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No Doubt About It
Damitri sighed as he sat on the beach and watched big waves come in and go out. He was thinking of something he had done earlier that week--something bad. He knew it was wrong, and he had asked Jesus to forgive him. But was his sin really gone forever? What if it came back?
Damitri turned as his grandfather sat down beside him. "Now, here we are by this big, beautiful ocean, yet you look more worried than a turkey on Thanksgiving morning," Grandpa said. "What's bothering you?"
Damitri sighed. "Grandpa? How do we know our sins are really gone?"
Grandpa turned to look out at the water. "Seeing the ocean reminds me of a verse in the Bible that says God has cast our sins into the depths of the sea."
"Oh yeah, I remember learning a verse about that," Damitri replied. "If they're buried in the sea like that, they can't ever come back, can they?"
"No way!" Grandpa replied. "God also gives another example that helps us understand they're gone for good. Can you see where the ocean ends?"
Damitri cupped his hands over his eyes and looked into the distance. He shook his head. "No. I see where it looks like it ends, but I know it goes on a lot farther than that. When we were out on the sailboat yesterday, we could see only sky and water in every direction."
Grandpa nodded. "It seemed a long, long way from one edge of the sky to the other, didn't it? But that's nothing compared to the distance God has removed our sins from us. The Bible says the sins of those who trust in Jesus are removed as far as the east is from the west."
"In school we learned east and west never meet," said Damitri thoughtfully. "They're in total opposite directions. So I guess that would mean our sins are gone forever."
"They sure are," Grandpa replied. "If we try to remove them ourselves, it doesn't work--we'll still have them. But Jesus took the punishment for our sins on the cross. When we put our trust in Him, He removes them all. And you can be sure He's done a good job. You won't see those sins again!" Ruth I. Jay
A Puzzling Gift
"Puzzles!" Camila exclaimed when she and her brother opened the package that had just been delivered. "Grandma sent one for each of us."
"She sent us a letter too," Santiago said, holding up an envelope. "Look! It's taped shut, and she wrote a message on it. It says, 'Don't open this envelope until you've both finished your puzzle.'" Santiago frowned. "I wonder what that's for."
Camila and Santiago dumped their puzzle pieces on the kitchen table and began putting them together. "I'm missing a piece," Santiago said when he finally added the last piece he had to his puzzle.
"I'm missing one too," said Camila. "It leaves a hole in my puzzle. Maybe we dropped them somewhere."
Camila looked all over the floor while Santiago searched the wrapping paper and boxes, but they couldn't find the missing pieces.
"Do you think it's okay to open our letter even though the puzzles aren't quite done?" Santiago asked. Their mother nodded, so they quickly opened the envelope.
"Are you missing something?" Camila read aloud. "I am too! I miss each of you, so I'm coming to visit next week. Love, Grandma."
When Grandma came, she gave each of the kids a small package. Opening hers, Camila found the missing puzzle piece and a bead bracelet. Santiago got his missing piece and a key chain. "All right!" said Camila. "Next time we put our puzzles together, they won't have holes in them anymore."
"No, but without the holes, don't forget that I miss you when I can't see you. When I'm not able to spend time with you, I feel like there's a hole in my heart," Grandma said, giving them each a hug. "Do you know who else wants to spend time with you?"
"Our friends?" asked Camila.
Grandma smiled. "I'm sure they do, but I was thinking of Jesus. He has a special message for you too."
"He does?" Santiago asked. "What message?"
"The message in His Word, the Bible," Grandma replied. "Even though you can't see Him, He wants you to know how much He loves you and that He's always there to help you and guide you. Spend time with Him by reading His Word and taking it to heart." Karen H. Whiting
In the Dark
The dining room at Camp Macoma rang with singing as the youth group gathered for bedtime devotions.
A storm had been brewing over the lake, and soon thunder and lightning interrupted the singing. Suddenly the dining hall was enveloped in darkness.
"Sit tight," Mr. Mike said. "Mr. Scott will see about getting the lights back on."
At first the kids huddled where they were, but soon they got accustomed to the darkness and became braver. Ignoring Mr. Mike's warning, some of them started moving around. "Becca, there's a mouse on your leg," Cody called out.
Becca laughed. "If there were one, you wouldn't even be able to see it."
As kids moved around, something brushed against Kendall's leg. "What's that?" she screamed as she jumped back, bruising her knee on a table.
"All right, kids. Calm down!" Mr. Mike ordered, and the group reluctantly settled down. "While we wait for the lights to come back on, let's think about what happened tonight," Mr. Mike continued. "How did you feel when the lights first went out?"
Cody laughed. "The girls were scared," he said.
"I think you all were a little uncomfortable," said Mr. Mike. "But when you got used to the darkness, some of you actually enjoyed it and had fun scaring each other. Was that a good thing?"
"No!" Kendall promptly replied. "I think it's dangerous. I hurt my leg."
"Wandering in darkness can be dangerous," agreed Mr.Mike, "and it's especially dangerous to wander in what we refer to as the darkness of sin. We sometimes get used to that kind of darkness too. We may get so used to a particular sin that we actually like it. We don't realize the danger until we get hurt. That's why we need Jesus--He's our light. When we recognize our sins for what they are and confess them to Him, He forgives us so we can walk in His light."
Just then, the lights came back on and the group gave a loud cheer. Mr. Mike nodded. "We also tend to forget that someday everything will be brought to light. Instead of ignoring or hiding our sin, let's ask Jesus to forgive us and help us live in the light of His truth and love." Jan L. Hansen
The Best Kind of Beauty
"Mom, how can I know if I'm beautiful?" Keira asked as she climbed into their blue minivan.
"What makes you ask that?" her mom questioned.
"At lunch, some of my friends were talking about the girls in our class. They said that Isabelle is so beautiful. Am I beautiful too?"
Keira's mom turned to look at her. "First of all, I'm guessing your friends were talking about outer beauty. It's easy to think of beauty only as how a person looks."
"What other kind of beauty is there?" Keira asked as she twirled her wavy black hair.
"There's also inner beauty. It's shown through things like how you treat people and care for others."
"So, like doing nice things for people?" Keira asked.
"Yes," Mom answered. "I thought it was beautiful when you gave your allowance to help families in need. Inner beauty is what matters most to God."
Keira smiled and then caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window. "Mom, do I have outer beauty too?"
"You certainly do, Keira. You are made beautifully in God's image. The world wants us to think that outer beauty looks only one way, but that's just not true. Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes, and colors."
"Was I still beautiful when I fell off my bike and scraped my face? Or how about when I had that goopy pink eye?" Keira asked.
"You were still beautiful, but there are things in this world that aren't," Mom said as they pulled into their driveway. "Just like we can get scraped up on the outside, our inner beauty gets scraped up too. When sin came into the world, it left a huge, ugly scar on each of our hearts."
"I don't like that," said Keira.
"Neither does God," Mom said as she shut the van door. "That's why He sent Jesus to save us from sin--so He could heal our hearts and make them beautiful. And one day, when He returns, He'll heal our physical scars too."
"So, I'm beautiful because of Jesus?" Keira asked.
"Exactly." Her mom gave her a squeeze. "Being loved by Jesus is the most beautiful thing of all." Amanda Jass
Not a Mistake
(Editor's note: Providing a Christian perspective on this story's subject matter is important. However, it may not be suitable for young children.)
Kaden walked slowly up to home plate when it was his turn to bat. The pitcher threw
the ball. "Strike one!" the umpire called. Kaden sighed, then watched the next pitch sail past him. "Strike two!" the umpire shouted. On the third pitch, Kaden swung the bat and tapped the ball lightly. He was out before he got halfway to first base.
"Another out!" Max moaned. "It was a mistake to let Kaden play with us."
"He's a mistake," Ethan murmured. Several boys laughed and nodded.
"Give him a break," said Adam. "He doesn't have a dad to help him."
Luke snorted. "Yeah, and whose mistake is that?"
Ethan snickered. "I told you he was a mistake!"
Red-faced, Kaden picked up his gear and ran toward home. He was in such a hurry that he didn't see his neighbor, Mr. Radcliffe, walking away from his mailbox. They collided, and the mail scattered.
As both bent over to pick up the mail, Mr. Radcliffe noticed tears in Kaden's eyes. "Whoa! You seem a bit shaken," Mr. Radcliffe said. "It's a hot day. I was just going to have some lemonade out here on the porch. Want to join me?" Kaden hesitated, but he didn't really want to go home, so he agreed.
As they sat together, what happened on the ball field soon spilled out. "It's true--I am a mistake," Kaden said, sniffling. "I never should have been born! My mother wasn't married when she had me."
"Kaden, you are not a mistake!" Mr. Radcliffe said firmly. "Your mother may not have planned your birth, but God is the one who creates life, and He created you. The Bible says God made you and planned out your days before you were born. He made you a very special person."
"Really?" asked Kaden.
"Really," Mr. Radcliffe replied. "God made all of us for a purpose, and you're no different. He loves you and sent His Son, Jesus, to die for you so you could be His child. You are deeply loved and valued by Him. There's no mistake about that!"
Not a mistake, Kaden thought as he sipped his lemonade. God made me and loves me, so I'm not a mistake! Jan L. Hansen
Too Much Work
Amelia put the last plate in the dishwasher and cleaned the kitchen sink. "I'm tired of doing all this work," she grumbled. "Dishes, laundry, cleaning the bathroom, straightening things up--there's no end!"
"Hey, you're not the only one who works around here," her brother, Patrick, reminded her. "Dad and I made dinner tonight. And, I might add, without griping about it."
"Well, I don't know why Mom had to go and get a job," Amelia said.
"You oughta know," said Patrick. "You're one of the reasons she went to work."
"Me? I didn't ask her to go out and find a job!"
"No, but the money she makes will pay for things you and I need--like food and clothes," said Patrick.
"Dad's always paid for all that," Amelia argued.
"Yeah, but he's been cut back to part time for now, and we don't know how long it will last," said Patrick. "Money's been tight, and when the chance came for Mom to take this job, she felt it was an answer to our prayers, so she took it." He frowned. "Mom's making all kinds of sacrifices for us. Can't you make a few for her?" With that, Patrick left the room.
Amelia thought about Patrick's words. Am I acting like a spoiled brat--grumbling just because I have to do extra chores? she asked herself. I don't mean to be, but
I guess I am. She felt ashamed. "Dear Jesus," Amelia murmured quietly, "please forgive me for being so selfish. Help me be willing to make sacrifices for others like You did for us. And please help me have a better attitude from now on. Thank You for all the good things You give us."
When Mom arrived home a little later, Amelia gave her a big hug. "Hi, Mom!" she said with a smile. Patrick looked at her in surprise.
"Hi, kids," said Mom. "How was your day?"
"Good," replied Amelia. "Want me to heat up your dinner? Dad and Patrick made beef stew, and it's delicious!" She giggled at Patrick's puzzled expression. So far, only she and God knew she had a changed heart. Ruth I. Jay