Never Stop Praying

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (NLT).

Knowing God’s will for your life doesn’t have to be difficult. If you feel like you’ve lost your purpose, or you’re confused on what the next step is, God’s word will never lead you astray. The above passage reminds us of three different actions we can take to assure we’re on track. The first is always be joyful, and the second is never stop praying.

Another version says to pray all the time (MSG). This doesn’t mean you have to be some kind of spiritual weirdo, always mumbling to yourself or blurting out things no one else understands. It simply means God is always available to talk; the line is always open. He wants to hear from you, and He usually has something to say as well. Unfortunately, we don’t always pick up the phone and call Him, and He often gets a busy signal when He calls us.

I encourage and challenge you today to never stop praying. Make prayer your first response, not your last resort. He desires to hear your voice, and He longs for you to hear His. The beautiful thing is you can talk to Him anywhere and at any time. You can speak to Him out loud, under your breath, or from your heart. He never turns a deaf ear toward your prayers. Make the call today!

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Always Be Joyful

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (NLT).

I think at some point every believer struggles with his or her purpose, or what God’s will is specifically. I’ve certainly been there before, and there are still times when I feel disconnected from Him or don’t really understand the season of life I’m in. If you can relate, my hope is for the next three days to be extremely helpful to you.

First, always be joyful. Contrary to what you might think or feel, you can be full of joy at all times. The Apostle Paul wrote the following from prison:

Philippians 4:4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (NIV)

From his prison cell, Paul reminded himself that he still had something, or Someone, to rejoice about. Notice he chose to rejoice in the Lord. He didn’t sing because he was in prison. He wasn’t excited because his chains matched the garment he was wearing. He made up his heart and mind to praise God because He is good even when circumstances are not. You and I must make the same decision.

Perhaps you feel imprisoned or lost today. Maybe a cloud of uncertainty looms overhead. Even so, I encourage and challenge you to find something to rejoice in the Lord about. God has been so good to you. He’s seen you through so much. You have a testimony of His faithfulness and love toward you. Focus your heart and mind on those things, and praise and gratitude will come spilling out!

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Give Others a Fresh Start

Lamentations 3:23 — Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

If we get a fresh start every day, it’s only right for us to give others one as well. While I’ll be the first to admit this is extremely difficult in many cases, it is a key to having prosperous relationships.

As I mentioned yesterday, we started back to school this week. I am the P. E. teacher at Forest Hill Junior High, so I teach Pre-K through 8th graders. They come to my co-teacher and I at least three times a week each. (7th and 8th come every day!) I get a glimpse into the lives of around 500 children on a weekly basis—ages four through fourteen—and all of them have a reputation that proceeds them.

I do my best not to allow what others have to say to affect my perception of each child, especially if it’s negative. My heart is to get to know all of them personally and form my own opinions. Truth be told, some of the children are more difficult than others. They bend the rules, test all boundaries, and push my buttons, and they do so consistently. It’s very easy to stereotype, categorize, and label such kids. Perhaps you have these kinds of people in your workplace or family.

The challenge I issue myself every morning is the same charge I give you today: Give every person you are in relationship with a fresh start each day. There are new mercies for every rule bender, boundary tester, and button pusher in your life. Sometimes you just have to get over yourself and forgive those who know how to work your nerves. If you will make up your mind to start over with people on a daily basis, eventually your heart will change toward them as well.

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Begin Afresh Each Morning

Lamentations 3:23Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

As I prepare to head back to school this morning, I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness toward me and my family. He has never let us down, nor is He even capable of doing so. It’s not in God’s character to be a disappointment or inconsistent. He is constant and never-changing. I’m so thankful His mercies are new toward me every morning.

God gives us a fresh start every day. From the moment you wake up, He chooses to wipe the slate clean. He doesn’t hold the failures or mistakes of yesterday over your head. He believes the best about you no matter how many times you’ve shown Him your worst. When it comes to our past, I guess you could say He has selective amnesia.

I challenge you to live your life ever-mindful of God’s faithfulness—not just today but every day. His faithfulness is not contingent on yours. You will mess up again. You will let Him down many more times. You will inevitably make more wrong turns. But you can be free of remorse and rejection, knowing there is nothing you can do to change Him because He is faithful. There are fresh mercies awaiting you now. Live in them!

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God Decided

Countless people have been forsaken by those who should have loved them but didn’t. You might be someone who understands what it means to be abandoned or abused by a parent or someone else whose love for you ought to have been a given. I don’t know why the people who were supposed to love you the most loved you the least, but I do know their mistakes and betrayal are not a reflection of God’s love for you. Psalm 27:10 promises, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me” (NIV). It doesn’t matter what your backstory is, you are a perfect candidate to receive God’s love.

The idea His love mirrors that of those who are the source of your greatest disappointment is a lie. God is not capable of letting you down. However, many well-meaning people allocate and hold the sins of others against Him. I can’t blame them for doing so, but they’re wrong.

You may even find yourself there right now. You don’t want to give God the time of day, let alone be like Him. You question: “If He really loves me, how could He allow me to go through the hell I’ve been through?” I’m not going to attempt to answer that question, but I will tell you this. God doesn’t control the choices others make any more than He controls yours or mine. He did not choose for others to hurt you, but He did choose you. You simply have to trust Him.

Ephesians 1:5God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure (NLT).

God decided. It was His decision—His choice, His idea—to welcome you into His family as His child. He delights in you, no matter how dysfunctional your earthly family or relationships are. His arms are wide open to you, even if you’ve been neglected or ignored. Others might have made the decision to walk away from you, but God will never stop pursuing you.

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Don’t Revert Back

Exodus 2:11-12 — One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. Glancing this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand (NIV).

During Israel’s journey to the Promised Land, Moses was a humble man with godly intentions. He knew the voice of the Lord and walked closely to Him, but that was not always the case. As you just read in Exodus 2, Moses struggled with anger early in his life. He became so angry one time that he murdered an Egyptian guard who was mistreating a fellow Hebrew.

After the murder, God handpicked and anointed Moses to be the leader of Israel’s deliverance. With the anointing came the ability to deal with difficult circumstances in a godly manner. Time passed, and Moses led Israel out of bondage. They faced many hardships as they traveled, but Moses was a model of patience. The Israelites complained, and he brought their requests to the Lord. He seemed to have left the past behind him.

Some time later, God gave Moses the chance to prove his character. Unfortunately, he flopped. Moses was armed with a word from the Lord; he was anointed to handle the situation properly, but anger caused him to revert back to his old ways.

Your true character is revealed when you’re under fire. All is well with your attitude as long as life is going as you think it should, but it is only a matter of time before your character will be put to the test. Times of testing reveal what we are made of.

Maybe today you are close to giving up on living a godly lifestyle. God has brought you through so much! Don’t revert back to your past because you are angry. He has anointed you to do what is right. Cast your cares on Him, and allow Him to guide you.

1 Timothy 2:8 — I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy (NLT).

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Anger Breeds Disobedience

Numbers 20:7-8, 11 — The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water”…Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff (NIV).

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, it’s okay to get angry. But when anger becomes sin, you have a problem. Moses demonstrated this truth perfectly.

Moses had seen the hand of the Lord at work time and time again on behalf of the Israelites, but here they complained against God again. Moses was sick and tired of Israel taking God for granted. He took their ridicule personally and got angry. He was justified in his anger, but because he lacked self-control, his anger became sin. He disobeyed God.

Israel was thirsty, so God told Moses to speak to the rock and then water would pour out for them to drink. Instead, out of his frustration, Moses struck the rock twice.

Many times we have legit reasons for being angry, but the minute we lose control and lash out, we step out of God’s will. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil” (NIV). Giving into anger will lead you down a path to destruction. Anger often causes us to ignore God’s command and take a path of our own design.

Perhaps you know all too well what it is I’m talking about today. You’re upset and have been disobedient, and you might even have legitimate reasons for being angry. If you have acted out and ventured away from God’s will, this is your opportunity to get back on track.

I encourage you to repent and receive forgiveness. The best way to correct disobedience is to obey. Do what He has commanded you to do. Get your life back on course today.

James 1:20 — For man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires (NIV).

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