Monday

Dear Diary,

What a day! I wonder if I’ll ever be totally accepted by the kids at school. Oh, they are friendly but they always try to get me to be “more like everyone else.” We visit at school and even talk on the phone sometimes, but when it comes to joining them for social activities, I always seem to have something else to do. This morning, Molly and Charlotte were waiting at my locker when I arrived at school. Molly began by telling me what a great party I had missed on Friday night. I told them that Friday night was our young people’s meeting, but they made the party sound like so much fun I wondered if maybe I should have gone with them. Lately, it seems that whenever I get invited to a party or some other place where all the kids go, that’s the very day that I have made other plans for doing God’s work. I need some help to figure out what to do.

Tuesday

Dear Diary,

Mr. Quan gave a pop quiz in Social Studies class today. Wouldn’t you know he’d pick the one and only day that I didn’t get to study! After I finished my math last night, Mom said it was just too late for me to do any more homework. I guess moms can say that, but teachers just don’t understand. Anyway, Tyler was sitting right next to me. He’s the one who’s never gotten a B in his whole life! (That translates to straight A’s.) Well, he was just writing away furiously and not making any attempt to cover up his answers. Then Mr. Quan left the room for several minutes, and I was really tempted to take a quick glance at what Tyler was writing. There were plenty of other kids sharing answers. I hate to think of what an F will do to my average in Social Studies.

Wednesday

Dear Diary,

When I got into my Home Ec class at school this afternoon, Mia accidentally spilled chocolate syrup all over the sleeve of my new jacket. I almost yelled at her and told her what a sloppy person she is. She is always messy! I wish I didn’t have to be in her cooking group. Oh, well, Mom says the stain should come out all right in the wash.

Thursday

Dear Diary,

I’m so depressed. I was just talking to Sophie on the phone. Her folks bought her new skis, a whole new outfit, and skiing lessons for the rest of the winter. Nothing good like that ever happens to me!

Friday

Dear Diary,

Was it just yesterday I was moping about Sophie’s good luck? I can hardly believe what happened today. I passed up a chance for a new ski outfit for myself.

After school I stayed to work in the library for an hour. When Mrs. Gilmore said she was going to close up, I remembered I’d left my gym shorts in the locker and I needed to wash them. I went to the locker room and, lo and behold, there was a pair of ski pants and a gorgeous matching jacket lying on the bench. No one was around. I went into the gym, but no one was there. I came back to the locker room and just stared at that ski outfit. I felt like putting it in my gym bag and leaving for home, instead I took it down to the office and turned it in at the Lost and Found. What a week!

Dear Student,

Go through the diary and underline all the temptations that this young girl experienced. List them on the following lines.

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

Make a check mark by any of the temptations that she gave in to. What did you learn?

Pretend you are her diary and can respond. Write an answer back to her.

Now tell about a time when you were tempted.

Did you give in to the temptation?

What should you do the next time you’re tempted to do or say something wrong? Remember that Jesus resisted temptation by quoting Scriptures. Ephesians 6:17 says that the Word of God is like a sword for us. With every temptation, God makes a way of escape so you will be able to stand up under it. You will find this promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

With God’s help you can make it!

Naeem put his Sunday school learning into practice when dealing with the bully.

Oh, brother! Here comes Lucas, the bully, thought Naeem to himself as he stepped out of the Sunday school van in front of his house. If I can just get inside before he says anything to me . . .

“Hey Naeem! How’re the harp lessons comin’?”

Naeem reluctantly turned around to face Lucas and said cautiously. “Lucas, just leave me alone, okay? I’m not doing anything to you.”

Making faces and pretending to play the harp, Lucas followed Naeem up the driveway and then turned around and left, laughing as he went. As Naeem opened the front door, he thought about how thankful he was nothing had happened this time. Two days before, Lucas had chased him as he was on his way to school, grabbed his lunch and thrown it off the bridge into the river.

“Who was that boy, Naeem, one of your friends?” asked his mother as he entered the living room.

“Hardly. That’s Lucas Rawlins, the school bully. He’s the one that took my lunch Friday.”

As Naeem headed for his room, he thought about what he had learned in Sunday school that morning. Three in One. Holy Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. One God, but they’re all God. His head was spinning as he tried to understand how all this could be. He wished that his parents went to church so that he could ask them to explain things like this. His teacher had told the class that when you’re saved you can understand spiritual things much better. “Maybe it’s time that I get saved,” Naeem said aloud to himself. He sat there for a long time. Finally, he buried his head in his pillow. He told God how sorry he was for the bad things he had done and asked to be forgiven. There was so much he needed to understand in the Bible and only God could help him. In a few minutes he knew that something wonderful had happened. He had never felt this way before!

As he walked home from school the next afternoon, Naeem smiled about what had happened the day before, and how it still felt just as good. In a flash, however his smile disappeared.

“Nitwit Naeem. Did you ever find your lunch?”

Trying not to pay any attention to Lucas, Naeem kept walking, but Lucas grabbed his jacket and spun him around.

“Hey, I’m talking to you. Answer me!”

“Let go of me, Lucas. You know my lunch is in the Willapa River where you threw it.”

“Ha! I ought to throw you in so you can find it. Hey, what’s that little book in your pocket?”

“It’s my New Testament,” answered Naeem, surprising himself with his boldness.

“Is that so? God in your pocket? So you’ve got a big Bodyguard now, huh?”

“Yes, Three in One to be exact.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Haven’t you ever heard of the Holy Trinity? The Father, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Ghost? It’s in the Bible, you know.”

“Well, I’ve heard of God, but not one that was three or whatever . . . If you’re so smart, show me where it says that.”

“I don’t remember where it is right now, but it’s when Jesus was being baptized. The Holy Spirit came down to Him while the Father spoke from Heaven. That’s three and they’re all God.”

Lucas pretended he wasn’t interested, but asked offhandedly, “Well, what good is God, anyway?”

“He can save you and change your life and . . . well, make you a Christian.”

Looking down, Lucas said quietly, “I doubt if He could change me.”

Amazed at the difference in Lucas’s attitude, Naeem thought for a moment and said, “Are you interested in what God can do for you, Lucas?”

“Naeem, yesterday my grandma had on a religious program. The guy was saying something about this being the ‘last days’ and that all signs pointed to Jesus coming back. He said that some terrible things would happen, and I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about it.”

“That was the Holy Spirit talking to you, telling you that Jesus is coming back when the Father says it’s time! See, that’s the Trinity! I’m learning about the last days in Sunday school. And I’m ready if the Lord comes, even if it’s right now!”

“Do you really think someone like me could get saved?”

Naeem smiled and said, “Sure, and if you want, I’ll take you to my Sunday school so you can hear more about it!”

Before the king’s decree, Joseph received a warning.

Have you ever wondered if God is really watching out for you? Joseph, the man that God chose to raise His Son here on earth, experienced in a dramatic way the providential guidance of God. Let’s try to imagine how he felt when an angel came and told him to take Mary and Baby Jesus to Egypt.

I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. A glow still lingered in the room where Mary and little Jesus were sleeping. The image of an angel standing by me was clear in my mind. The words of his message burned themselves into my memory. There was no time to lose! Hastily I lit the oil lamp and shook Mary from her sleep.

“Mary!” I whispered urgently. “An angel came again with a message from God. We have to leave this place right away. King Herod is going to try to kill Jesus.”

Startled, she sat upright. “Joseph, where can we go?” Her eyes were wide with dismay.

“The angel said to go to Egypt,” I replied. “We are to stay there until the angel brings us word that it is safe to return.”

Mary didn’t hesitate another moment. Quickly she began gathering together our few belongings. I went over to the shelf where the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh had been placed. They had been given by those dignified teachers from the East. A feeling of awe came over me. We would need money for our journey and stay in Egypt. How wonderfully God had provided—even before we knew there would be a need!

I wrapped the gifts carefully and placed them in the bottom of a bag.

Walking to the doorway, I gazed out into the still night. The streets were quiet. No one would see us leave. What would the journey hold for us? I wasn’t afraid. God had been so near to us since the night the angel first appeared to me and told me that little Jesus would be a very special Child. As I stood there, thinking back to that night, Mary came to my side with our sleeping Boy held securely in her arms. We were ready to go.

Time passed by quickly after we reached Egypt. But how well I remember that journey. What an awesome responsibility I felt as I led Mary and Jesus away from the little town of Bethlehem. Yet God’s protecting Hand was over us. The soldiers never stopped or questioned us, and we arrived safely in Egypt. How wonderfully God has taken care of our needs. We have wanted for nothing in all of this time.

Now we are traveling once more. The angel came again, just as he said he would, and he brought word that King Herod was dead. Our precious Son is safe from his wrath. I know that God would never direct us back to our homeland if it were not in His plan for us. We can go home at last. How happy our hearts are on this day!

As I look at little Jesus, trudging along here beside me, my heart is full. How good God has been. With the responsibility of raising this Child, how glad I am for the assurance that His heavenly Father is watching out for all of us!

Just as Joseph felt God’s care and concern for Mary, Jesus, and himself, we can feel God’s love surrounding us. The love of our heavenly Father is even greater than that of our earthly parents. His guidance and protection are promised to us even when we don’t know danger is near.

There may be times when we experience the protection of God without knowing it is needed. We have a promise in God’s Word that He will command His angels to protect us. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing—riding a scooter down the sidewalk, flying across the country to visit grandparents, or just climbing a tree in the back yard—God will be with us.

“Oh no!” Dylan groaned as he saw his jacket wadded up in a heap under the dining room window. Before he even picked it up, he had an awful feeling of what he was going to discover.

Sure enough. The key was gone.

“Caden Bradley!” he hollered, desperation edging his voice. “Caden . . . come here this second!”

A blond head appeared around the corner of the door to the kitchen. “What you want?” Dylan’s three-year-old brother inquired innocently.

“Caden, did you move my jacket?”

Caden looked at his brother and nodded his head yes, just once.

“What did you do with the key in my pocket?”

“Key?” Caden looked puzzled.

“You know, key!” Dylan said impatiently. “It was in the pocket and now it’s gone. Where is it?” Caden stood silently, looking blank.

“Come on, Caden. It’s the key to the church and I’ve got to have it. Can’t you remember what you did with it?”

The blond head tipped to one side as Caden considered the problem. Then suddenly he smiled brightly. “Fed it to bear!” he announced triumphantly.

“Caden,” Dylan said grimly. “Mrs. Baker is going to pick me up for junior choir practice in exactly ten minutes. Dad gave me the key to open the door, and he told me not to lose it. Now, how is it going to look if the pastor’s son can’t hang onto the key to the church for one hour?” He squatted down by his little brother. “Where is bear?”

Caden pursed his lips. “Don’t know,” he finally announced sadly.

Dylan groaned. He stooped down and checked beneath the window, running his fingers through the carpet. He went into his bedroom where he had placed his jacket after putting the key in his pocket. The key wasn’t on the bed, or the floor, or in the hall.

A thought flickered through his mind. “Seek and ye shall find . . .” Well, I am seeking, he said to himself. Now I wish I’d find!

All of a sudden, it was just as if a light bulb came on over his head. Do you believe God’s promises still work today? The words echoed through his mind. He stopped abruptly in the middle of the living room. “Do I?” he asked himself.

Last week in Sunday school the lesson had been about Simeon and how he saw God’s promise fulfilled when he held the infant Jesus in his arms. “Simeon believed God,” their teacher had said, “and God kept His promise.” Then she had asked that question. “Do you believe God’s promises still work today?”

Another promise he had learned flashed into Dylan’s mind: “My God shall supply all your need.” Well, he needed to find that key, and fast; Mrs. Baker was due any minute.

If he really believed, then he’d better get ready to go even if he didn’t know where the key was. Slowly he picked up his jacket and shrugged his arms into the sleeves. Then, quickly, he shut his eyes. “God, You know I need that key. Dad told Mrs. Baker I’d bring it, and all the other kids will be waiting. Please help me find it!”

He went to the hall closet, and pulled out Caden’s parka. “C’mon, Caden,” he called to his brother, who had settled down in the corner of the living room with a book while Dylan had hunted for the key. “Better get your jacket on. Mrs. Baker is going to drop you off at the babysitter’s when we go to the church.” Tying his brother’s hood under the little chin, he asked once more, “Did you remember where the bear is?”

Caden nodded. “Sleeping.”

“Sleeping where?” asked Dylan hopefully.

“In bear’s cave.”

Cave, thought Dylan. Cave. Where would a cave be? He looked around the living room. Then a thought popped into his mind . . . try the sofa cushions.

He went over to the sofa and lifted a cushion. In a second, Caden was at his side.

“Cave!” he beamed broadly.

“Is this it . . . ?” the words were hardly out of his mouth when Dylan spotted the bear, flat on his stomach next to the armrest. He grabbed it, and sure enough, under the fat, plush stomach was the key.

“Yeah!” he shouted, holding the key aloft. “We found it!” Just then a horn sounded outside. “Thank You, Lord!”

The Wise Men, in search of a King, set out to follow His star.

Let’s go back through the centuries to a night nearly 2000 years ago and focus on a caravan—a group of men traveling by camel. It’s an uncomfortable way to travel. The country they must pass through is rough, and the sun extremely hot. But this is no great problem because these men travel by night—they are following a star!

They have planned for a long journey, carrying enough food for themselves, their helpers, and the camels. The animals are loaded with clothing and gifts. Toiling over the hills, the men wipe the dust from their faces, for dust is everywhere, even in their eyes and mouths. They wonder how much farther they will have to travel. Yet they are excited! There’s not a thought of turning back.

Who are these men and where are they going? They are educated men who have studied the Scriptures as well as the sciences. Judging from the gifts they carry with them, they are wealthy. They come from the East, possibly Mesopotamia. And why are they traveling? They believe the promised Messiah has been born, and they want to worship Him.

As they approach Jerusalem, their anticipation grows. The end of their journey is close at hand. How excited they must be! Can you picture the Wise Men asking the gatekeepers, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” They expect the gatekeepers to say, “Yes, we have seen Him! Come, and we will show you the way.”

Instead, no one knows what they are talking about. King of the Jews? Star? The people of Jerusalem obviously have not been looking for Him. They aren’t even interested! So the Wise Men go to the king of Judea with their quest. The Bible tells us that when King Herod heard these things, he was troubled. Can you see him as he calls all his scribes and the chief priests and demands that they tell him where the Christ is to be born?

They tell him, “In Bethlehem!” It had been foretold by the prophet Micah and written in the Book. God had declared many years before exactly where the Savior was to be born and what signs would indicate His birth. Now the star is in the sky for all to see. But only those who are looking for Him take an interest in these things.

The Wise Men lose no time in heading for Bethlehem. Their excitement grows as they again follow the star. God has not forgotten them but is still leading. And the star leads them to the very place where Joseph and Mary are with the young Child, Jesus.

What joy fills the hearts of the Wise Men as they present their gifts! They have brought gold, a sign of wealth; frankincense, a perfume or a spice; and myrrh, a type of incense. They are not surprised to see a young Child, because they know God has led them and they can trust Him. They worship the Child as King of the Jews.

Their journey to find the promised Messiah has come to an end and they are not disappointed. God never disappoints His people when they seek for Him with an honest heart. The Wise Men leave to return to their homeland, happy and at peace. They have found what they were searching for and they are satisfied.

What are you searching for? Are you looking for good grades, popularity, friends, a good time— something that will be fun, or make you happy? Some pleasures last for only a short time, but there are also pleasures that will last forever.

One man in our Portland congregation testifies that when he was considering what it would mean to become a Christian he thought: If I lived to be a hundred years old with never an ache or pain or a care in this world, and had all the things that money could buy, but then missed Heaven, I wouldn’t have gained a thing. He made the right choice and gave his life to the Lord.

Another man tells how he spent much of his life buying things for his collections. To him, that was happiness. And yet, after sixty-two years, he looked back over his life and said, “I looked for happiness in all the wrong places. All the stuff I have accumulated has not brought me peace.”

The world offers a lot of things, but one thing it can’t give is peace and everlasting happiness. This is only found in Jesus. Find Him for yourself today!

“Look at that 10-speed bike.” Emma pointed at the illustration in a Christmas catalog she was glancing through. “I told my mom and dad that’s what I want for Christmas.” She grinned up at her friend, Chloe, who was curling her hair in front of the mirror. “Of course, I gave them a list of all the other things I want for Christmas too, but I made sure they knew the bike is at the top of the list. How about you, Chloe? What did you tell your parents you want for Christmas?”

Chloe hesitated for a moment. “Well, not much. We’re probably not going to be able to spend a lot on Christmas this year. Daddy has been out of work for so long. That’s why my mom has been babysitting and cleaning houses, to help pay the bills.”

“Oh . . .” Emma looked back down at the catalog, but she didn’t say anything more about Christmas, and soon the talk drifted to other things.

The conversation started Chloe thinking though, and after Emma had gone home for dinner, Chloe sat down on her bed and got out her bank. Not much there . . . and she had to make this last. But Christmas was only a few days away. For a moment, her thoughts went to Emma’s joking remark about the list she had given her folks. I wonder what it would be like to give your folks a list, Chloe thought to herself, and especially to expect to get what’s on the list! But I’ll probably never know.

Suddenly, she felt ashamed of herself. She had so many things to be thankful for. She slid off her bed and knelt down, burying her face in the bedspread. “Dear Lord,” Chloe prayed, “thank You for giving me a friend like Emma. Thank You for giving me a warm house to come home to and a good mother and father. Now help me, Jesus, to learn the real meaning of Christmas. Help me not to feel bad if I don’t get lots of presents. I love You so much, Father, and want to thank You for sending Jesus to this earth.”

Quickly the tears trickled down her cheeks. “Oh, thank You, Jesus, for coming to this earth,” cried Chloe. “Thank You for saving me! I do love You, I truly do!”

When Chloe got up from praying, she opened her Bible. She read how the angels came and told the shepherds to go and see the Babe in a manger. In the second chapter of Matthew, she read how the Wise Men traveled so far, bringing their gifts to the young Child Jesus. “What a Christmas present!” thought Chloe. “God has given me Jesus—the very best present I could ever have.”

As she closed her Bible, her thoughts turned to her family. I would love to give something special to my family for Christmas. I can make a nice Christmas card for Mom and Dad and tell them how much I love them. But what about Amber? She is only five years old and she wouldn’t understand if she didn’t get any presents. Suddenly her eyes fell on her beautiful princess doll. Oh, Amber would love to have a doll, and Mom and Dad just don’t have any money to buy one. Maybe I could give her my princess doll.

She picked up the doll and held it in her arms. Just the idea of giving her beautiful doll to her little sister brought tears to her eyes. How could she do it? Then she remembered what she had just read in the Bible: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” God gave His very own Son! How did He feel when Jesus left Heaven? “Thank You, Father,” cried Chloe, “for showing me Your love. Help me to always be loving to others.”

Quickly the days flew by, and soon it was Christmas. Chloe and Amber crept downstairs, both excited because it was Christmas morning. The family gathered around the little tree in their living room.

Chloe handed her mom and dad the big Christmas card she had made for them. They read it out loud together. “It’s the most beautiful Christmas card I’ve ever had!” said her mother. They gave her a big hug and kiss.

Now it was Amber’s turn. Chloe went to the Christmas tree where she had placed the box she had so carefully wrapped for her little sister just the night before. For a moment, there was a big lump in her throat as she thought about what the box contained. Grandpa Williams had given her the princess doll when she had been just six years old. She remembered so well how thrilled she had been on that Christmas so long ago. That doll had been a dream come true! Her beautiful curls, the ruffled layers of pink tulle and lace, her tiny slippers and gloves—she was perfect in every detail.

Now she was giving her doll away. Chloe picked up the box and handed it to her little sister. “This is for you, Amber,” she said, “Merry Christmas!”

Quickly Amber tore open the box. As she pulled off the tissue paper, there was the beautiful princess doll. “Oh,” cried Amber, “Are you really giving me your favorite doll?”

“It’s all yours, Amber,” said Chloe. “Just promise me that you will take good care of her.”

“Oh, I will, I will!” said Amber. “Thank you, Chloe! You’re the best sister in the world!”

Chloe was very happy deep down inside. She felt a warm glow, a feeling she had never had before. She whispered, “Thank You, Jesus. And thank You, God, for sending us Jesus. Merry Christmas to You too!”

The Christmas program was over now, but Emi and Sierra still felt the thrill of the special message.

“I can’t believe it’s all over!” commented Emi a bit wistfully to her friend Sierra. The two girls shrugged into their coats and looked outside to a clear, beautiful December morning. A few last cars were pulling away from the curb. They had just finished doing the long-practised Christmas program.

“I thought the program went really well,” Emi went on. “We sure did have a full house. The props Ethan painted looked great with the spotlights on them. And nobody forgot his lines!”

Sierra nodded in agreement. “This program gave me a feeling I’ve never had before. Somehow, the Christmas story is so much more real to me now that I’ve played the part of one of the characters.”

As they walked out of the church, Sierra said, “Remember when the parts were assigned for the Christmas play and how excited I was at getting to play the part of Mary? I could hardly wait to get home and tell my family.”

“I’ll say,” replied Emi. “It was all you talked about for a week!”

“Well, I was just thinking . . . Can you imagine how the real Mary felt when the angel Gabriel came to her and announced that she was going to be the mother of Jesus?”

“Wow,” exclaimed Emi, “I’m sure she was more excited than you ever thought of being! Our teacher said that Mary was engaged to Joseph when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. Gabriel said she was highly favored and blessed among women.”

“I guess she was! Wouldn’t you be shocked if an angel all of a sudden appeared and told you that God had picked you out of all the women on the earth? No wonder Mary was confused and afraid. I would be too!”

“Of course, Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid,” Emi went on. “He said that the Holy Ghost would come over her and she would have a baby who would be the Son of God and His name would be Jesus.”

Sierra looked thoughtful. “Mary must have been an extra special person for God to have chosen her out of all the women on earth to be the mother of His Son. I thought I was lucky just to get to play the part of Mary.”

“Remember what our teacher said?” asked Emi. “She said that even though Mary wasn’t famous or rich she must have lived a life dedicated to God, or the Lord wouldn’t have chosen her. God probably watched Mary all her life. Just think, He’s watching us the same way today.”

“Yeah,” replied Sierra. “But if I were really Mary I don’t know if I would be able to believe it if someone told me I was going to have a baby that was the Son of God.”

“That shows what a special person Mary really was. She knew that nothing was impossible with God. She not only believed the angel, but also committed herself by saying, ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord.’ She was willing to be used for God’s purpose.”

Sierra thought for a few moments, then stopped walking and faced Emi. “You mean because Mary was willing to be used by God she was selected to be the mother of Jesus?”

“Yes, that’s one of the reasons. In those days there was a lot of sin in the world, so a person with Mary’s qualities and willingness to be used by God was rare.”

When the girls resumed walking, Sierra said, “If God was watching Mary all the time to see if she was ready to do His will, then He must be watching us too. I want to be sure that I can be used. How can we be really sure, Emi?”

“You know the starting point is when we are sorry for our sins. When we tell Jesus that we don’t ever want to do them again, He’ll save us. Then He will help us to do only the things that please Him. That makes us ready to be used for God’s purpose.”

The girls had been so deep into their discussion they hardly realized they had reached Sierra’s house. They stood in silence for a few minutes. As Sierra turned to go up the walk she looked at Emi and said quietly, “You know, Emi, I think this is going to be the best Christmas I’ve ever had!”

Beckett hurried home from school. Opening the front door he called out, “Good news, Mom! I’ve been chosen to represent my class at the history exhibit in the State Capitol. Isn’t that awesome?”

Beckett’s mother came to the kitchen door, flour dusting her hands, a tiny smudge on one cheek. Quietly she said, “Beckett, that’s wonderful! You’ve worked so hard on that exhibit. I’m glad you were chosen.”

That night at dinner, the table-talk centred around Beckett’s exciting news. His parents were understandably proud of their son’s achievement. Plans were discussed for the whole family to go to the Capitol to see Beckett’s presentation. His sister Lucy wasn’t so impressed.

“What’s so neat about history?” she asked. “All you do is talk about a bunch of people who died a long time ago, and things that happened years ago. I like to know what’s happening now!”

Her father looked at her thoughtfully. Then he smiled and said, “You know, Lucy, part of the reason for the differences in the things you and Beckett like are that you are nine years old and Beckett is twelve. Each of us is an individual, and our abilities, likes, and dislikes are varied. They should be centred around what God would like us to do with our lives.

“Even in the Bible, there were different kinds of writers. Some people wrote about things that had already happened—that’s the history Beckett likes. Others wrote about things that were happening right then—that’s what you like, Lucy. Still, others wrote history before it happened.” At this, both Beckett and Lucy raised their heads quickly and said together, “But that’s impossible.”

Their dad looked at them seriously. “You may never have thought of it that way before, but that’s really what they did. The Bible calls it prophesy. Beckett, hand me the Bible, please.”

As Beckett turned to get the Bible, his father continued: “It will be Christmas soon, and some of the most beautiful and interesting prophecies in the Bible are about the birth and life of Christ.” Taking the Bible from Beckett, he turned the pages rapidly. “One of the best-known prophecies about the birth of Christ is in Isaiah 7:14, ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’

“Hundreds of years later, an angel appeared to Mary, who was to become the mother of Jesus, and told her that the child God would give her was to be the Son of God, not of man (Luke 1:31, 35). Soon after that, an angel came to Joseph, who was engaged to Mary. He told Joseph that Mary’s baby was really God’s Son, and was the promised Savior. This helped Joseph realize that Mary was really the wonderful girl he thought her to be and that he didn’t need to hesitate to marry her.”

At this point, Beckett interrupted. “Dad, isn’t there something about the prophets telling what town Jesus would be born in?”

“Yes, Son. When the Wise Men came looking for the new King, the scribes and chief priests found by looking in the Book of Micah, that Bethlehem was the place to send them.”

At this point, Mother brought in the dessert—apple pie! As she placed it on the table she said, “You see, children, prophecy is to God a little like cooking is to me!” In answer to their questioning looks, she continued. “When I cook something, I know that if I put certain things together in a certain order, I will get certain results. For instance, when I started this pie just before Beckett came home today, I could have told you that we would have apple pie for dinner tonight. When God looks at the world and sees what is going on, He can tell what the outcome will be. Because He is God and knows everything perfectly, He knows just what will happen, and can tell people to be prepared—either for good times or for bad times.”

At this, Beckett looked very serious. “It would really be hard to be a prophet. How could you tell whether you were right or not? Lots of people think they know what’s going to happen, but they’re not always right.”

“That’s correct, Beckett,” replied his father. “But if the message is from God it will come true. In Bible times there were lots of people who prophesied things that didn’t happen. There are people who predict things now, but very little of what they say actually takes place. The Bible says if the words of a prophecy don’t prove true, the person that speaks is not a prophet sent by God (Deuteronomy 18:22). Prophecy is a gift from God, and He gives it only to those He chooses.”

Beckett scraped the last crumbs of his piece of pie from his plate and grinned across the table at his mom. “That was super, Mom! Nobody makes apple pie as good as you do.” Propping his elbow on the table, he went back to the subject they had been discussing.

“Dad, you know I’ve always been interested in history, but I never really thought before about the fact that prophecy is actually history in advance. That’s kind of neat! I mean, we can read the Bible and find out things that are still ahead for us.”

His dad smiled. “Yes, Beckett, the Bible does tell us much of what we can expect to happen to this world. And it is a very interesting study, as well as a message to all of us that we must be prepared.”

Beckett nodded soberly. “You’re right, Dad. I guess if it is all written down for us we don’t have any excuse not to be ready for it. I think from now on I’m going to be as interested in the ‘history’ ahead of us as I am in the history that has already happened.”

You don’t remember your first birthday, do you? How about the day you got your first tooth, or the first time you rolled over by yourself or sat without someone holding you? Although these events may have been long forgotten, you might remember some other “firsts” that were momentous occasions in your life. How about your first day of school? your first aeroplane ride? your first bike? Perhaps your mom kept a baby book for you in which she wrote down these special milestones.

Maybe a photo album at your house shows a pictorial record of events in your life, as seen through the eye of a camera.

During the past few weeks, we’ve been studying some firsts recorded in the Bible. These were important events, so let’s check and see how well we remember.

“I don’t even like squash or green peppers,” Ava said. “So why should I be thankful?”

Thanksgiving was only a day away, and inside the McNeil’s house was a bustle of activity. On Wednesday, with school finally over, Ava came bursting through the door to find her mother busily arranging a centerpiece on the table.

“What’s that?” asked Ava. “What are the fruits and vegetables doing on the table?”

“This is called a horn of plenty,” explained her mother. “It is displayed at Thanksgiving time to remind people of all the things we have to be thankful for.”

“But I don’t even like squash or green peppers,” said Ava. “Why do I have to remind myself to be thankful for them?”

“Oh, no, Ava, I didn’t mean that we are thankful only for these fruits and vegetables,” said her mother. “When we look at the horn of plenty filled with all these things, it’s supposed to remind us of everything we enjoy each day of the year—our home, our family, and all the other good things God has given us. So every time you walk through the dining room and see this horn of plenty, try to think of something else you have to be thankful for.”

Ava looked thoughtful. “That won’t be too hard, Mom. God has done a lot for me, and for all of our family.”

What do you suppose were some of the things that God had done for Ava that she was thankful for? Were they things with which God has also blessed you? Did you ever stop to think that every good thing that you have in your life has been given to you by God? Your family, your home, your friends, your church, and everything that is important to you is a gift of God.

When you want to give a special gift to a close friend, you spend a lot of time choosing or making that gift. You want it to be just right. And you can hardly wait for your friend to open it! You want him to say, “Oh, thank you! I just love it!” But if he doesn’t seem to like it or doesn’t show any appreciation, you are going to feel disappointed.

That is how God feels. He lets us enjoy this world and all the beautiful things in it, and He wants us to thank Him for it.

We should take time every day to thank God for our blessings. We do this through prayer. When we eat a meal, we should thank God for the food He has given us. The meal may have been fixed just the way we like it, but it is God who provided the food.

In the Bible we read about ten men who had a terrible disease called leprosy. They had to leave their families and friends and live outside the city. Since there was no cure, they had no hope of ever being well.

One day, as Jesus was going toward their city, He saw the lepers. They saw Him, too, but they couldn’t go close to Him, so they called out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Jesus told them to go and show themselves to the priest. As they turned to go, they were healed!

One of the men, when he saw that he was healed, returned and fell at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks. Jesus asked him, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” Though Jesus had healed all of them, only one thanked Him. The man who did, received an extra blessing the others didn’t receive. Oh, if only the others had also taken time to thank Jesus for what He had done!

We, too, are blessed when we pray to Jesus and thank Him for all He does for us. We don’t ever want to be too busy to say thank you! When we tell Him how much we appreciate the good things He gives us, He just keeps adding blessings to our lives.

Let’s thank God for His goodness, not just one day of the year, or just on Sundays when we come to church, but every day of the year. God has given so much to all of us!

The poor widow who gave God all she had knew the secret about having and giving.

Jackson and Oliver were walking home from school. It was cold! “Let’s stop at Starbuck’s and get some hot chocolate to drink,” Jackson suggested.

“I can’t,” Oliver replied. “I don’t have any of my allowance left and I don’t get paid till tonight.” He looked at Jackson with a puzzled expression. “Hey, how come you always seem to have money? I know you get the same allowance I do and you even have to give some to your church!”

Jackson smiled. “You don’t understand, Oliver. I don’t have to give any to my church, but I give God ten cents of every dollar I earn because I know it belongs to Him. We call it tithing.”

“I don’t understand why you think it belongs to God.”

“Well,” Jackson said slowly, “God gives me the strength to work so He’s really giving me the allowance. It’s only right that I give part of it back to Him or else I’d be robbing God. When I tithe, God blesses me and it always seems like my money lasts longer.”

Oliver shook his head. “I don’t know . . . You must love God an awful lot to give away your money.”

“You’re right about that, Oliver. I do love Him a lot. But I don’t feel like I am giving away my money—it belongs to God. I’m just giving back to Him what is actually His in the first place.”

Tithing is giving a tenth of our earnings to God. God started this plan way back in the time of Abraham. In fact, Abraham was the first person to tithe. He didn’t give just money, but also a tenth of all the goods he gained. Often the people of Bible times gave from the firstfruits of their harvest—the first tenth of their livestock and crops were given to the Lord. In Leviticus 27:32 we find, “And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, . . . the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord” Today, the tithes of God’s people help keep His church operating.

Some people think we only need to tithe if we have lots of money, but this is not so. A true story was told of a young couple who were having trouble paying their bills. They didn’t pay tithes because they felt they didn’t have enough money. When things got worse instead of better, they realized it was because they were robbing God. With the next paycheck, they chose to tithe first. Their money ran out before the bills were all paid. But that month they received an envelope in the mail containing enough money to pay their bills! So you see, it pays to give God what is His.

The blessings we receive from God are not based on how much we give. The Gospels of Mark and Luke both tell the story of men coming into the Temple and putting large amounts of money into the treasury. They gave only a small portion of their wealth and had plenty left over. As Jesus watched them, He also saw a poor widow come and drop two mites (small copper coins worth less than four cents) into the treasury. This was not much compared with the great amount the rich men had put in, but it was all she had. Jesus told His disciples later that “this poor widow hath cast in more than they all” (Luke 21:3). Maybe others didn’t notice, but God did.

God is interested in more than our money, though. He knows what we give in other ways. Not only does He want us to give tithes and offerings of our earnings, but also of our time and talents. Who gave us our health and strength? Or our abilities, our mental powers, and our talents? The Lord, of course! It just makes sense to give this back to Him.

Think for a moment—you have twenty-four hours each day. How much of that time should belong to God? Certainly a part of it should. But you might ask, “How do I give time to God?” The moments spent prayer, studying your Bible, doing things for others, attending church and Sunday school—this is the part you are giving to God. How does it balance with the way you spend the rest of your time? Are you giving God as much as you should in this area?

We need to realize that it’s not just how much or what we give that the Lord notices. It’s also how we give. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 it says, “God loveth a cheerful giver.” In the story about Jackson, he didn’t have to give—He wanted to! He was a cheerful giver! In the story of the widow it wasn’t the size of her gift, but her willingness that counted. How do you feel about giving to the Lord? Do you give freely, from a thankful heart? That’s the way to enjoy God’s blessings!

I can’t believe my eyes!” said a laughing voice.

“Hey, guys! Get a load of this! Logan Marshall is raking up garbage.”

Logan looked up at Noah with a grin. “And why not? You were the one who suggested the plan of the Hiwanda Helpers here at youth camp. Every cabin offered to take a turn at KP duty when the camp manager and his wife got sick, and it’s our turn.”

“Yeah, but you? Raking garbage? You can’t tell me you ever lifted a spoon at home—except to feed your face. I thought for sure you’d find something ‘supervisory’ to do.”

Logan shrugged. “Oh, I don’t mind. The job has to be done, so why not me?”

“Well,” muttered Noah as he turned away, “all I can say is, now I’ve seen everything.”

But he hadn’t! The next day the entire camp assembled at the flagpole, and an announcement was made that it was time for litter patrol. Since it was almost swim time, nobody was excited about the project. The kids grabbed a few pieces of paper here and there, but most of them soon pronounced the job “good enough” and headed for their cabins to change.

When Noah and a bunch of his buddies started for the lake, they saw Logan down by the barn, with a plastic litter sack in his hand—and not an empty one either. Obviously, he’d been busy working.

“This beats all!” exclaimed Noah. “I bet Logan never does a thing at home . . . I mean, they’re so rich, they probably have servants. I’m surprised he knows how to work!”

“Hey, listen!” said another of the guys. “Early this morning when I was headed for the showers, I saw Logan outside the kitchen. You know what he was doing? Peeling potatoes! That early!

“Oh, you must have dreamed that one!” Noah said with a disbelieving chuckle. “No one, absolutely no one, gets up before the first wake-up call!”

“Nope, it was him, for sure,” insisted the other. “He even said good morning!”

“I know Mr. Wilson said he wanted us all to do our best. I mean, it was either pitch in or close camp. But I never thought I’d see anyone from the Marshall clan involved in this kind of grubby work!”

Camp passed quickly, and even the extra chores didn’t dampen the enthusiasm. Soon it was Friday night, when they had singing and awards around the campfire. Mr. Wilson, the youth director, was emcee for the occasion. “Well, I have a number of important achievements to acknowledge,” he began. “First, I would like to hear a round of applause for Ryan Kelly. Ryan actually made it to all the flag raisings at 7 o’clock. Congratulations, Ryan!” A loud burst of laughter and applause greeted this remark.

“Next,” he went on, “I would like to present the cleanest cabin award to Cabin C. They did a great job . . . I mean, they even shoveled a path through the litter every morning before inspection!”

On it went—gentle fun being poked at this one and that one, and joining in the laughter with each announcement. At last Mr. Wilson said, “I have a real commendation to make.  Each year we pick a ‘Camper of the Year.’ We try to pick someone who has made a real contribution to the success of the camp. “This year when our camp manager got sick, the suggestion was made to set up our own group of helpers who would take over some of the meal preparation, cleanup, and camp patrol. This was a great suggestion, and we determined that the award for Camper of the Year should be related to this.”

Noah smiled at several of his buddies. He figured he knew what was coming—after all, he was the one who suggested the plan, right?

“With that thought as the basis for our decision, I’d like to announce that our choice this year is Logan Marshall!”

Logan looked surprised. “But, what about Noah?” he said to the guys next to him. “Shouldn’t he get the award? The Hiwanda Helpers was his idea.”

A cheer went up around him. Mr. Wilson wasn’t the only one who saw Logan’s help even with the grubbiest jobs, and his faithfulness in doing whatever needed to be done. Even Noah added his approval with his applause.

“In our chapel service we studied Saul, who was chosen as the first king of Israel for his humility and obedience to God. Logan has also shown these two qualifications—humility to do the least-liked jobs, and obedience to do his best at whatever he is asked to do. Logan, please accept this plaque as this year’s winner!”

As Logan accepted, Mr. Wilson held out his hand and said, “Thank you, Logan, for a job well done.”

“Mother . . .” Phinehas called, running to his mother who was coming up the path to their home, balancing a jar of water on her head. “Mother, where is Father? I want to show him this beautiful stone I found. Look! Isn’t it pretty?” He held out his hand so she could admire his find, and then repeated impatiently, “Where is Father?”

“It is lovely, Phinehas, my son,” his mother replied in a gentle voice. “But your father is not here. Did you forgot? Today is a very special day—the Day of Atonement. He went early to the Temple to perform his duties as high priest before the Lord and before the people. He will not be home before sunset.”

“Oh . . .” Disappointment clouded the young lad’s face. “I forgot, Mother.” He sighed, then held up the rock in his hand once more and studied it closely. “I did so want to show Father my rock now, while it is new.”

His mother set down the jar of water outside the door to their dwelling, and smiled at her son. “Why don’t you polish your stone very carefully, Phinehas? Come inside with me and I will give you a small cloth. Then, when you are done, you may put your rock on the shelf inside the door. When your father returns, you may show it to him.”

She picked up the water jar. Phinehas sighed again, and then slowly followed his mother inside. Watching her as she tore a strip of cloth for him, he asked, “Mother, why is my father a priest? Ebahu’s father isn’t. His father takes care of sheep. And Jothram’s father works in the fields. Ebahu and Jothram can go to their father any time they wish. But my father is so often at the Temple, and it is forbidden for me to go to him there. Why is it that he must be a priest?”

His mother sat on the bench beside the door, and drew her small son close to her side. “Phinehas, many years ago the Lord Jehovah called your grandfather Aaron to be the first high priest of our people. This is a very important thing, for the high priest stands between God and the people. And Jehovah himself commanded that Aaron’s sons were to be the priests after him. Your father, Eleazar, has served our God as high priest for twelve years now.” She paused, and then hugged her young son gently. “And someday, my son, you will also take on the responsibilities of the priesthood.”

“I don’t understand, Mother,” said Phinehas as he looked up into her face. “What do you mean, that the high priest stands between Jehovah and the people? I have never seen Jehovah standing anywhere!”

His mother smiled. “No, you have not seen our God with your eyes, Phinehas. But His presence is with us, even if we cannot see Him. Jehovah is pure and holy, and man is not. Many times people do things which are not right in His sight. We call this sin, or a trespass against the Law of God.

“Because a price must be paid for sins, Jehovah gave His people a high priest to make offerings for the atonement of their sins. That is your father’s job, Phinehas. And someday . . . someday it will be your job also.”

Aaron, the first high priest of the Children of Israel, really did have a grandson named Phinehas. Perhaps he had some questions like these when he was a young boy, for the job he was called to do was a very important one.

Many years after the time of Phinehas, Jesus came to earth. He came as a little babe in Bethlehem, and grew up as the son of a carpenter. But He had a very important mission. He was to be our High Priest, and the offering He made to atone for sins was His own life. When Jesus came, He fulfilled the Law that had governed the Children of Israel for so many years. The sacrifices and atonements that had been required before were no longer necessary.

Today, Jesus is our High Priest. When we have sinned, we can go to Him. He will forgive us and take away our sin. He is a wonderful God.

Gildeah sat at the edge of the fire lit circle, the evening meal his mother had set before him still untouched. The events of the past hours raced through his mind in a strange confusion. He looked across at his father who sat unmoving, the strain of concentration lining his face. Could his father help him understand what he had just heard?

He rose to his feet, walked over to his father, and knelt down beside him. “Will you tell me, Father?” he asked in a low voice. “Can you explain to me the words of God? What are these Commandments that He has given to us through Moses?”

For a long moment his father remained motionless. In those moments of silence, Gildeah felt once more the awe and fear which had gripped him when the thunder had resounded across the wilderness where they had been encamped. In the gleam of the firelight he could almost see again the lightning which had slashed through the sky. It had seemed to come from the mountain where Moses and Aaron had gone up to hear the words of the Lord. At last his father spoke: “Moses has given to our people the Commandments of God. We were afraid when we saw the lightning, and heard the thundering and the noise of the trumpet, and saw the mountain smoking. We moved as far back from the mountain as we could while Moses continued to speak with God. Through him we know God’s will for our people. We know the things we must do. We know the things we must not do. And we have God’s promise that He will come to us and bless us if we keep His words.”

Several thousand years later:

“I just didn’t know what to tell him, Dad,” Gabe said slowly to his father. “When Jayden asked me why I wouldn’t cheat on the test like everyone else, I told him we’re supposed to obey God’s Word. He asked what I meant, and I told him the Bible says we aren’t supposed to steal, and I figured cheating is stealing someone else’s answers . . .” His voice trailed off and he looked down at the untouched dinner on his plate.

“I’m not sure what the problem is, Son.” His dad looked up from his own plate, a bit puzzled. “That sounds like a good explanation to me. Did he say more?”

“Well, he asked why I thought it was so important to follow a bunch of rules that were written thousands of years ago. He knew that not stealing was one of the Ten Commandments. But he said the laws God gave Moses were for that time, so we don’t have to obey them. That’s the part I didn’t know how to answer.”

His dad smiled slightly. “Well, Jayden was right about one thing. The Ten Commandments were a part of the Law God gave Moses for the Israelites. But as for our not having to obey them . . . well, the same guidelines for our actions and behavior were given again in the New Testament.”

“All of them?” Gabe asked.

“All except the fourth Commandment. After Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week, the early Christians made that their day of worship rather than the seventh day.”

Gabe looked thoughtful. “But Dad, I don’t remember ever reading a list of commandments in the New Testament. Where is it?”

“It wasn’t given all at once like the Law was given to Moses for the Israelites. But each of the Commandments is restated in the teachings of Jesus or His disciples. In fact, in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.’ You see, Gabe, when Jesus died on Calvary He was our perfect Sacrifice. There was no more need for people to keep the law regarding sacrificing animals to pay for their sins. But the laws which told how to live in harmony with God were still in effect. And we still must follow God’s instructions if we want to be at peace with Him.”

Gabe looked seriously at his dad. “Instructions like . . . not stealing. Right, Dad?”

His father nodded. “That’s right, Son.”

Gabe thought about this for a moment, then picked up his fork. “Well, I’d better get some dinner into me! I feel a lot better now. I think I can explain it to Jayden if he asks me again.”

The shepherd awoke with the sun on his face. Thanking the Lord for another new day, he arose and wrapped his cloak around him. It was time to begin moving the sheep on toward Mt. Sinai. As he walked among the sleeping animals, something caught his eye over to the side of the area where they had rested through the night. A bush was on fire!

There was hardly enough food on this dry plain for the sheep, as it was. A fire burning up the available pasture would be a disaster. He hurried over to investigate—something was strange here! Although there was fire, the bush was not burning up.

Suddenly a Voice sounded forth from the very heart of the burning bush. “Moses, Moses.” Startled, and not seeing anyone nearby, Moses answered, “Here am I.” The Voice called out again, “Don’t come any closer. Take off your shoes, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I am the God of your father and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” The Almighty God was speaking to him! Moses hid his face, afraid to look on God.

God spoke again. He told Moses that He had heard the cry of the Children of Israel in Egypt and He knew they were in trouble. God promised to deliver them out of Egypt and to bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey. Then God said, “I will send you to Pharaoh, to bring my people, the Children of Israel, out of Egypt.

Moses was stunned. “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt?” Talk about an impossible job! Moses felt that he couldn’t go to the rulers of Egypt and tell them that he was taking the Israelites away. They would never let all of their slaves go just at his word. How could God ask this of him?

God spoke again. “Certainly I will be with you, and this will be a sign that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will serve God upon this mountain.” All the Children of Israel at this mountain? God would bring them all to this very place? Moses felt unsure. “The people will ask who sent me. How will they know that I am the one to lead them? How do I know they will follow me?” Again the Voice spoke, “I Am That I Am . . . Say unto the children of Israel, I Am has sent me to you.”

Then God told Moses exactly what He wanted him to do. He was to meet with the elders of Israel and tell them what God had said. Together they would go to Pharaoh, and Moses would tell him all the words of God. The Lord told him that Pharaoh would not let the people go, and that He would smite Egypt with all His wonders. What were the wonders of God? How would these things come to pass? Moses felt so helpless.

The Voice of God continued, “What is that in your hand? Throw it on the ground.” As Moses threw down his rod, it became a snake! Moses ran! The Voice spoke again, “Take it by the tail.” Moses obeyed. He reached down and grabbed the serpent by the tail. It became a rod again.

Once more God spoke, “Put your hand inside your coat.” Moses obeyed, but when he took it back out it was covered with leprosy—a dreaded disease! Then God said, “Put it back inside your coat.” Moses obeyed again, and this time when he took it back out, it was normal. Moses was beginning to realize that he must obey God’s commands.

He turned the sheep toward home. The call of God had come and changed the course of his life. Somehow Moses knew that things would never be the same. But God had promised to be with him. The Voice of God echoed in his mind just as it had sounded in the desert, “Certainly I will be with you . . . Certainly I will be with you . . . Certainly I will be with you . . .”

God’s call to Moses came in a dramatic and unusual way, didn’t it? He was called to a tremendous job, but do you know, God has a call for you too? It may not be to lead a whole nation hundreds of miles away to an unknown land. It probably won’t come through a Voice from a burning bush. But it is just as important as the call that God gave to Moses.

You may feel you can’t do what God has asked you to do. That was the way Moses felt. But just as God promised to be with Moses, He has promised to be with you and to help you in whatever He asks you to do. Trust Him! Then, as Moses, you can hear God say, “Certainly I will be with you.”

Imagine a warm, clear summer night with the stars twinkling like billions of diamonds in the sky.

Have you ever tried to count all those pinpoints of light? Picture a glistening stretch of beach. What would it be like to try to count every grain of sand? Impossible! But God once made a promise to a man that his descendants would be “so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable” (Hebrews 11:12). That man’s name was Abram, but God later changed it to Abraham. He was the first Hebrew. God chose Abraham to become the father of the Jewish nation and an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Why did God bless Abraham in such an outstanding way? For an answer, we must go back to a time about four hundred years after Noah’s Ark, to a town called Ur of the Chaldees. Here we find a shepherd-farmer named Terah, and his three sons—Abram, Nahor, and Haran. They all had fields of grain and grassland for their sheep and cattle.

Now, the people of Ur had forgotten that God had destroyed the world with a flood because of sin. They had let sin into their lives and did not love or worship God. They worshiped idols, the sun, moon, stars, and even animals and rivers. The people of Ur actually gave their city the name of their moon-god, Ur. In the midst of all this evil, Terah’s son Abram dared to be different. He believed and worshiped the true and living God.

So often today it’s difficult to stand up to our friends at school for what we know is right. We may be called names or picked on if we’re different from the crowd. Abram wasn’t afraid to be different. He disagreed with his entire city, including his own family, because he knew the power and love of God. God’s Word says, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Abram was willing to do that
for God.

One day God spoke to Abram and told him to leave his family and home. God said he was to move to a land that God would show him. Abram was quick to obey God because he loved Him and wanted to please Him.

Can you imagine packing your belongings and leaving home, family, and friends to go to a place you’ve never seen, or even heard of? That is what Abram did. He gathered his possessions and set out with his wife, Sarai, and his nephew, Lot, to a strange land.

God led Abram to a land called Canaan and told him that because of his faithfulness, He would make his family a great nation and make his name famous. He also promised the land of Canaan to Abram’s family. The most special blessing of all was that through Abram’s family all the nations of the earth would be blessed.

Perhaps Abram didn’t fully realize what God meant by that promise. We now know that it was part of God’s plan that the Savior, Jesus Christ, would be one of his descendants. When God made that promise, He changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “father of many nations.” What wonderful blessings he received because he believed and followed God! His story did not end way back then hundreds of years ago. His example is a challenge to us today.

If we do as Abraham did—believe God and follow Him in whatever He asks us to do—what will God do for us?

A dramatic occurrence took place on the building site that day when work was halted on the first skyscraper.

Skyscrapers are tall, impressive buildings reaching high into the sky. The tallest one in the United States is the One World Trade Center in New York. It is 104 stories high! A lot of time and effort goes into planning and building a structure that tall.

The Bible tells us about a group of people who decided to build a tower so tall it would reach high into the heavens. After the great Flood, God had commanded the people to replenish the earth. Some of the people obeyed God, but there was one large group of people who were not willing to be separated from one another. They moved to the land of Shinar—a beautiful, fertile valley watered by the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. At that time, everyone in the world spoke the same language. As these people talked among themselves they decided to build a city with a tall tower. They thought if they did that, other nations would see how great they were, and they wouldn’t have to be scattered to many different places on the earth.

Soon they began to build. Some men formed the clay and baked the bricks. Some gathered material to use for mortar, while others carried the bricks to the bricklayers. They all worked hard as the first skyscraper began to rise.

One day God came down to see the city and the tower. He was very displeased. These people were trusting in their own power, not in God. He decided to confuse their language so they could not understand one another’s speech. Imagine! All of a sudden the people began to speak in different languages. What a mix-up that must have caused. When the bricklayer called for more brick, the man beside him could only shrug his shoulders. When he wanted mortar, no one knew what he was saying. Oh, the gesturing and the shouting! What confusion!

It was impossible to build with everyone speaking different languages, so they had to give up. After trying so hard to make sure they would always be together, the people had to take their families and possessions and find new homes in different parts of the world. Their plan failed because they had ignored God’s command and had done things their own way.

Do you know people who try to ignore God’s Word and do things their own way? Here’s a story of someone who thought rules weren’t for him.

One day Owen and Carter were riding their bikes to school. Owen was very arrogant and proud and did things his way—legally or illegally. As the boys rode, Owen said, “Hey, Carter, I found a short cut to school. It’s this way and it’ll get us there five minutes faster!” As they turned the corner, Carter saw the street sign—ONE WAY.

“Hey,” he yelled, “this is a one-way street and we’re going the wrong way!”

“I know,” said Owen, “but it’s a short street and so much faster. Who cares, anyway? We can go on any street we want. I dare anyone to try to stop us.” Suddenly, a big truck was heading right for them. As they swerved away, they heard tires screeching. They missed the truck by inches!

When they stopped to catch their breath, Carter said, “That was too close for me! I’m turning back and getting off this street.”

“Ah, you big chicken! That truck driver just didn’t know how to drive.” Owen shouted.

“Well, you can be too proud and stubborn to go back if you want, but I’m getting out of here.” And with that Carter turned and took the regular route to school. He got to class just as the tardy bell rang.

About an hour later, Mr Peterson, the principal, entered the classroom and asked to talk to Carter.

“Did you see Owen this morning?” Mr Peterson asked. Before Carter could answer, Mr Peterson continued, “Owen is in the emergency room and the police are coming here to talk to you. Someone said they saw you with him just before the accident. The police want to ask you some questions.”

Thoughts began racing through Carter’s mind. What happened? He was so glad he had turned around and gone the right way.

What do you think happened to Owen? And why?

Emma shut the front door quietly. Maybe if she could reach her bedroom without making noise, Mom wouldn’t hear and ask where she’d been.

It didn’t work. Just as she reached the hall her mother appeared from the kitchen. “Emma! You’re so late! Did you have to stay after school for something?”

“Uh . . .  yeah!” Emma eagerly seized on the excuse offered her. “I . . . uh . . . well, I stopped to talk to Mr. Evert about Friday’s history test.” Once she got started with the lie, it was easy to elaborate. “I didn’t understand some of the notes he gave us so I thought I’d better ask him before the test.”

Her mother nodded. “All right, Dear. I was just a little worried. Well, dinner will be ready in about half an hour.” She turned back toward the kitchen.

In her bedroom, Emma turned on the radio. But it couldn’t drown out the voice of her conscience. You disobeyed your mom, it kept telling her. And you lied. Well, so what! she argued with herself. I wanted to go and Mom will never find out. Emma was so busy with her thoughts that she didn’t hear the phone ring. She didn’t know her lie was found out until her mom came in a few minutes later.

“Emma, that was Mr. Archer from the coffee shop. He said you forgot your history book when you stopped in with your friends after school.” Her mother looked at her sternly.

Emma felt the hot color creep up over her face. “Oh . . .” was all she could say. After a long silence her mother said, “Emma, your father and I asked you not to go out after school without permission. And you said the reason you were late was that you were talking to Mr. Evert about your test.”

Emma looked up angrily. “But it’s not fair! All the other kids go to the coffee shop after school.”

“I really can’t say anything about that,” her mother said quietly. “But I do have to say that you will be restricted in your activities for the next week. You disobeyed, and lied as well, and you will have to be punished.”

That wasn’t a very happy story, was it? But you know, it could have had a different ending. Let’s go back to where it says, “In her bedroom,” and substitute this:

In her bedroom, Emma turned on the radio. But it couldn’t drown out the voice of her conscience. You disobeyed your mom, it kept telling her. And you lied. Emma knew that was true. She knew it was wrong. It didn’t matter if all the other girls got to go to the coffee shop. What mattered was that she had been told not to and then did it anyway, and lied to cover it up.

Suddenly she was sorry. She knew her actions would make her parents sad, but even worse was how God felt. Slowly she knelt by her bed. “Dear God,” she prayed, “I disobeyed, and I lied. But I’m sorry, Lord. Please forgive me. I’m going to tell Mom what I did and ask her to forgive me too.”

A tap sounded on her door and her mother came in. “Emma, that was Mr. Archer from the coffee shop.” Then she noticed Emma was kneeling by her bed, tears on her cheeks.

“Why . . . Emma . . . ?”

Emma stood up, her eyes downcast. “Mom, please forgive me. I lied to you. I wasn’t talking to Mr. Evert after school; I went to the coffee shop. But I felt so miserable about it that I just had to get down and pray. I told God I’m sorry, but I want you to forgive me too.”

Her mother put a gentle arm around Emma’s shoulders. “Honey, I’m sorry you disobeyed. That makes me sad, but I’m glad your heart was open to God’s correction. And of course forgive you.”

This second ending to our story had a different feeling, didn’t it? All of us must learn that if we do wrong and do not repent of it, we will be judged for that wrong and punished. But if we turn to God, He will forgive us.

A long time ago men were so wicked that God decided to destroy the earth with a flood. Noah, a man of God, built an ark for those who would obey God. But only his family listened to God’s warning. They were the only ones who escaped God’s punishment for those who refused to believe Him.

Today, we can see a lot of ugly things happening around us, just as they were before the Flood. People are doing things they know are wrong, thinking only of themselves and forgetting God. God couldn’t stand sin and wickedness in Noah’s time, and He is no different today!

God gives everyone a chance to escape the punishment for sin. We can read His warning in the Bible, but some people aren’t listening. God tells us that if we will repent and ask Him to come into our hearts, He will forgive us. Just as Noah and his family were delivered, we will escape the next time of punishment that will come on this world. Before that time, Jesus will come for those who have been forgiven. Heaven will be their home forever. Then God will send punishment to the people left on earth.

God’s Word is true. Will you receive judgment and punishment—or forgiveness and Heaven?

Mrs. Jones hurriedly put the finishing touches on a big chocolate cake. Kenny and Brenda were due to arrive at any time for the surprise birthday dinner for her son, Mason. They would only be able to stay for an hour, so dinner would have to be ready to serve the minute they arrived. The ringing of the phone interrupted her thoughts. After quickly wiping her hands she answered it.

Her son’s breathless voice tumbled into her ear, “Mom, may I go over to Beckett’s house on the way home from school? He has a new basketball hoop and we want to try it out. I don’t have any homework and, after all, it is my birthday!”

Mrs. Jones glanced at the clock. “Mason, not tonight. You had band practice after school and I’m afraid there just isn’t time before dinner. You’d better come right on home.”

Mason hung up the phone and shook his head disappointedly at his friend. “Sorry, Beckett, but Mom says to come right home.”

“Oh, c’mon Mason,” Beckett urged him, “just for a few minutes! Your mom won’t really care if you’re a little late. Let’s get a couple of other guys to join us.”

An hour and a half later, Mason opened the front door of his house and slipped quietly inside, only to be greeted by the troubled eyes of his mother.

Mason looked at his feet, scuffing one sneaker over the other. “Uh . . . hi, Mom . . . um . . . wasn’t that Uncle Kenny’s car I saw pulling out of the driveway? . . . uh . . .”

“Yes, that was Uncle Kenny and Aunt Brenda, Mason,” his mother replied sadly. “They couldn’t stay any longer at a birthday party where the most important guest never arrived!”

Mason’s eyes widened. “You mean . . . ?”

“Yes, Mason. Because we were planning a surprise party for you tonight, I told you to come straight home. But you didn’t come. We waited as long as we could, but finally Uncle Kenny and Aunt Brenda had to go. You chose to do what you wanted instead of obeying me. How does your thoughtlessness make you feel?” Mason hung his head. He could not reply.

Sometimes we may face situations like the one that confronted Mason. He was tempted to disobey—and he did.

How will we react? Will we resist the temptation, or will we give in and do what we know we shouldn’t do?

Our Bible text for this lesson tells of two other people who faced temptation. Adam and Eve, the first people on earth, had been given a wonderful Garden in which to live. God gave them permission to eat the fruit of every tree there except one.

We might sometimes question the rules set down for us, but remember what happened to Adam and Eve. Satan tempted Eve to ignore God’s order by questioning God’s command and causing a doubt as to what would happen if she disobeyed. His words persuaded Eve. She took the first bite of the forbidden fruit, and then gave some to Adam, and he followed her example.

The first sin had been committed.

That sin did not happen when Satan tempted Eve to take the forbidden fruit. It happened when Eve yielded to the temptation and did what she knew was wrong.

Satan is still busy trying to trip up those who are walking with God. He wants to destroy the fellowship between God and man. He sends temptations our way hoping that we will do what he says.

But we don’t have to give in! Our key verse tells us that God can deliver us from temptation. When the devil tries to get us to do something we know is wrong, we can turn to the Lord. He will give us strength to tell the devil to leave, that we won’t follow him.

Mason yielded to temptation and disobeyed his mother. Will you resist the devil when he comes to you with a temptation? The choice is yours.

Did you ever wish you could observe an exciting occasion without being noticed yourself? Did you ever wish you could go back in time for just a few minutes or hours to see how something really happened? Let’s imagine that we can go back and watch God create the first man.

We’re going back . . . back . . . back to when the world was new. Nothing is more than six days old. Over there, a deer is grazing on the greenest grass we’ve ever seen. The deer’s fur looks smooth and soft. Near him, a rabbit hops by as if it didn’t have a care in the world. We are standing under a tree, and flowers of every color bloom around us.

A few feet away, our attention is caught by Someone bending near the ground. It is the great Creator himself. It is God! But what can He be doing? We know that every time God wanted to make something new, He spoke the words and it was done. Now why is He bent over? It looks as though He is doing something with the dirt.

Let’s move a few steps closer. Now we can see better. He is working in the dust. No, He is working with the dust and making a shape. We strain our eyes to see better. Yes, the shape looks a little like God himself. How quickly His touch changes the features to look like a person. Now He is stepping back to look. We cannot resist moving nearer. We see a perfect man. But he is so still, no part of him moves. We hold our breath to see what will happen next.

God bends over him again and breathes into him the breath of life. The man begins to breathe . . . he moves his arms . . . he sits up and laughs as he puts his hand into God’s. They stand up and walk away.

How exciting! Imagine, God just took that dust and made a man! We are so interested in what is happening that we wouldn’t think of leaving now.

God names the man Adam. God said He didn’t want Adam to be alone so He brought all of the animals to Adam, and Adam gave them their names. But God wanted someone special for Adam, someone he could share God’s creation with.

As we watch, God has Adam lie down, and soon we can see that he is sound asleep. God bends over Adam, as He did when He created him. Again we move closer, fascinated. God has opened up Adam and taken out a rib! Carefully He fixes Adam’s side. But what will He do with that rib?

We watch closely as God forms a woman from that rib. We cannot tell how it happens . . . it’s as if God’s touch does it without effort. We see a lovely woman.

But look, Adam is moving. He is waking up! What will he think of this new creation? Again we find ourselves holding our breath to see what will happen. Adam opens his eyes and sees her. He jumps to his feet and shouts for joy. He says, “She shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

Our time is up and we cannot watch any longer. We must come back to the present time. But we will always remember what it was like when God created man in His own image. He breathed into man the breath of life and gave him a living soul that would never die.

How could Mr. Williams not believe? Bailee’s perplexity led her to read again the story of creation from her Bible.

Questions raced through Bailee’s mind as she gathered her textbooks and left the science room. Did Mr. Williams believe the theory he had been talking about that morning? Did he really think the earth had once been a molten mass that gradually cooled off? How could he believe that animals evolved from a tiny piece of matter in the water—where did that tiny piece of matter come from? Did he honestly accept the thought that man had gradually developed from a monkey-like creature?

Through the rest of the afternoon, Bailee couldn’t get her mind off the subject. When she got home from school, she went straight to her room. Tossing her coat over a chair, she sat down on the bed and reached for the Bible on her nightstand. Opening it to the first verse, she read: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”

That was better! It seemed so much easier to believe that God created the heaven and the earth than to believe some freak explosion happened in space, and millions of years later the resulting mass became what we call Earth.

In the second verse, something else made sense to her. As the earth was formless, void, and filled with darkness, the Spirit of God moved on the waters. That’s how she had felt last summer at a youth camp. Inside of her had been darkness, and there hadn’t seemed to be any form of her life. As she sat in the chapel service, she had felt the Spirit of God move. That night she had asked Jesus to change her life, and He did! She felt like a whole new person. Bailee knew the Spirit of God could move, so when the Bible said the Spirit moved on the waters, that made perfect sense to her!

Somehow, it seemed exciting to know that it was God who said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. It wasn’t just an accident, a sudden combination of gases, or whatever. It was God who had engineered the whole universe and ordered it into existence.

Bailee read on. God made the firmament. He wanted a sky in His plan, and so on the second day, He created the heavens.

On the third day, God made the oceans and dry land. God made the grass grow, the herbs to produce seeds, and fruit trees to grow with seeds inside the fruit. He planned ahead so trees would produce the seeds to grow more trees. No way could that be an accident! Only God could create things with such an order.

Bailee read that God made the stars, moon, and sun on the fourth day. How great to realize that God arranged these “for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” It was good to know that God made the sun to light and warm the earth. As Bailee remembered lying in the sun at the beach, she was glad she could enjoy God’s creation.

On the fifth day, God made the fish and birds. Some fish were made to live near the surface of the sea, and some near the bottom. God made big fish, such as sharks and tuna, to travel the seas. He made others to stay in one area. Some were to live in freshwater lakes and rivers. Still others, like the salmon, could live in both freshwater and saltwater. There were birds to live in the mountains and birds to live in the jungles. Could all that variety have just happened? Oh, no!

On the sixth day, God made all the cattle and creeping things and beasts. God created them to multiply and bring forth after their kind. Bailee chuckled to herself as she thought that she had never heard of a cow having a foal for a baby, or a cat having a puppy! It was just like the Bible said, every “living creature after his kind.” The cows and the horses and the puppies weren’t constantly changing or evolving into different kinds of animals either.

As Bailee read the twenty-fifth verse of the first chapter of Genesis, she felt a good, solid assurance in her mind. The verse said, “. . . and God saw that it was good.” That’s just the way she felt too.

Everything about creation was good. It was orderly, and definitely no accident! As Bailee closed her Bible she told herself, “I’m so glad I believe it just that way!”

Harper wanted to win, but not at any cost.

“I just can’t do it,” Harper whispered across the aisle to Scarlett.

“C’mon, Harper!” Scarlett whispered back, stooping to pick up a paper she had dropped so she could lean closer to her friend. “It’s absolutely your best chance for winning.”

Miss Carson’s warning glance brought the girls’ conversation to a halt, but they quickly resumed the discussion as soon as the lunch bell rang.

“You’ve got to do it,” Scarlett urged, as they walked together to the lunchroom. “How do you expect to make class president unless you do?”

“But it’s just not right, “ Harper said again. “Nora is a nice girl, even if she is running against me. I don’t have anything against her. Why should I put her down?”

Scarlett gave her an exasperated look. “Believe me, Harper, everybody does it when they’re running for office! Candidates always split their time between talking about how good they are and how bad their opponents are. Besides, it’s not like you’d be spreading lies about Nora. She did flunk fifth grade, and her grades weren’t tops last year either.”

Harper opened her lunch sack and bowed her head to say grace while Scarlett waited impatiently. As soon as she opened her eyes, Scarlett had another argument ready. “Listen, Harper. Nora is going to be a tough opponent. She’s pretty, and most everyone likes her. Besides, she knows way more kids than you do since you’ve only been at our school for a year.”

Harper stared meditatively at her cheese sandwich. “I know you’re right. Nora really is popular, and winning this election isn’t going to be easy . . .”

Scarlett nodded, sensing Harper was weakening. After a moment, she pressed on. “I’ve got it all figured out. We’ll wait until two days before the election. That way Nora won’t have time to come up with anything about you in return. I know just the kids to tell. If we say something to a couple of them, you can be sure it will spread!

Harper could hardly keep her mind on her classes the rest of the afternoon. Her heart felt heavy whenever she thought about the lunchtime conversation. It’s not really wrong, she told herself. After all, what Scarlett said is true. And the kids should know about Nora’s grades if they’re going to vote for her. But her feeling of uneasiness persisted.

The evening seemed to drag by for Harper. After dinner she went to her room and flopped on her bed to review a chapter of algebra, but her mind kept drifting to the conversation with Scarlett. Harper wanted to win that election. School government interested her, and she knew she would find the experience challenging. Besides, it would be kind of embarrassing to run and not win.

Finally, she shut her algebra book with a thud and stared at the ceiling while her thoughts raced this way and that. Is trying to give Nora a bad name really the only way to win? And is winning the election worth it?

Glancing at the clock on her night stand, she reached for her Bible and the Sunday school book beneath it. Maybe she’d read part of her lesson tonight. They had been studying Christian growth for the past few Sundays, and Harper had really enjoyed the lessons. She knew she had some growing to do in her spiritual life, and little by little God had been showing her ways she could measure up.

As she opened the Bible, her eyes fell on the verse in Deuteronomy 6:18. She read, “And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the Lord: that it may be well with thee . . .” She started to read on, but what she had just read caught her attention. She went back and read again, “. . . right and good in the sight of the Lord . . .” Suddenly the words seemed to be a yardstick held up next to her conversation with Scarlett. How would Scarlett’s suggestion look in the sight of God?

Harper thought about the uneasy feeling that had troubled her ever since lunch. Could that have been God trying to point out that Scarlett’s idea wasn’t the right way for a Christian to act? What would the outcome be if she went ahead with Scarlett’s plan? Even if she won the election, would she feel good about it?

Harper knew the answer. And all at once the decision was made. She’d talk to Scarlett tomorrow. Whether she won or not, she knew that down in her heart she wanted to do what was right and good in God’s sight.

Self-discipline helps this runner.

He poised himself, ready to spring forward at the sound of the starting gun. Every muscle was in readiness. The long hours of training and discipline were behind him. Would this bring him first place in the race?

Concentrating on the track stretched out like a ribbon ahead of him, he was unaware of the noise from the spectators in the stands to his right. Through his mind flashed a replay of the hours spent in preparation for this moment. He had run mile after mile every day, rain or shine. He had eaten the restricted meals that were part of his high-protein diet—no chocolate cake or glazed doughnuts! He had headed for bed at nine o’clock every night. He had done his exercising—lots of it. And, of course, all good runners must stay away from cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs.

It hadn’t always been easy. An early bedtime didn’t lend itself to going to the mall and hanging out with the “in” crowd. And instead of standing in the halls after school, talking to the girls, he had to head right out to the track and run several miles before going home.

Had these sacrifices been worth it?

The starting gun sounded, and a split second later he was in motion. Disciplined muscles responded without hesitation. Months of rigorous training had prepared him for this effort, and within seconds his strides achieved a rhythm that he would maintain throughout the race.

Minutes later, the months of preparation proved out. Along with a few others, he slowly began to pull ahead of the rest. Instinct urged him to strain to get in front of the runners near him. But, knowing that his strength would be needed later, he paced himself, purposefully conserving his energy.

He shut out all distractions—the crowd, the buildings, the other runners. He knew he had to concentrate on running this race and running it right. Time seemed to slip by quickly. He was still breathing evenly as he approached the final stretch.

Almost there! His training had prepared him for a powerful kick, the last burst of speed. One foot in front of the other, stride after stride—the finish line was just ahead! And there was no one in front of him!

Exhilaration swept over him as he realized the race was his. A split second later he leaned into the tape as it broke across his chest. The roar from the crowd echoed around him. He had done it! He had won the race!

Can you look back through our story and pick out one of the things which helped the runner most to win the race? He was self-disciplined.

Though his training had been rigorous and had required exercising restraint over things he might have wanted to do, he had put those things aside because he had a goal in view—winning the race.

As Christians, we also have a goal in view—Heaven! And in order to be “winners,” we must exercise self-discipline.

How?

We must concentrate on what it means to be a fully-dedicated Christian. Everything we think and everything we do should agree with the Word of God. Our “training” will include daily Bible study and prayer, consecration, denying ourselves things that would distract us from living for the Lord. It might not always be easy, just as training wasn’t always easy for the runner. But if we do make that effort, we will be winners too!

Staring gloomily out the bedroom window, Reese watched her friend Brendan riding toward her house on his bike.

“Hey, Reese! Why so bummed out?” he called.

With her head in her hands, Reese said slowly, “Oh, everything’s just going wrong, Brendan.”

Brendan parked his bike, then said with a look of mock seriousness, “Tell me, Miss Barlow, when did the problems that led to this dreadful moment in your young life first begin?”

Unable to keep from smiling, Reese grabbed a nearby pillow and acted like she was going to throw it out the window at him. “You sure know how to ruin my bad moods, Brendan Marshall! But I still won’t be able to be in the Young People’s concert this weekend.”

“What are you talking about? Did you forget how to play your cello or something?”

“No, dummy. I accidentally broke it yesterday. When Mom took it into the repair shop this morning they said they couldn’t have it fixed before the concert.”

“Well, at least you’ll be able to sing with the choir.”

“It doesn’t look like it. I woke up with a really sore throat this morning. So you guys have a good time without me, okay? I’m not much use to the Lord right now.”

“Hey, don’t talk like that! The Lord has given you more to serve Him with than just singing and playing your cello!”

“Like what?”

Brendan thought for a moment and said, “Well . . . you could . . . uh . . . there must be something. After all, you are the pastor’s daughter.”

“What does that have to do with it? Maybe I’m just a two-talent Christian, and both of them are broken.”

Brendan hopped on his bike. “Well, I’ve got to be going, but keep your chin up, Reese. I think the Lord can use you even when you’re broken!” He headed off with a smile, shouting back, “I’ll pray for you!”

Reese turned away from the window thinking. If this sore throat goes away at least I’ll be able to sing. Surely the Lord wants me to sing for Him.

Kneeling by her bed, Reese began to pray that Jesus would heal her. When she finished, her throat still hurt, but she figured that maybe by morning it would be better.

The next afternoon Brendan called Reese and asked her how she was feeling.

“Worse. Mom thinks I may have strep throat.”

“You’re kidding! Now there’s no way you’ll be in the concert!”

“Thanks for the encouragement, Brendan. Remember me between notes while you’re playing your trumpet.”

“I’m not trying to make you feel bad, Reese, but I’ve been thinking about it and I’m sure the Lord can still use you somehow even if you are sick in bed.”

“I’d like to believe you, but it doesn’t look too promising.”

Concert night came and the Barlow household was bustling with activity as all the family was getting ready—all except one, that is. Reese was feeling better, but not well enough to go out.

“Are you sure you’ll be all right by yourself tonight, Reese?”

“Don’t worry about me, Mom. I’m seventeen years old, I’ll be fine! Plus, I have my phone right by my bed and I can always call if I need you. Have a good time.”

The family car headed down the street, and the house was very still except for the old grandfather clock ticking slowly in the living room. Reese wondered to herself why the Lord had let all this happen. She also thought of Brendan’s comment about her having other talents besides music. Lord, she prayed, is there something else You’ve given me that I can use for You? If there is, help me to be faithful. A few moments later she drifted off to sleep.

The ringing of the parsonage telephone jarred her suddenly from her nap. Reese answered the phone. “Hello, this is the Barlow residence.”

“Is Pastor Barlow in?”

“No, I’m sorry. He’s away from home for the evening. Would you like to leave a message?”

There was a moment’s hesitation. “No . . . I really need to talk to a minister.” The woman’s voice broke.

Reese’s thoughts raced and fear gripped her. Could this woman be thinking of suicide? “I’m really sorry that my father is not home, but maybe I could . . .”

“Oh, never mind,” the woman interrupted. “It probably wouldn’t do any good anyhow. Sorry to bother you.”

“Wait! Don’t hang up! Maybe I could help. Do you want to talk about it?”

There was a long silence. Then the woman said, “Yes, maybe it would help to talk to someone.” Little by little her story came out, a story of sorrow and desperation that had driven her to consider taking her own life. The two of them talked for quite some time, and Reese was surprised at the words the Lord gave her to speak in answer to the woman’s questions. Finally she asked the woman if she wanted to pray.

“You mean right here over the phone?”

“I don’t know why not,” Reese said. “Jesus can answer prayer wherever we are. I believe He will hear us right now!”

There were tears shed on both ends of the phone line that evening. But Reese felt that God had brought real victory when the woman promised to come to church the next evening and talk to her father there.

“I won’t think again of taking my life, Reese. I want to thank you for praying with me. I feel so much better now.”

When they finally hung up, Reese felt thankful and happy! The Lord had proved that He could use her.

Dylan dreaded P.E. class, and especially the annual fitness test.

Dylan felt a familiar knot in his stomach. Ten more minutes until time for P.E. I hate that class, he thought. Every day I drag in there, dreading the next hour.

He knew how it would go. When they played basketball he was always the last one chosen for the team. He didn’t blame anyone for not wanting him on a team because he could never make a basket. He couldn’t even dribble the ball the way they did. Baseball was no better. Try as he would, it seemed he could never connect the bat with the ball.

Today would be even worse than usual. He’d wished he could be sick enough to stay home, but he woke up feeling fine. This was the big day when all three P.E. classes met for the fitness test. Today, the eyes of everyone in those three classes would be watching him.

As Dylan put his hand on the gym door, he wished for the thousandth time that he were somewhere else. But there was nothing to do but go in. Eventually, he managed to arrive at the track in his gym clothes, and with the knot in his stomach tighter than ever.

The teacher blew the whistle and announced they would begin with the 400-meter dash. The gun sounded. Dylan started around the track. Before he was halfway his sides ached and his breath cut his chest like a knife.

By the time he came to the last quarter of the race he saw that practically everyone else was finished. As he willed himself to put one foot in front of the other someone else slowly pulled up beside him. Glancing to his right, he saw Chase Turner. Chase must be having as much trouble as I am, he thought. They finished together as the three classes clapped for them. How embarrassing! Dylan walked away with his head hanging. But Chase managed a laugh, and gasped out, “Last but not least!”

Dylan was amazed. He’d always admired Chase because he had so many friends. He seemed to be having a good time whenever Dylan saw him in the halls or after school. Dylan always just assumed that Chase was good at everything. But here in P.E. Chase didn’t seem to be any better than he was.

As the afternoon wore on and the fitness tests were completed one by one, Dylan saw that Chase was, indeed, no better than he was. The two of them seemed to finish everything last. Even so, Chase never lost his smile or his ability to laugh. As they sat and waited for the final event of the day, Dylan asked him, “How can you always laugh even when we’re last? I hate every minute of this class. I don’t even feel like smiling, much less laughing!”

Chase grinned at Dylan and said, “I have a couple of secrets. Want to hear what they are?”

“Sure, I’ll listen to anything that will help,” Dylan answered.

“I always remember one thing during P.E.—I’m not going to be in this class forever. And when I graduate, what difference will it make if I was always last in P.E.?

Dylan mumbled, “Well, yeah . . . I guess you’re right there. What’s your other secret?”

Chase looked a little more serious as he said, “I have Jesus Christ in my heart. I know He can help me do whatever I have to do. ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ I might not be able to do all things the most quickly, but with the Lord’s help I can get through them.”

Just then it was their turn to go, and for the final time that day, the two boys endured one more event.

As Dylan walked back to the locker room, he thought about what Chase had said. Who would have ever thought religion would help in a P.E. class? But it just might make some sense. Chase seemed to be happy in any situation. Maybe, just maybe, I should learn a little bit more about Chase’s second secret.

Olive had almost given up on finding an answer to her problem.

Olive stared out the window of the school library, unaware of the students settling into chairs around her and opening their books. The few hurried words Jordyn had just shared with her out in the hall rang again through her mind. “Did you hear about Isaiah?” Jordyn had asked. “They found his cap down in the Science lab where somebody broke in and messed things up over the weekend. He got called to the principal’s office during last period. I bet he did it. And I hope he really gets in trouble. He sure has it coming!”

This news, along with what she had heard from several other students, troubled her. Isaiah was the tough kid who’d made life so miserable for her ever since the beginning of the school year. Olive thought back to the quiz Mr. Larsen had given just a week or so after school began. Isaiah had scribbled down a couple of answers for one of his buddies across the aisle and tried to get Olive to pass it to him. Olive had just shaken her head and looked back down at her own work, but Isaiah had persisted. Then Mr. Larsen looked up, and Isaiah was in trouble. Ever since then, he’d had it in for Olive.

He made fun of her answers in class. He lunged against her in the hall, making her lose her balance. He poked her books out from under her arm. He whispered behind his hand to his friends whenever she walked past, causing them to laugh.

Olive had tried being friendly but that had just brought a lot of sneering remarks. She’d tried ignoring him. She talked to her Mom about what to do. She’d even discussed the problem with her counselor. But nothing seemed to work.

Just last week, Olive had almost given up in despair. Isaiah and a group of his buddies had been lounging by the school fence when she headed for home after school. He’d stuck his foot out when she walked by, and laughed uproariously when she stumbled, trying to avoid falling. She remembered how the tears had stung behind her eyelids, but she had blinked them back, determined not to give him the satisfaction of seeing her cry.

That night she’d prayed about the problem. “God, I’ve always been taught that You have the grace and answer for every situation. Please help me with this problem I have with Isaiah.”

Somehow, after she had prayed about it, the problem didn’t seem so huge anymore. God had really given her peace of mind about the whole situation. She was just sure He was going to take care of it.

Could it be that this was God’s solution? Isaiah had been accused of breaking into the school and wrecking the Science room. Maybe he would be expelled. If he weren’t around he couldn’t bother her anymore.

For some reason, though, Olive didn’t think that was God’s way. Somehow she knew! She knew that Isaiah wasn’t the one who had broken into the Science room.

The whole school had been buzzing with the details all morning. And one of the details Olive had picked up was that it had all happened about 5:30 on Saturday evening. Someone had noticed a kid climbing out a window and had called the police.

Isaiah had been over at South Sound Shopping Mall at 5:30. Olive had seen him there.

Suddenly Olive gathered her books together and stood up. Moving over to the desk, she quietly asked the library attendant for permission to go down to the office. She knew what she had to do.

That was God’s solution. Olive spoke to the principal, and Isaiah was dismissed to go back to his classroom.

After school, Isaiah was lounging by the fence again. As Olive approached, she had a feeling he’d been watching for her, and she was right. But this time he didn’t stop her by putting a foot out. He put a hand out instead.

“Stop, Olive.” He hesitated a moment, and then went on. “I just want to say thanks.”

“That’s okay, Isaiah. I didn’t want you to get blamed when I knew you didn’t do it.”

As she headed on down the sidewalk, she knew that she’d never have a problem with Isaiah again.

Answer Lesson 203

Willing to Go

TEXT: Acts 26:1-20

Henry had a choice to make when God called his family to serve in a foreign country.

Surely this is all just a bad dream, Henry thought. He looked from his dad to his mom. Soon someone will laugh and say it is all a big joke. But no one did. Instead, they just looked at him with the same earnest expression.

Suddenly his little sister burst into tears. “I don’t want to go. I’m scared to move away to another country,” she cried, pulling her doll closer. Henry felt a bit that way too. He had expected to come home from school, have a snack, and go to play basketball with his friends. But now this! It was as if someone had dropped a ton of bricks on him!

“We have done a lot of praying about this. We are sure that it is God’s will for us to move. God has shown us that the world is His harvest field and He has a special place for us to work. We must be willing to go where God sends us. He has promised to be with us and help us, and we believe He will.”

Henry heard his father’s words but they seemed to come from far away. This whole thing just did not seem real. How could God do this to him? A moment ago he had felt safe and secure, but now his whole world seemed to have turned upside down. He felt torn inside between the life he knew and the one his parents wanted to venture into.

“We feel, in all fairness, Henry,” his father continued, “that you should choose for yourself. We can make arrangements for you to live here with a family from the church until you graduate, or you can come with us now. Of course, we’d like to have you with us, but that might be selfish on our part.” He paused for a moment. “Henry, would you like to talk about this now, or would you like a little time to think it over?”

Henry hesitated. His feelings were almost too jumbled to sort out. He recognized a few of them . . . a sadness that threatened to swallow him, a fear of the unknown, and yet a kind of thrill of excitement too. He did not feel sure that he should trust any of these. But how could he know what was the right thing to do?

“What about all the other things we’re doing for God? Can’t we just be happy living here, and continue serving God as we have in the past?”

“Yes, Henry. We could, if God wanted that. But He seems to have other plans for our lives now.”

“Why do I have to make a choice like this?” Henry asked, troubled.

“Sometimes the choices we have to make are difficult, even painful. But if we are going to serve God then we must expect to make some hard choices. We know this is not easy for you, but we also know that God will help you make the right decision.”

“I need some time to think about this,” Henry said. He stood up and walked to his bedroom.

Henry wished he knew the answer. He remembered stories he had heard about Christian missionaries who were martyred for Christ . . . it made him shudder. But Jesus had been willing to die for him. He remembered the day he had really believed that truth. He had felt the love of Jesus reaching down through time from Mount Calvary to his heart.

Now, as he prayed about his decision, he became aware of that same love reaching beyond him to others in faraway places. He knew it was the love of Jesus. In a moment, one very special moment, he knew. That moment became crystallized in time. It was a moment of decision . . . of knowing . . . of willingness to fit into God’s design.

“Well, when do we pack?” he asked that night at the dinner table.

“Just as simple as that?” his father laughed, leaning back in his chair and relaxing a little.

“Well, it wasn’t so simple, but I do know I want to go with you!”

“Are you sure, Henry?” his mother asked calmly. “We want you to be sure.”

“I’m sure, Mom. I know. It just feels right inside. I’m already excited about making the trip!”

“I can guarantee it will be exciting,” his dad promised. “And we’ll be looking forward to it even more, knowing you’ll be there with us.”