Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Have You Seen the Star? December 20, 2017

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 12:45 pm
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I never know how or when the inspiration will come for my annual Christmas post—I just know it will. This year, it happened the day after Thanksgiving, when we took my stepson, Wade, to a movie. The choice was simple—animated, not too long, and a positive message. The newly-released Christmas movie Star was sure to fill the bill.

 

Entertaining, delightful, and yes, inspiring! As we got back into the car, we had many takeaways to share with one another. First, we loved the genuinely stubborn donkey named Bo. After chasing his own dreams, Bo decided to turn around and go back to help Mary, the one who had shown him kindness. In the end, by following God’s plan instead of his own, Bo found the desire of his heart—to carry a King on his back.

 

Second, there were those really-bad dogs that pursued Mary relentlessly because their wicked master wanted to kill her. Yet, when Bo bravely intervened and had them headed toward their death, he chose to show mercy instead. In reality, the really-bad dogs were themselves prisoners of the wicked one. Perhaps they were worth giving another chance. After receiving compassion from Bo, they too came and worshipped the Baby King.

 

Lastly, there was Mary’s faith—it never wavered as she remained oblivious to the threats that swarmed around her. Because Mary knew God had given her this assignment, she was confident that nothing could keep her baby boy from being born. She trusted the God who had decreed it so, His choices for Jesus’ make-shift nursery, and the weird menagerie that became the welcoming party.

 

So is Star simply a cute movie, or is there a message for us? I believe the later. Like Bo, we stubbornly chase our own dreams. But somewhere along the way, God’s kindness catches up with us and we make a turn around. It’s then that we realize following God’s plan is the only way to have the desire of our hearts. And aren’t we reminded by those really-bad dogs that our world is full of really-bad characters who are also being directed by the evil one? Is it possible that they can’t see how they are being used by the great enemy of all mankind? Perhaps, some mercy and compassion from us might turn them around. After all, haven’t we been given a second chance? And then there is Mary’s faith—oh how I need it, how we need it! In a world full of darkness, disorder, and danger, could we learn to be oblivious to the threats? Could we see our God-given assignment and then trust the One who has decreed it so, His choices for our lives, and even the weird people He places along our way? Perhaps we could, that is, if our faith wasn’t so small.

 

As Christmas approaches, I must ask, “Have you seen the Star yet?” Have you caught a glimpse of the deeper meaning behind that familiar story of Jesus’ birth and how it applies in the here and now? My prayer for all of us is that we will begin today to follow God’s plan, to show mercy and compassion as we go, and that our faith in God will grow BIG as we embrace the New Year.

 

Christmas blessings to all ~ Janie Kellogg

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God’s OK with Exuberant Angels December 22, 2016

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 4:28 am
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Christmas is full of surprises—those little unexpected moments which delight our hearts and fill our souls to full. It happened a few nights ago at my grandchildren’s Christmas program. Parents and grandparents watched their little ones pull off a spectacular rendition of Jesus’ birth. Every line was not perfectly spoken nor right on cue, but it was magnificent nonetheless.

And the surprise—one little boy (Zane ~ age 5) proved to be a most exuberant entertainer. Dressed in a white tee-shirt, jeans, and a makeshift halo, he stood on the bottom step of the risers that held the angelic choir. This truly adorable angel was poised for a great performance, yet he had one small problem—staying focused. He twitched and twisted with his experiment to see how far it was to the floor below. He swung his left foot off the riser to touch the floor with his tennis shoe; then his right foot—left foot, right foot, over and over it went. Yet, when the choir began to sing another song, he refocused and belted out the words with all his might. A few lines later, his excitement overcame him once again and he amused himself with less important things. The grand finale was his painstaking efforts to pull his arms out of the sleeves of his tee-shirt, leaving us to wonder if the play might end with one half-dressed angel.

The thoughts of this priceless moment bring a smile to my face this morning, yet I wonder if that little boy might reflect us—yes, you and me—during the Christmas season. We know we are supposed to focus on the Greatest Gift Ever Given, yet we get distracted by all the amusing things around us. When something pulls us back to the main thing, we refocus for a time, only to be overcome once again by things of lesser-importance. Like Zane, we do it over and over.

No doubt that little fellow brought delight to the heart of every onlooker, but I believe he also brought delight to the heart of God. Exuberance, energy, excitement—they’re simply part of being a little boy who is cherished and enjoyed. And so are we—cherished and enjoyed by our Heavenly Father. He knows that our exuberance, our energy and our excitement are simply part of being His child—created to live life to the full, to experiment with who we are and what we can do. Perhaps one day we’ll get it right—but until then, here’s a little advice using a few borrowed words from Luke’s account of the original spectacular event that might help us stay focused on the main thing:

In this season of celebration, remember that Jesus coming to earth was indeed good tidings of great joy to all people. So come with haste and find the Savior, glorify and praise God for what is seen and heard, and then go tell everyone what great things God has done. When the hype is over, just ponder all these amazing things throughout the coming New Year. Oh, and don’t forget to look for those little surprises along the way. Christmas is full of them!

 little-lamb

Merry Christmas to all, Janie Kellogg

 

He Came For Us December 18, 2016

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 7:10 pm
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I sometimes think we look at Christmas through rose-colored lenses of our own choosing: God sent His sweet Son to earth by way of a warm cozy manger, dazzled lowly shepherds with an angelic host, and led kings to bring gifts to the Baby Jesus. It’s a beautiful story that stirs our hearts each year and leads us to give gifts, too. And we love it.

 

But like most everything in life, the deeper meaning of what happens isn’t always in plain sight. In reality, there is a much nobler greatness behind the magical scenes of Christmas that involves our destiny. You see—you and I were born into a world-gone-wrong.

 

God had created a world He called “good,” that is until evil entered the picture and ruined everything. Then darkness reigned. God’s world would eventually destroy itself because evil left unchallenged would lead to death for everything, including us. It was no less than a tragedy in which you and I were left without hope. Here’s why.

 

History had opened with Adam and Eve falling for the guise of knowledge. It was a costly fall for them, and us. Wrong won. In time, man grew so evil that God regretted that He had made us at all, and He destroyed the world with water. Wrong won again. Throughout the centuries man became so wicked that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Yet, what they declared to be right turned out to be all wrong. Then along came the Pharisees, making a mockery of the Holy Law and changing what was good into what was prideful and self-seeking. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Man couldn’t get it right—only wrong—hopelessly wrong.

 

What might a look at the Christmas story through nobler lenses reveal?

 

Mankind was locked in hopelessness—stuck on wrong.

Someone had to right the wrong.

Someone had to challenge evil.

Someone had to bring hope.

Someone had to come.

And He did!

 

That glorious night we celebrate as Christmas is about many things—but none more necessary for us than a Babe lying in a manger bringing hope to a world-gone-wrong.

 

He came for us! But don’t miss the deeper meaning behind this statement. Claim it for yourself. Make it personal—declare it out loud: I was without hope in a world-gone-wrong, and He came for me.

 

 

he-came-for-me

 

 

Dear Lord Jesus, as we look at the manger scene this Christmas, help us to see the deeper meaning of why you came to earth—you came for each of us. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

Got Peace? July 4, 2015

Today is the Fourth of July, and once again we Americans have celebrated our freedom just as we do every year on this historic day. Yet, I can’t help but reflect on the events of the past few weeks and how they have disrupted my peace. Perhaps you feel the same way.

While my generation has had its fair share of wars, turmoil, and challenging times, I have never quite felt as if the whole world were about to implode. Not like I do today. “The world is going to hell in a handbasket” seems to be an understatement for the days in which you and I live. What can we do? Where can we turn? What kind of world will our children and grandchildren face? Troubling—to say the least!

During the summer months I am teaching a Bible Study on PEACE, and I find the subject both timely and relevant to the nightly news. In fact, I expect that many of God’s people are looking for that very thing. Therefore, I have decided to share some of my findings about this greatly sought-after commodity known as p-e-a-c-e on my blog—where peace comes from; how we can get it; how we can keep it; and how we can share it with others.

It is interesting that the first two times Jesus saw the disciples after His resurrection, He said to them: “Peace be with you,”1 and “Peace to you!”2 Those too were troubling days, much like the ones in which we live. The political powers of that day had just crucified the very One who was sent to earth to bring peace. He was misquoted, misunderstood, falsely accused, persecuted, tortured, and put to death. Sound familiar? Those who speak today as Jesus spoke then could likely face some of the same treatment. But then, Jesus warned us it would be that way.3

For many years my Dad talked about what he saw on the horizon of America’s future. He was well-read and kept abreast of the political winds that were shaping the culture of the world and our nation. If I heard him say it once, I heard him say it a thousand times: “If people don’t wake up…this is what will happen!” He was right on track; for today it has happened just like he thought it would.

So how do you and I face the inevitable? Jesus warned us, and now we see it as an absolute possibility that we too could be misquoted, misunderstood, falsely accused, persecuted, tortured, and perhaps for some, put to death.

I will start with Jesus’ words that are applicable to His disciples of any age: “Peace be with you and peace to you!”  Since He is already with all born-again believers, then He, whose name is Peace, is with us. We have His peace—not only within reach, but right here in our hearts.

It is also important to understand that His peace is not the same peace that the world gives—His peace is genuine, satisfying, and eternal. It is ours and it has already been given to us. We simply must learn how to claim it and wrap ourselves in the security blanket of His promised peace. We must learn to do what Amy Carmichael did: “she tucked herself into God.”

You are invited to come along for the ride. Hopefully, it will be a peace-full one. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “When we come to know our Father of Lights—when we tuck ourselves into God by trusting Him as little children—He will carry us through.”4

1John 20:19; 2John 20:21; 3Matthew 24:9; 4David Hazard, “You Are My Hiding Place—Amy Carmichael,” Bethany House Publishers, 1991, Pg. 10

 

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

 

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

 

Looking back or moving forward ~ which is it? January 1, 2014

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 3:34 pm
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Ready or not 2014 has arrived, and we find ourselves on the brink of newness! Yes—newness! Don’t you love it? New beginnings, new plans, new dreams, new hair-do’s—for whatever this New Year holds, we are perched on go and the newness has begun!

 

Personally, I’ve never been fond of antiques, vintage, or old anything. I’ve always loved the new, the challenging, the refreshing, and the crispness of things different. Don’t get me wrong—I love things worth keeping—like older relatives who are priceless, memories that are too special to ever toss, and traditions that remind me of where I came from.

 

But, maybe I’ve learned to like new the hard way—because I’ve made deadly mistakes about wanting to keep things the way they are—you know, like buying two pairs of the same shoes (just in different colors). Or keeping an older version of computer software because it was familiar. It happens in food, music, cell phones, and a million other areas of life. Life is moving forward, not looking back.

 

Does God’s Word support my position? The first scripture that comes to mind is the story of Lot’s wife.1 What was she thinking? Honestly, to give up your very life for just one more look at the past. How many of us are guilty of the same, but perhaps haven’t suffered the same consequences? Or have we? Gazing at our sinful past will paralyze any of us. So don’t do it.

 

Today I read, “God wants us to get on with our lives. If we forever look back and feel burdened with sin, Jesus Christ sacrificed for naught.”2 It is true—Jesus died to redeem our past! We must get it settled, thank Him for newness of life, and move on.

 

Another story is that of the children of Israel complaining about the conditions of the wilderness—obviously not taking into consideration their freedom from slavery! 3 Ever wonder what it is about leeks and garlic that are worth going back for? God forbid! So it is with some of us. God has delivered us from the bondage of sin, set us on a new path to life and freedom, and we are complaining because we’ve had to give up some things.

 

Jesus said, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”4 Pretty strong talk, wouldn’t you say? Not a hint of indecisiveness allowed here. We’re either going on with God or we’re not.

 

I also think about the good advice from the Apostle Paul: “…And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”5 As with any race, the distance to be covered is not behind us, but rather before us. Looking back serves no purpose in this race whatsoever.

 

So which is it—are you looking back or are you moving forward? Since we can’t do both, we must on this first day of 2014 make a decision. Will we dwell on our past sins, crave leeks and garlic, be indecisive about whether we’re in or out, and run this race while looking over our shoulder? Or, are we going forward with God in 2014?

 

NEWNESS is waiting for us to embrace it and make it ours. God has big plans for you and me in this New Year, yet we must claim them and get in step with the Holy Spirit, our Guide. Will it be safe? Certainly. Will it be easy? Probably not. Will it be worth it? Absolutely!

 

Our God is a God of NEWNESS!

Ask Him to visit you in a new way in 2014.

Ask Him to fill you anew with His Holy Spirit.

Ask Him to introduce you to your own Holy House Guest.

Ask Him to help you walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of your flesh.

Ask Him to burden your heart for the lost and help you lead someone to Christ.

Ask Him to show you how to pray for our troubled world and then pray and believe He hears you.

Ask Him to draw you closer to Him and make Him your BFF.

Ask Him for the best year ever!

 

Whatever you do, don’t forget to ASK. “For everyone who asks, receives.”6 Let us get out of our easy chair of complacency, learn a new song about Jesus and worship Him, and then be about our Father’s business. Newness is here!

 

Happy New Year to all! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Genesis 19:26; 2Jean, Mary & Frank James; 3Numbers 11:5; 4Luke 9:62; 5Hebrews 12:1 6Luke 11:10