Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Hungering for More ~ During COVID-19 April 23, 2020

In the midst of this Coronavirus, some of us find comfort in the humor of Facebook posts that tell us we’re not alone in the “eating more and enjoying it less” syndrome. It could be that we’re not really enjoying it less, but rather eating more and enjoying it more. In all honesty, sometimes eating is downright fun…and we will gladly pay the consequences later. But what we need most is to get through this crisis.

 

Whether our issue is quarantine related, sheer boredom, or something else, we eat because we want to eat. Good food…not-so-good food…mediocre food, you name it—we consume a lot of it. Yet sometimes the more one eats, the less satisfying it becomes, and after a while, food loses its appeal. More isn’t always better; and we long for the better! You know, like the stuff from our favorite restaurant.

 

I don’t know about you, but the thing I hunger for right now is more of God. The better thing. The real thing. The deeper thing. The richer thing. I want the good stuff. The regular stuff just isn’t doing it for me. The mediocre stuff is not satisfying me right now. I simply want more of God and I hunger after Him. In John 6:35 we read where Jesus boldly declared, “I am the bread of life.” Was He trying to tell us something?

 

 

I just know that I’m hungry. Has the pandemic caused this condition of hunger? Maybe. Could God in His infinite wisdom be behind it all? It’s highly possible. But regardless of the cause of this new hunger, its effects on my life are real. My heart screams for more. Yesterday’s high is too low for me now. And so is yesterday’s success, yesterday’s plan, and yesterday’s program. Even yesterday’s anointing isn’t enough. None of those are enough for today—in the midst of this current trial.

 

I no longer desire to pretend I have enough of Him. I no longer care to play-like everything is okay. I don’t want to play church, play worship, play praying, play giving, play serving, play anything! I have to have the real thing in order to ride out this storm.

 

I love the song that says, “Our hearts always hunger for more.”1 Does that describe you? Have you felt that deep-gnawing need in your innermost being? Perhaps you have sensed your spiritual gauge registering somewhere near the empty mark. I know that I have.

 

Is it possible that God has upset our applecart of pretense, so that our hearts will hunger for more of Him? I believe He has done that very thing with His people throughout history—in times like these…

~ when His people have forgotten Him.

~ when His people have eaten their fill on the things of the world rather than the things of God.

~ when His people have a form of worship that denies the power of the Holy Spirit.

~ when His people have allowed their religion, their church, or their denomination to become a substitute for God.

~ when hyper-grace teaching has caused them to lose their compass for truth and they’ve settled for mediocrity.

~ when His people believe they no longer have to repent of their sins.

~ when His people have seriously grieved the Holy Spirit.

 

While we spend another week or two (or more) sheltering at home, how about we invite the Holy Spirit to come freely and unhindered into our homes and hearts. Just what if we hunger for more of God and He answers that prayer? What if we repent of our sins and beg for mercy from our grace-filled Heavenly Father? What if the Holy Spirit were to set our hearts on fire and fill our hunger for more?

 

I fear that many modern-day Christians have a pseudo-religion—they have heard about God, read about God, and sing about God, but they have never experienced God. Perhaps a little self-test would help us determine where we are. Ask yourself these questions:

Have I ever experienced the presence of God?

Have I heard God speak to me—do I know His voice?

Do I know Him well enough to recognize when He is dealing with me?

When I read the Bible, does it seem like He is speaking directly to me?

 

If any of your answers are “No” or “I’m not sure,” simply begin to seek God and ask Him to make Himself real to you. He longs to do that very thing. He’s been waiting for you to get to that place where you long for Him, His presence, His voice, His dealing with you. And here in this crisis, we have the time away from the hum-drum of life to get real with God.

 

Our hungering for God will always lead us to a higher place in Him. He will always satisfy our deepest need when our hearts are right. Jesus’ own words tell us to “ask, seek, and knock”2 and it will be given to us. Believe that He will keep His Word!

 

Let’s not let this pandemic crisis slip away from us, but let us use this time of sheltering at home to expand and enhance our relationship with God. He invites us to come and feast at His table. The only prerequisite is “hunger for Him.”

 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our take away from COVID-19 was a closer, more real and intimate relationship with God? Oh Lord, may “our hearts always hunger for more!” That is my prayer for all of us. ~ Janie

 

1Dawn Rodgers and Eric Wyse, Wonderful, Merciful Savior, 2001

2Luke 11:9

 

Now He Is Near September 13, 2018

On Sunday the Pastor used two really big words: transcendent and immanent. I thought I knew their meanings, but then decided a little research might help me better understand these terms as attributes of God. Transcendent describes God as being divine, heavenly, supernatural and otherworldly, while immanent defines Him as existing in and extending into all parts of the created universe—inherent within something. Still confused? I am.

 

Here is an illustration might help us get it. I remember watching a Sesame Street program years ago that attempted to teach my young grandson the difference between the words far and near. I expect that many of you can picture it as well: one shaggy character moves several feet away from another shaggy character, and in a deep, gruff voice pronounces the word “far.” Next, he comes right up close to his friend and pronounces the word “near.” He repeats this amusing activity over and over: “Far—near; far—near,” until he is out of breath.

 

In very real terms, it is a picture of what God has done for us. Once He was far away from us; in fact, the Bible tells us that we were alienated from Him. But then things changed! This magnificent, divine, all-powerful God did the unthinkable—He came into our world as one of us! In other words, He came close to where we are and is no longer other-worldly. Through His Son, Jesus, He has come very near—even so close as to live within our hearts.

 

 

Although He was far away at one time—now He is near.

 

It’s still an amazing thing to me that God, the Creator of the Universe, would love me that much—to send His only Son into this sin-infested world to find me! I think that I may never get over such an unimaginable fact, and I hope I don’t. I pray this mind-boggling truth never become commonplace—for it took me a long time to believe that God did it for me.

 

After years of searching for the transcendent God, my tiny mustard seed of faith began to grow and I called out to Him to come near. And Jesus did that very thing—He came to me. I was 23 years old at the time, and more than once I had walked church isles, prayed with preachers and counselors, cried at altars, and been water baptized. But it wasn’t until the day I asked Him to come and at the same time believed in my heart He would, that I experienced the immanent Christ move into my life. The Apostle Paul described that transition like this:

 

Don’t forget that you Gentiles (that’s you and me) used to be outsiders….In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.  Ephesians 2:11-13 (NLT)

 

Transcendent—immanent.

 

Far—near.

 

Have you ever had this amazing life-altering experience that moves us from being far away from God to being very near to Him? If not, invite Him right now to come near to you. He is longing…looking…and waiting…for you to ask.

 

Without fail, it will be the best decision of your life. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Living the Life I Intend September 5, 2018

The words of Charles Krauthammer—the popular journalist and Pulitzer Prize winner—grabbed me and won’t let go. I hope they grab you too.

 

A few weeks before his death, he wrote a letter to Fox News stating that he would not be returning to the Special Report program because of his failing health. He ended with these words:

 

“I leave this life with no regrets….I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.” ~ Charles Krauthammer

 

Am I living the life I intend? Are you?

 

A few mornings ago I walked outside with my husband as he was leaving. He pointed out something in my flowerbed that I had not seen—a miniature rose bush with one tiny rose in full bloom. How had I missed seeing it before? Or better yet, how had I not trampled it down while watering the shrubs nearby?

 

I was actually surprised to see it growing there, since I had pulled up a rose bush from that very spot last fall. The full-grown bush had outgrown the space, and the pesky twig girdlers had all but stripped it of any branches. I decided it had to go, and there would be no more rose bushes in this bed.

 

Yet, there it was—this perfect sampling of a rose bush that had overcome the odds—including a gardener who wanted it gone, a fresh layer of pine bark piled high, and zero protection from big rubber boots. It certainly had received no special care or prime growing conditions. Actually, it wasn’t wanted at all. Except, that is, by its Creator.

 

The Creator creates rose bushes to grow, reach upward toward Him, and produce blooms that turn into beautiful roses. In fact, if this tiny specimen of a rose bush never amounts to anything else, today it is living the life that it was intended to live—and bringing a smile to the face of its Creator. And that’s all that is required of it.

 

 

Oh dear readers, can we grasp that the life God intends for us to live is really all that matters?

 

Our broken world has a warped definition for greatness. It tells us we have to strive for big dreams and lucrative careers. Perhaps that’s why we struggle to find our place—for the one we’re in now just doesn’t seem great enough. We are often insecure about our not-so-great gifts, talents, callings, and we’re left to think that surely we were meant to be more, do more, and excel more.

 

Yet, our Creator God doesn’t ask us to be great in the world’s eyesbut in His eyes—doing what He created us to do.

 

Our Heavenly Father simply asks us to be what He created us to be. Then He offers to guide our desires and talent toward the place where He needs us to go, and asks only that we trust Him to guide us correctly. When we do find our place, we can put down roots, begin to grow, reach upward toward Him, and bloom—right there.

 

Henri J. M. Nouwen wrote, “Spiritual greatness has nothing to do with being greater than others. It has everything to do with being as great as each of us can be.”

 

As a child of God, my intentions must be aligned with what God wants from me—a life that brings a smile to His face. That could mean I need to turn loose of some dreams of my own making; or some goals that are unrealistic; or perhaps some visions of grandeur that others have had for me.

 

Jesus said, “For I always do those things that please Him.” And that should be enough for us, too. It might even relieve some stress from our lives.

 

Now that I think about it, that is the life I intend to live. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Somewhere Around Half-Past Midnight ~ July 18, 2018

I’m not sure of the exact time, but somewhere around half-past midnight the Lord spoke to me. He entered my swirling, crowded mind and said words I longed to hear. So many other nights I had struggled with the same dilemma, but this night was different.

 

Isn’t God always waiting to enter our world, yet it can only happen when we allow Him to. When He comes to us, He will always in all ways bring newness.

Newness is challenging to most of us. Actually, we prefer to hang on to what we think we know—the way we’ve always thought and always done. The mindset that we can’t change anything holds us captive and inaccessible to that newness the Holy One longs to bring to us. The very newness we need is indeed being held back by the oldness. Why is it that we love the old so much?

~the old comfortable way

~the old easier way

~the old acceptable way

~the old habitual way

~the old normal way

~the old approval of others way

~the old—the old—the old.

 

Clearly the old keeps us from the new. It presses hard against our minds in order to push out new ideas, fresh thoughts, or different patterns so that WE WILL STAY WHERE WE ARE.

 

Yet, God’s Word speaks loud to this issue in Isaiah 43:18-19, “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

 

My heart cries, “O God, I want to see it, but I fear I’ll never get there!”

I seriously wonder how I will ever be able to see it with looking so much at what is here standing in my way. Can’t there be a compromise? Surely there can be part old and part new.

 

How can I move into that which is new for me unless I keep some small hold on what is—well, more comfortable? Can’t I take baby-steps while still grasping my steady past?

 

His gentle voice assures me that I can do this thing—this newness—if I will take His hand and let Him lead me to higher ground, a broader place. “It may not be familiar now, but it will be later,” I hear the still small voice speak.

 

Hebrews 11:8 tells of another saint who faced newness. “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.”

 

Abraham went without knowing where he was going! Really? That shoe could fit here—the not knowing part. God knows I have such a need to know. And what if this new place feels shaky, like Jello under my feet; or life-threatening like the waves that overcame Peter; or painful like the risky road of the Apostle Paul?

 

He assures me that my faith can pass this test if I will keep my eyes glued to the One holding my hand. That I can launch out into these unchartered waters of newness if I trust the One who bids me “come,” yet at the same time turn loose of the old that bids me “stay.”

 

Just as sure as the sun rose over the Kiamichi Mountains east of my house come morning, somewhere around half-past midnight I surrendered: “Yes, Lord, I will follow you into this newness.”

 

There’s just nothing in the world that compares to laying my head down on my pillow, falling fast asleep with heavenly peace encircling my heart, and waking in the morning to the newness of God fully alive in me.

 

How about you? Is God bidding you to walk into some newness that you have been resisting? ~ Janie Kellogg

 

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. Matthew 14:23 NLT