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

 

God’s OK with Exuberant Angels December 22, 2016

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 4:28 am
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Christmas is full of surprises—those little unexpected moments which delight our hearts and fill our souls to full. It happened a few nights ago at my grandchildren’s Christmas program. Parents and grandparents watched their little ones pull off a spectacular rendition of Jesus’ birth. Every line was not perfectly spoken nor right on cue, but it was magnificent nonetheless.

And the surprise—one little boy (Zane ~ age 5) proved to be a most exuberant entertainer. Dressed in a white tee-shirt, jeans, and a makeshift halo, he stood on the bottom step of the risers that held the angelic choir. This truly adorable angel was poised for a great performance, yet he had one small problem—staying focused. He twitched and twisted with his experiment to see how far it was to the floor below. He swung his left foot off the riser to touch the floor with his tennis shoe; then his right foot—left foot, right foot, over and over it went. Yet, when the choir began to sing another song, he refocused and belted out the words with all his might. A few lines later, his excitement overcame him once again and he amused himself with less important things. The grand finale was his painstaking efforts to pull his arms out of the sleeves of his tee-shirt, leaving us to wonder if the play might end with one half-dressed angel.

The thoughts of this priceless moment bring a smile to my face this morning, yet I wonder if that little boy might reflect us—yes, you and me—during the Christmas season. We know we are supposed to focus on the Greatest Gift Ever Given, yet we get distracted by all the amusing things around us. When something pulls us back to the main thing, we refocus for a time, only to be overcome once again by things of lesser-importance. Like Zane, we do it over and over.

No doubt that little fellow brought delight to the heart of every onlooker, but I believe he also brought delight to the heart of God. Exuberance, energy, excitement—they’re simply part of being a little boy who is cherished and enjoyed. And so are we—cherished and enjoyed by our Heavenly Father. He knows that our exuberance, our energy and our excitement are simply part of being His child—created to live life to the full, to experiment with who we are and what we can do. Perhaps one day we’ll get it right—but until then, here’s a little advice using a few borrowed words from Luke’s account of the original spectacular event that might help us stay focused on the main thing:

In this season of celebration, remember that Jesus coming to earth was indeed good tidings of great joy to all people. So come with haste and find the Savior, glorify and praise God for what is seen and heard, and then go tell everyone what great things God has done. When the hype is over, just ponder all these amazing things throughout the coming New Year. Oh, and don’t forget to look for those little surprises along the way. Christmas is full of them!

 little-lamb

Merry Christmas to all, Janie Kellogg

 

The Elephant Revealed February 4, 2015

I wonder how many times when the elephant in the room is suddenly faced and its truths revealed that we discover the elephant wasn’t nearly as bad as we had expected.  In fact, the exact opposite is often the case, and we question why we had dreaded it in the first place.

I fully believe that will be the case with humility. Once we see humility for what it is, we will be pleasantly surprised. I also believe the enemy of our souls has known all along that humility is the crucial key to the Christian life, and therefore he has deliberately diverted us away from it.

Perhaps a look at what brought down the arch-enemy of God in the first place will give us some insight into the confusion surrounding humility. Before the world was created, Satan desired to take God’s place as the most-high God—in short, he wanted to be worshipped. In seeking that position for himself, he convinced one-third of the angels to buy into his plan. Satan did not deserve nor earn that position, but he exalted himself to that place. As a result, he and his team of rebellious imps were cast out of heaven.

It is easy to see why Satan approached Adam and Eve with his plan as well. His convincing, but untrue argument was to cast doubt on God’s integrity. Unfortunately, like the fallen angels, they too fell for Satan’s lies.

Can you imagine the grief in God’s heart when his crowned creation followed the path of his worst enemy? If we could grasp that fact, we might better understand why God hates pride so much. Pride cost God one-third of His angels as well as the creation that reflected His own image. But wait, that isn’t all—pride would cost Him even more.

The entire human race would now inherit the sin of pride from their parents’ DNA. It would cripple every child that would ever live. Pride would rise up in their hearts, and if gone unchecked, it would cause them to desire a position of highest honor and praise; perhaps even to be worshipped. What could possibly stop the universal spread of this devastating disease?

An antidote was needed, but what? The antidote must be equally as good as pride is bad. In His great wisdom, God knew that only the exact opposite of pride could counter its deadly effects on the human soul. Thus, it would require God’s greatest virtue—humility.

Being the supreme essence of humility, God determined it would be necessary to demonstrate this virtue to the world. The plan was made and set into motion—“our Lord Jesus emptied Himself and came to earth to live a poor man’s life and die a felon’s death.”1 Jesus gave up His perfect, sinless life on a despised cross to rescue us. There is no greater act of humility than that.

The antidote for pride would come with a high price tag. The unthinkable! The unimaginable! The unexplainable! The most painful of all costs! For 33 years God would be separated from His Son, and for 33 years He would foresee the excruciating pain His Son would endure. God saw it. God felt it. God allowed it. We want to scream, “Why? Why would God do that?”

If pride had not been stopped, we would be destined to join Satan and his angels in the eternal lake of fire. Yet, God thought we were worth saving. Can we not clearly see why God would have a deep and intense hatred for even a hint of pride? ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: Christ is the humility of God embodied in human nature; the Eternal Love humbling itself, clothing itself in the garb of meekness and gentleness, to win and serve and save us.2 ~ Andrew Murray

1Amy Carmichael, Candles in the Dark, CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA, Pg.15; 2Andrew Murray, Humility, Fig Books.com, Pg.12

 

Christmas Partying ~ Is it really necessary? December 23, 2014

As the Christmas shopping is winding down, the Christmas parties are gearing up. This week there will be happy people gathering in large groups, small groups, and in all sorts of places. Decorations adorn our businesses, streets, yards, porches and living rooms. There’ll be hugs and kisses exchanged, greetings said, and gifts given, all in the spirit of the One who gave first. But is all this partying necessary?

It is amusing to watch Christians make so much commotion about the birthday of someone many say is dead. But for us born-again believers who have experienced His resurrection power in our very own lives, He is alive—alive in us! So of course, we are going to celebrate the birthday of our living Savior. 

Had He not been born in Bethlehem that wintery night so many years ago, He could never have died in our place on Golgotha’s hill. And had He not died in our place, we would be in BIG trouble! But we’re not in trouble at all. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The angel said it well: “Peace on earth, goodwill to men!”

For four thousand years men tried to keep God’s Holy Commandments, but all failed—even the special ones like Abraham, the friend of God, and King David, the apple of God’s eye. Yep, every single one of us has failed miserably. Problem is that anyone who breaks the Law of God is condemned to punishment by death. Did you get that? D-E-A-T-H is the sentence for anyone who breaks even one of God’s Commandments.

Now you know why I said we were in BIG trouble; that is, until the Holy Child Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The very Son of God came down from Heaven to rescue us earthlings from that death sentence. That’s right—He took on Himself our punishment so you and I could escape the penalty of sin. And He did it for all who will believe in Him.

Now if that doesn’t give us enough reason to celebrate His birth, I don’t know what does. Our big ado over Christmas is totally justifiable! It is worth much celebration! Jesus said if people don’t get excited about Him, the rocks would cry out. Who knows, the angels could fill the sky once again with songs of praise, and shepherds might be found dancing on the hillsides. So yes, it really is necessary!

Let the Christmas “naysayers” fuss all they want. They are welcome to gripe and complain about all the fanfare, the decorations, the music, and the merriment, but they can stop none of it. Not at my house, my church, my community, or in my heart. As for me and my house, we are partying! And I hope you and yours will do the same.

Wishing each of you a Christ-filled Christmas! ~Janie Kellogg

 

It Takes a Long Time November 18, 2014

In a culture driven by instant results, we find it hard to accept anything that takes a long time. Just imagine buying a magic wrinkle-removing cream that advertises, “It takes a long time to see results.” No way! No one is attracted to a product, process, career or anything else that takes a long time.

The truth is: things that take a long time are better. There’s wine and cheese—we’re told that older is better. Wisdom comes with gray hair or years of experience. Education is only acquired after years of study. Relationships are sweeter as the years go by, and friendships that last a life-time are highly cherished.

So it is with the things of God. The longer we walk with God, the better we know Him and the more acquainted we become with His methods of dealing with us. Ultimately, the more we know about Him, the more we love Him.

Although we know these truths, it is difficult for us time-bound earthlings to understand that our eternal Father—who is not bound by time—is in no hurry whatsoever. When we give our lives to Him, He starts the process of conforming us into the image of His dear Son.1 You can take my word for it—that takes a long time!

The reason it does is because our fallen natures have been in control for so long that our filters are carnal, earthly, and selfish. We see everything through those muddled lenses. When we learn that God loves us just the way we are, we rejoice; yet in time we realize that He loves us too much to let us stay that way.

God’s own Son came to earth to rescue us from our ungodly, selfish nature and transform us into godly, obedient sons and daughters. Even though it takes a long time, God never gives up on us. If we have a stubborn streak and resist His efforts to change us, still He is patient and kind. He never declares: “This one is impossible.” The Word says that all things are possible with God—and that includes transforming me and you.2

Even now He is attempting to open our eyes to eternal truths. In His efforts to change us, He is always bidding us to come and spend more time with Him. We can be assured that in time He will accomplish His good purpose.3

Why not surprise God today by giving Him some extra time? One of the hidden secrets of the gospel is this:  The way to shorten the time it takes to become like Jesus is to spend time alone with God. If only we would. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “We are designed with a great capacity for God, but sin, our own individuality, and wrong thinking keep us from getting to Him. God delivers us from sin—we have to deliver ourselves from our individuality. This means offering our natural life to God and sacrificing it to Him, so He may transform it into spiritual life through our obedience.”4 ~Oswald Chambers

For more Secret Place Secrets visit www.treasureinearthenvessels.net and follow the footprints.

1Romans 8:29; 2Matthew 19:26; 3Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13; 4Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, November 18.

 

 

God Has Feelings Too August 27, 2014

Sometimes we forget one important truth—we are made in the image of God. Does that mean we look like Him? The truth is, we don’t actually know since no one has ever seen God and lived to tell about it. Does that mean we act like Him? Certainly not, for since the fall of man, we switched sides and started acting like the devil. Does that mean we think like Him? Not here either! The fall robbed us of our God-like qualities and innocence.

So, what about us is in God’s image? I believe it is our ability to think, to process information, and to make choices. But perhaps a more personal look-alike-trait is that we have emotions because God has emotions. Consider this:

When I see earthly parents…….

~ holding a baby on his/her lap—I see a loving Heavenly Father coddling me.

~ smiling as their toddler takes its first step—I see Father God smiling over me when I take a step of faith.

~ consoling a child with a scraped knee—I see a compassionate God picking me up after a fall and telling me it will be OK.

~ disciplining a youth who refuses to obey—I see a gracious God disciplining me when my stubborn heart demands its own way.

~ worrying over a teen that has ran away from home—I see the pain in the heart of God when I stray from Him.

How could we think otherwise? If it is true that God loved us so much He gave up His only Son in order to rescue His lost children, why wouldn’t we know that God has feelings?

God certainly does have feelings of love, joy and compassion; but also of pain, sorrow, and sadness. This is an important fact for us to know, that is, if we are going to pursue a closer relationship with Him.

Think about it—when you and I have feelings, it’s because we really do look a lot like our Heavenly Father! ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Quote: “God is a person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person may.” ~ A.W. Tozer