Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Calm the Storm or Calm Me July 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Got Peace? July 4, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Goal Posts Have Moved May 28, 2015

Redefine the gospel—that’s the best way I know how to describe what God has done in my life over the past ten years. While I’m not sure I can explain what I thought it was before, I do know that today I see the gospel differently.

The goals for my life are no longer to be healthy, wealthy and wise. They are not for people to like me, accept me, or support me. In short, the goal posts have moved. Things I once thought important are not important to me now.

It began in 2005 when God led me to attend a Christian writer’s conference. I came home from that conference with this sobering revelation: I’m not sure I even know what the gospel is; but I do know that I don’t have much of anything to write about.

Looking back, my evaluation of myself was right on. As a result of that conference, I discovered the writings of Philip Yancey, Andrew Murray, Henri Nouwen, Amy Carmichael, and many others. After ten years of delving deep into those writings, my mindset about the gospel has clearly changed, and so have my goals.

A few days ago I decided to write down the things that are important to me now—my new goals you might say. Please don’t misunderstand—I am not listing things I have attained. In fact, I may never attain them; but they are the things I press toward.1

    • To please my Heavenly Father in every word, thought, and action.
    • To obey the Holy Spirit in all things, every time He speaks to me.
    • To be humble before God and others, choosing the lowest position.
    • To bring glory to God and God alone.
    • To love His church, striving to bring unity in the Body of Christ.
    • To love the unlovable so they will know and feel the love of God.
    • To be willing for God to use me whenever and however He chooses.
    • To give more than I have ever given, withholding nothing from my Lord.
    • To give the Holy Spirit full possession of whole being—my house as His house.
    • To be aware of His presence inside me and commune with Him continuously.
    • To guard my heart so there is never a bitter drop of anything to spill out.2
    • To seek for every ounce of pride in my heart to be eradicated.
    • To hide His Word in my heart, committing it to memory.
    • To hide my life so completely in Christ that others see Him, not me.
    • To make every day a day with Jesus. (A day without Jesus is a day wasted.)
    • To be aware of His opinions on life, politics, and people rather than my own.
    • To have ears that hear and eyes that see from God’s perspective.
    • To be courageous enough to share the Good News with everyone I meet.
    • To be bold enough to speak truth whenever truth is challenged.
    • To keep the main thing, the main thing. (Eternity)
    • To accept what He chooses to give, rather than what I want to receive.
    • To remember that my sin caused Jesus to suffer and die. (Own my part in His death)
    • To cherish the dust at the foot of the cross.3 (a most holy place)
    • To be determined to live for Him and to die for Him.

 

This was a great exercise. I recommend that you do it too, and see what your list looks like. You might be surprised.

Today, I believe I am much closer to knowing the true gospel. I am also much closer to having something to write about. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.1

Small footprintKey Quote: “St. Paul counted the loss of all things as nothing that he might know Him who he already knew; and the soul, suddenly illuminated by some fresh outshining of the knowledge of the love of God shown forth on Calvary, does not stop to measure how much or how little it knew of that love before. Penetrated, melted, broken before that vision of love, it feels that indeed all it ever knew was nothing, less than nothing.”4 ~ Amy Carmichael

1Philippians 3:14; 2Amy Carmichael, If, CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA, Pg. 35; 3Ibid, Pg. 53; 4Ibid, forward.

 

How Can Such a Small Bump in the Road Stir Up Such a Big Stink? March 30, 2015

While driving home from church last night I hit a bump in the road. I felt only a small thump, but it wasn’t long before I knew I had stirred up a big stink. You guessed it—I hit a skunk. It seemed as if I didn’t have a choice since it darted right out in front of me. Regardless, I quickly chose what I thought to be the best direction to go in order to miss it. I chose wrong.

I couldn’t help but blame myself. Was I pre-occupied with a problem I had just learned about? Was I not focusing on where I was going? Did I react in haste; in error? Perhaps if I had done any of these things differently, one of God’s little creatures would still be alive, and my car, well, let’s just say it would be giving off a more pleasant aroma!

OK, maybe I’m over-analyzing, but maybe not. After all, I expect that I’ll be reminded of it for quite some time. So, what might the Holy Spirit have for me in this unfortunate incident?

Perhaps 2 Corinthians 2:14 has a word for us: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.”

This verse tells us that God does two things: 1) He always leads us to triumph in Christ; and 2) He uses my life to distribute a fragrance of Himself everywhere I go.

The fact is….we all have bumps in the road—little bumps, medium-sized bumps, and big bumps. They happen to everyone. The issue is not how to have a life without bumps, but how to handle them when they pop up right in our face.

It is in the bumps of life that God desires to lead us to triumph. That’s right—a bump in the road is actually an opportunity for the Christ in us to show the world who He is, how He thinks, and how He behaves. What we call an unfortunate bump in the road is also our opportunity to be used of God to spread the sweet fragrance of Christ-like-ness to those who come in contact with us.

Anytime we encounter a bump in the road that jolts our lives, our emotions, or our self-esteem, we (and others) are left with the aroma of our reaction. Since that aroma will be around for quite a while, it’s important what we dispense—a sweet-smelling fragrance or an aroma that people will shy away from?

Even a small amount of rudeness, selfish demands, or an unleashed temper can stir up a stink we may later regret. Damage done in a split-second of careless reaction may cost us more than we ever imagined—an irreparable friendship, alienated family member, or a wounded spouse.

Some good advice might be to keep our minds on the Lord instead of our problems; remember to stay focused on where we are going and our goal to take others with us; not to react in haste, but to think things through; and to understand there is a cost if we make an error in the direction we choose. And if we choose our reactions and words carefully, we might even save the life of one of God’s creations—a human one.

Lord, as your ambassadors to a lost world, help us react to the bumps in our road like Jesus would react. We understand that if we don’t, we might be left with a big stink to live with. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted.” ~ Amy Carmichael

 

The Elephant Revealed February 4, 2015

I wonder how many times when the elephant in the room is suddenly faced and its truths revealed that we discover the elephant wasn’t nearly as bad as we had expected.  In fact, the exact opposite is often the case, and we question why we had dreaded it in the first place.

I fully believe that will be the case with humility. Once we see humility for what it is, we will be pleasantly surprised. I also believe the enemy of our souls has known all along that humility is the crucial key to the Christian life, and therefore he has deliberately diverted us away from it.

Perhaps a look at what brought down the arch-enemy of God in the first place will give us some insight into the confusion surrounding humility. Before the world was created, Satan desired to take God’s place as the most-high God—in short, he wanted to be worshipped. In seeking that position for himself, he convinced one-third of the angels to buy into his plan. Satan did not deserve nor earn that position, but he exalted himself to that place. As a result, he and his team of rebellious imps were cast out of heaven.

It is easy to see why Satan approached Adam and Eve with his plan as well. His convincing, but untrue argument was to cast doubt on God’s integrity. Unfortunately, like the fallen angels, they too fell for Satan’s lies.

Can you imagine the grief in God’s heart when his crowned creation followed the path of his worst enemy? If we could grasp that fact, we might better understand why God hates pride so much. Pride cost God one-third of His angels as well as the creation that reflected His own image. But wait, that isn’t all—pride would cost Him even more.

The entire human race would now inherit the sin of pride from their parents’ DNA. It would cripple every child that would ever live. Pride would rise up in their hearts, and if gone unchecked, it would cause them to desire a position of highest honor and praise; perhaps even to be worshipped. What could possibly stop the universal spread of this devastating disease?

An antidote was needed, but what? The antidote must be equally as good as pride is bad. In His great wisdom, God knew that only the exact opposite of pride could counter its deadly effects on the human soul. Thus, it would require God’s greatest virtue—humility.

Being the supreme essence of humility, God determined it would be necessary to demonstrate this virtue to the world. The plan was made and set into motion—“our Lord Jesus emptied Himself and came to earth to live a poor man’s life and die a felon’s death.”1 Jesus gave up His perfect, sinless life on a despised cross to rescue us. There is no greater act of humility than that.

The antidote for pride would come with a high price tag. The unthinkable! The unimaginable! The unexplainable! The most painful of all costs! For 33 years God would be separated from His Son, and for 33 years He would foresee the excruciating pain His Son would endure. God saw it. God felt it. God allowed it. We want to scream, “Why? Why would God do that?”

If pride had not been stopped, we would be destined to join Satan and his angels in the eternal lake of fire. Yet, God thought we were worth saving. Can we not clearly see why God would have a deep and intense hatred for even a hint of pride? ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us.2 ~ Andrew Murray

1Amy Carmichael, Candles in the Dark, CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA, Pg.15; 2Andrew Murray, Humility, Fig Books.com, Pg.12

 

The Fast-Track to Success in 2015 January 8, 2015

I love the mysteries of God tucked within the pages of His Holy Word just waiting to be uncovered by seekers. God is so faithful to perform that which He promised. Take this one for example: “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”1

One favorite that I recently discovered is the secret to going higher in my spiritual walk. We’ve all heard the advice to work harder, jump higher, and run faster. Yet after having tried it all, we find ourselves weary from the workout. What I am about to say might shock some of you; actually, you could think I’m not on the fast-track but on the wrong track!

Remember that Jesus prefaced the mysteries He taught over 2,000 years ago with these words: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”2 In other words, it takes ears that are spiritually tuned to hear and know what Jesus is saying. Ears not spiritually tuned (or trained) simply won’t get it. So it is with this week’s blog.

With your ears tuned to the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit, consider this strategic plan for success in 2015: Success for a Christian means finding the pathway to the higher life in Christ—a life of peace, of power, and of a deeper, more intimate relationship with Christ Himself. There is only one path that leads to that higher life: We must go lower—much lower than we’ve ever imagined.

Oh, I know it goes against most everything we’ve been taught—such as to name what we want, tell God about it, begin to speak it, and lo, it will magically appear (as if there is power in repeating something until it comes true). That is not faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.3 The Word speaks nothing of wishful thinking or speaking. Besides, it hasn’t worked; so why hang on to a failed strategy?

Jesus clearly laid out the plan: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

“Servanthood is integral to the gospel. Nowhere else does Jesus give us a path to greatness.”5 Jesus not only gave the plan, He modeled it—He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.6 If we are to find true success in 2015, we must go lower—in humble submission to the Father’s will. We too must die to ourselves and become His servants, allowing Him to have His way with us. Call it following Jesus, if you will.

There is a secret power in humility that can be ours if we will but lower ourselves to find it. Amy Carmichael says it is found in the dust at the foot of the cross.

Humility is a difficult concept to receive; yet, it is God’s plan for success. Want to be successful in 2015? Then seek to go lower. His Word cannot fail, and neither will we, if we follow it. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “Servanthood is integral to the gospel. Nowhere else does Jesus give us a path to greatness.”5 ~ Chris Tiegreen

For more Secret Place Secrets visit www.treasureinearthenvessels.net and follow the footprints.

1Jeremiah 33:3; 2Matthew 11:15; 3Hebrews 11:1; 4Matthew 20:26-28; 5Chris Tiegreen, The One Year At His Feet Devotional, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., January 5; 6Philippians 2:8

 

 

A Chance to be Like Jesus November 11, 2014

The issue looms large in my head. Seems like a simple disagreement between two people. “Not so,” comes the whisper of the Holy Spirit from deep within, “it is much more.” My protest was as weak as water.

For one who has long sought for the Holy Spirit to be in full control of my life, I am here and now given an opportunity to see my prayers become reality—this is indeed a chance to die.

Amy Carmichael, missionary to India in the early 1900s, used the term often. Her biography carries the title A Chance to Die, and there is no way to read her many works without coming face to face with this concept.

Just when we’re sold on the idea that the Christian life is surely the good life, we find embedded within the writings of such great saints as Amy, the mysterious concept of death to self in order to have life with God. Please don’t miss the “in order to.” It is the cause and effect concept:  In order to have this, one must do that. We find the same idea in Jesus words: “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”1

So just what does Amy mean by a chance to die? When we are faced with the painful yielding up of our way in order to allow another to have their way, it is a chance—an opportunity—to die to self. And when our flesh screams a gut-wrenching “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” we can deliberately choose to give up our right in favor of God’s will.

We can easily know God’s will in such matters. The instructions to love one another, forgive one another, submit to one another, and turn the other cheek are strategically implanted throughout our divine instruction manual. It is with spiritual eyes that we can see these golden opportunities to practice what we preach.

Once we begin to look for them, we can see them everywhere—in our own little nothingness-bickerings—a chance to say “No” to self. After all, that is the essence of Calvary—Jesus saying “No” to having His way. Because of the Father’s plan to redeem mankind, Jesus didn’t demand His right to live, but saw it as a chance to die so others could live.

What makes us think our “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me,” will be anything less?2 It won’t. Each little controversy, each yielding and submission to God’s way is an opportunity to be like Jesus, that is, if we can recognize it as such—a chance to die. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “Welcome anything that calls you to your only true position: ‘I have been crucified with Christ….3 A crucified life cannot be self-assertive. It cannot protect itself. It cannot be startled into resentful words. The cup that is full of sweet water cannot spill bitter-tasting drops, however sharply it is knocked.”4 ~ Amy Carmichael

For more Secret Place Secrets visit www.treasureinearthenvessels.net and follow the footprints.

1Luke 9:24; 2Mark 8:34; 3Galatians 2:20; 4Amy Carmichael, You Are My Hiding Place, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN, 1991, Pg. 74.