Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

When There Are No Words April 12, 2018

[Dedicated to Drew Wright, a true soldier of the cross, who in his darkest moments and deepest sorrow gave glory to God.]

 

The saying “There are no words” grips my heart. I don’t use it lightly. To me it is an expression of deeper pain than the little inconveniences of life can bring. I did use it recently though, in the days following Christmas Day 2017. An event occurred that brought such deep wounding to my soul that there was nothing else to say.

 

By all accounts it seemed to be a normal Christmas for Susan and Bill Wright, friends of my family for over 30 years. Since they were expecting their first grandchild, it was sure to be a memorable one as well. What could be more joyous in this joy-filled time of the year than the anticipation of a new baby? Friends rejoiced with them as they waited and celebrated life at every stage.

 

Their son, Drew, and his beautiful wife, Shannon, were 32 weeks pregnant with Baby Asa James. He was already held tightly in their hearts, but it would be a little longer before they could hold him in their arms. Shannon’s parents had moved from another state to live closer to their first grandchild as well. The entire family was entirely prepared to welcome this special little guy into their lives.

 

Yet, three days after Christmas something went terribly wrong. There had been no way to prepare for the events that would unfold over the next five days. Drew’s first message on Facebook on December 29th stunned readers:

 

“Yesterday morning was the hardest day of my life. My best friend and bride, Shannon, passed from this life and entered heaven. We don’t know all the details, but Shannon became unresponsive and was transferred by ambulance to the hospital. She never regained consciousness, but gave birth by C-Section to Asa James Wright.”

 

The tragic news shocked family, friends, and members of the church where Drew serves as Student Pastor. As the story spread on social media, hundreds and perhaps thousands of Christians began to pray for the family and especially Baby Asa, as his tiny body clung to life. The next Facebook report was a request from Drew:

 

“Asa is the most beautiful thing and looks just like his momma. Asa is in critical condition and is being treated by doctors for his best chance at survival. I humbly but boldly ask that you would pray. Pray for Claudia and Todd as they lost their daughter, pray for Clayton and Lindsey as they lost their sibling. Pray for my family as Shannon was the daughter and sister they’ve always wanted. Pray for me. I am hurting and broken, but I know God is good. Lastly, pray for a miracle for Baby Asa. He needs our Big God to show up in a big way.”

 

During the next few days, friends and family surrounded Drew and his infant son with support, comfort and prayers. Because of the Internet, I was aware of what was happening to my friends. A picture of Baby Asa’s tiny body connected to high-tech medical devices with tubes and tape was difficult to take in; yet many prayer partners helped bear the burden of brokenness and grief.

 

More questions than answers filled our hearts as we continued to call upon God for a miracle. How could this be happening? How will this young man survive such sorrow? How can he declare that God is good in the midst of sheer heartbreak? Is there any purpose anywhere in this tragedy?

 

On December 31st, Drew’s closest friend and co-worker, Cody Brumley, spoke for many hurting souls:

 

“In the mighty wake of hurt, we do not seek God’s deliverance from it…we seek God’s presence in it. We run to God bleeding, broken, confused, in disbelief…because nowhere else can we be comforted, answered, loved, and pieced together.”

 

With each report the heart-wrenching pain grew worse. Another picture showed Drew’s youth group praying and calling out to God in behalf of their leader. A part of me wanted to pull away and know less about this tragedy, yet my efforts to protect myself were futile. We are a body—the body of Christ—and when a part of us hurts, the whole body hurts.

 

Later that same day, the family was told that the doctors had done all they could for Baby Asa and that they would begin to focus on an end-of-life plan. Once again, Drew informed his prayer partners:

 

“We still hope for a miracle, but are coming to grips that this may be God’s outcome. Specifically pray that Asa’s short life will have an ongoing ripple effect for the sake of the gospel and God’s goodness in the midst of tragedy.”

 

A picture surfaced on January 2nd that caused me to finally utter the phrase: There are no words. Drew held Asa close to his heart while others encircled him, laying their hands on his shoulders as he prayed and dedicated his baby son to God. He described those moments like this:

 

“Today we got to be together to celebrate and dedicate Asa James to the Lord and his story to the glory of God. Sometime in the near future he will most likely breathe his last breath, but in the midst of hurt and pain and questions and fear, I am filled with joy—joy unspeakable that has no words, but just is living in me. God, only you know the impact this young man’s story will have and we trust you with that. God, I trust in you through all of this. I know that Shannon is getting to be what she was designed and destined to be—to be a mom. And today I am thankful for that. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and continued prayers for me, my family, and this community. Pray that God will use this as only He can….”

 

Drew’s prayer reminds me of a prayer by another young man, who facing something so painful and indescribable, prayed “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine be done.” Just like his Savior, Drew yielded to the Father’s greater plan. For it is there in the place of surrender, that true joy—the joy he spoke of—can be found.

 

The following day, January 3, 2018, Asa James Wright slipped away from us and entered heaven where he is held safe in the arms of Jesus and his adoring mom.

 

When the family announced that a memorial service for Shannon and Asa was to be held the following Saturday, my heart pondered how they would prepare for such an event. The sorrow seemed too deep—the wounds too raw. The faith of many, including my own, had been tested. Would the faith of many stand and not fail?

 

As I prayed for my friends about what the next few days held for them, the Holy Spirit took me on a journey down memory’s lane. You see, there had been a time in my own life when tragedy had robbed me and my family of a loved one. We too had felt the pain, the emptiness, and the confusion that comes when a loved one is snatched away too soon. In that moment I heard His gentle whisper:

 

“It was in those dark days when it felt like you were living in a dream and not knowing where you were or how you’d get through the next day or the next hour, when you needed a strength much greater than you own, that something supernatural showed up and carried you.”

 

Oh, how well I remember what my sweet Jesus had done for me in those dark days. For when there are no words, there is grace.

 

His grace had held me up. His grace had strengthened me. His grace had gotten me through that dark valley and carried me safely to the other side. I instantly knew that He would do it for my friends as well. And He’s likely done for you, too.

 

Jesus promises to comfort us in our sorrows, to heal our broken hearts, and to give us peace that passes understanding, if we will trust Him. His Word has never failed His followers and it never will. And so we trust. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just to take Him at His Word.

Just to know that He has promised,

Just to know “Thus saith the Lord.”

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him!

How I’ve proved Him o’er and o’er;

Jesus, Jesus, Precious Jesus,

Oh, for grace to trust Him more! ~ Louisa R. M. Stead

 

 

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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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How to Have a Joyous “No-fuss” Christmas December 17, 2014

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 11:59 am
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Who doesn’t want a joyous “no-fuss” Christmas? After all, it’s been a trying year, and I don’t need to remind anyone how perplexed our world is right now. Rather, I think it is a great time to focus on something else, and Christ’s birth is the perfect subject for some refreshing thought. I suspect the world 2000+ years ago was in as much disarray as ours. But Jesus didn’t come to set the political winds from a different direction. He came to cause men to focus on something more important—eternal matters.

Eternal mattersas if eternity matters—and it does! Most of us probably don’t think much about eternal matters except when tragedy strikes. But it came to me that we can turn our thoughts toward eternal matters and set in motion a joyous “no-fuss” Christmas all at the same time. It has to do with the gifts we give to others. These are, however, gifts money can’t buy.

What if, by some rare oddity, we were to give everyone on our gift list the amazing gift of unselfishness—including the selfish ones, the ungrateful ones, the hard-to-get-along-with ones, and even the overbearing ones? Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?

Actually, it’s very simple. We can give them the gift of our self—you know that part of us that Jesus said to deny. We do that by not demanding our way, and instead, yielding to others. That’s it—yielding our right to do or say what we want to do or say. We can keep our gifts under the joyful wrappings of mercy and grace until the confrontation occurs. Then with our simple acts of giving, we discreetly empower others to have it their way. The issue is settled instantly with no fuss. WOW, can you imagine your family Christmas with no fuss!

You and I have this incredible opportunity to share the true message of Christmas—the selfless gift of God’s love to all people. You see, our yielding to others allows us to proclaim that same message of selflessness with our very own lives. Our gifts will make others happy, set them free from past offenses, and literally wipe out tension from our holiday gatherings. And that, my friend, is joyous!

If you think this is some silly idea of cheap gift-giving, trust me, it will cost you much. In fact, it costs so much that many will opt not to have a joyous “no-fuss” Christmas. But we must remember that God’s Gift to us was quite costly—just consider the pain in God’s heart as He yielded up His Son for the selfish, ungrateful, hard-to-get-along-with, overbearing likes of us!

Yielding our lives to God will always cost us, but then we should never give anything that doesn’t cost us something.1 On this Christmas of 2014, I hope we will choose to focus on eternal matters by giving our selfless gifts. It’s a sure-fired way to have a joyous “no-fuss” Christmas!

Merry Christmas ~ Janie Kellogg

1 2 Samuel 24:24

 

Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord August 22, 2014

After years of searching for and writing about the secret place, I recently summed up my findings in an earlier post with this single statement: There is more to this walk with God than I currently know and possess.

 

I believe the biggest mistake we make as Christians is to think that we already know all there is to know about God. That one prideful attitude clearly puts us on the team with those who have “eyes that cannot see and ears that do not hear. It squarely lines us up on the side of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. It bars our ability to grasp many things Jesus “has to say to us,” and keeps us locked in the same room with those who “cannot bear it now.” It identifies us closely with the woman at the well to whom Jesus said, “If you only knew who it is that speaks to you,” yet we do not know.

 

The person who says “I’ve got it all” blocks his own pathway to experiencing the more Jesus promised His followers. One only needs to read Job 38:1 through Job 42:6 to understand how totally minuscule is our knowledge of the great and mighty God. If this whirlwind discourse to Job doesn’t send us to our knees, then we very likely abide in a sad, prideful state. It will do us good to read it now and then.

 

After an awakening to Job’s own utter smallness, he responds to God: “But now my eyes see You.” I am reminded of the lyrics to Michael W. Smith’s popular song from a few years back:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord,

Open the eyes of my heart.

I want to see You.

I want to see You.

 

May our prayer today be one of genuine admittance that we are needy—greatly in need of God’s grace and light in our lives. The suitable word here is humility, and oh, how we need it. That is, if the eyes of our hearts are indeed to be opened to see the Lord! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Small footprintKey Concept:  If we believe that we currently have it all, we will never see, hear, know, or possess the “more” that God promises to us.

 

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

 

Seeing is Everything ~ May 2, 2014

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 1:26 pm
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Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

 

Who doesn’t want to see God? Or better yet, who doesn’t want to see, period?

 

Seeing means I have a clear view of where I am, where I’ve been, and where I am going. It means I can observe the things and conditions around me. It means I can know both beauty and danger. It certainly seems to be true that seeing is everything.

 

When we consider the two men who came to the temple to pray in Luke 18, we can conclude that the publican saw more than the Pharisee, for it was the publican that came away justified. A few things the Pharisee obviously could not see were his need for humility and mercy as he approached God. Not a good start. No doubt, he was counting on his own good deeds, but he missed it big time.

 

On the other hand, the publican had such a clear view of himself and his inability to stand before God in his own merit, that he smote his breast as he begged for mercy. He couldn’t even lift his eyes to heaven. Picture this man with his head bent low, tears streaming down his face, bitterness of soul, anguishing over his neediness—he could see God clearly because he saw himself clearly. This is big!

 

Let’s look at the promise again: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” How do we get pure in heart? Only one way: purity is given—granted—transferred to us by God. Being washed in the sinless blood of Jesus cleanses the stench and dirt of humanity from our lives. Bringing ourselves to the fountain filled with blood daily makes us pure in God’s eyes. And along with that purity, He gives us sight—the ability to see more of Him.

 

With newly granted sight, we can see more of ourselves, and thus more of our need for mercy. When we see our neediness and humble ourselves properly before Him, He responds to repentant and yearning hearts. We have thus positioned ourselves to receive everything God has promised to us. This is even bigger!

 

Take note: Seeing ourselves clearly is the key to positioning ourselves to receive from God!

 

Here are some things we must see:

 

  • How hopeless are my good works!
  • How helpless I am to help myself!
  • Without Jesus, I am doomed!
  • With Jesus, I am positioned to receive all God has for me!

     

    Seeing is priceless! I believe it is one of the keys to the kingdom that Jesus said would be given to the church. Finding God all starts with our ability to see. It will never happen by chance to one who isn’t looking. We will never stumble onto eternal life. No, it happens when God draws us to Himself and then allows us a glimpse of His holiness. Once we get a glimpse of a holy God, we will begin to clearly see our unholy, sinful condition. From that position, the promises of God are not far away. This is bigger still!

     

    If there is now a stirring your heart, consider this: “Is there something I don’t see?” Thank God for drawing you to Himself, and then ask for more spiritual sight. He will always answer that prayer for the pure in heart.

     

    The eyes of the heart are so critical, for if we do not have spiritual vision, we don’t have anything. We shall soon discover that entering God’s rest greatly depends on what we see. After all, seeing is everything! ~ Janie Kellogg

     

     

    For other faith-building readings, see “A Message for Rock-Bottom Disciples,” Treasure in Earthen Vessels, April 22, 2014.

 

Has God Gotten a Bad Rap? March 11, 2014

I think God has gotten a bad rap. Many people have the wrong view of God because of His arch-enemy, Satan, who from the get-go has tried to convinced mankind that God is something other than what He is.

 

As a deceiver condemned to eternal damnation, Satan’s goal is to convince God’s masterpiece creation to turn away from Him. He attempts to do this by skewing our view of God. Paraphrasing Satan’s words to Eve, he said: “You won’t surely die if you eat of this tree. It’s just that God doesn’t want you to be as smart as he is.”1 Right there he planted the thought that God is not trustworthy.

 

Our opinions about God are formed in early childhood based on what we were told by our parents. We basically see God the same way our parents did. Another factor that influences our view of our Heavenly Father is what type of earthly father we had:  kind and gentle, or not-so-kind and not-so-gentle. Lastly, our view of God is formed by what our religious teachers taught us about Him.

 

When asked: “When you think about God, where does your mind go first?” we would have different answers based on those factors. Our answers might be: Righteous judge; Condemning critic; Tender heart; or something esle.2

 

But whatever our answer is, it is a mindset—an attitude, belief, conviction, frame of mind about something. A mindset is just that: set! It is with us for life unless something or someone comes along and shows us a better way.

 

Mindsets are hard to change. Expert James Clear says, “There are many reasons why it can be hard to stick to good habits or develop new skills. But more often than not, the biggest challenge is sitting between your two ears. Your mind is a powerful thing.”

 

The old saying, “If you always think what you’ve always thought, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” is true. There is tremendous power in a mindset.

 

Be it good or bad, we all have a mindset of who God is and what His character is like. Christians believe He is an eternal, divine, all-knowing, all-wise, just, and perfect God that loves mankind. Those are good mindsets. But what about our mindset of how this eternal, divine, all-knowing, all-wise, just, and perfect God relates to us—members of a fallen race who are anything but perfect?

 

Thousands of religions around the world teach different ideas about God, and many are what I call “performance-based religions.” They teach that if people are good, God is pleased with them; and if people are bad, God is not pleased with them. Requirements for followers of performance-based religions range from extremists who tell their converts to kill people for eternal brownie points to those who define how women should wear their hair.

 

Even God’s chosen people added 600+ commandments to the Ten Commandments.  In so doing, they created a “performance-based theology.” In New Testament times, Jewish Christians tried to put new converts back under the law of circumcision. The Apostle Paul challenged them with the message: grace is enough!3

 

Salvation-by-grace denominations also encourage believers to keep track of their performance. How many of us made check marks on our Sunday school envelopes for being at church, bringing a Bible, giving an offering, studying the lesson, and inviting a visitor? If we did those things, we got a perfect score. If we didn’t, we got something less.

 

Throughout most of our lives, we have struggled with the something less that we fear doesn’t please God.

 

So what is wrong with performance-based practices? That is simply not how God relates to us! Jesus died for us while we were still sinners.4 He provided a way for us to be holy and acceptable to God by His works at Calvary. In short—Jesus plus nothing!

 

The truth is that God wants to have a love relationship with us and not be the judge of our good and bad performance. But only when we change our mindset about this truth will we be able to experience intimacy with the Almighty God.

 

An exciting journey awaits those who are willing to change their set mind. ~Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Genesis 3:4-5; 2Angela Thomas, Beautiful Offering; 3Galatians 5:1-6; 4Romans 5:8