Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Being Disciples on this Strange Good Friday April 10, 2020

 

God is the originator of all good things—so the Bible tells us in James 1:17 (NLT) ~ Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.”  In other words, everything in heaven and on earth that is good comes from the one true God. Even that dark Friday when His Son was tortured, beaten, slapped, cursed, insulted, jeered at, spit upon, and nailed to a wooden cross turned out for our good.

 

I’m sure that Friday didn’t feel good as Jesus’ mother, brothers, and beloved disciples looked at the cross in unbelief. I can imagine thoughts like this going through their heads: What just happened? How did we get here? This is not what we bargained for? This is not how following Jesus was supposed to turn out! Is God anywhere to be found?

 

We’re talking about real human beings here—His disciples. Oh, they were not highly-educated men of position and power, nor honored high priests in the Jewish synagogue. Truth is—each of those men was basically an unknown member of society and a nobody as far as the world was concerned.

 

And on that Good Friday when Jesus died, all their hopes and dreams for being a somebody died too. The hopes that they had found the promised Messiah just got deflated. All dreams of being in Jesus’ official cabinet when He set up His kingdom on earth vanished as well. They were actually in hiding for minutes, hours, and days not knowing where they were in the bigger scheme of things. No doubt they were bewildered. It surely must have felt as if hell had won.

 

Today, on this Good Friday in April of 2020, it somewhat feels the same way for us modern-day disciples. We are hold-up in our homes due to COVID-19 safer-at-home orders spending minutes, hours, and days not knowing where we are in the bigger scheme of things. There is hardly any normal life to be found. It has affected all of us—crossing all lines of division—wealth, race, education, religion—and marginalizing us into one big category—bewildered! And it surely feels as if hell has won.

 

Aren’t we asking those same questions: What just happened? How did we get here? This is not what we bargained for? This is not how following Jesus was supposed to turn out! Is God anywhere to be found?

 

But wait—the truth is that one dark afternoon at Calvary changed everything for Jesus’ disciples then and now. I guess we could say it was a game-changer deluxe! In that fateful moment when Jesus declared “It is finished,” the curse on mankind was broken and the redemptive plan of God was accomplished. In just a few days, that dark moment would yield to a glorious resurrection morning. Great joy would fill the hearts of the disciples when they realized that Jesus was alive forevermore!

 

You see, the time hidden here in this dark moment of a world pandemic is only for a few days. We too will have a glorious resurrection morning and Jesus will appear to us once again. Our hearts will be filled with joy when we understand that just as He had not abandoned His disciples then, He has not abandoned us now. And since we serve a game-changing God, who knows what good will come out of this dark time? Who knows what it could mean for us who believe that He always keeps His promises, and that everything He ever told us will be just as He said?

 

It is in our best interest as modern-day disciples of the Living Lord to trust our faithful Father and believe that this too is indeed a Good Friday! He has never failed us yet!

 

May we celebrate this strange Easter as disciples of great faith! Blessings to all ~ Janie

 

An Uncommon Easter March 30, 2018

The choir would be gathering later that evening to put the final touches on our Easter Cantata. I sought for some words of inspiration to share with them since technical issues had robbed our last practice of any spiritual connection whatsoever. We had worked hard for weeks and now Easter Sunday is only days away. How might we tap into the true message of Easter, rather than focusing on the mere performance that lies ahead of us?

 

During my morning quiet time, I read several devotionals that focused on Passion Week. Quite unexpectedly, the Holy Spirit dropped the word “uncommon” into my heart. I was reminded that us humans often become so familiar with people, things, and concepts that they lose their uniqueness—their wonder—and thus, their impact on us. I questioned if that is what we have perhaps done with the Easter story.

 

Has the story of Christ’s suffering become common place? Are we calloused to the brutal beating of our Savior’s back, or is it simply too gruesome for us to consider? Is that thorny crown just a part of the imagery, yet we miss the stinging pain inflicted by each single thorn pressed into His brow? And what about the mocking and ridicule He endured—are we oblivious to the agony of cutting words upon the heart? He bore that heavy cross with a weakened body, only to reach the most dreaded place of all—the hill on which He would shed every drop of His royal blood for the ungrateful lot of humankind. And in the worst of the worst moments—when even His Father couldn’t bear to look upon Him—He asked that they would be forgiven because they did not know what they were doing.

 

I don’t know about you, but to me that has all the markings of “uncommonness.” When reviled, Jesus reviled not again. When charged with claiming to be a King—which He was—He said, “As you say.”  Even his closest friends watched from a distance as He died alone. He himself admitted that He could have called ten thousand angels to rescue Him, yet He didn’t, for that would have thwarted the plan of God. This gruesome death was His purpose and He would see it through to the very end—not part way. No, He wouldn’t pronounce His assignment too difficult to complete, nor waver in His belief that this was God’s plan. He would not question who He was or what He came to do. Rather, He endured the cross and pushed through until He could declare before heaven and earth that “It is finished.”

 

Uncommon to mankind? I should say so. Uncommon to you and me? Certainly. There is no commonness of man to be found anywhere in His story, yet we are much like the disciples that fled in the garden. We are capable of standing with Peter and deny that we know Him. At times, we too question His claim to be King. It’s even possible that we would join the ranks of those who jeered and cried out “Crucify him!” Most assuredly, we identify with the lot of followers who looked on from a distance. And the ones who were clueless about what they were doing—they could actually be our next of kin.

 

So how might the word uncommon inspire us? My prayer for myself is that I will never again think of the cross as common. May I never forget the expensive price tag attached to my soul, or take for granted the love of Christ that caused Him to take my place. God forbid that I should ever think that forgiveness is simply Christian jargon, as if God were handing out free raffle tickets for a big prize. I pray that I never underestimate the pain He endured to make me His child, and that I never forget His kindness extended to me is the greatest gift I will ever receive. And lastly, I pray the word “common” never enters my thought process again as I reflect on that incredibly awesome resurrection morning when Christ broke through all the barriers and cinched my own resurrection from death, hell and the grave. Oh, it truly is an uncommon story.

 

As the choir mounted the stage and took their seats for our final practice, I challenged us all to consider what a privilege is ours to present this uncommon story of an uncommon Savior, His uncommon sacrifice, and His uncommon resurrection to many Easter Sunday visitors who perhaps still see Jesus as merely a common man.

 

With a renewed energy and an abundance of adoration and praise filling our hearts, we pulled off a pristine rehearsal. Wishing all of you a very Happy and Uncommon Easter. ~ Janie Kellogg

Photograph by Mark Rouk, Oologah, Oklahoma