Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

What is the Missing Ingredient in Your Christian Life? February 25, 2015

If I were asked today what is the one ingredient missing in my Christian life, I would answer without hesitation: power. If I were asked that same question about my church or the church at large, I would also answer without hesitation: power.

The modern-day church may have awesome services with large crowds, lights, music, drama, and near star-status preachers. We may also have beautiful buildings, paved parking lots; and exciting programs that provide outreach to our communities and missionaries around the world. But, there is one thing we do not have: power.

Divorce and broken homes among Christians mirror that of non-Christians. The number of Christians entangled with drugs, alcohol and pornography provides alarming statistics that the church must own. We struggle to make any progress whatsoever against immoral changes within our society. Healing is not experienced as we bury our own without expecting a miracle. Let’s face it—the church appears to be powerless.

The simple truth is that we actually have no power. Ever wonder why that might be? My husband and I have this conversation at least once a week. Answers are as scarce as hen’s teeth.

When the Holy Spirit brought 2 Corinthians 12:9 to my attention fifteen years ago, I began to search for its meaning. I mostly focused on God’s grace being adequate and what I might be missing in that great truth. I also tried to process how God’s strength could be made perfect in my weakness without much luck. And, I have remained clueless as to why Paul declared that he was not only handling, but embracing his infirmities. What I did not give much attention is the last part of this verse: “that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

What if we were to see those two things—weakness and infirmities—as perquisites for having the power of Christ? If so, then the power of Christ resting on Paul was conditional! Could it be right there in plain sight: the power of Christ resting on any Christian is conditional! The power of Christ resting on the church is conditional! Is perhaps the reason Paul said he would “most gladly rather boast in his infirmities” because these two things are the condition for having power?

Let’s look at it again. If weakness and infirmities are the things that qualified Paul to have the power of Christ operating in his life, we can easily see why he was glad to acknowledge them. The power of Christ is worth everything!

If true, then by admitting our weakness—we qualify for the power of Jesus; by proclaiming our strength—we do not qualify for the power of Jesus.

Check out Isaiah 40:29 ~ “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength,” and James 4:6 “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Choosing weakness clearly goes against our human nature, as well as most everything we’ve been taught. But God says if we do—if we refuse to promote ourselves, our strength, our adequacies—His grace will be sufficient.

The equation looks like this:  Having humility equals having power; or simply: Humility equals power.

In light of this discovery, other scriptures are starting to make sense to me. Try it out for yourself. We will cover some of them next time. Don’t forget to digest the Key Quote below. I am so grateful for God’s great patience with me, for I have so much to learn. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “I feel deeply that we have very little conception of what the Church suffers from the lack of this divine humility—the nothingness that makes room for God to prove His power.” 1 ~ Andrew Murray

1Andrew Murray, Humility, Fig-books.com; Page 25

 

Help Wanted: Weak People Apply Here October 22, 2014

Why is it that we so often forget that God uses weak people and small things? It is not the strong, or the high and mighty, or the fittest, or the courageous that match the job descriptions for openings in the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul declared this: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”1 I know you’ve read it a thousand times, but read it again.

I’ve grappled with the meaning of these words for years, but recently I experienced it in real life. I was in over my head and I knew it. Even with all my super-duper-hyped-up-positive-thinking energy, I did not have within me the ability to complete the task before me.

The task was a special service at my church that I was coordinating. The program included eight choir songs and 20 speakers. For days my legs ached with the stress of this annual event that is followed by an all-church dinner. Cooking to do, programs to print, and last minute instructions for speakers—all swirled through my head as I dressed for church.

Minutes before leaving my house, with hands shaking and fearing that I would forget something important or make a big mistake before it was over, I cried out to God. I openly admitted my weakness, claiming Paul’s humbling words as my very own.

In those brief minutes with my face on the floor, I traded my weakness for God’s strength. It worked. According to the words of J. I. Packer, to those who will admit their weakness, God will show himself strong.

“For only at the point where the insufficiency of natural strength is faced, felt, and admitted, does divine empowerment begin….Divine strength is perfected in conscious human weakness….If I could remember each day of my life, that the way to grow stronger is to grow weaker, if I would accept that each day’s frustration, obstacles, and accidents are God’s ways of making me acknowledge my weakness, so that growing stronger might become a possibility for me….May God in His great mercy weaken us all!”2 ~ J.I. Packer

This is indeed valuable information if you need strength for something you are facing today. Admit your weakness and watch God show up! ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “For only at the point where the insufficiency of natural strength is faced, felt, and admitted, does divine empowerment begin….Divine strength is perfected in conscious human weakness.” ~ J. I. Packer

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

12 Corinthians 12:9-10; 2J. I. Packer quoted in Dr. Bruce H. Wilkerson, 30 Days to Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc. 1999), 90.

 

 

Choose Joy July 11, 2013

Filed under: Encouragement — Janie Kellogg @ 12:47 pm
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[This week I am publishing a devotional written by my son, Brent. He is the Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Thanks, Brent, for sharing this great word with us.]

It is almost a guarantee—put me in rush hour traffic and I will lose my cool, my patience and my joy! While standing in line three deep at the local supermarket, I tend to lose my joy there too.  The more I think about it—I seem to be living in a “joy-less” society.

People are grumpy.  We make lousy neighbors. We come home, close the garage door, and retreat into our own lives.  We look to medications, doctors and therapists to help us discover happiness.  We think buying that one more big toy will make us content.  Somewhere as a nation we have bought into the lie “more is better.”   Thus we have become “joy-less.”

I love how the Bible is full of hidden treasures.  Psalm 16 is a powerful chapter that unlocks the secret to “joy-full” living.  It is so powerful that it can change the course of a person’s life; yet it is almost a whisper in scripture.  If you find yourself reading for quantity – you might just miss it.  Personally, I think our culture as a whole has missed it. Because we live for quantity of life, we have missed the whispers of God’s still small voice.

We may find a clue to our dilemma in verse 11:  “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  This verse lends to beautiful worship songs and inspiring art work; but as far as practical theology—let’s face it, we don’t practice it very much.  Could the reason we have so much road rage and too many impatient shoppers is because we have no joy?

Statistics tell us that the number of people attending church each year is decreasing.  Alarming news headlines certainly reveal that fewer people are living out their faith.  If Psalm 16:11 is true, and we know it is, then it makes perfect sense that our culture is angry and empty. Simply put: If time in God’s presence equals joy, then no time in God’s presence equals no joy!

This may be overstated, but I believe we lack joy because we fail to spend time in the presence of God.  Something happens when we start the day with God.  It puts the rest of the day in proper perspective.  It places the circumstances in His control and the stress in His hands. Yet, many of us are far too busy to stop and enjoy our Creator.

Instead of talking about the grumpy drivers on the highway and angry shoppers at the supermarket – let’s talk for a second about you.  Do you have joy in your life? Do you see the world as a heavy place, full of things that press your buttons; or do you see the world as God’s creation and His masterpiece to be celebrated and enjoyed?  The difference in how you see the world may be in how you spend your time.

As followers of Christ, we should choose joy!  Nehemiah 8:10 tells us, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”   I encourage you to choose to spend time in God’s presence this week—it has the potential to change your outlook on life.  ~Brent Kellogg

 

A Mystery Revealed June 29, 2013

Filed under: Christian Growth — Janie Kellogg @ 2:25 pm
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The mysteries of the gospel are not discovered, uncovered, or solved—they are revealed. They come to us only as God grants understanding. So it is with the long-sought after meaning of the strange words by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:10: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” I’ve read them no less than a thousand times, but their understanding has remained unclear. It seems to be an oxymoron.

Just what was Paul thinking when he wrote this bi-polar statement? I’ve wrestled with it for half-a-lifetime. I get glimpses here and there. Slowly, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little. Yet, glimpses eventually lead to vision.

It is becoming clearer. Somehow I sense that when I grasp it, other scriptures will open to me—maybe dozens. Who knows? It is well worth the pursuit.

Let us consider the word “then” from Paul’s statement. It denotes a lapse of time from before until now. It also speaks of a condition— from that to this; from what was to what now is; or perhaps, from what was to what can be.

Turning the sentence around is helpful: When I am strong, then I am weak. From that perspective we might say: When I consider my strength (in and of myself), then I am indeed a weak being and in a weak position. That is easy to see. Now let’s reverse it back and read it with that understanding: When I am weak (in and of myself), then I am a strong being and in a strong position.

It appears that being weak—admitting weakness—is beneficial in becoming strong. A statement by J. I. Packer supports this conclusion: “The power principle—God’s power scenario, we might call it—is that divine strength is perfected in conscious human weakness.” 1

But how do I appropriate that knowledge? How to I actually find the stronger position?

The Song of Solomon 8:5 gives some light: “Who is this that comes up from the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved?”

Leaning implies one who is weak, unable to make the journey alone, and depending on another for help, support, and strength. Leaning is an outward sign of an inward weakness. Could that be the stronger position? Is that what God desires from us—His children leaning on Him?

We know that fallen flesh cannot live holy. Only God-life can live holy. Therefore, we cannot live the Christian life apart from leaning on Him, who is Life and who gives Life.

Could it be that if I lean on and depend on His impartation of Life to me, I will be stronger than if I do not lean on Him? If so, then leaning—a true sign of weakness—is the stronger position.

Taking it a step further: Could it mean that the more I lean on the Strong One, the stronger I will become?

And yet another step: The weaker I am, the more I will lean on Christ; thus, the more I lean on Christ, the stronger I will be?

Dare I go even further: It is then in my best interest to be weak, so I will lean more on Christ?

Please indulge me just once more: If being weak makes me stronger, then can I not boast in being weak? Can I not also glory in my weaknesses because they cause me to lean on Christ? Notice the cause and effect principle in Paul’s words: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2Corinthians 12:9).

Such an idea clearly goes against our flesh, our pride, and our American mentality to be all that we can be, to pull ourselves up by our boot straps, and the survival of the fittest. Yet, we must remember that our ways are not His ways (Isaiah 55:8).

Could the long-searched-for mystery be known? Is the key to finding and appropriating God’s divine power found in weakness—admitted weakness—even boasting of weakness? How did it elude me for so long? Clearly, my best and strongest position is leaning on God.

Dear Lord, help me not to stand straight and tall by my own strength, but to lean more on You. ~Janie Kellogg

1 J. I. Packer quoted in Dr. Bruce H. Wilkerson, 30 Days to Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, Inc. 1999), 90.