Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mordecai Uncovers a Plot

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Esther 2:19-22


TO CHEW ON: "But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai." Esther 2:22

“Xerxes is a tyrant. He’s gone too far!”

"We should kill him . . .”

Mordecai sat motionless as he strained to hear the secret conversation. In his job at the king’s gate, he had heard a lot of things. But never before had he overheard people actually plotting to murder the king.

As soon as the plotters left, Mordecai hurried to the palace and straight to Queen Esther. He told her everything he had heard.



Esther lost no time in reporting the plot to the king. “And Mordecai your servant, who sits at the king’s gate is the one who uncovered this,” she told him.

Esther before Xerxes - by Annie VallottonIllustration by Annie Vallotton from the Good News Bible
© American Bible Society 1976, 1992, used with permission.

Immediately Xerxes had the two men arrested and killed for their plans. Then the whole incident was recorded in the king’s record book.

Let’s think about what Esther did for a minute. Now that she was queen, her responsibility to Mordecai was done. She could have taken the credit for uncovering that plot for herself. It would have made the king think more of her and almost no one would have known the difference. Instead, she chose to be honest and gave the credit to Mordecai.

What about us? Do we give other people credit when they deserve it? We’re quick enough to make sure no one blames us for something we haven’t done. Are we just as quick to do things like say that it was our partner who did most of the work on the project, or our sister who really cleaned our room? Let’s make a habit of that kind of honesty. Let’s make sure that the people who deserve it get the praise.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to give others the credit they deserve. Amen.


MORE: Honesty.
Make a collection of sayings about honesty. Here are three to get you started:

1. Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom - Thomas Jefferson

2. A few honest men are better than numbers - Oliver Cromwell

3. Each time you are honest and conduct yourself with honesty, a success force will drive you toward greater success. Each time you lie, even with a little white lie, there are strong forces pushing you toward failure. - Joe Sugarman.

4.

5.

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Special Favor

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Esther 2:12-18

TO CHEW ON: "Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti." Esther 2:17


Esther gathered the few possessions she was planning to take with her. She said goodbye to Hegai and all her friends in the harem. This was the night she would go to the king. She would never come back to live here again. For after this night, the king would either choose her as his new queen or she would be sent to live in another part of the palace.

Even though this night was the most important night in her life, Esther kept things simple. Though she could have taken anything she wanted from the harem to impress the king, she didn’t do that. Instead she took only what Hegai suggested.

But when Xerxes saw her, he was charmed with her natural beauty. In fact she pleased him more than any other woman. The king liked Esther so much, he named her his new queen.


When we read on in the story, we will find that God had a special reason for Esther to become queen. And because God was with her, she didn’t have to manipulate things to gain the king’s favor. God took care of that.

God has a special place for each one of us to fill. He has a special place for you. When you are in the place that God has planned for you to be, you can trust Him. Don’t give in to the temptation to make things happen on your own. God can make it happen. Just like God gave Esther favor with the king, He will give you favor with the people you need to impress.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to trust You to bring me favor when I need it. Amen.

MORE: Persia
Esther became the queen of Persia. The date was 479 BC. Using Bible maps, books and/or the internet find out about Persia.

- Where was it?

- What was the religion of the country?

- What kinds of clothes did the people wear?

- What foods were popular?

- What is the present name of the country that used to be Persia?

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Monday, August 14, 2017

Top Secret

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Esther 2:8-11

TO CHEW ON: "Esther had not revealed her nationality and family background, because Mordecai had forbidden her to do so." Esther 2:10


Why was that man looking at her, Esther wondered as she hurried home from the market. A few days later pounding at the door interrupted their meal. A servant of King Xerxes was there. “She has been chosen for the king,” he said to her cousin Mordecai.

Esther was a beautiful young Jewish girl whose grandparents had been taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Because her parents had died when she was little, she had been raised by her kind cousin Mordecai.

Nebuchadnezzar was now dead and the Persian king Xerxes ruled from his palace in Susa. He had recently done away with his first wife Vashti. Now he was looking for a beautiful replacement to be his new queen.

Mordecai looked shocked and sad at the servant’s words. But the king had ordered it. What could they do but obey?

As Esther packed her things, Mordecai came into the room. “You will be fine,” he said to her. “You are kind and beautiful. You will make new friends. Who knows, you may even be the new queen. But do one thing for me – and yourself. Keep it a secret that we are Jewish.”

"Many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care of Hegai" - Esther 2:8

Of course the story probably didn’t happen exactly like that. But we can be pretty sure Esther went to the palace with mixed feelings. She may have been excited and looking forward to the new adventures there. But she was also probably a little nervous and afraid.

When she got to the palace, things went very well. She soon became a favorite of Hegai who was in charge of the women. He gave Esther and her servants the best rooms in the harem. And even though Esther may not have known why it was important, she kept her nationality a secret. She never breathed a word about being a Jew.

Opportunities like the one that came to Esther sometimes come to us too. We may get special attention at school or church, be asked to give an interview on TV or be chosen as class president. When these times come, your loved ones may be full of advice. Be wise and listen to what they say, like Esther followed the advice of Mordecai.

PRAYER: Dear God, please give me wise advisers. Amen.

MORE: Advisers
Parents aren’t the only people who can give us wise counsel. Teachers, coaches, pastors, grandparents, older brothers and sisters are just some of the people whose advice we may want to follow.

- Who are the advisers in your life?

- What advice have they given you in the past? Did you follow it?

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

King on a Donkey

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Zechariah 9:9-10

TO CHEW ON: "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey"
Zechariah 9:9,


Would you expect a king to ride on a lowly donkey? Kings would usually come riding into town on war horses or decorated camels wouldn’t they? Yet when Zechariah predicted the coming of the King of Zion (Jerusalem), he said it would be on a donkey.


Fast forward about five hundred years to the time of Jesus. One day Jesus sent two of His disciples to a village to borrow a donkey. Then He rode into Jerusalem on its back. As he went through the streets the people began cheering. They took off their coats and laid them in the donkey’s path, just as they would for a king. They waved palm branches and cheered, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21)


Jesus was the special king that Zechariah predicted. But He turned out not to be the king of the nation of Israel, as the people then expected. Instead, He is the king of all time – the King of Kings and Lord of Lords Who died for us, rose again and is reigning in heaven now. If you have given Him your heart, He is your king. Some day all people on earth will honor Him as their king too. (Philippians 2:9-11)

If you haven’t bowed to Him as your king, you can, today. Tell Him you are sorry for the bad things you have done. Accept that He paid the penalty you deserved for doing those bad things when He died on the cross. He rose again so you and I can be free of the sins that once had us under their control. Now in gratitude we can serve Him for the rest of our lives as our loving, generous king.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, You are my King. Help me to be Your worthy subject. Amen.

MORE: Predictions Coming True
This section in Zechariah is just one of many Bible prophecies that told details of Jesus’ life long before He was born. Below are six more prophecy predictions that came true. Use the letters in bold to make the title that the Jews called their expected savior.

1. He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
2. He would be offered vinEgar to drink (Psalm 69:21).
3. Jesus’ Mother would be a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).
4. He would win over deAth (Isaiah 25:8).
5. Thirty pieceS of Silver would be paid for Him (Zechariah 11:12).
6. He would be pIerced (Zechariah 12:10).

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___


ANSWERS

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hope!

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Zechariah 8:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there' " Zechariah 8:4-5.

After winter comes ________
After night comes _________
After sadness comes _________

The Israelites had had years of sadness when they lived in Babylon. Now some of them had returned to Jerusalem. There was much to do – a city to clean up, homes to build, a temple to rebuild. Would things ever get back to the wonderful way they had once been?

God sent Zechariah, another prophet, to encourage everyone. His message was as hopeful as spring after winter, morning after night, joy after crying. “Jerusalem won’t always be like this,” he said. “Exiles from all over will come home. Then old men and women will visit in the streets. Boys and girls will play there.

"Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there." Zechariah 8:4,5

“Because you have done the right thing and laid the foundation for My house, I will bless your crops and give you peace with your neighbors. Take courage and stick with the job.”

We sometimes find ourselves in the middle of difficult times too. At those times it’s hard for us to imagine things will ever change. It seems like we’ll always be sick, or poor, or in trouble. But if we turn to God and obey what He says, He can change things around for us like He did for the Israelites.

Are you in a discouraging time right now? Instead of losing heart, remember these wise words someone said: “No condition is permanent.” Don’t let your present circumstances get you down. Instead, be careful to live in a way that pleases God. Then pray to God to bring change – in His time and His way.

PRAYER: Dear God, I am discouraged about ________ . I believe You know how to change it. Please do that in Your time. Amen.

MORE: Before and After
Draw before and after pictures of Jerusalem.

Before: the wall is broken, the houses are crumbling, the temple is wrecked, the streets are empty.

After: The wall is fixed, the houses are standing, the temple is up, the streets are full of life!

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Friday, August 11, 2017

Celebrate!

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezra 3:7-12

TO CHEW ON: "With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: 'He is good: his love to Israel endures forever' And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid." Ezra 3:11

Haggai’s message to put God first got everyone’s attention. Zerubbabel called the priests together. They decided to again worship God even though there was no temple in which to do it. They built an altar outside and again made the sacrifices and kept the feasts the way God had said.

Next they took a collection of money for building supplies. What a busy time followed, clearing away the rubble of the old temple and bringing in logs, cut stones and bricks for the new one.


Finally the day came when the foundation of the new temple was in place. That day they decided to celebrate. The Priests and Levites got dressed in their special clothes. They brought their trumpets and cymbals and praised God with singing and music like in the time of King David. Then all the people watching gave a shout of praise. God’s house was back!


What things do we celebrate? Certainly a new church is a good reason for a celebration. But we don’t have to wait for something so big to have a praise party. Baby dedications, baptisms, Christmas, Easter, weddings, birthdays – these are all good times to praise God and celebrate.

PRAYER: Dear God, You are so good to me. I want to include You in all my celebrations. Today I thank and praise You for __________ Amen.

MORE: Celebration Favorites
1. What events and special times do you celebrate in your home? In your church?
2. What things (like guests, decorations, foods, activities) make those celebrations special?
3. What’s the best celebration you remember?

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Thursday, August 10, 2017

First Things First

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Haggai 1:1-10

TO CHEW ON: "You have planted much but have harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it." Haggai 1:6

“Pack your things, some of us are going home!” The exciting news spread amongst the exiles in Babylon. Zerubabbel, grandson of King Jehoiachin, led the happy travelers back to Judah.


But when they entered Jerusalem, what a mess they found! Houses were broken down. The streets were full of broken bricks and garbage. The temple was a heap of rubbish.

So the people got to work. They cleaned up the garbage. They made bricks and rebuilt their homes. Some started working on the temple. But they didn’t get very far. It was such a big job, they just quit in discouragement. Instead they worked in their fields, gardens and workshops to earn money to make their own houses nicer. It seemed, though, that no one was doing very well.

Jewish village by Annie VallottonIllustration by Annie Vallotton from the Good News Bible
© American Bible Society 1976, 1992, used with permission.

One day God gave a message to the prophet Haggai. He told Haggai to talk to the people about how they were living.



“God sees that you’re working hard but aren’t getting ahead," Haggai went on. "You plant lots but harvest little. Your food doesn’t satisfy you. Your clothes don’t keep you warm. You earn money but it disappears as if you had holes in your pockets. There’s a reason for this. God is not blessing you because you are thinking only of yourselves and not of Him.”

Aren’t we often like those people? In our busy lives, it’s easy to forget God. And so we don’t read the Bible, pray or gather with others to worship. Should we be surprised then, if God takes His blessing away from us? Life becomes just like the life Haggai described – a lot of effort with little results.

But we can change. We can get our priorities right and put God first. When we do that, we can expect His blessings in all kinds of ways.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to always put You first. Amen.
 

MORE: Choices
Our everyday lives are full of choices. The choices we make show if our first priority is ourselves or God. Below are three situations you could face. Choose the response that shows that God is your first priority.



1. You get your weekly allowance and you:
a] spend it all.
b] save it all.
c] take out one tenth of it to give to God before doing anything else with it.

2. There is a new kid in your class so you:
a] introduce yourself and welcome her to join your group.
b] make fun of her.
c] ignore her.


3. Your parents have you in music lessons so you:
a] practice the bare minimum to get by.
b] work at getting better and developing the talent God gave you.
c] skip out of practicing whenever you can.



ANSWERS

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Special People

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Obadiah 1-10

TO CHEW ON: "Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever." Obadiah 1:10

Do you have brothers and/or sisters with whom you quarrel? Arguments and quarrels between siblings are common. Bible brothers and sisters had their differences too.

Take Jacob and Esau. Though they were twins, they were always competing against each other. Jacob tricked Esau into giving him the birthright (the inheritance that belonged to Esau as the oldest). Then he tricked Isaac, their father, into blessing him instead of Esau. This made Esau so angry, he threatened to kill Jacob. So Jacob left home.

Isaac and Eau - by Raphael"Isaac and Esau" Fresco painting by Raphael (1518-1519)

Over the years the descendants of Esau became the nation of Edom. Jacob’s descendants became Israel. But there was no more love between the nations of Edom and Israel than there had been between their great-great-great-... grandfathers.

Obadiah by James Tissot"Obadiah" painted by
James Tissot


When Nebuchaednezzar destroyed and looted Judah, he was joined by soldiers from Edom. They took stuff from Judah for themselves and turned the Israelite people who tried to escape over to Nebuchadnezzar.

It was at this time that the prophet Obadiah lived. The book he wrote is short (one chapter). It was a message condemning Edom for their treatment of the Jews. Obadiah scolded them for their pride. He told Edom that though they thought their strong cities couldn’t be conquered, because they had mistreated the Jews, they would be defeated and disappear as a nation. And this happened. After 70 A.D. there is no more mention of Edom anywhere in history.

Still today the Jews have a special place in God’s heart (Deuteronomy 26:18,19). They are the people through whom God chose to bring His Son Jesus to earth. God has promised to raise them up as a strong nation again (Deuteronomy 30:3). God promises to bless those that bless and help the Jews (Genesis 12:3).

Though we may not understand or agree with everything that modern Israel does, God’s feelings about Israel haven’t changed. This nation is still His treasured possession. It is a nation Christians everywhere love and pray for.


PRAYER: Dear God, please bless the nation of Israel and the Jewish people. Amen.

MORE: Jews in the News
1. Since Israel became a nation again in 1946, there has been a lot of conflict in the Middle East between the Jewish people and their neighbors.

- Using newspapers and/or the internet, find out what is presently happening in Israel.

2. Pray for Israel’s peace (Psalm 122:6).

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Glory Returns

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 43:1-5

TO CHEW ON: "Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple." Ezekiel 43:5

It was September of 592 B.C. when Ezekiel had his first vision of the temple. Everything about that vision was horrible. As God took him to Jerusalem he saw an idol of the goddess Asherah set up right in the temple. He saw priests offering animal sacrifices God had never commanded. Women were mourning the death of the Sumerian idol god Tammuz. Men worshiped the sun. Then he saw God’s glory cloud lift and move out of the temple and away from Jerusalem (Ezekiel 8, 9, 10).

Now it was about twenty years later. Ezekiel was getting old. Maybe he wondered if things would ever change for the Israelites in Babylon. Would they ever go home again? Would they ever experience God’s glory again? One day God gave him hope in another vision of the temple.


Like the first time, Ezekiel felt like he was physically there. The temple was rebuilt. As God showed him around it, Ezekiel measured each room and gateway. Finally he came to the east gate. He looked at the sky and noticed a cloud. It got bigger and brighter and he heard a sound coming from it, like a waterfall. He recognized this was God’s glory cloud. It went into the temple. Again the temple was filled with God’s presence!


Is there something in your life that feels as disappointing as Ezekiel’s glory-forsaken temple? Maybe you can no longer play a favorite sport because of an injury. Maybe someone has abused you so your innocence is gone. Maybe your dad or mom walked out on your family. Whatever your disappointment, bring it to God. He can restore old dreams like he restored the temple in Ezekiel’s vision. He can bring back the glory!

PRAYER: Dear God, please bring Your glory back to the places in my life that are filled with disappointment. Amen.


MORE: Glory Sightings
Other Bible characters also saw God’s glory. Match the people who saw God’s glory with how it looked or felt.

1. Israelites (Exodus 24:17)
2. Priests (1 Kings 8:11)
3. Shepherds (Luke 2:9)
4. Stephen (Acts 7:55)


A. God’s glory shone around angels
B. God’s glory looked like fire on top of a mountain.
C. He saw heaven, God’s glory and Jesus just before he died.
D. God’s glory felt so powerful they couldn’t do their jobs.

ANSWERS

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Monday, August 7, 2017

Dem Bones

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 37:1-14


TO CHEW ON: "Then he said to me, 'Prophecy to these bones and say to them, "Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you and you will come to life."’” Ezekiel 37:4,5

Valley of Dry Bones by Duncan Long"Valley of Dry Bones" © Duncan Long (Used with the artist's permission)

One day Ezekiel had another vision from God. A vision is something like a dream. Put the parts of Ezekiel’s vision in the order they happened (Ezekiel 37:1-14)

____ There was a rattling sound and the bones reconnected to become lifeless bodies.
____ Ezekiel saw a valley of dry bones.
____ God’s Spirit breathed life into the bodies.
____ Ezekiel told the bones God would make them live again.


Ezekiel’s vision had a meaning. The bones in Ezekiel’s vision were a picture of the Jewish people. They were discouraged because they could no longer live in their own land. They had been captured and taken to live in Babylon. In that country they felt as hopeless as if they were dead. God gave Ezekiel this vision to give the Jewish people hope.

What things in your life make you feel discouraged and hopeless? Is someone in your family very ill? Do you find school hard? Is your family split up because of separation or divorce? Whatever it is, God can breathe life and hope into the dead “bones” in your life too.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to trust You to bring life to the things that seem hopeless to me. Amen.


MORE: Human Bones
Find a photograph or drawing of a human skeleton.

1. How many bones are there in an adult’s skeleton?

2. What is the largest bone?

3. What is the smallest?



ANSWERS

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Sunday, August 6, 2017

God Our Shepherd

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 34:11-16

TO CHEW ON:  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, ...” Ezekiel 34:15,16

If you were compared to an animal, you would probably not want someone to say you were like a sheep. Sheep are easily led astray. When they get lost, they are not smart enough to find their way back home. They are not agile and quick but clumsy and slow. Their heavy coats of wool slow them down even more, making them an easy catch for wolves or mountain lions. In order for sheep to survive, they need someone to look after them.


But the Bible often compares people to sheep. That’s what God said the Israelites were like when they were far from home in Babylon. God promised to be a shepherd to them, even though their problems came from their headstrong, sheep-like ways. He would search for the lost ones, rescue the ones that were trapped or caught, bandage the hurt ones and make the weak ones strong.

Someday He would bring them back to their home. Again they would eat on its lush green hillsides. When they felt full they would lie down without fear because He would be watching out for danger.
Shepherd and Sheep by Annie VallottonIllustration by Annie Vallotton from the Good News Bible
© American Bible Society 1976, 1992, used with permission.

This message that God gave Ezekiel for the people shows how much God loved them. Though today’s reading was first a promise that God would someday bring the Israelites back to their land, it is also a picture of the way God is a shepherd to us. We are like sheep just as those Israelites. God will be our shepherd too.

Are we lost? God can find us. Are we hurt? God can make us better. Are we hungry? God can feed us. Are we weak? God can make us strong.

How will God do these things? He may use the people we know or strangers. He may use things that look like ordinary happenings or miracles. However He does it, we can trust Him to be our shepherd.

PRAYER: Dear God, please be a shepherd to me like You were to the Israelites. Amen.


MORE: Shepherds
Through books and the internet find out more about shepherds.
1. What was a shepherd’s life like in Bible times?

2. Are there still people who work as shepherds today? What do they do?

3. How is the life of a shepherd today different from a shepherd in Bible times? How are they alike?

Sheep grazing on a field in Saskatchewan, Canada

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
 


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Heart Idols

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 14:1-6


TO CHEW ON: “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Ezekiel 14:3

The Israelites in exile soon discovered that Ezekiel heard from God. They came to him often to find out if God had something to say to them. One day when some of Israel’s leaders had come to Ezekiel in this way, God gave him private information about them.

Ezekiel Prophesying - Gustave Dore
“These men have idols in their hearts,” God told Ezekiel. “Tell them, ‘Don’t think I am going to give you messages from Me knowing all the while you are worshiping something else. You need to get rid of these idols before I will tell you anything.’”

In the past the people of Israel had worshiped actual idol statues. Here God showed that idols don’t have to be physical things at all. They could be anything people admired, or trusted in, or relied on more than God. Even though these people may not have been going to actual shrines and praying to figurines, the idols were there just the same in the attitude of their hearts.

Today we may not worship idol statues either. But is it possible that we have idols in our hearts? What could those idols be? Some are money, luck, the earth, superstitions, sports and movie personalities, our own good looks, talents and abilities. Can you think of more? __________________.

Do you have any of these idols in your heart? If you were one of the people coming to Ezekiel to hear from God, what message might God be giving Ezekiel about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, please show me the idols in my heart. Help me to get rid of them and worship only You. Amen.

MORE: Modern Idols- What is an idol?
- What is a heart idol?
- Choose one of the following and explain how it could become an idol.

money,    luck,    Mother Nature,    superstition,

sports and movie personalities,        yourself

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Don't Be Afraid

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 2:1-10

TO CHEW ON: " And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people." Ezekiel 2:6

As Ezekiel lay on the ground, a voice came from the bright vision of God. It was talking to him. “Stand up,” God said.

Ezekiel stood and God continued. “I am sending you to be a prophet to the people of Israel. They are rebellious, stubborn and obstinate. They may or may not listen.”

Ezekiel had wanted to be a priest. Now God was giving him a different job – the job of being a prophet. But it sounded hard and dangerous.

Then I looked, and I saw a hand stretched out to me. In it was a scroll... On both sides of it were written words of lament and mourning and woe." Ezekiel 2:9


Before Ezekiel had a chance to argue with God about how hard this job was going to be, God encouraged him. Three times God said to Ezekiel, “Do not be afraid.”

Ezekiel’s Vision – “And then they shall know that I am the Lord” © 1996 by Darlene Slavujac (Used with the artist’s permission).

God would encourage you in the same way. If you are the only Christian in your family, God says to you, “Don't be afraid.” If you are the only person who talks to your friends about Jesus – and they make fun of you for it – God says to you, “Don't be afraid.” If you want to live for God but don’t know how it will all work out, God says to you, “Don't be afraid.”

Why should we not be afraid? Because we are not alone in this. God is with us. And with Him beside us, we don’t need to fear anything!

PRAYER: Dear God, when I am afraid, help me to remember You are here. Amen.

MORE: Fears

God can help us overcome fears of all kinds. What are you afraid of – dogs, spiders, losing, being laughed at, having no friends, ____________________? David wrote in a Psalm:

Whenever I am afraid,
I will trust in You.

In God (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not fear.
What can flesh do to me? - Psalm 56:3,4

This would be a good verse to memorize. It will help you remember, next time you feel afraid, that God is with you.

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Too Beautiful for Words

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 1:22-28

TO CHEW ON: " I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord." Ezekiel 1:27,28

Have you ever seen something so amazing you had trouble describing it? That was probably what Ezekiel felt like when he saw a vision of God.


Like Daniel, Ezekiel was an exile in Babylon. One day, when he was beside the Kebar River in Babylon, he saw a strange sight in the sky. At first he thought the cloud with flashes of lightning coming from it meant a storm was on the way. But as it got closer, he saw creatures. They looked like people but had many faces and wings. Then he saw sparkling wheels that moved.

Finally he heard a voice. Looking up he saw a throne. On it was a man. But what a man! He was glowing and fiery. Around him was brilliant light in the colors of the rainbow. Ezekiel knew that this was God and he fell on his face. Then God told him he was to be a prophet to the people in exile.



Few people have seen a glimpse of God as Ezekiel did. But all the Bible descriptions of God, written by people who have, seem similar. In each one the teller can hardly find words to describe how amazing, bright, awesome and incredible God is. These descriptions of God give us just a small idea of what a beautiful, powerful, and glorious God we serve.


PRAYER: Dear God, You are beautiful and full of power and light. I worship You. Amen.


MORE: God looks like...
People who tried to describe what God and the things in heaven are like often compared them to gem stones and precious metals.

~Ezekiel described the wheels he saw as sparkling like chrysolite. (Ezekiel 1:16). God’s throne looked like sapphire.(Ezekiel 1:26).

~Daniel compared God’s body to chrysolite. His arms and legs were made of bronze. He wore a belt of gold. (Daniel 10:5,6)

~To John, God looked like jasper and carnelian. The rainbow that circled His throne looked like emerald (Revelation 4:3).

Using books and the internet find out what these gems and metals look like -- and get a glimpse of how beautiful God is.

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Defiant Daniel

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Daniel 6:12-23

TO CHEW ON: “ 'My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.' ” Daniel 6:22

“Bring them in!” commanded king Darius to his servant.

The Babylon rulers smirked as they entered and bowed before the king. “We’ve found someone who broke your new law,” they said. “We caught Daniel praying to his God.”


Darius was shocked. Not Daniel! He was his favorite servant. And then he understood. The other rulers were jealous of Daniel. They wanted him gone. They knew that he prayed to his God three times a day. So that was why they had come to the king and suggested he pass the new law. It said that for thirty days it was illegal to pray to anyone but the king. Punishment for disobeying was death by hungry lions.

All day King Darius tried to get Daniel freed. But he couldn’t. “May the God whom you serve rescue you,” he said to Daniel as servants tossed him into the lions' den.




That night King Darius didn’t feel like eating, or listening to music, or watching plays, or laughing at jesters. He couldn’t even sleep. At first light he jumped out of bed and ran to the lions' den. “Daniel,” he called, “did your God rescue you?”


How overjoyed he was when he heard Daniel’s voice, “O King, live forever. My God did save me. He sent his angel and he shut the lions’ mouths.”

King Darius commanded his servants to take Daniel out of the den right away. Then he rounded up the men who had plotted against Daniel and had them and their families thrown to the lions. After that he passed a new law: “Everyone in the kingdom must fear and reverence Daniel’s God.”

How do you think Daniel felt when he discovered that praying to God had suddenly become a crime? Do you think he was ever tempted to stop praying openly as he always did?

We too may someday find ourselves in situations where obeying God is against the law of the land where we live. What will we do then? Will we compromise our beliefs to save our reputations or even our lives? Or will we risk disobeying our country’s law to honor God and trust Him to rescue us, like Daniel did?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to know when obeying You is more important than obeying the law of the land. Help me to be brave and obey You then. Amen

MORE: Civil disobedience
The Bible makes it clear that we are to obey the laws of the land in which we live. However, there are times when obeying those laws make it impossible for us to obey God. Breaking the law at those times is sometimes called ‘civil disobedience.’

In the New Testament when Peter and John were commanded to stop talking about Jesus, for example, they refused. Peter said: “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

In many countries it is against the law to be a Christian. It is also against the law to tell others about Jesus, meet for worship or have a Bible. The penalty may be prison or death.

- Do you have any laws like this in the place where you live?

- Do you obey them? Why or why not?

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

God's Graffiti

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Daniel 5:1-6

TO CHEW ON: "Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking" Daniel 5:5,6.

What is the most mysterious thing you have ever seen?

I’m sure that for King Belshazzar it was the night a body-less hand wrote on his wall.

The night started out as a fun party. To make it special, Belshazzar served wine in the gold goblets brought from the temple in Jerusalem. Everyone was having a great time eating, drinking, talking, laughing, and dancing when from nowhere a hand appeared. When Belshazzar saw it, he stared. How could this be? The longer he watched, the more scared he became. Whose hand was this? The words were in a language he couldn’t read. What did they say? What did they mean?


The queen mother saw how frightened he was. “I know who will be able to read this,” she said. Then she called for Daniel.

Daniel Interpreting the Writing on the Wall by Gustave Dore
Daniel told King Belshazzar that the words were a message from God. Because he hadn’t honored God but had even used the temple goblets for his party, God was planning to give his kingdom to someone else. And that very night it happened. Darius, a rival king from Persia killed Belshazzar and took over the throne of Babylon.

Perhaps you have family and friends who are a lot like Belshazzar in the way they ignore and dishonor God. They don’t read the Bible or pray. Perhaps they even make fun of God and insist that He isn’t real. God is not stumped or stopped by this. He never runs out of ways to get someone’s attention. Trust Him to get through to your loved ones when you can’t.

PRAYER: Dear God, please talk to my friends and family members who don’t know You. Amen.


MORE: Creative Communication

There are many stories in the Bible of God speaking with people in interesting ways. Can you complete the sentences that tell of some of them. Use the word bank below to help fill in the blanks.

1. God gave Joseph a glimpse of his future in a _______. (Genesis 37:5-7)

2. God called Moses from a _________ _________ . (Exodus 3:4)

3. When Balaam went to curse Israel, God caused his _________ to speak. (Numbers 22:27-30)

4. God talked to Elijah in a ________ __________ . (1 Kings 19:12-13)

5. Saul saw a flash of light and heard a _________. (Acts 9:3,4)

6. God talked to Peter in a _________ or vision. (Acts 10:10-13)

dream      donkey      gentle whisper

trance      voice      burning bush

ANSWERS

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Monday, July 31, 2017

Fire Test

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Daniel 3:1-18


TO CHEW ON: "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17,18

One day an urgent message was sent to all the provinces of Babylon: “Come to the plain of Dura. Nebuchadnezzar is putting on a special celebration.”

Daniel’s three friends Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego joined the rest of the rulers. When they got to Dura they saw a huge golden statue as high as a six-story building. An announcer was telling everyone what to do: “When you hear the music, fall down and worship the statue. Whoever doesn’t will be burned in a furnace.”

Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego didn’t want to pray to anyone but God. Yet the price of disobeying was certain death. What should they do?


Soon the music started. Immediately everyone around them fell to their knees. But Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego stayed standing. Many people saw them. Soon someone came to them and said, “Nebuchadnezzar wants to see you.”

Nebuchadnezzar was furious. “Is it true that you three didn’t pray to my statue?”

“Yes,” they replied.

“Maybe you don’t understand. When you hear the music you must worship the image or I will throw you into the fire.”

Then the three friends said to Nebuchadnezzar, “We don’t have to protect ourselves from you. Because the God we serve can keep us from being burned. But even if he doesn’t, we won’t worship that statue or serve your gods.”

Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were determined to please only God, no matter what happened to them. Do we have the same determination? There may be consequences. For some those consequences may be people teasing us, mocking us and leaving us out. For others it may be as serious as death. But like Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego, we don’t need to fear. For God has the power to save us like He saved them, or to take us to be with Him in heaven.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to stay true to You, no matter what. Amen.


MORE: Picture it
Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were thrown into the furnace. What happened next? Read the rest of the story in Daniel 3:19-28.

Now draw the ending of the story in three scenes:

(Click on the drawing sheet below. It will open in a new window. Print it from that window.)



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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Forgotten Dream Dilemma

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Daniel 2:14-28

TO CHEW ON: "Daniel replied, 'No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.'” Daniel 2:27, 28a

Arioch, the commander of Nebuchadnezzar’s guard had an unpleasant job. He was supposed to kill all the wise men of Babylon. This was because King Nebuchadnezzar had had a dream which he couldn't remember. When his wise men couldn't tell him what he had dreamed and what his dream meant, he ordered them all killed.

But when Arioch came to Daniel to give him the bad news, Daniel was surprised. He hadn't heard anything about Nebuchadnezzar and his dream problem. Daniel begged for more time. Then he gathered his friends and the four of them prayed that God would tell him what Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed and what it meant.

During the night God answered Daniel's prayer. Early the next morning he went to Arioch. “Don’t kill any of the wise men,” he said. “Instead, take me to the king. I know the dream and its meaning.”

Arioch took Daniel to the king.


Then Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar what he had dreamed and what his dream meant.

Though Daniel was intelligent and wise, he knew this job was way too hard for him. But it wasn't too hard for God. After God answered, Daniel could have taken the credit for knowing Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its meaning. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he made sure that everyone knew it was God who showed him these things.

Do you ever pray and ask God for something – like for help on a test in school? Later, when you get a good mark, what do you do? Do you take the credit for yourself (“I studied really hard”) or do you give credit to God for answering your prayer?

Let's remember to give God the credit when He answers our prayers – like Daniel did.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to honor You for answered prayers. Amen.

MORE: Dream-teller Sequel
Daniel got the dream right, for no sooner did he tell Nebuchadnezzer what he had dreamed and what that dream meant than the king did some amazing things. Which statements below tell what happened (Daniel 2:46-47)?

1. The king fell down in front of Daniel and honored him.

2. The king said, “You sure are smart to figure this out.”

3. The king praised God.

4. The king gave Daniel a high position.

5. Daniel forgot all about his friends.

6. Daniel’s three friends became rulers as well.


ANSWERS

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Saturday, July 29, 2017

No Compromise

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Daniel 1:8-20

TO CHEW ON: "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way." Daniel 1:8


“Can you please change the diet of me and my friends?” Daniel asked the guard. “We’d like to have vegetables and water instead of the king’s rich food.”

“You’re asking a dangerous thing,” the guard replied. “The king will have my head when the four of you look weak and get sick.”


Daniel was taking a big chance by asking this favor from the guard in Nebuchadnezzar’s court. He and his three friends were Hebrew boys from Judah. They no longer lived at home but were exiles and servants in Babylon. The four boys were in special training to serve the king himself.

But Daniel was determined. He knew that the royal food was not prepared the way God had commanded in the law. He wanted to honor and obey God every way he could.

“How about we try an experiment?” he suggested to the guard. “You let me and my friends have the vegetables and water for ten days. Then you compare us to the others. If we look worse, we’ll eat what everyone else does.

The guard agreed. For ten days Daniel and his friends ate only vegetables and drank only water. Then the guard compared them to the others.
1. What did he find? (Daniel 1:15)? _____________



2. What did the guard then order for the other students too (Daniel 1:16)? ____________

Like Daniel we may be surrounded by people who don’t believe as we do. We may be tempted to compromise and change our actions to fit with theirs. After all, it’s hard to be the only one going to church on Sunday, giving some of your money to God and obeying your parents. But take courage from the story of Daniel and his friends. Refuse to compromise. For God not only blessed Daniel and his friends with favor from the guard when they honored God with their diet. He also made them wise and gave them success with the king himself.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to not compromise in my life. Amen.

MORE:
Daniel Diet
Have you ever been on a diet of vegetables (fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts) and water like Daniel and his friends were? Try it for a day (of course you’ll want to get permission from your parents first).

Some things that will help fill you up:
vegetables (carrots, celery, broccoli, corn)
nuts (almonds, peanuts, peanut butter)
seeds (popcorn, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds)
fruits (orange, apple, banana)




ANSWERS

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lament for Jerusalem

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Lamentations 1:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Look around and see. Is any suffering like my suffering that was inflicted on me, that the Lord brought on me in the day of his fierce anger?" Lamentations 1:12

What is the saddest thing that has ever happened to you? How did you handle your sad feelings - by crying, sleeping, staying busy, playing sports, talking to others, writing?

Lamentations is a Bible book that someone (most likely Jeremiah) wrote about a very sad time – the fall of Jerusalem.


It is poetry and full of word pictures. Jerusalem is compared to a widow. She was once married but now she is a slave dressed in clothes that are dirty with the sins she has done. Jerusalem’s former rulers are like deer who are starving and so weak they don’t have the strength to run away from the hunter. The roads leading to Jerusalem weep and its gates are empty.

Though Jeremiah escaped going to Babylon, this poem shows that he felt as sad as anyone. He loved his country. He loved Jerusalem. He hated to see it destroyed and its people taken away. Writing Lamentations probably helped him work through his sad feelings.


Reading Lamentations these many years later can help us too. All of us have sad times in our lives. Lamentations shows us that it’s okay to cry and express our sadness. Lamentations also shows us one way (writing) to work through sad feelings when they come. But most of all, Lamentations helps us see, and feel, the sad end of disobeying God.



PRAYER:
Dear God, please help me to obey You and avoid the sadness of disobedience. Amen

MORE: Your Lament
Think of a time you were very sad. What happened? How did you feel?

Now think of some word pictures that help describe your sad time:
- Color: If you were to give your sad time a color, what would it be?
- Music: If you were to make a video of that time, what kind of music would play in the background?
- Animal: Does your sad time remind you of an animal or animal action?
- Weather: Does your sad time remind you of a certain kind of weather?

Using one or all of your word pictures, write a lament of your own.

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Adult readers - DAILY DEVOTIONS FOR ADULTS  are available too at Other Food: daily devo's