I the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6 NIV).

Tumultuous circumstances jolted me out of my usual schedule. My routine changed drastically on a rainy Sunday morning. A call from our neighbors woke me from a deep sleep.

“Your classrooms are flooding!”

Torrential rains caused the river over the mountain to rush into the valley irrigation ditch that runs behind our property and overflow downward directly into our classroom building on our mission base––narrowly missing our house. Shocked at the sight of six inches of water in the classrooms, my husband and I splashed our way through and commenced the task of cleanup.

All changed that day…week—our plans, our meals, and our priorities. We focused on the task of cleanup. We worked hard and swished the water out of the building with mops and brooms––room by room. Then the scrubbing began, and the airing out, and checking for damage. What a lesson for my life.

Clean up my life daily and focus on priorities. 

I’d been busy with things––people, problems, and goals. My focus had changed to earthly things, not eternal things. God uses circumstances, His Word, and others to teach us His ways––or bring our focus back to Him. Now, water will always remind me to focus on God and His plans when hard things flood my life.

The buildings shine once more, but more importantly, my focus changed. First and always, we should strive to focus on God. Unlike circumstances, people, or possessions that change, God never changes.

We get distracted from time to time, and we’re out of focus.

But looking to the One who never changes puts everything back in focus.

If we adjust the lens of our lives daily, we stay focused on God’s vision––a fresh focus every day.

Peggy Cunningham and her husband are missionaries in Bolivia, South America. They work with the Quechua people and have a children’s ministry. Peggy is author of several children’s books and devotionals. Her latest book is a women’s devotional Shape Your Soul—31 Exercises of Faith that Move Mountains.  www.PeggyCunningham.com .

 

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Dianne Barker, Topics: Marriage * Parenting * Living in joy *

Dianne Barker, CAN Secretary Topics: Marriage * Parenting * Living in joy *

Done… Now What? 

Done. That’s what I told the Lord, repeating it many times during a long drive, alone except for him.

I’m a big dreamer, and I’ve spent my life pursuing dreams. That’s not a bad thing. Other people call this goal setting. I call it pursuing dreams because that’s the way I’ve lived it—chasing dreams the Lord put in my heart.

I did a pretty good job of living in the moment—with plans always simmering. Then I seemed to reach the end of the path. No clear direction to move ahead. So I got honest with the Lord.

I’m done! Done trying to arrange circumstances. Done trying to figure how to use my gifts to bring you glory. My life is yours. If you don’t tell me what to do, I’m done.

I wasn’t quitting on God…just letting him know if nothing else comes, I’ll continue living in the moment, not worrying about the future, content and grateful for my wonderfully blessed life today.

Maybe he accepted that as a fresh surrender. I’m still reeling from what happened next—unexpected opportunities and exciting possibilities, all bearing his fingerprint.

My computer Thesaurus gives these synonyms for surrender: relinquish, give-up, hand over, part with, forfeit, concede.

Many years have passed since I first learned God requires total surrender. Andrew Murray writes in Absolute Surrender, “The condition for obtaining God’s full blessing is absolute surrender to Him…Give yourselves up absolutely to the will of God…what can God do to fill a vessel absolutely surrendered to Him?…God has prepared unheard-of-things, blessings much more wonderful than you can imagine, more mighty than you can conceive.”

These words are embedded in my heart. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I’m done! Lord, your plans are better than mine. You lead. I’ll follow.

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She’s secretary of Christian Authors Network and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

 

 

 

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Saint Gregory

What country was the first Christian nation?

I couldn’t have told you, either, until I read about St. Gregory the Illuminator.

Gregory was born in Armenia, and following a Christian upbringing, he returned to Armenia, where the king appointed him secretary. After a major military victory, the king instructed Gregory to lay wreaths and laurels in a pagan temple as thanks to the gods.

The young man refused.

The king was ticked. “If you don’t worship the idols, I’ll have to kill you.”

Gregory stood his ground. “I believe in Jesus and can’t worship anyone but the Lord God.”

Furious, the king had Gregory tortured and thrown into a deep pit to die.

But God….

A lady up top began lowering food to him—and kept it up for thirteen years! She also passed along news from the upper world, and Gregory started praying for the nation and for sick individuals. Folks began paying attention to this man in a pit. He prayed; they were healed.

Thirteen years later the king himself became ill. Doctors could do nothing for him. His sister had a dream about Gregory and persuaded the court to fetch the pit dweller.

Hauling him up by ropes, they said, “You pray for people, and they are healed. Can you heal the king?”

He prayed, and sure enough, the king was healed. The grateful monarch sent Gregory out to evangelize the entire country. Led by Gregory, the Armenians destroyed their pagan temples and built churches on their sites. Before long, Christianity was adopted as the national religion. Armenia became the first Christian nation in the world.

Are you in a pit? Look up. God’s light and provision sometimes come in unexpected ways.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! (See Philippians 4:13).

Eleanor K. Gustafson, author

Eleanor Gustafson is a minister’s wife, teacher, musician, writer, and encourager. Her passion is God, and then loving people and writing. Her short stories and articles have appeared in national and local magazines. Her pallet of experiences has helped bring color and humor to her fiction. In many of her stories, Ellie explores the cosmic struggle between good and evil in light of God’s overarching work of redemption. Her books include Dynamo, a story about a man, his horse, his faith, and his God. Ellie has three children and eight grandchildren. Visit her at http://www.eleanorgustafson.com.

 

Dynamo, a Novel by Eleanor Gustafson

Dynamo, a Novel by Eleanor Gustafson

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“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…Let us fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a NIV).

A baton strikes a music stand. Absolute silence falls on the auditorium. All eyes fix on the 500-voice choir—all of their eyes are fixed on the director.

He lifts his baton and the orchestra plays. A few measures later, he brings in the sopranos followed by the alto section, then the men. They have learned to read his hand gestures, large and small. When to hush. When to soar. When to accent. When to cut short. When to start. When to stop,

Just as those singers follow their conductor, so also Christians follow the lead of their conductor, Jesus Christ.

The author of Hebrews describes the Christian life as a race. From start to finish, we can fix our eyes on the finish line where Jesus waits. He set the standard for all who have followed when He ran the first heat.

The contest takes perseverance. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint. The course is clearly marked, the rules given in the word of God, and our breath comes from the Holy Spirit. Jesus knows the best way to run. He teaches us how to persevere. The race wasn’t easy for Him either. He endured the cross—and the scorn that came with it.

Like the orchestra conductor, Jesus will tell you when to move quickly and when to slow down. When you follow His instruction, you won’t grow weary. With Him as your compass, you won’t lose your way. He and the Holy Spirit go with you—so fix your eyes on your leader and do as He says.

Darlene Franklin is a best-selling Amazon and ECPA author whose greatest claim to fame is that she continues to write from a nursing home. She keeps going because God keeps giving her more assignments. She’s written more than fifty-five fiction and nonfiction books, including Pray Through the Bible in a Year, Of Cash and Cats, and Love Comes on Kitten Paws. Follow her at https://www.facebook.com/DarleneFranklinFun/.

 

 

 

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Have you ever asked, “Why this waste?”

While Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman brought an alabaster box containing expensive perfume and poured it on his head.

“Why this waste?” said the disciples, indignant. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

The woman’s deed was to prepare him for burial, Jesus said. “Wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her” (see Matthew 26:6-13).

In baffling times when I could see no purpose, I’ve asked, “Why this waste?” Someone I loved was disabled by a devastating disease. A friend’s young child died tragically.

What good could come from such waste?

Scripture gave answers.

  • We may comfort others. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
  • Others see our faith. “Then the Lord said: ‘I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you” (Exodus 34:10).
  • We share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).
  • We learn obedience, as Jesus did. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8 KJV).

God never wastes an experience. Knowing he’s weaving everything together with purpose satisfies me.

Dianne Barker is a speaker, radio host, and author of 11 books, including the best-selling Twice Pardoned and award-winning I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life. She serves as secretary of Christian Authors Network and is a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Women in Media Association. Visit www.diannebarker.com.

 

 

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