Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

What Do We Really Want From God? July 18, 2017

The ink was barely dry in my journal after I finished writing What Does God Really Want from Us? when the Holy Spirit prompted me to turn that question around—What do we really want from God? Interesting thought, but doesn’t He already know what we want from Him?

 

Of course, the answer is yes, but I sensed that I was being pressed to look deeper into my soul, as to what I want from God—well, other than salvation, health, protection, finances, and success! After all, don’t we all want a life of well-being? I think that is commonly true, but I knew in my heart of hearts He was asking me a pointed question: What am I expecting God to do for me if I am living for Him?

 

I recently listened to an audio devotional called “The Slippery Slope of Discontentment” by Mike Harland, a spokesman for Lifeway Worship. Being a worship leader himself, Mike was able to speak into the lives of other worship leaders about how we assess our ministries. He said we often blame our lack of success on what we don’t have. We say that if we just had more resources…more choir members…more great soloists…a better sound system…a different pastor…a bigger facility…more time…more, more, more. That, my friend, is indeed a slippery slope.

 

My preacher son, Brent, has a saying that fits here as well—“More isn’t always better.” It’s sad to admit that our culture, including church culture, has taught us to believe if we had more of whatever, we would be happier, more successful, accomplish greater things, and last but not least, we could bring more glory to God.

 

So, do I know my own heart? What am I reaching for? What do I expect to be the end result of my efforts and my sacrifices? Am I expecting God to make me a great writer? A great singer? A great choir director? A great speaker or teacher? A great soul-winner? Am I expecting more and greater gifts, or am I content with the ones God has given me?

 

I don’t have the answers to all of those questions, but I am asking the Holy Spirit to show me my own heart. I fear we have allowed much positive thinking and destiny-driven preaching to sway the church toward discontentment rather than embracing God’s true plan for our lives.

 

In his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren tells us that we were born for a purpose—God’s purpose in putting us on planet earth. God knew beforehand what gifts and calling we would have; He knew in advance our circle of influence, our level of education and opportunity; and He knew what we would accomplish during our time here. In fact, God saw it all before we were born. “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

 

So are we actually doing what He purposed for us or are we off on some detour doing our own thing? If He determined that our influence would be a small circle rather than far reaching, will we be content? If He decided that we would be a simple servant doing the Father’s will rather than great in the eyes of the world, will we be content with that also? What if He has chosen for us to suffer for His glory?

 

I don’t have the answers to those questions either, but I do know that many Christians, including me, always seems to be reaching for something greater—yet never quite getting there. Ever wonder why greatness eludes us? If God chooses that our lives bring glory to Him as an ordinary person—not some superstar—shouldn’t we submit to His choosing?

 

I think the best response to What Do I Really Want from God, is this:  I want God to show me His ordained purpose for my life and then help me be content with whatever He has chosen for me—not something great that I’ve dreamed up on my own. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

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What Does God Really Want From Us? July 12, 2017

Have you ever thought about what God wants from you? I know I have. When we listen to various preachers, teachers, and authors, we’ll likely get a lot of different answers. They will vary from things like “dying to self” to “crawling up in God’s lap and calling Him Daddy.” The first one makes us squirm and the second makes us squirm, too. No one wants to die to self because it’s painful, and many of us don’t know God well enough to crawl up in His lap.

 

This morning I asked myself that question and the Holy Spirit dropped a rather simple answer into my heart. It is so simple that we only need to look at our earthly fathers to confirm it. Whether a heavenly Father or an earthly father, what they want is for their children to make good choices in life. Making good choices today will ultimately result in a life that glorifies either father, heavenly or earthly.

 

The Bible gives us a great story about making choices—the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:39-42. I suspect there’s not a woman alive that hasn’t heard that story—you know where Martha is killing herself in the hot kitchen and Mary is relaxing at the feet of Jesus. We mostly relate to Martha because we’ve been there and done that. But Jesus had strong words for Miss Martha. He said that Mary had chosen “what is better” and it would not be taken away from her.1

 

Let’s analyze their choices. Martha was concerned about much serving. Sounds like a good choice to me, especially if I’m having lunch at her house. But her little sister made a different choice to sit at the feet of the Savior and learn from Him. Surely much work ranks higher than just sitting, doesn’t it? Did Jesus really mean that spending time with Him is more important than serving others? But what about church work—wouldn’t it rank higher? Probably not even church work, or ministry, or missions. I seriously believe Jesus is telling us here that nothing trumps time with Him.

 

If that is the case, then we can determine that time in His presence outranks all other activities, bar none. But there is good reason behind Jesus’ position. You see, there are great benefits that come along with making the choice that Mary made and Jesus so adamantly defended. It’s like putting the oxygen mask on yourself before putting it on your child in an airplane emergency. You’ll be of little help in saving your child’s life, if you haven’t taken measures to save your own.

 

Jesus knows that if we will sit at His feet and drink in the spiritual refreshment that comes from being in His presence, we are then—and only then—equipped to go out there and love the world He sent us to reach. And that, my friend, is a life that will glorify our Father!

 

Think about it like this: With one simple daily decision to spend time with God, we can give Him what He wants most from us—to make good choices. While I am clearly aware that we can’t reduce pleasing God to one single choice, it is a place to start. In fact, we can bring a smile of approval to our Father’s face before this day is over. Go ahead, be a Mary and sit for a spell! ~ Janie Kellogg

1Luke 10: 38-42 ~ As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

More Than Physical Therapy May 4, 2017

Filed under: Christian Growth — Janie Kellogg @ 8:34 pm
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It felt really strange, almost as if my head had been gently detached from my body and laid to the side. I was learning to trust my highly-recommended physical therapist as she tried to put my head back where it belongs. This was my fourth therapy session, and each session was growing in intensity. I wondered what she would do next.

 

Apparently, I had injured my neck at some time in the past, and now my head was off-center. It had been this way for so long that my new center felt more comfortable than my true center. Yet, my charming young therapist was determined to get my head on straight once again.

 

She worked the muscles on either side of my neck, removing the knots that had developed. A stretch here and a pull there—attempting to relieve the pain I had endured over the previous four months. She said the stretching and pulling would strengthen my neck muscles so they would eventually be strong enough to hold my head in the correct position. That should stop the pain.

 

As I contemplated her strategy, I thought about the spiritual struggle I was currently going through. Perhaps my physical condition and my spiritual condition had some things in common. Could it be that some of my spiritual muscles were sagging and I had found a more comfortable place to exist that wasn’t my true center? Things like slouching in prayer or slacking in Bible Study; yielding to selfish thoughts rather than Christlike ones, and even stooping to self-pity because things weren’t going my way in an important area of my life. Could it be that the worst symptom of all was my drooping faith to believe that God was still in control of my circumstances?

 

As my therapist continued to do her highly-skilled work on my neck, I smiled at God. I had caught a deeper meaning of my therapy session on that beautiful spring morning. Yes, my neck muscles were being strengthen to do what they were designed to do, and now I clearly saw that it was time to strengthen my spiritual muscles as well—the muscles that keep me on true center—true to God and true to my inner being—a woman after God’s own heart. Who knows, maybe some of that pain will go away, too! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

The Goal Posts Have Moved May 28, 2015

Redefine the gospel—that’s the best way I know how to describe what God has done in my life over the past ten years. While I’m not sure I can explain what I thought it was before, I do know that today I see the gospel differently.

The goals for my life are no longer to be healthy, wealthy and wise. They are not for people to like me, accept me, or support me. In short, the goal posts have moved. Things I once thought important are not important to me now.

It began in 2005 when God led me to attend a Christian writer’s conference. I came home from that conference with this sobering revelation: I’m not sure I even know what the gospel is; but I do know that I don’t have much of anything to write about.

Looking back, my evaluation of myself was right on. As a result of that conference, I discovered the writings of Philip Yancey, Andrew Murray, Henri Nouwen, Amy Carmichael, and many others. After ten years of delving deep into those writings, my mindset about the gospel has clearly changed, and so have my goals.

A few days ago I decided to write down the things that are important to me now—my new goals you might say. Please don’t misunderstand—I am not listing things I have attained. In fact, I may never attain them; but they are the things I press toward.1

    • To please my Heavenly Father in every word, thought, and action.
    • To obey the Holy Spirit in all things, every time He speaks to me.
    • To be humble before God and others, choosing the lowest position.
    • To bring glory to God and God alone.
    • To love His church, striving to bring unity in the Body of Christ.
    • To love the unlovable so they will know and feel the love of God.
    • To be willing for God to use me whenever and however He chooses.
    • To give more than I have ever given, withholding nothing from my Lord.
    • To give the Holy Spirit full possession of whole being—my house as His house.
    • To be aware of His presence inside me and commune with Him continuously.
    • To guard my heart so there is never a bitter drop of anything to spill out.2
    • To seek for every ounce of pride in my heart to be eradicated.
    • To hide His Word in my heart, committing it to memory.
    • To hide my life so completely in Christ that others see Him, not me.
    • To make every day a day with Jesus. (A day without Jesus is a day wasted.)
    • To be aware of His opinions on life, politics, and people rather than my own.
    • To have ears that hear and eyes that see from God’s perspective.
    • To be courageous enough to share the Good News with everyone I meet.
    • To be bold enough to speak truth whenever truth is challenged.
    • To keep the main thing, the main thing. (Eternity)
    • To accept what He chooses to give, rather than what I want to receive.
    • To remember that my sin caused Jesus to suffer and die. (Own my part in His death)
    • To cherish the dust at the foot of the cross.3 (a most holy place)
    • To be determined to live for Him and to die for Him.

 

This was a great exercise. I recommend that you do it too, and see what your list looks like. You might be surprised.

Today, I believe I am much closer to knowing the true gospel. I am also much closer to having something to write about. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.1

Small footprintKey Quote: “St. Paul counted the loss of all things as nothing that he might know Him who he already knew; and the soul, suddenly illuminated by some fresh outshining of the knowledge of the love of God shown forth on Calvary, does not stop to measure how much or how little it knew of that love before. Penetrated, melted, broken before that vision of love, it feels that indeed all it ever knew was nothing, less than nothing.”4 ~ Amy Carmichael

1Philippians 3:14; 2Amy Carmichael, If, CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA, Pg. 35; 3Ibid, Pg. 53; 4Ibid, forward.

 

I Can Do This! May 1, 2015

Many of us are familiar with the story “The Engine that Could” and love the psychology behind those famous words, “I think I can, I think I can!” We have been taught from childhood that if we think we can do something, then we can. And we’ve carried that mindset on into life, believing nothing is out of reach for those who apply themselves.

 

This early self-esteem teaching has also found its way into our Christian beliefs. By our words and actions, we proclaim: “I can do this!” We often quote the words of the Apostle Paul with the main emphasis on the “I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.1

 

There is one problem here—God is not looking for people who can do this; rather, He is actually looking for those who cannot. The Bible tells us: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”2

 

While Moses was leading God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, the Red Sea miracle was for one purpose—to show the power of God. It had nothing to do with the power of Moses, or Aaron, or certainly the frightened Children of Israel—but the magnificent power of the Almighty.3

 

The fact is that God purposely led the Children of Israel into an impossible predicament where they could do nothing for themselves.4 Nothing within their own power could deliver them from that set of circumstances. They clearly could not do this! It would take nothing less than a miracle of God to rescue them.5

 

Do you ever wonder why God doesn’t allow your life to stay nice and normal? Believe it or not, in spite of our early training in self-esteem, the problem actually lies within the statement: “I can do this!”

 

Leaving the normal—our comfort zones—will always require us to be stretched. While we don’t like the stretching, it is the trips outside the normal that place us smack-dab in the middle of circumstances where God is able to show Himself strong. How else could God use our lives to display His power if you and I always lived up to the self-esteemed position of “I can do this?”

 

The short answer is—He can’t. Many people can handle the status quo—the unsaved, the unbeliever, the atheist—all can do this. Without challenges, the whole world can do this. But that is not what God’s children are called to do. We are called and chosen to show the world His power and His greatness.6

 

We will find ourselves questioning God when difficult times come our way if we do not understand His purpose. The complaining Children of Israel certainly didn’t; in fact, they literally thought it would be better to go back into slavery than to walk outside their comfort zone! Sound like anyone you know?

 

If our lives are yielded to the purposes of God, we should expect to find ourselves in impossible situations on a regular basis so that His power can be shown to the world through our powerlessness.

 

That is the very substance miracles are made of: Our weakness + God’s power = Glory to God! And the formula works every time.

 

If you and I desire to be used to bring glory to God, we must be willing to be s—t—r—e—t—c—h—e—d! Are you? If so, God is looking for you! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Small footprintKey Scripture: But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.4

 

Small footprintKey scripture: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.6

 

1Philippians 4:13; 22 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJ); 3Deuteronomy 4:37; 4Exodus 9:16 (NIV); 5 Exodus 14; 61 Peter 2:9 (NIV)

 

Revival ~ Will it come and when? April 8, 2014

Nearly all of us say that we want Revival to come. We want an outpouring of God’s Spirit on us and others. We’d like to see huge masses of lost humanity turn to God. Our nation could certainly use a sweeping move of God, resulting in a return to moral values, honesty, purity, and goodness. Who among us wouldn’t like to see our churches filled to overflowing with people hungry for God? Bring it on! But will it ever come and, if so, when?

 

Good questions that I would like the answers to. Just this morning I was seeking God for that very thing, and in His faithfulness, He spoke to my heart. Afterwards, I wasn’t so sure I really wanted to hear the answer, but I wrote it down just the same.

 

I had been thinking about what is the greatest battle in my life. I determined that it is not the struggle to climb the corporate ladder, to make great financial gain, to store up for retirement, to become a VIP (very important person), or to have a huge influence anywhere for that matter. The biggest battle in my life is overcoming self. We must remember who self is or none of this will make sense: Self is Satan’s representative in my life and yours, inherited from the fall in the Garden of Eden.

 

Please bear with me for another writing on self. It’s not that I’m obsessed with the notion of dying-to-self; but since the awareness of who self is, I have gained clearer understanding of many of the gospel writings. It has been revolutionary, to say the least.

 

Now back to the garden—I can’t help but wonder if Eve had known who the serpent was, would she have made a different choice? If she had known that she was dealing with God’s greatest enemy, disguised as a serpent (the most beautiful of God’s creation) would she have even given him the time of day?

 

What about us? What about me? How often in a day’s time do I listen to God’s greatest enemy by way of his representative inside me? Is that not high treason on my part? Does it not align me on the wrong side of things? How can I knowingly choose to fight on the opposing side of right? Or am I like Eve, I don’t know who I am talking to so I take the bait? And like Eve, if I had just known it was Satan, I might have made a different choice. Really?

 

O God, open our eyes and let us see who it is that we are listening to! Is he not clothed as an angel of light? Does he have some slick story for me about how mistreated and abused I have been, and how, if only I would listen to him, things would get better? Will I look back and think with regret “If I had only known I was listening to a deceiver!”

 

It is actually quite simple to sort out who we are listening to: If our thoughts feed or benefit self in any way, we are listening to the voice of God’s enemy! Satan’s representative is actively trying to get us to fall for selfish lies and untruths. I am quite certain that we are listening.

 

Only you and I can determine if we are going to continue to listen to God’s enemy and our enemy. If we continue to feed on thoughts that lead to accusations, resentment, unforgiveness, ugliness, hatred, and evil of any kind—WE ARE BEING TRICKED!  We have yielded our members as instruments of unrighteousness (Romans 6:13), and we have aligned ourselves on the wrong side of right. What we need most is not sympathy from our friends, understanding for those who feel our pain, or for God to fix a bunch of other folks. We need a trip to the foot of the cross for repentance while we plead for a heaping portion of God’s great mercy!

 

We are more valuable to the Kingdom of God, not when we know the answer or preach the answer or write the answer, but when we BECOME the answer. How long has it been since we have been on our knees repenting before God for yielding our members as instruments of unrighteousness and begging for God’s forgiveness; actively and purposefully forgiving others; and then if necessary, asking those we have offended for their forgiveness as well?

 

God made it very clear to me this morning: When this happens among My people, revival will come.

 

We say that we long for REVIVAL and REST. Please don’t miss the word rest here. Yet, God offers it to us—if we are willing to do the hard work of repentance. But wait, God said that we don’t truly want it:

 

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength; but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30:15)

 

The answers to the questions: “Will revival come and when?” are clearly up to us—God’s people—not the unsaved, or the ungodly, or those sinners. I know where I’m spending the afternoon. “Oh, the cross; oh, the cross; the cross is my confession.”1

 

Thank You, Dear God, for not giving us rest until we have done what you require of us! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Kari Jobe, The Cross is My Confession

 

 

Call a Spade a Spade March 27, 2014

If I sound like a broken record, I am. Yet in my search to discover the mysteries of God, including the promised rest in Hebrews 4, I am continually led to the same subject: death to self. An insight I recently gleaned from Andrew Murray’s writings brought some clarity to the issue that has perhaps baffled Christians for centuries. Murray, the Christian icon from South Africa, clearly believed that self is Satan’s representative within each of us.

 

If this is true, then I must ask: “Why would I yield to Satan’s representative rather than Christ’s representative, the Holy Spirit?” I doubt that I intentionally do so, yet I find myself doing it all the time. However, with this revelation, it should be easier to identify just who it is that I am supposed to be denying.

 

Consider this thought: Satan does his work in me through his representative in me—self. Light-bulb flash here! That concept is difficult for Americans to accept because of the mindset that we are entitled to the American dream. If self wants something, especially something good and wholesome, we believe that we have a right to have it, do it, or say it.

 

While that could be true in this kingdom we call America, it is NOT true in the Kingdom of God. When we were born again by the Spirit, we changed kingdoms. We are no longer members of any earthly kingdom.

 

Jesus tried to explain what the Kingdom of God is like, and according to His teachings, God’s Kingdom and America are not the same thing. America, with its many freedoms, may be the closest thing on earth to the Kingdom of God, but it is far from being the same.

 

Being born into God’s Kingdom changes everything—it changes who we are, how we act, what we say, and most importantly, what we think! Kingdom-thinkers see things the world cannot see, and therefore, we have a new mindset about everything. As we grow in Christ, this difference will surface time and time again.

 

The biggest battle we face is that of changing our way of thinking to God’s way of thinking. Who is going to influence us from this time forward, now that we are members of the heavenly kingdom? Will Satan’s representative be the dominate influence, or will the Holy Spirit be the dominate influence? Andrew Murray encourages us to “Let every Christian make this his one great plea and aim: to have the mind that was in Christ Jesus.”1

 

Author Chris Tiegreen wrote: “We are not allowed to fit God’s mission in around our higher priorities….We may pursue the American dream or the Kingdom of God, but not both. We may give up everything or not give up everything, but not both. Christ compels us to choose.”2

 

We all love choices. America was built on the freedom to choose, most particularly religious freedom. We can choose to be a disciple of Christ, take up our cross and follow Him, or we can choose to follow after the things of the world. What we cannot do is both—or one could say, we cannot have our cake and eat it too!

 

Our problem is that we are confused about what following Christ actually means. The world has sold us a bill of goods that resembles the things of God, such as patriotism, prosperity, pleasure, health consciousness, and such, while in reality these are a mirage. Christ’s kingdom is not made up of such things. After a long discourse about the things of life that we tend to worry about, Jesus said, “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things….but seek his kingdom….”3

 

Step Number 1 to entering the rest of God is quite simple: Ask God to help us see ourselves in the light of His Word. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”4 Are we actually denying self anything?

 

Denying Satan’s representative in us is not optional if we want to enter God’s rest. I didn’t say it, Jesus did. And He will help us do it as soon as we get honest with God, and call a spade a spade. For no one will be allowed to enter that rest who tries to bring Satan’s representative along with them. Once we make the connection, rest is not far ahead. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Andrew Murray, The Believer’s Secret to the Abiding Presence, Pg. 120. 2Chris Tiegreen, One Year at His Feet Devotional, March 23; 3Luke 12:29-31; 4Matthew 16:24