Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Seeing is Everything ~ May 2, 2014

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 1:26 pm
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Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

 

Who doesn’t want to see God? Or better yet, who doesn’t want to see, period?

 

Seeing means I have a clear view of where I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going. It means I can observe the things and conditions around me. It means I can know both beauty and danger. It certainly seems to be true that seeing is everything.

 

When we consider the two men who came to the temple to pray in Luke 18, we can conclude that the publican saw more than the Pharisee, for it was the publican that came away justified. A few things the Pharisee obviously could not see were his need for humility and mercy as he approached God. Not a good start. No doubt, he was counting on his own good deeds, but he missed it big time.

 

On the other hand, the publican had such a clear view of himself and his inability to stand before God in his own merit, that he smote his breast as he begged for mercy. He couldn’t even lift his eyes to heaven. Picture this man with his head bent low, tears streaming down his face, bitterness of soul, anguishing over his neediness—he could see God clearly because he saw himself clearly. This is big!

 

Let’s look at the promise again: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” How do we get pure in heart? Only one way: purity is given—granted—transferred to us by God. Being washed in the sinless blood of Jesus cleanses the stench and dirt of humanity from our lives. Bringing ourselves to the fountain filled with blood daily makes us pure in God’s eyes. And along with that purity, He gives us sight—the ability to see more of Him.

 

With newly granted sight, we can see more of ourselves, and thus more of our need for mercy. When we see our neediness and humble ourselves properly before Him, He responds to repentant and yearning hearts. We have thus positioned ourselves to receive everything God has promised to us. This is even bigger!

 

Take note: Seeing ourselves clearly is the key to positioning ourselves to receive from God!

 

Here are some things we must see:

 

  • How hopeless are my good works!
  • How helpless I am to help myself!
  • Without Jesus, I am doomed!
  • With Jesus, I am positioned to receive all God has for me!

     

    Seeing is priceless! I believe it is one of the keys to the kingdom that Jesus said would be given to the church. Finding God all starts with our ability to see. It will never happen by chance to one who isn’t looking. We will never stumble onto eternal life. No, it happens when God draws us to Himself and then allows us a glimpse of His holiness. Once we get a glimpse of a holy God, we will begin to clearly see our unholy, sinful condition. From that position, the promises of God are not far away. This is bigger still!

     

    If there is now a stirring your heart, consider this: “Is there something I don’t see?” Thank God for drawing you to Himself, and then ask for more spiritual sight. He will always answer that prayer for the pure in heart.

     

    The eyes of the heart are so critical, for if we do not have spiritual vision, we don’t have anything. We shall soon discover that entering God’s rest greatly depends on what we see. After all, seeing is everything! ~ Janie Kellogg

     

     

    For other faith-building readings, see “A Message for Rock-Bottom Disciples,” Treasure in Earthen Vessels, April 22, 2014.

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Has God Gotten a Bad Rap? March 11, 2014

I think God has gotten a bad rap. Many people have the wrong view of God because of His arch-enemy, Satan, who from the get-go has tried to convinced mankind that God is something other than what He is.

 

As a deceiver condemned to eternal damnation, Satan’s goal is to convince God’s masterpiece creation to turn away from Him. He attempts to do this by skewing our view of God. Paraphrasing Satan’s words to Eve, he said: “You won’t surely die if you eat of this tree. It’s just that God doesn’t want you to be as smart as he is.”1 Right there he planted the thought that God is not trustworthy.

 

Our opinions about God are formed in early childhood based on what we were told by our parents. We basically see God the same way our parents did. Another factor that influences our view of our Heavenly Father is what type of earthly father we had:  kind and gentle, or not-so-kind and not-so-gentle. Lastly, our view of God is formed by what our religious teachers taught us about Him.

 

When asked: “When you think about God, where does your mind go first?” we would have different answers based on those factors. Our answers might be: Righteous judge; Condemning critic; Tender heart; or something esle.2

 

But whatever our answer is, it is a mindset—an attitude, belief, conviction, frame of mind about something. A mindset is just that: set! It is with us for life unless something or someone comes along and shows us a better way.

 

Mindsets are hard to change. Expert James Clear says, “There are many reasons why it can be hard to stick to good habits or develop new skills. But more often than not, the biggest challenge is sitting between your two ears. Your mind is a powerful thing.”

 

The old saying, “If you always think what you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” is true. There is tremendous power in a mindset.

 

Be it good or bad, we all have a mindset of who God is and what His character is like. Christians believe He is an eternal, divine, all-knowing, all-wise, just, and perfect God that loves mankind. Those are good mindsets. But what about our mindset of how this eternal, divine, all-knowing, all-wise, just, and perfect God relates to us—members of a fallen race who are anything but perfect?

 

Thousands of religions around the world teach different ideas about God, and many are what I call “performance-based religions.” They teach that if people are good, God is pleased with them; and if people are bad, God is not pleased with them. Requirements for followers of performance-based religions range from extremists who tell their converts to kill people for eternal brownie points to those who define how women should wear their hair.

 

Even God’s chosen people added 600+ commandments to the Ten Commandments.  In so doing, they created a “performance-based theology.” In New Testament times, Jewish Christians tried to put new converts back under the law of circumcision. The Apostle Paul challenged them with the message: grace is enough!3

 

Salvation-by-grace denominations also encourage believers to keep track of their performance. How many of us made check marks on our Sunday school envelopes for being at church, bringing a Bible, giving an offering, studying the lesson, and inviting a visitor? If we did those things, we got a perfect score. If we didn’t, we got something less.

 

Throughout most of our lives, we have struggled with the something less that we fear doesn’t please God.

 

So what is wrong with performance-based practices? That is simply not how God relates to us! Jesus died for us while we were still sinners.4 He provided a way for us to be holy and acceptable to God by His works at Calvary. In short—Jesus plus nothing!

 

The truth is that God wants to have a love relationship with us and not be the judge of our good and bad performance. But only when we change our mindset about this truth will we be able to experience intimacy with the Almighty God.

 

An exciting journey awaits those who are willing to change their set mind. ~Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Genesis 3:4-5; 2Angela Thomas, Beautiful Offering; 3Galatians 5:1-6; 4Romans 5:8

 

Higher Ground ~ A Recipe for Joy February 13, 2014

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 1:09 pm
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Is it possible that our level of joy is a measuring stick for our faith in God? The more I see into the spiritual world, the more I trust the One who controls all things, and the more I trust the One who controls all things, the less I fret and worry about earthly things, and the less I fret and worry about earthly things, the more joy I have!

 

For those of us who like visuals, my theory looks something like this:

 

Spiritual sight = knowledge of God = faith in God = trust in God = less worry = more joy!

 

What we see of God could be the single most important factor in all of life. Our spiritual eye health should be of utmost concern to us. Without a healthy vision of God, we are stuck in the muck and mire of earthiness—yet with it, we can soar to levels high above our worldly existence. Unfortunately, if we never learn to soar, we will continue to dwell far below what Christ made available for believers.

 

Listen to how the Apostle Paul described what God has given to us: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”1 Did you get that—blessed in the heavenly realms?

 

Look at another statement by Paul that describes where believers are: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus….”2 Did you get that—seated in the heavenly realms?

 

What could this mean? Please understand that God is not teasing us here. It means we can live above the world—above our earthly circumstances. It means we are no longer held in a decaying flesh by sin’s dread sway. Our flesh must submit to our higher order of life.

 

What are we thinking? Why is it that we submit to our flesh and give it such allegiance when we don’t have to? Why do we allow depression to darken our days; anxiety to hijack our faith; worry to weigh us down with burdens we’re not meant to carry; or fear to stop us dead in our tracks? Why do we bow down to this fleshly nature as if we are frail, helpless creatures? We are not!

 

It could be time to start thinking out of the box or out of this world. We need only take our rightful position in the heavenly realms beside our Conquering King. And when the enemy of our soul says, “What do you think you’re doing UP there with Jesus?” look down into this earthly pool of accusation, doubt and discouragement, and reply, “I’m up here in the heavenly realms where God put me.”

 

That should make our joy barometer rise!

 

It has been said that many Christians live beneath their privileges. But why? I believe we live beneath our privileges, which includes a lack of joy, because we do not truly know our God. We do not know experientially where He has seated us, mostly because do we understand heavenly realms.

 

So where are you and I? Do we see and understand heavenly things from where we are now? Or is it time for us to reach for a higher spiritual plane where we can see more, understand more, believe more, trust more, and worry less? Is it time for you and me to have more joy?

 

The writer of the song “Higher Ground” got it right. Read these powerful words:

 

My heart has no desire to stay | where doubts arise and fears dismay;

‘Tho some may dwell where these abound | My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

Lord, lift me up and let me stand | By faith on heaven’s table land;

A higher plane than I have found | Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.3

 

As for me, “I’m pressing on the upward way; new heights I’m gaining every day!” I hope you will come and go with me. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Ephesians 1:3; 2Ephesians 2:6; Higher Ground by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

 

Doing something is what we are about ~ even if it doesn’t work January 20, 2014

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 8:37 pm
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It comes as little surprise to anyone that doing nothing is not the best option for almost any problem we face. Actually, the only time that doing nothing is acceptable is when God says to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” In those times, it is totally in our best interest to do nothing.

 

But instructions to do nothing are rare. God most often gives us something to do, and our greatest challenge is to hear from Him what that something is. While God’s Word is full of commands and guidelines in any given situation, we humans have a tendency to make up our own rules.

 

When God says “believe,” we doubt that believing will be enough.

When He says “trust,” we try to change the circumstances.

When He tells us to “wait,” we rush ahead to accomplish our own goals.

 

As proactive get-er-done people, doing something is what we are about—even if it doesn’t work!

 

In fact, we are so busy doing what we think are the right things that we don’t have time to find out what God actually wants us to do. I fear that is the case in restoring America, repairing our communities and schools, reviving our churches, salvaging our families, and most importantly, saving ourselves from the demise of overload, both physically and spiritually.

 

The truth is—we are tired. We are tired from doing all the many things we believe will fix our problems; yet the things we have spent our energy doing haven’t worked. For starters:

 

  • We hear a Politian commit to fix the nation’s problems; yet all too soon we are vastly disappointed. We quickly look for the next Politian.
  • We participate in an improvement program in our community or school, and eventually see that the task is too big and our resources too small. We set out to recruit more people and raise more money.
  • We get excited when our church announces a new trendy campaign to revive it members, but after it has come and gone, little had changed. We don’t understand why it failed, since it seemed like such a great plan.
  • We commit to spending more time with our family, but when work, school, and sports scream for attention, we yield to their      demands. Family relationships suffer, and we whine because it has to be so hard.
  • And then there is our personal time with God—what we call a “quiet time.” Since there’s no quiet time to be had in my life, surely God understands and will let me off the hook. I’m sure I’ll do better next year, or when the kids grow up, and definitely when I retire.

 

Does any of that sound like your life? It does mine. So why is doing what seems to be perfectly good ideas not working for us?  Here’s why:

 

God did not tell us to look to political leaders for the answers.

God did not promise that our communities and schools will be better through humanitarian efforts.

God is not obligated to bring revival to His people through any manmade campaign.

God said that we will reap what we sow, and family relationships are not exempt.

God does not reveal Himself to those who want to spend time with Him—only to those who do.

 

Be assured that God has something for us to do! Doing nothing or doing the wrong things will never yield the right results. Our nation, communities, schools, churches, families and personal lives are suffering today because we have done too much of the wrong things.

 

It is surprising when at last we discover what it is that God wants us to do. It is not hard, or difficult, or impossible. We would not give our children something to do that was beyond their capability. And neither would God!  ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Never Choose Option D January 9, 2014

It was obvious that we were just another number—a number on a medical file folder. When my husband’s name was called, we walked mechanically to the doctor’s office and were seated in chairs across the desk from a man we had known only a few days. Apparently he had been through this hundreds of times, and we were just the next couple to fall prey to the “C” word.

 

The phone call a few days before told us the results of the biopsy were not good. Today we heard the medical name for the death sentence that had been handed to my husband. I doubted that I could remember it. The lay terms were no better:  Prostate Cancer, high PSA score, aggressive type, advanced stage. Strange terminology like metastasized and systemic swirled in my head as the doctor recited our options: A) surgery; B) radiation; C) chemotherapy; and D) do nothing.

 

The decisions were mind-boggling. Pint-sized hope was as scarce as hen’s teeth. We could pick and choose as much or as little as my husband’s declining health could endure. One thing was certain—we simply would not choose Option D—do nothing.  Option D wasn’t who we were. It wasn’t what we were about. Regardless of any other factors involved, Option D would not be our choice.

 

We chose Options A, B, and C, but none of them stopped the growth of the cancer, including a last-ditch effort in an alternative treatment center in Tijuana, Mexico. The deadly enemy had gone undetected far too long—so long that nothing we did could prevent the inevitable death of its victim. Two years later my 55 year-old husband went to be with the Lord. Yet, when it was all said and done, there was one thing we were not guilty of—Option D.

 

I believe America is facing a similar diagnosis:  an aggressive, advanced stage disease called “sin.” Words such as metastasized and systemic apply here as well. Clearly, a deadly cancer has infected our entire culture and is taking a toll on the health of our government, communities, schools, churches, families, and individuals. And yes, it too has gone undetected.

 

As a nation, we have options. While there are sharp differences in what we believe to be the best way to remedy the ills of our nation, such as liberal ideas verses conservative ideas and social solutions verses spiritual solutions, the one thing we must not do is to choose Option D.

 

Edmund Burke wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” While the statement’s original wording is debatable, the concept is true nonetheless. It can also be applied in many areas of life; for example, our spiritual health:

 

The only thing necessary for me and you to go to hell is for us to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for me and you to remain in bondage to sin is for us to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for me and you to lose the battle with our flesh is for us to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for me and you to continue in a half-hearted relationship with Christ is for us to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for the Church to remain indifferent and un-revived is for Christians to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for the Church to be ineffective in our world is for Christians to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for Christianity to be silenced is for Christians to do nothing.

 

Complacency is a deadly problem. We hear its voice continuously in our ear:  Things are not as bad as they seem. Other generations faced these same problems. Just ignore the issues. Tolerate the differences. Live and let live. Don’t get excited. Don’t act. In other words: Do nothing!

 

I fear that we have been complacent far too long. Yet, there are actions that we can take before our toxic condition worsens and we succumb to the inevitable—the death of a nation.

 

Whatever we do, we must never choose Option D. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

What Is the Treasure? March 13, 2013

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 1:17 pm
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Whether you are reading my weekly blog Treasure in Earthen Vessels by accident or by choice, you might be asking “What is the treasure?” You are not alone. Actually, that is the most asked question generating hits to my website.

 

It has been my question too, ever since God brought this scripture to my attention: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:7). Even though it has taken years to unearth its hidden message, my quest to find it has been worth every effort. My blog is about that treasure in 2 Corinthians 4:7 and here is why.

 

After leaving the busy, corporate world to work from home, I decided to pursue my love for writing in my spare time. I anticipated sitting beside my fireplace every morning and writing about the goodness of God to my life and my family—a picture of perfect bliss with a pen in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other.

 

Within months, my husband was diagnosed with fast-growing prostate cancer. Instead of the fireside chats with God that I had envisioned, my journals filled with real life experiences—more closely akin to scripts from reality TV shows as my faith was tested, tried, and stretched. Out of my search for God during this painful chapter of my life, that left me widowed at 53, I found an amazing truth. It had much to do with 2 Corinthians 4:7.

 

I had never been satisfied with the status-quo of Christianity. My thirst for more took me on an intense search into the writings of Oswald Chambers, Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Andrew Murray, Brother Lawrence, Henry Nouwen, and many others. I longed to find the secret they had found, yet had seemingly slipped through the cracks of much modern-day teaching.

 

What did they have? What did they know? What power were they able to tap into that set them apart as great men and women of faith? As I pursued “the pearl of great price,” I became the one who, when she discovered the treasure in the field, sold all, and bought the field that she might have the treasure also.1 My efforts were not in vain.

 

Today, I am a work-in-progress, and although discouraged at times with my lack of progress, the Holy Spirit continues to connect the dots for me. He has led me to the secret place, and through the writings of my faithful friends who made this journey before me, He is teaching me how to abide there.

 

Somewhere along the way, the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:7 became perfectly clear—the Treasure is the Indwelling Holy Spirit.

 

My blog—also a work-in-progress—is dedicated to encouraging others to press on in their journey to find the Treasure. I post my findings, and yes, my struggles, as I continue to seek how to incorporate this immeasurably valuable truth into my everyday life.

 

I hope you will decide to join me in this pursuit—something I believe God fully intends for all of us to find. A comment by writer Chris Tiegreen points us in the right direction: “We never discover truth. It is always revealed.”2

 

Ann Voskamp yields another clue: “Because the God-likeness within our smallness speaks to Father-God in His magnificence. I hadn’t understood….that all wonder and worship can only grow out of smallness.” 3

 

Much awaits us. Clue after clue—may we seek to remove the earth, the worldliness that keeps God’s truths buried and unrevealed, except to those who make the effort to find them.

 

My post on November 22, 2012, The House Guest – A Short Story4, reveals some of my own personal findings in a fictional format. I hope you will check it out. And then, let’s get on with our spiritual expedition! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1 Matthew 13:44-46

2 Chris Tiegreen, The One Year at His Feet Devotional, Tyndale House Publishers, March 12

3 Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 167

4 The House Guest @ www.treasureinearthenvessels.net, Archives – November 22, 2012

 

Living on the Lighter Side February 8, 2013

Blink. Blink. Blink. The electricity is off again, and I realize that I love light.

 

On a dark night in rural Oklahoma this is a life-changing event. It’s hard to see my hands in front of my face. I hurry to light a candle. All activity has ceased; the television is quiet; the treadmill still. There is nothing to light the screen on my computer—it sits dark. As I am giving thanks for the glow of the candle, I think about how much I genuinely love light.

 

Light means life. Darkness means something else—but definitely not life, as evidenced by my still, lifeless room.

 

“The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding unto the simple.” That’s me—I am both simple and lack understanding. And because of it, I equally love the light that comes from God’s Word, especially when it brings the understanding of a newfound truth into my hungering heart.

 

I can’t seem to get enough of it. It’s like trying to thread a needle, or remove a sticker underneath my skin, or read the small print on a medicine bottle—I cannot get too much light. So it is with God’s light—I am in no danger of getting too much.

 

I continually pray for more light from His Word. But then God has a purpose when He dispenses light. The Bible says that God sent His Son “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”

 

Later, Jesus turned to His followers and said, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.

 

I hear the call to be a light-spreader. Millions still live without the Light of World. “God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light.” As I sit here in the quiet of my dim surroundings, I wonder how people could love darkness. Why would anyone choose to live there?

 

Truth is life-giving light to hearts dwelling in unlit places. Even a trace is glorious and calls for celebration of a joy-gift from God.

 

I think of how my dark room needs life-giving light tonight—just like God’s dark world. His plan has always been to fill His children with that life-giving light and send them out into the darkness to spread it around. It seems only fair that the Master Light-Giver would expect a yield from His investment of light in my life.

 

Am I willing to share the light given to me? Does God want to use me to reach those living in the shadows of death? Do I even see them sitting there—over on the darker side? Is it possible that the light shining from my life could guide some lost soul to the path of peace? Is it bright enough to be seen? Bright enough to show anyone the way to the lighter side?

 

Dear Lord, help me love light even more. Help me be a light-spreader—by speaking light to those I meet today; by living light so those who see me see You; by writing light so others can read and understand. May the light You invest in me not be in vain.

 

And Lord, would You help my electricity to come back on soon, since I really do prefer living on the lighter side! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Psalm 119:130 (NKJ); John 3:19(NLT); Luke 1:79 (NLT); John 20:21 (NLT)