Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Thanksgiving Day Fullness November 27, 2012

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 7:29 pm
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If there is one word that describes the aftermath of Thanksgiving Day, it would be fullness! You know what I’m talking about. We indulge ourselves in a feast of delicious cuisine from roasted turkey with all the trimmings to colorful and delicious sides, and top it off with a smorgasbord of desserts fit for a king. It amazes me that it takes days, maybe weeks, to prepare such a meal—planning, shopping, baking, cooking, and serving. Yet, thirty minutes after our families gather around the table, all we have to show for our efforts are a heap of leftovers, a sink of dirty dishes—and fullness.

 

In reality, fullness is a two-sided coin. Certainly, it is a result of having enjoyed plenty of the foods we love and that bring back memories of past family gatherings. It is those favorite dishes that excite our taste buds as we linger long, savoring every bite. It’s our encounters with Grandma’s dressing or Aunt Susie’s famous pumpkin pie that inevitably causes us to lose all sense of restraint. After all, it only happens once a year.

 

But fullness also means that we’ve had plenty of other things as well. The joy of being with family brings an abundance of familiarity to our hearts. We are filled to the brim with gratitude for the fellowship of those we hold dear and who make this holiday warm and inviting. No one tells jokes like Uncle Ben or stories like Grandpa. It matters not that we’ve heard them before—they just never get old. And it is the fullness of life shared with those who mean much that intoxicates us and causes us to repeat the same process year after year. You see, there’s just no place like home with the family.

 

Did you know that the word fullness in the Bible? The Apostle Paul prayed that we would have it. In Ephesians 3:19, he wrote “that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” I don’t know what all that entails, but I sure would like to. I suspect, just like the fullness from our Thanksgiving celebrations, it means we have enjoyed God. We’ve lingered long, savoring every bite from His Word. It is our encounters with His Presence that cause us to lose all restraint when worshipping and praising Him.

 

There is also the fullness we feel when we gather with God’s family. We are filled to the brim with gratitude for the opportunity to be with those we hold dear and who make our fellowship warm and inviting. We love to hear their testimonies and stories of how God has blessed them, and us. It doesn’t matter if we’ve heard the stories many times over—they too just never get old. And yes, it is the fullness of the life of God shared with those who mean much that intoxicates us and causes us to do it over and over. You see, there’s just no place like home with God’s family either.

 

Regardless of how your family celebrated Thanksgiving, I trust that you came away with fullness, both physical and spiritual. I am personally seeking for all the fullness that Paul prayed for me to have and that God has to offer. I know that “eye has not seen nor ear heard….the things God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Cor. 2:9), but I am doing my best to see them and hear them this side of heaven. Someday, I hope to be filled with all the fullness of God that is possible for a human being. In the meantime, I plan to continue enjoying the fullness that comes from being with God, family, friends, and God’s people. I hope you do too. ~Janie Kellogg

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The House Guest ~ A Short Story November 22, 2012

Filed under: Short Stories — Janie Kellogg @ 6:01 pm
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Life was busy. Life was loud. Some days were louder than busy, and today was one of those days. It’s a wonder I heard the faint knock at my door. I quickly opened it, hoping this wouldn’t take long. To my surprise there stood a stranger—a gentleman I did not know. In a soft-spoken voice he introduced himself and then explained that a friend of mine told him I wanted to meet him. It was true. I had. He politely asked if he could come inside, so I awkwardly extended an invitation for him to enter my house. He had a warm smile I could not resist, and his eyes—I could not stop looking at his eyes. As he entered the room, an uncommon peace entered as well. I knew for certain I had a special guest inside my house.

He said he planned to stay for a while if that was okay with me. I offered him the small guest room at the back of my house, and he accepted the offer. As time went by, we slowly got acquainted. I must admit that sometimes he startled me when he spoke, simply because I had forgotten he was there. At other times he would call to me from the back of my house, yet because he spoke so softly, I didn’t hear him. It actually took quite a while before I recognized his voice well enough to pay attention to him.

My house guest shared bits and pieces of his story with me, but we usually talked about me. He listened intently and acted as if he understood every twist and turn of my tangled life. Nothing surprised him, even the dark moments I had not shared with anyone. For some odd reason, I felt I could trust this stranger. After a few weeks, I handed over even more details of my past. When I thought I had covered everything, I would recollect yet another event, even the painful ones I had stuffed deep inside. One by one I shared them all—the good, the bad and the ugly. I bore my soul. I spilled my guts. He didn’t flinch or raise a brow, but smiled as if to say, “I know.”

Eventually I shared with him my dreams—the failed ones mostly, since they far outnumbered any dreams-come-true in my life. His compassion was not something I had experienced before. I remember thinking, “Does he really care about my failed attempts to be somebody? Why should it matter to him?” Yet his gentle touch upon my shoulder told me he cared. I wondered why.

We gradually became good friends. I opened more rooms of my house to him and learned along the way that I enjoyed his company. However, I kept much of the space for myself since it was my house. He began to make suggestions about all the clutter and offered to clean the closets. I was reluctant at first, but I soon realized that he had some good ideas about discarding things I didn’t need to make room for things I did need. He also encouraged me to visit the attic of my soul; you know, the place where things are stored that might never be used again. Sure enough, he pointed out several boxes of junk filled with bitterness and resentment towards those who had hurt me, and he recommended that I get rid of them. I hesitated, thinking I might need those memories in the future, but He assured me that I never would.

Next, he spotted a large trash bag in the back corner. It was tied so tightly with strings of self-pity I thought we’d never get it open. The stubborn strings eventually gave way, exposing the grudges I had held against those who had taken advantage of me. Obviously, I had not forgiven or forgotten. Was I supposed to throw out those memories too? I quickly reminded my house guest of the old saying, “If someone takes advantage of you once, it’s their fault. If they take advantage of you twice, it’s your fault.” Should I let him talk me into discarding such valuable wisdom? How would I be able to protect myself in the future? Again, he assured me it would be perfectly fine to throw them all away. I didn’t understand, but he said I would later. So out it all went.

We then headed to the basement. There we uncovered a quagmire of things I had buried deep within my heart—things I didn’t want anyone to see. We rummaged through hurts from my childhood that I felt were too dark to be exposed. Again, my house guest offered to clean it up. All that was required from me was my permission. I gave it. I didn’t have to touch one thing, and it was done. I felt so clean and so free—why I felt free indeed! Why was he doing all this hard work for me? I began to sense that my life was shaping up and he was the reason.

Although I had given him a great deal of freedom in my house, I still had my life to live, didn’t I? Sometimes I invited him to go with me to family gatherings or activities with my friends, but on other occasions I simply forgot about him. He never mentioned my negligence, but my gut feeling was that he yearned jealously to spend time with me. I guess I took it for granted that he understood it was my life, and somehow I believed he would always be my friend.

As the years passed, I noticed a pattern emerging. I did my own thing much of the time, leaving him out and ignoring him—until trouble came. Then I would rush home, seek him out in the back room of my house, and tell him what was on my mind. I usually cried and longed for him to console me. He always did, and then for a time, we were best friends again. That is, until another friend called and invited me to go out, and away I went with no mention of it to him. I was quite confident that my repetitive behavior grieved my house guest.

Then it happened. I found myself in a debacle I could not resolve. I was at the end of my rope, or better said, at the end of myself. I needed my house guest so desperately, yet I had ignored him for such a long time. In fact, it had been days, or maybe weeks, since I had been aware of his presence within my house. It was time to be honest with myself and face reality—I had actually pushed him further towards the back of the house and reclaimed some of my space for myself. A gut-wrenching emptiness churned within, and I thought perhaps I had gone too far this time. The words unpardonable sin flashed across my mind. Surely I hadn’t committed that, or had I?

My dry, parched soul yearned for his presence. The need for my house guest loomed larger than my pride, so I swallowed it and went looking. Twinges of panic compelled me. My thoughts and my body raced as I searched from room to room. He wasn’t in the usual places, so I pressed harder and sought him with more gusto than I knew I had. Finally, I heard a faint voice in the far recesses of my house and moved toward it. Much to my surprise and even more to my relief, there he was. Strangely enough, if I hadn’t known better, I would have thought that he was the one searching for me. I don’t think I’ll ever figure him out, and at that moment I didn’t care. He opened wide his arms and welcomed me into his presence. Ah, peace at last. My fears vanished as I poured out my very soul to him. I was amazed at his wise strategy to resolve my dilemma, but more so at his seemingly endless patience with me. This time I promised both of us that things would be different—I would never do this again. I had missed his touch and his fellowship. Oh, how I had missed him.

One day shortly after our friendship was restored, my house guest shared with me about his purpose on earth. Apparently, he was part of a master plan to redeem all of mankind and show us the way to God. I heard the word purpose explode in my head. This one knew who he was, where he came from, and his purpose in life, including being right here in my house. Perhaps I should have spent more time listening to my house guest, rather than my house guest listening to me. After all, I’ve never quite figured out who I am or where I am going, much less my purpose in life.

I decided right then that he could freely occupy more of my house. This stranger was no longer strange to me. I fully intended to ask for more of his advice, and who knows, I might even take it. Things in my life were certainly smoothing out. Now don’t get me wrong—life was still challenging, but I began to call on my house guest more and more to counsel me in decision making. I can’t say I always heeded his advice, but I was learning that he was always right.

As our relationship deepened, my confidence in him grew even more. I was anxious to hear his take on everything—his ideas and perspective that were so much nobler than mine. Apparently, I spent too much time grappling with the junk, re-thinking the what-if’s, and worrying over things he simply was not concerned about. Oh, to think like him! To have a mind like his! Only in the next life, so I thought.

As I learned more about my house guest, I made an all-important discovery—he had feelings too. My hurts and disappointments were something he himself had known. As I grew to love him, I began to care more about how I treated him. What seemed to be an innocent oversight on my part was rejection to him, something he had faced to the fullest. Surely I wasn’t capable of deliberately rejecting him, was I? Would I deny him as so many others had done? Deny that he lived in my house? Knowing how fickle I was made me wonder why he would take the risk with my friendship. I didn’t trust myself, so why should he trust me? I didn’t have the answer.

My house guest was now my BFF (best friend forever). Life was working more as a well-oiled machine these days, even though I sensed that something was awry. I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. It was then that my house guest made me an offer—he would take control of half of the house we shared together. I told him I would think it over, fully confident that his proposal would be in my best interest. I thought about it and decided to accept, but with one condition:  I could keep my special area—my space—for myself. It was still my house and I needed to be able to regain control at any time. He accepted my condition, and the agreement was made. I worried that I had hurt his feelings, but I knew he would never tell me if I had. Things improved even more since I had less to worry about around the house and more free time to enjoy my house guest. My load felt so much easier and lighter, and I might have thought life was perfect, if not for the on-going reminder that something was not quite right.

Maybe my house guest could help me resolve the problem, so I asked him. I got the usual no-surprise response, and he said he could help me with that very thing. Although I had learned to love and trust my house guest a great deal, his proposal wasn’t something I was ready for. He offered me a two-part agreement between the two of us. He would take control of my entire house; he would make all the decisions that were made in my house—what to eat, what to say, what to wear, where to go; and he would take full responsibility to provide everything needed to maintain my house forever. My part of the agreement was to fully converse with him, staying in constant communion with him at all times so I’d know what his decisions were. I would be required to trust that his decisions were best for me and my house; and I would always abide by his decisions and obey what he told me to do.

Knowing by now that my house guest never made bad decisions, I believed this could be a good deal for me. He had never broken a promise, and something told me he never would. Of course, the deal was entirely up to me. It was my choice, for if I didn’t want to enter the agreement, he didn’t want to either. He would never take anything I didn’t willing give to him. But then he said one more thing that made me gasp! He would do all of this for me if I would give him that one last area in the house—my space—the control room where choices are made. That was the space I had reserved just for me, and now he wanted that too.

Plainly stated, I would have to surrender to him my all with nothing held back. That meant no plans of my own, no opinions apart from his, no overeating, no gossip, no criticism of others, no bad attitudes, no pouting, no tantrums, no selfishness. My money would be his money; my time would be his time; and my heart would be totally his. He said that once my everything belonged to him, I would no longer need to protect myself, and therefore, I’d have no use for those memories from the past. From that point on, my life would be hidden inside his life, sort of tucked away from the world where no one could find me to do me harm. He reminded me that his ways were very different from mine. Boy, did he ever get that right! Perhaps that is why it all seemed so mysterious, yet somehow I was beginning to get the picture.

If I understood him correctly, he had come to take full possession of my house. But was I ready to yield my entire house to this once-a-stranger house guest? We had enjoyed years of friendship and intimacy, building hopes and dreams together. I had felt a part in all we had done, enjoying the successes, being proud of our accomplishments, but now it would be more of him and less of me. He would increase; I would decrease. Would I simply fade somewhere into the background? Could I handle that? Actually, it would be all about him and none about me. He and he alone would receive all the recognition.

But wait! I thought we were partners. Where did that concept go—the two of us, co-captains, co-equals? No, it would be all about him. He would be the supreme ruler of my house. Oh, and my house would now be his house, his dwelling place. Was I ready for this step? Could I handle him being lord of all? Of my all? I didn’t know for sure what my answer would be, but the blueprint was clearly laid out. I had a huge decision to make.

Just then I remembered a conversation I had overheard a few weeks before between two friends discussing their own house guests, which by the way, sound a lot like mine. One friend had said to the other, “Don’t you get it? He must be Lord of all or he isn’t Lord at all.” I wonder if that explains what’s going on at my house. Oh well, no need to wonder. I’ll just go ask my house guest since he promised he would help me understand all things. As usual, I received the no-surprise response from my amazing house guest—my Best Friend, my Helper, Teacher, Counselor, Comforter, Ruler, and Lord—my Holy House Guest Extraordinaire!  ~Janie Kellogg

 

 

Connecting Dots November 13, 2012

Filed under: Christian Growth — Janie Kellogg @ 4:03 pm
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I’m a relentless dot-connector. I simply love to connect dots—or better said, I like for things to add up, make sense, and complete the picture. If you have joined me in this dot-connecting journey I am on, perhaps you’ve gotten tired of all the writings on goals. I have. But my goal has been to lay a foundation for sharing with you the insights God has given to me, so together we can—you guessed it—connect some dots!

 

Along with being a dot-connector, I am a God-seeker. I love Psalm 63:8 that says: “My soul followeth hard after Thee.” I want to follow after God hard. From an early age, I have searched for Him, becoming a student of the Word as well as a reader of many Christian books. To my surprise, the Holy Spirit recently led me to study the saints from a century ago. As I read about the great men and women of faith from that generation, I discovered they all had something in common—a deep walk with God resulting from close communion with Jesus’ representative, the Holy Spirit. I also have found that they were relentless in their obedience to His voice. They sold all, gave all, and actually followed Jesus’ examples. (Many of these books are listed under the Resources tab on my website.)

 

For some reason, I see a “dot-disconnect” between the lives of modern-day Christians (mainly mine) and the disciples who literally walked on earth with Jesus, who were a part of the first Church, and who lived a century ago. I have searched high and low, wondering what I am missing. What part of “follow” don’t I understand? I listen to today’s popular messages on finding my destiny, fulfilling my dreams, being all that I can be, and feel that they lean more toward an advertisement for the American way of life than being a follower of Christ. The Word of God says to be a partaker of His suffering, take up my cross, and die daily. Do you see the disconnect I see?

 

As a dot-connector, I continue to seek for the missing link to what Jesus taught and what we as modern-day believers have actually experienced. I believe that God is slowly but surely opening my understanding. A clearer meaning of the gospel is steadily dawning upon my soul. It comes in tidbits and pieces, maybe through the words of a song, or a sermon here and there, and definitely from the books I read. I am embarrassed to say that at times I have missed it and unknowingly embraced the wrong ideas; yet I have always, always had a yearning in my heart to know the deep things of God.

 

In no way can I say that I have arrived anywhere, except to be closer today than I was yesterday. But it is an extraordinary journey that I am on, and you too, if you choose to come along with me. As God’s children, we possess a priceless treasure in these earthen vessels, and I am gradually learning to uncover that treasure, to dig it out from beneath the rocks and soil of earthly thinking that hide it from my understanding.

 

Next week I will post on my blog my very first short story titled “The House Guest.” I believe the Lord gave me this story to open my understanding to the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of every believer. I will refer to it many times in upcoming blog posts. Please don’t miss it! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

The End of the Story November 7, 2012

Filed under: Encouragement — Janie Kellogg @ 1:59 pm
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It is true—I am a sissy when it comes to suspenseful movies. I’m usually sitting on the edge of my seat, my nerves tightening and my heart rate increasing along with the plot. In my younger days I bit my fingernails, and after watching a thrilling movie, there wasn’t anything left to bite. It is a huge relief when I finally know the outcome and that all is well. I fully admit that I enjoy watching stories that I know up front have a good ending. And when it comes to suspenseful books, I’ve been known to turn to the back of the book and take a sneak peek. Seriously.

 

Sometimes I’m the same way with suspenseful circumstances in real life—I’d like to know the outcome up front! I remember some of the big events in my life—a new job, starting a business, or building a new house. They looked huge (and scary) at the time, causing me distress and sleeplessness. Years later, when I knew the outcome, they didn’t look so big after all.

 

Maybe we should look at our troubled world through those lenses. Our world is a scary place to be right now—not that we have any other options. It appears things are quickly escalating toward a time called “the last days.” That term scared me to death when I was a child. Today, we literally see Bible prophecy fulfilled right before our eyes on the nightly news (or worse yet, 24-hour cable news). The reports of natural disasters occurring around the globe, the crises in the Middle East erupting one after another, and the move toward one world government, currency and religion are enough to get my heart rate up. How about yours?

 

Here’s my point. As Christians, we can take a sneak peek at the end of the book. In fact, we are encouraged to do just that and are called blessed if we do (Revelation 1:3). We can open God’s proven and trustworthy Word and read the outcome of this story. In the final book of the Bible, the end of the world as we know it has already been revealed. And guess what? There is a good ending promised to all who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior (Romans 10:9-10).

 

Why did the Heavenly Father tell us the end of the story? He knew we would be fearful, distressed, sitting on the edge of our seats, and maybe even biting our fingernails. He doesn’t want us to. He wants us to be full of knowledge, full of faith, full of hope and courage so we can tell others about that good ending. Do yourself a favor and go read the end of the Book. See if it doesn’t all come out A-OK for the children of God. Oh, yes it does! Then share that good news with a friend. ~Janie Kellogg

 

The Right Goal for Every Christian November 1, 2012

Filed under: Christian Growth — Janie Kellogg @ 6:54 am
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When it comes to goals, we need to get it right. What we focus on is one of the key building blocks of a Christlike life. I believe the great writer Oswald Chambers had it right—the goal is God Himself—and that is the right goal for every Christian. In fact, the goal of all Christianity and its teaching should be to find God, commune with Him, and learn to abide in Him. Converts should be pointed to this truth and helped to make it a reality in their own lives. It has absolutely nothing to do with prosperity, success, power, big ministries, the size of congregations, or the mode of worship. The reason we so often get it wrong could be that the blind is leading the blind, as many Christian leaders have the wrong goals or have not experienced abiding themselves.

 

In our defense, there is a good reason for this great malfunction in the church. It is ironic, yet so true, that Satan has done a magnificent job of placing desirable counterfeits before our eyes to lure us away from God. It is merely a repeat of the scene in the Garden of Eden. Remember, Satan is the one who desires to be worshipped above God. He is the one who hates God with a passion, and he will do anything to keep mankind from seeking after and following God. Is it any wonder that he presents himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14)? Satan cunningly displays his counterfeits to look like the real deal and to appeal to our fallen human nature. A closer scrutiny of these widely-embraced counterfeits reveals their appeal to the flesh.

 

When has an imitation anything ever matched the greatness of the real thing? Never! It may look authentic and have some degree of shine and appeal, but it can never contain the matchless qualities of the real thing. So it is with Satan’s bargain deals; they will never match an intimate relationship with God the Creator. Nothing the world has to offer, even at its finest, can ever compare to the magnificence of knowing Christ in His fullness. The world can never contain the fullness of Christ, nor can our own hearts contain the fullness of Christ. As humans, we can only withstand a taste of His splendor this side of heaven, and it is given to us as a “down-payment” of what is to come (Ephesians 1:14). Dear Christian, there is so much more ahead!

 

We are pursued by a glorious God who desires an intimate relationship with us, yet we have chosen worldly counterfeits instead. What an insult to the Creator that He has to take second, or third, or tenth place in the lives of His very own people! Some doctrines teach that a one-time experience with God is sufficient and that one gets all of God at the point of rebirth. Those misconceptions will keep us from discovering the reality of an ever-growing relationship with God that just begins on earth and continues throughout eternity. It is like saying “I do” to a marriage partner and then going separate ways. We would quickly say that is a relationship in concept only. There is no intimacy until the two are joined together and experience daily life together. Our relationship with God is no different.

 

A sad result of today’s wrong-goal teaching is that believers are encouraged to seek God’s blessings rather God Himself and they end up with empty, boring, and unfulfilled spiritual lives. Continual seeking for more of God is to be an on-going part of our Christian experience, and it is a disillusioned soul or church who thinks they have it all. May God help us hunger and thirst for more of Himself!

 

Jesus’ promise is still true today, “For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door shall be opened” (Luke 11:10). In case you think this doesn’t work because it has failed you in the past, try applying it to the right goal and watch what happens! ~ Janie Kellogg