Transformed – teen devotion – December 10, 2017

Salmon (was) the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Matthew 1:5-6

A King from sinners and for sinners

Did you ever pretend to be a superhero when you were younger? Little girls pretend they are Wonder Woman, and little boys dream of being Superman, Batman, or Spiderman. What person from the Bible intrigues you? Some of the better known names even those marginally familiar with Bible history might recognize include Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and more. Each of these Bible “All Stars” have exciting feats of strength and might attributed to them and play a part in God’s salvation history. They also have something else in common: They were all sinful human beings.

This shouldn’t surprise us. God himself tells us in Scripture, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). This timeless truth included the Bible “All Stars.” This truth includes us, as well.

That’s what makes the genealogy of Jesus so amazing. That’s what makes it so grace-filled. According to his human ancestry, God the Father used a family line of sinful moms and sinful dads to bring about the sinless Son of God. Jesus is a King who came from sinners in order to save sinners. What depth of love this is for us who do not deserve it! What amazing love this is that assures us of our salvation!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, the history of mankind is littered with sin and failure and shortcomings. Your earthly ancestors were no different and neither am I. Yet, despite mankind’s sin, you came into this world perfect and willing to take my place and suffer the punishment my sins deserve. I praise you for your love, O Savior. I worship your holy name. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – December 3, 2017

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,

Matthew 1:1-5 (selected)

A Savior from all nations for all nations

The Lord gathered Adam and Eve around him in the garden that had been tainted by sin, and offered the first gospel promise to mankind as he revealed his master plan of salvation to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). From that moment on, even though sinful mankind tried to mess things up, the Lord kept his promise intact until one silent night, that holy night when the Christ-child was born.

Matthew chapter 1 shares with us a partial geneology of this Christ-child. He begins with Abraham and ends with Jesse, the father of King David. The purpose of sharing this information is clear and simple: God’s Son who is indeed true God himself also became true man, tracing his roots all the way back through the ages, to different people and nations whom almighty God used to achieve his good purpose of saving us.

What’s your story? What’s your past? It involves parents and grandparents and distant lands and interesting antecdotes, doesn’t it?! God used all of these things to make you who you are and to give you life on this earth so that you might worship him, praise him, and serve him with your very life.

Don’t be afraid to look back. Don’t shy away from knowing both who and where you came from. No matter your history your Lord is with you every step of the way. No matter what your history, you have a Savior who came from all nations to save you.

Prayer: Almighty Lord God, you watch over me always and you make all things work out for my good. I praise you for guiding the events of Old Testament history to keep your promise of a Savior made so long ago in the Garden of Eden. Your love revealed to me through your Son is the reason for the hope I have and the sole source of my salvation. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – November 26, 2017

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Thank you, God, all the time.

Sorrow, sadness, grief, distress, sickness, and pain. What do all these words have in common? At first glance, we might categorize them as things we don’t like. They are part of a whole list of uncomfortable thoughts and emotions. Often, these words only bring negative thoughts. We avoid them because they are bad. Or so we think.

From a Christian perspective, however, we see them in a different light. We remember Christ is King of all things and the things that cause sorrow, sadness, grief, or pain don’t enter our lives by mere chance. God never says, “Oops. Didn’t see that coming.” And God doesn’t ever punish us for things that we’ve done wrong; he already punished Jesus for all our sins.

We know that when suffering comes in any form, our Father will provide a way out and make that pain serve for our good. He uses the suffering in our life to purify our faith and draw us closer to him.

God also uses our hurt as an open door or window in our life. He allows it as an opportunity for us to tell others about the hope that we have in Jesus, our Rock, and our Redeemer.

In our passage today, the apostle Paul remembers God’s love to him even as he deals with sorrow, sadness, grief, distress, sickness, and pain. His reaction shouldn’t surprise us. Paul understood the purpose of suffering. Instead, his reaction inspires us. His reaction was one of joy, prayer, and thankfulness. No, he wasn’t delusional—he had Christ, and Christ was enough for him. More than that, he understood that everything in his life was directed and guided by God for his good.

This Thanksgiving, your heart may be broken, and you may have reasons to be sad. But remember that you have Christ and nothing can take him or his love away from you. Remember what you have in Christ. You have forgiveness, security, joy, peace, and eternal life. Remember God’s promises and give thanks to him even as you endure hardship.

Finally, remember a day is coming when all those headaches and aching hearts will disappear. A day is near where sin will be no more and sadness will be a thing of the past. This day is when your King and Savior comes and takes you to be with him.

As God’s children, like Paul, in gladness or sadness, we always have a reason to give thanks through and because of Christ!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for making us your children and for giving us eyes of faith to see your great love for us even during the difficult times in this life. Help us always to rejoice, pray, and give thanks in the good times and the sad. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – November 19, 2017

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.
2 Timothy 1:5

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of because you know those from whom you learned it.
2 Timothy 3:14

Thank you, God, for faith sharers.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease the pan, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla; stir in the cake flour, pour it into the pan and bake for 75 minutes. I remember doing that as a kid. I was interested in how to make more than PB&J, so I listened, watched, and learned. Now I take that knowledge and continue to hone my skills. I still love to bake today; I love to build on what I learned as a child in the kitchen.

It’s fun when you can continue to do the things you were taught when you were little. It’s fun to build on what you learned from the important people in your life.

My parents taught me a lot of other things too. I worked on our cars and built computers. I planted a garden and learned to do the laundry. I learned habits too—like patience, compassion, and hard work. Most importantly, my parents taught me about Jesus. I say “most importantly” because if they had not shared Jesus with me, who would have?

Maybe you have had some of the same thoughts. Maybe you’ve thought something like this: “If so and so wouldn’t have shared the good about Jesus, would I have ever learned about my God and my Savior?”

The good news is that many of you do know who Jesus is because someone told you about the need for a Savior and Jesus, the solution. Maybe it was a pastor, a teacher, a friend, parents, or another family member. Maybe you’re just starting to hear about Jesus from these devotions. All of that is God’s work in your life, sending faith-sharers to help you know who Jesus is.

So, remember to take the apostle Paul’s words to heart and continue to grow in what you have learned. Keep growing so that you can be that person who shares Jesus with someone else. In the meantime, say “Thank you, God” for bringing me Jesus through my own personal faith-sharer.

Here’s this week’s challenge: Identify who God used to tell you about Jesus. Send them a text, or write them a note to say “Thank you for telling me about Jesus.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending ___________ into my life to share the good news about Jesus. Through your Word and sacrament, I have the greatest treasure ever given to me. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – November 12, 2017

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
Psalm 145:15–16

Thank you, God, for your support in life.

A personal note of thanks:

Heavenly Father,

I just wanted to say thank you for ice cream. It’s so good! It’s cold! It’s tasty! In all honesty, Lord, I want to say thank you, not just for the ice cream but for all the good things you give me. So often I forget to do so. You are so generous, and I often fail to give thanks. Thank you, God.

God, you don’t just care for me, you care for everyone. You love everyone and everything, even the creatures of this world that are a distant thought to me. Without you, your creation would not make it. I would not survive. But there you are, taking care of all people, all creatures, and all creation. Thank you!

And you’re more than just there—your hand is open, and your blessings overflow. You give the squirrels their nuts, the birds their worms, and the mighty lion his food. Then there is me. I’m just a speck of sand on this earth. But I have your attention! I have your love! And you take care of all my needs. Thank you!

As I sit here and think, I can’t help but remember that you not only give, but give so generously. My closet, my home, and my heart are full of your blessings. You have blessed me with so much variety and continually give me more than what I need to get by. You give me my life and breath, my time and talents. You give me my loved ones, my friends, and so much more. I am so blessed! Thank you!

I especially thank you, Lord, for the gift of Jesus, my Savior. In him, I have the joy and confidence of knowing that even when my earthly strength fails or tragedy hits, no matter my age, I have eternal life. Thank you for Jesus. You are my ultimate blessing in this life and the next. Thank you, God. Amen.

This is my personal prayer of thanksgiving. Here’s is this week’s challenge. In your journal or notes app, write your own prayer of thanksgiving to God for all his blessings to you.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you created the world and continue to care for it even though it is filled and tainted with sin. Thank you! Help us all to turn our eyes to you as the animals do and give thanks to you for all your blessings, especially Jesus. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – November 5, 2017

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Psalm 139:17–18a

Thank you, God, for your plan.

We wake up every morning with so many thoughts, some bad and some good. Sometimes we just can’t shut off our mind. Our minds wander during the day at school. We think of the tests coming up or the quizzes we’re getting back. We think of the clothes that we’re wearing and if that certain person will notice us. We think of the friends we have and the stupid decisions that we’ve made. We think of what we’ll eat today and what practice will be like. So many thoughts.

Emotions flood our heart and mind too. We wonder what people really think of us. We wonder who we can really trust. We wonder about the decisions we make, second-guessing many of them. Sometimes we even wonder what we’re really worth, or if we really make a difference in this world. Our minds are filled with thoughts, some bad and some good.

God too has thoughts, a vast sum of thoughts that are intent on giving us everything good. In this month of November we turn our thoughts to Thanksgiving and all the reasons that God has given us to say, “Thank you, God!”

There many reasons to thank God. Where do we start? After all, he made us. He gave us all our talents, our gifts and abilities. And he gave them to each one of us, each one individually, each one specifically and specially. This is all a gift from our Creator, from our Father, our God.

And it’s not just that. God didn’t just make us. He came for us. He lived for us. He died for us. And in Jesus’ dying for us, God declares that we are of inestimable value to him. In Jesus’ rising for us, God says that we are completely perfect in God’s eyes.

These are God’s thoughts, and we’re just getting started. That’s why God’s thoughts are so precious to us. They go on and on and on. They bring endless comfort, joy, and hope to our souls. That’s why it’s a good thing to turn our thoughts to God’s thoughts now. And not just in November, but always. In him, we find love, forgiveness, and guidance for this challenging life. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and we praise him for that!

A challenge for week one: Jot down in your notes app or in a journal your Top 10 reasons to say, “Thank you, God.”

Prayer: Thank you, God, for your many and precious thoughts that center on your love for me and for all your creation! Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – October 29, 2017

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-8

Why am I Lutheran? I hear the calling

This week we’ll look at something called the “doctrine of vocation”, which is the teaching about how God calls us to various roles in our lives.

We often listen to the lie of the devil when it comes to our callings. Even though they are amazing gifts you’ve been given by God, he says they aren’t enough and you deserve more.

“Hey,” he whispers, “I know you’re in paradise and God has promised to give you everything you need…but what about that fruit that’s not for you?”

Listening to that lie may be the most imperfect, human thing to can do. Humanity was, after all, created in the image of God. They were called to experience the joy of living on the perfect planet he made for them. And as the devil slithered up and suggested that they deserved something else—as though something else could improve this—they were stupid enough to think they’d be happier with more.

(You know, to all of us who watch Apple’s new products so closely, let’s not miss the fact that their logo is a piece of fruit with a bite out of it. It’s not wrong to have an iPhone, there’s one in my pocket, and I’m literally writing this devotion on a Macbook. But let’s just make sure we are thinking through the question of how much we can spend before this thing is what we are worshiping. Is having one going to improve our callings, or is having one starting to become our calling?)

Satisfaction, happiness, contentment, feeling good—they don’t come from hoarding God’s gifts. Not ever. And they definitely don’t come from using the gifts you’ve been given to cut deals that elevate you in some way. They come in the midst of applying the Law & Gospel to your callings. (See last week’s devotion…)

Lutherans, more than any other voice in the world, hold out the callings people are given as the very work of Jesus. When you run after being the best student or sister or employee or cousin or friend that you can be because Christ is calling you, you’ll end up satisfied. If you do it for yourself, you’ll end up afraid of failure or crushed by defeat. If, instead, Christ is the one calling you to act on his behalf, success means he is glorified and failure means he comforts you. Win/win.

Prayer: Lord, call us. We can listen, with your help. If you lead us, we will follow. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – October 22, 2017

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
Romans 3:22-26

Why am I Lutheran? I see the difference

For people living in the 21st Century, I believe there are two huge reasons to be Lutheran. The first one is called the “proper distinction between Law & Gospel.” The second is called the “doctrine of vocation.” This devotion is going to be about Law & Gospel. Next week you’ll get to dig into vocation a little bit.

Have you ever thought about leaving Lutheranism? I have. But the #1 thing that keeps me Lutheran is the “proper distinction between Law & Gospel”.

Do you know about the proper distinction between Law & Gospel? You may know what the Law is—it is the standard God has set for life that, in the case of a sinful person, shows us our failure. You may know what the Gospel is—it is the fact that God has removed our sins and placed them on Jesus, who paid for them with his life and freely gives us the power of his resurrection.

But do you know about the proper distinction between Law & Gospel? Do you know about the way these two important teachings interact? The way they completely contradict each other and yet each remain true? The way they can’t be mixed but they both must apply?

God is perfectly just—that means he doesn’t compromise at all, but rather sets a standard and sticks to it—so he has to punish a lawbreaker like you. At the same time, God loves completely and without any strings attached, so that you do not need to fear his punishment. This affects every aspect of your life.

You’re at school. There are bullies. The Gospel means that they are loved without strings attached. The Law says they deserve punishment. If you ignored the Gospel, dealing with the bullies would be easy. If you ignored the Law, it would be even easier. But making sure that you treat them as though they are condemned by a wrathful God and loved by a merciful Savior? Not only is that hard, but it is the only solution to the problem.

You’re at work. The employee you work closest to wants to take an extra-long break, which would get less done and rip off your employer. The Law says, “I can’t do that, it is important for me to honor my employer.” The Gospel says, “This person is loved and saved. Christ respected authority in their place.”

It’s not just balancing. It’s living in the genuine truth. Both Law and Gospel are true and right. You must take a step forward, walking the line in between. It is the highest art of Christian living.

Prayer: Lord, you alone find it easy to see how the Law & Gospel work. You alone know every next-best-step. Teach us to see the world through the lenses of Law & Gospel, and forgive our missteps. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – October 15, 2017

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.
Romans 16:17-18

Why am I Lutheran? I want unity

Here in the middle of our devotions that answer the question: “Why am I a Lutheran?”, it seems like a good idea to look at the question from another angle, asking something like: “What are not good reasons for being a Lutheran?”

There are lots of good reasons to be a Lutheran, but at the same time, there are sometimes reasons given for being a Lutheran that have no real merit at all. Let’s take a quick look at some of those.

Bad Reason #1: Style
No matter what stylistic things you might associate with Lutheranism, they’re no reason to stay part of this denomination. There is no style that exists that God did not invent—all of art is his in the same way that all creation is his. If style is what keeps you Lutheran, you’re going to end up disappointed. They used to do it all in German, you know. (On the other side of this reason, of course, is that fact that style is a bad reason to leave Lutheranism. That’s not what God or religion is about.)

Bad Reason #2: Superiority
Maybe, in a Bible study or personal research, you’ve dug into those teachings that make the Lutheran church different from, say, Baptists or Catholics. Maybe, in a sermon or on a blog, you’ve heard the Lutheran approach or the Lutheran teachings referred to as better. Maybe, at some point in your time as a Lutheran, you’ve even heard the Lutheran church referred to as simply better than other Christian denominations. Having doctrine that reflects the Bible is best—no question. But there’s a secret that you need to know. The Lutheran church (and the Bible) teach that we don’t use doctrine to get away from those who are inferior. We use it to teach and unite with anyone who will listen. When we use terms of comparison to talk about other church bodies, we’re putting up dividers where the gospel wants us to be reaching out to unite. Lutherans aren’t superior. God is superior. Lutherans are just following him and trying to get as many people as possible to do the same.

Bad Reason #3: History
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran church. That’s a big and round number, so it makes sense that folks want to celebrate it. There’s a rich tapestry of historical threads in Lutheranism that can be fascinating to discover and follow. But you shouldn’t be Lutheran because of what Lutherans did years ago. We’re Lutheran because of what Lutherans are doing now. Preaching the gospel, making disciples, promoting Jesus and Jesus alone as the source of hope. We’re Lutheran for the future, not for the past.

Prayer: Lord, keep our eyes fixed on the prize for which you have called us heavenward in Christ Jesus. May our words, actions, and faith be entirely about you and nothing else. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – October 8, 2017

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Acts 17:11

Why am I Lutheran? I should’ve known better

These are perhaps the most humbling words an angry authority figure can say: “You should’ve known better!”

These words hurt because they’re true, but it’s more than that. They hurt because they accuse you of willfully going against something you knew. That’s not being ignorant. It’s being foolish. And if you think about it: foolish is way more embarrassing than ignorant.

In Acts 17, Luke tells the story of a group of people who heard the apostle Paul preach. Paul was, at this point, becoming pretty famous. He had just snuck out of Thessalonica because the people there accused him of causing “trouble all over the world.” He went from Thessalonica to Berea, and while he was there, he preached. The people who heard him had some options.

They could simply reject his message, treating him like a rabble-rouser.
They could simply accept his message, treating him like a visionary.
OR (and this is what they did) they could take what he said, compare it with the Scriptures, and if it agreed with the authority of God, they could trust what he said.

It would have been ignorant to ignore Paul, and it would have been foolish to just accept him. They chose, instead, to know better.

Why are you a Lutheran? Is it because somebody told you to be one? Don’t stay in ignorance. Take a close look at what the Lutheran church says and compare it to what the Bible says. And if you believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and if that Word can clarify for you whether or not it is worthwhile to be and remain a Lutheran, but you still haven’t engaged in that kind of study—then aren’t you being a fool? Shouldn’t you know better? Shouldn’t you do more than just go with it?

It’s not simple. I don’t mean to make it sound like it is. You’ll spend your whole life being like a Berean, learning what God says and connecting it with the world around you. Let the encouragement of this devotion be that you don’t need to be afraid to ask questions like, “Why am I a Lutheran?” and “What do I believe?” and “What is the truth?”

In fact, God calls it noble to ask them and to run after the answers to them. Be of noble character. Learn important things. And, once you know better, don’t run after that which is worse.

Prayer: Lord, teach us to know better through your word. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – October 1, 2017

I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
2 Timothy 1:5-7

Why am I Lutheran? I was born this way

“Nature” and “nurture” get a lot of blame for a lot of things. These words are used when people talk about a child’s characteristics. Do they come “naturally,” out of the person’s DNA? Do they come from the way a child was raised?

In some cases, it’s easy.
Brown hair? Nature.
Polite? Nurture.

What about this one: Lutheran?

The answer is nurture, because all people are born sinful and are naturally enemies of God. Faith (and therefore being a Lutheran) doesn’t come from nature; faith comes from hearing the message, which is the Word of God.

I was born into a Lutheran family and grew up in a Lutheran church and at a Lutheran school. Sometimes (and if you’re like me, maybe you do this too) I take the idea that “I am a Lutheran” for granted, as though I was born with it. I forget that people like my parents, teachers, and pastors poured hundreds and hundreds of hours into helping me see Jesus. More importantly, I forget that God was working through them, giving me the gift of eternal life.

Nobody is born a Lutheran. Everybody is born far, far away from God, and he runs after them. That’s why, when Paul writes to Timothy, he is excited. He talks about a fire that somebody started in you, a fire that can grow and make a difference. It wasn’t started to be a small, timid fire. It was meant to be a Jesus-motivated, difference-making fire.

Powerful? Nurture.
Loving? Nurture.
Self-disciplined? Nurture.
Lutheran? Nurture.

And for those who aren’t Lutheran yet, you can nurture them. For those who don’t know Christ, don’t know grace, and don’t know power, love, and self-discipline, you can be their nurturer.

Prayer: Lord, though we rarely feel qualified to make the difference you make through us, reach down through our hands and reform hearts and change minds. Set people on fire by your love. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – September 24, 2017

For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. … But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:13, 18-19

Freedom from comparison

“Did you see her new phone? I wish I had that.” “Man, he’s so good at that sport. How come I can’t be that good?” “Did you see the car her parents bought her? I have this crummy car that’s like 20 years old.” “That guy is so smart. I wish I was as smart as he is.” “She is so good on the piano. I wish I could do that.”

It’s so easy to start comparing who we are and the abilities we have to the skills other people have. It’s just as easy to start comparing what we have and don’t have to what other people have. But do you see what happens? As soon as we let comparison into our hearts, we will never be content. We will keep on wanting bigger, better, shinier, and newer. We will always want to be someone other than we are.

Paul wants to help us break free.

First, he starts by leveling the playing field. He says about all Christians: We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. You are one in Christ together with every other believer. Jesus lived for you, died for you, and rose for you just as much as he did for others. You were baptized with the same baptism as every other Christian, and with the water and the Word of God the Holy Spirit brought you to faith in Jesus who saved you. Saved is saved. There isn’t more saved or less saved. Christ has saved you the same way he has saved everyone else. There’s joy and freedom in that. We’re already in. We’re all equal in this body. No one is more or less important. No one is greater or lesser. We’re one.

We are one in Christ, and we also are many and different. We are different in the way that God has blessed us. Paul says this: In fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Think about that. God has uniquely created you. He has given you gifts, strengths and abilities just as he determined for you. He’s designed you uniquely. You are special, and you’re one of a kind. And he made you a member of his body to serve in a way that no one else can. You are uniquely and majestically made to serve in this one body. God has given you gifts and abilities to make an impact on his kingdom.

Out in front or behind the scenes, you were made to make a difference in the body of Christ and to have an impact on his kingdom. Hardly anyone sees your pinky toe, and yet it makes a huge impact on your body. No matter what gifts you have, you were made to make a difference in the kingdom that only you can make. So this week, thank God that he made you the way he did and then serve God right where you’re at in the body of Christ.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for everything that you’ve given me. Thank you for my talents and abilities, for creating me to be unique. I’m sorry for the times I’m not content with who you made me to be. Forgive me for comparing myself to other people. Forgive me and help to identify and use the gifts that you have so graciously given me. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – September 17, 2017

They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.
Numbers 21:4-9

Freedom from entitlement

We don’t think that we are entitled. We don’t think we are entitled to special privileges or special treatment. We just want what’s coming to us, and we just want what’s fair. We just want our parents to upgrade our phone to the newest version. We just want to be able to take the car whenever we want. But what if they won’t? Or what about when they ground us or take away what we have, then we cry out, “That’s not fair.” We’re not entitled. Not us.

Oh, wait. That’s an attitude of entitlement.

I imagine the Israelites felt the same way. After 40 years in the wilderness these Israelites were tired of the desert and ready to go into the land God promised. They weren’t like their parents. They trusted God. In fact, they just attacked and destroyed one Canaanite city. But then God led them south. Wait! South? They were supposed to go north and into the promised land. “That’s not fair, God!” They had trusted God. They deserved to go in. They deserved to stop eating that same manna and quail.

God was not happy with their attitude and their hearts. So he sent some snakes into their camp because he wanted to help them realize that he was God. He wanted them to know that if it wasn’t for him providing for them, they’d be dead. He wanted them to trust his leading, even when they didn’t get what they wanted when they wanted it.

Living in America, God has given us more than we could possibly need. Every single day we have food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and a roof over our head. On top of all that, our Father gives us all our electronics, air conditioning, and clothes. God has given us far more than we deserved. He is taking care of every single one of our needs daily.

But incredibly he gives us even more! God freely gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation. That means that we have every treasure of heaven as well. Those treasures never go bad, don’t rust, or go old and need upgrading. They are eternal.

In life, you won’t always get what you want. Sometimes it will even seem that God is leading you down a strange path. But you can trust that your God is leading you well and is giving you what you need. In fact, he has already given you far more than you could ever dream of or deserve in Jesus. Your Father knows what he’s doing, and he always and only gives good things. Trust him.

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father, thank you for all the gifts that you so graciously give me every single day. I’m sorry for the times that I think I’m entitled and deserve certain blessings from you. Help me to be content with what you have given me, and let me find peace in Jesus. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – September 10, 2017

There [Elijah] went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.
1 Kings 19:9-12

Freedom from loneliness

Have you ever felt alone? You were excluded from the party; you didn’t get an invite. You were stuck at home alone while everyone else hung out. Everybody else got the Snap and laughed when they got it, but your profile stays quiet. Nobody seems to want to talk or hang out. Or maybe the opposite is true. You have lots of people who want to be your friend, but you’re not close to any of them. You’re alone in the crowd; you have lots of likes and followers but you still long for a true friend. Or maybe, your faith puts you on an island, standing for God’s truth, so that you end up all alone because of your stand.

If you’ve ever felt alone, you can relate to the prophet Elijah.

Elijah had a tough job. He had to preach against the king and queen of Israel. They had introduced a false God named Baal into Israel, and they were leading thousands of people astray. Elijah preached, and he preached. Then he preached some more. But no one seemed to care. No one seemed to listen. He felt alone. In fact, he was so lonely and so overwhelmed that he at one point said, “God, I’m done. Take me home to heaven.” He wanted to die.

But God wanted him to know that he was not alone. And he wants you to know it too. There was Elijah in a cave, hundreds of miles away from everyone. But then God came. And he said, “Elijah, what are you doing here?” Elijah had run; he had tried to hide. But he could not escape God’s loving care and concern. God was right there to care about Elijah. We are never alone! God is always with us. There’s no place we can go on this earth where we will be alone. God will always be with us.

And God made sure that Elijah knew it. He came to Elijah through a whisper, through his Word. And that’s what God does for you again and again. He comes to you in his Word and declares his undying love for you. He reminds you that in baptism God has made you his own child and he will always be there. Each time you come to the Lord’s Supper he will assure you again and again of his love and forgiveness. The Lord is always with you. You are never alone. Not now. Not ever.

And that wasn’t the only thing Elijah learned that day. Open up your Bibles and keep reading in 1 Kings 19:13-18. There God says, “Elijah! You think you’re alone? You think you’re the only one who loves me? There are 7000 people who haven’t bowed down to Baal. You’re not alone!” There is a group of people, your Christian church and your Christian friends, who stand with you in faith and in life. Go seek them out! Keep on meeting together with them. Build each other up in the faith and encourage each other. You are not alone. Your God ensures it by staying by your side always and by giving friends who will stick with you.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for your love that you promise to never take away from me. Thank you for the Christian friends you have placed in my life so that I’m never alone. I always have you and I always have a Christian community around me. When I’m feeling lonely, remind me of both of these things. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – September 3, 2017

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:25-27, 33-34

Freedom from worry

Well that was quick! Just like that, summer is over and the school year is starting back up. I remember when I was in school, I always felt overwhelmed at the beginning of the year. New classes, new expectations for homework, new people in class. What if homework is going to dominate my life this year? What if I can’t keep up? What if the new kids aren’t very nice? What if I don’t fit in? What if I don’t make the team? What if…?

And “what ifs” lead to worry and stress. It is worry that keeps you up at night. It is worry that distracts you so that you can’t concentrate. It is worry that makes you feel like you’re walking on thin ice every day. It is worry that makes you question everything so that you’re sure of nothing. How can you be free of that this year?

Think about what Jesus is telling us.

Does a bird work to provide and prepare food for itself? No. But does it still eat? Yes! God makes sure that the worm comes up at just the right time. He makes sure that there are seeds on the ground for it to eat. And does a flower get up in the morning and worry about what to wear? Does a flower dress itself? No. But God dresses it in more splendor than King Solomon.

Here’s his point: God takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. And if he does that (which he always does), then he is also going to take care of you. Actually, he values you far more than he values the grass of the field or the birds of the air. Did he send his own Son into the world to live perfectly for the birds or the flowers? No. But he did send his Son for you. Did he sacrifice his own Son to save the birds from their sin or the flowers from their sin? No. But he did sacrifice his Son for you. Your Heavenly Father values you so much that he gave up his only Son to have you! Isn’t that amazing? God values you that much.

So this school year seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first. You’ll quickly realize that when you do, he then also provides for the things you’re most worried about.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for valuing me so much that you sent Jesus to live and die for me. Be with me this school year. Free me from worry and anxiety, and replace it with trust in you. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – August 27, 2017

The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
1 John 3:8

Best. Prayer. Ever. – Deliver us from dEvil

The devil has a way of twisting everything. And I mean everything. He has a way of calling good evil and evil good. Remember how he did that to Adam and Eve? He told them that the good thing that God had given them in his command to avoid the one tree, was actually evil. “God is holding out on you,” he whispered.

And that’s what he does to you too. He whispers in your ear, “God’s way of sexual purity is actually evil. God is taking all the fun out of life. You should be able to enjoy sex.” He tells you, “This trajectory that your life is on is all wrong. God doesn’t know what he’s doing. God’s path for your life is evil.” He leads you to question God’s goodness and God’s love for you. “God says he loves you and he is working all things for good, but is he really? How can all this suffering and hardship be good?” He shows us all the evil in the world and he taunts us to ask, “How can God say that he is in charge of all this? How can a good God allow such bad things to happen? Just look at what happened in Virginia!”

The truth is this: the devil is the source of all evil in this world. He is the father of lies. He is a murderer. There is no truth in him. And all he wants to do is to destroy you. He doesn’t want good for you. He didn’t want good for Adam and Eve. He wanted them to suffer. He wanted them to die. And that’s what he wants for you too. He wants you to suffer. He wants you to die.

But that is not what your God wants for you. God wants you to live with him forever. God wants you to live and not die. That’s why he sent Jesus for you. Jesus came with one purpose and for one reason alone: Destroy the Devil and all his Evil work. Paul wrote to the Galatians and told them that “Jesus gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4).

It is what God continues to do in your daily life. He wants to give you life. That’s why he gives you his commands to guard you from evil and to show you how to live for him. He knows that sin leads to death. That’s why God does what he does in your life. Evil may come to your life. Harm may happen to you. But know this. God rules over this evil and promises to deliver you from it both now in these days and in eternity to come.

Evil will not win. The Devil will not win. Jesus already has. And you will too.

Prayer: Father, I will not make it without your help. The Devil keeps coming after me like a lion in the tall grass, lurking and waiting to take me down. Deliver me from his evil plans. Deliver me from his evil works. Yes, Father, even use his evil and turn it for my eternal and saving good. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – August 20, 2017

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13

Best. Prayer. Ever. – Lead us not into temptation

“That will never happen to me.” Those were the words of the people of Israel as they walked out of Egypt, rescued from the Egyptians. They were going to be faithful to the God who had been faithful to them. They were going to stay true to him and his commands until death. But they stumbled in the wilderness. They worshipped a golden calf and dared to curse the God who had rescued them.

“That will never happen to me.” Those were almost the exact words of Peter when Jesus told him that he was going to deny knowing Jesus, not just once but three times. And it was hardly a few hours later when Peter did just that and had to run out of the high priest’s courtyard with tears in his eyes.

“That will never happen to me.” Whether it was a public or private confession, we have all made the promise to be faithful to God until death. What Christian wouldn’t say such a thing? But then temptation came. That girl walked by, and you didn’t stop your eye from walking up and then walking down. That boy invited you over, and you didn’t stop the touching and ended up in the bedroom. Your friends threw a party, and you took part in the drugs or alcohol. That website caught your eye, and you clicked and browsed the pornography. You promised yourself and more importantly your God, “I won’t ever do that.” But then you did.

We sincerely desire to be faithful until the very last moment of our lives. And yet none of us is immune from temptation. None of us is above the struggle or beyond the fight. Temptation comes in many forms for all of us every moment of every day. And the Evil One seeks to use temptation to pull us from Christ and destroy our faith in him. What hope do we have since we’ve already given in to temptation in one way or another? What is our hope?

This prayer is our hope. It is a prayer and a petition that acknowledges our weakness and our need and turns us to the One who alone has strength to help us overcome temptation.

This prayer is a petition that turns us from our past unfaithfulness to God’s eternal faithfulness. Did you catch that in the verse? We’re tempted. That’s normal. And God is faithful! He continues to be the God and Father whom he has always been. Always patient. Always forgiving.

He continues to be our God and faithful Father who gives us a way out from temptation. He gives us strength to run away, gives us power to say, “no,” even giving us his Word as our answer to temptation. He even gives us humility to confess our sins after we’ve fallen. Our hope is our God who is faithful to us in every temptation and fall into temptation. He will not fail us. Not now. Not ever.

Prayer: Dear Father, you have asked me to pray to you in temptation. And I need to. I am weak and I easily give into temptation. Please Father, don’t let me fall because of temptations. Help me escape from them. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – August 13, 2017

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Matthew 6:12

Best. Prayer. Ever. – Forgive us our sins

When I was in my early 20’s, my roommate owed me 90 bucks. I did all I could to remind him about his debt. I spoke to him face to face. I called him. I texted him. I left notes around the house. For some reason, he didn’t pay me before I moved back home. I got angry about the situation and held a grudge against him. That grudge hurt our relationship.

Did he owe me? Yes. But that wasn’t the issue. The issue was my heart. I wasn’t willing to forgive his debt. I held onto his debt and that created anger in my heart towards him.

Jesus tells us, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Jesus uses the term “debts” as another term for sin. You and I owe God. When we sin against God, it’s like we keep racking up a huge debt that can’t possibly be repaid.

But look at what God did about our debt to him: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

God restored our relationship with him through his Son. God canceled our debt to him. He doesn’t hold our sins against us. Through Christ, you and I don’t owe God anymore! Christ paid the debt through his perfect life and innocent death on the cross. Not only that, but God decided in his grace and love to make us his children and his heirs. Not only don’t we owe him anymore, but we also get to have all that’s his!

So when it’s hard to forgive the sins that others have committed against you—especially the sins that have caused you a lot of pain and trouble—just think back to God, who treated you with mercy and love and canceled your debt. It’s not as hard to forgive others when we realize how much we’ve been forgiven.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you paid the debt I owed. You paid all that I owed to God because of my sin. How deep is your love and how great is your forgiveness for me. Help me to show the same mercy and give the same forgiveness to those who owe me. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – August 6, 2017

Give us today our daily bread.
Matthew 6:11

Best. Prayer. Ever. – Daily Gifts

Martin Luther explained in the Small Catechism that daily bread is more than just the food we eat. He said, “Daily bread includes everything needed for this life, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, fields, cattle, money, goods, God-fearing spouse and children, faithful servants and rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, order, honor, true friends, good neighbors, and the like.”

In the past when I’ve read this, it seemed long. I thought, “Yeah, I get it. God gives me a lot. In fact, I got the idea before I was halfway through the list. And was there really a need for me to memorize this list in catechism class?” Maybe you’ve thought it too, especially when memory work came along.

But the list isn’t really about the things we have. It is about the Giver of every good gift that exists in our life. All of it. All of those things that Luther mentions in his list are from our Father in heaven who is the Giver of every good thing. This list is about God and his love. He does more than promise us life in heaven with him through forgiveness won by Jesus. He gives us all our bodies need today as well! In mercy, he provides so many things that are included in daily bread even though I don’t deserve any of them.

When Jesus teaches us to pray for daily bread he wants us to recognize that all the things on this list (and more!) come from God. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17).

That’s why the list is so long. Luther couldn’t help but make the list long. In fact, he probably had to work hard to keep his list short—and Luther’s life was full of poverty and hardship. There is so much that God has given us as a gift of grace. There is much in our lives—even life itself, our bodies and souls—that are purely a gift of God’s grace to us.

Try this and you’ll see all that God has given you. Get out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Open up a note app on your phone. And jot down your own list, a list of the things that God has given you in your life. Take the time to list all of the things that God has given you today. List at least one gift from God for every letter of the alphabet. (You have permission to use zucchini for the letter ‘Z’.) And then, take that list and say “Thank you” to the Giver.

Prayer: O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His mercy endures forever. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – July 30, 2017

Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Matthew 6:10

Best. Prayer. Ever. – YOUR will be done

Recently, the news has been filled with events that make it seem like the enemies of God are stopping his will from being accomplished. Many were found dead in an apartment fire in London. A gunman attacked U.S. Congressmen at a baseball practice. Seven sailors died as a Navy ship was struck by a cargo ship. Another shooting rampage makes the news. It seems like this kind of thing happens all the time. It seems like God’s will is failing.

And yet know this: In spite of all appearances, God is mighty. And he always accomplishes his will. What God wants always happens. Nothing and no one can hinder him. Nothing and no one can stop him, especially when it comes to saving people.

See, God wants to bring people—all people—into his kingdom through the sharing of his saving name. In other words, the forgiveness of sins given in Jesus Christ offers the eternal answer to the bad events filling the news. Jesus explained it this way, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40).

Nothing will ever stop God in this. And we have proof of it. Remember Jesus as he faced his coming arrest, abuse, and ultimate death. It seemed like evil was winning. Yet God’s will triumphed in the end, even defeating death when Jesus rose from the dead. Evil would not have its way. Sin would not win. Nothing would stop God. His will to save you and all world was done and finished even though evil tried its hardest to derail God’s plan.

So pray this prayer when you come face to face with suffering or problems in this sinful world. Pray for God’s will to be done because you know that Jesus already did everything to make the Lord’s loving purposes come about. Neither national tragedy nor personal tragedy can erase the truth that those who believe in the Son have eternal life. God’s will overrules whatever bad news is trending and whatever personal crisis you experience. As members of God’s kingdom, we know that any suffering we face, like the suffering of Jesus, is not in vain.

Prayer:
God works in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He has a smiling face. Amen.
(Christian Worship 420 st. 1-2)

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – July 23, 2017

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:10

Best. Prayer. Ever. – YOUR Kingdom Come

When you pray the Lord’s Prayer you start off by saying, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come…” Nowadays we don’t know much about kingdoms because we live in a democracy. We don’t have a king. We have a president. The big difference between the two is a president has power, but not absolute power. He still needs to go through the legal checks and balances of our governmental processes. But a king can do whatever he wants.

That’s the thing. That’s what we want. We want to be king. We want to be in control of our lives. We want other people to do what we tell them to do. Most of the time we live by the motto, “My kingdom come!” And that’s a very dangerous way to live.

A powerful king named Nebuchadnezzar used to live that way. His history is written in the book of Daniel. One night King Neb had a dream that freaked him out. He called Daniel in to interpret it for him. Daniel revealed the meaning of the dream and said the bottom line was Nebuchadnezzar had become pretty powerful but also pretty arrogant. And if he didn’t repent and start giving God the glory, his entire kingdom would be stripped from him. But if he turned to God in repentance, God would give it all back.

A year later Neb stepped out onto the roof of his royal palace and he looked out over his kingdom and said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). Doesn’t sound too humble does it? Immediately God took away his royal authority. He was driven away from people and ate grass like animals. His hair grew really long and his fingernails were like bird claws.

God took Neb’s kingdom away until one day Neb prayed, “Your kingdom come.” He said, “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples on earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34-35). At that humble moment of enlightenment when Neb recognized that God is the King of the World, God restored Neb’s kingdom to him.

Like Neb, we all struggle with pride and the desire for power and control. But it’s not until we humbly recognize that Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords that we will be lifted up. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10). This is why we pray, “Your kingdom come,” not “My kingdom come.”

Prayer:
Lord God, teach me to pray for your kingdom and your rule. I find myself wanting what I want. I find myself longing for a kingdom where I am king. Teach me to repent, to humble myself and lean on you and your rule in all things. Your kingdom is the one of which I want to be a part. Bring it to me. Send it to others. Rule over all things for me and my good. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – July 16, 2017

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

Best. Prayer. Ever. – But how?

Jesus’ disciples once asked him to teach them how to pray. But before he did that, he taught them how not to pray. This is what he said in Matthew 6:5-8, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

First of all, don’t make a show of it. If you’re praying in public just so people will say, “Wow! Now that’s a real Christian,” that’s all you’ll get: just some praise from sinful humans just like you. But instead, Jesus continues, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Head to your room, close the door, take out your ear buds, turn off your cell-phone, and pray to your heavenly Father. Pray to the maker of heaven and earth. Pray to the one who set the stars in the sky and knows them by name. Pray to the one who is powerful enough to heal the sick and raise the dead. He’s listening, and he can do something about your requests!

Jesus continues, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

Have you ever thought that in order for your prayers to be effective they need to be long and you need to use words you’re not even sure how to spell? Jesus says, “Keep it simple!” Talk to him like you would to any of your friends. Be honest. Get straight to the point. Why? Because he already knows what you’re going to ask him. He’s just waiting for you to ask.

Now you might be thinking, “If God already knows what I’m going to ask for, why should I even pray?” Great question! Prayer isn’t for God, it’s for you. Check out what the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Why pray to God if he already knows what you’re going to ask for? So you can have peace instead of anxiety. So you can cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.

So what are you waiting for? Head to your room. Shut the door. Pray to your Heavenly Father. Keep it simple and be at peace.

Prayer:
Dear Father in heaven, sometimes I make prayer so difficult. I feel like I need to say the right words. But now I know that I don’t. I just need to head to my room and have a conversation with you. You just want me to talk to you about everything on my heart and mind. Teach me to pray in this simple way. And then, Lord, grant me peace as I call on you. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – July 9, 2017

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16

Best. Prayer. Ever. – Bold prayer

We’re so wimpy in prayer sometimes. Do you know what I mean? It’s like we’re sniveling before some high potentate whom we dare not approach, “And maybe, would you please, if you can get around to it, if you’re feeling in a good mood today, could you do this for me.” We’re so wimpy in prayer, and I’m trying to figure out why.

I know there is a part of us that must approach God in humility and reverence. After all, we have sinned against him and do not deserve to be called his children. We do not always know what is best even if we think that we do. And he is God while we are not. So, it’s good and right to approach him with humility and reverence.

But timid? Wimpy? That’s not how Jacob prayed when he wrestled with God. He dared to say, “I won’t let go unless you bless me” (cf. Genesis 32:26). That’s not how Moses prayed when God wanted to wipe out his people. He dared to tell God, “You can’t do that” (cf. Exodus 32:11-14).

There’s nothing wimpy about the Lord’s Prayer either. Take a look through the petitions. Think carefully about what we’re actually saying, “Make your will happen, make your kingdom come, give us, forgive us, deliver us.” In these petitions we’re actually telling God what we want him to do. Pretty bold, isn’t it? Hardly wimpy. Hardly timid. Those are bold prayers.

That’s the way God wants us to pray. He wants us to approach him with confidence, boldness, and openness. He wants us to just come and lay our problems at his feet. He wants us to come and tell him with a boldness mixed with the humility of Abraham who told God, “I know I have no right to ask you to spare this city, but because you’ve invited me to pray and you promise to be merciful, I’m going to ask. Please spare the city for the sake of the faithful” (cf. Genesis 18:22-33).

So don’t be wimpy and timid in your prayers. Your Father has forgiven all your sins and opened his throne room to you. Your Father loves you and wants to hear from you.

Prayer:
Father, make us bold to pray. You have promised mighty things to us. You have promised forgiveness and daily bread. You have promised that your will is good and that you will deliver us from evil. Teach us to pray with confidence and boldness because you will always be gracious and merciful to us. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – July 2, 2017

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Luke 11:9-12

Best. Prayer. Ever. – Refrigerator privileges

Summer is a great time to do awesome things because there’s no school! For me, the summer schedule changes because my kids are home. As a result, I’m doing whatever I can to give them things to do. I’m always looking for places where they can go, sometimes even over to their friend’s houses to hang out for just a few hours.

But wherever they go I always remind them, “Their house is not your house. Don’t go looking in their fridge. Don’t go snooping around their bedrooms. Don’t go digging around their house.” The privileges they enjoy at home are not the same at other people’s houses. They don’t have those rights and privileges. They don’t have refrigerator privileges. They can’t take what they want and go wherever they please.

We’re starting a series of devotions this week on the Lord’s Prayer. It’s a prayer that we pray every Sunday. It’s a prayer that many of us have known for as long as we can remember. It’s also a prayer that we easily begin and end but lose focus halfway through. We say the words of the prayer, but don’t remember praying any of it. In this series we want to fill this prayer with meaning for you so that you can pray it and mean it.

Today, I want to leave you with this one image. You can go in God’s refrigerator. You have refrigerator privileges with God. Prayer is not going to someone else’s dad and asking for something. Prayer is going to YOUR heavenly Father in praise, in thanks, in petition, and with requests. Jesus invites you to pray. So do it. And mean it.

You can go into his fridge, and there you’ll find a richness of grace and mercy. You’ll find the gift of your baptism and the forgiveness of the Lord’s Supper. You’ll find a Father’s ear tuned to your cry. And it is all for you to come and ask for in prayer. In prayer, God your Father invites you into his house and gives you access to all of his gifts, even the refrigerator.

Prayer:
Father, dear Father in heaven. You are my Father. Thank you for opening to me the gates of your heavenly kingdom, the door to your throne room. I have no right to ask on my own, but because you have made me your child I dare to ask you as boldly and confidently as children ask their dear father. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Transformed – teen devotion – June 25, 2017

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil…Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”…Jesus answered him, “It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”…Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Matthew 4:1,4,7,10-11

Jesus: Our true hero

For the past few weeks our focus has been on three great heroes of the faith: Moses, David, and Elijah. We saw the strength they had as God’s saints but also cringed at the weakness of their sinful flesh. Face to face with temptation, they turned from God and his Word and looked for power within themselves.

How often do we make the same mistake when temptation knocks on our door? This shouldn’t be that surprising. Our society is all about the power of “you.” If you search for ‘self-help books’ on Amazon’s website, there are over 620,000 results listed. Our selfish sinful nature tricks us into thinking we have the power to fight temptation on our own.

Today we have the opportunity to see our true hero, our perfect hero in action. An intense three round battle between Jesus and the devil took place (Spoiler alert! It isn’t even close).

Round #1: Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into bread; Jesus knocks down Satan with the Word.

Round #2: Satan tempts Jesus to jump off the temple and have his angels save him; Jesus knocks down Satan with the Word.

Round #3: The devil foolishly tempts Jesus to worship him; Jesus knocks down Satan with the Word.

Defeated, the devil continued to look for opportunities to tempt Jesus. While here on earth Jesus was tempted beyond what we could imagine. Hebrews 4:15 says, ”for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.“ That is why Jesus is our true hero. He never failed, he never once let us down.

On the cross God took all of our sins—all of those times we have been tempted and failed—and put them on Jesus. And then in a startling act of grace he takes Jesus’ perfect life and credits it to us. Now as God’s children, through the incredible gift of faith and the word of our Savior we now have the power to stand and fight temptation. That power isn’t found in a self-help book or by digging deep inside yourself. This power is found in God’s Word. It is the answer to every temptation. Better than that it also points us to the reason we have the sure hope of heaven, our true hero, Jesus!

Prayer:
Jesus, Thy blood (dying) and righteousness (holy life)
My beauty are, my glorious dress.
With these before my God I’ll stand
When I shall reach the heavenly land. Amen.

TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.