Vision ~ How Important Is It?

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

“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?

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?

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.

It looks like Greek to me!

My mother-in-law has a unique cross-stitched plaque that is an illusion. At first glance, it appears to be characters from the Greek alphabet. However, since I do not know Greek, I’m not certain that it is Greek; but as the old saying goes, “It looks like Greek to me!” These characters are cross-stitched with light-colored thread against a background of dark-colored thread. Even though you study it for a long time, unless you can read Greek, you probably can’t figure it out. But when someone points out a different way to look at it, and you begin to focus on the dark-colored thread rather than the light-colored thread, you plainly see the letters: J E S U S.

Many of us have studied the Bible for a long time, and we think we know what it says. We’ve heard the stories countless times and can recite key verses, yet occasionally we see something we have never seen before. Sometimes the Holy Spirit gives us enlightenment of a scripture or another person simply points out a new truth; but however the insight comes, it is of great value to our Christian growth.

When we read the Apostle Paul’s words: “your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), do we really grasp what he meant? Or how about the mysterious declaration: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20)? Did Paul know a secret that has perhaps eluded some of us? Down through the centuries other great men and women of faith have written about what is considered by some to be “a deeper walk with God.” Hudson Taylor, the pioneer missionary to China, referred to “the exchanged life.” Once in a great while, we hear of a lone modern-day seeker who finally tips over the top and discovers something that empowers their life beyond the ordinary life of most believers. One book about 20 such people is titled “They Found the Secret” by V. Raymond Edman.

We tend to think extraordinary individuals like Oswald Chambers, Charles Finney, or Dwight L. Moody were chosen by God to do great things and therefore were equipped with greater power. I’m not so sure. I believe God promises His power to all born-again believers. Yet for most Christians, we remain powerless against our flesh and its victories over us. We do not live lives hidden with Christ at all, but rather with our fleshly nature on full display for all to see.

In the next few weeks, we are going to take a different look—with our upgraded spiritual lenses—at some of the secret things of God. While the promises of God are not in clear sight to everyone, He never intended for His Word to be an illusion to His own followers. According to I Corinthians 2:10, God has revealed these secrets to us, and we should never have to say “It looks like Greek to me!” After all, the Bible clearly teaches that if we look for J E S U S, we will find Him. ~Janie Kellogg

Upgraded lenses

Before I was brave enough to have Lasik eye surgery, upgrading my corrective lenses involved more than the optometrist getting my prescription right. Overshadowing the entire event was the gigantic decision of picking out new frames. This is especially stressful for women, since eyeglasses not only cost an arm and a leg, they have to match our entire wardrobe for the next two+ years. Simply put, they are perhaps the most difficult fashion statement we make.

For more years than I care to count, I wore eyeglasses on my face. I tried wearing contact lenses of every kind, but for whatever reason, they did not work for me. On this day I picked up the new eyeglasses at the optometrist’s office that I had ordered a few days before. I had been careful to pick out frames of the latest style and was confident they would look great on me. So I thought. Yet I caught myself looking in the rearview mirror repeatedly during the drive home.

I was anxious for my family to see the new glasses thinking they would relieve my concerns. As expected, they all assured me that these new frames were perfect for me. Unsatisfied with their response, I kept asking them the one crucial question: “Do they make me look younger?”

“Of course they do,” they said in unison.

But the jury was still out as far as I was concerned, and for the next few days I grappled with the issue. “I don’t think I like these new glasses after all,” I boldly said. My words were met with opposition from my family, which resulted in more trips to the bathroom for more glances in the mirror.

Finally I caught it—these new glasses actually made me look older! When I announced this discovery to my family, they acted as if I had lost my mind. Yet in my heart of hearts, I knew it was true—I looked older. I began to think about how I could solve the problem. Perhaps the optometrist would be compassionate and let me exchange the glasses for another pair, for a small fee of course.

Then the light bulb came on. Hello! I didn’t look older to anyone but me, and I looked older to me because I could now see myself clearly. With these new upgraded lenses I could see all the wrinkles that had not been visible to me before. My wrinkles had been in clear view of everyone else all the time; it was just now that I could see them too!

This experience reminds me of the times in my life when my spiritual eyes were enhanced to see things the way God sees them. God’s Word is like upgraded lenses—it helps me see the real me, the wrinkles in my character, my attitudes, and my actions. Sometimes what I see is not a pretty picture. I like to think those unwanted wrinkles are hidden from those around me; but the truth is, they are in clear view of all who watch my life—God included.

As you and I seek to have a deeper walk with God, are we willing to put on upgraded spiritual lenses? In so doing we might see some things that have actually been there all along but just not in clear view to us. If God chooses to lead us out of our comfort zone of beliefs, are we willing to go with Him? God’s chosen people believed a Redeemer would come, and He did. But because Jesus didn’t fit their preconceived ideas of what a Redeemer should look like, many of them missed Him.

Just as upgraded lenses are costly, new spiritual lenses could cost me my pride, my prejudices, my preferences, or even my preconceived ideas. Yet, if they will help my spiritual perception, I’m going to take a chance and ask God for them. You see, the one thing I don’t want to take a chance on is missing Jesus!   ~Janie Kellogg

Happy New Year with some fresh new thoughts~

There is so much I like about the word new. You know what I mean—the possibilities are endless—a new job, a new house, a new relationship, a newborn baby, new shoes, new hair-do. Every morning when my husband leaves for work, he steps outside, takes a deep breath and says, “Ah, it feels good to breathe some air that hasn’t been breathed before.” Of course, he’s talking about new air.

We stand on the threshold of a new year, and no doubt there will be new resolutions, new diet and work-out plans, and new beginnings of all sorts. The word new is one of those catalyst words that help us leave the old behind and arrive at a different starting place. It has a hint of hope attached to it, a positive ring that tells the world we’re on a bigger, better path than we were before.

But then I like the word new even better when preceded by the word fresh. Think about it. We all like a fresh new look. We get excited about a fresh new idea. We admire someone with a fresh new approach. Doesn’t everyone appreciate the chance to get a fresh new start? Let’s face it, a fresh new anything has appeal. Except that is, when it comes to our Christian faith. There we might be a bit skeptical of anything that says fresh or new. After all, we are confident that we know what we know, and what we know is the only way to think about it—isn’t it?

Christians today are perhaps the best educated in the history of the Church. We own no less than four or five different translations of the Bible, numerous commentaries, concordances, and have attended dozens upon dozens of Bible studies, seminars and retreats. We have tried theory after theory, and formula after formula, yet we still find ourselves thirsty for more and lacking passion in our walk with God. Could it be that the problem is not what we know or don’t know, but how we look at things? Maybe what we need is not more knowledge, more seminars, or even more blessings; but a fresh new way to look at what we already know. My blog is about that very thing—a fresh new look at our knowledge of God and His promises to us.

I have been a seeker of God most of my life. My search started when I was little girl growing up in the mountains of Southeast Oklahoma. I often sat on the creek bank that ran behind my home and skipped flat rocks across the small stream. I remember looking up into the vast blue sky against the beautiful piney-woods backdrop and asking, “God, where are you?” I have continued that search throughout my life, always looking for what the Bible calls “the pearl of great price.” My thirst to know God has brought me to where I am today, one who continues to ask, seek, and knock, fully believing that “everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened”(Luke 11:10 NKJV).

If you are seeking a fresh new spiritual outlook, perhaps my blog will speak to you. I will not be sharing another method to attain financial blessings or success. Instead, I will be sharing my journey into the deeper, hidden things of God where the blessings and the riches are not of this world. As a believer in God, who “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV), I want to challenge you to take a fresh new look at the hidden life in Christ, how to discover or re-discover the secret place, and how to abide there. If you are looking for a challenge in 2012, I hope you will join me on this fresh new journey.  ~Janie Kellogg

Here We Go!

Treasure in Earthen Vessels is finally up and functional. Please be sure to check out the Welcome tab for a brief story behind the name of the blog and why it was created. If you don’t already know me, you might want to visit the About tab. Also, the Help tab gives helpful hints on how to get around in the blog, subscribe, leave a comment, and the various search features provided. To return to the Home page from any of the other tabs, click on the “Return to Homepage” button in the top green box.

If you are interested in following my blog, enter your email address in the subscribe section and click on the subscribe button. As a subscriber, you will receive a notification in your email inbox when I make a weekly post on the blog.

I am keenly aware that time is a precious commodity. As one writer points out, none of us get more than twenty-four hours in a day. It is my hope and prayer that you will find Treasure in Earthen Vessels an inspiration to your life that is worthy of your time. ~Janie Kellogg

Up and running…….

My website is almost up and running. We are working hard and I expect it to be fully functional in early January 2012. If you want to subscribe, you can do so now. When posts begin to happen you will get an email notification in your inbox.  Merry Christmas to all and hope to connect with you soon!

~Janie Kellogg

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit