Christ forgave me;

Your Word says this is a must.

But I was treated too unfair to ever forgive.

So You’ll not ask that of me, I trust,

Since Self is on the throne.

 

To him who strikes me on the cheek,

I’m to offer the other side.

Surely this doesn’t mean what it says.

Why, my “rights” would be denied,

Since Self is on the throne.

 

Be kind and tenderhearted one to another;

Your Word teaches this, ‘tis true.

But to esteem others better than myself

Is much too difficult to do,

Since Self is on the throne.

 

You say I should learn to be content,

Regardless of my state.

Yet I’m striving to get ahead in this world,

For doing without I hate,

Since Self is on the throne.

 

On earth You made Yourself no reputation,

And that I can’t understand.

When worldly wisdom drives me on

To be all that I possibly can,

Since Self is on the throne.

 

There is no profit to gain the whole world,

If my very own soul I lose.

But dying daily seems barbaric to me.

Is there some other plan I can choose,

Since Self is on the throne?

 

I’m told in everything give thanks;

Grateful I’m supposed to be.

But Lord, can’t You see, this is not about You,

For this is all about ME,

Since Self is on the throne.  ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Note: Also see Treasure in Earthen Vessels, “Who’s the Boss,” March 6, 2013

 

Who’s the Boss?

Filed under: Christian Living — Janie Kellogg @ 9:04 pm
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“What does the word lord mean?” my pastor asked from the pulpit on Sunday morning. “It means boss,” came his simple answer.

 

Interchangeable terms: lord means bossboss means lord.

 

I suppose someone is the boss of everything. We all like to think we are the boss of something—our own lives, at least. Even the youngest among us, attempting to declare independence from their parents, sometimes say: “You’re not the boss of me!”

 

Many Christians openly say that “Jesus is Lord.” We use the term loosely. By that, do we mean Jesus is the boss of our lives? If we call Him Lord, then indeed, that is what we mean.

 

I’ve always considered myself a good employee, but sometimes I wonder how I measure up to what the Boss tells me to do? Certainly, I do not want to hear these words, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not the things I say?”1 Ever wonder who Jesus might be talking to here.

 

A poem written more than ten years ago, titled “Since Self is on the Throne,”2 speaks to that very issue. It also speaks to the inevitable fact that dying-to-self is a lifetime struggle for most of us. Sprinkled with a hint of humor, a touch of satire, the poem exposes the crux of our modern-day, rights-oriented culture.

 

Is it possible a poem could help us see ourselves more clearly—reveal the very things that keep us from experiencing the victorious and powerful Christ-like, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled life that Jesus promised to us?

 

Might we even laugh at ourselves—if in fact we see similarities within our own character? Those things Jesus could easily discern in all men. The Bible says that Jesus didn’t trust men because, “He knew what was in man.”3 He knows our hearts, our motives, and certainly, who is in our throne room. He knows, regardless of what we say loosely.

 

Perhaps, God will speak through a poem to help us identify who the Boss is in our house (our bodily temple). We might uncover the answer to the obvious:  Is Jesus actually on the throne of our lives where He rightfully belongs—that is, if we openly call Him Lord?

 

The poem is posted separately under the title “Since Self is on the Throne.”1 We just never know what God might use to unearth the treasures that await all who seek. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Luke 6:46

2Treasure in Earthen Vessels, “Since Self is on the Throne,” a poem, March 6, 2013

3John 2:24-25