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.”

 

Oh How He Loves February 14, 2017

Today is a day to celebrate L-O-V-E. We can have a lot of loves in our lives, but if we don’t know the Lover of our souls, we haven’t yet known what it is to be truly loved! There is nothing that can compare to the L-O-V-E that Jesus has for us. Take some time today to whisper “I love you” to the Lover of your soul. He is waiting to hear your voice, and even more so, He is waiting to hear your heart.

Below are the lyrics to the song “Oh How He Loves.” It is a beautiful love story between God and His children. Read it slowly. Take time to feel the emotion in the words. Grasp their meaning. Are you a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy? Do you realize how beautiful He is? Are you drawn by the grace in His eyes? If you have time, pull up a YouTube version and listen to the David Crowder Band sing it.

Oh How He Loves

He is jealous for me.
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And, oh, how He loves us, oh.
Oh, how He loves us.
How He loves us all.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

That He loves us.
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves. ~ David Crowder Band

oh-how-he-loves-us

Wishing all of you a Happy Valentine’s Day! I trust that you will live loved today, because you are loved with an everlasting love. Oh, how He loves you! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

I’m Fed Up! If there is an action plan for Christians, I want to know what it is April 22, 2016

Weary, tired out, worn down, and fed up! That’s me. I can no longer watch the political hullabaloo being paraded before my eyes and ears by the news media. I’m done! Plain. Simple. Done.

I have been collecting my thoughts lately about how I should face the dire predicament in which our nation finds itself—you know, from a personal perspective. I recently determined to read as many articles and social media posts written by men and women of God and people of integrity as time allows. I prefer not to buy into conspiracy theories or doom day rhetoric, and my deepest desire is to know what God has to say to my heart. If there is such a thing as an action plan for Christians, I want it to know what it is.

Our frustration with America’s problems has reached a boiling point, and it is that frustration that fuels our anger. We can see that our elected politicians are not capable, or perhaps willing, to fix any of those problems, so our goal is to repair everything in the November 2016 election. You know—let’s make America great again. But our hope for a change for the better is being vested in a man or a woman—the one we feel has the wisdom, courage and stamina to take on this huge task. Unfortunately, as the struggle to find the right person continues, our hope diminishes day by day.

Pastor Andy Stanley from Atlanta, Georgia said, “We are looking to men to solve a spiritual problem.” Light bulb time! Of course, we are. And none of them, I repeat not one of them, can fix America’s spiritual bankruptcy. It began many years ago and has elevated to alarming proportions, in spite of the warnings given us by God.

As I have turned my attention to what God has to say rather than what the national media has to say, I have come to a conclusion. There is only one answer to our problem: God’s people must actually do what He says to do:

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked way, then I will hear from heaven and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

There it is—the remedy for our spiritual sickness. As a nation we have turned away from God; we have broken His laws; we have laughed in His face; and we snubbed our noses at Him. Our sins wreck to high heaven. We need to repent for our nation, and God has promised that if we will do that, then He will hear and heal.

A few days ago Franklin Graham said that God isn’t looking for the masses to call upon Him, but for His chosen people to call. And it doesn’t take a great number of people to move the hand of God—it takes some who do what He said to do. Are you willing to be of them? Am I?

I plan to attend the Decision America Tour in Oklahoma City on April 27th when Franklin Graham gathers with Oklahomans at our State Capitol at 12:00 noon to pray for America. It’s a call to prayer, and I believe it is a big step in the right direction.

What if, over the course of the next six months that instead of watching the news, we use our time to bombard heaven on behalf of our nation? Imagine how powerful that could be if all of those who bear His name would do the same.

I believe that together we can do more. I also believe it is our only chance for survival. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “God will make a way, where there seems to be no way.” ~ Don Moen

 

What Difference Can One Person Make? ~ A Message of Hope December 4, 2015

When I look at the condition of our nation, I fear that our culture has fallen into the deep abyss. Efforts to simply stop the erosion appear to be in vain. Lawlessness prevails. As Christians, we try to live our convictions and share our faith; yet, it seems that we are making little impact on the world around us.

Many Christians believe that God’s patience will soon run out and His judgement will come upon America. But what can ordinary people without a platform and a microphone do about it? We tend to think it’s simply too far gone at this point, maybe even hopeless. Why not just forget about it and go on with life? Seriously, what difference can one person make?

Recently, I found a scripture in Jeremiah 18:11 that encouraged me. Read what God told Jeremiah to tell the people of Judah about His coming judgment:

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I am shaping a disaster and working out a plan against you. Turn back, each of you from his evil way; correct your habits and change your actions for the better.’”

The culture of God’s chosen nation had also fallen into a deep abyss, and Jeremiah was told to warn them of impending judgment. Yet, (I’m so glad God always includes a yet) God gave them something each one could do to remedy the situation—or we might say, be a part of the solution. You see, what each one does can make a difference with God.

So what was it that each one could do? Let’s look again: the Lord said, “Turn away from your evil ways and correct your habits and change your actions.”

When it seems that our nation is beyond hope, God says we can do something about it—we can change our own ways. He didn’t say change the ways of our leaders, or of Congress, or of Hollywood. He didn’t say change the ways of our church or our families. He didn’t say to change the ways of anyone else, but “You turn, you correct, and you change your ways.”

Ouch! It is always easier to blame the mess on others. We prefer to complain about what is wrong with everyone around us. But if we listen closely we can hear God say: “You can make a difference.”

Did the people in Jeremiah’s day accept that challenge? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Read what Jeremiah wrote in verse 12: “But they will say, ‘That is hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act in accordance with the stubbornness of his evil heart.’”

They may have heard what God said with their ears, but they didn’t hear with their hearts. Instead, they deemed it hopeless. They chose rather to follow their own plans and evil hearts.

What about you and me? Will we hear God’s Word with our hearts, or will we pronounce it hopeless and stubbornly follow our own plans? I hope not. Rather, I hope we will look within and ask the Holy Spirit to show us what we need to change about ourselves. I challenge each one of us to be courageous enough to do this.

Did you know that God does change His mind? Don’t miss the powerful footprints below, and may we start to believe that each one of us can make a difference in the here and now.  ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: “Who knows but that the Lord may relent of His plan to destroy us.  And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the Lord looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, ‘It is enough; now restrain your hand.’” 1 Chronicles 21:15

Small footprintKey Quote: “All changes—spiritual revivals, a turnaround in a church, a barren life now bearing fruit—begin when there is a discontentment that say, “I refuse to accept this.”~ Jim Cymbala, “Storm,” Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2014, Pg. 38.

 

Preparedness ~ How to keep your heart from failing for fear September 21, 2015

The days we are living in feel really scary to me. If you are a news watcher, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the whole world is in chaos. There are so many problems and seemingly few solutions. And I’m not talking about small problems—I speak of earth-shattering events like thousands of people being slaughtered or displaced from their homes, the rise of unprecedented lawlessness, and the erosion of commonly held values.

But then Jesus warned us it would be like this. Isn’t our Lord wonderful to always tell His children ahead of time what to expect. I think of the time the Lord came to bring judgment to Sodom and Gomorrah, and He said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” We know He didn’t hide it from Abraham, and even allowed Abraham to intercede for his nephew, Lot.

It is the same today. Over 2000 years ago Jesus explained what to expect in the last days. Read Matthew 24 and Luke 21. He said there would be “Men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth….” (Luke 21:26) If you haven’t read those chapters lately, you must do so. But one thing you must not do is be among those who hearts fail them for fear (terror). You ask, “But how?”

Preparedness can mean the difference between hearts failing and not failing. In 2010, I began to seek the Lord about how to prepare for the difficult times coming to America. You see, when the Y2K event came along, my family was fully prepared to handle most anything. We had stored up food, water, fuel, and everything imaginable to get through months or perhaps years of hard times, if necessary.

However, when the year 2000 arrived, nothing happened. The underlying problem was that computers were not capable of processing dates beyond December 31, 1999. Yet, because utility companies, airlines, governments, states, and local entities PREPARED in advance, no computers failed. I know this for a fact because I worked for an electric utility company at the time. The Y2K Task Force had fixed the problem long before the morning of January 1, 2000 dawned. It wasn’t that the possibility of disaster wasn’t real, because it was; but proactive people did what was necessary to head off any breakdowns in our electronic systems. Thankfully, we didn’t need our extra supplies. However, nothing went to waste as it was given away or used up during the next year.

I would like to propose to you, as believers in God who know that perilous times are ahead, to be proactive and prepare yourself!

While seeking the Lord in 2010, the Holy Spirit spoke this to me: “The best way you can prepare is to prepare spiritually.” I have done that with every fiber of my being, and I am fully confident that as for me and my house we are spiritually ready. However, we are also storing up a few extra quantities of water and food sources, although nothing compared to what we did in 1999. I simply do not want to be unprepared such that my heart might fail because of fear. Preparedness can save us from panic.

My newly penned definition for peace is: Peace is not the absence of trouble, but the calm assurance that in the end we win. I trust that you will prepare yourselves for the really scary days ahead so you can face them with calm assurance. First and most importantly, find peace with God, and then trust Him to take care of His own. He may or may not lead to you do anything more; but if He does, do it.

I love the words to Chris Tomlin’s song “I Will Rise,” because they define so well the destiny of the Redeemed:

There’s a peace I’ve come to know

Though my heart and flesh may fail

There’s an anchor for my soul

I can say “It is well.”

 

Jesus has overcome

And the grave is overwhelmed

The victory is won

He is risen from the dead.

 

There’s a day that’s drawing near

When this darkness breaks to light

And the shadows disappear

And my faith shall be my eyes.

 

Jesus has overcome

And the grave is overwhelmed

The victory is won

He is risen from the dead.

 

And I will rise when He calls my name

No more sorrow, no more pain

I will rise on eagles’ wings

Before my God fall on my knees

And rise, I will rise. ~Chris Tomlin

 

There are no more comforting words that I can give to you than what Jesus gave to His followers in Luke 21:28 ~ “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

It seems to me that these really scary days could actually be the last days. If I’m right, it’s time to look up! ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: “So when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Luke 21:28 (NLT)

 

 

Big Waves Can Be Big Fat Lies August 21, 2015

It recently dawned on me that the storms of life themselves are often not as bad as the agonizing fear we endure while thinking about them. Satan uses the elements of our storms to traumatize us by parading dozens of fabricated possibilities through our minds. While we listen to his big-fat lies, our peace goes out the window.

Remember the story of Peter walking on the water and how his fall happened right after he did the impossible?1 I think walking on water should have been a huge faith-builder, don’t you? Yet, that is how our enemy works—we do something supernatural when Jesus bids us to do it—and as soon as we get into the thick of it, Satan bombards our minds with big waves of doubts: Those waves are too big! Those winds are too strong! You can’t do this (never mind that Peter just did!) You’re a goner for sure!

Peter had done the impossible while he was focused on Jesus, and then he failed. Why? He started entertaining the thoughts of the enemy as fact, and at the moment He took his eyes off Jesus to look at his circumstances, he began to sink.

How many of us have had a while-then experience? You know, we were actually doing something impossible while we had our eyes on Jesus; but then we lost our focus and sank. I remember going on my first mission trip and thinking: Scaredy Cat me going to a third world country! Or me with so little knowledge of music leading a choir! Or me a country girl from nowhere speaking at a women’s retreat!

Sometimes the enemy is so good at his big-fat lies, we doubt if we ever did that impossible thing at all. But I believe we can learn an important lesson from Peter: We must never take our eyes off Jesus! The question is—how can we keep from making Peter’s mistake?

First of all, we need to realize that we are not helpless against our enemy. No matter how long we’ve yielded to the practice of allowing Satan access to our minds, we can put a stop to it. We simply must retrain our minds, and here’s how.

There is a wonderful promise found in Isaiah 26:3 “You (God) will keep him (or her) in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You.”

God promised that if we will keep our minds on Him, we can avert the tormenting lies of Satan and watch our peace return. It will take time and effort, but since it only takes 21 days to form a new habit, we’ll soon be on our way to victory over Satan’s big-fat lies.

Start with hiding this promise of God in your heart; rehearse it in your mind; believe it will work for you; and then practice it. With Satan’s first attempt to make things look worse than they are, stop immediately, and purposely turn your mind to Jesus. When it happens again, repeat the process; and then again, and again. Our hearts will calm down, regardless of how terrifying our circumstances are because God promised it and God cannot lie!

We have been tricked into listening to Satan’s lies by thinking it might be God’s voice and therefore we must pay attention to it. Yet, God’s voice will not bring fear to our hearts2, so do not listen—not now, not later. No wonder Peter warned believers to “be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”3 Don’t let it be you!

We think the recipe for having peace must be difficult and something only super-spiritual saints can accomplish. But it is God’s plan for all of His children to have peace in our storms by keeping our minds on Him.

I know that it works, since I just came through three storms in my own life using this technique. Remember, we’re not trying to calm the storm, but we’re seeking to allow God to calm His child. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Thought: Peace is not the absence of trouble; rather peace is the calm confidence that in the end we win! ~ Janie Kellogg

1Matthew 14:25-32; 22 Timothy 1:7; 31 Peter 5:8