Author Archives: Debbie Gabbara

Back to Reach • Devotion #4: The Letter

“What a week it has been! My mind and my heart have gone through so many emotions and seen so much this week. Lord, thank you for allowing me to come here.”

Those are words that I wrote in a letter to myself more than two years ago. Just seeing the envelope causes my heart to begin to remember. The letter was written at the end of one of the hardest, most rewarding weeks of my life. It was a week that was spent in Guatemala, sharing the Gospel with families that live in the second-largest garbage dump in the world. We were sharing the hope of Jesus in a place where hope is hard to find. On our last day there, our assignment was to write a letter to ourselves of things that we never wanted to forget. 

Reading the letter floods my mind with memories of the wonderful people we met in the dump. There were the beautiful children singing out the memory verse we helped them to learn. With sadness, I recall that an extra sack lunch was the coveted prize for reciting the verse without any mistakes. Food is scarce in the dump. I remember the family that we helped by building bunk beds for their children. The sweet man who made gifts for our students and the precious baby that we all took turns holding will forever be in my mind. Together we scraped and painted a medical building, renovated a house, and taught Vacation Bible Schools. We worked side by side with the incredible people in Guatemala City who live surrounded by mountains of garbage. God allowed us to step into their lives for just a brief moment, and this letter reminds me of the boldness that I prayed for on that trip. It was a boldness to tell them of a Savior that loves them. 

I spent many years studying and growing in God’s Word. Now it was my turn to “go.” In Mark chapter 15, Jesus tells us to “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel.” I went to Guatemala with a desire for others to know that Jesus came to save us from our sins. He lived a perfect life and died on a cross. On the third day, He conquered death and rose from the grave and went to Heaven to prepare a place for us. Jesus came for the people living in that dump in Guatemala, and He came for you and for me.   

“Lord, don’t let me forget this feeling of serving you while serving others. Thank you for giving me the desire to ‘go.’ Please do not let me become complacent when I get home. There are people all around me who need you. There are people living in the garbage of this world. Give me the boldness that You gave me here in Guatemala to not just tell them, but to show them with my life what we taught those precious kids today:

You are the God who created us,

You are the God who sees us, 

You are the God who saves us, 

You are the God who provides for us, 

You are love!”

Mark 16:15 says, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’”

Lesson Eighteen • Devotion • Devotion #2: Grace, Grace, God’s Grace

As I read through 2 Corinthians chapter 12 in preparation for writing this devotion, an old hymn began to run through my mind. It is a song that tells of God’s grace. God’s love for us is matchless and His grace is greater than all our sin.  

Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that is greater than all our sin.
Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

The measure of God’s grace is unfathomable. While we were sinners and completely unlovable, Christ not only loved us, He left Heaven and came to this fallen Earth and died on a cross for us. God loves every one of us enough to pursue us, just as He did the Apostle Paul. Paul had to be struck blind before he saw the grace of God. 

Paul’s life as an apostle was hard, he was beaten, and imprisoned multiple times for spreading the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Yet, in 2 Corinthians 12:5, he boasted of his weakness. It was a weakness that led to total dependence on the strength of the Lord.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10 (NLT), we read, “So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.  Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

So many things in life can make us feel weak. Illness, sadness, loss, anger, pain, depression, or even lack of sleep, can all cause us to have feelings of weakness. We do not know what the “thorn” was that Paul refers to here in Scripture, but we do read that it caused him to feel weakness and he asked the Lord to take it away.  

Scripture records Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” We can confidently believe that Paul found his strength in God as we read his story throughout the New Testament. Once a teacher of the law and persecutor of Christians, Paul’s life took a dramatic change after he met the Lord on the road to Damascus. Scholars say that Paul traveled over 10,000 miles on his missionary journeys as he labored to tell as many people as he could of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

The incredible thing about our great God is, as much grace as He pours out, He never has any less grace to give. Like Paul, we are made stronger in Christ. God’s grace will always be sufficient for whatever weakness we may encounter in this life. His grace is still freely bestowed on all who believe.  

“So let us come boldly 

to the throne of our gracious God. 

There we will receive his mercy,

and we will find grace 

to help us when we need it most.” 

Hebrews 4:16 (NLT)

Lesson Fourteen • Devotion #6: Be a Cheerful Giver

“I really don’t need to write to you about this ministry of giving for the believers in Jerusalem. For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.” 2 Corinthians 9:1-2

I love the way this passage of Scripture begins. Paul is excited about the generosity of the people in Corinth. He has been boasting of how eager they are to help others. Their excitement and enthusiasm was an encouragement to other believers.  

We find the Corinthians here giving to the work of the church. God starts in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, teaching us to give to the work of God. Paul continues the Lord’s teaching and in 2 Corinthians 9:7b-8 (NLT), says: “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 

When we moved into the warehouse at the Holly location we raised money to purchase additional chairs. My heart was so excited to think about someone coming to the church and hearing the Gospel for the first time while sitting in a chair that had been purchased with the help of our church body.  

The Bible mentions money over 800 times and more than half of the parables that Jesus taught were lessons about money. Our wise God knew that we would need a lot of direction in this area. The Psalms say that the Lord delights in His people. Would it not be incredible to know that we excited God with our generous giving? Scripture says, when we sow generously, we will also reap generously.  

The typical title for 2 Corinthians chapter 9 is “God loves a cheerful giver.” I see it in all of my Bibles. What a great title!  We should be cheerful when we give to God, after all, God generously provided all that we have!   

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Lesson Eight • Devotion #1: Treasure in Clay Jars

My daughter loves pottery. Years ago, at an art show, she found a potter who had given us both an appreciation for handcrafted art. When my daughter first discovered the world of pottery, she bought a couple of small pieces. That night, when she got home, we talked about the art show as she revealed her treasures. The artist is an incredible craftsman; over the years we have both collected many beautiful pieces. He made the canisters that I use and also the most unique teapot that I have ever seen. They look beautiful on my kitchen counter and remind me of the wonderful times my daughter and I have had together wandering through the potter’s booth and thoughtfully choosing something special to bring home.  

Like so much in life, pottery is fragile and can easily be broken. The lid for one my canisters was dropped on the day when I was cleaning it and now has a chip in the top. I do not think anyone notices the flaw, but I know it is there and always turn it to the back when I see it.

Did you know that God is called a potter? Isaiah 64:8 (NLT) says, “And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.” God is the potter and we are the clay. Think about that. The God of the universe formed each of us, we are the work of His hands. 

In 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT), we read, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” 

In 2 Corinthians, Paul refers to our bodies as clay jars. There, God’s Word tells us that our fragile earthly bodies will waste away, yet because of the power of God, our spirits are being renewed day by day. Like that canister lid, we all have some broken and flawed areas in our lives. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness of life. When we are saved through faith and begin a relationship with Him, God no longer sees our sin but sees us as filled with the treasure of the Gospel. One day all believers will be completely renewed and free of our flaws and troubles. So, fix your gaze on Jesus and let your light shine for Him!

Finally, in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NLT), we read, “That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”

Lesson Three • Devotion #6: Be an Encourager

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:1-2

When was the last time you received a letter in the mail? I am not talking about junk mail, with a computer label with your name spelled wrong, but an envelope with a handwritten address sent to you by someone that cares about you? 

In 2005, my son joined the Marines. While he was in boot camp, he did not have access to a telephone, so the only communication we had with him was through letters. For thirteen weeks, he wrote letters on Sundays and sent them home. I checked the mailbox every day looking for his handwriting, hoping to find a letter to tell me how the one I loved and prayed for was doing. Those letters are still a treasure to me.   

The Apostle Paul was a letter writer. His letters are scattered through the New Testament, and today we can be inspired by the words that Paul wrote to encourage those in the cities that he traveled to as he spread the Gospel. Paul covered thousands of miles in his missionary journeys, and he grew to care about the people that he met in his travels. He kept in contact with them by writing to them. Paul’s letters encouraged the new believers. His letters let them know that he had not forgotten about them and reminded them of the love God had for them. He also wrote to remind them how a follower of Jesus was supposed to live. Even though Paul encountered many hardships and suffered tremendously for preaching the Gospel of Jesus, he continued sending letters to encourage believers to stay strong in their walk with the Lord.  

Paul’s letters encouraged the believers of his day, and they still encourage believers today.

In his letters, Paul reminds us how much God loves us. In Romans 5:8, he says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Paul encourages us to pray in Philippians 4:6, saying, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” 

Paul reminds us that we are strong when we depend on Christ Jesus. In Philippians 4:13 (NKJV), he says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  

In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV), Paul encourages us to encourage others. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 

Go to God’s Word, read Paul’s letters, and be encouraged. Who can you be an encouragement to today?

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