Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

The Biggest Scam Ever October 10, 2012

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 12:42 pm

We Americans love our goals. We come in all varieties from record breakers, to trend setters, to fund raisers, to weight losers, to mass marketers. Modern technology helps us track our goals; Facebook and Twitter enable us to announce our successes to the world. Seems if we don’t have goals, we may not accomplish much. But if we believe goals serve a purpose, doesn’t it makes sense to have our sights on the right ones? If goals have power to move us in a new direction, isn’t it important that we’re headed in the right direction?

 

As promised, we are going to take a closer look at the goals of the Apostle Paul, perhaps the greatest Christian ever. His number one goal was clear. We read it in Philippians 3:8 “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus,” and again in Philippians 3:10 “That I may know Him.” Excellence means superior, better, higher, past supreme; and know means to be aware of, feel, perceive, be sure, and to understand. When Paul wrote Philippians, he was no wet-behind-the-ears, greenhorn convert. He was a mature Christian imprisoned for preaching the gospel. After years of serving God, I hear Paul say he was reaching for a superior, surer awareness, feeling and understanding of God than he currently had. Now don’t misunderstand—he already had plenty, but he wanted more. He wanted it so desperately that he counted everything else a lost cause.

 

I doubt my goals would have been the same as Paul’s in that jailhouse circumstance. No way! I’d be clanging my cup against the bars hollering “Someone get me out of here!” and “Can’t I at least have a cell phone?” or maybe “How about a little decent food around here!” It would not be a pretty picture as I demanded some rights.

 

Paul could probably have walked out of that jail at any time, if he had denounced Jesus as the Son of God and returned to being a Pharisee. But Paul’s aim was higher than physical freedom. He wanted to know God more than he wanted to breathe—literally! Ever wonder how he arrived at that goal or what about God made Paul willing to give his life for Him? (A topic we will explore later.)

 

I believe the biggest scam ever has taken place in our generation! Christians have been conned into seeking the good life rather than seeking God Himself. We have been deceived, as Eve was deceived, causing her to make a bad choice. By the way, deceived people don’t know they are deceived. We too are fed continuous lies about God. They sound something like this: “God isn’t a good God. He doesn’t really love you. His rules keep you from finding happiness.” Satan tempts people to settle for anything but God’s plan. Maybe you’ve heard him cleverly whisper to you: “Take this substitute; it will be better than God’s plan.” I certainly have.

 

Here are some of the substitutes I believe Satan has sold to modern-day Christians. Like Paul, we are encouraged to seek something bigger and better than what we have, but the object of our goals are very different from his. We are coached to reach for our destiny, a more successful career, a larger paycheck, more expensive houses, cars, and vacations, a greater ministry or larger organization. We’re told that bigger is better and better will make us happy. It is all skillfully packaged as the “abundant life.” I’m confident that Paul had none of these things in mind, yet our bookshelves are filled with books on “how to.”

 

We have indeed been scammed! Yet God longs for us to discover the truth about Him, His extravagant love for us, and His real plan for our lives. He wants us to drink deeply from the well of Living Water and eat of the Bread of Life. My spiritual life and possibly yours are starving for the real thing. Hear Jesus say, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” (John 4:10 NLT). What are you asking Jesus to give you? ~ Janie Kellogg

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Goals ~ Do They Matter? September 25, 2012

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 1:39 pm

“If you want to succeed,” our teachers, coaches, and mentors tell us, “setting goals is essential.” We are taught to define our goals in some sort of mission statement, write them on brightly-colored post-it notes, and stick them on the refrigerator door, the bathroom mirror, or anywhere we can read them often. It is believed this repetitious programming of our minds actually works.

 

I can mostly relate to that scenario in the area of dieting. God only knows how many times I’ve set a goal for weight loss, either with an organized group of dieters or by myself. I learned early on not to set my goal too aggressively, because experience had taught me that I probably wouldn’t make it.

 

Throughout my life I have been a goal-setter, and I have both successes and failures. But whether our goals are major life-changing measures or simply something to amuse us—like New Year’s resolutions—how seriously we take them determines our chances for success. If we take a casual approach to them, failure is inevitable. I believe that in today’s culture, we increasingly embrace an “It’s OK to fail” policy, and toss our goals out the window.

 

One place where it is definitely not OK to fail or take a casual approach is in our relationship with God. There we should have clear goals, take them seriously, and recognize that failure will have consequences. Does it seem to anyone else that we’ve lost all sense of consequences for our choices or actions? I’m not talking about criminal actions; however, it is not uncommon these days to see people getting by with murder and walking away scot-free. What I am talking about is a trend in our Christian beliefs that God loves us so much that it doesn’t matter what we do. Thus, we take casually our actions and sometimes even our commitments to God, and then assume that He does too. We assume wrong. (See Deuteronomy 23:21; Ecclesiastes 5:5.)

 

So what are the right goals for Christians? Should we view them with a “hit or miss” approach to success? Does God care what our goals are? Does He want us to succeed? Will we be better Christians if we have the right ones? Those are all questions we will tackle in the coming weeks. But first I want to share with you the goal of one of the most admired Christian authors/teachers of modern times—Oswald Chambers.

 

            My goal is God Himself, not joy nor peace,

            Not even blessing, but Himself, my God.

 

I have been a reader of Oswald Chamber’s best-selling devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, for 10+ years. I read it every day, realizing that much of it goes poof—straight over my head. But because his writings speak to my thirst for God, I’ve stuck with it. Anyone familiar with his works recognizes that he was a rare saint who had an exceptional walk with God. Next, we will breakdown his goal statement and compare it to the goal of the Apostle Paul and also to our goals as 21st century Christians.

 

Goals matter. Having the right goals will make a difference in how we approach God and our ability to discover His vast treasures for our lives. God wants us to succeed at the right things. It helps when we know what they are!  ~Janie Kellogg

 

Ask Gabby Douglas September 14, 2012

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 2:14 pm

Not long ago I wrote this statement in my journal: What did the Apostle Paul know that I don’t? That was three months and the 2012 Olympics ago. Today I think I know the answer. The Apostle Paul clearly knew the goal of Christianity, as well as his own personal goal. They were the same for Paul, and that fact alone is part of our problem with goals—we have too many!

 

If we were to ask Gabby Douglas what goal brought her to victory in the 2012 Olympics, what do you think would be her answer? Would she tell us that she didn’t have a goal? Not likely. Would she say that her goal was to visit London? I doubt it, since anyone can buy an airline ticket to get there. Could it be that her goal was to be a celebrity? I don’t think so, because doing even senseless things can elevate a person to celebrity status. Was her goal to be on Television? Probably not. We can see people who commit heinous crimes on TV every night of the week. I doubt she would even say that her goal was to possess a gold medal—as you can likely buy a replica. While I don’t know for sure, I suspect that Gabby would say her goal was to be the best gymnast in the world! All the other things are mere by-products of reaching that goal. I dare say that had she been focused on any one of those other things, she would not have won the gold medal. I think Gabby clearly knew her goal, whatever it was, and she never strayed from it, drifted off on some lesser vision, or yielded to thoughts that it was too difficult. That is how I believe Gabby won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.

 

I also believe that most modern-day Christians, including me, do not have a clear idea of the true goal of Christianity. And not only do we not have a clear idea of the goal we are supposed to be striving for, I believe we have had our eyes on the wrong goal altogether. When the prosperity—live-the-good-life-now—message hit the airwaves several decades ago and Christians bought into it, we made a huge mistake. We settled on the wrong goal, and we’ve been paying the price ever since. We have actually attained some of these wrong goals. For instance, we look prosperous, alive, and busy, but we don’t look like Jesus. Why? We have the wrong goal. It seems that God has blessed us abundantly and we appear to be spiritual, but our lives are void of God’s power. Why? We have the wrong goal. We can quote scriptures about God’s promises to us, but our words don’t match the reality of our lives. Why? We have the wrong goal. There are convincing arguments for these statements in the book of Revelation Chapters 2 and 3, Christ’s letters to the churches. I challenge you to read them.

 

If we are genuinely thirsty for the times of refreshing that come from the Lord, we must find the right fountain to drink from. Drinking from other sources simply will not quench our thirst. My feeling is that the church has been drinking from the wrong fountains for a long time, yet we are starving for the living water that Jesus spoke about. Finding that fountain of living water has everything to do with having the right goal.

 

Can we learn something from Gabby Douglas? I think we can. I believe it will benefit us to take a clear look at the superficial goals of the church today and then define what the right goal is for the church and for us personally. Until we have the right goal, the goal of the Apostle Paul, how can we possibly “go for the gold?” We can’t. Anyone thirsty? Stay tuned! ~Janie Kellogg

 

Vision ~ How Important Is It? April 5, 2012

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 12:59 pm

The three most important factors in selling real estate property are: 1) location, 2) location, and 3) location, so I am told. All other factors, such as the condition of the property, aesthetics, and selling price are certainly considered, but the main selling point with prospective buyers is where the property is located.

Similarly, there are three most important factors in walking with God, and I believe they are:  1) vision, 2) vision; and 3) vision. In other words, what we see—our vision—is to walking with God what location is to selling real estate—it far outweighs any of the other factors. Proverbs 29:18 says that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This tells us that vision is essential for survival. If someone desires to walk with God, it is necessary that he sees what God wants him to see. Otherwise, he will not be able to follow God accurately, and according to this scripture, he could lose his way altogether.

A few years ago when I began to sense the call to write and to prepare myself for that call, God showed me I had a vision problem. This came as a total surprise, since I was totally unaware of any such problem. However, there were things about the message I intended to write that had to be corrected before I could go any further—either into a deeper walk with God or into a vocation of writing for Him. My vision was equally crucial in both cases.

As God began to deal with me about my vision—how I saw certain things—I discovered that I had worn blinders for much of my life. I think it is important to repeat what I mean by the word “blinders.” According to Webster, blinders are two flaps on a bridle that keep a horse from seeing to either side. They eliminate distractions to the animal and allow it to focus on the task at hand, such as running a horserace or plowing straight rows in a field. For people, we could then say that blinders are things that hinder us from seeing anything other than what is right in front of us and anything different from what we are intended to see. I believe blinders become ingrained in our personal belief systems formed by our parents, teachers, spiritual leaders, culture, etc. Whether good or bad, they help shape who we are and what we believe about many things. In some instances, they are placed there intentionally by those who rule over us. Other blinders are unintentional, such as family traditions simply handed down from one generation to the next. But whatever the case, they are a powerful force in our thinking, our opinions, and our values.

My purpose in addressing blinders is certainly not to offend anyone, but to share what God has shown me about my own blinders. My writings are not intended to be politically correct, slanted for or against any doctrine or group, nor written to win a popularity contest. My intent is solely to speak the truths shown to me. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 “But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts.” My heart’s desire is to be pleasing to God, if in fact, He has entrusted me with His gospel. Before the changes in my vision occurred, I believe God had not nor could not entrust me with the gospel.

So buckle your seatbelts and hang on to your hats as we make this journey. We will take a deeper look into what God wants us to see and what might be hindering us from seeing it. We might just figure out why it feels like we have been going around in circles and getting nowhere. Walking with God really is about our vision, our vision, and our vision. ~Janie Kellogg

 

Seeing from God’s Perspective March 9, 2012

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 8:45 pm

“Like Plato’s cave-dwellers, we think we are well-informed, and when we encounter light, we feel the pain of brightness in our maladapted eyes. We turn back to the darkness we’re so comfortable with,” wrote Chris Tiegreen, author of The One Year at His Feet Devotional. In this statement, Chris is describing the tragic condition of people in Plato’s allegory who lived in a cave with limited lighting for so long they saw people as shadows. To them, people were supposed to look like shadows—that was the norm.

 

Is that not the way it is with many cultures in our world today? Millions of people are living under man-made laws, ideals, and doctrines that are heralded as truth and taught to the next generation; yet all the while, they are dwelling in darkness. Because human beings function best in comfort zones, people sometimes stay in situations that are degrading and even harmful—but comfortable. Change always requires light; change always requires courage.

 

I yearn to know the heart of God and to see the world through His eyes, yet the smallness of my vision concerns me. I seriously doubt that I see what Jesus saw when He walked among us. Could it be that I am looking at the world through blinders—those cup-shaped pieces of leather placed over the eyes of a horse so he can see only what is right in front of him, eliminating any peripheral vision whatsoever? Do I consider myself to be well-informed, or is it possible that I have a narrow-minded view of the world because of blinders? Whether inherited or of my own doing, I find it difficult to acknowledge them and call them by name—pride, prejudice, ignorance, self-interest, and fear, to name a few. But if I am ever going to see the world as God sees it, I believe these blinders will have to be removed.

 

When I turn off all the rhetoric in my mind—the political arguments of the day, social issues that clamor to be the main focus, and human reasoning that seems so logical—I have a better chance of seeing the world from God’s perspective. Believe it or not, God is not out to conquer nations, or governments, or armies, or land; but rather He is pursuing the hearts of individual men and women throughout the world. God is not worried over the enrichment of uranium by hostile regimes, or the training of terrorists, or organized religions which trap people in false beliefs. These things do not frighten or intimidate God. He can and will conquer them all in the end. But God is greatly concerned over the souls of men, women, and children who are dwelling in darkness.

 

Perhaps I need to take a lighting inventory in my own life. Does the light I currently dwell in allow me to see individual people with thoughts and feelings, or do I simply see the masses of humanity as shadows? Has a distorted view become the norm for me? Are my blinders keeping me from truly seeing the suffering of the poor, the pain of the brokenhearted, the plight of the captives, the darkness of the blind, and the anguish of the oppressed—the very people Jesus came to rescue (Luke 4:18)?

 

I have started praying that my vision will be broadened to see all people in the light that comes from the true Light of the world (John 1:9). Who knows, I might eventually be able see this mixed-up world from God’s perspective. ~Janie Kellogg

 

 

How Good Do I See? February 29, 2012

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 5:22 am

As Christians, we often struggle to be what we think God wants us to be, but I don’t believe we have a being problem as much as we have a seeing problem. In my last blog post, I proposed the idea that God is more concerned over how good we see than how good we look. If that is true, then what do we need to see? Is it physical vision or spiritual vision that we are lacking? The answer is probably both, since the two are so intricately connected.

The old saying “You can’t see the forest for the trees” clearly describes my own condition. I am totally focused on the trees in my physical life as well as my spiritual life. On the other hand, God is looking at the forests of life and the world beyond. I believe He desires for us to look past our current problems, beliefs, and opinions in order to catch a view from where He sits. But to do so, we must first embrace the fact that there is much more than we currently see in the physical and spiritual realms.

In 2 Kings 6, we find the story of Elisha and his servant completely surrounded by their enemies. But Elisha saw something his servant didn’t see. Verse 17 says: “Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.” (NLT) Whether it was enhanced physical or spiritual vision the Lord granted Elisha’s servant, who can say? But there are two important points to be made here: 1) Elisha had better vision than the frightened, young servant, and 2) what we are able to see directly affects our peace of mind.

Ever wonder what you would see if God answered an Elisha-kind-of-prayer for you? How might that be different from what you now see? One thing that would be different for me is the scope of things. Whenever I consider just how big the world is that God oversees, I am afraid there is a huge contrast between my small view and God’s panoramic view. If only we could see things from His perspective, perhaps we would not struggle so much to be Christlike, but rather we would understand the very eternal reasons to be like Him and think like Him. Seeing from God’s perspective could literally change who we are and how we live. It certainly did for the apostle Paul after his drastic eye surgery on the Damascus Road.

How do we begin to look for the bigger picture? Since we already see what we see and know what we know, maybe we should search out what others have to say. This old familiar saying might apply here:  “If you always think what you’ve always thought; you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Are we brave enough to ask God to expand our vision, and as a result, change our thinking? Can we sincerely pray the words to the popular worship song, Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord?

In the coming weeks we are going to examine some things of God that are not in clear sight and what hinders people from seeing them. Once we discover how to get a God-sized view of His world and the people in it, hopefully we will come away with an improved answer to the question: “How good do I see?” My prayer is that we will begin to see with the eyes of our heart as never before. ~Janie Kellogg

 

How Good Do I Look? February 20, 2012

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 2:28 pm

Let’s face it—we all care about how we look. Most people want to look professional, or successful, or important. Right now some folks are trying to look presidential. One TV commercial for men’s clothing says, “You’re going to like the way you look.” Many of us strive to look like we “fit in” and yet “stand out” all at the same time. Then there is the generational lingo that describes how a person looks, such as hip, groovy, neato, cool, bad, awesome, and wicked, to name a few. Every generation has coined their own word or phrase for those who fit the desired profile, leaving the rest of us in the dust. That certainly is the case for those words that mean the exact opposite, like “bad” actually means “very good.” Go figure. While how we look is an important aspect of our society, it may not be as important as we think. Here’s a comical story about that very thing.

“He is a fine horse,” the owner said to the man on the phone. “He is strong and well-trained, but He doesn’t look too good.”  The prospective buyer decided to go check out the horse for himself, fully expecting to find a good, but malnourished, animal. Upon examination of the horse, the buyer exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me this horse was blind?” The owner quickly defended himself, “I did. I told you that he doesn’t look too good.”

Some Christians, like the owner of the blind horse, have the verbs look and see a bit confused. Many of us focus on how we look as Christians, when in fact God is far more concerned about how we see. Jesus chided those who have their eyes closed, and blessed those with eyes that see. (Matthew 13:15~16) The more relevant question we need to ask ourselves then is not “How good do I look?” but rather, “How good do I see?”

The Bible teaches a creation of new life occurs in a believer when he/she accepts Christ as Savior. Oswald Chambers, author of the best-selling devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, wrote “your body is the Bethlehem of God’s Son,” inferring that the Christchild is born in us at conversion. New believers are often called baby Christians, and that is exactly what they are. It is generally understood that it will take weeks, months, and years for the life of Christ to develop in the life of a new believer.

However, when a new Christian begins to look like other Christians outwardly, we assume he has grown up. We would probably even agree on what the characteristics of a grown-up Christian are:  regular Bible study, church attendance, giving a certain percent of income to the church, and getting along with the neighbors. We might also think that if the fruits of the Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit are visible in a believer’s life then he has arrived at a place of spiritual maturity.

It is interesting to point out that we use our measurements to make these judgments—the same standards we use to measure our own spirituality. Where did we get these standards? Most likely they are the traditions and teachings we grew up with. It is also interesting to point out that Jesus came down hard on the Pharisees for their traditions, which were apparently out of sync with God’s measuring stick. In truth, anyone not using God’s measurements might be those Jesus referred to as “blind leaders of the blind,” who all landed in the ditch. (Matthew 15:14) The apostle Paul gave us some good advice in this area: “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12)

My point is simply to raise the question as to whether or not we understand how to measure spiritual maturity, even in ourselves.  Did the Christchild grow up in the life of that new believer as the Heavenly Father intended? Is the Holy Spirit functioning in the hearts and lives of all believers as Jesus said He would? Do we mostly look spiritual, or are we really spiritual? Are we frustrated with our constant efforts to live the Christian life yet remain void of power to overcome our own besetting sins? Are we tired of making new commitments to do better, yet living as the same struggling individuals we’ve always been, all the while looking spiritual?  Do you ever wonder just where is the earth-shaking, life-changing power that was evident in the lives of the first Christians? I do.

I believe the key to finding these answers depends not on how good we look but on how good we see. And that will be the subject of another post—How Good Do I See?  ~ Janie Kellogg

All references are NKJV unless otherwise noted.