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Integrity, Week 1

Daniel's Integrity

Daniel 1

Be truthful with your whole life.

Daniel was only a very young man when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon conquered the land of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar made sure God’s people wouldn’t rebel by marching Daniel and many other young men

from royal families back to Babylon with him!

Even though Daniel and his friends were scared and confused, they knew that God would be with them, whatever happened.

The king chose the brightest and best of the young men from Judah and ordered them to receive special training.

“After three years, you’ll get to be very important and serve me!” he declared.

The chief official, Ashpenaz, took charge of Daniel and his friends. He gave them new names—Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—and announced that they’d learn the Babylonian language and writings.

Daniel’s heart sank as he realized what was happening: The king wanted Daniel and his friends to forget that they were God’s people. He wanted them to become Babylonians!

Ashpenaz led Daniel and his friends to a table set with mouth-watering foods. The lavish banquet smelled incredible. But Daniel pulled his friends aside.

“Guys,” he said, “God told us in His Word that He doesn’t want us to eat the types of food that the king is serving. Our new names and training are one thing. But don’t you want to do your best to honor God with what you eat?”

Together, the friends made a decision. They’d ask for simple food that honored God.

“This all looks great,” Daniel told Ashpenaz. “But could we eat something that’s not from the king’s table? It doesn’t need to be anything fancy . . .”

Ashpenaz was shocked. “I’m afraid of the king. He is my master. He has decided what you and your three friends must eat and drink. . . . Why should he see you looking worse than [the other young men]? When he sees how you look, he might kill me!”

No matter what Daniel said, Ashpenaz was too fearful to listen. So Daniel approached the guard assigned to take care of them. “Please. Just test us for ten days,” he asked. “Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. See how we look then.”

For ten days, the guard gave Daniel and his friends nothing to eat but veggies and water. It wasn’t easy saying “no” to the delicious foods the other young men ate.

At the end of ten days, the guard called everyone out and marched down the line to inspect them. When the guard reached Daniel and his friends, he stopped in surprise.

“What?” he gasped. “You’ve been eating rabbit food. But you look even better fed than the others!”

Daniel smiled. God had helped them grow strong, even without eating the food from the king’s table.

“Okay, fine,” said the guard with a shrug. “You can keep eating veggies and water.”

God continued to give Daniel and his friends knowledge and understanding as they studied. At the end of their training, they were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed with their knowledge that he declared them to be ten times smarter than his other advisors!

Daniel and his friends eventually became the king’s most trusted advisors. But though they served the king of Babylon, they never stopped standing strong for the One True God in everything they said and did.

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

Daniel and his friends were far from their homes and families.

It would have been so easy for them to turn their backs on God and simply go along with what everyone around them was doing. Yet they chose to be the same people on the inside that they’d been at home in Jerusalem. Have you ever been in a situation where it was tempting to pretend to be someone you aren’t? Maybe you were with some popular kids who started making fun of someone, and you joined in. Or maybe you’ve pretended not to like a toy or cartoon, even though you still do, because you’re afraid people will think it’s silly. Parents, you can share about a time this has happened to you too. Pray for each other, that God will help you to trust Him in every area of your life.

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Integrity, Week 2

No Secrets with God

1 John 1:9

Being truthful with God keeps you close to Him.

One of Jesus’ closest friends, the apostle John, shared important words from God in one of his letters:

But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure.

Let’s see how this truth might play out today.

***

Tori could barely contain her excitement as she showed her dad the small, plastic rectangle with her face on it: her brand-new drivers’ license.

“See? I can drive myself now!” she exclaimed.

“If you had a car,” teased Dad.

“Mom said I can borrow her car some days,” protested Tori. “If you pay for gas,” her dad reminded.

“If I pay for gas.”

“Cell phone—” Dad began.

“Phone off while I’m driving! I know!” Tori said as she held up her phone and switched if off. “Plus no passengers, no driving after 9 p.m., full stop at every stop sign, and music at a moderate volume. I’ve got it.”

“I guess you do,” her dad agreed.

“So can I borrow Mom’s car to go play tennis with Keisha?” begged Tori. “Please?”

Her dad pulled the keys out of his pocket and handed them over. “Be home by nine!” he cautioned.

Even though she’d been driving with her mom or dad for months now, Tori’s stomach did a flip as she started the car and carefully pulled out of the driveway. Her hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel for the first mile. But by the time she reached the high school and pulled into a spot by the tennis courts, she was almost relaxed.

Her best friend Keisha waved, laughing. “Nice parking job!”

Tori hopped out and checked her parking. “Yeah, okay, I’m a little crooked. But there’s no one else here,” she pointed out.

The two friends played for more than an hour before Tori checked the time. “Oops! Gotta get home,” she said.

By the time Tori had stowed her gear and fiddled with the temperature controls, Keisha was already gone. As Tori backed the car out of the spot, she reached over to adjust the radio . . . and felt a sudden THUD!

“Oh no!” she exclaimed.

Tori braked fast, put the car in park, and hopped out. She’d backed right into a light pole, leaving a small dent in the bumper.

“It’s not very big . . .” she noticed.

Tori picked up her phone to call her dad, but she’d already turned it off for the drive. “I’ll just tell him when I get home,” she decided.

Tori stayed tense the whole way. “They’ll never let me borrow the car again!” she worried. “But it’s just a small dent. And Mom’s car is really old anyway . . .”

Dad was working on his Jeep in the garage when Tori pulled in. “Hey sweetie! How was it?” he asked.

Tori opened her mouth to tell him about the dent. But . . . she couldn’t seem do it. “Um, it was . . . fine. Great! My serve’s getting lots better,” she said quickly.

Tori avoided her mom too, and went straight up to her room. She tried to read, but couldn’t focus, so she decided to go to bed. Most evenings, Tori used a gratitude app on her phone as a reminder to thank God for the good stuff in her day. But right now she didn’t really want to think about her day. Or talk to God. At all.

Finally, she turned off the light. It took a long time to fall asleep.

The next morning, Tori came down to find Dad making French toast. “Maple syrup or strawberries and whipped cream?” he asked.

“Both!” said Tori. “Where’s Mom?”

“She went out to get groceries. Should be back any minute.”

As Tori sat down to her favorite breakfast, memories of the dented bumper came flooding back. Suddenly she didn’t feel hungry.

The garage door opened and her mom shouldered her way inside, carting heavy grocery bags. “Would you believe it?” she exclaimed. “Someone dinged my bumper in the parking lot and took off!”

Tori’s heart sank. She wished she could disappear. “Did you see it happen?” asked Dad.

“Nope. And they didn’t leave a note. Hit and run.” “I’ll take a look,” Dad offered.

“Uh . . . Mom?” Tori began.

Mom glanced up and saw Tori. “Hi Tor! Didn’t mean to rain on your morning. What’s up?”

Tori tried to explain, but once again couldn’t find the words. “Nothing. I mean, I . . . I’m gonna go out and rake some leaves.”

“That would be super helpful,” her mom said, surprised. “Rake’s against the back wall.”

Tori couldn’t meet her mom’s eyes as she headed out the door. She raked leaves as fast and as hard as she could, but she couldn’t sweep away what had happened.

“It’s not like I lied. Exactly . . .” she told herself, and then shook her head. “Oh, who am I kidding.”

Unlocking her phone, Tori scrolled, searching for a text her small group leader Lisa had sent weeks ago. “Wanted to share . . .” Lisa had written. Then Tori read the verse: “But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure.”

Tori scanned the verse again and sighed. Then she dropped the rake and plopped right down in the middle of her leaf pile. “So, um, God? I really messed up,” she began. “I mean, You know all about it, but . . . I dented Mom’s car. And I hid the truth. I lied. I’m really sorry.”

As Tori lay in the scratchy leaves, staring up at the bright blue sky, she felt a sense of peace for the first time all day.

“Thank You, God,” she murmured.

After a few minutes, Tori finally scrambled to her feet, brushing off leaves, and headed into the house.

“Mom? Dad?” she called. “There’s something I have to tell you.”

Tori knew she’d be paying to fix the car. And she might lose driving privileges for a while. But it was worth the cost to know she wasn’t hiding the truth anymore.

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

Have you ever tried to hide something that you’ve done?

Hiding the truth is lying with your actions, just like you can lie with your words. It’s important not to lie to your parents or other people in your life, but it’s even more important not to try to hide from God. He already knows everything, and He loves you—no matter what you’ve done! But when you try to hide from Him, you start to feel far away from Him and wonder if He even cares—even though He’s still right there. When you choose to lay it all out before God, you can know that very moment He’s forgiven you, and you can feel as close to Him again as He’s been all along. He’ll give you courage if you need to tell anyone else too. Pray for each other, that God will give you the courage to be truthful with Him about everything, and to be truthful with the people in your life too.

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Integrity, Week 3

Naaman and Elisha's Servant

2 Kings 5

When you're not truthful, you lose trust.

Naaman was commander of the army of Aram—one of Israel’s greatest enemies. Though Naaman was a wealthy man, he had a problem no doctor could solve . . . a terrible skin disease.

Then Naaman heard news of a prophet in Israel, Elisha, who might be able to help him. But instead of going straight to Elisha, Naaman took rich gifts to the king of Israel. He even brought along a letter from the king of his own land to show how important he was.

The king of Israel frowned as he read the letter from his enemy, the king of Aram. “I’m sending my servant Naaman to you with this letter. I want you to heal him of his skin disease.” The king panicked. “What? No! I’m not God! Your king is trying to pick a fight with me.”

The king of Israel made such a fuss that the prophet Elisha heard the news and sent a messenger. It may have been his trusted servant, Gehazi.

“Elisha says, ‘Tell the man to come to me!’” explained Gehazi.

Gehazi raced back home to help Elisha prepare for an important visitor. And

sure enough, the king of Israel sent Naaman straight to their doorstep.

Gehazi peeked out the window. “Look how low the chariot is riding!” he marveled. “What’s in the back? Embroidered robes? And bags of something . . .” He turned to Elisha. “Hurry up and go out there!”

“I’m not going out,” said Elisha.

“Not going out?!” exclaimed Gehazi.

“No, you are,” Elisha told him, and sent Gehazi out to Naaman with a message.

“Are you the prophet?” asked Naaman when he saw Gehazi. “Where’s Elisha?” “Elisha says, ‘Go! Wash yourself in the Jordan River seven times,’” said Gehazi.

“‘Then your skin will be healed. You will be pure and “clean” again.’”

Naaman frowned. “I thought Elisha would come out himself. Can’t he just say some words and wave his hand and make me better?”

“That’s what I was thinking too!” agreed Gehazi.

“And the Jordan River?!” said Naaman, shaking his head. “Why is it more special than any other river?”

Naaman tore off, angry. But his servants convinced him to follow Elisha’s instructions anyway. Naaman dipped seven times in the murky Jordan River. When he rose from the water the seventh time, his skin was perfectly clean. He was healed!

Naaman raced back to Elisha’s home. This time the prophet came outside, along with Gehazi. The army commander marveled at his unmarked arms and hands. “Now I know that there is no God anywhere . . . except in Israel!” exclaimed Naaman. “Please accept a gift from me.”

Gehazi inched closer to the chariot. He could see the richly colored robes stacked over bags of silver.

“Just have your servants unload around back—” he began.

“No!” ordered Elisha. “I serve the Lord. You can be sure that he lives. And you

can be just as sure that I won’t accept a gift from you.”

“Please. I’m begging you,” said Naaman.

But Elisha still refused to take a single coin from Naaman, and sent him away in peace.

Elisha went back inside his house, leaving Gehazi speechless on the doorstep. He could still see the dust kicked up by the horses’ hoofs.

“Elisha should have taken something!” groaned Gehazi. “If he didn’t want it, hecouldhavejustgivenittome…”

With that, Gehazi took off running down the road. His arms pumped and his sandals flapped as he crested the hill and raced up beside the chariot.

Naaman pulled to a halt. “Is everything all right?”

“It’s fine. Fine,” said Gehazi, panting. “My master sent me to say that . . . uh . . . two young prophets have come to visit. Yeah! That’s it. Please give them 75 pounds of silver and two sets of clothes.”

“Of course! Take twice as much,” said Naaman.

Naaman’s servants carried the heavy bags of silver and clothing back up the road, but as they approached Elisha’s house, Gehazi instructed them to leave it. Straining beneath the weight of his load, Gehazi snuck inside and stashed the silver and clothes in his own room.

Then he hurried back out and strolled inside through the front door. Elisha studied him with sharp eyes.

“Where have you been?” he asked.

“Who, me? I didn’t go anywhere,” said Gehazi.

“Didn’t my spirit go with you? I know Naaman greeted you,” said Elisha. “I know you took money and clothes. You and your [family] after you will have Naaman’s skin disease forever.”

Sure enough, Gehazi’s skin was soon covered with sores, just as Naaman’s had been. His lie had won him some new clothes, but it had cost him Elisha’s trust—and a full and healthy life.

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

It’s easy to think that telling a small lie won’t make any difference.

But let’s play that out. Imagine that your mom asks if you’ve brushed your teeth, and you say “yes,” even though you didn’t. Nothing happens, so you keep doing it. What will happen when you go to the dentist? How will your parents feel—and what do you think they might do?

When you don’t tell the truth, people find out—whether it’s right away or a little while later. And when they find out, they stop trusting you. Your parents may not allow you to do as many things. Your teachers might not give you as many privileges. Your friends may not want to hang out with you. Bottom line: it’s always better to be truthful. Pray for each other, that God will give you the courage to be truthful with the people in your life.

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Integrity, Week 4

Think on These Things

Philippians 4:8

Focus on what's true.

Horatio liked to keep track of things in his head:

• 5 kinds of cereal in the cabinet.
• 17 braids on his sister Nala’s head.
• 2 voicemail messages on his parents’ landline phone.

“Seriously, Mom?” he said, staring at the old, white phone. “You’re stuck in the 1990s.”

Horatio was especially good at keeping track of things that went wrong.

“Number 1: We’re out of chocolate frosted sugar bomb cereal,” he grumbled.

Horatio’s mother didn’t always appreciate his lists. “I did not buy that,” she pointed out. “Your dad bought that.”

“Number 2: It’s freezing in here!” Horatio complained.

“Put on a sweater,” said Mom.

“Number 3: Ms. Watson is making us do a group project, and they are the worst,” said Horatio. “’Cause everyone else drags me down.”

Mom took a deep breath. “Horatio, can you please focus on something positive for once?”

“Just keeping it real,” Horatio began, when his younger sister, Nala, interrupted. “Oh! Oh! I know about positive stuff!” she explained. “Ms. Kristy told us!”

Horatio’s little sister, Nala, began rummaging in the stack of random papers on the counter.

“There’s nothing positive this morning,” said Horatio with a frown. “I’m positive about that.”

Nala pulled out a scribbled-on handout and waved it triumphantly. “Phil-ipp-ians 4:8—” she began carefully.

“Do not read me a coloring sheet!” Horatio snapped, but Nala kept going.

“‘Finally, my brothers and sisters, always think about what is true. Think about what is noble, right and pure.’”

“Mom, make her stop bugging me,” said Horatio. “No, this is good,” said Mom.

Nala continued, “‘Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect. If anything is excellent or worthy of praise, think about those kinds of things.’”

Horatio just glared and checked out the lunch that Mom had packed. “Is this strawberry jam in my sandwich? You know I only eat apricot jam!”

Over the next two hours, Horatio counted dozens of annoying things. “Number 1: This bus stinks like dirty socks stuffed with Cheetos.” “Number 2: The classroom door needs some WD-40.”

“Number 3: Ms. Watson is wearing yellow, and I hate yellow.”

“Number 4: This pencil is making a giant callus on my finger.” “Number 5: Group projects are still the worst.”

Horatio’s group had to meet in the corner of the room by the vent. “Number 6: It’s way too hot over here,” he groaned.

To make matters worse, Ms. Watson had put Tish James in charge of the group. “So we get to do a report on Cape Hatteras Lighthouse!” chattered Tish. “I’ll write the history. Jordan, you can paint a picture. Horatio, you research stuff about the land and animals around it.”

“Number 7,” he mumbled under his breath, “Tish is super bossy.”

“Oh, and here’s a picture of the lighthouse,” Tish added. She held up a glossy photograph.

Horatio opened his mouth to complain about how boring lighthouses were— but he couldn’t do it. Hatteras Lighthouse, spiraling up into the sunset sky, was breathtaking. He could imagine walking the beach, waves crashing in as the warm light glowed high overhead . . .

Horatio couldn’t help hearing an echo of his little sister’s voice: “‘Think about what is lovely and worthy of respect.’”

There it was, right in front of his face.

Horatio found brand-new thoughts forming in his brain. “Hey, that looks really cool. It’s amazing!” he exclaimed.

It was as if a switch flipped in Horatio’s head. After seeing one good thing . . . he started to see more. Jordan showed some paintings he had done.

“Number 1: Jordan, you’re a really great artist!” he noted.

Ms. Watson helped Horatio solve some tough fractions by drawing a funny sketch. “Number 2: Ms. Watson is a super-creative teacher,” he said to himself. Mom had packed homemade cookies in Horatio’s lunch. “Number 3: My mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies on the planet,” he commented. “Who wants to share?!”

By the time Horatio got off the school bus, he was actually smiling. “Number 4: Mr. Rob drove us right up to our house ’cause of the rain!”

Mom met them at the door. “Hey kids, how was school?” she asked. At that instant, Nala shook out her wet umbrella . . . all over Horatio. For a moment, Horatio frowned.

Nala braced herself. “Uh . . . sorry . . .” she began.

Horatio smiled. “Number 5: I have a closet full of dry clothes upstairs!” he announced.

Nala’s eyebrows shot way up. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing,” said Horatio. “I just realized I’ve got some pretty great things to focus on.”

“So your day went okay?” Mom asked. “Number 6: It was positively awesome!”

Horatio beamed and went upstairs to change his wet shirt. He had a lot of brand-new lists to make in his head.

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

Share two or three things in your life that aren’t going well right now.

How does it make you feel to focus on those things? Now take a couple minutes and brainstorm all the good things in your life. Share as many as you can think of. How does it make you feel to focus on those things? God has created us in such an amazing way that how we feel follows what we think about. Even when we face very difficult things in our lives, we can still focus on how God created us, loves us, and provides for what we need, moment by moment, breath by breath. Pray together, thanking God for all the good things in your life. Ask Him to help you focus on what is true, right, and beautiful.