Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

You Do Know It Is Tax Season? February 10, 2015

I recently spent a few days with the son and his family. Being the accountant for my son’s two businesses, we all know that January through April is grueling for me. The deadlines during this time of year are constant, and missing one can be painful and costly.

Each year during tax season, my state of well-being is jeopardized due to the stress. I tell my family that I have a legitimate excuse for over-eating, not exercising, being impatient, critical and cranky. Jokingly, I began to use my one-size-fits-all excuse for everything.

My twelve-year-old granddaughter found it to be amusing. When her mother asked her to set the table for dinner, we were both surprised to hear her say, “Well, I can’t right now. You do know it is tax season?” We all had a good laugh, yet I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I make similar silly excuses for not obeying my Heavenly Father.

He tells us to “love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind,”1 and I have to question if I even know what that means. Then He adds, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”2 Oops! I wonder if my one-size-fits-all excuse holds water with God. Will it help me here? And even if it does, what about when April 15th has come and gone?

I don’t think excuses work with God, nor do I think He is amused by any of it. You see, He has bigger plans for me (and you). Getting me through a finite season of anything on earth is not His objective. He desires that I learn to come to Him and allow Him to help me manage my stress.

My big brother, Jesus, who faced the ultimate stress while on earth, is totally aware of my stress-full circumstances. And because He is, He gives me an invitation: “Come to Me, all (that includes me and you) who labor and are heavy-laden (that’s overworked), and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”3

Did I hear the word R-E-S-T! That’s exactly what I need. It fits my bill perfectly. I’ll take it! Sign me up—and make that a double portion! Oh, but wait; there is one condition—I must come to Him. But who has time for that? You do know it is tax season, right?

Yet, at His invitation, I think I’ll press the pause button on those deadlines; turn off the depressing news about the next heinous act of terrorism; and Facebook, it matters not if I miss some trivial tidbit there. I’ll even silence this cell phone for a spell, and sit here at my Savior’s feet. Who knows, I might learn something.

Don’t let Jesus’ learn slip by. He meant it. It’s a powerful word with hidden truths imbedded in those five little characters. Perhaps for starters, we can learn what Jesus means by “His yoke.” It must be a good thing since Jesus doesn’t offer us junk.

A yoke means we bow our heads low and allow Him to put His Lordship—His control—His purpose and plan—over our lives. Then, all yoked up with Jesus, we trust Him to turn us onto the correct path; steer us in the right direction; make the best decisions for us—and we simply follow Him. You see, a yoke won’t let us go in any other direction. And that, my friend, Jesus called easy!4

Oh Jesus, please help me learn to do that! As I sit here in silence, I hear You say, “I will teach you all you need to know; but I cannot—unless you come to Me.”

So what are you and I going to do with His generous invitation today? We can start by turning down the noise in our lives and listening for His “Come.” And yes, let’s do it, even if it is tax season. ~ Janie Kellogg

 Small footprintKey Scripture: Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

1Luke 10:27; 2John 14:15; 3Matthew 11:28-29; 4Matthew 11:30

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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

 

Never Choose Option D January 9, 2014

It was obvious that we were just another number—a number on a medical file folder. When my husband’s name was called, we walked mechanically to the doctor’s office and were seated in chairs across the desk from a man we had known only a few days. Apparently he had been through this hundreds of times, and we were just the next couple to fall prey to the “C” word.

 

The phone call a few days before told us the results of the biopsy were not good. Today we heard the medical name for the death sentence that had been handed to my husband. I doubted that I could remember it. The lay terms were no better:  Prostate Cancer, high PSA score, aggressive type, advanced stage. Strange terminology like metastasized and systemic swirled in my head as the doctor recited our options: A) surgery; B) radiation; C) chemotherapy; and D) do nothing.

 

The decisions were mind-boggling. Pint-sized hope was as scarce as hen’s teeth. We could pick and choose as much or as little as my husband’s declining health could endure. One thing was certain—we simply would not choose Option D—do nothing.  Option D wasn’t who we were. It wasn’t what we were about. Regardless of any other factors involved, Option D would not be our choice.

 

We chose Options A, B, and C, but none of them stopped the growth of the cancer, including a last-ditch effort in an alternative treatment center in Tijuana, Mexico. The deadly enemy had gone undetected far too long—so long that nothing we did could prevent the inevitable death of its victim. Two years later my 55 year-old husband went to be with the Lord. Yet, when it was all said and done, there was one thing we were not guilty of—Option D.

 

I believe America is facing a similar diagnosis:  an aggressive, advanced stage disease called “sin.” Words such as metastasized and systemic apply here as well. Clearly, a deadly cancer has infected our entire culture and is taking a toll on the health of our government, communities, schools, churches, families, and individuals. And yes, it too has gone undetected.

 

As a nation, we have options. While there are sharp differences in what we believe to be the best way to remedy the ills of our nation, such as liberal ideas verses conservative ideas and social solutions verses spiritual solutions, the one thing we must not do is to choose Option D.

 

Edmund Burke wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” While the statement’s original wording is debatable, the concept is true nonetheless. It can also be applied in many areas of life; for example, our spiritual health:

 

The only thing necessary for me and you to go to hell is for us to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for me and you to remain in bondage to sin is for us to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for me and you to lose the battle with our flesh is for us to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for me and you to continue in a half-hearted relationship with Christ is for us to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for the Church to remain indifferent and un-revived is for Christians to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for the Church to be ineffective in our world is for Christians to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for Christianity to be silenced is for Christians to do nothing.

 

Complacency is a deadly problem. We hear its voice continuously in our ear:  Things are not as bad as they seem. Other generations faced these same problems. Just ignore the issues. Tolerate the differences. Live and let live. Don’t get excited. Don’t act. In other words: Do nothing!

 

I fear that we have been complacent far too long. Yet, there are actions that we can take before our toxic condition worsens and we succumb to the inevitable—the death of a nation.

 

Whatever we do, we must never choose Option D. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

Killing the Sacred Cow November 16, 2013

Today, I see America as a nation deeply divided in our beliefs, our values, and the solutions to our problems. We can see these sharp differences played out daily on the political front. It is clearly right verses left; Republicans verses Democrats; Conservatives verses Liberals. I believe the divisions are more intense than they have ever been in my lifetime.

 

Similarly, I see the Church of Jesus Christ divided in our beliefs, our values, and the solutions to our problems. We may even see families, marriages, and friends divided on these same points. In short: We believe what we believe, and we greatly value our beliefs.

 

Far be it for us to move from our position, even for the sake of benefiting the whole.  Our stubbornness is deep seated—rooted in who we are and where we came from. None of us can easily make that humbling statement the “The Fonz” struggled with on the popular Happy Days TV show:  “I was wwwrrrooong.”

 

Why? Our human nature will go to great lengths to keep from admitting we are wrong about anything, especially one of our “sacred cows.” The meaning of sacred cow is something too highly regarded to be open to criticism or curtailment. I am confident that we all have them—sacred cows, that is—and giving them up is not easy. In some cases it would take heaven and earth to move us off our cherished position.

 

If you don’t think you have a sacred cow, here are some controversial beliefs that exist among Christians. See if you agree or disagree:

 

~ Members of my denomination (fill in the blank) are the only ones going to heaven.

~ Water baptism is necessary for salvation.

~ Once saved, always saved.

~ The gifts of healing and miracles do not apply to the church today.

 

These statements, whether true or false, greatly divide the Church of Jesus Christ. Few of us are willing to consider, much less accept, opposing views. When our beliefs are too highly regarded to be open to criticism, they become a sacred cow.

 

Remember the rich young ruler who came to Jesus looking for the missing ingredient to life? He confidently told Jesus that he had kept the Ten Commandments since his youth.1 Although he had been perfect in keeping the Jewish laws, he had one thing too valuable to give up—his riches. When Jesus gave him a sure-fire solution to resolve the deep hunger in his heart, he sadly turned and walked away. Why? His riches were not open to curtailment. Keeping the Jewish laws was doable; killing his sacred cow wasn’t.

 

Jesus desires to control every part of us—to be Lord of all of my life and all of your life. That happens only when we give up our right to be in charge and yield to His Lordship. We must by an act of our God-given free will allow Him to have His way with us.

 

I fear that we mostly give lip service to statements like “I surrender all” or “Jesus, take me, mold me, use me, fill me,”2 to which Jesus willingly says “Yes!” The process begins, and He shows us which of our sacred cows has to die first. (Did I mention that we have many such cows?) To that, we sadly turn and walk away—our hearts still hungering for more of Him. We forfeit that precious and desired fellowship with Jesus for the thing(s) of earth that we cling to—be it riches, relationships, or beliefs.

 

Whatever He asks of us must be relinquished sooner or later. He knows our hearts and our allegiances, and He will not settle for partial loyalty. He must be Lord of all or not Lord at all.

 

Get ready to kill your sacred cow—that is, if you plan to go on with Jesus. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1Luke 18:18-25

2 The Potter’s Hand Lyrics, Hillsong

 

 

What No One Told You about YourSelf August 20, 2013

I don’t think it is a big surprise to anyone that life is hard. If you haven’t figured that out yet, you either haven’t lived long enough or you’ve been really lucky. There is no escaping the difficulties of life—relationships, careers, finances, death—just life in general.  These struggles occur on the physical side of life.

 

The spiritual side of life is no different. Oblivious to many people, there is an enormous struggle going on in the hearts of men. The truth is we are subject to a mighty force called Self from the day we are born. Like the physical side of life, there is no escaping this struggle.

 

I fear that many of us have been misled about our Self. I have chosen to capitalize this word to give it the proper emphasis, acknowledging its power and position. We seems to have the idea that Self is the real me—the “I’ve gotta be me” mentality. It is considered to be something akin to personality, to be cultivated and protected, or else it might go away and the real me lost.

 

Strong individuality is part of the American culture. We have been taught that “rugged individualism” is linked to patriotism, courage, and success. We are proud when we can hold our heads high and declare, “I did this.” Even greater honor is given to one who says, “I did this by myself.”

 

It has taken years of grappling with this issue for me to see Self for what it is. It may come as a shock to you, as it did to me when this was clearly spelled out. As long as my idea of Self was merely a concept, I considered it in the gray area—the things I don’t have to take a stand on. But once I know the truth, I become accountable for what I do with that truth. (Read that again.)

 

J. Oswald Sanders, an internationally-known theologian, wrote this about Self: “In the heart of the believer, Self occupies the same relation to Satan as does the Holy Spirit to Christ, it is Satan’s representative in the heart. Even after many gross forms of evil have been evicted, Self remains to contest and usurp the claim of Christ to the throne of the redeemed life. It is guilty of high treason against the King of Kings, and is therefore worthy of death.”1

 

I believe we must wake up to the fact that our spiritual lives are being attacked, overrun, and controlled by this force known as Self. Like his father, Satan, Self is an all-out liar. He is also Selfish, Self-centered, Self-indulgent, Self-confident, Self-conscious, Self-willed, Self-assured, Self-exalting, and Self-justifying. In America, we even have what is known as the Self-made man. While we sometimes boast or jest about these qualities, in reality, they are the marks of Satan reigning in a life.

 

Do any of these describe you? They certainly describe me! Even in subtle ways that are difficult to detect and believed to be part of my personality, yet so totally unlike my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Unless we recognize what is going on in our personal world, we will not be able to do anything about our predicament. Our muddled interpretation of Self will keep us paralyzed, and we will continue losing the battles, yielding to its power, and remain defeated Christians. Furthermore, our progress to be transformed into the image of Christ is on hold.2

 

The first step to freedom is the acknowledgment of bondage. The person who claims he or she has no bondage is simply not a candidate for freedom.

 

Until we acknowledge Self for what it is and admit that Self is reigning in our hearts rather than Jesus, we have no hope of being set free from its dominion over us. A mental ascent to the idea that we are legally set free from Self is not enough. Yes, we are legally free because of faith in the sacrificed blood of Jesus, but unless we appropriate that truth and apply it to our own personal lives, we will remain in bondage. After our eyes are opened to this truth and we knowingly allow this to continue, we are participating in “high treason against the King of Kings.”

 

Now I know and now I am accountable. I have never in my entire life been so motivated to oust the culprit of Self from the throne of my heart. I denounce this Self-led rebellion against my God, and by the mercy and grace of God I will find His provision for ridding my life of its control. Does anyone out there care to come along with me? ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

1J. Oswald Sanders, Christ Indwelling and Enthroned, CCWM, Santa Ana, CA, 1949, pg. 46

22 Corinthians 3:18

 

For other related posts see poem “Since Self Is On the Throne,” Treasure in Earthen Vessels, March 6, 2013 (In Poetry Category)

 

 

Why Do You Call Me “Lord, Lord?” August 13, 2013

Filed under: Lordship of Christ — Janie Kellogg @ 12:44 pm
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The words “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things I say?” are troubling to me. Apparently there are some people this applies to or else Jesus would not have asked the question. (Luke 6:46) Could it be me?

 

How many times have I called Jesus my Lord? Probably thousands of times by now. Every time I say that He is my Lord and Savior, or refer to Him as Lord Jesus, or bow my head and pray, “Dear Lord,” I am calling Him Lord.

 

But is it true? Or is it only lip service, pretense, or something that sounds spiritual? Perhaps it is learned behavior or wishful thinking. But is it T-R-U-E? Is Jesus Christ the Lord of my life?

 

When I was 10 years old, I had a crush on a twenty-something-year-old neighbor. My sister teasingly called him my “boyfriend,” but I assure you, he did not know that he was my boyfriend. He didn’t know I existed, and even if he did, I was certainly not his girlfriend. It was in every sense a one-sided love affair.

 

I can’t help but wonder if many of us have a one-sided “Lord” affair with Jesus. We call Him Lord, but does He know that He is our Lord by the way we treat to Him? Do we do anything to prove that relationship? Do we fill the role of a servant of a Lord and Master? Do we meet the necessary qualifications to call Him our Lord?

 

Perhaps a closer look at our behavior will tell us whether or not we act like servants, if we actually obey Him, and if we honor His lordship over us.

 

In my case, I acknowledge Him as my Lord—that is until He tells me to do something I don’t want to do. Then, I basically ignore Him and do my own thing. Here are some examples:

 

The Lord tells me to forgive someone who has offended me, and I respond: “I’ll forgive, but I won’t forget.”

He gently nudges me not to tell something and I say, “I know I shouldn’t say this, but…..”

I entertain the thought, “That might not be His voice.”

He points out someone in need, and I justify not giving because I feel I’ve already given enough.

  

What I am waiting for—a more opportune time perhaps? If I do not know His voice by now, when will I know it? How many years will it be before I actually obey the voice of my Lord when He speaks to me? Do I not yet understand that His voice always matches His character and is always confirmed by His Word? When in doubt—check it out!

 

When do I plan to be like Joshua and “wholly follow the Lord?” (Joshua 14:8) Maybe when I’m too old to care if I get my way or not? Honestly, am I so naïve to think I can demand my way when I am a young person and turn out to be an undemanding old person? Not!

 

Just when am I going to start obeying the Lord Jesus—immediately, fully, without question, without hesitation, without reservation, without grumbling, without taking thought for myself?

 

I fear that my behavior tells the truth about me. Is what I actually do mostly lip service? Probably. Good intentions? Definitely.  Actual obedience? I’m afraid not. If I were a lord and master, I would not want a servant who behaves like me.

 

A reality check reveals that I am the person Jesus spoke about—I call Him “Lord, Lord,” but do not do the things He says.

 

In James 1:22-24 we are told: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.”

 

If we only knew the tremendous value in admitting the truth about our-Self!  If this journey seems long and dry, be encouraged that there is a spring of Living Water just ahead. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

 

Savior? Yes ~ Lord? Not so much July 31, 2013

Filed under: Lordship of Christ — Janie Kellogg @ 8:09 pm
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Titles—some people have them; others want them. They denote a level of education, position, military rank, political attainment, great achievement, or even a status symbol linking us to some elitist club. But regardless of their origin, they tell us something about the person who holds them.

 

In various scriptures, Jesus is called Lord and Savior—titles with rich meaning. The Apostle Peter encouraged Christians to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”1 One thing is certain—these two titles tell us much about Jesus; but do we really know what they mean?

 

I fear many of us use these titles loosely—you know, like calling Jesus both Lord and Savior. Although they are commonly used terms within Christian circles, they hold serious implications and are words not to be taken lightly.

 

When asked if Jesus is my Savior, I will definitely answer—yes. But to be honest, when asked if He is my Lord, a more truthful answer is—not so much. I’ll explain.

 

The Bible teaches that any lost soul who puts their faith in the Savior of the world will be saved.2 When Jesus reaches out and pulls a person to safety, He becomes their personal “Savior,” a title He rightly earns. They gladly accept Him in that role and welcome its meaning. After all, who doesn’t want to be rescued and pulled from eternal damnation by a loving Savior? Count me in!

 

But the title “Lord” is another issue. It is possible that we don’t know the true meaning of the word lord, since it is not often used in our culture. And when the true meaning is revealed, our response might be, “Wait a minute—I didn’t sign up for that!”

 

Let’s take a look at the master/slave relationship in Biblical times to gain a better understanding. A master (also called lord) purchased or inherited a slave—a person who owned nothing and was forced to work without payment. In other words, the master literally owned the slave’s life. He told the slave what to do, where to go, how to act, when to speak; and the slave was expected to do so with absolute obedience.

 

Obviously, that was long before anyone knew about personal freedoms—such as the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, the Bible clearly states this same condition for all followers of Jesus: “You are not your own; you were bought with a price.”3 That’s right—Christians do not belong to themselves, but are owned by God! We were bought with the blood of the crucified Christ. Scripture clearly teaches that His death paid the ransom to free us from sin.4

 

Because Jesus Christ is both Lord and Savior, when we accept Him as our “Savior,” we also accept Him as our “Lord.” Yet, I believe few Christians grasp the role of Jesus as the Lord of their lives. We may call Him Lord in theory, but we clearly do not adhere to a slave’s life—being told what to do, where to go, how to act, when to speak; and we are oblivious to the idea of absolute obedience.

 

Have you ever wondered who Jesus might be talking to when He asks: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”5

 

Amy Carmichael wrote: “Sooner or later every child of the Father, every servant of the heavenly Master, has to learn that he is not here to do as he likes, but as the Lord commands.”6

 

There is much to explore on this subject of Jesus being our own personal Lord. His Lordship is a key component of this journey we are making together. Many treasures await us up ahead, so buckle your seatbelts and hang on!

 

My goal, when asked if Jesus is my Savior and Lord, is to be able to answer truthfully: Yes! Yes! How about you? ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

12 Peter 3:18, 2Romans 10:13; 31 Corinthians 6:19-20; 4Mark 10:45; 5Luke 6:46 (NIV); 6Amy Carmichael, Whispers of His Power, CLC Publications, 1982, July 29.