Devotions

Audrey’s Victory

THOSE WHO ARE GENEROUS INVITE THE GENEROSITY OF OTHERS.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read Psalm 112:1-5.

Verse of the Day:

“The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).

Lynn and Shawna rode with their friend Audrey to the baseball diamond. Audrey had volunteered to take her little brother to his baseball game, and her friends had volunteered to go along with her.

They watched the game for a few innings, then strolled down to the ice-cream stand a couple of blocks away. Each girl placed her order, and Audrey stepped to the window to pay.

“You’re not paying for all that,” Shawna protested.

“Sure I am,” Audrey said. “You guys are keeping me company during Jason’s game.”

“But you paid for me the last time we went out together,” Shawna said.

“No, I didn’t,” Audrey said. “Remember, you bought me that soft pretzel at the skating rink?”

“Yeah, but you bought me a soda at school yesterday, remember?”

“You two are ridiculous!” Lynn shouted. “I can’t believe you’re arguing about who gets to pay!”

“You’re right, Lynn,” Audrey said. She turned to Shawna. “See how ridiculous you’re being?”

“Oh, no, you don’t!” Shawna said. Her face got serious. “Come on, Audrey, I really want to pay. I feel like you’re always paying for me.”

“You guys are embarrassing!” Lynn shouted in frustration.

“I’ve got an idea,” Shawna said. “Let’s flip a coin to see who pays.”

“OK,” Audrey said. “To make it fair, let’s have Lynn flip the coin.” She pointed to a section of pavement a few feet away from the service window. “You call it while it’s in the air, Shawna.”

Shawna stepped next to Lynn, who flipped a nickel in the air. Shawna called “heads,” and watched the coin hit the pavement and roll around until it settled a few moments later. It was “heads.”

“Hah!” Shawna shouted in victory. “I pay!” She turned toward the window, where Audrey stood smiling. She held her friends’ ice-cream cones in her hands.

“I already paid,” she announced. “While you two were watching the coin.”

Shawna shouted in good-natured frustration.

Lynn just shook her head. “I have the weirdest friends,” she said.

TO DISCUSS: Do you know kids who, like Audrey or Shawna, just love to be generous to their friends? Do you think they are usually rewarded or punished for their generosity?

TO PRAY: “God, whenever we’re tempted to act like generosity is a contest, or a game of ‘Can you top this?’, please keep us humble.”



Rules Make Sense

RULES MAKE SENSE-WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THEM.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read Deuteronomy 11:1, 26-28.

Verse of the Day: “Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found” (Psalm 119:35).

Katie had never lived near a pond before.

As soon as Katie and her family had moved into their new house, Mom and Dad had talked to Katie and her brothers about Blueberry Pond. “Nobody is to go to the pond without a grown-up because it can be very dangerous there,” Dad had said.

But one day, Katie’s new best friend, Sarah, said, “Let’s play at Blueberry Pond. I’ll show you where the big old turtle lives!”

“I can’t go to the pond without a grown-up,” Katie said.

“That’s dumb,” Sarah said. “We won’t go near the water at all. Are you scared?”

“No,” Katie said. Suddenly her parents’ rule seemed silly. “OK,” she said slowly, “but don’t ever tell my mom.”

Sarah showed Katie the turtle’s home. They skipped stones. Then they saw a car coming. Katie’s parents got out of the car and called, “Katie, you come here!”

Katie leaped up and walked to her parents, her heart beating wildly. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry!”

Mom and Dad both frowned in disappointment at Katie, but after a moment they took Katie’s hand and led her to the edge of the pond.

“Katie,” Dad said, “do you know why Mom and I made the rule that you can’t come to the pond without a grown-up?”

Katie thought for a moment. “Because you don’t think I’m big enough?”

“No,” Dad answered. “We made the rule to protect you.”

“You did?”

Dad nodded. “Your mother and I love you very much, and the rules we make are for your own good. You see, when I was about your age, I disobeyed my parents and went to a pond by myself. I slipped on the muddy bank and fell in. The pond was very deep, and I didn’t know how to swim. I thought I was going to drown.”

Katie saw Dad’s lip quiver.

“Katie,” Mom said, “disobeying is serious. It almost caused your dad to drown when he was a little boy. We never want that to happen to you.”

“Me, neither,” Katie said, her eyes welling with tears. “I’m sorry I disobeyed. Rules are good, aren’t they, Daddy?”

Mom and Dad hugged Katie tightly. “Yes, they are,” Dad answered. “Especially when they’re made by someone who loves you very much.”

TO DISCUSS: Why wasn’t Katie allowed to go to the pond without a grown-up? God makes rules to protect his children too. What is one of God’s rules that you remember? How do God’s rules keep us safe?

TO PRAY: “Lord, make us walk along the path of your commands, for that is where our happiness is found.”



Good Gifts

GOD IS THE GIVER OF EVERYTHING THAT’S GOOD.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read James 1:13-18.

Verse of the Day:

“The Lord will indeed give what is good” (Psalm 85:12, NIV).

“Can I open it, Mom? Can I?” Steven begged, jumping up and down beside the big box that had just been delivered. Steven’s birthday dinner with his family was scheduled for that evening. He hoped that the package had something to do with that.

“No,” Mom answered softly. “1 think we’ll wait until tonight to open it.”

The rest of the afternoon passed slowly for Steven. He tried to watch television and even rode his bicycle in the driveway for a while, but he couldn’t get his mind off the big box that he would open that night.

Finally, the time came, and Mom called him in for dinner. He went inside and saw that his mother had decorated the dining room with streamers and balloons!

“Can I open it now, Mom?” he asked.

“Not until after dinner,” she said. “But I

will

tell you your Aunt Kate sent it.”

That did it! “Aunt Kate!” Steven cried, and he started jumping up and down. “Aunt Kate sends the best birthday presents in the world!”

Steven made it through dinner and survived the long wait before Mom and Dad let him open his presents. Sure enough, Aunt Kate’s gift—a set of interconnecting building blocks-was his favorite.

That night, as Steven’s mom and dad tucked him into bed, Mom asked him if he had enjoyed his birthday.

“Oh, yes!” he said happily. “Especially Aunt Kate’s present!”

“Aunt Kate loves you very much,” Mom explained. “That’s why she always remembers your birthday. But did you know that there’s someone who gives even better gifts than Aunt Kate?”

Steven’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “You’re making that up!” he said.

Mom smiled. “No, I’m not. God gives better gifts. The Bible says that

all

good gifts come from him.”

“You mean even my connecting blocks come from God?” Steven asked.

“In a way,” Mom said slowly. “Aunt Kate gave those blocks to you.” She hesitated for a moment. “But who gave Aunt Kate to you?”

Steven’s mouth dropped in an expression of realization. “God!” he said.

“That’s right,” Mom said. “And Aunt Kate is just one of God’s many good gifts to us, right?”

“Right!” Steven said.

TO DISCUSS: Spend a few minutes taking turns listing God’s good and perfect gifts to you. Brainstorm ways to praise God for those good gifts.

TO PRAY: “God, you’re the giver of everything that’s good. Thank you for your faithfulness to us.”



Truth is Unchanging

TRUTH DOESN’T CHANGE.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read Isaiah 40:3-8.

Verse of the Day:

“Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth” (John 17:17).

“Hey, Mom, guess what we learned in school today?” Victor took off his raincoat and dropped it on the floor inside the back door.

Mom placed her hands on her hips and frowned playfully at her son. “Hang your coat up first, young man, and then you can tell me.”

Victor did what his mother said, then turned and ran into her open arms.

“Now,” Mom said, picking up Victor and holding him in her arms. “What did you learn in school today?”

“Did you know that people used to think the world was flat?” Victor said.

“Did they?” Mom said, dropping her mouth open in an expression of shock.

Victor nodded. “Yup!” he said.

“If it’s not flat,” Mom said, walking through the kitchen and dining room, and into the front room of the house, “what shape is it?”

“It’s round,” Victor said. “You know that.”

“You’re right,” Mom admitted. They sat down in a chair next to a freestanding globe in the corner of the front room. “But all those years that people

thought

the world was flat, was it flat or was it round?”

Victor thought for a moment before answering firmly, “Round.”

Mom nodded. “That’s right, Victor. You see, what people

thought didn’t change what was true

, did it?”

“No,” Victor answered.

“Hmm,” Mom said, nodding her head in thought. “So during all those years that people thought the world was flat, the

truth

didn’t change, did it?”

Victor shook his head.

“Let me ask you one more question, Victor, before you go outside to play.” Mom combed his hair with her fingers. “Some people say the Word of God isn’t true.” She paused. “What do you think about that?”

Victor pondered his mom’s question for a long minute before answering. “What they

think

doesn’t matter, does it, Mommy?” Victor answered.
“You’re right, Victor,” Mom said. “Because truth doesn’t change.” She stood, and set Victor’s feet on the floor. “But I want

you

to change-into your play clothes.”

“OK,” Victor said, as he ran up the stairs to change out of his school clothes.

TO DISCUSS: What are some of the things that change? What things never change?

TO PRAY: “God, remind us that truth is unchanging, because you are unchanging. Remind us that truth is unchanging, because your Word is unchanging. And help us live according to your truth, not according to human feelings and opinions.”



The Lord is One

GOD VALUES UNITY BECAUSE HE IS A TRINITY, YET ALSO A UNITY.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read John 17:1-11, 20-21.

Verse of the Day:

“Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4, NIV).

Mom and Randy climbed the steps of Randy’s friend Josh’s house. The two boys had made plans to spend the afternoon together, and Mom was dropping Randy off.

“What’s that?” Randy asked, pointing to a silver object beside the door frame.

Mom, who had been reaching for the doorbell, stopped before ringing. She looked at the cylinder. “Oh,” she said, “that’s called a

mezuzah

.”

“A what?”

“A mezuzah,” Mom repeated. “Jewish families put it on their doorposts to remind them of their devotion to God and his Word.”

“What’s inside it?” Randy asked.

Mom’s head tilted. “Little pieces of paper, I think,” she said, “with Scripture verses on them. One of the verses is Deuteronomy 6:4, the one that says, ‘Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.’”

“What’s that mean?” Randy asked.

“Well, you’re just full of questions today, aren’t you?” Mom said. She glanced at the door, hoping that Josh’s parents weren’t just standing on the other side, waiting for her to ring the doorbell. “Well,” she said, pondering just how much detail to provide, “in the time of Moses, all the nations around Israel worshiped many, many gods. Moses announced that Israel worshiped one God, and only him.”

“But Jesus is God, too,” Randy said.

“Yes,” Mom said. “As Christians, we know that God is a

Trinity

, and that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God.”

“But they’re not three gods, are they?” Randy said.

“No,” Mom answered. “That’s something only God can fully understand. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet he is

one

. In fact, his unity is an example to us, because he wants us to reflect his unity. He wants us to be unified, not divided, and to live in harmony with other people, even those who are different from us.”

“Uh, Mom?” Randy said.

“Yes?” she answered, wondering to herself when his questions would stop. “I don’t think you have to ring the doorbell.”

Mom turned and saw Randy’s friend Josh standing in the open doorway, waiting politely for them to Finish their conversation.

TO DISCUSS: How can we reflect God’s unity?

TO PRAY: Pray for your family, using the words of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples: “Father, I pray that our family may be unified, as you and your Son, Jesus, are.”



God Remains Faithful

BEING FAITHFUL ISN’T JUST WHAT GOD DOES; IT’S PART OF WHO HE IS.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read 2 Timothy 2:8-13.

Verse of the Day:

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13, NASB).

Tim’s mouth hung open as he petted the thick striped fur of the tiger cub. “He’s so soft,” he said, “and cuddly.”

The woman who held the cub wore the badge of the city zoo. She was showing Tim and the other members of his home-school co-op the “infant care unit” of the zoo where she worked.

“Can I hold him?” Tim asked.

The woman smiled, nodded, and gingerly transferred the cub to Tim’s cradled arms. “This is so cool,” Tim said. “Could I, like, keep one of these as a pet?” he asked the woman.

She shook her head. “I’m afraid not. You see,” she said, speaking loud enough for the others to hear too, “that cuddly little cub is still a wild animal. And in this state, people aren’t allowed to keep tigers or lions or bears as pets.”

“Why not?” Tim asked.

“Well, no matter how cuddly he is right now, he’ll soon be an adult tiger. And no matter how well you train him, he’ll always be dangerous, because it’s part of his nature. He can’t change his nature. He can’t be anything other than a wild tiger.”

Later that day, as Tim and six other home-schooled kids ate lunch in one of the zoo’s picnic areas, one of the mothers sat down beside Tim with an open Bible.

“I wanted to show you something,” she said. “You remember what that zookeeper told you about the tiger, how it would always be a wild animal because it could never change its nature?”

Tim nodded.

“Well, that reminded me of a Bible verse.” She pointed to 2 Timothy 2:13. “The Bible says that faithfulness is a part of God’s nature. No matter what

we do—whether we’re faithful or unfaithful-he

will always be faithful, because he cannot deny himself. Being faithful isn’t just what God does; it’s part of who he is.”

Tim read the verse from the book that shared his name.

“Now, tell me something, Tim,” the woman said. “Does that make you want to obey God or disobey him?”

“It makes me want to obey him,” Tim said with a shrug. “Because I know he’ll always be faithful to me, I want to be faithful to him.”

“Me too,” the woman said. “Me too.”

TO DISCUSS: What is Paul’s “testimony” of faithfulness, according to 2 Timothy 2:8-13? What is your “testimony”?

TO PRAY: Take turns thanking God for his faithfulness, perhaps using the words of 2 Timothy 2:13: “Thank you, Lord, that even if we are faithless, you remain faithful.”



Man’s Best Friend

FAITHFULNESS IS A GODLY VIRTUE.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read Hebrews 3:1-6.

Verse of the Day:

“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing” (3 John 5, NIV).

Penny jumped and whirled around as she heard the yelp of her little dog, Buster.

“Oh,” she cried, “I’m so sorry, Buster!” She had unknowingly stepped on the schnauzer’s tail, and he had cried out in pain. She knelt down and scooped Buster into her arms just as her mother entered the room.

“What happened?” Mom asked.

Penny explained what she had done and kissed Buster on the top of the head. His tail whacked against her side as he wagged his tail in forgiveness. “I think he forgives you,” Mom said.

“Yes,” Penny said, rubbing her hand over Buster’s head. “He’s a good dog.”

“Man’s best friend,” Mom said as she patted the dog on the head.

“What?” Penny asked.

“Oh, you’ve never heard that expression?” Mom’s eyebrows registered her surprise. “Dogs are called ‘man’s best friend,’” she explained.

“Why?” Penny asked.

“Well,” Mom said, hesitating, “I don’t know. I suppose it’s because they’re so . . . so faithful.”

Penny tilted her head as if she still didn’t understand.

“Take Buster, for example,” Mom said. “Even though you stepped on his tail and hurt him, he’s ready to forgive you immediately. He just wants to be your friend. And he’s always your friend, no matter what happens.”

“Yeah,” Penny said, “he is, isn’t he?”

“That’s faithfulness. And faithfulness is a good thing to have.”

“That’s why he’s ‘man’s best friend,’ isn’t it? He’s my best friend too,” Penny said, scruffing the fur on Buster’s head. The dog wagged his appreciation.

Mom nodded. “You see, people naturally value faithfulness, even in dogs, because faithfulness is a good thing.”

“It’s too bad people aren’t as faithful as Buster,” Penny said.

Mom smiled. She reached over and patted her daughter on the back. “Some are,” she answered.

TO DISCUSS: What is faithfulness? Can you name any people who display faithful­ness to God? to others? to you?

TO PRAY: “Holy God, you’re the only one who is always faithful to us. We value faithfulness because you are faithful.”



Backyard Kindness

KINDNESS IS RIGHT, EVEN WHEN IT’S HARD TO BE KIND.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read Jeremiah 31:3.

Verse of the Day:

“When the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Heather wrestled her two lambs, Snowfall and Sunshine, into their pen in the backyard and then latched the gate. She was raising the two lambs as a 4-H project for the county fair in August. She took them for a walk every night to keep them healthy. She dusted off her hands and stomped toward the house. Her mom met her on the back porch. “Ooh!” Heather said. “That Snowfall!”

“What’s wrong?” Mom asked as they walked into the kitchen together.

“She’s so stubborn!” Heather said. She flopped onto a chair at the kitchen table. Mom sat down next to her. “When I turn her back toward the pen, she starts twisting her leash and trying to get away from me.”

“That’s a pretty smart little lamb,” Mom said.

“Huh?!” Heather responded. “Not really! If she were smart, she’d know she’s just gonna get hit.”

“Heather!” Mom scolded. “You hit her?”

“I had to, Mom! She’s so stubborn. I got frustrated with her. So, I swatted her.” “Honey, you know better. You shouldn’t be cruel to her. She’s one of God’s creatures. And more important, you’re one of God’s children.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” Heather asked.

“Honey, God wants us to become more and more like him. Because he’s kind, we should be kind too.”

“But what difference does it make? She’s just a lamb!”

“That’s not the point. Whether she’s a lamb or a puppy or a colt, the important thing is not what

she’s like, but what you’re like. And when you act kindly toward animals or

people you’re acting like God. You’re reflecting his nature.”

Heather’s form seemed to deflate slightly, like a balloon with a slow leak. “I’m kind to Sunshine,” she said weakly.

Mom smiled. “It’s easy to be kind to someone like Sunshine because she’s so sweet. But kindness is right, even when it’s hard, because kindness is like God.”

“OK,” Heather said softly. She jumped up and headed to the door. “Just one more question,” she said.

“What’s that?” Mom asked.

“How do you apologize to a lamb?”

TO DISCUSS: Why should a person show kindness? What are some ways you can show kindness?

TO PRAY: “Heavenly Father, when we show kindness, we’re acting like you. Help us show kindness this week.”



Prescription for Purity

WE CAN KEEP OURSELVES PURE BY READING GOD’S WORD AND DOING WHAT HE SAYS.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read Psalm 119:1-9.

Verse of the Day: “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules” (Psalm 119:9).

Lisa put the water bottle in her backpack and swung the pack into the air and onto her shoulders. She was ready by the time her dad returned to the path from the creek.

“I see you don’t need any help,” he said. He shouldered his pack in one fluid motion, and they continued their hike to that night’s campsite.

“Dad?” Lisa asked. “When we were talking down by the creek, you said that impure thoughts and deeds can make you sick in your heart and soul.”

Dad nodded.

“What did you mean?”

Dad thought for a few moments before answering. Finally, he said, “Imagine that you heard me talking one day when I didn’t know you were listening, and I was using foul language. How would that make you feel?”

“Awful,” Lisa answered.

“It would make me feel awful, too,” Dad answered, “in here.” He tapped his heart. “I would feel guilty and ashamed because of my impure conduct.” They walked in silence for a few moments. Then Dad continued. “How about this—suppose I started taking drugs. Do you think those drugs I put into my body would be good for me?”

“No,” Lisa answered. “You could get addicted.”

“You’re right. And if I got addicted, I might do things to hurt myself and others. Impurity is not only wrong, it’s almost always harmful, too.” “A lot of people do that stuff, though,” Lisa said.

Dad nodded. “That’s true. But they don’t have to. They could be pure; they just choose not to.”

They walked a while longer in silence. The path was easier now. After a few minutes, Lisa broke the silence.

“I’m glad you don’t do drugs or use bad language, Daddy.”

Dad smiled. “I’m glad none of us do. You know, the Bible says we can keep ourselves pure by reading God’s Word and doing what he says. If we do that, we’ll be a lot better off.”

TO DISCUSS: How can impure conduct be harmful? How can God’s Word help a person stay pure?

TO PRAY: Using your own words, take turns reading out loud a verse from today’s Bible reading, making the words of that verse your prayer. For example: “Lord, I know that people of integrity, who follow your Word, are happy. I want to be a person of integrity.”



Keep Yourself Pure

IN HIS HEART HE KNEW HE DIDN’T WANT TO CHOOSE WHAT WAS RIGHT.

Bible Reading of the Day: Read 1 Timothy 5:22-25.

Verse of the Day: “Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure and right” (Proverbs 20:11).

Kendall sat in the back of the school bus, surrounded by his friends Greg, Michael, and Jeremy. Kendall looked out the window for a few moments, and when he turned around, he noticed that his friends were hunched together in the aisle between the seats.

Kendall peered over Jeremy’s back and saw what they were looking at. Jeremy had pulled a magazine out of his book bag and was showing it to the other guys. Kendall knew what they were looking at even before he saw the pictures of women who were not fully dressed.

Jeremy turned slightly in his seat to make room for Kendall. “Here,” he said with a leer, “take a look at this!”

Kendall froze. He knew what they were doing was wrong. But he wanted to look at the pictures with his friends. And he was afraid that if he didn’t join them, they might make fun of him.

I could just take a quick look at the pictures, he reasoned. That wouldn’t hurt anything. Besides, it’s not like it’s my magazine or anything.

Jeremy and the others hadn’t noticed Kendall’s indecision. Jeremy turned the page and pointed the magazine in Kendall’s direction. “Pretty cool, huh?” he asked.

It wouldn’t be so wrong, Kendall figured, just this once. But then he knew immediately that he was making excuses. He was trying to excuse something that he knew was wrong. He was trying to call it right, but in his heart he knew better. He just didn’t want to choose what he knew was right, because his friends might make fun of him.

Kendall groaned. “You guys can look at that stuff if you want,” he said as he shrugged. “Just don’t show it to me, OK?”

He turned his face toward the bus window. He expected the teasing to start any second. But it didn’t.

He waited a few moments, then sneaked a glance at his friends. None of them paid any attention to him.

Kendall turned his face back to the bus window and let out a sigh of relief that momentarily clouded the surface of the glass. He allowed himself a slight smile and rubbed the fogged window with the tip of his sleeve.

TO DISCUSS: Purity means staying “clean” in thought, word, and deed. Have you ever had to make a decision like the one Kendall made? Describe it. How easy/hard was it to make the decision?

TO PRAY: “Lord, keep us clean in thought, word, and deed.”