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. God's plan

Adopted into the Family

With all the benefits that go with it…

The Bible has several stories of adoption. Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. Esther was adopted by Mordecai. Jesus was treated as a son by Joseph, even though Joseph was not his biological father.

Adoption is amazing. It turns strangers into family and turns orphans into sons and daughters. But the deepest, strongest, and most amazing act of adoption is not when people adopt children, but when God adopts people.

For it was always in his perfect plan to adopt us as his delightful children, through our union with Jesus, the Anointed One…and this unfolding plan brings him great pleasure!

Ephesians 1:5-6

We are more than just God’s creation. We are more than just his servants. And God is more than just our judge. He is our father. When we give our lives to Jesus, we become part of God’s family, with all the benefits and rights that come with being his adopted child. Our God-planned destiny from the beginning was to be adopted into his family.

It’s hard to believe, but it gives God great joy and pleasure to adopt us. We weren’t cute, cuddly, and captivating. On the contrary, we were a mess. We were all born with evil, selfish natures. Our lives expressed the depravity inside us, as we pursued any wicked thought springing from our selfish nature. We deserved God’s anger. Yet, when we were unlovable, he still loved us. God loved us so much that he adopted us. He made us his very own children.

What does that mean? When someone adopts a child, they make that child part of their family forever. They give that child their family name, invest their time in that child, bear the necessary costs to support that child, and make that child an heir of their estate. Adopting a child is a huge, weighty, life-altering decision.

God made that decision for us from the beginning. He knew how much trouble we would be and the price it would cost, but he never wavered. He adopted us and gave us the right to call him, “Daddy.” He didn’t do it out of obligation or pity. Our heavenly Father adopted us out of love. We are part of the family of God, dearly loved, forever.

If you are a Christian, you are a child of the living God, adopted into his family. Because you are his child, God loves you, protects you, and provides for you. He will never leave you. He will hear and answer your prayers. He will make a way for you. Always. That’s what a good father does…and God is a very good father.

Father, I am thankful to be adopted into your family. I’m overwhelmed that you loved me enough to adopt me and make me your child. I want to grow into your image. Thank you for your grace, your presence, and your overwhelming love. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Claim These 17 Words Today

Need some words to live by?

I love me some Chick-Fil-A. Give me a Chick-Fil-A sandwich with extra pickles and some fresh-out-of-the-fryer waffle fries with a large unsweet tea and I’m a happy girl. I don’t need a cow to tell me to, “eat mor chicken.” I’m a self-motivated chicken eater.

Chick-Fil-A’s vision is to, “be America’s best quick-service restaurant.” Their purpose is, “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-Fil-A.”

There’s a lot more to running a Chick-Fil-A than just knowing the vision and purpose. I’m sure there’s written info about how to run a cash register, how to make a milkshake, and how to greet customers. But their vision and purpose provide a concise statement that gives overall direction to the organization.

Have you ever wished for a concise statement about how to live a Christian life? Ephesians 5:15 says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” Did you ever wonder what that meant? How do you live wisely? How can we be careful about how we live?

In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, we read seventeen wise, concise, and directional words. In these few words, we see an overview of how we should live. We are given values that enable us to live wisely. Here are the seventeen words:

Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.

So simple. So short. And yet so powerful. Stick, “I will,” in front of each sentence, and you’ve got some forceful and compelling words to live by.

Of course, the Bible gives more detailed information about how to live, but these words give a great overview. If everyone embraced these seventeen words, what a change that would make in the world. Families would be stronger. Addictions would be broken. Kindness would abound. All this and more would result if we stayed alert, lived out our faith, acted with courage instead of fear, and walked in the strength of God.

And just imagine if we did what we did because of love. Everything. All the time. Y’all, that kind of living changes the world. That’s the kind of life Jesus lived. And that’s the kind of careful, wise living Jesus wants for us.

It’s only five actions and only seventeen words but they sure pack a punch. Let’s strive to be awake and aware, rooted in the truth of the faith, fearless, and strong in the power of God. And at the core of it all—our calling and purpose—is love. Let’s love God with all our hearts, and love others in the way God has loved us. May we live wisely and walk worthy of our incredible calling.

Dear God, I want to live with these seventeen words embedded in the fabric of my life. Lord, keep me alert, true to my faith, courageous, and strong. And fill me with a supernatural love that reaches out to warm the world and point people to you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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The Definition of a Winner

Does someone have to lose for someone else to win?

I like to win. You probably like it, too. When I was in fourth grade, I won a writing contest. When I was in middle school, I won a spelling bee. When I was in college, I won a freshman essay competition.

I never won a race, a gymnastic meet (I could barely execute a forward roll), or any sort of athletic competition. I never won the lottery. I never won an art competition.

It’s not surprising that I avoid athletic competition, lotteries, and painting. We tend to avoid venues in which we are likely to lose.

We like to win. We live in a competitive world. We want the best jobs, houses, talents, kids, and, most importantly, the best hair. Worldly winning requires comparing ourselves to someone else. It also requires someone to lose.

The kingdom of God doesn’t work that way. We are not competing with each other. Galatians 5:26 says, “Let us not become conceited, competing against each other, envying each other.” We don’t compare ourselves with others and puff up with pride. We don’t compete with each other to feel good about ourselves. And we aren’t jealous when someone else does well.

Winning, as a disciple of Christ, means showing kindness, love, and forgiveness. It means serving others. It means putting the needs of others above our own. It means walking in faith. We don’t have to compare ourselves to anyone else. And no one has to lose for us to win.

When I won in fourth grade, I got a silver dollar and I have no idea what happened to it. When I won in middle school, I got the to go to the district spelling bee, where I lost on the word, “matrimonial.” When I won the essay competition, I got a small scholarship to a college I only attended for one semester.

Those wins, in the grand scheme of things, meant nothing. I have nothing to show for those so-called victories. Not so with spiritual victories:

“If your faith remains strong, even while surrounded by life’s difficulties, you will continue to experience the untold blessings of God! True happiness comes as you pass the test with faith and receive the victorious crown of life promised to every lover of God!” (James 1:12).

Our “wins” as a Christian are eternal. Every kindness is recorded. Every difficulty we endure is noted. Our faith is recognized. And when we receive our reward for those things, it will be an eternal reward. It will never fade, it will never disappear. The ultimate victory is the crown of life we receive in heaven–and hearing the Lord say, “well done.”

No other victory compares to the victory of a disciple of Jesus who crosses the finish line and makes it home. And that, my friend, is the definition of a winner.

Dear God, give me grace to run my own race without comparing myself to others. Let me not be conceited or driven to prove my value by competing with others. Help me remember that winning means faith that endures, patience during difficulties, and perseverance in all circumstances. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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One Thing Lacking

“Jesus fixed his gaze upon the man, with tender love, and said to him ‘Yet there is still one thing in you lacking…’” (Mark 10:21)

In Mark, chapter 10, we read about a man who had a problem—one he probably didn’t realize he had. This man was young and wealthy. One day, he came running to Jesus, knelt in front of him, and asked what he must do to have eternal life.

Jesus said, “You already know the commandments.” The man knew the Jewish law well and carefully obeyed them. To look at him, one would think he had it made. He was successful. He didn’t steal, commit adultery, lie, or cheat. And he was in the right place, kneeling at the feet of Jesus.

He probably expected a pat on the back and kind words. What he actually received must have shocked him to his core.

Jesus gazed at the young man with genuine love and with deep understanding of his heart. Jesus told him he lacked one thing. Jesus didn’t say what the one thing was, but gave him instructions: “Go and sell everything, give the money to the poor, and return and follow me.”

The young man loved his possessions too much. He knew the next step he needed to take. But he couldn’t do it.

He hung his head, turned, and walked away. It’s like being diagnosed with a disease and prescribed a pill that will restore us to full health but choosing to walk away, choosing disease instead of healing. This young man chose his to keep his problem.

We know nothing else about the young man’s life, but we know he chose his stuff instead of his next step. He chose his stuff instead of restoration.

Friend, no one knows how to make us whole except Jesus. We can’t fix ourselves. Honestly, most of the time we don’t even know for sure what needs fixing. We struggle with unforgiveness, depression, anger, and so much more. We desperately need Jesus. We need to run to him, kneel at his feet, ask what we’re lacking, where we’re coming up short, and how we can move from where we are toward where we could be.

When we do, he’ll look at us with genuine love. And he’ll give us a next step. While change sometimes happens instantly, more often it is a process. Jesus’s part in the process is to direct us to our next step. Our part is to obey, to actually do what we know he wants us to do. Even when it’s hard. Even when it’s not what we expected. And even when it costs us something.

It’s by taking one step, and then another, that we transform into the person God created us to be. Be wise. Be brave. Take that next step.

Dear God, examine my heart. Look at my life. Where do I need to change? What issues do I need to deal with? And, Lord, what is my next step? I believe you have a purpose for my life, and I know I can’t fix myself or get there by myself. I need your direction. Give me faith, courage, and an obedient heart to change my life step by step. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Your turn: What advice do you have for someone struggling with their next step? Let us know in the Leave a Reply section below.

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A New Identity

 “Jesus replied, ‘You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being. Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.’” (Matthew 16:17-18)

Reginald Kenneth Dwight changed his name to Elton John. Peter Gene Hernandez changed his name to Bruno Mars. Eric Marlon Bishop changed his name to Jamie Foxx. And Mark Sinclair Vincent became Vin Diesel.

It’s common for celebrities to change their name to further their career—no big deal. But in Matthew 16, Jesus himself changed Simon’s name, and when Jesus changes your name, it’s a very big deal. It isn’t just a change of name, it’s a change of identity.

Here’s the story. Jesus and the disciples were walking along one day, and Jesus asked them who people said he was. They said people thought Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or some other prophet. Then Jesus got to the heart of the question—who did the disciples think he was?

Simon quickly answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus told Simon that his answer came through a revelation from God. Simon didn’t figure it out for himself. He didn’t learn it from a friend or a rabbi. No, God himself revealed Jesus’s identity to Simon.

When we have a revelation of Jesus’s identity, it changes our identity. Revelation gives us mission, purpose, and confidence about who we are in Christ. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. Simon was a fisherman, but Peter was a fisher of men. Simon lived a quiet life on the Sea of Galilee, but Peter possessed the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Simon was often unstable, but Peter was solid as a rock.

Peter’s identity, purpose, and mission was tied to his revelation of Jesus’s identity. In Ephesians 1:17, Paul prays for God to give all Christians everywhere a personal revelation of Christ so each of us can comprehend who Jesus is—savior, redeemer, healer, protector, provider. He is Emmanuel, God with us. He is the beginning and the end. Jesus is the lion of Judah and the light of the world. Everything we could ever need is embodied in Jesus Christ.

We all need a personal revelation of the majesty and glory of Jesus. We need this revelation from God—not from our pastor or our parents, but straight from God. We need a revelation of Jesus’s virgin birth, his perfect life, the miracles he performed, and the passion of the cross. We need a revelation of the power that raised Jesus from the dead, the same supernatural power that  inhabits his followers.

When we really grasp the identity of Jesus, our identity changes. A revelation of Jesus shows us our purpose and our mission. If your revelation of Jesus has grown dim, pray for fresh anointing. Revelation is offered freely to everyone who seeks it.

Dear God, I ask you today to refresh my revelation of who Jesus really is. I know he is the son of the living God. I know Jesus paid the price for my forgiveness and my freedom. Immerse my identity, purpose, and mission in the identity of Christ. In the name of Jesus, amen.

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Potential Is a Strange Thing

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)

Potential is strange. We may fail to live up to our potential. We may over achieve and exceed our potential. Nobody really knows how much potential they have. The problem is that potential is difficult to evaluate and, honestly, none of us are very good at estimating potential.

Case in point: Thomas Alva Edison was one of the most innovative inventors in history. His creation of the light bulb and the telephone forever changed the way we live. His 1,094 patents remain an American record.

But people weren’t very accurate judges of Edison’s potential. One of his teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” His bosses weren’t feeling his potential either, as he was fired from his first two jobs. He tried over 1,000 times before he invented a viable light bulb.

It looked as though Edison had very little potential. But people are generally unable to correctly measure another person’s potential, and we constantly underestimate our own. Only God really knows the potential within us.

God created our potential. He’s the only one who truly knows what we are capable of becoming and doing. Without God in our lives, we are incapable of maximizing the astounding potential housed within us. But with God in our lives, it’s a whole different story. With God, nothing is impossible for us.

Potential is like a seed. A seed contains the potential for life and growth, possibly the potential for blossoms, fruit, or towering trees. Yet, seeds look unassuming and outwardly give no clue to the potential locked inside. Who would think to look at it that a small black watermelon seed could grow into a huge, juicy, pink-and-green watermelon? Potential comes from what is inside, not the outside appearance.

Just as a seed must be planted to reach its potential, we must be rooted in God to reach our potential. We must accept Jesus as our Savior, spend time in prayer, and devote ourselves to God’s word. We must be obedient to God’s direction in our lives.

Friend, you are filled with immense potential give to you by the God who created you. Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” That’s a powerful statement: With the strength of Christ enabling us, there’s nothing we can’t do. Every action we take and every word we speak is filled with potential and power.

What has God called you to do? What dream has he placed deep in your heart? What have you longed to do for God, but were too afraid of failure to try? Believe in your identity in Christ. Believe in your God-given potential. In obedience and faith, take your next step.

Father God, I am grateful for the potential and purpose you placed in my life. I put my hope, trust, and faith wholeheartedly in you. When I am tempted to focus on my flaws and weaknesses, turn my eyes toward your holiness and strength. Help me believe your word when it says I can do all things through Christ. Show me my next step and give me courage to take it. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Have a comment or a prayer request? We’d love to hear from you and to hold you up in prayer. Just leave a message for us in the “Reply” section below.

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Nothing Lacking

“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1)

Do you worry about not being enough? Strong enough. Successful enough. Patient enough. Smart enough. Do you sometimes feel you’re just not good enough? Our insecurities and feelings of inadequacy often cause us to question whether we’re enough.

The truth is, we’re not enough. We never will be. On our own, our best efforts shrivel up like an old leaf blown away by the wind (see Isaiah 64:6). We weren’t created to be enough on our own. We were created to be made complete by God. We can’t be a good enough parent, a good enough spouse, or even just a good enough person without God.

We’re not enough. But, with God…we are more than enough.

Moses worried that he wasn’t enough. God interrupted Moses’s ordinary day with a very extraordinary sight—a bush on fire that didn’t burn up!  God told Moses to go to Egypt and tell Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery. In spite of the burning bush and God’s clear direction, Moses argued with God: “I am not a great man! How can I be the one to go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).

Moses begged God to send someone else. He told God all the reasons he would fail in this mission, all the reasons he wasn’t enough.

God finally instructed Moses to tell Pharaoh that “I AM” sent him. Moses said, “I’m not enough.” But God said, “I AM.”

We’ve all felt inadequate at some point in our lives. And that’s OK. We don’t have to be adequate because our God is completely adequate. We don’t have to be strong because God is strong in our weakness. We don’t have to be smart because we have the mind of Christ. Anytime we say, “I’m not enough,” God says, “I AM.”

Colossians 2:10 says, “And because you belong to Christ you are complete, having everything you need…” We aren’t missing or lacking anything. We are complete. Christ in us is enough.

Still not sure? Philippians 4:19 says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” God has everything we need. When we feel we aren’t enough, it is his great delight to give us what we need.

As a child of God, we never have to worry about coming up short or not being enough. Because of God’s grace, we are always enough.

Dear God, when my faults and inadequacies make me feel less than enough, help me remember your great love for me. Help me remember that any good thing I accomplish is because of the strength you give me and not of myself. Let me lean more on your power and less on my own. I know you will not leave me lacking. I know that when I am not enough, Christ in me is enough. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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The Enemy Knows Who You Are…Do You?

“…If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Sarah Connor: But I didn’t do anything.

Kyle Reese: No, but you will.

These words are from an old 80’s movie, The Terminator. If you’re thinking of watching it, we recommend you opt for a cleaned up version, but the premise of the movie illustrates something important about our identity.

In the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger played a murderous Cyborg from the future who traveled back in time to kill Sarah Connor. Kyle Reese traveled back to save Sarah’s life because, unknown to her, she had an important role to play in the future. Her son would one day save the human race.

Sarah finds it hard to believe and accept her identity as the mother of the man who will save the earth from the killer machines. Sarah tells Kyle, “Oh, come on. Do I look like the mother of the future? I mean, am I tough? Organized? I can’t even balance my checkbook.”

Sarah struggled to believe what Kyle said about her identity. She saw herself as a flighty, struggling waitress. She couldn’t picture herself in an important role. She didn’t think she was capable enough or gifted enough to really impact the world.

Though she didn’t know who she was, her enemy knew her real identity. He realized her significance. And because of that, he was on a mission to destroy her.

Each of us has an enemy on a mission to destroy us. That’s just a fact. He knows our real identity. He knows the power of a forgiven, born-again man or woman who embraces their identity as a child of God. He knows the tremendous impact of people who pray, share the gospel, and spread God’s love like crazy. He knows the vast potential of a confident Christian to impact the future. He knows it all too well.

He knows who you really are. But do you?

In her book, “Girls with Swords,” Lisa Bevere says: “Satan has made it his aim to distract you from who you really are and what the purpose of your life truly is. It is his focused objective to lure you off the path of strength, life, and authority and onto a course of intentional destruction.”

Satan’s primary weapon is to trick us into believing his lies—especially lies about who we are and why we’re here.

Hebrews 10:35 encourages us in our identity: “So don’t lose your bold, courageous faith, for you are destined for a great reward.” We are people of faith, courage, and destiny. A mistake, a failure, or a setback doesn’t change who we are.

If you ever wonder who you are and why you matter, here’s the answer: You are a highly valued, dearly loved child of the most-high God, anointed for a purpose and destined for victory.

Dear God, it’s hard to believe that the creator of the universe loves me personally and has purpose for my life. Help me walk in the power of your anointing, confident in my purpose. Protect me from the lies and tricks of the enemy. Keep my eyes focused on you so that I one day receive the reward you have waiting for me. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Peel Off That Label

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12)

Many of us have a storage closet, garage, or attic filled with boxes. We may even label the boxes with words like, “Fragile,” “Old Clothes,” or “Books.” Labeling allows us to easily identify the box we need. It’s a helpful organizational tool. We sometimes label canisters, shelves, office drawers, or other things. Labels are a tool we use to categorize the complexity of our environment.

Sometimes we use labels as a short cut to categorize people. Labeling boxes is helpful, but labeling people is dangerous.

We may categorize people by personality, by achievement, by race, by religion, by appearance. And, often, our labels are wrong, hurtful, and damaging.

We see the effects of labels in our own lives. What labels have been placed on us? Loser. Failure. Addict. If we hear these words about ourselves enough, we begin to internalize them. We begin to believe the labels. For example, we may start to accept that we are just an angry person. We think, “I can’t help it. I’ve always had a bad temper. I might as well get used to it.”

And sometimes the hardest labels to shake are the ones we give ourselves.

Friend, you are not your labels. If you have asked Jesus to forgive your sins and given your life to him, the labels placed on you by the world are no longer your identity. Your past does not predict your future. And your present is not your ultimate destination.

Galatians 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” When we are saved, our old, sinful self was crucified, along with all of those false labels the enemy tried to put on us. We are not defined by those false labels, but by Christ living in us.

We look to God’s word for true labels. God’s word says we are:

  • Lavishly loved. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God…” (1 John 3:1)
  • Highly valued. “For God bought you with a high price…” (1 Corinthians 6:20)
  • Planned with purpose. “…Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it.” (Ephesians 2:10)

The reality of God’s word completely supersedes the false labels we used to carry. When Christ is in our hearts, old labels no longer apply. It’s time to peel off those false labels and live out the truth of our identity in Christ.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for me. Thank you for the price you paid for me and the future you have planned for me. Lord, sometimes I lose sight of who I am in you and accept labels the enemy wants to place on me. Today, I reject those labels. I know that I am who your word says I am. My identity is in you. Help me live out the purpose you have for my life and not to be limited by false labels. In Jesus’s name, amen.

How have labels affected your life? Share in the Reply section below.

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Filled with Joy

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” (James 1:2-3)

Carrying a child and giving birth involves a lot of unpleasantness and pain. Morning sickness and nausea. Back aches and fatigue. Roller-coaster hormone fluctuations. Not to mention the pain involved in labor and giving birth. Yet, despite the pain and discomfort, women often refer to pregnancy and childbirth as a joyous occasion. Why? It’s joyous because the pain is temporary, and they know that in the end, they will greet their newborn, beloved son or daughter.

An expectant mother looks past the negative in the struggle and sees the positive result at the end. In the same way, we don’t experience joy only when everything is going our way. We can be filled with joy through the difficulties, through the pain, and through the struggles, because we anticipate a positive result at the end.  

Biblical joy is choosing to respond to external circumstances with inner contentment and satisfaction because we know God will use these circumstances for our good and for his glory.

That’s why James says that troubles are an opportunity for joy for Christians because troubles strengthen our character and enable us to better serve God. Because we know God works everything for our good, we can be joyful and content in every circumstance of our life, because we are certain of a positive outcome from every difficulty we face.

Biblical joy is not the same as happiness. It’s not the result of success or circumstances—it’s so much more! Joy is a supernatural fruit produced in the lives of those who follow Jesus.

Joy gives us strength. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “…Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!”

Interestingly, negative emotions such as anger, fear, and hopelessness are associated with many health issues, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, and infections. On the other side of the spectrum, positive emotions such as gratitude, contentment, and expectation of a good outcome result in longer, healthier lives. The joy of the Lord brings contentment and optimism. Joy strengthens our spirit and our body.

In every situation, we make a choice. Will we choose worry? Will we choose resentment? Will we choose fear? Or will we choose to look beyond our current circumstances and focus on the faithfulness of our heavenly father? Joy is a choice. Choose joy.

Heavenly father, I know you are the source of joy. Thank you for giving me access to a supernatural joy that transcends my circumstances. Fill me to overflowing with joyful, calm contentment, knowing that every moment of my life is covered in your unfailing love and guarded with your unsurpassed wisdom. I know joy is a choice. Help me choose joy. In Jesus’s name, amen.