Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Oh How He Loves February 14, 2017

Today is a day to celebrate L-O-V-E. We can have a lot of loves in our lives, but if we don’t know the Lover of our souls, we haven’t yet known what it is to be truly loved! There is nothing that can compare to the L-O-V-E that Jesus has for us. Take some time today to whisper “I love you” to the Lover of your soul. He is waiting to hear your voice, and even more so, He is waiting to hear your heart.

Below are the lyrics to the song “Oh How He Loves.” It is a beautiful love story between God and His children. Read it slowly. Take time to feel the emotion in the words. Grasp their meaning. Are you a tree, bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy? Do you realize how beautiful He is? Are you drawn by the grace in His eyes? If you have time, pull up a YouTube version and listen to the David Crowder Band sing it.

Oh How He Loves

He is jealous for me.
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And, oh, how He loves us, oh.
Oh, how He loves us.
How He loves us all.

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

That He loves us.
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves us,
Oh, how He loves. ~ David Crowder Band

oh-how-he-loves-us

Wishing all of you a Happy Valentine’s Day! I trust that you will live loved today, because you are loved with an everlasting love. Oh, how He loves you! ~ Janie Kellogg

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I’ve lost the faith, but not all October 29, 2016

2016 has been a hard year for those of us who try to live by our faith. While I can honestly say that my faith in God—the faith that matters most—has not failed one iota, my faith in many other things has. Here’s why.

Never in my lifetime have I seen Americans marching and shouting to kill the police men and women who are willing to die to protect them. Never in my lifetime have I seen people indifferent to such atrocities as shown in the Planned Parenthood videos of the murder of innocent babies. Never in my lifetime have I witnessed tolerance of blatant corruption in high places, at all levels of government and on both sides of the aisle. Today, I have lost faith in people and in government.

Furthermore, I have been a proud Republican all of my life—that is, except for a few months when someone convinced me it would be better if I changed parties so that I could make a difference at the local level. Later, I decided I didn’t care because I was a true conservative at heart, and I changed my registration back. My Dad was the 8th person to register as a Republican in the county where I grew up, so you can see I didn’t exactly grow up in “red” country. I have always believed the best of the Grand Ole Party and had faith that it represented my values. But come January, I will register as an Independent. Today, I have lost faith in my political party.

I have also watched “political correctness” re-shape the American church. We Christians have been shamed for clinging to our guns and Bibles, and we accepted the shame without resistance. In our churches, we have been suppressed to withhold the truth of God’s Word if it might in any way, shape or form offend anyone for doing anything, including sin. We have watered down the Gospel of Jesus Christ that has given us so great a salvation until the next generation can hardly recognize it, much less experience it. Our culture has influenced the church much more than the church has influenced our culture. Today, I have lost faith in the organized church.

Yet, all is not lost. There are some things in which my faith still stands tall and strong. First, my faith in God has not faltered, and I pray it never does. He has always been faithful to His Word, His Name, His people, and His promises. You and I can bet the farm and everything else on God’s faithfulness!

I have not lost faith in the Constitution of the United States, and I hope I never do. Our forefathers did an incredible job of framing it 240 years ago, and while some have tried to interpret it to suit their fancy, it still stands tall on the world stage as the model and envy of every modern civilization. I have not lost faith in its ability to ensure the freedom and justice for all that’s embedded within its structure.

And lastly, I have not lost faith in love. God is love and He created mankind—out of love. He has a plan and purpose for every life—out of love. He sent His Son to die a sacrificial death in order to save us from eternal damnation—out of love. He is in control of this world, as well as the rise and fall of every leader and every nation—out of love. He has a group of born-again, blood-washed, Spirit-filled believers who will be witnesses of His redeeming grace as long as the earth remains—out of love. And when He says enough is enough, He will take His own out of this sin-sick world to spend eternity with Him—out of love!

Make sure you know where you stand. And if your faith feels that it is failing in some areas like mine does—whatever you do, don’t let your faith in God fail! Faith in God is all that will matter in the end—and it’s nearly the end. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

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

 

Our Non-traditional Thanksgiving Traditions December 2, 2013

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 8:43 pm
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On Thanksgiving Day, American families gathered together all across this great and diverse nation to share a meal and give tribute to the One who ultimately provided it. That is simply what we do on this day.

 

 

Like other American families, my family has our own Thanksgiving traditions. They are, however, what you might call non-traditional traditions. For more than 30 years, we have celebrated in a unique and personal style in setting, food, and dress.

 

 

When asked by strangers how my family celebrates Thanksgiving, I often struggle for words to explain what it is that we actually do. My story is generally met with amusement: “What! No turkey, no dressing, no cranberry sauce!”

 

 

It is true nonetheless.  Five generations of non-traditionalists converge on the side of a mountain at a deer-hunters cabin in the pine-covered mountains of Southeast Oklahoma. We arrive on ATVs, Jeeps, and 4-wheel drive vehicles to share in the family fun on this day. We come decked out in camouflage and denim, and everyone who can grow a beard has one. The cabin’s open fireplace assures that everyone and everything will soon smell of smoke.

 

 

The food menu hasn’t changed in 33 years—venison, wild turkey, mashed potatoes, beans and cornbread—cooked by the hunters who have camped there for the entire week of deer season. Over the years the menu has grown to include a few traditional side items brought by those who don’t appreciate the non-traditional cuisine (like me); but regardless of what tops the home-built table covered with an orange Oklahoma State University Pistol Pete tablecloth, no one leaves hungry.

 

 

When my pastor-son was asked to bless the food, an immediate hush fell across the room. Whether it was kids running to and fro, age-old stories being told and retold, or last minute efforts to put the food on the table, it all ceased for the Thanksgiving prayer. I won’t soon forget my son’s words—they were a testimony of who we are.

 

 

In his prayer, my son gave thanks to God for all who had gathered there and for His many blessings to our family during the year. Then he said, “I thank You that someone in this family made the decision many years ago to live godly….” He finished his prayer, but my mind lingered long on the thought, “made the decision to live godly.”

 

 

This family was truly blessed to have godly grandparents who blazed the trail before us. They have long departed to heaven, and through the years other family members have joined them there as well. Yet every Thanksgiving, we meet once again to cherish those we can still hug, lavish love on the newest among us, and to remember those who left us this godly heritage.

 

 

So what does “live godly” mean anyway? Oh, don’t get me wrong—we are not a perfect family—by any stretch of the imagination. We have our faults, our failures, our sins, and our wounds. Being godly doesn’t mean that we haven’t sinned; it means that we know the Savior who takes away the sin of the world.1 It doesn’t mean that we haven’t made mistakes; it means that we trust in the blood of the Lamb that washes white as snow.2

 

 

Deciding to live godly simply means choosing to be like God

We choose to extend grace to undeserving people, because God extended grace to us when we were undeserving.

We choose to forgive those who have hurt us, because God forgave us when we were guilty of hurting others.

We choose to love the unlovable in the world, because God loved us when we were unlovely.

 

 

Perfect people—not by a long shot! But we are people who live by our faith in the God who forgives,3 whose mercies are new every morning,4 and who has promised to take us to heaven when we die.5

 

 

At the end of the day, a group of full and happy family members who smelled of smoke gathered into a huddle for the annual photo shoot. There we stood—five generations of imperfect godly people enjoying our non-traditional Thanksgiving traditions.  ~Janie Kellogg

 

1John 1:29; 2Isaiah 1:18; 31 John 1:9; 4Lamentations 3:23; 5John 14:2-3

 

An Invitation from my Big Brother July 17, 2013

Sometimes I feel that people, even Christians, view God as demanding, controlling, and a hard-taskmaster. Do you ever feel that way? Perhaps we have all at one time or another thought His commands are difficult, if not impossible, to keep. But how freeing to the soul who finally figures out that His commandments are indeed impossible to keep—in and of ourselves.

 

Yet, God in His great love for mankind made a way to satisfy His requirement for righteousness—He sent His Son to earth to keep those commandments for us.  And Jesus did just that—perfectly, completely, and fully!

 

When we accept Christ’s substitutionary punishment for ourselves (for not keeping the commandments), we enter into a new relationship with God. We become His children. It is then that Jesus, our Big Brother, invites us to live in fellowship with Him and our Heavenly Father; and just as the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus when He walked on earth, He also enables us.1

 

With that in mind, try seeing God’s commands through these lenses:

 

As God’s child, I am invited to abide in Jesus, not demanded.

As God’s child, I am enabled to keep His commandments, not required.

As God’s child, I have a choice to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, not a mandate.

 

In His invitation to “follow me,” Jesus encourages us to walk like Him, talk like Him, think like Him, have faith like Him, and please the Father like Him. In other words, we have a choice to be like Jesus or to be like the world.

 

Have you made your choice?  Are you living your choice? These are two very different questions. Many Christians believe they have made their choice, but are still not living their choice.

 

God created man with a “free-will” to love Him or not to love Him. God did not want to have relationships with robots, and we need only to look at human relationships to understand why. What we want is a mutual relationship with people who want a relationship with us. Anything less is undesirable.

 

What an amazing place to be—in mutual and desired relationship with God Almighty!

 

How do we treat that amazing relationship? Is it mostly a one-way street: we ask and God gives? Again, we can look at human relationships to see a clearer picture. Do parents want children who become ungrateful demanders of things, but don’t spend time with them? Not!

 

God has much to give us that we both need and want—love, peace, and protection, to name a few. Sounds much like the things children need and want from their parents. Yet parents also have needs and wants from their children—love, respect, and appreciation. This kind of two-way relationship is what we all desire, and it is the same with God.

 

Consider this: We are invited to be the children of God—children who receive from their Heavenly Father and children who give back to their Heavenly Father. When we see it in this light, there is no place for words like demanding, controlling, or hard-taskmaster. They simply do not fit.

 

What happy children we can be! That is, once we understand and experience what Jesus made possible for us: the power to become the sons and daughters of God,2 joint-heirs with Jesus,3 and members of the household of God.4

 

Come to think of it, I am a happy member of the great household of God with an amazing Big Brother who modeled perfect sonship for me. It is my privilege and birthright to follow in His footsteps. How about you—are you a happy child of God? You can be. ~Janie Kellogg

 

1John 14:16-21; 2John 1:12; 3Romans 8:17; 4Ephesians 2:19

 

Do dat stuff! Do dat stuff! June 22, 2013

The words to a newly learned Kid’s Camp song are stuck in my brain: “We do dat stuff, do dat stuff!” The song “P-A-R-T-Y” by Jeff Slaughter of Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing was a big hit this year. Thank you, Jeff, for amazing and spirited music to turn our kids on to worshipping the Lord Most High!

While “do dat stuff” speaks of things kids do to praise the Lord, I must reflect for a few minutes on what “do dat stuff” means to me. Last Monday afternoon, we loaded up the kids in the church van and drove to the youth camp facility we have attended for many years. We piled on suitcases, bedrolls, sound equipment, boxes and ice chests of food, and 28 happy—ecstatic, energetic, and ready-to-go—kids!

But I have to admit that my level of excitement was not the same as that of the kids. Having spent the prior week shopping for and replacing my living room furniture, my back was already screaming at me. My bottles of Advil and Aleve were my closest companions. I had not considered that I’d be standing on a concrete floor for seventeen-hour days for the next week. Oh, and those mattresses at church camps are to die for. Or maybe it’s more of a feeling that you are going to die before you get back to your own bed.

The agenda for camp kitchen workers is simple: food, food, and more food. Busy, active kids are down-right hungry, so we feed them, and feed them, and feed them. Spaghetti, hot dogs, nachos, hamburgers, chicken strips, cake, ice cream, watermelon, cookies—non-stop it seems. Cook and clean, and then repeat the process multiple times over.

Yet, one just never really knows the far-reaching extent of serving in a camp kitchen. Some may see it as mundane, boring, or plain ole hard work. But for those who take a closer look, they might see a deeper meaning behind all the sweat and the achy feet. It can be a totally different picture if, in fact, one can see into the spirit world that:

• when you spread butter—you are spreading smiles on little faces

• when you give a slice of bacon—you are giving a slice of hope

• when you turn the pancakes—you are turning lives around

• when you hand out chicken nuggets—you are handing out nuggets of encouragement

• when you serve a heap of mashed potatoes—you are serving a heap of kindness

• when you stir a pot of gravy—you are stirring up God-given gifts

• when you peel carrots—you are peeling away fear and distrust

• when you warm the dinner rolls—you are warming hearts

• when you pour a cup of Kool-Aid—you are pouring a cup of grace

• when you mix up the cake batter—you are mixing in the love of God

• when you shape cookies—you are shaping little lives.

Between meals the kitchen staff brainstorms on how to do things differently next year. Questions flow—ideas follow. What might be a better meal? How can resources be used more efficiently? When and how to utilize left-overs?

On the last day of camp we pack up what is left (hopefully very little), clean the kitchen, scrub the bathrooms, and mop ourselves out the door. The children voice their sadness that the week is over, while the adults silently give thanks for the same.

Even though the church coffers might be less full, we are full of confidence that it was money well spent. There is simply no way to calculate the price of a soul or what’s it worth to change the life of a child. You just know that you gave because you have been given; you serve because you have been served; and you love because you have been loved.

We head for home as blessed and enriched individuals—young and old alike. And whether we have enjoyed it or barely endured, laughed at each other or at ourselves, improved our techniques or simply worn out our bodies, one thing is certain to happen this same time next year—we will “do dat stuff” again! ~ Janie Kellogg

 

Love Never Fails Who? June 12, 2013

It had been a troubling morning. I was in a hotel room in Juneau, Alaska, waiting for luggage to arrive. My husband left for his early morning conference in the same clothes he had put on twenty-four hours earlier. Turbulent weather had caused our flights to be cancelled, routes to change, and nerves to fray. But none of that compared to the unsettling phone call I received shortly after arriving there.

Life had taken a painful turn for a family member. It seemed preventable, if only people had done what they were supposed to do—you know what I mean—Christians acting like Christians. Lives were unraveling; careers in jeopardy; reputations on the line. The stinging words of accusations burned within my heart as the story replayed over and over in my head. How could God let this happen?

Thankfully, I had packed my Bible in my carry-on bag. I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit to Galatians 5:22. This familiar verse of scripture listing the fruits of the Spirit brought me to a dead stop: “Now the fruit of the Spirit is love….” This word love is so powerful, so all-encompassing, so compelling. Of course, being one who prided myself in being filled with the Spirit, I knew this fruit wasn’t optional. The verse plainly states that the fruit—the growing, yielding, obvious evidence—of the Spirit is love.

The next stop on the journey to find peace for my aching heart was the famous love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13. I knew it well. The words flowed from memory as my eyes followed the print. All of the characteristics of love listed in verses 4 through 7 could in no way be akin to the flesh. They clearly spoke of life in the Spirit, the high road, the selfless life, the yielding of one’s own rights.

As my eyes scanned verse 8—“love never fails”—I quickly thought, “I know what that means. Or do I?” I had always believed that if I loved, truly loved with God’s love, the other person(s) with whom I had a conflict would eventually change their mind and come around to seeing things my way. Wrong.

In the case at hand, I was confident that such a happy and blissful ending just wasn’t going to be the outcome. I also knew that for me to love meant to relinquish my right to be right, and the people involved would simply walk away thinking they had won.

It was in that moment that the Heavenly Father gently spoke a new revelation to my heart. For the first time, I saw these ever-so-familiar-words with new eyes, and thus, with new meaning. I read them again slowly, adding the freshly Spirit-inspired revelation—Love never fails me!

Today, some fifteen years later, this age-old truth proves once again to be the medicine I need. If I choose to love in every situation—regardless of the outcome—I will have the peace of God. Love will never fail to produce the joy and contentment within my spirit that only God can give. I will have grace to bear all things (including the ones I think unfair), believe all things (seeing God’s hand at work in every circumstance), hope all things (knowing all things work together for good to them who love God), and endure all things (even the things I don’t like).

It is so true—love never fails me! ~ Janie Kellogg