Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Calm the Storm or Calm Me July 30, 2015

For most of my Christian life I have thought the biggest goal in prayer was to get the storms in my life calmed down—you know, like Jesus did for the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. I think differently now.

A few months ago I began preparing to teach a Bible study titled “Experiencing Peace.” Apparently, God thought I needed the opportunity to live what I was about to teach. In the past two months there have been, not one, not two, but three huge storms arise on the sea of my life. And when I say huge, I mean really B-I-G!

Remember the story of Peter walking on water?1 I can easily find myself in that story, but instead of walking on the water with Peter, you’ll find me hanging onto the boat for dear life along with the other eleven disciples. They unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of the sea, tossed about by huge waves and contrary winds. Yep, that describes my life for the past few months.

Before the first lesson of the study was ever taught, the Lord told me He was going to teach me something new. You see, I had been out on that troubled sea before where the massive waves and contrary winds blew up unexpectedly and almost took me under. I thought I had learned some great faith-saving techniques from that previous experience that I could share with others. God had something else in mind.

Here is that something else: God doesn’t have to calm the storm in order to give His child peace in the storm. How many of us have thought the best answer for any of our storms was for God to remove it?

If we look at the life of our Savior, we’ll find that the Father didn’t always remove the storms in His life; in fact, I don’t believe He removed any of them. And when Jesus was about to face the severest of all storms—the cross—He prayed, that if it were His Father’s will, this storm would be removed. But then He did something remarkable: He gave His Father permission to leave it there.2

We now know that God had a bigger purpose for that storm than calming it—our very own redemption, mine and yours, were wrapped up in the center that storm. It was completely necessary for Jesus to endure it; and He did. And I am certain that Jesus had peace in the midst of that storm!

Before facing the cross, Jesus had told His disciples that He was giving them His peace—the kind of peace that can be experienced right smack-dab in the middle of the fiercest storm, even one with ginormous waves and winds.3 Apparently, it worked for Him.

The song writer of Who Am I, recorded by Casting Crowns in 2003, got it right.4 These lyrics suggest something we can ask God to do for us in the middle of our storm: “Who am I that the voice that calmed the sea, would call out through the rain, and calm the storm in me?”

Our first step to attaining peace is found in giving God our permission to do whatever He deems best in any set of circumstances. Our prayer might sound like this: Dear Father, I ask you to calm this storm; but if that is not your will, then I ask you to calm me. It is then left up to God to do whatever He chooses. That, my friend, is called trust.

One of my three personal storms has now come and gone, uneventful I might add. The other two are presently calm; yet I know another storm can blow up at any moment. Storms are like that.

The issue here is how you and I will face our next storm. Can we trust our Father like Jesus did and leave the outcome in His hands? If so, we have already found a place of peace and rest. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: Leave yourself open to the circumstances of His choice, for this is perfect acceptance and rest in the will of God. If you do so, you are not a fool—you are in the company of the brave! For accepting the will of God in this way, “You became imitators of us,” Paul writes, “and of the Lord.”4 ~ Amy Carmichael

1Matthew 14:22-33; 2Matthew 26:39; 3John 14:27; 4John Mark Hall; 5Amy Carmichael, You Are My Hiding Place, Bethany House Publishers, Bloomington, MN, 1991, Page 77

 

The Slippery Slope of False Peace July 16, 2015

Peace is a much desired commodity that manifests itself as a state of mind. We all want it. We all seek it. We are peace-full when we are free from threats to our safety and well-being. Who doesn’t want peace?

According to Jesus there are two kinds of peace, and since He is the Prince of Peace, I figure He knows what He’s talking about. In John 14:27, Jesus gave to His disciples an amazing gift: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The other kind of peace is obviously that which the world gives us.

I believe for many years we have mostly relied on the world kind of peace—the strength of our government and military, and a strong U.S. economy and dollar, all being maintained under the umbrella of a healthy respect for God’s laws and authority. For the most part, we have lived tranquil lives with those things securely in place.

However, for some twenty years I have heard it said that America is on a slippery slope. What I see happening daily disturbs my worldly peace: evil on the rise under the disguise of good; the threat of terrorism expanding with little or no resistance; the US economy struggling with a zero GNP; the strength of U.S. dollar and the markets vulnerable to collapse; and all these things pale in comparison to the depraved state of our moral condition. Seems to me, we’ve now gone one over the cliff of the slippery slope and are headed for a huge crash.

It could be said that the peace the world gives is nothing more than a slippery slope of false peace—shaky, unstable, and certainly not enduring. It will not hold up in troubling times. When God shakes this world like He said He will in Hebrews 12:26, the world-given peace will not suffice. We need more.

What are we to do? Where are we to put our trust? Our nation’s currency states that we trust in God, but our actions to cast Him from the public square say otherwise. So are we still a Christian nation whose God is the Lord, or are we not? Will we continue to have God on our side as we have for over 200 years; and if not, will our nation survive?

The Bible tells us that in the last days we shall see “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26). It’s not so difficult to see how that can happen for these are certainly heart-failing days.

But wait. Jesus knew it would be like this. Did He not tell us that these terrifying days would come? And because He knew, He provided in advance just what we need—that gift of peace! Remember, He gave us His peace—the peace that only the Prince of Peace can produce and give. It is a peace that says, “In the midst of this storm you are loved. You can find a refuge from these horrendous days when you hide yourself securely in Me.”

Dear friends, we are not peace-less, and we must not let our hearts fail us for fear! We are to be light and salt in a dark and decaying world. Jesus says to us today, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He already has and we need to act like we believe it. We are left here to shine that glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know our Savior. There are many that need to know Him, and therefore God needs for us to be courageous, salty, and lights in this dark hour.

Want to trade in your false peace for the real thing? Call upon the Prince of Peace and He will hear your earnest prayer. As His followers, we must not let our hearts be troubled or afraid, but rather we must start polishing the globe of our lanterns. Much light is needed. My prayer is that you and I will not miss one opportunity to shine for Jesus! ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

 

Got Peace? July 4, 2015

Today is the Fourth of July, and once again we Americans have celebrated our freedom just as we do every year on this historic day. Yet, I can’t help but reflect on the events of the past few weeks and how they have disrupted my peace. Perhaps you feel the same way.

While my generation has had its fair share of wars, turmoil, and challenging times, I have never quite felt as if the whole world were about to implode. Not like I do today. “The world is going to hell in a handbasket” seems to be an understatement for the days in which you and I live. What can we do? Where can we turn? What kind of world will our children and grandchildren face? Troubling—to say the least!

During the summer months I am teaching a Bible Study on PEACE, and I find the subject both timely and relevant to the nightly news. In fact, I expect that many of God’s people are looking for that very thing. Therefore, I have decided to share some of my findings about this greatly sought-after commodity known as p-e-a-c-e on my blog—where peace comes from; how we can get it; how we can keep it; and how we can share it with others.

It is interesting that the first two times Jesus saw the disciples after His resurrection, He said to them: “Peace be with you,”1 and “Peace to you!”2 Those too were troubling days, much like the ones in which we live. The political powers of that day had just crucified the very One who was sent to earth to bring peace. He was misquoted, misunderstood, falsely accused, persecuted, tortured, and put to death. Sound familiar? Those who speak today as Jesus spoke then could likely face some of the same treatment. But then, Jesus warned us it would be that way.3

For many years my Dad talked about what he saw on the horizon of America’s future. He was well-read and kept abreast of the political winds that were shaping the culture of the world and our nation. If I heard him say it once, I heard him say it a thousand times: “If people don’t wake up…this is what will happen!” He was right on track; for today it has happened just like he thought it would.

So how do you and I face the inevitable? Jesus warned us, and now we see it as an absolute possibility that we too could be misquoted, misunderstood, falsely accused, persecuted, tortured, and perhaps for some, put to death.

I will start with Jesus’ words that are applicable to His disciples of any age: “Peace be with you and peace to you!”  Since He is already with all born-again believers, then He, whose name is Peace, is with us. We have His peace—not only within reach, but right here in our hearts.

It is also important to understand that His peace is not the same peace that the world gives—His peace is genuine, satisfying, and eternal. It is ours and it has already been given to us. We simply must learn how to claim it and wrap ourselves in the security blanket of His promised peace. We must learn to do what Amy Carmichael did: “she tucked herself into God.”

You are invited to come along for the ride. Hopefully, it will be a peace-full one. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “When we come to know our Father of Lights—when we tuck ourselves into God by trusting Him as little children—He will carry us through.”4

1John 20:19; 2John 20:21; 3Matthew 24:9; 4David Hazard, “You Are My Hiding Place—Amy Carmichael,” Bethany House Publishers, 1991, Pg. 10

 

What to do with a Dead Vision ~ June 8, 2015

What comes to mind when you hear the words “dead vision?” Here is what goes off in my head: Done. Over. Finished. Expired. Lifeless. Nada. Nil. Nothing.

I was recently tempted to call a promise of God—that has not yet been fulfilled in my life—dead. You know what I’m talking about because you have one too—the vision God dropped into your heart years ago, and you are still waiting for it to happen.

As I pondered the cause for the delay, I wondered if I had done something to hinder God from fulfilling His word to me. No sooner than I put that issue to rest (by asking for forgiveness for whatever I might have done), another accusation quickly surfaced to replace it, and then another, and another. You will recognize them, because you’ve heard them too:

“Maybe I didn’t hear God right. Perhaps I am believing for something God never promised? I must be daydreaming to think this could come true. It’s impossible. Did I just make this up? I might as well face it, that vision is dead!”

A few days ago a daily devotional reading by Amy Carmichael spoke to this very issue. She wrote:  “Our Lord Jesus has taught us to call the dead, the living.”1

It’s true. Hebrews 11:12 says: “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky….” We know this as the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah very late in life. And in Romans 4:17 we read, “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”

We are given a clear example of the good-as-dead body of Abraham and the obviously-dead womb of Sarah being called the living. By all accounts their vision appeared to be totally impossible. Yet, in the remaining verses of Romans 4 we read how Abraham found the faith and the courage to call those dead things, alive.

Contrary to hope, Abraham believed in hope. (vs.18)

Not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead since he was about a hundred years old. (vs. 19)

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief. (vs. 20)

He was strengthened in faith and gave glory to God. (vs. 20)

He was fully convinced that what God had promised He was also able to perform. (vs. 21)

Notice the verb phrases in these scriptures:  believed in hope; not being weak; did not consider; did not waver; was strengthened; gave glory; was fully convinced. These are the steps Abraham took while waiting upon God to fulfil the vision.

More modern-day language may sound like this: Don’t give up. Hang in there. Keep on keeping on. Stay the course. Trust when you don’t feel like it. Praise God anyway. Speak positive words of faith. Reaffirm your confidence in God.

Is it too late for us to apply these powerful verb phrases to our vision? Of course not! What if we were to defy the odds, disregard what we see, dismiss what we feel, disarm the voice of our enemy—and call our dead vision—alive! After all, if God Himself says something is alive, then it must be alive!

Hasn’t the enemy of our souls taunted us long enough with doubt and unbelief? As sons and daughters of Abraham, our father of faith, let’s tell God that we still believe He will fulfill His promise to us. Then we can move forward as if it is true, simply because God said so. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.~ Romans 4:18 [The Message]

1Amy Carmichael, Whispers of His Power, CLC Publications, Ft. Washington, PA, 1982, Pg. 121

 

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.

 

Counterproductive Prayers ~ What’s up with that? May 19, 2015

Do you ever wonder why the typical prayer meeting yields so few results? I do. I grapple with it continuously. I am certain the problem cannot be with an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God, so it must be with us and our prayers.

 

After all these years, do we still not know how to pray? I believe that as best we know how, we do pray according to God’s Word and in the Spirit both earnestly and honestly. Yet, more often than not, we see little or no results. Why is that?

 

Could it be that a conflict of interest is the cause of our poor success rate? Perhaps we do not correctly discern the will of God in our circumstances—be it illness, financial woes, or troubled relationships? The Word clearly says we are to count it all joy when we fall into various trials1—the trials of our faith that make us stronger Christians and shape us into the image of Christ.2

 

A closer look might reveal that most of our prayers are asking God to change or remove those circumstances—which are possibly the same circumstances He Himself orchestrated for our shaping. If that is the case, are those prayers not counterproductive to His plan to mature us and make us like Jesus?

 

Of course they are! We may simply have our eyes on the wrong goal. We want the good life—abundant and carefree—and plead with God to keep it so. Yet, God wants us to grow up spiritually and be useful to Him in reaching a lost world. Clearly, there is a conflict of interest here.

 

Jesus came to earth clothed in flesh to provide for God a human body in which to walk, talk, teach, and heal—thus displaying to the world the good nature of our Creator. He perfectly modeled His Father’s character of love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Then, sacrificing His life for the sake of others, Jesus set the example for all future believers to follow.

 

Therefore, every born-again Christian is called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by yielding their own bodies as a living sacrifice for God to work through on earth.3 Our trials and troubles become the opportunities for God to do just that, making the difficulties we face today the will of God for us.4

 

We would all probably admit that some scriptures don’t seem to work for us. For instance, this one: “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.”5 Perhaps we have been tempted to question the validity of this scripture based on our past experience. Yet, if a trial is God’s will for us and we pray for Him to remove it, we are asking against His will rather than according to His will.

 

Counterproductive prayers could very well be the reason we are not getting what we ask of God.

 

Once we understand this, we will still pray over our troubles and woes, but at the end of each prayer we will deliberately give God our permission to do as He sees fit.6 The prayer so perfectly modeled by our Savior, “Yet not my will, but yours be done,” will become our prayer too.7

 

In that place of total surrender to God’s will, we put our lives into the hands of a loving Heavenly Father and accept what He chooses to give or not to give. While it may not be what we want to hear, that is where we will find rest for our souls and more answers to our prayers. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 (NASB)

 Small footprintKey Quote: “Faith is the willingness to receive whatever He wants to give, or the willingness not to have what He does not want to give.” ~ Elizabeth Elliott

 1James 1:2; 2Romans 8:29; 3Romans 12:1; 41 Peter2:21; 51 John 5:14-15; 6Luke 10:21; 7Luke 22:42

 

 

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)