Treasure In Earthen Vessels

Discovering the Indwelling Holy Spirit

Erica the Beloved May 15, 2017

[I have created a new category on my blog called “Amazing People” for stories of those special individuals who have touched or influenced my life as well as the lives of countless others. Erica Rutherford was such a person. I know you will enjoy her touching story, and in the end you will understand why I call her—Erica the Beloved.]

 

I will never forget the first time I saw Erica. It was January 6, 2003, and my husband and I had just arrived at the Oasis of Hope Cancer Treatment Hospital in Tijuana, Mexico. We came here as a last resort since all conventional efforts to treat my husband’s fast-growing prostate cancer had failed. Isn’t that what you do—one last ditch effort to halt the inevitable?

 

It felt strange being in another country, although the atmosphere at this facility and the warmth of the staff were comforting. I had done my research and believed this place to be what its name suggested: an oasis of hope for those who had none.

 

Knowing no one, we made our way to the dining hall for the evening meal. There she was—Erica. The fact that there was not a single hair on her bald head was totally overshadowed by her award-winning smile. Her soft hazel-green eyes sparkled with hope. With her pretty head tilted to one side and in a slightly slurred voice, Erica introduced herself as “Erica the Wonderful.” Within seconds, I knew that she was indeed wonderful, just as she had claimed. My heart struggled to accept that this wonderful young woman was in a battle for her life. Although cancer had invaded her twenty-seven year old body, she vibrated with life as she spoke of future plans.

 

Within a few days Erica and her mom, Carol, seemed like family to me. Each morning, the resident missionary held a Bible study and prayer time for family members and any patients who could make their way to the third floor. Our hearts fused together as similar stories were shared about the war in which we were all engaged—beating cancer. It didn’t matter what kind of cancer we were fighting—it was clearly the same enemy that had attacked our lives. If we had nothing else in common—we had a genuine hatred for the “C” word.

 

Erica had tongue cancer. Her doctors had misdiagnosed her illness over and over, wasting valuable time while giving the edge to the disease. It started as a small sore on her tongue, but like most mouth sores, it didn’t go away in a few days. The doctors tried to tell her that she had herpes or that it was from the Pavlova virus. There was just one problem—Erica was still a virgin who had never even kissed a boy in her life. She had not done drugs nor taken a drink of an alcoholic beverage. There was simply no explanation. Carol described her daughter like this: “I don’t even know where this child came from—she was so special.”

 

After watching Erica around the hospital for a few days, I took the liberty of renaming her “Erica the Beautiful.” Since she was both wonderful and beautiful, I had only added another dimension in describing the angelic creation of God that she was. Yet, as I now contemplate this one called Erica, not only was she “Erica the Wonderful” and “Erica the Beautiful,” she was much more. Those who saw her carrying her IV stand up the stairs instead of waiting for an elevator might call her “Erica the Incredible.” Those who heard her stories of numerous surgeries and countless Chemotherapy and radiation treatments might think of her as “Erica the Courageous.” For the fortunate souls who heard her testimony of God’s saving grace, she was “Erica the Faithful.” To all who had the opportunity to simply be in her presence, she was “Erica the Charming.” To her loving mom and family members, she was “Erica the Adorable.” And to all of us whether family, friends, or only a brief acquaintance, she was “Erica the Unforgettable.”

 

I have often marveled at the confidence of the Apostle John. John did not refer to himself as “John the faithful disciple,” or “John the eloquent writer,” or even “John the close friend;” but rather, “John the one whom Jesus loved.” What confidence! What an amazing relationship with the Savior! I believe that is the same relationship Erica had with the Lord Jesus. She was the one whom Jesus loved. Yes, even greatly loved. And while we knew Erica as wonderfully beautiful, incredibly courageous, faithfully charming, and adorably unforgettable, yet the One who created her knows her best as “Erica the Beloved.”

 

Our stay in Tijuana lasted only three weeks, but my relationship with those I met there continues on today. In time, we all had to say good-bye to the special person in our lives that had brought us to the Oasis of Hope Hospital. Yet, we stayed connected through phone calls and emails for our hearts had been linked for eternity. Within two months of arriving back at home, on March 31, 2003, God’s holy angels came and carried our angel, “Erica the Beloved,” to be in the presence of the One who loves her most. She was and is His Beloved. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

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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

 

Calm the Storm or Calm Me July 30, 2015

For most of my Christian life I have thought the biggest goal in prayer was to get the storms in my life calmed down—you know, like Jesus did for the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. I think differently now.

A few months ago I began preparing to teach a Bible study titled “Experiencing Peace.” Apparently, God thought I needed the opportunity to live what I was about to teach. In the past two months there have been, not one, not two, but three huge storms arise on the sea of my life. And when I say huge, I mean really B-I-G!

Remember the story of Peter walking on water?1 I can easily find myself in that story, but instead of walking on the water with Peter, you’ll find me hanging onto the boat for dear life along with the other eleven disciples. They unexpectedly found themselves in the middle of the sea, tossed about by huge waves and contrary winds. Yep, that describes my life for the past few months.

Before the first lesson of the study was ever taught, the Lord told me He was going to teach me something new. You see, I had been out on that troubled sea before where the massive waves and contrary winds blew up unexpectedly and almost took me under. I thought I had learned some great faith-saving techniques from that previous experience that I could share with others. God had something else in mind.

Here is that something else: God doesn’t have to calm the storm in order to give His child peace in the storm. How many of us have thought the best answer for any of our storms was for God to remove it?

If we look at the life of our Savior, we’ll find that the Father didn’t always remove the storms in His life; in fact, I don’t believe He removed any of them. And when Jesus was about to face the severest of all storms—the cross—He prayed, that if it were His Father’s will, this storm would be removed. But then He did something remarkable: He gave His Father permission to leave it there.2

We now know that God had a bigger purpose for that storm than calming it—our very own redemption, mine and yours, were wrapped up in the center that storm. It was completely necessary for Jesus to endure it; and He did. And I am certain that Jesus had peace in the midst of that storm!

Before facing the cross, Jesus had told His disciples that He was giving them His peace—the kind of peace that can be experienced right smack-dab in the middle of the fiercest storm, even one with ginormous waves and winds.3 Apparently, it worked for Him.

The song writer of Who Am I, recorded by Casting Crowns in 2003, got it right.4 These lyrics suggest something we can ask God to do for us in the middle of our storm: “Who am I that the voice that calmed the sea, would call out through the rain, and calm the storm in me?”

Our first step to attaining peace is found in giving God our permission to do whatever He deems best in any set of circumstances. Our prayer might sound like this: Dear Father, I ask you to calm this storm; but if that is not your will, then I ask you to calm me. It is then left up to God to do whatever He chooses. That, my friend, is called trust.

One of my three personal storms has now come and gone, uneventful I might add. The other two are presently calm; yet I know another storm can blow up at any moment. Storms are like that.

The issue here is how you and I will face our next storm. Can we trust our Father like Jesus did and leave the outcome in His hands? If so, we have already found a place of peace and rest. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: Leave yourself open to the circumstances of His choice, for this is perfect acceptance and rest in the will of God. If you do so, you are not a fool—you are in the company of the brave! For accepting the will of God in this way, “You became imitators of us,” Paul writes, “and of the Lord.”4 ~ Amy Carmichael

1Matthew 14:22-33; 2Matthew 26:39; 3John 14:27; 4John Mark Hall; 5Amy Carmichael, You Are My Hiding Place, Bethany House Publishers, Bloomington, MN, 1991, Page 77

 

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

 

A Message for Rock-Bottom Disciples April 11, 2014

Filed under: Encouragement — Janie Kellogg @ 2:27 pm
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Ever wonder why God lets us struggle? I certainly do. Maybe you think God has nothing to do with the struggle you’re in. Think again.

 

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:10)

 

Yep, there it is—it is God’s doing. He lets us suffer or struggle on purpose. Why, sometimes He even lets us go all the way to the bottom. Yet, I believe He is up to something when He allows sharpening circumstances to impact our lives. Iron sharpens iron. (Proverbs 27:17) When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Isn’t that always the case? When life gets hard, we gain strength and resilience, and what once seemed hard no longer is. What is it about hitting bottom that does something in us?

 

The bottom—what does that mean in spiritual terms? Does it mean: we’ve tried all efforts and nothing has worked? We’ve exhausted all resources, and the problem remains unfixed? We’ve turned to every expert we know, yet we’re more perplexed than ever? How about—we’ve tried to find God, but He hasn’t shown up?

 

You might have said “yes” to all of those. I want to point you to a story in Luke Chapter 24 about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Perhaps they had tried all efforts to understand the crucifixion of Jesus. They had exhausted everything they had learned in the past three years. They had looked to others for answers, and I’m sure they had tried to get God’s attention. Yet, they remained perplexed, confused, and afraid. We might say they were at the bottom.

 

Then a stranger came along beside them as they traveled, and they poured out their sad story to him. “But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” Does that mean they had lost their hope? All hope? They continued with a hear-say story of some out-of-this-world notion that included visions and angels, but there was no proof for any of it. After all, they had watched Jesus die with their own eyes.

 

I can only imagine our Savior as he listened to their bewildering story. I can see a slight grin on Jesus’ face as He held His composure. Can’t you just hear Jesus ask, “Really?” And then He says to those two rock-bottom disciples: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

 

Can you see what they were missing? Can you feel their grief and at the same time sense Jesus’ excitement knowing He would soon open their eyes to who He is? Why, He isn’t in the grave—He is right here talking to them!

 

This amazing story brightens my day today, as I think about all the times I have been a rock- bottom disciple. All the times I’ve looked, and longed, and searched for real answers, the right outcome, and the victory message behind my struggles. I think of all the years I have searched for the mysteries of God in His Word, the keys to the kingdom to unlock what I don’t understand. And all the while Jesus has been right here in my company, with the slight grin on His face, thinking “If only she knew what I know. If only she could see what I see. If only!”

 

Have you and I suffered a little while in our darkness, our perplexity, our out-of-this world stories that we can’t understand? Are we wondering when Jesus Himself is going to show up like He promised, to restore us, make us strong, firm and steadfast?

 

Just when is that going to happen? When we get to the bottom of our resources, our efforts, our attempts—that’s the very time Jesus has been waiting for! That’s the very position He longs for us to reach so He can tell us what was best described by Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story!”

 

“Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” Are we ready for Jesus, who is right here with us in our perplexing situations, to open our eyes and let us see Him? Are we ready to have Jesus explain from the beginning what’s been happening just as he did to those disciples who had reached the bottom of human explanation and human hope.

 

That’s what Jesus wants to do for us today. He wants to show us the meaning behind the struggle—the waiting before the Lord, the purpose of it all. He has some BIG NEWS for you and me. Are we ready to trust Him and believe His explanation? Are our hearts burning within us while He’s speaking and opening our eyes even now?

 

Don’t miss next week’s post “Seeing is Everything.” In the meantime, start looking up from your rock-bottom stance. Jesus has been right here all the time. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

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

 

Choose Joy July 11, 2013

Filed under: Encouragement — Janie Kellogg @ 12:47 pm
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[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