Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Penned by the Apostle Paul to the believers in Christ in Corinth:
“For even when we arrived in Macedonia, our bodies had no ease or rest, but we were oppressed in every way and afflicted at every turn – fighting and contentions without, dread and fears within us. But God, who comforts and encourages and refreshes and cheers the depressed and the sinking, comforted and encouraged and refreshed and cheered us.”
II Corinthians 7: 5, 6, Amplified Bible
“Why must I weep when others sing:
To test the deeps of suffering.
Why must I work while others rest?
To spend my strength at God’s request.
Why must I lose while others gain?
To understand defeat’s sharp pain.
Why must this lot of life be mine
When that which fairer seems is thine?
Because God knows what plans for me
Shall blossom in eternity.”
“There is no way of learning faith except by trial.
It is God’s school of faith, and it is far better for us
To learn to trust God than to enjoy life.”
From Days of Heaven Upon Earth
“The Golden Gift of Grace”
“Grace is both a grace and a vessel to receive grace.”
How have I witnessed God’s grace being poured from “vessel to vessel” in my own life?
What difference has God’s abundant, unending grace made in my life?
“God’s grace is not only amazing grace, it is abounding grace.”
“Grace is the oil of gladness, and the more of this oil, the more of gladness.”
As I’ve been preparing the upcoming devotionals, which highlight the work of God in the life of the prophet Elisha, as well as the many women and men he encountered in his ministry, I began to see the glimmer of a golden gift - what I refer to as the “Golden Gift of Grace.”
We have observed this grace at work in the life of the widowed mom as God’s grace and mercy relieved her of the weighty matter of debt when oil flowed from jar to jar until there was more than enough to place her in a position of financial security. However, it was not just the ability of this mother to pay her bills that was at the crux of this story, it was also her faith which increased through this trial that gives us the encouragement we need in our own lives as we face the challenges which confront us. As Thomas á Kempis so beautifully penned, “They travel lightly whom God’s grace carries.” This doesn’t mean that we walk through our lives completely problem free. Instead, it means we are well aware of who carries every burden in our lives. And who will be there to fill us when we are empty. As A. R. Fausset so aptly conveys, “A supply of grace is in store for believers against all “urgent situations.” And as he further notes, God’s grace is supplied with all our needs. God’s grace – a free gift – something we certainly do not deserve yet it is given without strings attached, to fill my needy, empty heart and to fill yours, too.
As Philip Dodderidge eloquently penned :
“Grace, ‘tis a charming sound,
Harmonious to my ear;
Heaven with the echo shall resound
And all the earth shall hear.”
It was several years ago now, when I came upon a book entitled Craddock Stories, which contains stories compiled by Mike Graves and Richard E. Ward. When you say the word, “story teller,” Pastor Fred Craddock comes to mind immediately for as I have come to find out, this “soft-spoken preacher from Cherry Log, Georgia” has, for over 40 years, shared the love of God, often times by relating some of the most captivating anecdotes I’ve ever read. And so it is, that today, I want to introduce you to grace, maybe in a way you have never met grace before. As our story begins, Pastor Craddock shares the fact that he had been at a seminar and ended up staying the weekend at a small motel. He asked at the front desk where there might be a church he could attend and he was directed up the street to a building he describes in this way:
“It was a small building, modestly built, one of those that looks like the men of the church helped build it, because they seemed to love it very much. It was warm and friendly, not elaborate at all for worship. I took my seat, a bit early, but it soon began to fill up and soon was totally filled. I would say there were about 120 people. At the appointed hour, the choir came down. Following the choir came the minister, in this case, a man.”
I stop here for a moment because when I first read this story, I was so moved by the description of this pastor, for in many ways, he reminded me of how I felt about myself as a young teen – gangly, awkward and out-of-place. Maybe you, too, can relate for each of us, has at times, felt ungraceful and misshapen, whether on the outside or especially on the inside. Here’s Pastor Craddock’s word-picture of the minister at the church:
“He was 6’4”. He was also very large, maybe 280 or 300 pounds. But the most noticeable feature was his stumbling, lumbering gait. He was almost falling, with his long useless arms at his sides, like they were awaiting further instruction. His head was misshapen, his hair was askew. He stumbled up the three or four steps to get to the pulpit. When he turned to face us, I saw the thick glasses, and through them I could see the milky film over his eyes, one of his eyes going out, nothing coming in to the other. When he read, he held the book near his nose. When he spoke, the sinews of his neck worked with such vigor as he pushed out the words, it was as if he had learned to speak as an adult. But I lost all consciousness of that after a while. He read I Corinthians 13 and spoke on the subject in the bulletin, ‘But the greatest of these is love.’ It was an unusual thing. If you had a copy of his sermon…it was not poetic, it was not prophetic, it was pastoral. It was so warm and so full of love and affection. It was firm, and it had exhortation in it. But the relationship between those people, the love that he extended as he preached, and the love that came back from those people who sat quietly, leaning forward was captivating, and I was captured. What is this?...I didn’t understand…I wanted to get acquainted with this extraordinary preacher, so I lingered at the door hoping to invite him to lunch. He couldn’t go, but as I stood at the door and observed the greetings and hellos and little words of pastoral care, comfort, and respect between him and the members, one woman I would guess to be seventy shook his hand at the door. She spoke with him and said this: ‘I wish I could know your mother.’ I saw her having the same trouble as I was. She didn’t understand the source of this and thought maybe, I wish I knew your mother. He said. ‘My mother’s name is Grace.’
When everybody had left and I began to visit with him, we sat on the back pew for a few minutes, and I said, ‘That was an unusual response you gave to that woman. My mother’s name is Grace.’
And he said, ‘It is? When I was born,’ he said. ‘I was put up for adoption at the Department of Family Service. But as you can see, nobody wanted to adopt me. So I went from foster home to foster home, and when I was about sixteen or seventeen, I saw some young people going into a church. I wanted to be with young people, so I went in and there I met grace – the grace of God.’”
I ask you today, "Have you met Grace? The grace of God?" If you haven't, I invite you to just whisper the words, "Dear Father in heaven, please introduce me to Grace -- Your Grace. I want this gift poured into the emptiness of my life today” And do you know what, your Father will start pouring until every nook and cranny of your empty life is filled to overflowing. What's more, you will never have to be empty again for our Father's grace simply doesn't run out. As the hymn writer/poet Annie Johnson Flint so beautifully reminds us:
“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction he addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.”
This is the Golden Gift of Grace that was poured behind the closed door of a widow’s cottage – an unending supply, which met all her needs. Praise God for His gift of “Grace.”
“Great God of wonders! All Thy ways
Are matchless, Godlike, and divine;
But the fair glories of Thy grace
More Godlike and unrivalled shine.”
The Surprised of Grace
“Holy One, we stammer to You
our praise and thanksgiving
for the extravagance of gifts
that often leave us tongue-tied
yet with gladness of heart,
quietness of mind,
and lightness of spirit.
We thank You not only for our days
but for what You fill them with:
the spray of light,
the play of seasons,
the labors of love,
the reach toward justice,
the embrace of beauty,
the tinge of glory.
Wondrous One, we praise You
for the surprises of grace
that catch us off guard
and fill out silences with ease,
our struggles with hope,
our friendships with power,
our defeats with timeless lessons
and with the fresh possibilities
that well up from the old promises
You always find new ways to keep;
through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”
My Heart in My Mouth
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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For more from Dorothy, please visit transformationgarden.com.