Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

How Will the Church Emerge from COVID-19? ~ My Wish List May 16, 2020

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine. The year was 1776, the same year the thirteen American colonies broke from their mother country and declared independence as a free nation. They were brave men and women who fought for what they believed in, who they were, and the future they desired. Their trying times gave birth to the greatest nation on the face of the earth—the United States of America.

Our trying times should give birth to something greater as well. We should never be the same person when we come through trying times and out on the other side of pain and struggle. God allows such times because they test us to see what we’re made of. Are our hearts right before Him? Are our motives for a worthy cause? Do we want the thing bad enough to sacrifice something to obtain it?

I can’t help but wonder what changes COVID-19 will bring to us. For some reason God has allowed it, and it has and will affect so many things about our lives—what we do, where we go, how we act and react to a new normal. And then there is the Church—will the Church of Jesus Christ emerge better than we were before COVID-19? Could God be using these trying times to iron out our wrinkles so we will be ready for the Bridegroom when He comes? And what might the new normal for the Church look like?

 

 

I have a few things I would like to see change ~ my wish list, if you will.

Number 1: Christians would be one with each other, just as Jesus is one with the Father. If God has done anything in this season it is to marginalize the denominational lines that divide us. These divisions of separation need the searing hot iron in God’s mighty hand to smooth out those deeply embedded creases. Our pet doctrines need to melt away or at least be shelved. (I won’t be holding my breath on that one.) Our prejudices and jealousy must not exist in our new normal. All arrogance and pride should be gone as we emerge from this pandemic storm.

Number 2: Another change I would like to see is the leveling of the playing field among Christ’s followers. During this time, we see famous spiritual leaders, teachers, televangelists, singers, writers, speakers, etc. now standing shoulder to shoulder beside the weakest among us. We all recognize our desperate need for Him. We all feel the same stress. We all feel the same uncertainty. We all feel the same neediness. Our one heart’s cry that rises to the heavens in true harmony (something that doesn’t happen often) is this: “Oh God, we need YOU!”

If we’ve learned anything during this season of unrest, it is that the church building is not the church. Our denomination is not the church. Our platform and style of worship is not the church. Since those things are not the Church, then it seems apparent that we must now figure out what the Church of Jesus Christ is actually supposed to be.

Could it be that a conceit for our way of doing things and a disdain for other’s way of doing things will have no place of expression on the other side of the pandemic? Oh God, may this be true! Lest we stand together as one unified body of born-again believers, our religious freedoms will vanish before our eyes.

Could it be the efforts to grow our church, our brand of Christianity, our form of worship will cease and be replaced with all of God’s children serving Him and each other in one accord and waiting before Him? After all, wasn’t that the atmosphere that set the stage for the coming of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts? Wasn’t that the very match that lit the fires of revival and church explosion? It was!

During this season of seeking the Church’s true place in God’s Kingdom, it should be the desire of our hearts that we emerge from COVID-19 as a changed people—less divided, less critical, less proud, and more like our Savior who gave up everything for us? Do we owe Him anything less?

As the Church seeks to find our new normal, may we keep in mind that before the Church can love the world, we must first learn to love each other.

Somehow, I believe that Jesus’ wish list for His Church may look a lot like mine.

Blessings to all as we face the new normal of Christianity. ~ Janie

 

Re-centering After COVID-19 May 8, 2020

Several years ago, while visiting my hometown in Texas, my husband and I decided to visit Magnolia’s Market in Waco. This must stop-and-shop location was well worth the effort; however, it caused us to return home a different route through the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex than the one we knew. Having a GPS in the car, I plugged in a destination and off we went. Everything worked just fine…that is, until we hit some construction work and found ourselves moving at a snail’s pace.

My husband decided to re-route us by way of a no-name road. The GPS struggled with that abrupt change in plans. It continued to flash and speak the word “Re-centering” as if we were about to drop off the earth. When my husband got us back on the right path, I turned off the GPS; but the word “re-centering” stuck with me.

Actually, that seems to fit where we are right now—in the midst of a pandemic where all of our plans have changed. Let’s face it, it is just plain hard to stop in mid-stream, mid-dream, mid-plan, or mid-year, and not be able to do what we intended. It feels wrong somehow, but sadly none of us can do anything about it.

Or can we? Could we perhaps “re-center” our plans and our lives? Maybe. None of us like hard times, but we can be thankful for the results that follow.  In 2005, Casting Crowns released a song called “I Will Praise You in the Storm.” It reminds us that we can praise God in the storm because of the serene, breath-taking quiet that surrounds us and tells us we are safe after the storm.

So here we are, COVID-19 dwellers in the midst of the perhaps the worst storm we have ever faced. Still, we can anticipate a calm after this storm passes. Standing on the other side of the pandemic, we will most likely be able to see the hand of God in it all—the pain, the heartache, the fear, the losses, and the gains.

Our prayer should be to ask God to show us what we need to see from that after-the-storm perspective. What did we learn? What was the take-away? What do we now know that we didn’t know before? How was my life enriched? How is my course changed? How will eternity be impacted? Will I be a different person than I was before the storm? The possibilities are enormous!

I’ve heard it said, “No one wants to go back to the way things were.” It’s true, most people don’t want to go back to work as normal, life as normal, or even church as normal. I pray the heart-cry of every child of God is that we no longer want a mundane state of living. Many of us were driven by our schedules that allowed little or no time for God or family. That busy, relentless treadmill-life demanded we answer its every beck and call to bow before the things of the world. We were too rushed, even in our church services, to wait upon God for barely a moment of silence.

It could be that God Himself jerked us to reality. You see, to fill our lives with the things of the world is a lower state of living than God desires for us. Yet, we did it year after year, month after month, week after week, and day after day.

In Luke 15:11-32, we find a wonderful story about a prodigal son—the one who wanted his inheritance early—his cut of the family farm. He got it and then squandered it, spending his life on wild living.

A good question may be to ask ourselves: Before the pandemic, how was my life being spent? I think some feel that we have spent ourselves, and now we’re tired, we’re worn, we’re out of luck, out of ideas, and perhaps out of hope.

When the wayward son got to that place, he took a job he never thought he’d have—working in a pig pen. All the props had been removed from his life. Props are things that hold us up, help us look normal, tell others that we’re doing great—while we are dying on the inside. There’s nothing left to hide behind, no mask to cover the reality of where we are—busted, broken, and needy!

Yet, the best part of the prodigal son story is that smack-dab in the middle of the pig pen, he came to himselfhe remembered who he was. He was indeed the son of a loving father. Oh, dear ones, so are we sons and daughters of a Heavenly Father who is waiting for us to come to ourselves and remember who we are.

In this powerful story, once the young man woke up to his current surroundings, he had to do something about it—he had to arise and go to his father. And so must we go to our Father, fall at His feet, and tell Him we have sinned.

Every person’s pig pen will be different. Yours will be made of the things you chose to dwell in—and mine will be made of the things I chose. We will each have eaten our fill with the choices we made, the lusts we sought after, and the things of the world that allured us there.

The good news is that what awaits each of us is all the same! We will be met with the loving arms of our Father, who has been heart-sick since the day we left home; we’ll be clothed in a fine robe and shoes for our feet; and lastly, our Father will put a ring on our finger signifying our birthright status!

In this moment of quiet, in mid-pandemic state—with movie theaters closed, ball-fields unlit, concert halls dark, stadiums empty, and the church doors locked—can we wake up and recognize where we are? Can we see the tragedy of pig pen living and filling ourselves with the husks of the world? Can we leave that place and return to our Father?

Railroad with woman

Actually, it’s not all that far from where we got off track. It happened so slowly that we barely noticed it along the way. Can we admit where we mis-stepped and made bad choices and then turn towards home? Our Father is watching and waiting, with His gaze fixed upon the road that will take us there.

In 2020, every person on earth has received a wake-up call, along with an invitation to take a fresh look at their lives to see how it is being spent. We are offered a chance to respond to a Father who is awaiting with open arms to welcome us home.

What we do with our wake-up call is up to no one but us. I wonder, will we “re-center” our lives during this opportunity? Can’t we just leave the husks behind and go? You bet we can. Let’s do this! ~ Janie

 

Hungering for More ~ During COVID-19 April 23, 2020

In the midst of this Coronavirus, some of us find comfort in the humor of Facebook posts that tell us we’re not alone in the “eating more and enjoying it less” syndrome. It could be that we’re not really enjoying it less, but rather eating more and enjoying it more. In all honesty, sometimes eating is downright fun…and we will gladly pay the consequences later. But what we need most is to get through this crisis.

 

Whether our issue is quarantine related, sheer boredom, or something else, we eat because we want to eat. Good food…not-so-good food…mediocre food, you name it—we consume a lot of it. Yet sometimes the more one eats, the less satisfying it becomes, and after a while, food loses its appeal. More isn’t always better; and we long for the better! You know, like the stuff from our favorite restaurant.

 

I don’t know about you, but the thing I hunger for right now is more of God. The better thing. The real thing. The deeper thing. The richer thing. I want the good stuff. The regular stuff just isn’t doing it for me. The mediocre stuff is not satisfying me right now. I simply want more of God and I hunger after Him. In John 6:35 we read where Jesus boldly declared, “I am the bread of life.” Was He trying to tell us something?

 

 

I just know that I’m hungry. Has the pandemic caused this condition of hunger? Maybe. Could God in His infinite wisdom be behind it all? It’s highly possible. But regardless of the cause of this new hunger, its effects on my life are real. My heart screams for more. Yesterday’s high is too low for me now. And so is yesterday’s success, yesterday’s plan, and yesterday’s program. Even yesterday’s anointing isn’t enough. None of those are enough for today—in the midst of this current trial.

 

I no longer desire to pretend I have enough of Him. I no longer care to play-like everything is okay. I don’t want to play church, play worship, play praying, play giving, play serving, play anything! I have to have the real thing in order to ride out this storm.

 

I love the song that says, “Our hearts always hunger for more.”1 Does that describe you? Have you felt that deep-gnawing need in your innermost being? Perhaps you have sensed your spiritual gauge registering somewhere near the empty mark. I know that I have.

 

Is it possible that God has upset our applecart of pretense, so that our hearts will hunger for more of Him? I believe He has done that very thing with His people throughout history—in times like these…

~ when His people have forgotten Him.

~ when His people have eaten their fill on the things of the world rather than the things of God.

~ when His people have a form of worship that denies the power of the Holy Spirit.

~ when His people have allowed their religion, their church, or their denomination to become a substitute for God.

~ when hyper-grace teaching has caused them to lose their compass for truth and they’ve settled for mediocrity.

~ when His people believe they no longer have to repent of their sins.

~ when His people have seriously grieved the Holy Spirit.

 

While we spend another week or two (or more) sheltering at home, how about we invite the Holy Spirit to come freely and unhindered into our homes and hearts. Just what if we hunger for more of God and He answers that prayer? What if we repent of our sins and beg for mercy from our grace-filled Heavenly Father? What if the Holy Spirit were to set our hearts on fire and fill our hunger for more?

 

I fear that many modern-day Christians have a pseudo-religion—they have heard about God, read about God, and sing about God, but they have never experienced God. Perhaps a little self-test would help us determine where we are. Ask yourself these questions:

Have I ever experienced the presence of God?

Have I heard God speak to me—do I know His voice?

Do I know Him well enough to recognize when He is dealing with me?

When I read the Bible, does it seem like He is speaking directly to me?

 

If any of your answers are “No” or “I’m not sure,” simply begin to seek God and ask Him to make Himself real to you. He longs to do that very thing. He’s been waiting for you to get to that place where you long for Him, His presence, His voice, His dealing with you. And here in this crisis, we have the time away from the hum-drum of life to get real with God.

 

Our hungering for God will always lead us to a higher place in Him. He will always satisfy our deepest need when our hearts are right. Jesus’ own words tell us to “ask, seek, and knock”2 and it will be given to us. Believe that He will keep His Word!

 

Let’s not let this pandemic crisis slip away from us, but let us use this time of sheltering at home to expand and enhance our relationship with God. He invites us to come and feast at His table. The only prerequisite is “hunger for Him.”

 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if our take away from COVID-19 was a closer, more real and intimate relationship with God? Oh Lord, may “our hearts always hunger for more!” That is my prayer for all of us. ~ Janie

 

1Dawn Rodgers and Eric Wyse, Wonderful, Merciful Savior, 2001

2Luke 11:9

 

Being Disciples on this Strange Good Friday April 10, 2020

 

God is the originator of all good things—so the Bible tells us in James 1:17 (NLT) ~ Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.”  In other words, everything in heaven and on earth that is good comes from the one true God. Even that dark Friday when His Son was tortured, beaten, slapped, cursed, insulted, jeered at, spit upon, and nailed to a wooden cross turned out for our good.

 

I’m sure that Friday didn’t feel good as Jesus’ mother, brothers, and beloved disciples looked at the cross in unbelief. I can imagine thoughts like this going through their heads: What just happened? How did we get here? This is not what we bargained for? This is not how following Jesus was supposed to turn out! Is God anywhere to be found?

 

We’re talking about real human beings here—His disciples. Oh, they were not highly-educated men of position and power, nor honored high priests in the Jewish synagogue. Truth is—each of those men was basically an unknown member of society and a nobody as far as the world was concerned.

 

And on that Good Friday when Jesus died, all their hopes and dreams for being a somebody died too. The hopes that they had found the promised Messiah just got deflated. All dreams of being in Jesus’ official cabinet when He set up His kingdom on earth vanished as well. They were actually in hiding for minutes, hours, and days not knowing where they were in the bigger scheme of things. No doubt they were bewildered. It surely must have felt as if hell had won.

 

Today, on this Good Friday in April of 2020, it somewhat feels the same way for us modern-day disciples. We are hold-up in our homes due to COVID-19 safer-at-home orders spending minutes, hours, and days not knowing where we are in the bigger scheme of things. There is hardly any normal life to be found. It has affected all of us—crossing all lines of division—wealth, race, education, religion—and marginalizing us into one big category—bewildered! And it surely feels as if hell has won.

 

Aren’t we asking those same questions: What just happened? How did we get here? This is not what we bargained for? This is not how following Jesus was supposed to turn out! Is God anywhere to be found?

 

But wait—the truth is that one dark afternoon at Calvary changed everything for Jesus’ disciples then and now. I guess we could say it was a game-changer deluxe! In that fateful moment when Jesus declared “It is finished,” the curse on mankind was broken and the redemptive plan of God was accomplished. In just a few days, that dark moment would yield to a glorious resurrection morning. Great joy would fill the hearts of the disciples when they realized that Jesus was alive forevermore!

 

You see, the time hidden here in this dark moment of a world pandemic is only for a few days. We too will have a glorious resurrection morning and Jesus will appear to us once again. Our hearts will be filled with joy when we understand that just as He had not abandoned His disciples then, He has not abandoned us now. And since we serve a game-changing God, who knows what good will come out of this dark time? Who knows what it could mean for us who believe that He always keeps His promises, and that everything He ever told us will be just as He said?

 

It is in our best interest as modern-day disciples of the Living Lord to trust our faithful Father and believe that this too is indeed a Good Friday! He has never failed us yet!

 

May we celebrate this strange Easter as disciples of great faith! Blessings to all ~ Janie

 

The Savior and His Little Chicks ~ In Times Like These April 2, 2020

The term “trying times” is an understatement for the day in which we find ourselves—fighting COVID-19. For most of my life I have heard about a future time when things would be out of control and everything would be shaken. It would be unlike anything we have ever seen before, and it would be linked to the end of the world. Whether this time is any of that or not, it is at the very least, a coming storm that shakes us to the core.

Today, after nearly three weeks of sheltering in place—right here in the good ole USA, the land of the free and home of the brave—we are staying home from work, school, church, sports events, movies, vacations, trips to see grandparents, and shopping for anything except the bare essentials. It is a great trial-run for finding out what we can and can’t live without. We also know that unless things improve, there is no end in sight. Welcome to a world with the Coronavirus in full swing.

 

I will spare you the numbers of cases worldwide and in the US, the number of tests done for the virus, and sadly the number of deaths because all numbers are on the rise—every day, every hour.  Makeshift hospitals are being set up at record speeds as this period of time is being compared to a war. And a war it is. A war on humans, on our way of life, on our economy, and certainly on our faith. No one—get this—no one person on earth will escape the effects of this war. We see it and hear it on the news 24/7, and we are growing weary. Unemployment is rising with each new announcement of another company laying off thousands of employees from their jobs. That, my friend, is going to get real—really soon!

 

So, it is war. It is trying times. It is a trial. It could be the end-time shaking that the Bible tells us will come upon all the world. That’s enough to scare the daylights out of most anyone—unless you know who I know.

 

I love this old song sung by George Beverly Shea at so many Billy Graham crusades:

 

“In times like these you need a Savior, in times like these you need an anchor.

Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.

This Rock is Jesus. Yes, He’s the One. This Rock is Jesus, the only One.

Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock.”1

 

Do you have Jesus as your anchor? Is your life clearly anchored in Him? in His Word? in His promises?

 

I want to share one scripture with you that is found in Matthew 23:37 ~ “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”

 

Those are the words of Jesus as He stood on a hill overlooking the city of Jerusalem. He is talking about God’s people—the Jews—who had rejected all the prophets of God down through the centuries. Their religious leaders had set up a form of worship, added to the Laws of God, created a set of rules and regulations developed solely by men, and made their traditions what they worshiped. God had sent prophet after prophet to tell them of the coming judgement if they did not turn from their sin and return to Him. Message after message they chose not to hear. And if the messenger became too loud, they killed him.

 

At last, God sent His only Son, Jesus. Guess what? They didn’t want to hear Him either. They plotted against Him and killed Him too. On that day, when Jesus stood looking over Jerusalem, He fully knew what they were going to do with Him. His fate was already recorded in the Old Testament. He would be killed by God’s own chosen people. His love for them was strong, and His compassion ran deep because the Father had tried over and over to change the outcome for this city.

 

Notice the last phrase of that scripture: “But you wouldn’t let me.” And because they didn’t let Him, Jerusalem was totally destroyed in 70 AD. Today, as we see our beloved United States of America reeling in the turbulent winds of a world pandemic, we wonder if she will be able to stand. Will she make it through? Will she survive these trying times?

 

I don’t have the answers and neither do you. But this is do know. Jesus is looking out over America today and offering to gather us—His little chicks—under His wings of protection until this storm passes—if we are willing to let Him.

 

The little word “if” holds gigantic significance here. Why? Because….

It tells us—His little chicks—who gets to determine the outcome.

It tells us—His little chicks—there is hope on the horizon and a rescue is possible.

It tells us—His little chicks—that we can turn this thing around.

It tells us—His little chicks—that He will fight for us when we choose to do it His way.

 

The question to all of us is this: Are we willing? Have we heard His voice calling out to us as a nation, “America! America!” Have we heard His message? His warnings? His pleadings for us to turn around?

 

Perhaps we need to consider a few things: Has America been faithful to God, like He has been faithful to us? Have we stood for life, truth, justice, mercy, and righteousness? Are we a light to the world? Or are we continuing to ignore His pleadings while our last chance is being offered to us in the middle of these trying times?

 

Only time will tell what America is willing to do. Repentance is the key word, and it must begin with God’s own people. I don’t know about you, but I’m running towards those wings of protection and plan to crawl beneath them, hunker down and stay there as long as necessary—until this storm passes or Jesus comes for His little chicks! How about you?

 

In the next few days and weeks, we will look at repentance, what it means to be under His wings and how to get there, and enduring through tough times. Blessings to all ~ Janie

 

1Ruth Caye Jones, In Times Like These, 1943

 

It’s Still the Greatest Story Ever Told December 24, 2019

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 11:17 am
Tags: , , ,

It’s been an eventful year for us, some good events and others not-so-good. We lost Owen’s youngest brother, Rodney, along with 22 other friends and relatives from our lives. Loss is certainly a part of life. For me, the year was filled with stories, and again, some good and others not-so-good. I spent 2019 writing my family’s story, doing ancestry research, and gathering personal stories of grandparents who were gone before I was born. Who doesn’t want to hear a grandparent story! And who doesn’t want to tell a grandparent story! I hope you cherish your own family stories, as they are indeed priceless. They are a part of who we are today. Now don’t get me wrong—our stories didn’t all have Hallmark endings; but through it all I did learn that “With God, in the end we win!”

 

It has also been an eventful year of news stories that you may have read or heard in the media. Some were amazing—others not so much—depending on what turns you on. For instance, this year was the 75th Anniversary of D-Day; it was 50 years after the Woodstock Music Festival; and the 50th Anniversary of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. The 116th Congress had a record number of women at 125; Black Friday digital sales topped out at $7.4 billion dollars, and the stock market hit several new record highs.

 

On a much better note, Mister Rogers showed up again on A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Tom Hanks did a marvelous job in this story of forgiveness that will melt any embittered heart. It’s well worth your time to see. Yet, still better than all of that, our choir is rehearsing a Christmas song written by Gloria Gaither titled It’s Still the Greatest Story Ever Told. Her incredible imagery tells us everything we need to know about Christmas:

 

A woman and an angel, a promise and a song,

A word too grand for any mind to hold.

A tax law and a journey, a stable and some straw

These tell the greatest story ever told.

A hillside and some shepherds, a blaze of blinding light,

Angels singing carols in the cold.

Eternal revelation to men as dull as stone

The glorious, greatest story ever told.

Oh sing glory in the highest, He has come, our great Messiah.

Come bow before this awesome mystery.

Mighty God and fragile Baby here a lowly manger holds.

And it’s still the greatest story ever told.

 

My Christmas Wish for all of us is that we will recognize the miracle that happened one starry night in Bethlehem when God Himself entered our world. May we be as joyous as the birth parents, as awe-struck as the shepherds, and as full of praise as the angels. May any dull and stony hearts among us be melted by the warmth of God’s love as we marvel once again at the Christchild in the manger. It truly is, and always will be, the glorious, greatest story ever told!

Merry Christmas to all, Janie

 

 

 

An Unusual Man of God October 9, 2019

Filed under: Amazing People,Faith,Humility — Janie Kellogg @ 12:13 pm
Tags: , , , ,

We have had an unusual revival at my church this week with an unusual evangelist. I can’t say that I have ever met a man of God like Dr. Charles Graham. Actually, he is quite unusual and has blessed my life in a quite unusual way.

 

Brother Charles is African-American and a highly gifted singer. He has a doctorate degree in music and has ministered around the world. His music alone is worth every minute given to attend a service. But his unusual-ness goes far beyond his music and his delivery of the Word of God to his audience.

 

One thing that has come to the forefront this week is that Charles is unusually like his Savior, Jesus Christ. He is perhaps the most humble preacher I have ever met. He has an unusual depth in his spirit that clearly shows through his unusual presentation of the gospel. No one could possibly doubt that this unusual preacher lives what he preaches.

 

Several years ago I read a book by Frances Havergal titled “Kept for the Master’s Use,” in which she encourages followers of Jesus to actually follow His example. You see, Jesus’ entire life was given completely for the Father’s use.

 

I’m afraid that most of us would have to say that we live as we choose and then trust the grace of God to cover our mistakes. Not so with Jesus. And that is how I see Bro. Charles. His testimony of unusual faith tells us that at every turn, every decision, and every stage of life, he waited on God to show him the right way to go, the right choice to make, and the right attitude to have in order to be the most useful to his Heavenly Father. How unusual.

 

As he shares his life’s story from growing up in the cotton fields in the South to singing before kings and presidents, his unusual humility and surrender to the will of God are enormous. He has shown us what it means to live by faith,  and how through his unusual obedience, has seen the fruition of that faith. His book “No Back Doors” is worth a read.

 

If he has said it once, he has said it at least a hundred times this week: “I don’t know it all, but I’m growing.”  What an unusual statement since many Christians today think we do know it all and have reached a place where we don’t need to grow anymore. He has challenged us to press in closer to our Lord.

 

As for me, my life has been forever changed in an unusual way by this unusual man of God. But that in itself is not unusual—since I serve a God who often moves in unusual ways. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

 

What Has Happened to the Rapture of the Church? April 1, 2019

Have you ever wondered what has happened to the Rapture of the Church? I certainly have, and I have also questioned whether Christians today even believe that Jesus is coming back at all.

For most of my life, the message of Jesus Christ coming for His church was alive and well. I remember on Easter Sunday morning in 1973 when our church choir sang the popular Gaither song, The King Is Coming. Only the choir knew that a skilled trumpeter was strategically perched in the balcony, and at just the right moment he would blow the trumpet. It was a stirring event to say the least!

 

Then there was that perfect red heifer born in the mid-80’s that confirmed the Jews would soon be offering sacrifices in the Temple. And who didn’t read the best-selling Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins? First published in 1995, the intensity of the message was clear: Jesus is coming soon, and if you’re not ready, you will be left behind!

For decades stories circulated through the church attempting to tie current events to the coming of Christ. Things like a government assigned number could eventually become the mark of the beast. This caused many to be leery of social security numbers, direct deposits and credit cards—basically anything that had a number. Another story was the increasing population of vultures in the Middle East that was surely a sign of the approaching Battle of Armageddon. On and on they went—one unnerving story after another.

For years I struggled with too little faith to believe that Jesus would save me, so preaching on the rapture was a frightening thing. However, when I was born again at age twenty-three, my fear of the rapture subsided. My faith had grown and I was able to believe that Jesus would do what He said: For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord, shall be saved.”1 It’s been a love affair with my Savior ever since, and I began looking forward to His coming.

Over forty years later, we are still bombarded with stories about four blood moons, ginormous earthquakes and tsunamis. I don’t keep up with which Biblical prophecies have being fulfilled and whether the signs match what Jesus said would signal His return in Matthew Chapter 24, but it does seem like it could be just around the corner. After all, the fig tree is in full bloom. There’s a whole lot of shaking going on, since everything that can be shaken is now shaking. The world is clearly in a quagmire of muck as some kind of crazy has replaced common sense. There are plenty of wars and rumors of more, while mankind has sunk to a new low on God’s moral scale. Today, you don’t have to look very far to see that evil is called good; and good is called evil. Surely it can’t be long until the Father says, “Son, go bring my children home!”

Has non-stop media coverage of world events numbed us from the realness of what we once believed? Have too many books been written suggesting the rapture isn’t Biblical after all? Could it be that modern-day preachers no longer expect Jesus to return and thus do not preach it? Has the long delay nullified Jesus’ words, or maybe the Lord has forgotten His promise? Not. Even. Remotely!

The Bible is clear: The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.”2

Jesus gave us a clue about the timing of His coming: Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!”3 Did you see what I saw—at the doors?

A few nights ago I had a dream that lasted perhaps only a few seconds, yet it was very real nonetheless. In the dream, I was asleep in my bed when awakened by a strange sense of being pulled upward. A suction-type force was swirling all around me, as if I were wrapped in it. I wasn’t afraid at all, but remember having a smile on my face and a sense of joy deep inside. I calmly thought to myself—this is it…this is the rapture! Then the sensation ended and I attempted to tell someone what had happened to me. I explained like this: “I just experienced the rapture!”

The next morning I wondered what might be the purpose of my strange dream. Had I been given a brief preview of that amazing moment when the power of Holy Spirit will draw the Redeemed upward towards heaven? Could Jesus be giving us a heads-up of His soon return? Could it be that Jesus actually is—at the doors?

The best advice I know is the words of Jesus Himself: Now when all these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near!”4

Personally, I believe Jesus IS coming back soon! Are you ready for that amazing moment? ~ Janie Kellogg

Jesus is coming soon

1Romans 10:13 (NKJV); 22 Peter 3:9 (NLT); 3Matthew 24:32-33 (NKJV) 4Luke 21:28 (NKJV)

 

 

We Need a Little Love December 20, 2018

Filed under: Holidays,Uncategorized — Janie Kellogg @ 10:19 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Our annual Christmas Cantata includes the song We Need A Little Love. It challenges me. My first reaction is “Yes, we do need a little love”—but then something inside me screams: “Don’t we need a lot of love?” It seems there’s never been a time when there has been such a shortage of love. We see it in the lives of displaced refugees around the world; on the faces of starving children waiting in line for a cup of soup; and the homeless souls hiding in the shadows of our own cities. The need for love comes in all colors, sizes, and shapes—the shape of a broken heart, an empty heart, and even those we think are heartless. Yet every heart needs love. The question is whether or not their need for love can be filled by someone this Christmas.

 

For me, let’s just say I prefer a Hallmark Christmas, and I bet you do too. After all, isn’t Christmas made of gingerbread cookies, dazzling lights, and storybook endings? I wish. But I’m afraid that is not the norm even though it may seem that all Christmases end well. I remember years ago when I was a young wife and mother, how I tried to make each Christmas the best Christmas ever—only to find myself with an empty heart and wallet when it was all over. You might remember that feeling as well. The let-down occurs when the holiday comes to a close, the hype is gone, and there’s only a mess to clean up.

 

I’m not sure if I just grew up somewhere along the way or if I’ve learned by experience that the real joy of Christmas comes with simpler things—like having those we love nearby, sharing our blessings with the less fortunate, and taking time to worship the Christ of Christmas. Nothing else is lasting. The chorus of the song says this:

We need a little love to light the world from up above

Spreading good tidings to men, peace once again

That’s what my heart’s dreaming of, we need a little love.

 

Instead of thinking about how much love we need, perhaps we should focus on how much love we can give away. If we have even a small amount of God’s love, we can light up our world—this space around us that we call ours. We certainly have good tidings to share with others that Baby Jesus is the Savior of the whole world. And if we will let Him come into our broken and empty hearts, He will fill each one with His eternal peace. Who knows, maybe even the heartless will find some heart and turn to the Lover of their souls. Actually, I think that’s exactly what my heart is dreaming of.

 

These simple gifts of Christmas—love, light, good tidings, and peace—are ours to receive and ours to give away. What more could we need? So the songwriters were right all along—we really do need only a little of God’s love! My Christmas prayer is that you and I will join with thousands of Christians around the world this year in giving the most lasting gift of all—a little love.

Merry Christmas to all ~ Janie Kellogg

 

It’s Okay Not to be Okay ~ Really? October 19, 2018

Sheila nailed it right there in black ink on white pages. In her new book, It’s Okay Not to Be Okay, she gets it. She gets me—this crazy-perfectionist me; this not-quite-good-enough me; this grappling-with-anxiety me; and this wondering-if-God-is-Okay-with-me—ME!

I recently participated on the launch team for Sheila Walsh’s latest book, It’s Okay Not to be Okay. I had preordered her book just like I have her other books. Within a few days I received an email that included a place to apply to be on the launch team. I did, and now I was all set for this new experience.

I received a copy of the book within a few days—several weeks before its release date of October 2. The team was to start reading it, make comments, post pictures on social media, and when finished with it, write a review on Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever we preordered. And when the book I preordered arrives after the release date, I get to give it away to a friend!

I have done all of those things, even the selfie with a picture of the book, which is totally out of my comfort zone. Did I mention that I hate selfies of me?

As I read, I also underline, bracket, star, write notes in the margin, and circle page numbers—depending on how much the sentence or paragraph speaks to me—because I want to be able to find those special places again. The profound statements tucked within the pages of this amazing book are numerous and yes, quite profound! Honestly, there are now full pages that are underlined in my book, and many, many brackets, stars, and notes on almost every page. I can so easily say that I highly recommend this book to my friends and blog followers!

I have loved every book I have ever read by Sheila Walsh, but this book blew me away. I even asked myself: Why does this book so clearly speak to Janie Kellogg? Beside the fact that it is well-written, insightful, and gut-level honest, this book speaks to me somewhere down-deep inside—you know, those places that we all keep hidden. Of course, being a blogger I strive to be transparent and share my discoveries, victories, and failures with you my readers, yet still there is that part of me that no one sees (well, except Jesus).

And just to make my point about profound statements reaching down-deep inside me, I’ll give you a few of my favorite quotes from her book:

“He (Jesus) knows all our little quirks and personality traits, but the glorious truth of the gospel is that Jesus is in love with us right now, even though we are a crazy, mixed-up bunch. He sees us as beautiful.”

“The breathtaking truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that we are not judged on our failures but on the finished work of Christ….That is the heart and passion of this book.”

“It’s okay not to be okay, because Jesus has made us right with God. If we could begin to grasp that, it would radically revolutionize our lives.”

“But if anyone ever tells you that you’re not saved unless you follow their rules, run as fast as you can, because that is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.” (May God bless Sheila abundantly for her courage on this one!)

“We’ll never have enough to fulfill all the demands made on us, but that’s okay. We’re not supposed to have enough.” (This is really great news right here!)

“If Christ had chosen to live eternally with His scars, why would I be ashamed to show mine?”

“Scars are proof that God heals.”

“You are not what happened to you. You are a child of God.”

There you go—now you know—this book will speak to a down-deep part of you too. As soon as I finished the book, I wanted to read it again!

I am so grateful to writers who are courageous enough to let their hair down, open their hearts and show us their wounds. Without fail, it gives the rest of us the courage to do the same. My hat’s off to Sheila Walsh for writing this one—just for me! ~Janie Kellogg

 

All quotes: Walsh, Sheila, It’s Okay Not to be Okay, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2018, Pages 57, 61, 61-62, 68, 119, 140, 157, 166.