Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Change Is As Good As A Rest March 20, 2015

Spring Break 2015 has come and gone. It’s a given that we all need a break now and then. After all, we are a society that lives the rat-race life. Sometimes when I get really overwhelmed, I say “I’m running the rat race and the rats are winning.” I bet you feel like that sometimes too.

We are told that a break from the monotony of regular life is good for us. It causes us to focus on other things, and therefore, relieves some of the stress in our lives. Many people use Spring Break to get away from work, school, and responsibilities, and actually get some rest. And for those who didn’t necessarily get any rest, there is an English proverb that says “A change is a good as a rest.” So if you got a change from the norm for the past few days, you are indeed blessed.

Sometimes I experience a forced break from subjects the Lord is teaching me. Through circumstances, God leads me away for a time, and when I come back to it, I see things with refreshed eyes. That has been the case in my chase after humility.

I read these words by Andrew Murray this morning with refreshed eyes. I choose to share them with you because they are words of life to ever-seeking believers:

“No tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang….If this [humility] be the root of the tree, its nature must be seen in every branch and leaf and fruit. If humility be the first, the all-including grace of the life of Jesus—if humility be the secret of His atonement—then the health and strength of our spiritual life will entirely depend upon our putting this grace first too, and making humility the chief thing we admire in Him, the chief thing we ask of Him, the one thing for which we sacrifice all else. Is it any wonder that the Christian life is so often feeble and fruitless, when the very root of the Christ life is neglected, is unknown? ….Believer, study the humility of Jesus! This is the secret, the hidden root of your redemption. Sink down into it deeper day by day. Believe with your whole heart that this Christ, whom God has given you, even as His divine humility wrought the work for you, will enter in to dwell and work within you too, and make you what the Father would have you be.”1

Can we take a break from pursuing what we see as the greatest needs in our lives and our churches: more money, more things, more activity, or better music, better curriculum, better leaders—more and better anything—and let these words speak to our hearts? Can we allow them to soak in and penetrate our spirit-deprived minds? Can we break away from the desire for entertainment long enough to let God inject something of greater value?

Here’s the question: Is the missing ingredient in our spiritual lives actually the humility of Jesus? What might it do for us and our churches if we were to seek such?

Not many will, so we may never see what the accumulated results would be. But for those who are ready for a break from the monotony of the self-driven, self-gratifying, prosperity teaching of today—this change in what we seek just might yield the refreshing results we have been searching for. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprint Key Quote: You are, by His grace, counted worthy to follow the Crucified in the way of the Cross. So few are ready for that. They preach about it, sing about it, but when it comes to doing it, then they just don’t. But I should not say “they,” “I” is the pronoun. What do I know of this way? I shrank from it….That wasn’t following.”2 ~ Amy Carmichael

Key Scripture: Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

For other related posts, see Treasures in Earthen Vessels, “What is the Missing Ingredient in Your Christian Life,” February 25, 2015

1Andrew Murray, Humility, Fig-Books.com; Pg. 6-9; 2Amy Carmichael, Candles in the Dark, CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA, 1982, Pg. 78

 

When It’s Just One of Those Days ~ March 5, 2015

We all have them—days when we feel battle-weary, shell-shocked, and overrun by the enemy of our souls. Even if he didn’t win the battle, he certainly left behind a heap of rubbish for us to deal with.

I’m sure there were days when Jesus felt the same way. Not about Himself, but about others. He possibly knew the disappointment of healing someone’s life, only weeks later to see them lining up for another divine touch. He might have thought, “Will they ever get it?”

But we all have repeat patterns. How many times do we learn a hard lesson and then vow never make that mistake again? But we do. After all, we’re human, and unfortunately humans are prone to make mistakes and then repeat them over and over. The amazing thing is not that we ever reach a not-so-human status, but that we learn where to turn when our mistakes overwhelm us.

It is easy to think we can fix someone else’s quirks so they won’t blunder anymore; but it’s not true. If our fixing worked, we could fix ourselves. We can’t. Our best approach to our weak points is facing them, admitting them, and then running as fast as we can to the One who can help us. His name is Jesus.

Listen to His invitation: Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

Yep, Jesus is the best Fixer in the business! He knows what is needed when it is needed. He knows where to apply pressure, when to apply it, and how much to apply. He also knows when to relieve the pressure, and exactly how much to relieve. He knows when to console and when to encourage. He knows when we should stay in the ring and keep fighting, or when it’s best to get out. He knows when we should push through a trial, or when to yield, sit on the sidelines, and let someone else fight for us.

He’s the perfect coach. He knows how to win. We may not always think so, since some victories are won by surrender. They have the appearance of defeat, but they’re not. At other times, victory comes by standing our ground and never bending to the forces that oppose us.

Who knows what to do when? Do we press on or accept the inevitable? If you’ve ever faced cancer, or divorce, or bankruptcy, or depression, or a family feud, or one of a million other overwhelming circumstances, you have some idea of the onslaught of options and what-if’s that flood your mind. The sheer overload zaps your strength, and you start to doubt your ability to make good decisions.

Because we are humans with limitations, we are given a loving, caring Shepherd to guide us through the maze of life’s hard places. If we let Him, Jesus will take responsibility for making the decisions we can’t. He looks at us with eyes of understanding and says, “I’ve got this.”

And He does. He has this one, and the next one, and the next. He never makes a bad call or a bad decision. He is a proven winner and can be trusted. Today, hear is “Come to Me,”1 and then keep it simple: Go to Him, accept His yoke, and learn from Him. Believe that He keeps His word, and you will soon find your soul resting. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “When you are very conscious of your faults, do not be discourage by them, but confess them to God. Do not excuse them, or accuse Him. Then, peaceably resume your usual practice of love and adoration of God.”2 ~ Bro. Lawrence

1Matthew 11:28-30;  2Brother Lawrence, The Believer’s Secret of the Abiding Presence, Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN, pg. 29