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Coming Soon

July Confidence, Week 1

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Daniel 3

Trust that God is always with you.

King Nebuchadnezzar was king of the world. Or at least of Babylon, which he thought was pretty much the same thing. King Neb took what he wanted, when he wanted it. He gave orders, and they were done. If anyone dared to tell him “no,” they risked being hurled into a fearsome, fiery furnace!

Years before, Nebuchadnezzar had attacked the land of Israel and taken captives. He chose the best and brightest to be his personal advisors—including a young man named Daniel and his three close friends. The king renamed Daniel’s three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar.

God was with the four young men, and Nebuchadnezzar put them in charge of Babylon and the towns around it. They followed the king’s wishes, until one day, Nebuchadnezzar came up with a hare-brained scheme.

“Build me a golden statue ninety feet tall!” he demanded of his craftsmen.

Once the enormous statue was set up on a plain near Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered all the rulers and officials in the land to gather. Daniel was perhaps on a journey, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego joined the crowd. A messenger from the king issued special instructions.

“You will soon hear the sound of horns and flutes. You will hear zithers, lyres, harps and pipes,” he cried. “In fact, you will hear all kinds of music. When you do, you must fall down and worship the gold statue.”

“Not cool, man,” Meshach whispered to his friends. “We only worship the One True God.”

The messenger wasn’t finished. “Anyone who fails to comply will be hurled into the ferocious, fiery furnace!” he barked.

Within moments, the music began. Every single person fell down on their face in the dust to worship the statue.

Everyone, that is, but Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Other officials took notice.

“Those Israelite dudes aren’t bowing down,” they grumbled. “They think they’re too good for us. We’ll make them pay!”

The officials hurried to King Nebuchadnezzar.

“Didn’t you say everyone had to bow to the statue or be tossed into the fatal, fiery furnace?” they asked.

“That’s right!” roared King Nebuchadnezzar.

“Well, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey,” the officials tattled.

“Bring them here!” howled the king.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were brought before the king. “Don’t you serve my gods? Don’t you worship the gold statue I set up?” demanded Nebuchadnezzar. “I’ll give you one more chance. If you stay standing when the music plays instead of bowing down, you’ll be thrown into the fanatical, fiery furnace!”

The three young men stood firm. “We don’t need another chance,” they said. “Even if you throw us into your five hundred Fahrenheit fiery furnace, our God can still save us.

And even if He doesn’t, we won’t bow down!” Nebuchadnezzar shook with rage. “Make the frenzied, fiery
furnace seven times hotter!” he shouted. “Tie them up and throw them in!”

So soldiers grabbed the three friends, tied them up, and heaved them straight into the furnace!

Fire crackled wildly as the king peered into the flames. He frowned and then leapt up. “Babylonian biscuits! Didn’t we throw three men in the fire?” he cried. “There are four men in the fire! They aren’t tied up. The fire hasn’t touched them. The fourth man looks like a son of the gods!”

Thunderstruck, the king approached the flames. “Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, come out! You who serve the Most High God, come here!”

The three men walked right out of the fire, unharmed. Everyone crowded around them. “Their hair isn’t even scorched!” marveled the other officials. “Or their robes.”

“May the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be praised!” said Nebuchadnezzar. “They were willing to die in the fevered, fiery furnace rather than worship any god but their One True God. And He sent an angel to save them. No other god can do this! From now on, anyone who says anything against the One True God will be doomed and their homes turned to trash heaps!”

Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed with the three men that he gave them even higher positions of power—all because they had chosen to trust God was with them even in the most difficult decision of their lives.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Is there something in your life right now that seems big and maybe even a little scary?

Take a minute and share with each other. You may not be dealing with the threat of a fiery furnace, but you do face difficult things every day. A school bully. An unfair coach. Working with a teacher to see if you can improve a grade. Asking a boss for a raise. It may even be that, as with Daniel’s friends, someone is asking you to do something you know is wrong. Whatever the case, you can know that God is with you in the midst of your difficult situation. You can call on Him at any time for wisdom and strength to see it through with confidence. Pray for each other, that you will be reminded over and over that God is with you as you face the situations you shared.

Coming Soon

July Confidence, Week 2

Philip and Nathanael

John 1:43-51

Find friends who help you trust Jesus.

Rosa pushed sweaty hair back from her forehead and then dug her hands deep in the pockets of her overalls. She stared in dismay at the rows of leafy green potato plants around her.

“Potato bugs!” she moaned. As far as Rosa could see, every plant was infested with big, squashy orange bugs chomping on the leaves. It made her skin crawl.

One row over, her boss, Jeff, knelt down to examine a plant whose leaves were in tatters. “Okay, that’s it,” he said as he finally stood. “I want you to treat the whole field with Agri- Max.”

“Pesticide?” Rosa asked in surprise. Everything sold at the farm was advertised as pesticide- free.

Jeff shrugged. “We’re gonna lose the crop. And a lot of money.”

“But . . . the Agri-Max has some really poisonous stuff in it,” Rosa protested.

“Which will kill these blasted beetles,” Jeff pointed out.

“It’s not so great for people, either,” Rosa countered.

“It’s going on the leaves, not the potatoes,” Jeff snapped.

“But, I . . . this is an organic farm,” Rosa pointed out. “All our stuff says ‘no pesticides’ on the label.”

“No one takes that seriously. I’ll pick up the Agri-Max this afternoon. You can spray tomorrow.”

Jeff stalked off toward one of the barns. Sighing, Rosa headed for the apple orchard, where she found her co-worker Olivia showing around a girl with wild, red curls.

“Look, Rosa,” said Olivia, holding up a branch of golden apples. “The Lodis are almost ripe!” Then she gestured to the girl beside her. “Oh, and this is Toni, she’s gonna help with the harvest.”

“Nice to meet you,” Toni said, smiling. “I’ve bought stuff from this farm for years. So excited to get behind the scenes!”

Rosa sobered. “Yeah . . . about that.” She turned back to Olivia. “I gotta tell you what Jeff just asked me to do.”

“Spray Agri-Max on those potato beetles, I bet,” Olivia answered. Rosa gaped. “How did you know?”

“Because Jeff had me spray it on the tomatoes,” Olivia explained. “And I know he uses Pest-X on the apples and peaches.”

Rosa could see Toni was confused.

“Pest-X is a super strong pesticide,” Rosa noted.

“I thought everything here was organic,” Toni said. “I mean, all the signs and packages say ‘no pesticides used.’”

“Jeff is just doing his job to keep this place in business,” Olivia pointed out. “Gotta make money or we’re out of a job, too.”

Rosa nodded, but it still bothered her. Toni frowned. “Aren’t there other ways to get rid of potato bugs?” she asked.

“They take a lot of time, and they don’t work as well,” Olivia said flatly.

“I know,” Rosa agreed. “But if I spray this stuff, I’m basically lying to anyone who buys our potatoes.”

“You gotta do it, Rosa,” Olivia declared. “Jeff could fire you. And you’ve worked so hard! I mean, you could be Potato Supervisor next year if you just go with it.”

“That’s true . . .” Rosa admitted.

“That’s the most important thing,” Olivia said and pushed ahead to the next row of apple trees.

Toni stayed back with Rosa. “What do you think?” Rosa asked the new girl.

Toni checked out a row of still-green Honeycrisp apples. “I think . . .” she began, “the most important thing is to do the right thing.”

“And maybe lose my job?” Rosa wondered.

“Look, I’m new,” Toni told her. “And I really don’t know everything that’s going on. But in my experience, when you do the right thing, you can trust God to work out the details.”

Rosa sighed. “Oh. Well . . . I guess. Thanks.”

“Why don’t you show me the strawberries?” Toni suggested. “Olivia said you came up with a whole new irrigation system.”

“Okay,” Rosa agreed, glad of a new topic. “It’s strawberry fields forever.” She glanced sideways as she caught Toni humming the tune to the Beatles song of the same name. “Hey! You’re a Beatles music fan, too,” she exclaimed.

Toni grinned. “Guilty as charged.”

After work that evening, Rosa joined her mother, Gloria, on their front porch to watch the setting sun.

“I made fresh squeezed lemonade,” said Gloria, holding up the pitcher.

Rosa poured a glass and sat down in a rocking chair with peeling paint. She glanced at the open Bible on her mother’s lap. Gloria was doing an epic read straight through the entire Bible.

“Where are you now, Mama?” she asked

“The book of John,” Gloria responded. “Where Jesus calls His friends.” “Oh, like Peter and John?” Rosa commented, trying to recall.

“And Philip and Nathanael.”

“I don’t really remember them.”

“Well, Jesus, He finds Philip and says, ‘Follow me.’ And Philip is so excited he can’t keep it to himself. He runs to tell his good friend Nathanael, who’s sitting under a fig tree. He says . . .” Rosa’s mom picked up her Bible and handed it over. “Here, you read it.”

Rosa found the verse where her mother was pointing and read, “‘We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the Law. The prophets also wrote about him. He is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”

Gloria jumped in with the rest of the story. “And Nathanael, he knows sarcasm, that one. He says, ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ But Philip won’t let him brush it off. He drags him along to see Jesus! Then Jesus sees him coming and says that, ‘He’s a true Israelite’ and, ‘Nothing about him is false.’ Nathanael wants to know where Jesus is getting all this, so Jesus says He saw Nathanael under that fig tree, before Philip even called him.”

“And then Nathanael gets it?” wondered Rosa.

“Yes!” Gloria nodded. “He says Jesus is the Son of God. And he follows Him.” “Nazareth or no Nazareth.”

Gloria smiled. “That Philip, he was a true friend. He pointed Nathanael in the right direction. To Jesus.”

Rosa took another sip of her lemonade. “Do you have friends like that, Mama? Friends who help you trust God?”

Her mother sighed. “I did before we moved here. But now . . . it’s easier to make good friends when you’re young.”

Rosa started to say that her mother was still young, but she was interrupted by a buzz from her phone. She found a text from Jeff, and read it reluctantly.

“Agri-Max in the office. Come in early to spray.”

“Your boss?” Gloria asked.

“Yeah,” Rosa said. Then she added, “but maybe not for long. He’s asked me to do something and lie about it. And I’m not going to.”

“You want to talk about it?” Gloria suggested.

Rosa didn’t feel like explaining. But she was grateful for her mother’s support. “Maybe later. But . . . I do want to invite someone from work for dinner tomorrow. Toni.”

“A friend?” asked Gloria.

Rosa smiled. “She’s new, but, yes. I think she might turn out to be . . . a true friend.”

Rosa leaned back and watched the gathering dusk. She was still nervous about talking to Jeff, but she was grateful for people who could help her trust the outcome to God.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Each of you share the names of two or three close friends.

Now think about it: Do the people you listed tend to encourage you or pull you down? When you’re with them, are you more likely to be saying critical things about others or finding ways to help others? When you have problems, do they encourage you to trust God for the outcome? Truth is, we start to become like the people we hang out with! If your friends don’t point you to Jesus, that doesn’t mean you need to stop being friends . . . but it does mean you want to keep looking for friends who will encourage you to trust God. You can also focus on being that friend for the people around you! Pray for each other, that you will find and keep close friends who help you live with confidence as you trust God each day.

Coming Soon

July Confidence, Week 3

Peter Walks on Water

Matthew 14:22-33

Stay focused on Jesus.

Peter set down his heavy basket. He stood up straight, stretching, as he surveyed the whole row of baskets filled with broken pieces of fish and bread.

“One, two, three . . .” he counted. “Six . . . nine . . . twelve!”

James flopped down on the grass to rest. John kicked at a bit of fish that hadn’t made it into a basket. “I never want to see another fish,” he moaned.

“Too bad you’re a fisherman, bro,” said James with a wry smile.

Just hours earlier, Jesus had taken five small loaves of bread and two fish, given thanks to God, and then broken the food into pieces. Those pieces had fed more than five thousand hungry people!

“How did He do it?” Peter mused. “I missed it somehow. Wasn’t watching close enough.”

“You can’t look away, man,” said James. “You know that.” John nodded. “It’s not magic. It’s God.”

Peter turned his gaze out across the lake, which reflected the fiery rays of the late day sun. “I don’t like the sky,” he noted.

James shrugged. “Looks clear to me.”

“The light’s wrong,” Peter insisted. “Storm coming.”

Just then, Philip jogged up. “Jesus wants us all to cross the lake ahead of Him,” Philip told them. “Needs time to pray, He says. Though I don’t know why we have to go away, it’s not like we talk all the time or anything, and— hey! Are there more fish left? I can never get enough fish. I mean, Jesus multiplied some seriously good sardines, and oh, look! There’s a squirrel!”

Philip trotted off toward the boat on the shoreline. James hopped up. “Let’s go!”

Peter held his ground. “Hello, the sky? Storm?”

John smiled. “I’m thinking Jesus said to go,” he pointed out. “So we go.”

Jesus’ friends piled into their boat, while Jesus climbed up the mountainside to talk with God alone. Within a short time, wind began to blow. Small waves lapped against the sides of the boat.

“There’s the wind,” Peter grumbled. “I told you.”

“Just a gentle breeze,” said James. “It’ll push us along.”

The boat skated across the water. As night passed, the wind picked up. Now the waves rocked the small boat, tossing it side to side.

“This is no breeze!” shouted Peter.

“I’d call these gale-force winds,” agreed Philip. “Maybe even a tempest! You know it reminds me of this time when my Grandpa took me out in his boat and Grandma packed us sardine sandwiches with mustard, wow, those were good and—look! A wave!”

Philip ducked as a deluge of water sloshed into the boat and Peter wrestled with the heavy sail. “All hands!” he cried. “Everyone help!”

As the wind and waves roared even higher, the boat began to creak. Everyone had to shout to be heard.

“What if the boat starts breaking up?” called James. “Should we turn back?” asked John.

“Too far from shore!” said Peter.

Philip clung to the mast. “I could really use a sardine sandwich right now. Or mutton. A good MLT, you know, mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich where the mutton is nice and lean and—ack! Look! A ghost!”

“Philip!” ordered Peter. “Get a grip.”

“No! Really. Look!” cried Philip. He pried one hand from the mast and pointed.

Sure enough, a Man was walking toward them across the deep mountains and valleys of the waves!

“A ghost!” they all screamed.

But the Man called out to them: “Be brave! It is I.”

Peter gripped the side of the boat as he stared into the gloom. Amazed, he asked, “Lord, is it you? . . . If it is, tell me to come to you on the water.”

The other men in the boat gaped at Peter. But Jesus looked straight at Peter.

“Come,” He said.

Peter’s hands shook. But before he could lose his nerve, he let go and flung his legs over the side of the boat. He didn’t even check to see where his feet would land. He kept his gaze on Jesus’ face and started to move. Before he realized it, he had taken a step across the surface of the water!

Gaining confidence, Peter took another step, and another, eyes fixed on Jesus. But the wind was still hurling wave after wave toward the boat.

“Aaa!” shrieked Philip as a huge wave crested. “Tsunami!”

For just an instant, Peter’s gaze shifted from Jesus to the oncoming wave. It towered high above, ready to swallow him whole.

“No!” gasped Peter.

In that moment, he lost his footing, plunging into the water. His arms flailed, and he began to sink.

“Lord! Save me!” he cried out.

Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. “Your faith is so

small!” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Jesus hauled Peter over the side and back into the boat.

Instantly, the wind died. The waves sank down and faded away. The boat rocked gently on the calm water.

Coughing, Peter pulled himself up to sit. Everyone was staring at Jesus, awed. “You really are the Son of God,” Peter said at last.

Everyone nodded. What Peter had said was true. And it was becoming clear that nothing mattered more than staying focused on Jesus.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Have you ever started something big . . . and then lost your nerve in the middle?

Maybe you panicked when the coach put you into the basketball game. Or you planned to invite the new kid to sit at your lunch table, but chickened out. Or you were going to start your own lemonade stand, but you got nervous about having talk to the people who came by and figure out the change and everything. It’s often easier to talk yourself into tackling something hard than to complete it. But here’s the amazing thing: You don’t have to do it on your own! Jesus is always with you, and He won’t let you fall. So keep your eyes fixed on Him. Keep asking Him for the strength and courage to keep going. Then you can live with confidence, even if things don’t always turn out exactly as you planned. Share with each other something difficult that you need to do this week. Then pray for each other, that you will keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and ask for His help all along the way.

Coming Soon

July Confidence, Week 4

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin

Acts 4:1-22; supporting Acts 3

When Jesus is with you, you can face anything.

At first look, Peter and John didn’t have much going for them.

They were simple fishermen. They’d left their jobs to follow an unknown Teacher named Jesus. For three years they’d traveled with Him, taking nothing but the clothes on their backs. Then Jesus had been killed by the religious leaders, raised back to life, and returned to heaven to be with God.

Now Peter and John had nothing but what Jesus had promised: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.”

But God’s Spirit changed everything.

One day, as the two friends approached the temple gates, they saw a man who couldn’t walk.

“Can you spare a few coins?” asked the man, holding out his hand.

Peter and John exchanged glances; they didn’t have a single penny. Peter turned back to the man sitting before them. “I don’t have any silver or gold,” he explained. “But I’ll give you what I do have. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.”

Peter took the man’s right hand, and before the man could even grasp what was happening, he was on his feet.

“You do know I can’t walk,” gasped the man, but just as quickly, his entire face changed.“Wait…what…canI?”

The man took one tiny step. A bigger step.

A hop!

“I can!” he shouted. “I can walk!”

The man spun in a circle. Laughing and crying at once, he began to dance.

“Praise God! I’m walking! Praise God!” he cried out.

The man made such a scene that dozens of people gathered. “How’s he doing that?” marveled one man. “I’ve seen him sitting here every day. He can’t walk!”

Peter took this chance to address the whole crowd. “Why does this surprise you?” he asked. “Why do you stare at us? It’s not as if we’ve made this man walk by our own power . . . God . . . has done this. God has brought glory to Jesus.”

Peter told the whole story of Jesus as more and more people gathered.

“God raised up Jesus, who serves Him. God sent Him first to you. He did it to bless you.”

The religious leaders were furious when they heard what Peter and John were teaching. They brought guards who grabbed Peter and John and threw them in prison. But even as the two friends waited out the evening in a jail cell, the news they had shared was spreading. In a short time, more than 5,000 people had come to believe in Jesus.

The high priest Annas was so annoyed he could hardly finish his breakfast barley bagel. “These men are turning our teaching upside down, and it’s turning my stomach too,” he grumbled. “Bring them in!”

Peter and John were brought to stand before the high priest, along with members of his family and other religious leaders.

“By what power did you do this?” snapped Annas, pointing toward the place where the man who had been healed continued to dance and praise God. “And through whose name?”

Peter turned to face Annas and the crowd of leaders. “Listen to this!” his voice rang out. “You nailed Jesus Christ of Nazareth to the cross. But God raised him from the dead. It is through Jesus’ name that this man stands healed in front of you. Scripture says Jesus is ‘the stone you builders did not accept.

But it has become the most important stone of all.’ You can’t be saved by believing in anyone else.”

Annas burned with frustration, but he couldn’t find a good retort. “Just go away for a minute,” he ordered. “Let me finish my bagel in peace!”

When Peter and John were gone, Annas and the other leaders tried to puzzle it out. “These men are just ordinary, small town guys,” complained Annas. “So how have they done this? They haven’t been trained in the law like we have!”

“But . . .” ventured one of the priests, “they have been with Jesus.”

Annas couldn’t deny it. Instead, he barked, “Well, what can we do with them?” “Hey! We could say it didn’t happen,” suggested another priest.

Annas glared. “Everyone in Jerusalem knows they performed a miracle.”

“Okay, okay. So we stop it here,” said the priest. “We don’t let it go any further. We warn them to lie low or they’ll be tossed in the clink faster than you can shear a sheep!”

“That settles it,” Annas declared. “They must never speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.”

Guards brought Peter and John back. “You must never speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again,” commanded Annas.

Peter and John faced him, unmoved. “Which is right from God’s point of view?” Peter asked. “Should we listen to you? Or should we listen to God? You be the judges!”

“But we already decided!” whined Annas.

“There’s nothing else we can do,” John declared. “We have to speak about the things we’ve seen and heard.”

Annas went red in the face. “Ooooo. Just . . . don’t! Okay?!” “Is that all?” asked Peter. “No…yes…just go!” he exploded.

Peter and John left and went on their way, grateful for the reminder that Jesus was still with them, no matter what they faced.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Have you ever been asked to do something you knew was wrong?

Maybe a classmate wanted you to keep another kid from sitting at your lunch table. Or a friend asked to copy your homework. Parents, you could share an appropriate story about a time when someone in authority asked you to do something wrong. It’s really tough when you know that doing the right thing might get you laughed at or even get you in trouble. But like Peter and John, you can know that Jesus is with you, no matter what! He can help you stand strong with confidence to do the right thing. Pray for each other, that when you face difficult situations this week, you’ll remember that Jesus is right there with you to help you do the right thing.

Coming Soon

July Confidence, Week 5

Nothing Can Separate Us from God

Romans 8:38-39

Live like you believe what God says is true.

Caleb was having a blast at his new job. With one year of college done, he was taking the summer to work at Fox Mountain Camp as an Adventure Expert.

Each day he made sure the zip lines ran smoothly. He cleared fallen trees and limbs off the trails. And he kept all the canoes in tiptop shape.

One morning, the camp director, Mr. Malkin, fell into step beside Caleb as they left the dining pavilion.

“You’re doing a fine job, Caleb,” he said. “Thank you, sir!” Caleb replied.

“You know Jamal injured his ankle, right?” Mr. Malkin asked. Jamal was counselor for the ten, eight-year-old boys in Hawk Eye Cabin.

“Yeah, I helped carry him back from the trail after he twisted it,” Caleb explained.

“That’s right,” said Mr. Malkin. “Well, he can’t keep up with those boys now. I’d like you to be their new counselor for the rest of the summer.”

“Me?” Caleb asked in surprise. “But I’m not . . . I mean, I can strap a kid into a zip line harness or show them how to paddle a canoe. But I don’t really know how to, you know . . . lead a cabin! I don’t know what to say when they ask hard questions and stuff.”

“I think you can handle it, son,” Mr. Malkin encouraged. “I’ll give you until dinner to decide.” He clapped Caleb on the back and smiled as he turned off into the camp office.

Caleb took a deep breath. “Maybe . . . maybe I can do it . . .” he considered as he headed for the obstacle course. But his thoughts were interrupted by a text buzzing in on his phone. His mother said simply, “Call me.”

Frowning, Caleb stuffed his phone back in his pocket. While he was at camp, Caleb only talked to his parents on the weekend. He wondered what it was all about until he could finally make the call to his mom during his lunch break.

Her voice sounded shaky on the phone. “Caleb . . . I’m sorry to do this now, but . . . well, we’ve already waited too long.”

“Mom, are you okay?” Caleb asked.

“Yes. Yes, I’m fine.” She paused. “It’s just . . . well, your dad and I . . . we’re taking a break.”

“What?!” Caleb shouted, startling a crow in a nearby bush. It flew off, cawing. “Your dad got an apartment,” his mom added.

“You’re getting a divorce?!” said Caleb in disbelief.

“No, I mean . . . we need some time . . . ” Caleb’s mom tried to explain.

Caleb felt like his whole world had just tipped upside down. “But what about when I come home before college starts?” he protested. “What about Thanksgiving and Christmas and the road trip we planned—”

“Caleb!” his mom cut him off. “We’ll figure it out. I promise.”

“Well, go see a counselor or something,” Caleb said. “You have to fix this!”

“We’ve been talking with Pastor Rob,” his mom told him. “We both love you, and we’re working on things.”

Caleb stood stunned when the call finally ended. His mind raced, out of control. It felt like everything was falling apart.

He could hardly keep his focus at the lake when he took the lifeguard seat, snapping and shouting at kids who got to near the rope.

During lunch, Caleb’s friend Mateo set his tray down beside Caleb at the staff table. “Hey man, you want to go bouldering this weekend?” he asked. “I found this really awesome place. Oh, and we should check with Sam and see—”

“I don’t want to talk right now,” Caleb said as he grabbed his half-eaten lunch and stalked off. Mateo stared after him in hurt surprise.

As Caleb hurried past the camp office, Mr. Malkin waved at him. “You decided about being a counselor yet?”

“No,” Caleb said flatly.

“No, you haven’t decided or no—”

“Not right now!” Caleb said sharply. He picked up his pace so Mr. Malkin wouldn’t see he was fighting back tears.

“I can’t lead a bunch of kids when everything’s so messed up!” he mumbled.

Caleb’s feet took him right through the cabin area, and before he knew it, he was climbing the rugged trail up Fox Mountain. He felt hot anger rising inside as he thought about his parents.

“God, You can’t let them do this!” he shouted. “It’s not fair!”

Sure, Caleb didn’t live at home all the time now he was in college. But his parents were supposed to be there, together, all the time. They were family.

Caleb grabbed a heavy stick and hurled it into the brush. He wanted to pray, but anger and confusion seemed to choke out the words. Instead, he pushed himself hard over rocks and past scrubby pine trees until he made it to a clearing near the summit.

The whole camp spread out far below him. He took out the small pair of binoculars he always carried and checked the view. The older kids were heading out to the rec field. He could follow Mr. Malkin’s battered pick up driving out the gravel road. And there was the big sign at the camp entrance . . .

“Fox Mountain Camp,” he read. “Further up and further in.”

Caleb had always liked the camp motto. It came from a book called The Last Battle, when after a terribly dark time, the characters found an amazing place Azlan, the lion who is a picture of God, had created for them. A place where they would always be close to him and could keep exploring forever. Beneath the motto, Caleb read the final line on the sign, “Romans 8:38-39.”

Even though it had been ten years since Caleb memorized the verses, he could still remember most of it. “‘I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God’s love . . .’” he murmured. “‘Not even angels or demons, the present or the future . . . Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can separate us. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God’s love.’”

Caleb lowered the binoculars. A breeze rustled through the pine needles. For the first time since talking with his mom, he took a deep breath. He knew there was no easy fix to his parents’ problems. Whatever happened, it would still be difficult. But things would be okay in the end.

Caleb sat down on a rock in a shady spot . . . sitting still, just letting the view soak in. At last, he scrambled back down the mountain.

Before dinner, he found Mr. Malkin. “I’ll do it,” he said. “I’ll lead Hawk Eye Cabin.” “Excellent!” exclaimed Mr. Malkin. “I think you’ll do a fine job with those boys!”

“I don’t really have all the answers for them,” Caleb confessed. “But . . . I guess that’s okay?”

“You bet,’ said Mr. Malkin. “Just point ’em in the right direction. We’ll put you on first thing in the morning.”

Caleb nodded and hurried off to catch up with Mateo for dinner. He still wasn’t sure how he’d handle being a counselor. Or what to say to his parents. But he knew that whatever came, God would be right there in it with him.

++++++++++++++++++++++

God doesn’t promise that we won’t have problems and that everything will always work out perfectly.

But He does promise that He will always be with us. He promises to love us and give us wisdom and courage. And He promises that in the very end, everything will be made right. When you truly believe this, it changes everything! How might your life look different right now if you lived with the confidence of knowing these things are true, no matter what happens? Parents, share from your own life, and help your child think of several specific situations. Pray for each other, that you would both live this week with confidence, knowing that everything God has promised you is true!