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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What country was the first truly 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. This 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 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.

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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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“And the special gift of ministry you received…keep that ablaze! God doesn’t want us to be shy with his gifts, but bold and loving and sensible” (2 Timothy 1:6-7 MSG).

What are your secret talents?

I think my secret talent is related to my hair––blonde with streaks of white. Can hair be a secret talent? Maybe. But…maybe it’s not my hair that’s a secret talent. Perhaps it’s what my hair can do––attract little girls like a magic magnet.

I noticed this secret talent a few years back when little girls started to stare and smile at me. Living in a country where blondes are not seen often, I accredited my attraction to little girls to my hair––and being a tall blonde––a sight rarely seen in Bolivia. When I first noticed this secret talent, it opened doors to ministry with little girls, especially during Sunday School hours.

When my daughter was a small child, her hair attracted attention on the streets of Bolivia. Whenever we walked around the city where we lived, people constantly touched her long, curly blonde hair. Since my aging brought with it bottled blonde hair with white streaks, I, too, became a rarely seen sight. But then, something else entered into my secret talent.

On furloughs, I also noticed this happening in the States where blonde hair is not unusual. Being a children’s writer, I’ve always connected with children—but not in such a magical way as I do with little girls. When I meet or talk with little girls, I automatically talk on their level and so love being with them. I truly believe God has given me a special gift of ministry with children—a secret talent—especially with little girls. It’s so much fun!

God gives us all special talents and gifts and uses them for His Kingdom. They can be fun, too. What’s your special gift of ministry?

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 the author of several children’s books and devotionals. Her latest book is Shape Your Soul—31 Exercises of Faith that Move Mountains, a women’s devotional. Visit  www.PeggyCunningham.com.

 

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One summer I visited sites of the seven churches of Revelation (Rev. 1–3). A congregation at each of these sites received a message from Jesus Christ. And while two thousand years separate us, their messages from Christ are still relevant.

Ephesus: The Ephesians lost their first love. Think about this. Nobody has to tell a fiancée to avoid flirting. Her actions reveal her loyalty. Do your works give evidence of your love?

Smyrna:  Many think “Smyrna” is a Greek translation of the Hebrew “myrrh.” To make myrrh, one must crush a fragrant plant. In suffering, are you giving off a fragrant aroma to God?

Pergamum: Pergamum’s people worshiped at the temples of false gods. Yet sadly it was the words of their own teachers that pulled down the Christians. Are you discerning what is true?

Thyatira: Many experts think heretics encouraged Christian business owners here to join trade guilds that brought profits but involved immoralities. Are you compromising vs. enduring consequences for doing right?

Sardis: Smug citizens of Sardis felt nothing could reach them as they sat atop a 1,500-foot cliff. Yet Sardis fell to Cyrus after a soldier openly accessed a secret passageway. In what ways are you complacent about your strengths?

Philadelphia: Philadelphia had a long history of earthquakes. When the shaking stopped, only pillars were left standing. To people with little strength in Philadelphia, Jesus promised, “I will make you pillars.” Are you feeling weak in the faith? Ask God to help you endure to the end.

Laodicea: Water traveled six miles through an aqueduct to reach Laodicea. Mountain water arrived at “room-temperature” and steaming water from hot springs arrived lukewarm (see photo). Christ warned those in Laodicea against the “lukewarm” temperature of ho-hum faith. In what areas of your spiritual life are you passionless?

We need the same warnings as did our first-century brothers and sisters. And we also receive the same promises. Though poor, we can be rich. And we can dwell as pillars in the city of our God.

Dr. Sandra Glahn is a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. She’s the author or co-author of more than twenty books including the Coffee Cup series. Learn more about the Book of Revelation by using her study Sumatra with the Seven Churches.

 

 

 

 

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