Portraits of Grace – Erica Madden

Living Grace

I would like to preface this devotional with a little about myself. I have been saved for 12 years. I am married to my best friend and soulmate. I am a stay-at-home mom to our 3 daughters and our Boxer fur baby named Nova, the first lady of Eldorado Baptist Church in Troy, NC, a piano teacher, and a lover of the Lord. I am not worthy of all the many blessings He’s sent my way.

He’s God, and He’s good!

I could begin to tell you about the grace that was extended to me as a 15-year-old girl when Jesus passed by my way on April 20, 2007 and saved my hell-deserving soul. About the grace that brought me up out of the horrible pit of miry clay I was in and placed my feet upon the Solid Rock and established my goings. How He put a new song of praise in my heart and made me a new creature altogether…but time would never allow me to tell you the whole story.

I could begin to tell you about the grace it took as a young teenager, saved out of the bus ministry, trying to live a godly life in a not-so-godly home, dreaming of having my own family one day, and how He so graciously gave me the desires of mine heart and allowed me to marry a preacher! And I could tell you about the grace He poured out when my dear pastor was taken to glory just 2 weeks before He was to marry us.

I could tell you about the grace He gave when I birthed all three of my children by c-section (not an easy or peaceful task!) I could tell you how His grace and mercy filled that hospital room for 8 days while I cuddled and rocked my newborn as she struggled to breathe due to RSV.

I could tell you all these different stories and situations where God has expressed His grace, but I could never begin to tell you the whole of how God has been gracious! 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee…” That word “is” puts this verse in present tense. It doesn’t say “was” or “will be.” It “IS” sufficient! That means that every single moment that I live, His grace IS sufficient for me! Whatever problem or situation I encounter, His grace IS sufficient for me! It is living grace! It is an active and functioning grace that meets me right where I am, day in and day out.

As a wife to a pastor, I need grace! As a mother to two toddlers and an infant, you better believe I need grace! As a  daughter, a sister, and aunt, a friend, and most of all, a child of God, I need grace! What a glorious feeling it is to know that whatever I may face, there is new grace there waiting for me. As one of my favorite songs puts it: “Grace not yet  discovered, Grace not yet uncovered…And He’ll give new grace I’ve not needed before.”

What about you, friend? Have you tasted of the Lord’s grace lately? Remember, His grace IS sufficient for every need!

Portraits of Grace – Yetta Grace Miller

My name is Yetta Barnett-Miller.  I am a PK and a PW but most importantly a child of the King! I enjoy being a PK (pastor’s kid), PW (pastor’s wife) and I love serving my Lord!  Because of growing up in a pastor’s home, I accepted the Lord as my Savior at young age.  I am married to Brent, an assistant pastor.  We have been serving the Lord together for almost 12 years.  One of my hobbies that I have created into a small business is called Graceful Designs.  I greatly enjoy using my talents of decorating, organization, and creativity to help others have beautiful events (wedding, reception, bridal/baby shower, party, etc.). 

I want to share some thoughts about God’s grace.  When I think of the word grace, I think of two things: it is my name and it is what God has shown me.  My parents named me Grace.  I like to think that it was not just because they liked the name or that it flowed well with my first name, but that perhaps it was a word that was special to them since they both had experienced God’s saving grace.  God’s grace is the unmerited favor He has shown us.  We don’t deserve God’s love, grace, or even compassion, but because of those things we can have eternal life thru Him.  Let’s use this acrostic to help us remember what grace can mean to us.  G – Gift from God, R – Repentance of sin, A – Accept His free gift of salvation,   C – Commit to living a life that is according to God and His Word, and E – Eternal life with a Heavenly Father. 

Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  We deserve death for our sin.  Our sin has separated us from God.  But halleluiah, we have a Savior who took the punishment for our sin on Himself!  Two important, convicting verses are Romans 3:23 and Acts 2:38. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  Acts 2:38 tells us, “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  We are all born as sinners        because “…as by one man sin entered in to the world…” (Romans 5:12).  We need to see that we are sinners that need a Savior!  We need to repent of our sin, submit to God’s will for our lives, and live for Him.  When we accept, repent, and submit to our loving God, we then have the Holy Spirit indwelling us to help us grow in Christ and to have conviction of sin.  One thing we sometimes forget, when we repent of our sins, is that we need to turn from those sins.  Repentance is not just asking forgiveness but is also turning from them. 

As a child of God, we need to follow God’s will for our lives.  In college, this became real to me as I was searching for what, where, and how to live my life.  The Lord showed me through sermons and my own personal devotions, that I needed to be surrendered to His will and not my own.  When I finally did this, I had amazing peace from God!  Without the Lord, I know I would not be married to the man He had for me, and I would not be serving the Lord with that man.  God has been so good to bless my life with godly parents, godly friends, and a godly husband. 

One of my favorite verses is John 3:16. It is a common verse to some, but it has great meaning to me.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

God loves you so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to take that punishment for your sin.  Oh, what a love that is!  Have you accepted this beautiful gift of salvation from our loving Lord?

Portraits of Grace – Raquel Canales

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John 1:12

My name is Raquel Canales. I was born in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. I studied in the Baptist Bible Institute in Mante, Tamaulipas, Mexico. I served the Lord in Saltillo for 13 years with my husband and family enjoying every minute of it. God’s grace was with us there all the time, providing everything for the church and our family.

Sister’s, a lot of us have heard many times about God’s grace. But, do we fully understand the importance of this concept. Let’s see its meaning first: Grace: Is Love, Kindness, mercy, and an unmerited gift. We can understand this concept better when we read this Bible verses that show us our condition. Romans 3:10 “As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one.” We can also see in Romans 3:23 the reason: “For all have sinned”… We all have sinned, and sin is all the bad things we say, think or do.

Like lying, is a sin we often put colors to; sometimes we say: I told a white or pink lie. But that does not make it less a lie and lying is sin. That means we cannot justify ourselves and there is a terrible consequence, sin separates us from the  glory of God. Here is where we see God’s grace for mankind. One of the meanings of grace is: “an unmerited gift”. But God in His love and kindness is willing  to give us his grace. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” 

We see God’s grace to the world when he gave his only Son, Jesus Christ to pay for our sin. It was his sacrifice, the      shedding of his blood that made possible, for God to give us the gift of his grace. And the biggest blessing of all is that we all can have it, it is FREE. Praise the Lord! John 3:16 says that is for all whosoever believeth in him. God does not show partiality of persons. Romans 2:11. Rich or poor, tall or short, God loves us and gives us his grace. How can we receive his grace? Through faith in Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1-2; 10:9).

Receiving Jesus Christ in our hearts as our Lord and Savior. (John 1:12) We need to share this gift of God’s grace, so that more people come to Jesus Christ and enjoy this great blessing.

Portraits of Grace – Emily Knight

Who am I? I am a Bus Kid! I started riding a bus to church at age six. I currently serve as a teacher at Mount Hebron Christian Academy, a missions school outside of Monterrey, Mexico. My pastor is Jonathan Ashcraft, a third generation missionary. This July I will officially join the Ashcraft family when Tommy Ashcraft and I will be married. 

I am a Bus Kid. I started riding a bus to church at age six. My parents were eventually reached through the bus ministry and began attending church regularly and growing in the Lord. When I entered third grade my parents enrolled me in the Christian school.  Although I was baptized when I was younger, I never truly understood or had a personal relationship with the Lord until age thirteen.

After high school, I went to Hyles Anderson College to become a Christian school teacher. After a few years of teaching in a small school in rural Ohio, God led me to move to Toledo where I attended Lewis Avenue Baptist Church in Temperance, Michigan. For reasons known only to the Lord, the Pastor had inadvertently hired two people for the same position. The other teacher was given the job, but I knew it was the Lord’s will for me to be in that church. I prayed for and found a secular job the same day. 

My second week there I joined a bus route and shortly thereafter gained a young teenaged bus girl as a worker. Little did we know then just how perfectly intertwined our lives would become. I gave my all to the children and youth God allowed me to reach in my seven years there. I grew to love many of those kids like I hoped I would love my own children had I had any. But one, Jenny, became extra special.  Jenny genuinely wanted to do right. I don’t remember her ever saying, “Why? What’s wrong with that?” Rather, her questions were more along the lines of “How can I do more for God?” She respected and honored me as she did her Mom who did not attend church. She sought advice and spiritual counsel and followed it.

Shortly before Jenny left for Hyles Anderson College, God led me to move to a school in Arkansas and resume my teaching. At this point it had become clear that Jenny was the reason God had moved me to Toledo at all. Soon Jenny met and married a wonderful young man, Jonathan Ashcraft. Even before they had children, they approached me about joining their ministry and becoming the teacher for their children and others of their ministry.

The portrait of grace I am attempting to paint with this story is that of faithfulness. Throughout this entire narrative is the thread of God’s faithfulness. He has been good to me throughout my story. In every step I have simply trusted and obeyed.

I influenced numerous young people throughout my many years in the bus ministry. God gave me one to return tangible gratitude. God gave me one who wanted me to love and teach her children as I had her. God gave me one who has made me feel truly appreciated. God gave me one who loved me back as her own family. Every good gift and wonderful blessing I am experiencing in this stage of my life is a direct result of my faithfulness to God’s plan, specifically service in the bus ministry.

I would not change one decision. I would not trade one valley. I would not skip one season of heartache or discouragement. So, friend, if I could say one thing to encourage you today, it would be: “Keep trusting God.”  Know that you serve an all-knowing, all-wise, and    all-for-your-good God. There were many times, as I am sure you have also faced, when my path seemed dark and my life seemed  pointless; but I kept trusting. I believed God had only my good in mind. He used me to bring much good to others, but he has brought so much to me because of my faithfulness to Him.

There is no way to compare the blessings God has in store for us to the comforts or relationships He asks us to yield to Him. God is good. God is faithful. Keep trusting and keep obeying.

{The story of Jenny’s teen years is available on Amazon and Kindle, coming soon in Spanish: “Where’s the Next Jenny?”}

Portraits of Grace – Robin Wood

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” II Peter 3:18

I am a housewife of 31 years with 2 children, 3 grandchildren and 1 on the way. I have been saved for 37 years; the end of May will be 38. I love the Lord and strive to live my life to be a blessing and a help to others. Here is my testimony of grace.

I am the third of four children and the only girl. I grew up going to a United Methodist Church. My mom took us to church only on Sunday morning. Somewhere around the age of 10 I asked my mom how you get to   heaven. Her reply, “be good enough”. I went on my merry way thinking, ‘I can be good’. Only I was not good.

One day, at the age of 14, a friend of mine at school, during lunch, asked if he could read in the Bible to me. I didn’t want to be rude so I said, sure. I could not tell you what he read, though I’m pretty sure it was in Romans, for as soon as he started reading the Lord smote my heart with conviction. Over and over in my mind were going these words “you are not good enough to go to heaven”. (Romans 3:10-12,) When he was done reading he asked if I wanted to pray. Of course I didn’t want to pray; not in a lunch room full of kids. So I politely told him, “No”. The Lord didn’t leave me alone though. I’m not exactly sure what day it was, Thursday or  Friday, but the words ‘you are not good enough to go to heaven’ just kept playing over and over in my mind over the weekend.

On Monday night was our high school graduation. I being in the band was sitting on the field with the band when the Lord came right beside me and said, “You are not good enough to go to heaven. You are going to hell!” That kept playing over and over in my mind. How miserable I was! I knew that hell is where I deserved to go. As soon as I got home that night I got down beside my bed and called on the Lord, trusting that He was the way to heaven. What a peace and a change came over me that night. How the Lord worked to save me.

Not only did He save my soul, but He worked and saved me from false doctrine (it would take up too much space to tell about that part) and guided me to an Independent Bible Believing Baptist Church, where I met my husband. After 6 years of marriage the Lord moved us to another state where we could be part of a church where my husband’s cousin is the pastor. We have grown so much in this church and have learned so much more on growing in grace (2 Peter 3:18). I thank the Lord for His saving, changing, and keeping grace!