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About the Author
Elyse Fitzpatrick (MA, Trinity Theological Seminary) is a counselor, a retreat and conference speaker, and the author of over twenty books, including Because He Loves Me; Comforts from the Cross; and Found in Him.
Read an Excerpt
The Bad One
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Shane can't understand why he always seems to do the wrong thing. He knows he isn't supposed to lie, but he did anyway. He knows he isn't supposed to cheat, but he just couldn't seem to keep his eyes off Lisa's paper. Sometimes he looks around at his other friends and thinks he is always the one being bad. He especially feels this way at home. His mom and dad love God and always talk about Jesus, and they read their Bibles. His older brother Jim is the good one. He is the one everybody seems to love because he always does the right thing. Shane feels that he is the only bad one. He feels that since he always does the wrong thing, he just isn't going to try to do the right thing anymore.
What Shane doesn't believe is what our passage, Romans 3:11–12, says. He doesn't believe that everyone is bad and that no one understands or looks for God. Maybe you feel the same way Shane does. Maybe you feel that you always do it wrong. The Bible agrees with you on that one, and that may feel like bad news. But that is not all the news the Bible gives. There is also some really good news. It's about our treasure, Jesus. The really good news is that Jesus loves sinners. Jesus loves people who aren't doing the right thing. Does that surprise you? It surprises me! The good news of the Bible is that Jesus came to love and rescue people who don't love him. I know when people don't like me, I want to stay away from them, but Jesus does the opposite of that. Don't let your badness keep you from joining us on our treasure hunt. Don't think you are the only one who does the wrong thing; we all do the wrong thing. Jesus loves you anyway. He will forgive you. He wants to be nice to you; he wants to be your treasure.
1) Do you ever feel like Shane? When you do feel like him, what do you do?
2) When you do something wrong, do you want to hide from God and your parents?
3) What should you remember about Jesus when you think you are too bad to go to him?
4) What is the good news or treasure of our story today?
Take some time now to pray that you will understand and believe that Jesus wants to be your friend. Believe that he came to save you from the fact that you can't live right.CHAPTER 2
The Good One
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rita is the sweetest girl most people have ever met. At least, that is what she hears all the time. She is almost always polite, almost always nice, and almost always obeys her parents. Most adults notice these things, and they are sure to tell Rita and her parents what a great job they are doing. The only problem is that Rita knows something isn't right. Rita feels angry a lot of the time, especially when other people don't follow the rules or when her parents tell her she is doing something wrong. She feels that if she is trying so hard to be good, other people should try to be good too. She also can't understand why her parents always have to point out the few bad things she does, especially since she is so good most of the time.
Rita's problem is that she doesn't really believe Romans 3:23 and 6:23. There are two very important parts to our treasure map in those verses. Do you see them? First, all have sinned. That "all" includes whoever is reading this, whoever is listening; and it includes me. Rita knows that sometimes she does things that aren't exactly right, but she doesn't really think of herself as a sinner who deserves death.
Rita also doesn't believe the second clue to our treasure. There is a free gift waiting for her (and for you) just to snatch. It doesn't cost one single penny; you don't have to do anything to earn it, and you can't do anything to buy it. All you have to do is believe. Rita has been trying to buy this free gift with all the good things she does. She has been thinking that if she is just good enough, then everybody will say nice things about her and God will love her and give her life forever with him. But God doesn't want her or you to try and earn his free gift; he just wants to give it. He loves giving, and he loves being generous.
God has a job, which is to give, and we have a job, which is to receive. Rita has been thinking her treasure is what other people think of her. Jesus wants Rita and you to know that the real treasure is what he thinks of you and how he loves you. He wants to give you himself and life forever with him, but you must believe that is true. You must believe that you sin and that your sin earns death. You also must believe that nothing you can do can earn the free gift. It's free! He loves to give to you. You must believe that he is as good and generous as he says he is.
1) Do you ever feel like you have to earn God's love?
2) Do you believe the two parts of our verses?
3) Which part is harder for you to believe?
4) If you have a hard time believing all that's in today's verses, you can pray right now and ask God to help you believe.CHAPTER 3
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paige has a secret. The secret is about something she has done. She has done something very wrong, and her secret is making her feel awful. She feels that she can't tell people, because they won't love her anymore. She is really scared of getting into loads and loads of trouble, too. So Paige keeps her secret hidden away in her heart. And although she never speaks of it, it is always there, like a giant mountain that she just can't seem to get away from. Everywhere she turns, it seems as though the giant mountain is right in front of her, threatening to hurt her. Paige thinks that nothing she can do will make the mountain go away. Paige is right — there is nothing she can do, but there is something God has already done.
Paige needs to hear Romans 8:38–39. Paige especially needs to hear the very end of this passage, "... nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." What Paige doesn't believe is that even though her secret is big, God's love for her is even bigger. God's love makes the biggest secret mountain seem like a tiny anthill when compared to his love.
He promises that nothing will change his love for you if you are one of his children. There is nothing and no one stronger or bigger than God's love for his family. His love never stops; it never gives up on you. The things you do can't make him love any less. All you have to do is believe he is as loving as he says he is, even though you know you don't deserve his love. He loves you because he sees you in Jesus Christ. That means that when he looks at you, he sees only his perfect Son, Jesus.
You see, not only is God our treasure, but we are his treasure too. His love for his treasure is perfect, and it never changes — ever. Kind of hard to believe, right? Our God is just that good and that kind.
1) Do you have a big secret mountain that seems so big that nobody can love you?
2) Do you believe that there is something one of God's kids could do that would make God love him less?
3) Do you understand what the Bible means when it says, "... in Christ Jesus our Lord"? If not, ask the adult reading with you to explain it.CHAPTER 4
Just Not Sure
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
Sam thinks he is different from everybody else. The reason he feels different is that he isn't sure if he believes the way his parents do. When he goes to church, he questions if what he is learning in Sunday school is true. He feels bad that he isn't excited about God like everyone else is. He just can't be sure that the God of the Bible is true; he feels that some of those Bible stories are just too crazy to be true. He doesn't feel that he can talk to anybody about his thoughts and doubts. He feels sure that nothing anybody could say or do could change his mind.
Sam is right about one thing: there is nothing anybody can say or do to change his mind. Ephesians 2:8 tells us why: faith to believe is a gift from God. Faith is a bit of a fancy word, isn't it? It might be a little hard to understand. Let me explain it. Faith is when you are sure — absolutely sure — that something is true. When you are about to sit on a chair, you have faith that the chair will hold you. You are sure that when you sit down, you won't go flopping onto the ground. Now, faith in God is a bit like sitting in a chair. Faith in God is when you say you believe the Bible and that everything in it is true. It is believing that the treasure map will get you to the treasure.
Here is what is very special about Ephesians 2:8: there is nothing you can do to make yourself believe in God. That thought should make you giddy, because the hard work isn't up to us. God does the hard work for us. He gives us the faith we need to believe. We know that God loves to give gifts to his kids. He is excited to share himself with you. He proved this because he gave his Son, the thing he loved most, to you. God wants to give you the gift of faith. He wants to give you and Sam everything you need to believe.
So what should Sam do? What should you do? All we have to do is ask for faith. Ask God to give you that special gift that will help you believe he is real. I have faith that if you ask, he will give. He is just that good, and that kind, and that loving.
1) Do you ever have questions about what you learn at church? If yes, what are they?
2) Do you sometimes wonder if God is real?
3) Do you want to pray and ask God for the special gift of faith?CHAPTER 5
The Center of Attention
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
Lilly loves to be loved. She is funny and is always having fun. People generally like being around her. If you ever hear people laughing loudly, you know Lilly is with that group, making silly faces or telling funny jokes. Lilly seems always to have a smile to share.
The truth is that she is very sad on the inside. She feels that she has to be funny and nice in order to make people love her. She thinks that her friends are her treasure. Sometimes Lilly gets angry because she thinks her friends don't love her enough. She thinks that maybe they like her other friends more than they like her.
Lilly needs to be reminded of the best love that has ever existed.
There is a love that is better than living. There is a love for you that is always there. Do you see the word "steadfast" in our verse, Psalm 63:3? That is another fancy word. Let me explain it. Steadfast means there is nothing you can do to change that love. It's like a big tree that has been around forever, and no matter what anybody does to try to move the tree, it just stays there. You can push on it and kick it and do all sorts of things, but the tree just stays right where it is, where it will always be. That is what God's steadfast love is like. God's love is the greatest treasure. It is better than anything you can think of. It is better than having all the friends you want or all the video games you want. It fills you up all the way to the top. Lilly feels like she has to be nice and funny all the time or she will lose the love of her friends. She can't do anything to mess up God's love for her.
The really cool thing about his love is you don't have to work hard to keep it. That should make you want to shout, "YIPPEE!" and do exactly what our verse says next: "My lips will praise you." Knowing about his steadfast love will make our hearts happy and our mouths want to say nice things about him. The truth is our hearts won't be happy with anyone's love but God's. Until we can be happy with God's love, we will always want more and more people to love us. Even when we think that our friends' love is the most important, God's love really is, because it doesn't change. He just loves you that much. He is just that kind, and he is just that good.
1) Do you ever feel that having your friends' love is the most important thing?
2) Is it hard to remember that God's love is your real treasure? Why?
3) When you forget that God's love is the best, what can you do to remember?CHAPTER 6
No One Gets Me
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Trey is certain that no one understands him. He feels that he is going through everything all by himself. It is true that Trey has had a hard life. His dad and mom are divorced. His dad left their family, and his mom now has to work all the time. He has to stay at school every night until it is dark, waiting for his mom to come and get him and his sister. He hates how tired she always is. He wants to talk to her about school and what happens there, but she always tells him she is too busy to even think. He feels that he has no friends, no one who really knows what his life is like. He knows his mom loves him, but he really wants someone to listen to him. Trey knows about Jesus; his mom takes him to church every Sunday. But just like everyone else, Jesus seems far away, and Trey feels alone. He thinks there is nobody who really wants to take care of him.
Trey doesn't know how much Jesus loves and cares about everything that happens in his life. Trey does not know what our verse, Hebrews 4:15, says. When our verse talks about a "high priest," it means someone who cares about every detail of your life; someone who talks to God for you, someone who can take care of your sin. Jesus knows exactly how Trey feels. Jesus had to become a boy, so he understands what it is like to have no one who understands you, no one to talk to.
Jesus was so different from everybody else. He had no sin; he never did anything wrong. Have you ever been around people who always seem to be good? It's kind of hard to be with them, isn't it? Well, Jesus was the one who was always good, and people hated that so much that they eventually killed him. Even though Jesus was always good, he had to fight against sin. He had to fight against being sad and angry that no one understood him. Trey wants someone who understands; he doesn't know that Jesus is that person. Jesus understands all the hard things we go through. He really knows how we feel, and he cares for us.
There is a big word in our verse — sympathize. That word means Jesus wants to share all the hard things in your life. Most people only want to share good things, but he wants to share everything. He really feels what you feel and hurts when you hurt, and loves you always.
1) Do you ever feel that no one understands you?
2) Do you ever feel that no one cares about what you go through?
3) Do you have any friends like Trey that you can be a friend to?
4) How does knowing that Jesus cares for you help when you are sad?CHAPTER 7
I Can't Be Nice
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Annie is having a really hard time being nice to Priscilla. Priscilla is always mean; everything she says is unkind. She is like a thorn that gets stuck in your sock. Even though she just makes little comments, they sting and irritate Annie. Annie knows she should be nice; she knows the right thing to do, but she just doesn't want to do it. She wants to be mean back; she wants to show Priscilla what it feels like to be hurt by what someone says. Annie wishes they didn't have to be around each other, but they go to the same church and the same school. Annie knows she has never been that mean to anybody, and she can't understand why Priscilla is that way. It's like Priscilla wants to be everybody's enemy. Annie tries to do what her parents say — she tries to pray for Priscilla — but she just doesn't like her one bit.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Exploring Grace Together"
Copyright © 2014 Jessica L. Thompson.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Elyse Fitzpatrick,
Letter for Parents,
1 The Bad One,
2 The Good One,
3 The Secret,
4 Just Not Sure,
5 The Center of Attention,
6 No One Gets Me,
7 I Can't Be Nice,
8 Completely Alone,
9 Best Friends,
10 A Feeling-Low Kind of Day,
11 The Brothers,
12 The Fighting Family,
13 A Safe Place,
14 It's Not My Fault!,
15 The Lie,
16 The Blow-Up,
18 It's Gone!,
20 Not Like Them,
22 The Bad Report Card,
23 The Saddest Day,
24 The Award,
25 Never Enough,
28 Finishing the Level,
29 Just Not Fair,
30 The Ten-Dollar Bill,
31 Lots of Icing,
32 Test Day,
34 Moving Away,
35 The Batter's Box,
36 Applesauce Disaster,
37 Admitting Wrong,
38 The First Shot,
39 The Best Gift,
40 The New Baby,
What People are Saying About This
“I can’t think of a better subject to walk through with my family or a better person to walk through it with than Jessica Thompson. Exploring Grace Together has a treasure trove of grace reflections and questions at the end of each lesson so that the treasure may be found. Read each devotional, and you will love the Savior in greater ways.”
Trillia Newbell, author, If God Is For Us: The Everlasting Truth of Our Great Salvation
“Exploring Grace Together brings the gospel to bear on real-life issues that kids face such as loneliness, jealousy, and failure. Along the way it also calls us as parents to believe that the gospelnot our rules or expectations or kids’ good behavior or accomplishmentsis truly the power of God for salvation in our kids’ lives. That means this book is good news for the whole family.”
Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher; author, Even Better than Eden
“My wife and I have enjoyed journeying through Exploring Grace Together with our kids. These forty short, fun devotionals have been kid-tested and proven by the Montgomery boys and girls and by two grateful parents who have often lamented the shortage of books that teach the gospel of God’s grace rather than the ‘gospel of rules and behavior modification.'”
Daniel Montgomery, Lead Pastor, Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, Kentucky; Founder, Sojourn Network; author, Faithmapping, PROOF, and Leadership Mosaic
“This book is a special gift to children, parents, and caregivers of children. These brief devotions are packed full of the doctrines and message of the radical, compassionate, and comforting grace of God. They are also deeply practical and applicable to real-life experiences of six- to ten year olds. We wish this book had been available when we were children, but we are very thankful that we will have it for our daughters.”
Justin and Lindsey Holcomb, authors, God Made All of Me, Rid of My Disgrace, and Is it My Fault?
“Finallya collection of family devotions centered on the only hope for joy and change that moms, dads, and children have: the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Exploring Grace Together Jessica Thompson shares engaging stories, explains key theological concepts, and asks revealing, heart-level questions, all to help your family get beyond therapeutic moralism and powerless application and right to the heart of the Christian faith: the finished work of God’s only Son.”
Jared C. Wilson, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry, Spurgeon College; Author in Residence, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, The Imperfect Disciple
“There’s nothing I long more to talk with my children about than the life-giving gospel of Jesus Christ. But sometimes I just don’t know where to start! Exploring Grace Together is a resource for parents and kidscreatively and plainly presenting gospel truths. In these devotions Thompson holds up the multifaceted jewel of the gospel and turns it every which way to show off the brilliance of God’s grace to us in Jesus Christ. I’m so thankful for this book that leads parents to worship Jesus together with their kids.”
Gloria Furman, author, Alive in Him and Labor with Hope
“Jessica Thompson has written the children’s devotional I’ve been searching for! This is not a book of morality lessons that will leave your kids looking to themselves to do better. Instead, Jessica extends her heart for the freedom of the gospel to your kids as she points them away from themselves and to the lover of their souls. Parents can confidently use this grace-drenched resource with their children, knowing that as they wade through the challenges of the growing-up years they will daily be encouraged in the gospel.”
Kimm Crandall, author, Christ in the Chaos: How the Gospel Changes Motherhood; mother of four
“In this one-of-a-kind devotional, Jessica faithfully points parents and children alike to the good news that Jesus is bigger than all our mistakes, and his love covers all our sins. Through wise and wonderful storytelling, Jessica helps us discover the free grace available to us in every situation because of Jesus’s finished work on the cross. Find fresh mercy waiting for your family every day in Jessica’s consistent message that we love because he first loved us, and there is absolutely nothing we can do to change God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. Give your family the priceless gift of reading this liberating devotional. Our family will be reading it over and over again.”
Jeannie Cunnion, MSW; author, Parenting the Wholehearted Child
“Start this devotional tomorrow with your children if you want their hearts comforted, challenged, and compelled to trust Jesus’s love to cover all their struggles. Each page leads the whole family to the cross of Jesuswhere all of our needs are met.”
Trisha R. Wilkerson, author, Everyday Worship; biblical counselor
“Kids have problems too. We often try to ‘help’ our children by minimizing their problems, telling them that things will get better or that they will have bigger issues to deal with when they are older. The truth is that we need to help our children assess and address their hearts from the early years. Their problem may not be that significant, but their heart attitude in response to their problem is of vital importance. Jessica uses simple, real-life issues that adolescents can readily relate to, helps them to see any sinful responses that may exist in their heart, and unfolds gospel truth and the love of Christ in a nurturing way. This is a wonderful book to read as a family to explore together God’s amazing grace provided through Christ our Savior!”
Kristie Anyabwile, wife and mom; editor, His Testimonies, My Heritage