Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

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

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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

 

Who’s the Boss? March 6, 2013

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

 

The New ME! February 27, 2013

There is a huge war going on and it’s not the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else in the world. Actually, it’s much closer to home. The war that prevails, that is the most concern to my life, is inside me!

 

Like most believers, I was taught that once I am saved, I’m saved; that Jesus loves me forever; and I’m on my way to heaven. Although assured of making it to heaven when I die, I didn’t expect it to feel like I’d get there by the skin of my teeth, the hair on my chinny-chin-chin, fighting every inch of the way. Why does it seem as if I am in a battle for my life?

 

Because I am—the battle for my spiritual life—the life of the new ME!

 

It was a joyous event when I accepted Christ and learned that my old fleshly nature had been overruled, dethroned, and replaced. Yet, while my fallen-from-God’s-intended nature is completely, officially, and legally no longer in control of me,1 I still have this ongoing debate with my flesh—the old ME!

 

The fact is I have an enemy that I didn’t have before I accepted Christ. Until now, my own fallen nature didn’t have to fight for survival since it was already in control. But now that I have a new life living on the inside, the old ME is trying to make a comeback. And the war is on—I am at war with myself!

 

Few Christians are prepared for the war they will inevitably face—the old ME verses the new ME.   In case no one spelled it out: self doesn’t die easy. Here is one very important fact has been left out of much Christian teaching: Now that I am saved, it’s up to ME to appropriate this life-changing truth into my everyday life.

 

But the Apostle Paul didn’t leave it out. In Ephesians 3:16 he prayed for me and you about this very thing. He prayed that “out of His (God’s) glorious riches, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being.”  That is the same inner being Paul described in Romans 7:22 that wants to obey God—that’s the new ME—the newly born-again life of Jesus.

 

But why are so many Christians struggling to win a war that has already been legally won? Not only are they struggling to win the war, some have lost battle after battle and have the scars to prove it. The casualties of this war are huge. Many Christians give up, drop out, and never expect to win the fight.

 

Consider this: How many Christians actually know how to defeat the enemy of their souls? Know how to put the enemy to flight? Bring every thought into captivity? Love their enemies? Love their neighbor as themselves? Submit to one another? Forgive seventy times seven? (Are you kidding!) Crucify their flesh? Turn the other check? Go the second mile? In everything give thanks? Need I go on?

 

My point is not to call attention to the failures of Christians. My point is this: By the way we live it appears this gospel isn’t powerful enough to do what the Bible says it will do. Do we believe in a powerful gospel or a powerless gospel?

 

The problem is not with our gospel—it with us—we have failed to appropriate (take, seize, adopt, usurp, grab) the very truth of the gospel we profess to believe.

 

Perhaps we have not yet figured out how to be strengthened with power through His Spirit that is required to win this battle with our legally dethroned, stubborn self, as Paul prayed we would.

 

I wonder if many modern-day believers even know this power is available. And if so, have they learned how to tap into it?  Be assured that God did not intend for us to be lacking in power. He made every provision for His children to live a victorious and powerful Christ-like, Christ-centered, Spirit-filled life.

 

It is time to unwrap and expose the truth about how to appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives. If you haven’t joined the journey, it’s not too late! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Treasure in Earthen Vessels, “My Faulty Default” – February 19, 2013

 

My Faulty Default February 19, 2013

Of course I know what “default” means:  someone failed to repay a loan. Right? Apparently not, in this age of modern technology, and I was behind the curve.

 

At thirty-five my first computer class was intimidating, because I knew little to nothing about the new technology taking over my world. Even my years of experience in business didn’t help. Not here; not now.

 

So what’s with this word “default?” I seriously thought I knew what it meant. Eventually, I figured out it was the original settings on this ingenious beast setting in front of me.

 

Computers are programmed to respond to a command the same way every time. For example, F1 is always Help; F3 is always Print. These default settings are built in at the factory, and they remain that way until someone, who understands the internal workings of computers, changes them do otherwise.

 

What does this have to do with me? A lot—since I too am programmed.

 

My default was originally set to live in perfect fellowship with God on this amazing Planet Earth. From the get-go I would be able to walk with Him, talk with Him, and understand His ways. Imagine that—God and me on the same page!

 

Then it happened, right there in the Garden of Eden, my original setting was changed in a moment when Eve chose to experience evil. She had already experienced good since everything around her was good—God had called it so.

 

When Satan tempted her to eat of the tree of good and evil, she made a really bad choice.1

 

Go ahead and blame Eve. That’s the easy thing to do. Yet thousands of years later in my own garden of life, I did the same.

 

Because of Eve’s choice, my default (along with that of the entire human race) was reset to obey my sin nature. In other words, my fallen-from-God’s-intended-nature is now in control of ME.2 One could say that I have a faulty default.

 

So there it is—better known as self—reigning on the throne of my life and making my decisions. I am a slave to it3 and will continue to be until someone, who knows how to reprogram ME, resets my default.

 

In the meantime, self is looking out for ME. You know—it’s all about ME. I’m on guard for anyone who might hurt ME, take advantage of ME, do ME wrong, or give ME the short end of the stick. I also have a keen eye for anything that would rob ME of the credit, compensation, or glory due ME. I know it sounds selfish, but I prefer to call it self-preservation.

 

Jesus talked about this very thing. He said saving my life isn’t the best route to take—that is, if I want to follow Him.4 No doubt, that decision will require a change in my current default setting.

 

I’ve tried to change it, all by myself—unsuccessfully. Haven’t we all tried—unsuccessfully?

 

I needed the skill of the Master Programmer, someone who understands the inner workings of human hearts. I needed Jesus, the Creator and Author of life. He was the only one who could successfully change my default.

 

And He did! Jesus changed it the day I believed in Him as my Lord and Savior. Completely. Officially. Legally.5

 

 In a moment, I became a new creation and the old sin-default-setting is now gone.6 I am returned to perfect fellowship with God just as He intended for me to be in the beginning.

 

But then, that is what Jesus does—He sets captives free. I am no longer a slave to my faulty default. No one else has to be either. ~ Janie Kellogg

1Genesis 3:4-7; 2Romans 7:17-20; 3Romans 7:14; 4Luke 9:23-24; 5Colossians 2:13-15; 62 Corinthians 5:17

 

There’s a Whole Lot of Living Going On January 29, 2013

It continues to baffle me. No matter how hard I try to conquer it, this slimy flesh of mine wiggles its way out of the squeeze, jumps off the anvil, and springs back into action. I have gone so far as to condemn it to death, taken it outside the city gates, and crucified it there. Killed it. Buried it. Done.

 

It didn’t last. I had to do it again. And again. And once more, again. A hundred times or more. I documented it in my journal, “Today, self died.” Months later I wrote again, “I attended a funeral today—mine!”

 

Defeat has triumphed over me. Victory has eluded me. It’s not that I don’t have the desire for self to die—I do. I really do. Perhaps I just don’t know how to kill it. A few years ago I wrote a profound statement: “I am going to die to self if it kills me!”

 

I suspect I am not alone. Actually, I’m certain I’m not, since the Apostle Paul described a similar battle in Romans 7. This chapter has perplexed me for years. I know it by heart. It is me—my testimony. Paul’s and mine. I still wonder how Paul could have described my exact struggle:

 

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do….As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me….So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law, but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (vs. 15-23; Emphasis added).

 

The only word in this chapter I must correct is the gender of the one with the heart-wrenching admission: “What a wretched woman I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (vs. 24)

 

The word wretched is a hard swallow. It means: worthless, base, despicable, inadequate, inferior, shameful, and vile. O despicable me! How perfectly that describes the way I feel when I mess up, fail my Lord, allow my flesh to rise from the dead, and once again do what I do not want to do.

 

There is, however, a vast difference in Paul’s outcome and my experience. He heralded his success in the very next verse: “Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (vs. 25) His victory statement is simple, concise, and matter of fact.

 

Why can’t it be like that for me? Why can’t I find the key that Paul found to unlock the mystery of conquering self? At least a million times I have asked that same question.

 

I must resolve the issue. I cannot move on until I do. I’ll keep asking and searching, searching and asking. There is an answer; yet not easily found because of the war waged against my finding it. I am sure God isn’t teasing me—He wants me to find the key to this age-old mystery.

 

I make one helpful discovery: There’s a whole lot of living going on between Romans 7:24 and Romans 7:25. There was for Paul, though his declaration of victory was so certain that he stated it as if it had just happened.

 

My Lord slowly grants seeing eyes. And I’m close—so close I can taste it, feel it, sense it, and believe it. I claim it as mine.

 

Join the journey. ~Janie Kellogg

 

The Inverted Gospel January 23, 2013

God wants me to get it. His heart longs for my eyes to see what He sees; my heart to feel what He feels; my mind to grasp the inverted gospel message of Jesus Christ that says to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). I struggle with this upside down thinking.

 

God’s intent from the beginning has been to make Himself known in the earth—His greatness, His love, His mercy, His ways—all of which are different than ours. And how did God plan to do that? Through the lives of His chosen people (Galatians 3:8).

 

“The world judges our Christ by our fruit,” said Cora Harris MacIlvary. If that is true, perhaps we need to inspect our fruit to see what we are producing. Do we present an accurate picture of Christ to the world around us?

 

Some fruit inspection guidelines could be these:

Jesus said to humble ourselves—we remain proud.

He said to forgive others—we hang on to our hurts.

He said to love others as ourselves—we despise those with different religious or political views.

He said to judge not—we accuse, convict, and condemn with one sweeping thought.

He said to be merciful—we want mercy, but refuse to give it.

 

Sometimes I question who Jesus will be talking to when He says: “Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) Will it be me?

 

Jesus told the disciples that “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). What part of deny do I not understand? Could this be what Jesus meant by deny: “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6:29-30)?

 

God truly wants His children to get it—to grasp the meaning of the gospel:  God loves sinners. His heart is breaking for them because they are lost, and for us because we don’t get it. Sometimes I fear that I am part of the problem instead of part of the solution, as Jesus intended for me to be.

 

It may be time for a spiritual checkup:  Am I living a Christ-centered life that reflects the merciful kindness of a loving God, or a self-centered life as one who has been duped into believing that I have rights that must not be violated—the right to my own way, my possessions, my opinions, my attitudes, or as Oswald Chambers said, “the right to myself?”

 

Jesus clearly said to deny myself and follow Him. I am certain He meant it. Yet, there is a gap between my thinking and Jesus’ instructions. There’s even more between my life and Jesus’ selfless example.

 

God is searching for those who will reflect the truth about Him. And when He finds them, I believe He will pour His Spirit into them with great measure so He can to make Himself known to a dark and desperate world.

 

Am I willing to deny myself of my rights and be one of them? Just thinking…… ~Janie Kellogg

 

“Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers. Let our hearts be led by mercy; help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.” ~ Casting Crowns

 

Note: All scripture references are NIV.