Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

More Than Physical Therapy May 4, 2017

Filed under: Christian Growth — Janie Kellogg @ 8:34 pm
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It felt really strange, almost as if my head had been gently detached from my body and laid to the side. I was learning to trust my highly-recommended physical therapist as she tried to put my head back where it belongs. This was my fourth therapy session, and each session was growing in intensity. I wondered what she would do next.

 

Apparently, I had injured my neck at some time in the past, and now my head was off-center. It had been this way for so long that my new center felt more comfortable than my true center. Yet, my charming young therapist was determined to get my head on straight once again.

 

She worked the muscles on either side of my neck, removing the knots that had developed. A stretch here and a pull there—attempting to relieve the pain I had endured over the previous four months. She said the stretching and pulling would strengthen my neck muscles so they would eventually be strong enough to hold my head in the correct position. That should stop the pain.

 

As I contemplated her strategy, I thought about the spiritual struggle I was currently going through. Perhaps my physical condition and my spiritual condition had some things in common. Could it be that some of my spiritual muscles were sagging and I had found a more comfortable place to exist that wasn’t my true center? Things like slouching in prayer or slacking in Bible Study; yielding to selfish thoughts rather than Christlike ones, and even stooping to self-pity because things weren’t going my way in an important area of my life. Could it be that the worst symptom of all was my drooping faith to believe that God was still in control of my circumstances?

 

As my therapist continued to do her highly-skilled work on my neck, I smiled at God. I had caught a deeper meaning of my therapy session on that beautiful spring morning. Yes, my neck muscles were being strengthen to do what they were designed to do, and now I clearly saw that it was time to strengthen my spiritual muscles as well—the muscles that keep me on true center—true to God and true to my inner being—a woman after God’s own heart. Who knows, maybe some of that pain will go away, too! ~ Janie Kellogg

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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

 

Could This Year Be “That Year” for You? January 14, 2016

Current day America is in a mess, and the world is in an even bigger mess! It seems to me that we are headed downhill toward final doom. How’s that for optimism about the New Year? Not so much, huh?

However, I do have some positive thoughts about this year. For instance, I believe that 2016 can be a great year for the church. It could actually be our finest hour as we become eye witnesses of the return of Jesus Christ. That event is on my mind a lot lately.

I currently feel that I do not have the power in my life to withstand the persecution coming to all Christ-followers. I also feel that I do not have ability to lead the women that I teach or to write God’s message to my blog readers. The question must be: What then can I do to get prepared?

I desire to surrender my life fully to the Lordship of Christ—my Holy House Guest, who lives within me. I long to fully obey Him, but cannot find the power to do so. Romans Chapter 7 is my testimony, too. Yep, it describes me to a tee. I expect many of you grapple with the same issues.

God knows my heart, and yours, and He bids us to come closer. On New Year’s Day I was entertaining the thought that 2016 might be the year I actually figure it out. After all, I’ve read dozens, if not hundreds, of books on the deeper walk, the inner life, and the secret place. Perhaps I will finally tap into it—this year.

And then on that first Sunday morning of 2016 my pastor preached a sermon titled “That Year.” My heart leapt within my chest. I could hardly believe my ears as he began to read this Scripture:

“Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.” Joshua 5:12

I grabbed it immediately as a word for me—it clearly resonated with what I had been thinking. So, I declared right then and there: This year would be that year for me to enter the Promised Land.

I’ve read about the Promised Land for decades. I know what it is filled with: milk and honey,1 so they say, and luscious fruit—large grapes—really big and juicy ones! I’ve longed to enter there.

What about you—have you ever longed to enter there? Some theologians believe the Promised Land refers to heaven; others for the here and now. I believe the latter. Regardless, for me it’s not about the fruit, the milk, or the honey. It’s about power in my own life to overcome this pesky flesh I struggle with.

Romans Chapter 8 tells me that it can be done, after all Paul did it. Many saints of old have done it. Why not me? And you? What if the Promised Land is the place where we finally have the power to fully obey the Holy Spirit and no longer yield to our flesh? Or the place where we begin to eat of the produce of that bountiful land—begin to partake of the power to say “no” to those things we don’t want to do and “yes” to the things we do want to do? Sounds logical.

If so, it’s clearly time for us to enter there.2 If not now, when? But we must remember that it takes faith to enter that place. The doubters didn’t please God then. They won’t please Him now either. Although it was promised to them, their unbelief kept them from inheriting it at all.3 Unbelief is clearly not a good route to take. But for those who believed, they moved forward by faith to claim the Promised Land as their own.4

Could 2016 be “that year” you and I move forward by faith to claim the Promised Land as our very own? Believers believe. I believe. Do you? ~Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still holds and is offered today, let us be afraid, lest any of you should think he has come too late and has come short of reaching it. Hebrews 4:1

1Exodus 3:8; 2Hebrews 4:1 3Hebrews 3:19; 4Joshua 21:43

 

A Thanksgiving Scene We Will Never Forget November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving! Oh, the joy of being with family is almost too precious to describe. The scenes are incredible! We gather around to welcome the newest members; we measure the height of kids growing tall; we recognize personality traits that remind us of a one taken away; and we surely take notice of the graces of life more apparent in each of us. We look on as our offspring learn to be ducks in the bigger pond, and we cherish their successes. Life simply evolves, not without its pain and sorrow, and yet we give thanks.

It’s in scenes like these that the giving of thanks is so appropriate, for in all of them—sacred or sad—we thank the One who gave them to us. His instruction manual tells us to give thanks in everything.1 We not only can, we must; for the Giver of Life does all things well. While we may not always like what is handed to us, He who gives it makes no mistakes.

We can call it acceptance, for that is exactly what it is. Acceptance of what our Heavenly Father has chosen to give to us. I love the story about a little girl who was born both deaf and dumb. When questioned why God would have made her so, she thought for a moment, and then with trembling hands boldly wrote out her response: “Even so, Father, for it seemed good in Your sight.”2

What kind of faith does it take for acceptance like that?  How do such young eyes see such mature truths? And what about us—do we know the meaning of acceptance? Or do we spend our time and energy trying to change that which was given?

Acceptance is what thanksgiving is all about. It is that deep swelling of faith within us that eventually rises to the surface and says, “What God has chosen to give is good and I am thankful for it.” We may not understand it or fully embrace its treasure, but we are still grateful to the God who gave. And why is that—because He can be trusted.

It is comforting to know that one day we will see things more clearly—for we shall see Him as He is, as well as all the things we haven’t understood. We only know in part now and see through a glass dimly.3 But just hang in there—a new day is about to dawn.

The Apostle John wrote about a future scene that is very different from our unexplained ones. Here is a paraphrased glimpse of what he saw just up ahead. Please read it slowly, even out loud, and try to see if you can picture yourself there, in this scene:

I heard what sounded like a mighty shout of a great crowd in heaven, exclaiming, Hallelujah—Praise the Lord! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God! His judgments are true and sound and just and upright. He has judged and pronounced sentence and doomed the great harlot who corrupted and demoralized and poisoned the earth, and has avenged the blood of His servants. And again they shouted, Hallelujah—Praise the Lord! Then the twenty-four elders fell prostrate and worshipped God Who sits on the throne, saying, Amen! Hallelujah—Praise the Lord! Then from the throne there came a voice saying, Praise our God, all you servants of His both small and great. After that I heard what sounded like a shout of a vast throng, like the boom of many pounding waves and like the roar of terrific and mighty thunderpeals, exclaiming, Hallelujah—Praise the Lord! For now the Lord our God, the Omnipotent, the All-Ruler, reigns! Let us rejoice and shout for joy—exulting and triumphant! Let us celebrate and ascribe to Him glory and honor for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His Bride has prepared herself.4

I certainly have my favorite phrases, such as “a mighty shout” (not a timid one); “a great crowd” (God has a big family); “all you servants of His both small and great” (small comes before great, just like Jesus said they would); and “His Bride has prepared herself” (Oh my, we must be ready for the wedding). Are you?

That is a thanksgiving scene we will never forget. I trust that I will see you there! ~ Janie Kellogg

11 Thessalonians 5:18; 2Matthew 11:26; 31 Corinthians 13:12; 4Revelation 19-Selected excerpts from the Amplified Bible.

 

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

 

What to do with a Dead Vision ~ June 8, 2015

What comes to mind when you hear the words “dead vision?” Here is what goes off in my head: Done. Over. Finished. Expired. Lifeless. Nada. Nil. Nothing.

I was recently tempted to call a promise of God—that has not yet been fulfilled in my life—dead. You know what I’m talking about because you have one too—the vision God dropped into your heart years ago, and you are still waiting for it to happen.

As I pondered the cause for the delay, I wondered if I had done something to hinder God from fulfilling His word to me. No sooner than I put that issue to rest (by asking for forgiveness for whatever I might have done), another accusation quickly surfaced to replace it, and then another, and another. You will recognize them, because you’ve heard them too:

“Maybe I didn’t hear God right. Perhaps I am believing for something God never promised? I must be daydreaming to think this could come true. It’s impossible. Did I just make this up? I might as well face it, that vision is dead!”

A few days ago a daily devotional reading by Amy Carmichael spoke to this very issue. She wrote:  “Our Lord Jesus has taught us to call the dead, the living.”1

It’s true. Hebrews 11:12 says: “Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky….” We know this as the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah very late in life. And in Romans 4:17 we read, “God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did.”

We are given a clear example of the good-as-dead body of Abraham and the obviously-dead womb of Sarah being called the living. By all accounts their vision appeared to be totally impossible. Yet, in the remaining verses of Romans 4 we read how Abraham found the faith and the courage to call those dead things, alive.

Contrary to hope, Abraham believed in hope. (vs.18)

Not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead since he was about a hundred years old. (vs. 19)

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief. (vs. 20)

He was strengthened in faith and gave glory to God. (vs. 20)

He was fully convinced that what God had promised He was also able to perform. (vs. 21)

Notice the verb phrases in these scriptures:  believed in hope; not being weak; did not consider; did not waver; was strengthened; gave glory; was fully convinced. These are the steps Abraham took while waiting upon God to fulfil the vision.

More modern-day language may sound like this: Don’t give up. Hang in there. Keep on keeping on. Stay the course. Trust when you don’t feel like it. Praise God anyway. Speak positive words of faith. Reaffirm your confidence in God.

Is it too late for us to apply these powerful verb phrases to our vision? Of course not! What if we were to defy the odds, disregard what we see, dismiss what we feel, disarm the voice of our enemy—and call our dead vision—alive! After all, if God Himself says something is alive, then it must be alive!

Hasn’t the enemy of our souls taunted us long enough with doubt and unbelief? As sons and daughters of Abraham, our father of faith, let’s tell God that we still believe He will fulfill His promise to us. Then we can move forward as if it is true, simply because God said so. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.~ Romans 4:18 [The Message]

1Amy Carmichael, Whispers of His Power, CLC Publications, Ft. Washington, PA, 1982, Pg. 121

 

I Can Do This! May 1, 2015

Many of us are familiar with the story “The Engine that Could” and love the psychology behind those famous words, “I think I can, I think I can!” We have been taught from childhood that if we think we can do something, then we can. And we’ve carried that mindset on into life, believing nothing is out of reach for those who apply themselves.

 

This early self-esteem teaching has also found its way into our Christian beliefs. By our words and actions, we proclaim: “I can do this!” We often quote the words of the Apostle Paul with the main emphasis on the “I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.1

 

There is one problem here—God is not looking for people who can do this; rather, He is actually looking for those who cannot. The Bible tells us: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”2

 

While Moses was leading God’s people out of slavery in Egypt, the Red Sea miracle was for one purpose—to show the power of God. It had nothing to do with the power of Moses, or Aaron, or certainly the frightened Children of Israel—but the magnificent power of the Almighty.3

 

The fact is that God purposely led the Children of Israel into an impossible predicament where they could do nothing for themselves.4 Nothing within their own power could deliver them from that set of circumstances. They clearly could not do this! It would take nothing less than a miracle of God to rescue them.5

 

Do you ever wonder why God doesn’t allow your life to stay nice and normal? Believe it or not, in spite of our early training in self-esteem, the problem actually lies within the statement: “I can do this!”

 

Leaving the normal—our comfort zones—will always require us to be stretched. While we don’t like the stretching, it is the trips outside the normal that place us smack-dab in the middle of circumstances where God is able to show Himself strong. How else could God use our lives to display His power if you and I always lived up to the self-esteemed position of “I can do this?”

 

The short answer is—He can’t. Many people can handle the status quo—the unsaved, the unbeliever, the atheist—all can do this. Without challenges, the whole world can do this. But that is not what God’s children are called to do. We are called and chosen to show the world His power and His greatness.6

 

We will find ourselves questioning God when difficult times come our way if we do not understand His purpose. The complaining Children of Israel certainly didn’t; in fact, they literally thought it would be better to go back into slavery than to walk outside their comfort zone! Sound like anyone you know?

 

If our lives are yielded to the purposes of God, we should expect to find ourselves in impossible situations on a regular basis so that His power can be shown to the world through our powerlessness.

 

That is the very substance miracles are made of: Our weakness + God’s power = Glory to God! And the formula works every time.

 

If you and I desire to be used to bring glory to God, we must be willing to be s—t—r—e—t—c—h—e—d! Are you? If so, God is looking for you! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Small footprintKey Scripture: But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.4

 

Small footprintKey scripture: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.6

 

1Philippians 4:13; 22 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJ); 3Deuteronomy 4:37; 4Exodus 9:16 (NIV); 5 Exodus 14; 61 Peter 2:9 (NIV)