Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

God’s OK with Exuberant Angels December 22, 2016

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 4:28 am
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Christmas is full of surprises—those little unexpected moments which delight our hearts and fill our souls to full. It happened a few nights ago at my grandchildren’s Christmas program. Parents and grandparents watched their little ones pull off a spectacular rendition of Jesus’ birth. Every line was not perfectly spoken nor right on cue, but it was magnificent nonetheless.

And the surprise—one little boy (Zane ~ age 5) proved to be a most exuberant entertainer. Dressed in a white tee-shirt, jeans, and a makeshift halo, he stood on the bottom step of the risers that held the angelic choir. This truly adorable angel was poised for a great performance, yet he had one small problem—staying focused. He twitched and twisted with his experiment to see how far it was to the floor below. He swung his left foot off the riser to touch the floor with his tennis shoe; then his right foot—left foot, right foot, over and over it went. Yet, when the choir began to sing another song, he refocused and belted out the words with all his might. A few lines later, his excitement overcame him once again and he amused himself with less important things. The grand finale was his painstaking efforts to pull his arms out of the sleeves of his tee-shirt, leaving us to wonder if the play might end with one half-dressed angel.

The thoughts of this priceless moment bring a smile to my face this morning, yet I wonder if that little boy might reflect us—yes, you and me—during the Christmas season. We know we are supposed to focus on the Greatest Gift Ever Given, yet we get distracted by all the amusing things around us. When something pulls us back to the main thing, we refocus for a time, only to be overcome once again by things of lesser-importance. Like Zane, we do it over and over.

No doubt that little fellow brought delight to the heart of every onlooker, but I believe he also brought delight to the heart of God. Exuberance, energy, excitement—they’re simply part of being a little boy who is cherished and enjoyed. And so are we—cherished and enjoyed by our Heavenly Father. He knows that our exuberance, our energy and our excitement are simply part of being His child—created to live life to the full, to experiment with who we are and what we can do. Perhaps one day we’ll get it right—but until then, here’s a little advice using a few borrowed words from Luke’s account of the original spectacular event that might help us stay focused on the main thing:

In this season of celebration, remember that Jesus coming to earth was indeed good tidings of great joy to all people. So come with haste and find the Savior, glorify and praise God for what is seen and heard, and then go tell everyone what great things God has done. When the hype is over, just ponder all these amazing things throughout the coming New Year. Oh, and don’t forget to look for those little surprises along the way. Christmas is full of them!

 little-lamb

Merry Christmas to all, Janie Kellogg

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He Came For Us December 18, 2016

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 7:10 pm
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I sometimes think we look at Christmas through rose-colored lenses of our own choosing: God sent His sweet Son to earth by way of a warm cozy manger, dazzled lowly shepherds with an angelic host, and led kings to bring gifts to the Baby Jesus. It’s a beautiful story that stirs our hearts each year and leads us to give gifts, too. And we love it.

 

But like most everything in life, the deeper meaning of what happens isn’t always in plain sight. In reality, there is a much nobler greatness behind the magical scenes of Christmas that involves our destiny. You see—you and I were born into a world-gone-wrong.

 

God had created a world He called “good,” that is until evil entered the picture and ruined everything. Then darkness reigned. God’s world would eventually destroy itself because evil left unchallenged would lead to death for everything, including us. It was no less than a tragedy in which you and I were left without hope. Here’s why.

 

History had opened with Adam and Eve falling for the guise of knowledge. It was a costly fall for them, and us. Wrong won. In time, man grew so evil that God regretted that He had made us at all, and He destroyed the world with water. Wrong won again. Throughout the centuries man became so wicked that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Yet, what they declared to be right turned out to be all wrong. Then along came the Pharisees, making a mockery of the Holy Law and changing what was good into what was prideful and self-seeking. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Man couldn’t get it right—only wrong—hopelessly wrong.

 

What might a look at the Christmas story through nobler lenses reveal?

 

Mankind was locked in hopelessness—stuck on wrong.

Someone had to right the wrong.

Someone had to challenge evil.

Someone had to bring hope.

Someone had to come.

And He did!

 

That glorious night we celebrate as Christmas is about many things—but none more necessary for us than a Babe lying in a manger bringing hope to a world-gone-wrong.

 

He came for us! But don’t miss the deeper meaning behind this statement. Claim it for yourself. Make it personal—declare it out loud: I was without hope in a world-gone-wrong, and He came for me.

 

 

he-came-for-me

 

 

Dear Lord Jesus, as we look at the manger scene this Christmas, help us to see the deeper meaning of why you came to earth—you came for each of us. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

I’ve lost the faith, but not all October 29, 2016

2016 has been a hard year for those of us who try to live by our faith. While I can honestly say that my faith in God—the faith that matters most—has not failed one iota, my faith in many other things has. Here’s why.

Never in my lifetime have I seen Americans marching and shouting to kill the police men and women who are willing to die to protect them. Never in my lifetime have I seen people indifferent to such atrocities as shown in the Planned Parenthood videos of the murder of innocent babies. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed tolerance of blatant corruption in high places, at all levels of government and on both sides of the aisle. Today, I have lost faith in people and in government.

Furthermore, I have been a proud Republican all of my life—that is, except for a few months when someone convinced me it would be better if I changed parties so that I could make a difference at the local level. Later, I decided I didn’t care because I was a true conservative at heart, and I changed my registration back. My Dad was the 8th person to register as a Republican in the county where I grew up, so you can see I didn’t exactly grow up in “red” country. I have always believed the best of the Grand Ole Party and had faith that it represented my values. But come January, I will register as an Independent. Today, I have lost faith in my political party.

I have also watched “political correctness” re-shape the American church. We Christians have been shamed for clinging to our guns and Bibles, and we accepted the shame without resistance. In our churches, we have been suppressed to withhold the truth of God’s Word if it might in any way, shape or form offend anyone for doing anything, including sin. We have watered down the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has given us so great a salvation until the next generation can hardly recognize it, much less experience it. Our culture has influenced the church much more than the church has influenced our culture. Today, I have lost faith in the organized church.

Yet, all is not lost. There are some things in which my faith still stands tall and strong. First, my faith in God has not faltered, and I pray it never does. He has always been faithful to His Word, His Name, His people, and His promises. You and I can bet the farm and everything else on God’s faithfulness!

I have not lost faith in the Constitution of the United States, and I hope I never do. Our forefathers did an incredible job of framing it 240 years ago, and while some have tried to interpret it to suit their fancy, it still stands tall on the world stage as the model and envy of every modern civilization. I have not lost faith in its ability to ensure the freedom and justice for all that’s embedded within its structure.

And lastly, I have not lost faith in love. God is love and He created mankind—out of love. He has a plan and purpose for every life—out of love. He sent His Son to die a sacrificial death in order to save us from eternal damnation—out of love. He is in control of this world, as well as the rise and fall of every leader and every nation—out of love. He has a group of born-again, blood-washed, Spirit-filled believers who will be witnesses of His redeeming grace as long as the earth remains—out of love. And when He says enough is enough, He will take His own out of this sin-sick world to spend eternity with Him—out of love!

Make sure you know where you stand. And if your faith feels that it is failing in some areas like mine does—whatever you do, don’t let your faith in God fail! Faith in God is all that will matter in the end—and it’s nearly the end. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

How Much of the Holy Spirit Do You Have? October 10, 2016

How much of the Holy Spirit do you have? Interesting question, huh?  Especially since some people believe that Christians either have “it” or they don’t have “it.” Wrong!

First of all, “it” is not an “it.” The Holy Spirit is a Person and is best referred to as “He.” This often-misunderstood member of the Holy Trinity has a personality, a purpose, and a plan. He has feelings, desires, and reasons for what He does or doesn’t do. He has assignments from the Father, gifts to deliver to believers, and a mission on earth. He was sent by Jesus, as a promise given to the earliest disciples and extended to every disciple since. And that promise, my friend, is to indwell every person who becomes a believer in Jesus Christ.

The question as to whether or not all true believers have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of them is answered in Romans 8:9 “…And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.” Therefore, we can conclude that every person who is born-again has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him from the time of conversion, or else he hasn’t been born-again.

From that amazing first encounter with the Holy Spirit, we can begin to grow up into Christ because we now have a personal teacher to guide us into all truth. His goal is to eventually transform us into the image of Jesus Himself; however, His ability to do so is directly helped or hindered by our willingness to cooperate with Him. When we cooperate with our Indwelling Houseguest, we grow quickly. When we do not cooperate—well, not so much!

I think a better question, be it in 6 months after conversion, 6 years, or 60 years, is not how much of the Holy Spirit do you have, but how much of you does the Holy Spirit have? You see, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman, and He does not overpower us and take away our freewill. He occupies only the territory of our lives that we freely and willingly yield to Him. He will control only what we allow Him to control.

That explains why we sometimes see what should be mature Christians no further advanced than newborn Christians. They have given the Holy Spirit very little control of their lives. They continue to sit at the helm and steer their ship where they want to go, with little thought as to where the Holy Spirit wants to take them.

There has been much teaching on how to be blessed by the Holy Spirit, experience His presence, and enjoy His gifts; yet, very little on how to yield our lives over to His complete control. Unfortunately, the church of today is mostly obsessed with the gifts and experiences, and we remain untrained in how to relinquish that control to Him. There is a widely believed misconception that the Holy Spirit is here to bless us, and at the same time, we get to keep our besetting sins. The problem is—that doesn’t line up with the Holy Spirit’s mission on earth.

Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, used the term “the exchanged life” for the giving up of his life for the Christ-life. In other words, Taylor gave up what he wanted for what the Holy Spirit wanted, and died to the self that we all inherited from Adam and Eve. Of course, that sounds rather foreign to our modern-day easy-believe-ism teachings, wouldn’t you say?

This excerpt from Taylor’s writings clearly depicts a life that has been yielded up to the control of the Holy Spirit: “I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; for He, I know, is able to carry out His will, and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me, or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me….”

So, how much of the Holy Spirit do you and I have? We have an amount equal to the area of our inner being that we have currently yielded to the Holy Spirit’s control—that much, and no more.  The Apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:18 say to be filled with the Spirit, implying that we can be partially filled, completely filled, or somewhere in between. So, which is it—a little, some, or filled?

Next, we will discuss being full of the Holy Spirit—what it looks like and how we can get there. ~ Janie Kellogg

1Dr. & Mrs. Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL, 2009, Pg. 165

 

Do I Have What It Takes to Tell the World that God’s Not Dead? September 27, 2016

I am keenly aware that many denominations have different views on how and when believers are filled with the Holy Spirit. I will leave the doctrinal arguments to the great theologians. However, I think that unless we address some portion of this issue for ourselves, we may miss the very power Christ intended for us to have—that is, the power to live out this life as a true follower of Jesus.

This quote by Jim Cymbala is worth considering: “Is it not time for all of us to do some soul searching and ask ‘Is my life characterized by the power of God being manifested through me by the Holy Spirit so that people will know that God’s not dead?’”

Soul searching—a searching of my soul—to evaluate whether or not I have what it takes to express to the world that God is alive. The only way I can do that is to look at the behavior and the fruits of my life. Do I act like Jesus? Do I look like Jesus? Are the fruits of my life anything like the fruits of His life?

If we study the first disciples of Jesus, we will find they were not much like Him at all—that is until the Holy Spirit arrived on the scene. They were selfish and sought to be the greatest; they slept when He told them to stay awake; Peter lied and denied the Lord; Thomas was full of doubt; they were all cowards—fleeing when the going got tough. What we see are regular human beings, who loved Jesus and wanted to be like Him, but didn’t have the power to do so.

Then the Holy Spirit came and we see very different disciples—now willing to stand on the street corner and preach the gospel, risking their lives to tell the world about the wonderful life-changing salvation they had received. They went to jail, endured threatening, beatings, and eventually death for their Savior. So something happened to them, regardless of how, when or where it happened.

Looking at the earlier version of followers, we don’t see much of anything that manifests power. Yet, looking at those same followers after the Holy Spirit came—we see much power. Things began to happen; people received their message and thousands were saved; others were miraculously healed; in fact, these same disciples were accused of filling Jerusalem with their doctrine!

So what about my life—does anyone see much power coming from me? Some receive my message, but few get saved; no one has been healed, and I’ve never been accused of filling my city with my doctrine. But there has to be some evidence somewhere. It seems in my best interest to examine whether or not I have received the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised—somehow, some way, and at some time!

Laying all doctrinal questions aside of when, where, and how—the question I should be concerned about is this: Do I have what it takes to tell the world that God’s not dead?

If we dare, a trip to the examination table might reveal if, in fact, we have received the Holy Spirit. Some folks in Acts 19:2 said, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” I fear this could also be the answer from some Jesus followers today. The controversial subject of the Holy Spirit is not taught, talked about, or even mentioned in many churches. He is often ignored, misunderstood, or taken for granted. Unfortunately, those are the very reasons we see so little of His power in our lives and in our churches.

This story about Dwight L. Moody, in his early days of ministry, speaks to this issue. He was somewhat successful, yet his ministry was hindered. He drew crowds, but had few results. He tells that one day he came out of a service in New York and was getting into a carriage to go to another service when an old man with white, wind-blown hair called out to him. The old man put his bony finger in Moody’s face and said, “Young man, when you speak again, honor the Holy Ghost!” It was about six months before God revealed to him what the old man had meant by those words—that he was entirely dependent upon the Holy Spirit. He said, “I seldom stand before a great audience where I don’t see that old man, with his outstretched finger, and hear his voice, “Honor the Holy Ghost.” And we know the rest of the story—Moody went on to be one of the most powerful preachers America has ever known.1

Let us ask ourselves: Do we have the Holy Spirit? Do we know what it means to honor the Holy Spirit? What difference does it make, if any? Does it have anything to do with how much the Holy Spirit is manifested through our lives?” Ah ha, some soul searching is in order, don’t you think? ~ Janie Kellogg

1V. Raymond Edman, They Found the Secret, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1960, Pg. 100

 

How Much Do I Know About the Holy Spirit? September 19, 2016

Filed under: Holy Spirit — Janie Kellogg @ 4:28 pm
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I have spent the summer of 2016 studying and teaching on the topic of the Holy Spirit. I knew that our Helper had many names and functions, but I had to ask myself honestly, “How much do I know about the Holy Spirit? I boldly told God that, if needed, He had my permission to hit the delete button on all I already knew and teach me afresh about this amazing Third Person of the Trinity. Today, I stand in awe as to how little I knew about Him previously.

You may think the delete button a bit drastic, but the more I studied, the more I became convinced that much of my teaching had been merely the interpretation and opinions of others who thought they had the Holy Spirit figured out. Some even thought they had a corner on Him, and honestly, that’s impossible! He is an amazing free-Spirit and no one is going to put Him in their narrow-minded doctrinal box of any size or shape.

I gleaned many treasures on this subject from the books and DVD studies by Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in Brooklyn, NY. Other insights have been gained from the works of R. T. Kendall, theologian and author of Holy Fire; and of course, from the many works of one of my favorite writers, Andrew Murray. Of recent, I re-discovered The Message, which is a paraphrasing translation by Eugene Peterson, whose contemporary language has unlocked old truths in understandable language. I must not forget my close companion, the Amplified Bible. Some days I simply sit and weep as I read from these works about familiar words now rendered new and fresh like water from a cool, clear stream.

How has this message been hidden from us for so long? Why hasn’t this essential understanding been granted before? What baffles me the most is why so many denominations have ignored this subject, or more importantly the Helper entirely. Get it? H-e-l-p-e-r! Ah, now you see my point—the one who helps us! Jesus described His sending the Helper so critical that He told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem without Him—the Helper, that is!

I think I have a pretty good idea who might be behind the strategy to keep God’s followers away from the one thing that can help them: Satan, himself. What better way to stop the spread of the Gospel than to hide from them the truth about the Helper? Yet, the pure unadulterated truth is that I need help and lots of it! And Jesus knew that. As my dearest lifelong friend said recently in our weekly ladies Bible Study, “He took care of everything we would need before He left us and went back to heaven.” That is a true statement if I’ve ever heard one.

I plan to share with you some of what I’ve learned on this summer’s journey. I’ve spoken at two Women’s Retreats during the summer months, and God lead me to teach on the Holy Spirit at both of them. Is it perhaps time for us as the Body of Christ to embrace God’s plan to empower us for the work He has assigned to us before Jesus returns? I think so. In my heart of hearts I believe that there has never been a day in our lifetime in which the Helper was so desperately needed. This is that day. Read Matthew 24 if you wonder what “day” I speak of.

I used this slide in my teaching throughout the summer. Might it be your prayer too?

holy-spirit-i-need-you

I’m wondering if some of you feel that same need for His help. Maybe you too think that He has never clearly been explained to you, that so much about Him is uncharted territory, or misconstrued rhetoric. Perhaps you would even now ask yourself, “How much do I know about the Holy Spirit?”

Doesn’t some cool, clear water from the spring of living water sound refreshing about now? If so, stay tuned. My prayer is that together God will lead us to a mighty source of truth and encouragement in our confused and thirsty world. I’m praying this will be an amazing stretch of our journey together.  ~ Janie Kellogg

 

God Speaking August 6, 2016

As a choir director, I am always looking for new music. I like it all—hymns, traditional, contemporary, and country gospel music. If it’s about Jesus, it’s worth a listen. But what I look for most often is the music that speaks something to my heart. You know, when God is revealing a new truth to your life and then you hear a song that perfectly says what God has just shown you. I know you have had that experience too. I generally go, “WOW! God, I am blown away!”

It is like the singer is speaking out loud what is already planted in my heart. So it was a few days ago when I was the guest speaker for a Ladies Retreat. The praise team was singing a song that was somewhat familiar to me, yet I couldn’t place where I had heard it before. Obviously, I knew it pretty well because I sang along quite easily. But where had I heard it?

Finally, it dawned on me. It was a song I had considered several months ago, downloaded the soundtrack, practiced it, and then decided it wasn’t for my church, not now anyway. Maybe too contemporary; or maybe not the combination of instruments I liked; but for whatever reason, I had put it on the back burner.

But standing there in that beautiful sanctuary with precious young people leading the worship with a single guitar and bongo drum, this once-rejected, not-such-a-perfect-fit song spoke volumes to my heart! So, why was a song that hadn’t worked for me, now resonating with every fiber of my being?

Harbor Retreat 2016 - 2

It was God’s way of speaking to me—and to all who will listen—with that inner voice that points us to the hidden truths in His Word. The Holy Spirit is actually commissioned to do that for us: “He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). Did you notice the personal pronoun in the verse? He guides you and me to the truth about who God is; what He has done for us; and how He longs to be in relationship with us. That night, His voice came through loud and clear. God speaking!

For that retreat and for the Bible study I am currently teaching on the importance of the Holy Spirit, I simply needed that song. It confirmed all I had been researching, writing, teaching, and now singing. My Faithful God had connected the dots for me, and I can hardly wait for the choir to learn it, the Ladies Bible Study group, and maybe even you, too. If you haven’t heard it before, google it and listen to a YouTube version with the words. It is called “Holy Spirit, You Are Welcome Here,” by Francesca Battistelli.  I have also included the words below. I challenge you to read them slowly and allow them soak into your inner-being.

This song will help us kick off a new series of teaching the Lord has recently opened up to me. We’ll just say it is the backdrop to prepare our hearts to hear what He wants to say to us. But in order to hear God speaking, there is one prerequisite: We must make the Holy Spirit, the Divine Teacher, welcome in our hearts. As for me, He is oh so welcome, and I am ready to hear God speak. How about you?

Holy Spirit, by Francesca Battistelli

 

There’s nothing worth more

That could ever come close

No thing can compare

You’re our living hope

Your presence, Lord.

 

I’ve tasted and seen

Of the sweetest of loves

Where my heart becomes free

And my shame is undone

Your presence, Lord.

 

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere

Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for

To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

Your presence, Lord.  (2Xs)

 

Let us become more aware of Your presence

Let us experience the glory of Your goodness (4Xs)

 

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere

Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for

To be overcome by Your presence, Lord.

I hope you will join me for the next few weeks/months. It’s been a busy summer, and I am excited to get back to writing and posting on my blog—especially when God is speaking.  Blessings to all. ~ Janie

Photo ~ Harbor Church, Oologah, OK, July 29, 2016