Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

A Mystery Revealed June 29, 2013

Filed under: Christian Growth — Janie Kellogg @ 2:25 pm
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The mysteries of the gospel are not discovered, uncovered, or solved—they are revealed. They come to us only as God grants understanding. So it is with the long-sought after meaning of the strange words by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I’ve read them no less than a thousand times, but their understanding has remained unclear. It seems to be an oxymoron.

Just what was Paul thinking when he wrote this bi-polar statement? I’ve wrestled with it for half-a-lifetime. I get glimpses here and there. Slowly, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. Yet, glimpses eventually lead to vision.

It is becoming clearer. Somehow I sense that when I grasp it, other scriptures will open to me—maybe dozens. Who knows? It is well worth the pursuit.

Let us consider the word “then” from Paul’s statement. It denotes a lapse of time from before until now. It also speaks of a condition— from that to this; from what was to what now is; or perhaps, from what was to what can be.

Turning the sentence around is helpful: When I am strong, then I am weak. From that perspective we might say: When I consider my strength (in and of myself), then I am indeed a weak being and in a weak position. That is easy to see. Now let’s reverse it back and read it with that understanding: When I am weak (in and of myself), then I am a strong being and in a strong position.

It appears that being weak—admitting weakness—is beneficial in becoming strong. A statement by J. I. Packer supports this conclusion: “The power principle—God’s power scenario, we might call it—is that divine strength is perfected in conscious human weakness.” 1

But how do I appropriate that knowledge? How to I actually find the stronger position?

The Song of Solomon 8:5 gives some light: “Who is this that comes up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved?”

Leaning implies one who is weak, unable to make the journey alone, and depending on another for help, support, and strength. Leaning is an outward sign of an inward weakness. Could that be the stronger position? Is that what God desires from us—His children leaning on Him?

We know that fallen flesh cannot live holy. Only God-life can live holy. Therefore, we cannot live the Christian life apart from leaning on Him, who is Life and who gives Life.

Could it be that if I lean on and depend on His impartation of Life to me, I will be stronger than if I do not lean on Him? If so, then leaning—a true sign of weakness—is the stronger position.

Taking it a step further: Could it mean that the more I lean on the Strong One, the stronger I will become?

And yet another step: The weaker I am, the more I will lean on Christ; thus, the more I lean on Christ, the stronger I will be?

Dare I go even further: It is then in my best interest to be weak, so I will lean more on Christ?

Please indulge me just once more: If being weak makes me stronger, then can I not boast in being weak? Can I not also glory in my weaknesses because they cause me to lean on Christ? Notice the cause and effect principle in Paul’s words: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2Corinthians 12:9).

Such an idea clearly goes against our flesh, our pride, and our American mentality to be all that we can be, to pull ourselves up by our boot straps, and the survival of the fittest. Yet, we must remember that our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8).

Could the long-searched-for mystery be known? Is the key to finding and appropriating God’s divine power found in weakness—admitted weakness—even boasting of weakness? How did it elude me for so long? Clearly, my best and strongest position is leaning on God.

Dear Lord, help me not to stand straight and tall by my own strength, but to lean more on You. ~Janie Kellogg

1 J. I. Packer quoted in Dr. Bruce H. Wilkerson, 30 Days to Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc. 1999), 90.

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Do dat stuff! Do dat stuff! June 22, 2013

The words to a newly learned Kid’s Camp song are stuck in my brain: “We do dat stuff, do dat stuff!” The song “P-A-R-T-Y” by Jeff Slaughter of Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing was a big hit this year. Thank you, Jeff, for amazing and spirited music to turn our kids on to worshipping the Lord Most High!

While “do dat stuff” speaks of things kids do to praise the Lord, I must reflect for a few minutes on what “do dat stuff” means to me. Last Monday afternoon, we loaded up the kids in the church van and drove to the youth camp facility we have attended for many years. We piled on suitcases, bedrolls, sound equipment, boxes and ice chests of food, and 28 happy—ecstatic, energetic, and ready-to-go—kids!

But I have to admit that my level of excitement was not the same as that of the kids. Having spent the prior week shopping for and replacing my living room furniture, my back was already screaming at me. My bottles of Advil and Aleve were my closest companions. I had not considered that I’d be standing on a concrete floor for seventeen-hour days for the next week. Oh, and those mattresses at church camps are to die for. Or maybe it’s more of a feeling that you are going to die before you get back to your own bed.

The agenda for camp kitchen workers is simple: food, food, and more food. Busy, active kids are down-right hungry, so we feed them, and feed them, and feed them. Spaghetti, hot dogs, nachos, hamburgers, chicken strips, cake, ice cream, watermelon, cookies—non-stop it seems. Cook and clean, and then repeat the process multiple times over.

Yet, one just never really knows the far-reaching extent of serving in a camp kitchen. Some may see it as mundane, boring, or plain ole hard work. But for those who take a closer look, they might see a deeper meaning behind all the sweat and the achy feet. It can be a totally different picture if, in fact, one can see into the spirit world that:

• when you spread butter—you are spreading smiles on little faces

• when you give a slice of bacon—you are giving a slice of hope

• when you turn the pancakes—you are turning lives around

• when you hand out chicken nuggets—you are handing out nuggets of encouragement

• when you serve a heap of mashed potatoes—you are serving a heap of kindness

• when you stir a pot of gravy—you are stirring up God-given gifts

• when you peel carrots—you are peeling away fear and distrust

• when you warm the dinner rolls—you are warming hearts

• when you pour a cup of Kool-Aid—you are pouring a cup of grace

• when you mix up the cake batter—you are mixing in the love of God

• when you shape cookies—you are shaping little lives.

Between meals the kitchen staff brainstorms on how to do things differently next year. Questions flow—ideas follow. What might be a better meal? How can resources be used more efficiently? When and how to utilize left-overs?

On the last day of camp we pack up what is left (hopefully very little), clean the kitchen, scrub the bathrooms, and mop ourselves out the door. The children voice their sadness that the week is over, while the adults silently give thanks for the same.

Even though the church coffers might be less full, we are full of confidence that it was money well spent. There is simply no way to calculate the price of a soul or what’s it worth to change the life of a child. You just know that you gave because you have been given; you serve because you have been served; and you love because you have been loved.

We head for home as blessed and enriched individuals—young and old alike. And whether we have enjoyed it or barely endured, laughed at each other or at ourselves, improved our techniques or simply worn out our bodies, one thing is certain to happen this same time next year—we will “do dat stuff” again! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Love Never Fails Who? June 12, 2013

It had been a troubling morning. I was in a hotel room in Juneau, Alaska, waiting for luggage to arrive. My husband left for his early morning conference in the same clothes he had put on twenty-four hours earlier. Turbulent weather had caused our flights to be cancelled, routes to change, and nerves to fray. But none of that compared to the unsettling phone call I received shortly after arriving there.

Life had taken a painful turn for a family member. It seemed preventable, if only people had done what they were supposed to do—you know what I mean—Christians acting like Christians. Lives were unraveling; careers in jeopardy; reputations on the line. The stinging words of accusations burned within my heart as the story replayed over and over in my head. How could God let this happen?

Thankfully, I had packed my Bible in my carry-on bag. I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit to Galatians 5:22. This familiar verse of scripture listing the fruits of the Spirit brought me to a dead stop: “Now the fruit of the Spirit is love….” This word love is so powerful, so all-encompassing, so compelling. Of course, being one who prided myself in being filled with the Spirit, I knew this fruit wasn’t optional. The verse plainly states that the fruit—the growing, yielding, obvious evidence—of the Spirit is love.

The next stop on the journey to find peace for my aching heart was the famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. I knew it well. The words flowed from memory as my eyes followed the print. All of the characteristics of love listed in verses 4 through 7 could in no way be akin to the flesh. They clearly spoke of life in the Spirit, the high road, the selfless life, the yielding of one’s own rights.

As my eyes scanned verse 8—“love never fails”—I quickly thought, “I know what that means. Or do I?” I had always believed that if I loved, truly loved with God’s love, the other person(s) with whom I had a conflict would eventually change their mind and come around to seeing things my way. Wrong.

In the case at hand, I was confident that such a happy and blissful ending just wasn’t going to be the outcome. I also knew that for me to love meant to relinquish my right to be right, and the people involved would simply walk away thinking they had won.

It was in that moment that the Heavenly Father gently spoke a new revelation to my heart. For the first time, I saw these ever-so-familiar-words with new eyes, and thus, with new meaning. I read them again slowly, adding the freshly Spirit-inspired revelation—Love never fails me!

Today, some fifteen years later, this age-old truth proves once again to be the medicine I need. If I choose to love in every situation—regardless of the outcome—I will have the peace of God. Love will never fail to produce the joy and contentment within my spirit that only God can give. I will have grace to bear all things (including the ones I think unfair), believe all things (seeing God’s hand at work in every circumstance), hope all things (knowing all things work together for good to them who love God), and endure all things (even the things I don’t like).

It is so true—love never fails me! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

How Long Has It Been? June 5, 2013

An old song comes to mind this morning: “How long has it been since you talked with the Lord?” If it has been awhile, then perhaps you know the feelings of longing, emptiness, or even lack of peace.

There is nothing that satisfies the longing heart like the presence of God!

What a privilege it is indeed to be in a gathering of God’s people when His presence shows up. Has that ever happened to you?

It happened to me last week. Not one person left that place untouched by the power of God. What a joy to see young people run to the side of one who has reached out for spiritual help, place an arm around their shoulders and pray intently for them. Or to see them weeping with one whose heart has been convicted to confess their sins and accept God’s forgiveness.

It seems that our fast-paced American culture has imposed on us a quicker approach to responding to the Spirit of God. We now accept a simple show of hands—while no one is looking—to signify to the speaker behind the microphone that we have decided to follow Jesus. Certainly more simplistic, less noticeable, and non-intimidating, wouldn’t you agree?

It is likely that walking a church isle or bended knees at an altar no longer have a place in modern worship. But could it be possible that while we have accommodated our time restraints, we have cut ourselves short of the sweet and precious movement of God’s Spirit upon our hearts and lives?

Old-fashioned? Probably. But I must ask: How long has it been since the Spirit of God fell upon your congregation, bringing the convicting power of God to everyone present? Or since you’ve felt the presence of God move on your own heart, drawing you closer to Him?

Who said it is old-fashioned to allow God to work among His children? Are we embarrassed at what God might do? Are we so afraid of ridicule from other believers or the world that we have purposely omitted the opportunities for God to work in us? And who cares what the world has to say anyway.

I wonder if we know what to do with His presence when it shows up. Amazement, reverence, fear, awe, humility, praise, worship, and adoration all appear on my list of “to do’s” while in the presence of Almighty God.

But however we handle it must not be the focal point of our concern—the important thing is that He comes! How precious to our hearts when our Lord comes to meet with us!

How long has it been since you talked with the Lord,
And told Him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed? How long since you stayed
On your knees ‘til the light shone through?
How long has it been since your mind felt at ease?
How long since your heart knew no burden?
Can you call Him your friend? How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?
(Words and Music by Mosie Lister)

However long it has been is not the issue. Even if it has been a really long time, we can fix it now. Let the world say what they may. Let the religiously-correct ridicule if they want. But do not let another day pass until you find a place to get alone and meet with your God. He is waiting to meet with you; waiting to tell you that He cares for you; and waiting to bless you with refreshment that comes only from Him.

I suspect that as we have our one-on-one meetings with the Lord, we will find Him showing up regularly when we meet together. Oh, one more thing—when this happens, the world will marvel and realize that we too have been with Jesus! (Acts 4:13) ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Storms, storms, storms and youth camp June 1, 2013

They just keep coming—storms, storms, and more storms! Another deadly outbreak of tornados, twenty-four to be exact, ripped across Oklahoma last night leaving heaps of devastation behind. Damage tolls mount. So does the death toll. Disbelief tops our list of emotions.

What do we do when storms rage? Obviously, we cannot stop Mother Nature. We cannot change what the clouds and wind and rain drop on us. Storms are storms—they do their thing—and we simply must find a way to survive them.

It is the same with the storms of life. We cannot change the fact that they come to all of us. People change, relationships change, jobs go away, economies fluctuate, and new administrations take over; thus our circumstances change. We will all eventually be affected by the death of a loved one. Our lives sway back and forth from the powerful effects of such storms.

Yesterday, I returned from a week at youth church camp. There were forty young people in our cabin coming from all backgrounds, different social classes, and various home situations; yet they all came expecting to find something—God. And they did. It was an amazing experience as we watched the Holy Spirit move in the hearts of many precious young people.

Throughout the week, we heard their stories, saw their tears, and winced at their brokenness. I fear our “modern-day-permissive-everything-goes” culture has taken its toll on the next generation. Their needs are huge. Storms have ravaged their young lives, and they struggle to contend with the damage left behind. They grapple to survive in their complex world.

As they sought for wholeness, there was one word repeated over and over from their lips—forgiveness. “I need to forgive my mom; my dad; my friends; myself; God; those who bullied me; those who hurt me; those who left me out; or those who don’t care about me.” Even if they didn’t say it, their faces and their behaviors reflect heaps of hurt and rejection.

Storms—they are a fact of life. I have them. You have them. Young people have them. If we can’t prevent them, then what must we do to survive them?

In the natural realm, we must know how to read the weather signs, listen to the trained weather professionals, heed their warnings, make sound decisions, and apply proven safety precautions. It is a known fact that lives can be spared if we do these things.

It is the same in the spiritual realm. We must know how to read the signs, listen to trained spiritual leaders, heed their warnings, make sound decisions, and apply proven spiritual precautions. Likewise, lives can be spared if we do these things.

Don’t miss the emphasized “if.” The key to survival is preparedness. If we are prepared, we will survive when we find ourselves in the path of natural tornados and in the path of destructive life activities.

What are we doing today to prepare for the storms of life that will inevitably come? Will we be prepared as the next storm gathers overhead? Once the darkness is upon us, the wind whipping about us, and rain pounding against our lives, it is too late to prepare. Preparedness is what we must do now.

Jesus, the Master of the winds and the waves, is our refuge and shelter in the storms of life (Luke 8:25). His Word can guide us to safety both in this world and the next one. He has promised that we will safely reach our eternal home, if we follow His instructions. In John 10:28, Jesus says to each of us: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

The question is: Are we listening and are we heeding the words of the Master? If we are going to survive the storms, we must. ~ Janie Kellogg