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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He Came For Us December 18, 2016

Filed under: Holidays — Janie Kellogg @ 7:10 pm
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I sometimes think we look at Christmas through rose-colored lenses of our own choosing: God sent His sweet Son to earth by way of a warm cozy manger, dazzled lowly shepherds with an angelic host, and led kings to bring gifts to the Baby Jesus. It’s a beautiful story that stirs our hearts each year and leads us to give gifts, too. And we love it.

 

But like most everything in life, the deeper meaning of what happens isn’t always in plain sight. In reality, there is a much nobler greatness behind the magical scenes of Christmas that involves our destiny. You see—you and I were born into a world-gone-wrong.

 

God had created a world He called “good,” that is until evil entered the picture and ruined everything. Then darkness reigned. God’s world would eventually destroy itself because evil left unchallenged would lead to death for everything, including us. It was no less than a tragedy in which you and I were left without hope. Here’s why.

 

History had opened with Adam and Eve falling for the guise of knowledge. It was a costly fall for them, and us. Wrong won. In time, man grew so evil that God regretted that He had made us at all, and He destroyed the world with water. Wrong won again. Throughout the centuries man became so wicked that “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Yet, what they declared to be right turned out to be all wrong. Then along came the Pharisees, making a mockery of the Holy Law and changing what was good into what was prideful and self-seeking. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Man couldn’t get it right—only wrong—hopelessly wrong.

 

What might a look at the Christmas story through nobler lenses reveal?

 

Mankind was locked in hopelessness—stuck on wrong.

Someone had to right the wrong.

Someone had to challenge evil.

Someone had to bring hope.

Someone had to come.

And He did!

 

That glorious night we celebrate as Christmas is about many things—but none more necessary for us than a Babe lying in a manger bringing hope to a world-gone-wrong.

 

He came for us! But don’t miss the deeper meaning behind this statement. Claim it for yourself. Make it personal—declare it out loud: I was without hope in a world-gone-wrong, and He came for me.

 

 

he-came-for-me

 

 

Dear Lord Jesus, as we look at the manger scene this Christmas, help us to see the deeper meaning of why you came to earth—you came for each of us. ~ Janie Kellogg

 

 

Do You Have a Blessed Hope? October 20, 2015

Sometimes it is helpful to talk to oneself, and I think this is one of those times. Simply ask yourself, “Do I have a blessed hope?” According to the Apostle Paul the blessed hope is that event we Christians expect to happen in the future. He wrote: “while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13)

As the world grows more complex and ungodly in what the Bible calls the last days, many Christians believe Jesus will come and rescue them from the destruction coming upon the earth. I personally have that hope, and I trust that you do too.

But this is not just any kind of hope—it is a blessed hope. The word blessed means sacred, sanctified, and holy—that which comes from and is associated with a holy God. Only those who walk closely with Him can have such a hope—because only those who are redeemed by His blood, forgiven of their sins, and regenerated by the washing of His Word can possess holy hope.  While some people may have hope in something or someone other than God, it would not be a holy or blessed hope.

For many years I was afraid of this upcoming event—mostly because I wasn’t certain that I had been born-again. Even after I became a Christian, it was still not my favorite subject as I wanted to watch my children grow up and just live life. Today, however, I can honestly say that I look forward to this event with all my being.

It appears to me that the time will come, and perhaps is not too far into the future, when our beloved America will not be the same. My grandchildren will not likely enjoy the land of the free and the home of the brave. The landscape of the American culture is quickly changing, and at this rate, I can only imagine what it will look like in another ten years.

I also question if the world itself can survive for another ten years. Our modern-day threats are a very real danger to civil society in all nations. Paul defined the last days well when he used the term “wax worse and worse.” (2 Timothy 3:13) That actually means to grow more evil. Is that not what we see on the horizon?

So what are we to do? Many folks do what I did for years— I buried my head in the sand because it was too uncomfortable to think about. Others listen to and believe all the doomsday rhetoric and then set out to build bunkers and store up supplies. Some believe it is a myth and nothing at all will happen.

I wonder how many of us actually believe the words of Jesus when He foretold the last days: “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring…..Now when you see these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” (Luke 21:25, 28)

I personally know of no better way to deal with the days we are living in than to take the advice of Jesus. He said to read the signs (and they are clearly here) and then to look for our redemption.

So that dear friends, is my plan for the last days. You might call it an escape plan (check out the Key Scriptures below), but I call it an overflowing blessed hope! ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprint Key Scripture: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Key Scripture: “Keep awake then and watch at all times; praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand in the presence of the Son of man.” Luke 21:36

 

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

 

The Slippery Slope of False Peace July 16, 2015

Peace is a much desired commodity that manifests itself as a state of mind. We all want it. We all seek it. We are peace-full when we are free from threats to our safety and well-being. Who doesn’t want peace?

According to Jesus there are two kinds of peace, and since He is the Prince of Peace, I figure He knows what He’s talking about. In John 14:27, Jesus gave to His disciples an amazing gift: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The other kind of peace is obviously that which the world gives us.

I believe for many years we have mostly relied on the world kind of peace—the strength of our government and military, and a strong U.S. economy and dollar, all being maintained under the umbrella of a healthy respect for God’s laws and authority. For the most part, we have lived tranquil lives with those things securely in place.

However, for some twenty years I have heard it said that America is on a slippery slope. What I see happening daily disturbs my worldly peace: evil on the rise under the disguise of good; the threat of terrorism expanding with little or no resistance; the US economy struggling with a zero GNP; the strength of U.S. dollar and the markets vulnerable to collapse; and all these things pale in comparison to the depraved state of our moral condition. Seems to me, we’ve now gone one over the cliff of the slippery slope and are headed for a huge crash.

It could be said that the peace the world gives is nothing more than a slippery slope of false peace—shaky, unstable, and certainly not enduring. It will not hold up in troubling times. When God shakes this world like He said He will in Hebrews 12:26, the world-given peace will not suffice. We need more.

What are we to do? Where are we to put our trust? Our nation’s currency states that we trust in God, but our actions to cast Him from the public square say otherwise. So are we still a Christian nation whose God is the Lord, or are we not? Will we continue to have God on our side as we have for over 200 years; and if not, will our nation survive?

The Bible tells us that in the last days we shall see “men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke 21:26). It’s not so difficult to see how that can happen for these are certainly heart-failing days.

But wait. Jesus knew it would be like this. Did He not tell us that these terrifying days would come? And because He knew, He provided in advance just what we need—that gift of peace! Remember, He gave us His peace—the peace that only the Prince of Peace can produce and give. It is a peace that says, “In the midst of this storm you are loved. You can find a refuge from these horrendous days when you hide yourself securely in Me.”

Dear friends, we are not peace-less, and we must not let our hearts fail us for fear! We are to be light and salt in a dark and decaying world. Jesus says to us today, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He already has and we need to act like we believe it. We are left here to shine that glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know our Savior. There are many that need to know Him, and therefore God needs for us to be courageous, salty, and lights in this dark hour.

Want to trade in your false peace for the real thing? Call upon the Prince of Peace and He will hear your earnest prayer. As His followers, we must not let our hearts be troubled or afraid, but rather we must start polishing the globe of our lanterns. Much light is needed. My prayer is that you and I will not miss one opportunity to shine for Jesus! ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

 

Counterproductive Prayers ~ What’s up with that? May 19, 2015

Do you ever wonder why the typical prayer meeting yields so few results? I do. I grapple with it continuously. I am certain the problem cannot be with an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God, so it must be with us and our prayers.

 

After all these years, do we still not know how to pray? I believe that as best we know how, we do pray according to God’s Word and in the Spirit both earnestly and honestly. Yet, more often than not, we see little or no results. Why is that?

 

Could it be that a conflict of interest is the cause of our poor success rate? Perhaps we do not correctly discern the will of God in our circumstances—be it illness, financial woes, or troubled relationships? The Word clearly says we are to count it all joy when we fall into various trials1—the trials of our faith that make us stronger Christians and shape us into the image of Christ.2

 

A closer look might reveal that most of our prayers are asking God to change or remove those circumstances—which are possibly the same circumstances He Himself orchestrated for our shaping. If that is the case, are those prayers not counterproductive to His plan to mature us and make us like Jesus?

 

Of course they are! We may simply have our eyes on the wrong goal. We want the good life—abundant and carefree—and plead with God to keep it so. Yet, God wants us to grow up spiritually and be useful to Him in reaching a lost world. Clearly, there is a conflict of interest here.

 

Jesus came to earth clothed in flesh to provide for God a human body in which to walk, talk, teach, and heal—thus displaying to the world the good nature of our Creator. He perfectly modeled His Father’s character of love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Then, sacrificing His life for the sake of others, Jesus set the example for all future believers to follow.

 

Therefore, every born-again Christian is called to follow in the footsteps of Jesus by yielding their own bodies as a living sacrifice for God to work through on earth.3 Our trials and troubles become the opportunities for God to do just that, making the difficulties we face today the will of God for us.4

 

We would all probably admit that some scriptures don’t seem to work for us. For instance, this one: “If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of Him.”5 Perhaps we have been tempted to question the validity of this scripture based on our past experience. Yet, if a trial is God’s will for us and we pray for Him to remove it, we are asking against His will rather than according to His will.

 

Counterproductive prayers could very well be the reason we are not getting what we ask of God.

 

Once we understand this, we will still pray over our troubles and woes, but at the end of each prayer we will deliberately give God our permission to do as He sees fit.6 The prayer so perfectly modeled by our Savior, “Yet not my will, but yours be done,” will become our prayer too.7

 

In that place of total surrender to God’s will, we put our lives into the hands of a loving Heavenly Father and accept what He chooses to give or not to give. While it may not be what we want to hear, that is where we will find rest for our souls and more answers to our prayers. ~ Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 (NASB)

 Small footprintKey Quote: “Faith is the willingness to receive whatever He wants to give, or the willingness not to have what He does not want to give.” ~ Elizabeth Elliott

 1James 1:2; 2Romans 8:29; 3Romans 12:1; 41 Peter2:21; 51 John 5:14-15; 6Luke 10:21; 7Luke 22:42

 

 

Today Is Indeed a Good Friday! April 3, 2015

Most of us love Fridays. A popular restaurant chain, TGI Fridays, bears a name that depicts how we feel about Fridays: Thank God It’s Friday! Many of us celebrate the end of the workweek with casual clothes, relaxed work hours, and lunch out, rather than a bagged one brought from home.

These end-of-the-week celebrations actually signal an attitude of freedom—relief from the usual grind as we look forward to a few days of doing our own thing. Who among us doesn’t celebrate such freedom (even if it is short-term), especially in this crazy-busy world in which we live?

But I know a better reason to celebrate Friday, namely this one. Christians commemorate the Friday before Easter (known as Good Friday) as the day our Savior died in our behalf. Jesus, the Son of God, was falsely accused, ridiculed, mocked, beaten, and nailed to a tree in our place. He spilled His sinless blood for every guilt-ridden man or woman who ever lived. And He did it without uttering a bad word at His tormentors, without spewing blame on His accusers, and without passing judgement on His own created beings for such high treason.

That’s right, Jesus suffered in silence. It’s inconceivable! It seems impossible! How do we get our minds around that fact when compared to the modern-day masses who demonstrate, march, riot and scream: “Unfair! Unfair! Unfair!”

The Bible says “when He (Jesus) was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). And before Jesus drew His last breath that dark afternoon, He begged His Father to forgive them, since they apparently didn’t know what they were doing. How can that be: the Sinless for the sinner; the Just for the unjust; the Innocent for the guilty?

However unexplainable it seems, it is true nonetheless—for I was the sinner, the unjust, and the guilty. The evidence clearly stacked up against me and I had not a leg to stand on. The offenses I had committed were punishable by death—mine. I stood condemned and without hope—that is, until one Friday Someone stepped up and said, “Let her go free—I will take her place.” I don’t know how you see it, but I see that as a very good day!

As we process the horrific events carried out on that dark Friday over two-thousand years ago, may we wholeheartedly proclaim that it was in fact a good Friday! It spells f-r-e-e-d-o-m from the penalty of death for all who acknowledge their sins and call upon Jesus to save them.

And His offer still stands today: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

You see, because today is indeed a Good Friday, of course we are going to celebrate! ~Janie Kellogg

Small footprintKey Scripture: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~ Romans 5:8