A Devotion to Help Kids Understand God’s Love


teaching kids about God's love

Need a family devotion to help your kids understand God’s love for them? This devotion is simple, brief, and meaningful, and is appropriate for kids of all ages. (Confession: I totally cried when we did this devo with our kids. )

Start by reading Zephaniah 3:17—I love the old NIV version (NIV 1984):

“The Lord your God is with you,

     He is mighty to save.

He will take great delight in you,

   He will quiet you with his love,

   He will rejoice over you with singing.”

(This is where the waterworks started for me. I just can’t. It’s so beautiful. So overwhelming. So comforting. It sets my heart to singing every time.)

Explain to your kids that God takes great delight in them. Just as Mommy and Daddy put them to bed each night with a song, so God, our Heavenly Father, sings over us. Then tell each child one thing in their character that brings God great delight—be as specific as you can be. For example, with our four kids, we shared:

Kid 1: Your compassion, kindness, and concern for others’ feelings

Kid 2: Your soft heart towards God, the way you are always seeking Him

Kid 3: Your amazing patience and kindness to your younger sister, even when she drives you crazy

Kid 4: Your deeply loving spirit—you give affection so generously to others, and make us all feel loved

Talks like this are a wonderful way to encourage our kids and show them the height and depth and breadth of God’s astounding, mind-boggling, often undeserved but absolutely devoted love for all of us.

This image is taken from my new Instagram account, @elizabethlaingthompson, where I am posting scriptures, encouragement, and humorous thoughts to help you through your waiting journey. I’d love to see you on Instagram!


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A Simple Bible Study to Build Your Kids’ Faith


a simple faith-building Bible study to do with kids of any age

Want a simple family devotion that will build your kids’ faith (and your own)? This makes a great family devotion for Christmastime, but of course you could do it any time of year.

Start by reading Isaiah 9:1–7. (Try reading the New Living Translation version if you have younger kids—it’s a little easier to understand. I’m quoting the NIV here.)

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

You might need to take a minute to give a BRIEF, basic, broad-strokes explanation of the meaning of the passage after you read—it is an earful. Our 9- and 10-year-olds grasped it pretty well on their own; the 8-year-old was a little confused and needed more explanation. We explained that this was written during a difficult time for the nation of Israel, and it was meant to comfort God’s people by predicting the end of fighting and war. This passage tells us that a special child would be born to save God’s people.

Once you’ve clarified the meaning, ask: Who do you think this scripture is talking about? Our kids immediately shouted, “Jesus!” From there, ask why they think it’s about Jesus. (Details you can draw out: Jesus came from Galilee; he was a special child even when he was first born; he brought us peace with God through his death; he now reigns over God’s kingdom. If your kids’ attention span allows it (ours didn’t!), you can briefly touch on how Jesus was a wonderful counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and prince of peace.

Hold that thought…

Next read Isaiah 7:14: 

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Again, ask: Who is this talking about? Why do you think that? Take a few moments to draw out the connections in this verse to Jesus’ birth. Even if they don’t understand the word “virgin,” most kids already understand that Jesus’ mother, Mary, wasn’t married, and it was impossible for her to be pregnant, but she got pregnant anyway. Jesus’ birth was a miracle. Kids also understand that Jesus was a special baby from the beginning, and that his birth was a sign of God’s love for us.

Hold that thought again…

Then ask them: When do you think these passages in Isaiah were written—before or after Jesus was born? 

Here’s the part where you blow their minds (and maybe your own, too): These words were written hundreds of years before Jesus was born! (Without getting too technical here, scholars date these chapters in Isaiah to somewhere between the 500s and 700s BC!) These passages are prophecies, telling us what God had planned for the future. Isn’t God amazing? He knows everything! He can plan things many, many years before they ever happen. Scriptures like this strengthen our faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible. They show us how powerful God is, and that the Bible is true.

Simple devotions like this are powerful because they expose our kids to basic apologetics, and give them strong, concrete evidence for their faith besides just “take my word for it; believe it because I tell you to.” Devotions like this also introduce kids to the Old Testament prophets, and help them make connections between all the different parts of God’s story.

If you try this devotion out with your family, I’d love to hear how it went! Feel free to post in the comments below!

Want more family devotion ideas? You might try 5 Bible Stories Boys Love13 Scriptures to Read with Your Daughter, and Teaching Kids to “Go the Extra Mile.”  I also post new devotion ideas on Facebook. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe to my quarterly newsletter, and you’ll receive a free download: 7 two-minute devotions to do around the breakfast table with kids!


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Defeat Deceit: 7 Scriptures to Teach Kids to Be Honest


how to teach kids to be honest

The next Lizzy Life YouTube video is up: “Defeat Deceit: Teaching Children to Be Honest.” I absolutely believe parents can nip lying in the bud with young children—we can stop the habit before it ever gets started. Yep, I’m talking about three-, four- and five-year-olds! How is that possible? Check out the video where I explain the approach that’s worked with our kids. (I also address the issue for older kids—how to reset the family expectations when lying has become a problem.)

As a follow-up to the video, these seven scriptures are helpful tools in teaching kids of all ages the importance of telling the truth. With young children, we want to encourage a habit of honesty in all things. As kids mature, the emphasis moves beyond the simple “always tell the truth,” to the concept of embracing openness in our relationship—letting us in on their thoughts and feelings so we can guide them through life, and develop a truly close relationship.

1. Genesis 3:1–15

Adam and Eve disobeyed God, then they tried to hide it from him. But God came looking for them! God always knows what’s going on with us, and even when we make mistakes, he comes after us to try to make things right. Parents feel the same way about our children. All kids make mistakes and disobey. But even when kids mess up, parents want to make things right between us. We want our children to come to us and tell us what mistakes they make, rather than trying to hide from us. Even though kids might get in trouble for doing something wrong, they will get in much less trouble if they tell the truth about it! If they lie and get caught, the consequences are so much worse.

2. Exodus 20:16

Honesty is one of the Ten Commandments! From the very beginning, God has wanted his people to tell the truth.

3. Numbers 32:23

This scripture says, “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” This scripture reveals a powerful principle: God makes sure that our sin “finds us out.” That means that the truth will always come out. Somehow, God will usually make sure Mom or Dad finds out what a kid is up to. It’s so much better to tell the truth yourself, rather than get caught!

4. Genesis 18:1–15

I love the so-honest-it’s-amusing story of Sarah, who lied to the messenger of God, because she was embarrassed and afraid. This story is a great example to use with older kids when we discuss reasons we are tempted to lie. The older we get, the more easily embarrassed we get. It’s tempting to say dishonest things in order to protect our reputation or image. You can draw your child out with questions like, “What embarrasses you? What would be some situations where you might be tempted to shade the truth to make yourself look better in front of your friends?” God still wants us to tell the truth, even if it makes us look bad. God didn’t punish Sarah, but he did call attention to her deceit. He wanted her to be honest.


Want more practical, Bible-based tools to help your family grow? Sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter, and you’ll receive a free download: seven devotions to do around the breakfast table with kids! 


5. Psalm 32 (This one’s so great that I’ll quote parts of it here, for reference.)

Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
    and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin. . . .
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.

What a great passage describing the way deceit affects us emotionally, and what it does to our relationship with God. You can use this psalm to draw out several key lessons about deception: Verse two tells us that we are blessed (happy, at peace, walking in God’s favor) when we do not have deceit our spirit (our inner self, who we really are). This is a great scripture for kids who tend to have a deceitful or sneaky nature. They’ve got to change from the inside, at a heart level.

Verses three and four remind us of how terrible we feel when we are hiding sin in our hearts—when we are lying about something that we are too afraid or too stubborn to talk about. We feel like we are “wasting away” inside: we might feel sick to our stomach, or tired, or anxious. God gives us those physical feelings as warnings, to help us see that deceit is a terrible way to live. Remind children: Even if Mom or Dad doesn’t know you are lying, God always knows, and he will do everything he can do to help you tell the truth. And if you don’t tell the truth yourself, God will usually make sure you get caught!

Verses five and six have the good news: Once we decide to stop covering up our sin, we can find forgiveness! God can forgive us, and people can forgive us. We can make things right.

Verse nine is great for appealing to stubborn kids who don’t want to give in—who keep fighting the truth, their parents, or God. This verse basically says, “Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be! Don’t make me make you do right! Don’t make me punish you, or keep a close eye on you because I don’t trust you! Why make your own life miserable?”

And verse ten has the good news: God loves us, and his unfailing love never disappoints us or leaves us alone. When we do right, God is pleased.

6. John 8:43–45

“Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

This is a sobering scripture that Kevin and I have used when we need to impress upon our children how serious deceit is. Satan always lies—it’s his “native language.” He’s the one who invented lies. So when we are dishonest, we are doing exactly what the devil wants us to do. We are speaking the same language as Satan! Yikes! We want to be like Jesus, who only spoke the truth from God.

7. Acts 5:1–11

I wouldn’t use the cautionary tale of Ananias and Sapphira with a little one because it’s pretty scary, but for a mature older child, preteen, or teen who is really struggling with deceit, this story will make a memorable impression. It shows that God does not mess around with deliberate deceit. God made a dramatic point and issued an awful punishment on these two adults, who had willfully sinned not just against God, but against the entire church.

I hope these passages give you some tools you need to impress the importance of honesty onto your kids’ hearts!


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Teaching Kids to “Go the Extra Mile”


Image courtesy of Pixabay

Me: “Hey, {insert child’s name}, will you help me {set the table/carry the laundry/vacuum the floor} ?”

Kid, with a dramatic groan: “But that’s not my chore this week!”

**Repeat variations of this conversation a dozen times, with all of my children, over several weeks.**

Me to myself: Time for a family talk.

With this attitude problem in mind, last week the kids and I held a quick devotion time before school. We turned to Matthew 5:41–42: “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Kind of a strange passage, right? Not your usual “encourage the kids to help around the house with a good attitude” scripture.

But hang with me.

First I had to explain the context of the passage to the kids. During Jesus’ day, the Romans occupied all Jewish territory. By law, Roman soldiers could force Jewish people to carry their equipment for them—they could just stop them on the side of the road and conscript them into service. No matter what the Jew was doing or where he was going, he had to stop and travel with the Roman as his temporary slave. (Remember Simon, the man who was forced to carry Jesus’ cross when Jesus couldn’t carry it himself (Mark 15:21)? That’s an example of this law in action.)

The only redeeming aspect of this law was its built-in limitation: the Roman could only force the Jew into service for one mile. We can imagine how humiliated the Jews must have felt by this practice—how slowly and angrily they must have walked while shouldering their enemy’s burden, how violently they must have dropped the baggage at the end of their mile of service.

To help the kids connect with the story, we acted this scene out using pillows from our couch. I played the part of the Roman soldier, and forced my son to carry my pillows across the room. I piled pillow after pillow into his arms, until he was giggling his head off, and his giggling head had completely disappeared behind a pile of pillows. Then he had to attempt to walk across the room.


Want more creative ideas for bringing God into your family life? Click here to sign up for my monthly parenting newsletter. As a welcome gift, you’ll receive a free download: seven two-minute devotions to do around the breakfast table with kids!


When everybody stopped laughing, we used this story to talk about Jesus’ expectations for his followers. Jesus called his disciples to have a completely different attitude than anyone else. Instead of giving in to anger and resentment, he called us to show the love and grace of God by going the extra mile. (And now you know where that phrase came from! Cool, right?) The disciple of Jesus shouldn’t just count his steps till he reaches the end of his required service, then drop the burden and stomp off in a bitter huff—no, the disciple of Jesus says, “Hey, Roman soldier, I’m enjoying your company so much, why don’t you let me carry this for you for another mile? And while I’m at it, let me tell you about a preacher named Jesus…” Jesus wants his people to exemplify kindness and grace, even in the face of injustice and cruelty. He wants us to do more than expected, and better than expected!

And how does this lesson translate into our daily life today? It means that as people who love Jesus, we always seek to have a great attitude no matter what—even if we are being mistreated. It means that we show the love of God to people who don’t “deserve” it. It means we do more than we have to, and we do it with a great attitude. In Colossians 3: 22–24, Paul has these words of admonition for slaves with their masters (I emphasized some phrases): “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” What a challenging attitude to attain, under painful circumstances—but what a great reward in the end!

We talked about having a “second-mile” attitude in our family life—in everything we do at school, in sports, in friendship, and at home. We talked about always looking for ways to serve and give, above and beyond what we are required to do. I asked the kids to work on having a better attitude about helping around the house—not thinking in terms of what’s on the chore chart, and what they have to do to earn allowance, but always striving to serve as much as they can, and with a generous spirit.

I have to say, the Bible is powerful. Jesus’ ways work. This simple scripture brought immediate change to all of our hearts (the kids’ and mine!), and has made our house a more helpful and Christ-like place to live. If you do this devotion with your family, I hope it inspires you all to give your best and go the extra mile! (And come back and let me know how it goes— either here in the comments, or on Facebook—I love hearing from you!)

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5 Simple Ways to Bring God into Your New Year


family devotion ideas for the new year

I’ll be honest: I’m not a big new year’s resolution girl. I find the idea of making a list of commitments for an entire year daunting. Perfectionist that I am, new year’s resolutions feel like an invitation to fail and feel guilty, all year long. (I know, I’m kind of dramatic. I’m working on it.)

But new starts and fresh attitudes for the new year? That I like. Drawing closer to God in the new year, and having a more spiritual focus? That I get excited about.

So now, instead of making new year’s resolutions, I view January as a time for re-charging my personal life and my walk with God, and for jump-starting our family’s spiritual life. January provides a fantastic opportunity to redirect our family’s focus outward and upward after the self-focus of the holidays.

Here are 5 simple ideas for helping your family jump-start your new year spiritually. Whether you’re married with no kids, or up to your ears in sippy cups, or spending your whole life chauffeuring teenagers around town, these ideas can help you kick off your new year with fresh focus and with God as the center.

Look back on the old year together.

We’re quick to look to the future, but what about the great things that have already happened? Spend an evening remembering the blessings and answered prayers from last year. Write them down and spend time praising God for what he has already given. If you made a prayer list last January, bring it out and look at it again. Can you cross some prayers off your list? God loves it when we remember his gifts and come back to praise him.

Start a new year prayer tradition. 

Every January, we take our kids out to the beach for a new year prayer. Once we convince the kids that making sand angels is NOT the same thing as making snow angels, and will involve hours of hair-washing to get the sand out, we spend a few minutes shivering in the sand, talking about our hopes for the year. Each of us describes one thing we plan to ask God for in the coming year. And then we all pray together and take home a sea shell to commemorate the prayer. At home, we write our prayers on the shells. Simple, fun, and frigid!

godly family traditions

Come up with an “impossible prayer” list. 

“Impossible prayers” are things that seem impossible from a human perspective, but that our amazing God can do if we are bold enough to ask. Sit down as a family and come up with a list of things you all hope God will do this year—the crazier the better! Write them down where you’ll all see them, and commit to pray your impossible prayers all year as a family. Then sit back and watch what God does for you. (Want to read our family’s so-amazing-it-sounds-like-we-made-it-up “impossible prayer” miracle story? Click here.)


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Pick a theme scripture for the year. 

Choose a scripture that represents what you want your year to look and feel like spiritually, and revisit that scripture often as a family. Memorize it. Write it on the fridge and on the calendar. Remind each other of it frequently. Bring it up in family prayers and devotional times all year long. You can either pick one scripture for your whole family, or each person can choose their own.

Pick a theme word for the year. 

What one word describes the focus you want to have in the coming year? Faith? Discipline? Kindness? Patience? Renewal? Selflessness? Vision? Generosity? Pick one, and make it your theme word! Find a scripture or scriptures that relate to the concept, and study them on your own and as a family. You can choose one word for the whole family, or let each family member pick their own word.

 

I wish you and your family a fantastic beginning to the new year, a year full of faith and joy and spiritual growth. A year rich in love and lasting memories. A year embracing the messiness of life, remaining faithful through the unexpected twists, and having the wisdom to find joy in imperfection and small blessings.

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