Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

This Must Be the Place Believers Come December 22, 2015

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 7:10 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sometime during this Christmas season, I recommend that we make a visit to the manger scene in Bethlehem. Of course, we will have to visit it in our hearts and in our minds. The song says, “This must be the place believers come.”1 I’m a believer, so yes, it is fitting and proper that I should come—and you, too. Perhaps we each have a list of the things we are looking for this Christmas. We’re not sure just where to find them, or if they can be found at all. So with my list in hand, I come to the manger.

First, I find realness—the age-old story is no myth—it is real! The Baby Jesus was a real human being. He felt the trauma of the birth canal and the drafty night air so unlike the womb. He heard the strange sounds of barnyard animals. We can relate to this Baby for He is one of us. In a world crying for realness, this must be the place believers come.

Next, I find humility—the Creator had to stoop low in order to come down to our world as a helpless baby. I fear we are missing this all-important ingredient that lays at the very foundation of the manger: A humble God loved us enough to be born in a cattle stall. Aren’t we are tired of the hype, the fanfare, and the emptiness felt from having more and enjoying it less? I know I am. I want to come down too, so this must be the place believers come.

Then I find a promise kept—God promised to send a Savior into the world to rescue lost mankind—and He did. Promises kept are a rarity these days. We no longer expect our leaders and politicians to even pretend that they keep them, because they don’t. But in that obscure manger scene we find the fulfilment of God’s promise to us. Oh, for certain, this must be the place believers come for a promise kept.

What I find next is a miracle—The Son of God being born as Mary’s baby boy was nothing short of a divine miracle. Yet, many don’t believe in miracles any more. Its old fashioned, they say; mere fantasy. But at that meager birthplace we find God Himself in that manger! How did that happen? Oh, this must surely be the place believers come for miracles.

The next item on my list is hope. Our present world is so desperate for hope, but then it always has been. You see, the Bible tells us that we were without hope in the world. We were destined to spend eternity in a dark place, away from God. But when that miracle Baby drew His first breath—Hope was born! Yes, Bethlehem is the place believers come for hope.

Lastly, I find joy in Bethlehem!  Heaven’s Joy was poured out on us that night as the long-awaited Savior entered our world. God decreed it; the angels sang it; and Mary and Joseph held it in their arms. Joy! Pure Joy! For unto us a Child is born—unto us a Son is given. O come, let us adore Him right here at the manger—the place believers come for joy.

When you finish lingering there, and if you can pull yourself away, I hope you will tell someone else what you found. Merry Christmas to all ~ Janie Kellogg

1 This Must Be the Place, Sue C. Smith and David Moffitt, New Spring Publishing, Brentwood-Benson Music Publications, Brentwood, TN, 2001

Advertisements
 

The Delightful Daughter ~ A Tribute to Tracey Lynn Everett January 20, 2015

We all have people who’ve touched our lives—parents, soulmates, children, grandchildren, friends—and then there are those people who’ve touched our world. Tracey Lynn Everett was one of those.

She was the oldest child of Gary and Shelia Everett, my precious lifelong friends. Her two younger brothers, Brian and Bradley, mirrored my two sons, Brian and Brent, in many ways. The four B’s were almost exact in age, likes and dislikes, and not to mention, partners-in-mischief. Tracey, being the older sister/friend, brought some sanity and calmness to our times together.

Tracey was one of those teenagers who never went astray. You could say she was the model child, the obedient child, the sensible child, the studious child, the perfectly-mannered child, the loving child, and the respectful child. You know what I mean—the good child.

While I have listed many traits to describe Tracey’s character, there is yet another, and perhaps the one most remembered by those who knew her. She was the delightful child. Wherever Tracey was, there was delight—joyful, cheerful, exuberant and overflowing delightfulness!

She brought smiles to the faces of little children, a sense of warmth and belonging to her friends, family, and co-workers; and yes, she brought delight to her parents, teachers, ORU college professors, and those for whom she worked.

Tracey never married, and some might say it was because she didn’t find her soulmate. I reject that idea altogether. I believe Tracey totally found her soulmate—He was also her Savior and Lord, her Best Friend, and her closest Confidant. His name is Jesus, and she loved Him with all she had. She not only sang about Him as the Lover of her soul, she sang to Him in passionate praise and worship.

When Tracey was taken from this earth, some would think her life was cut short, her God had failed her, and we are left with only heart-wrenching sadness. They would bemoan the fact that forty-six years just wasn’t enough. I reject those ideas as well.

I believe that Tracey’s Soulmate left her on earth for as long as He could bear to be apart from her. He was confident that forty-six years was plenty of time to be with her family and friends this side of eternity; and knowing exactly what He was doing, He sent his most-trusted angels to carry her to His side.

It is true that we are left with great sorrow over our loss, an emptiness that words cannot express, and grief that only time can attempt to heal. But our loss is His gain. With that in mind, I would like to turn your attention away from our sadness to another scene, one just as real as our broken hearts.

It is a scene in Heaven. Jesus is there. The Disciples are there. The Patriarchs are there. The Heroes of faith are there. The renowned saints who blazed the trail before us, along with the countless saints whose names we’ve never heard, are all there. Our loved ones—grandparents, moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, perhaps even children—who’ve gone ahead of us are there. And now, a place that we thought could not get any brighter is brighter still—because Tracey Lynn is there too.

I believe our sadness is countered by the delight on the face of our Savior. At last, His Beloved is by His side. She is home. She is with Him. How can sadness exist there? It can’t, and we can pray for the same on earth. No sadness here either—for if our Lord is happy, we must be also.

It is often said of departing saints that upon arriving in Heaven they will hear these comforting words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”1 But if you would indulge me a little writer’s privilege, I am almost certain that Tracey heard different words as she entered there on January 12, 2015. Picture her crossing over the portals of Heaven and dancing past those pearly gates as these words resounded throughout that glorious place: “Well done, good and delightful daughter!”

And a delightful daughter she was to Gary and Shelia, and also to our Heavenly Father. So, our beloved Tracey, although we miss you dearly, we simply must chime in with the greatest invitation ever to fall on human ears: “Enter into the joy of your Lord.” ~Janie Kellogg

1Matthew 25:23

 

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

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 11:59 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

 

Higher Ground ~ A Recipe for Joy February 13, 2014

Filed under: Vision — Janie Kellogg @ 1:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Is it possible that our level of joy is a measuring stick for our faith in God? The more I see into the spiritual world, the more I trust the One who controls all things, and the more I trust the One who controls all things, the less I fret and worry about earthly things, and the less I fret and worry about earthly things, the more joy I have!

 

For those of us who like visuals, my theory looks something like this:

 

Spiritual sight = knowledge of God = faith in God = trust in God = less worry = more joy!

 

What we see of God could be the single most important factor in all of life. Our spiritual eye health should be of utmost concern to us. Without a healthy vision of God, we are stuck in the muck and mire of earthiness—yet with it, we can soar to levels high above our worldly existence. Unfortunately, if we never learn to soar, we will continue to dwell far below what Christ made available for believers.

 

Listen to how the Apostle Paul described what God has given to us: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”1 Did you get that—blessed in the heavenly realms?

 

Look at another statement by Paul that describes where believers are: “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in heavenly realms in Christ Jesus….”2 Did you get that—seated in the heavenly realms?

 

What could this mean? Please understand that God is not teasing us here. It means we can live above the world—above our earthly circumstances. It means we are no longer held in a decaying flesh by sin’s dread sway. Our flesh must submit to our higher order of life.

 

What are we thinking? Why is it that we submit to our flesh and give it such allegiance when we don’t have to? Why do we allow depression to darken our days; anxiety to hijack our faith; worry to weigh us down with burdens we’re not meant to carry; or fear to stop us dead in our tracks? Why do we bow down to this fleshly nature as if we are frail, helpless creatures? We are not!

 

It could be time to start thinking out of the box or out of this world. We need only take our rightful position in the heavenly realms beside our Conquering King. And when the enemy of our soul says, “What do you think you’re doing UP there with Jesus?” look down into this earthly pool of accusation, doubt and discouragement, and reply, “I’m up here in the heavenly realms where God put me.”

 

That should make our joy barometer rise!

 

It has been said that many Christians live beneath their privileges. But why? I believe we live beneath our privileges, which includes a lack of joy, because we do not truly know our God. We do not know experientially where He has seated us, mostly because do we understand heavenly realms.

 

So where are you and I? Do we see and understand heavenly things from where we are now? Or is it time for us to reach for a higher spiritual plane where we can see more, understand more, believe more, trust more, and worry less? Is it time for you and me to have more joy?

 

The writer of the song “Higher Ground” got it right. Read these powerful words:

 

My heart has no desire to stay | where doubts arise and fears dismay;

‘Tho some may dwell where these abound | My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

Lord, lift me up and let me stand | By faith on heaven’s table land;

A higher plane than I have found | Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.3

 

As for me, “I’m pressing on the upward way; new heights I’m gaining every day!” I hope you will come and go with me. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Ephesians 1:3; 2Ephesians 2:6; Higher Ground by Johnson Oatman, Jr.

 

Choose Joy July 11, 2013

Filed under: Encouragement — Janie Kellogg @ 12:47 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

[This week I am publishing a devotional written by my son, Brent. He is the Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. Thanks, Brent, for sharing this great word with us.]

It is almost a guarantee—put me in rush hour traffic and I will lose my cool, my patience and my joy! While standing in line three deep at the local supermarket, I tend to lose my joy there too.  The more I think about it—I seem to be living in a “joy-less” society.

People are grumpy.  We make lousy neighbors. We come home, close the garage door, and retreat into our own lives.  We look to medications, doctors and therapists to help us discover happiness.  We think buying that one more big toy will make us content.  Somewhere as a nation we have bought into the lie “more is better.”   Thus we have become “joy-less.”

I love how the Bible is full of hidden treasures.  Psalm 16 is a powerful chapter that unlocks the secret to “joy-full” living.  It is so powerful that it can change the course of a person’s life; yet it is almost a whisper in scripture.  If you find yourself reading for quantity – you might just miss it.  Personally, I think our culture as a whole has missed it. Because we live for quantity of life, we have missed the whispers of God’s still small voice.

We may find a clue to our dilemma in verse 11:  “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  This verse lends to beautiful worship songs and inspiring art work; but as far as practical theology—let’s face it, we don’t practice it very much.  Could the reason we have so much road rage and too many impatient shoppers is because we have no joy?

Statistics tell us that the number of people attending church each year is decreasing.  Alarming news headlines certainly reveal that fewer people are living out their faith.  If Psalm 16:11 is true, and we know it is, then it makes perfect sense that our culture is angry and empty. Simply put: If time in God’s presence equals joy, then no time in God’s presence equals no joy!

This may be overstated, but I believe we lack joy because we fail to spend time in the presence of God.  Something happens when we start the day with God.  It puts the rest of the day in proper perspective.  It places the circumstances in His control and the stress in His hands. Yet, many of us are far too busy to stop and enjoy our Creator.

Instead of talking about the grumpy drivers on the highway and angry shoppers at the supermarket – let’s talk for a second about you.  Do you have joy in your life? Do you see the world as a heavy place, full of things that press your buttons; or do you see the world as God’s creation and His masterpiece to be celebrated and enjoyed?  The difference in how you see the world may be in how you spend your time.

As followers of Christ, we should choose joy!  Nehemiah 8:10 tells us, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.”   I encourage you to choose to spend time in God’s presence this week—it has the potential to change your outlook on life.  ~Brent Kellogg