Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Today Is Indeed a Good Friday! April 3, 2015

Most of us love Fridays. A popular restaurant chain, TGI Fridays, bears a name that depicts how we feel about Fridays: Thank God It’s Friday! Many of us celebrate the end of the workweek with casual clothes, relaxed work hours, and lunch out, rather than a bagged one brought from home.

These end-of-the-week celebrations actually signal an attitude of freedom—relief from the usual grind as we look forward to a few days of doing our own thing. Who among us doesn’t celebrate such freedom (even if it is short-term), especially in this crazy-busy world in which we live?

But I know a better reason to celebrate Friday, namely this one. Christians commemorate the Friday before Easter (known as Good Friday) as the day our Savior died in our behalf. Jesus, the Son of God, was falsely accused, ridiculed, mocked, beaten, and nailed to a tree in our place. He spilled His sinless blood for every guilt-ridden man or woman who ever lived. And He did it without uttering a bad word at His tormentors, without spewing blame on His accusers, and without passing judgement on His own created beings for such high treason.

That’s right, Jesus suffered in silence. It’s inconceivable! It seems impossible! How do we get our minds around that fact when compared to the modern-day masses who demonstrate, march, riot and scream: “Unfair! Unfair! Unfair!”

The Bible says “when He (Jesus) was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). And before Jesus drew His last breath that dark afternoon, He begged His Father to forgive them, since they apparently didn’t know what they were doing. How can that be: the Sinless for the sinner; the Just for the unjust; the Innocent for the guilty?

However unexplainable it seems, it is true nonetheless—for I was the sinner, the unjust, and the guilty. The evidence clearly stacked up against me and I had not a leg to stand on. The offenses I had committed were punishable by death—mine. I stood condemned and without hope—that is, until one Friday Someone stepped up and said, “Let her go free—I will take her place.” I don’t know how you see it, but I see that as a very good day!

As we process the horrific events carried out on that dark Friday over two-thousand years ago, may we wholeheartedly proclaim that it was in fact a good Friday! It spells f-r-e-e-d-o-m from the penalty of death for all who acknowledge their sins and call upon Jesus to save them.

And His offer still stands today: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

You see, because today is indeed a Good Friday, of course we are going to celebrate! ~Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8

 

Revival ~ Will it come and when? April 8, 2014

Nearly all of us say that we want Revival to come. We want an outpouring of God’s Spirit on us and others. We’d like to see huge masses of lost humanity turn to God. Our nation could certainly use a sweeping move of God, resulting in a return to moral values, honesty, purity, and goodness. Who among us wouldn’t like to see our churches filled to overflowing with people hungry for God? Bring it on! But will it ever come and, if so, when?

 

Good questions that I would like the answers to. Just this morning I was seeking God for that very thing, and in His faithfulness, He spoke to my heart. Afterwards, I wasn’t so sure I really wanted to hear the answer, but I wrote it down just the same.

 

I had been thinking about what is the greatest battle in my life. I determined that it is not the struggle to climb the corporate ladder, to make great financial gain, to store up for retirement, to become a VIP (very important person), or to have a huge influence anywhere for that matter. The biggest battle in my life is overcoming self. We must remember who self is or none of this will make sense: Self is Satan’s representative in my life and yours, inherited from the fall in the Garden of Eden.

 

Please bear with me for another writing on self. It’s not that I’m obsessed with the notion of dying-to-self; but since the awareness of who self is, I have gained clearer understanding of many of the gospel writings. It has been revolutionary, to say the least.

 

Now back to the garden—I can’t help but wonder if Eve had known who the serpent was, would she have made a different choice? If she had known that she was dealing with God’s greatest enemy, disguised as a serpent (the most beautiful of God’s creation) would she have even given him the time of day?

 

What about us? What about me? How often in a day’s time do I listen to God’s greatest enemy by way of his representative inside me? Is that not high treason on my part? Does it not align me on the wrong side of things? How can I knowingly choose to fight on the opposing side of right? Or am I like Eve, I don’t know who I am talking to so I take the bait? And like Eve, if I had just known it was Satan, I might have made a different choice. Really?

 

O God, open our eyes and let us see who it is that we are listening to! Is he not clothed as an angel of light? Does he have some slick story for me about how mistreated and abused I have been, and how, if only I would listen to him, things would get better? Will I look back and think with regret “If I had only known I was listening to a deceiver!”

 

It is actually quite simple to sort out who we are listening to: If our thoughts feed or benefit self in any way, we are listening to the voice of God’s enemy! Satan’s representative is actively trying to get us to fall for selfish lies and untruths. I am quite certain that we are listening.

 

Only you and I can determine if we are going to continue to listen to God’s enemy and our enemy. If we continue to feed on thoughts that lead to accusations, resentment, unforgiveness, ugliness, hatred, and evil of any kind—WE ARE BEING TRICKED!  We have yielded our members as instruments of unrighteousness (Romans 6:13), and we have aligned ourselves on the wrong side of right. What we need most is not sympathy from our friends, understanding for those who feel our pain, or for God to fix a bunch of other folks. We need a trip to the foot of the cross for repentance while we plead for a heaping portion of God’s great mercy!

 

We are more valuable to the Kingdom of God, not when we know the answer or preach the answer or write the answer, but when we BECOME the answer. How long has it been since we have been on our knees repenting before God for yielding our members as instruments of unrighteousness and begging for God’s forgiveness; actively and purposefully forgiving others; and then if necessary, asking those we have offended for their forgiveness as well?

 

God made it very clear to me this morning: When this happens among My people, revival will come.

 

We say that we long for REVIVAL and REST. Please don’t miss the word rest here. Yet, God offers it to us—if we are willing to do the hard work of repentance. But wait, God said that we don’t truly want it:

 

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength; but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30:15)

 

The answers to the questions: “Will revival come and when?” are clearly up to us—God’s people—not the unsaved, or the ungodly, or those sinners. I know where I’m spending the afternoon. “Oh, the cross; oh, the cross; the cross is my confession.”1

 

Thank You, Dear God, for not giving us rest until we have done what you require of us! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

1Kari Jobe, The Cross is My Confession

 

 

Our Non-traditional Thanksgiving Traditions December 2, 2013

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On Thanksgiving Day, American families gathered together all across this great and diverse nation to share a meal and give tribute to the One who ultimately provided it. That is simply what we do on this day.

 

 

Like other American families, my family has our own Thanksgiving traditions. They are, however, what you might call non-traditional traditions. For more than 30 years, we have celebrated in a unique and personal style in setting, food, and dress.

 

 

When asked by strangers how my family celebrates Thanksgiving, I often struggle for words to explain what it is that we actually do. My story is generally met with amusement: “What! No turkey, no dressing, no cranberry sauce!”

 

 

It is true nonetheless.  Five generations of non-traditionalists converge on the side of a mountain at a deer-hunters cabin in the pine-covered mountains of Southeast Oklahoma. We arrive on ATVs, Jeeps, and 4-wheel drive vehicles to share in the family fun on this day. We come decked out in camouflage and denim, and everyone who can grow a beard has one. The cabin’s open fireplace assures that everyone and everything will soon smell of smoke.

 

 

The food menu hasn’t changed in 33 years—venison, wild turkey, mashed potatoes, beans and cornbread—cooked by the hunters who have camped there for the entire week of deer season. Over the years the menu has grown to include a few traditional side items brought by those who don’t appreciate the non-traditional cuisine (like me); but regardless of what tops the home-built table covered with an orange Oklahoma State University Pistol Pete tablecloth, no one leaves hungry.

 

 

When my pastor-son was asked to bless the food, an immediate hush fell across the room. Whether it was kids running to and fro, age-old stories being told and retold, or last minute efforts to put the food on the table, it all ceased for the Thanksgiving prayer. I won’t soon forget my son’s words—they were a testimony of who we are.

 

 

In his prayer, my son gave thanks to God for all who had gathered there and for His many blessings to our family during the year. Then he said, “I thank You that someone in this family made the decision many years ago to live godly….” He finished his prayer, but my mind lingered long on the thought, “made the decision to live godly.”

 

 

This family was truly blessed to have godly grandparents who blazed the trail before us. They have long departed to heaven, and through the years other family members have joined them there as well. Yet every Thanksgiving, we meet once again to cherish those we can still hug, lavish love on the newest among us, and to remember those who left us this godly heritage.

 

 

So what does “live godly” mean anyway? Oh, don’t get me wrong—we are not a perfect family—by any stretch of the imagination. We have our faults, our failures, our sins, and our wounds. Being godly doesn’t mean that we haven’t sinned; it means that we know the Savior who takes away the sin of the world.1 It doesn’t mean that we haven’t made mistakes; it means that we trust in the blood of the Lamb that washes white as snow.2

 

 

Deciding to live godly simply means choosing to be like God

We choose to extend grace to undeserving people, because God extended grace to us when we were undeserving.

We choose to forgive those who have hurt us, because God forgave us when we were guilty of hurting others.

We choose to love the unlovable in the world, because God loved us when we were unlovely.

 

 

Perfect people—not by a long shot! But we are people who live by our faith in the God who forgives,3 whose mercies are new every morning,4 and who has promised to take us to heaven when we die.5

 

 

At the end of the day, a group of full and happy family members who smelled of smoke gathered into a huddle for the annual photo shoot. There we stood—five generations of imperfect godly people enjoying our non-traditional Thanksgiving traditions.  ~Janie Kellogg

 

1John 1:29; 2Isaiah 1:18; 31 John 1:9; 4Lamentations 3:23; 5John 14:2-3

 

How Long Has It Been? June 5, 2013

An old song comes to mind this morning: “How long has it been since you talked with the Lord?” If it has been awhile, then perhaps you know the feelings of longing, emptiness, or even lack of peace.

There is nothing that satisfies the longing heart like the presence of God!

What a privilege it is indeed to be in a gathering of God’s people when His presence shows up. Has that ever happened to you?

It happened to me last week. Not one person left that place untouched by the power of God. What a joy to see young people run to the side of one who has reached out for spiritual help, place an arm around their shoulders and pray intently for them. Or to see them weeping with one whose heart has been convicted to confess their sins and accept God’s forgiveness.

It seems that our fast-paced American culture has imposed on us a quicker approach to responding to the Spirit of God. We now accept a simple show of hands—while no one is looking—to signify to the speaker behind the microphone that we have decided to follow Jesus. Certainly more simplistic, less noticeable, and non-intimidating, wouldn’t you agree?

It is likely that walking a church isle or bended knees at an altar no longer have a place in modern worship. But could it be possible that while we have accommodated our time restraints, we have cut ourselves short of the sweet and precious movement of God’s Spirit upon our hearts and lives?

Old-fashioned? Probably. But I must ask: How long has it been since the Spirit of God fell upon your congregation, bringing the convicting power of God to everyone present? Or since you’ve felt the presence of God move on your own heart, drawing you closer to Him?

Who said it is old-fashioned to allow God to work among His children? Are we embarrassed at what God might do? Are we so afraid of ridicule from other believers or the world that we have purposely omitted the opportunities for God to work in us? And who cares what the world has to say anyway.

I wonder if we know what to do with His presence when it shows up. Amazement, reverence, fear, awe, humility, praise, worship, and adoration all appear on my list of “to do’s” while in the presence of Almighty God.

But however we handle it must not be the focal point of our concern—the important thing is that He comes! How precious to our hearts when our Lord comes to meet with us!

How long has it been since you talked with the Lord,
And told Him your heart’s hidden secrets?
How long since you prayed? How long since you stayed
On your knees ‘til the light shone through?
How long has it been since your mind felt at ease?
How long since your heart knew no burden?
Can you call Him your friend? How long has it been
Since you knew that He cared for you?
(Words and Music by Mosie Lister)

However long it has been is not the issue. Even if it has been a really long time, we can fix it now. Let the world say what they may. Let the religiously-correct ridicule if they want. But do not let another day pass until you find a place to get alone and meet with your God. He is waiting to meet with you; waiting to tell you that He cares for you; and waiting to bless you with refreshment that comes only from Him.

I suspect that as we have our one-on-one meetings with the Lord, we will find Him showing up regularly when we meet together. Oh, one more thing—when this happens, the world will marvel and realize that we too have been with Jesus! (Acts 4:13) ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Storms, storms, storms and youth camp June 1, 2013

They just keep coming—storms, storms, and more storms! Another deadly outbreak of tornados, twenty-four to be exact, ripped across Oklahoma last night leaving heaps of devastation behind. Damage tolls mount. So does the death toll. Disbelief tops our list of emotions.

What do we do when storms rage? Obviously, we cannot stop Mother Nature. We cannot change what the clouds and wind and rain drop on us. Storms are storms—they do their thing—and we simply must find a way to survive them.

It is the same with the storms of life. We cannot change the fact that they come to all of us. People change, relationships change, jobs go away, economies fluctuate, and new administrations take over; thus our circumstances change. We will all eventually be affected by the death of a loved one. Our lives sway back and forth from the powerful effects of such storms.

Yesterday, I returned from a week at youth church camp. There were forty young people in our cabin coming from all backgrounds, different social classes, and various home situations; yet they all came expecting to find something—God. And they did. It was an amazing experience as we watched the Holy Spirit move in the hearts of many precious young people.

Throughout the week, we heard their stories, saw their tears, and winced at their brokenness. I fear our “modern-day-permissive-everything-goes” culture has taken its toll on the next generation. Their needs are huge. Storms have ravaged their young lives, and they struggle to contend with the damage left behind. They grapple to survive in their complex world.

As they sought for wholeness, there was one word repeated over and over from their lips—forgiveness. “I need to forgive my mom; my dad; my friends; myself; God; those who bullied me; those who hurt me; those who left me out; or those who don’t care about me.” Even if they didn’t say it, their faces and their behaviors reflect heaps of hurt and rejection.

Storms—they are a fact of life. I have them. You have them. Young people have them. If we can’t prevent them, then what must we do to survive them?

In the natural realm, we must know how to read the weather signs, listen to the trained weather professionals, heed their warnings, make sound decisions, and apply proven safety precautions. It is a known fact that lives can be spared if we do these things.

It is the same in the spiritual realm. We must know how to read the signs, listen to trained spiritual leaders, heed their warnings, make sound decisions, and apply proven spiritual precautions. Likewise, lives can be spared if we do these things.

Don’t miss the emphasized “if.” The key to survival is preparedness. If we are prepared, we will survive when we find ourselves in the path of natural tornados and in the path of destructive life activities.

What are we doing today to prepare for the storms of life that will inevitably come? Will we be prepared as the next storm gathers overhead? Once the darkness is upon us, the wind whipping about us, and rain pounding against our lives, it is too late to prepare. Preparedness is what we must do now.

Jesus, the Master of the winds and the waves, is our refuge and shelter in the storms of life (Luke 8:25). His Word can guide us to safety both in this world and the next one. He has promised that we will safely reach our eternal home, if we follow His instructions. In John 10:28, Jesus says to each of us: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

The question is: Are we listening and are we heeding the words of the Master? If we are going to survive the storms, we must. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

The Inverted Gospel January 23, 2013

God wants me to get it. His heart longs for my eyes to see what He sees; my heart to feel what He feels; my mind to grasp the inverted gospel message of Jesus Christ that says to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). I struggle with this upside down thinking.

 

God’s intent from the beginning has been to make Himself known in the earth—His greatness, His love, His mercy, His ways—all of which are different than ours. And how did God plan to do that? Through the lives of His chosen people (Galatians 3:8).

 

“The world judges our Christ by our fruit,” said Cora Harris MacIlvary. If that is true, perhaps we need to inspect our fruit to see what we are producing. Do we present an accurate picture of Christ to the world around us?

 

Some fruit inspection guidelines could be these:

Jesus said to humble ourselves—we remain proud.

He said to forgive others—we hang on to our hurts.

He said to love others as ourselves—we despise those with different religious or political views.

He said to judge not—we accuse, convict, and condemn with one sweeping thought.

He said to be merciful—we want mercy, but refuse to give it.

 

Sometimes I question who Jesus will be talking to when He says: “Why call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) Will it be me?

 

Jesus told the disciples that “if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). What part of deny do I not understand? Could this be what Jesus meant by deny: “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6:29-30)?

 

God truly wants His children to get it—to grasp the meaning of the gospel:  God loves sinners. His heart is breaking for them because they are lost, and for us because we don’t get it. Sometimes I fear that I am part of the problem instead of part of the solution, as Jesus intended for me to be.

 

It may be time for a spiritual checkup:  Am I living a Christ-centered life that reflects the merciful kindness of a loving God, or a self-centered life as one who has been duped into believing that I have rights that must not be violated—the right to my own way, my possessions, my opinions, my attitudes, or as Oswald Chambers said, “the right to myself?”

 

Jesus clearly said to deny myself and follow Him. I am certain He meant it. Yet, there is a gap between my thinking and Jesus’ instructions. There’s even more between my life and Jesus’ selfless example.

 

God is searching for those who will reflect the truth about Him. And when He finds them, I believe He will pour His Spirit into them with great measure so He can to make Himself known to a dark and desperate world.

 

Am I willing to deny myself of my rights and be one of them? Just thinking…… ~Janie Kellogg

 

“Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers. Let our hearts be led by mercy; help us reach with open hearts and open doors. Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours.” ~ Casting Crowns

 

Note: All scripture references are NIV.