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Teen Talk: Count your blessings

Realize that what you have comes from God, and thank God every day for what you have.  

Isabella Eckert 

Count your blessings.  

I was always told to count my blessings when I was having a hard time or feeling bad for myself or trying to fall asleep. When I think of counting my blessings, I think of my faith, my family, a Christian home, nutrition, my health, and those close to me. Those are all immediate things that pop into my mind. I am always thankful for those things, but I just do not find myself thinking about them that often or thanking God enough for them.  

I strongly believe that God puts people in your life to change the way you look at your own life. I have had several people in my life who have strengthened my faith in many ways.  

But one person I met really changed the way that I look at my own life. She was super friendly the instant we met—very talkative and energized! She was not shy about talking to a girl that she had just met. As we asked each other a few questions about ourselves, I soon found out that she had it rough. Growing up she was constantly bullied at school for being different. She even told me some very scary stories about being bullied. It made me tear up. I couldn’t even imagine the things that she went through 

I looked again at all the blessings that I had and still have in my life. I grew up in Christian schools; she went to big public schools where she was made fun of every day for just being herself. I have always had a healthy life; she grew up with unhealthy parents and family. She also had many difficulties with her own health. Thinking about what she had to go through made me really appreciate what I have.  

During our conversations, she mentioned that she was a Christian. It really hit me when she said that. She had to go through health issues, family problems, death of a family member, and bullying; yet she had faith through it all. I knew that even if I would never see her again, I would see her one day in heaven.  

Count your blessingsNow I try to count my blessings every day because I really appreciate what God has given me. He continues to bless me every day.  Even when I do not notice his blessings, he continues to provide.  

God sometimes places people in your life to appreciate what you have. He definitely showed me my blessings—very clearly.  

Recognize the blessings that have been given to you. Before you go to sleep at night, count your blessings. When you get up in the morning, count your blessings. Count your blessing in the middle of the day! Thank God that you have faith and pray that it grows every day. Thank God for the people in your life. Do not forget to pray for their faith too.  

“Praise the LORD, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed (Psalm 103:2-6). 


Isabella Eckert, a senior at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wisconsin, is a member at Calvary, Thiensville, Wisconsin.  


 

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Author: Isabella Eckert
Volume 104, Number 11
Issue: November 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Teen talk: A bubble?

Lutheran education prepares students to face the real world.

Anna Menges

“You live in a bubble!”

As a student at a Lutheran high school, I heard this often. Whether it came from peers who went to public school or from the wonderful wisdom of social media, it was a thought that seemed deceptively true. The bubble they were talking about was one that inhibited us from experiencing the “real world.”

At first thought this may seem like a legitimate flaw of private education. But through a recent experience I have had, I learned that instead of an inhibiting bubble, a Lutheran education is a place where we learn how to use our faith properly. Instead of preventing us from experiencing the real world, it shows us what God wants the real world to be like.

The eye-opening experience I had occurred while attending Badger Girls State, a convention for seven hundred high school girls entering their senior year. Its purpose is to teach the younger generation about state government in order to encourage future leaders. At this convention, I realized that I was in a minority group when it came to my political opinions, especially those based on my Christian values.

I distinctly remember a discussion with a friend I had met at the convention on the topic of homosexuality. She believed that homosexuality was a person’s right. She even told me about one of her homosexual friends who was one of the nicest persons she knew. I then told her my opinion, which was that homosexuality is wrong. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. I was a 17-year-old female who should have had the same liberal views as her. We then went on to discuss abortion. As two people with opposite views, these were some difficult discussions.

While talking to her I began to realize that the underlying reason for our differences was my belief in the Bible—and her lack of belief. I ultimately had to explain that my reason for disagreeing with homosexuality was because God says it’s a sin in the Bible. I had to reason with her that killing a baby in the womb isn’t about the rights of the woman, but about killing a masterpiece of God and not giving that baby a chance to live and come to faith. I have tried to keep in touch with her in hopes that she will come to faith.

Reflecting back on this experience, I realize that because of my education at Lutheran schools, the Holy Spirit has given me the knowledge and confidence to speak my opinion. A Lutheran school not only instilled in me the knowledge, it also gave me a like-minded support system of friends and teachers that I knew I could go to for any questions or concerns I had. Because I heard the Word of God every day at my Lutheran high school, the Holy Spirit worked a strong and unwavering faith in my heart.

As sinful human beings, we will never be perfect. There is no less sin at a Lutheran school. The difference is that at a Lutheran school, we have the opportunity to surround ourselves with those who embrace God’s Word just as we do. We learn how to live according to God’s plan. A Lutheran education is an opportunity to prepare us to deal with situations that come our way as a result of the world straying from God’s teaching.


Anna Menges, a 2017 graduate from Manitowoc Lutheran High School, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, is a member at Bethany, Manitowoc.


 

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Author: Anna Menges
Volume 104, Number 8
Issue: August 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Hope in Christ

Anxiety and stress can cause us to lose focus on God’s love and power.

Grace Finstrom

Many teens today struggle with anxiety. Anxiety can range from a crippling fear of doing anything wrong in a social setting to post-traumatic stress. Sometimes anxiety needs professional help. Sometimes it simply needs the help of a friend and reminders of God’s love and promises.

I suffered from mental anxiety—finding myself inconsequential, and telling myself I didn’t matter. I had a mental fear of putting myself out of my comfort zone and doing something considered “wrong.” I also felt great stress and anxiety, especially as due dates approached.

Like many teens, I didn’t say anything to anyone. I didn’t know how my parents, teachers, or friends would react to my “problem.” I pretended to be happy and didn’t make a fuss when people put pressure on me in social situations, which was one of the worst things I could do because it only made things worse.

One day, in my junior year, I broke down and told my best friend. Instead of making fun of me for my insecurities, she comforted me, hugged me, and told me to pray about it. She quoted a passage from 1 Peter, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (5:7). I’ve been a Christian since I was really young, but I had never considered giving God control over my fears or asking him to help me work through my anxiety.

I think I’m not the only one who has fears and anxieties. These problems—although we can’t be rid of them entirely—can become minor. God is all-powerful. He knows what we think and what we fear and will help us get through any issue that arises in our lives. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3). All we need to do is trust God, in his power and glory, to do whatever is best for us at that point in our lives.

God knows us all: our good points, our flaws, and our breaking points. We are his workmanship, his finest creation, and he loves us, flaws and all. We should not fear because we have been redeemed. We have a Savior who gave his life on the cross for our sins and failings so that we can stand perfect and righteous before our Holy God. There is no longer a reason to fear anything.

Anxiety is one of the devil’s most effective weapons. It causes us to doubt ourselves, our faith in God, and God’s power. It breeds within our hearts and eats away from the inside until we no longer feel human and whole, but worthless and broken.

But do not despair. We have hope in Christ and an everlasting happiness in the kingdom of heaven that is to come after this earthly world has passed away. Now we might have to feel anxiety and stress, but God assures us of his love. He promises he will always be there for us in our times of trouble and grief and will give us opportunities to let our faith and his power shine. There is no need to fear this world, for God is with us. Forever.


Grace Finstrom, a senior at Evergreen Lutheran High School, Tacoma, Washington, is a member at Holy Trinity, Des Moines, Washington.


 

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Author: Grace Finstrom
Volume 104, Number 6
Issue: June 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen talk: Do you believe this?

Christ, who lived and died and rose again so that we could be in heaven someday, helps us fight through the pain when a loved one dies.

Philip Treptow

“Do you believe this?”

Jesus asked Martha this question after Lazarus died and after he shared what is now a well-known Bible passage: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). Her response is one of the best expressions of faith in the Bible. “ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’ ” After this Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.

Don’t we all wish that we could look Jesus in the face and say, “We do believe,” and then expect him to raise our loved one from the dead? But it doesn’t work like that. No matter how much we pray, no matter how much we beg, no matter what we do, they will still be dead. It takes a lot for us to think about our loved ones as being dead. We love them. We want them still to be here for us to give us their advice or just to talk with them once more. We can pray, but everything is not okay.

My mom died when I was in seventh grade. Why isn’t my Mom here? Yes, I know that she is in heaven and that she was suffering on earth in her battle with cancer, but that still doesn’t help change the fact that my mom is gone and no one can replace her.

Some people say it gets easier as you move on, but they are lying. It never gets easier; it is always a pain—a stumbling block—in your life. It hurts every time someone jokes about their mom or someone else’s. Mother’s Day is hard. One of the hardest things I have learned to do is to hide the fact that these things still hurt and that I do still think about her every day. You figure out pretty fast that the pain never really goes away. You learn to mask the pain.

We think that by praying everything will just magically be perfectly fine. That is not that case. But we still need to rely fully on Christ when we hurt, for he cares for us and he will help us through these times of troubles.

When the doctors told my mom she had colon cancer, they told her she had six months to live. For the next seven years she battled this disease. She fought for six and half more years than what the doctors gave her. This is the greatest blessing I have from my mom. I was able to enjoy that much more time with her.

Jesus compares death to sleep in the Bible. It is hard for us to comprehend the fact that we will fall asleep and when we wake up we will be in heaven with Jesus.

After my mom died, it was very hard to go to school every day knowing that that she wasn’t coming back. But my family and I have stayed very faithful in our church attendance, and I truly do believe that this is the sole reason we all have been able to make it through this.

Prayer does help. It may not fix things, but it does help.

Yes, I do believe.


Philip Treptow, a sophomore at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member at St. Matthew, Janesville, Wisconsin.


 

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Author: Philip Treptow
Volume 104, Number 4
Issue: April 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Like a star shining in the night

Sometimes fear makes us forget that we can come to God anytime.

Holly Backus

Fear, confusion, and loneliness. Sometimes these can be things that run through your head after a nightmare. All you want to do is forget the scary things that woke you up and go back to sleep.

It’s natural to be afraid when you’re alone, especially when it’s dark and you can’t see anything. When I was younger and I awoke from a nightmare, I would have a routine. I would sit up, turn on a light, and read for a while so I could fall back to sleep. I read so I could forget all the things that popped into my head.

One night, after waking up from a nightmare, I sat up like usual. I looked around my dark room and started to head toward my light. But before I got there, my eyes caught a glimpse

of something else. My window was open, and a slight breeze came through. I looked out and saw the stars and moon in the dark night sky. All of a sudden I didn’t feel so alone. I felt comforted. I continued to look outside until I thought of something better.

I folded my hands and prayed. That night I fell back asleep quickly and happily.

Sometimes when we’re afraid, we forget that God is there watching over us. This even happened to Jesus’ disciples. They forgot Jesus was watching over them when a storm threatened their boat (Matthew 8:23-27). They had forgotten about trusting Jesus. They became afraid. When they finally woke Jesus, he scolded them for not trusting him. Then he calmed the storm. Even when the disciples were with Jesus and had seen what he could do, fear still got in the way of their faith.

We can be forgetful like the disciples sometimes. We all believe God is there, but fear can make that faith blurry and unclear. We can be foolish and forget that Jesus, who died for our sins, is and always will be there for us.

God will always be there like a star in the night sky. “God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:5,6).

We can be confident that God will always be there for us. Like a star, he guides us out of the grip of fear and darkness. God shines through the clouds and lights up the night sky. God is there for us and always will be.

Now every time I wake up in fear or loneliness, I can look outside and remember to pray to my Lord. I know he’s there and always will be there for me like a star shining in the night. So now when I sleep, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

Holly Backus, a sophomore at Manitowoc Lutheran High School, Manitowoc, Wisconsin, is a member at St. John, Newtonburg, Wisconsin.

 

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Author: Holly Backus
Volume 104, Number 2
Issue: February 2017

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen Talk: Where do you find happiness

The world tells us the key to happiness is money, but only God can make us truly happy.

Devon Perkins

Yes, I went Black Friday shopping as I’m sure many of you did as well. And, yes, I probably spent more money than I shou1d have. But hey, I got plenty of great deals and saved lots of money! That makes it well spent, right? Not exactly.

When I got home, I was kicking myself for missing some deals. I was more concerned about what I had missed out on buying. But that’s crazy, right?

I was left feeling empty inside as I looked at my shiny new possessions. And it’s for the same reason that millionaires aren’t content and desire to become billionaires. The world tells us day and night that the key to happiness is money and material possessions. The problem is that almost everyone is fooled. Living in America, we’re likely in the top percent of richest people in the world. The real question is why don’t we feel like we’re in the top percent? Why do we always want more, more, more?

It’s because money cannot buy happiness. Material possessions cannot give us happiness. Nothing in this world can give us true, lasting happiness. Ecclesiastes 5:10 says, “Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.” We can try and deny it, but that would be foolish. Why else would we always desire more?

If these things, however, don’t give us true happiness, what can?

God, of course, is the answer. God never leaves you wanting for more. God never leaves you feeling empty inside. True happiness is lasting happiness, and what other than God and his love in this world can last? Just think for a moment about how amazing it is that God, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, creator of the heavens and the earth, loves you and despite your inherent sinfulness forgives you all of your sins because of Jesus. Knowing this is the only thing that can give you true happiness.

It’s okay to want something, but the problem arises when you begin to covet and stop being content with what you have. This is when you begin to fall into the trap of thinking, If only I could have this or that, I would be happy. But Matthew 16:26 says, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”

Material wealth doesn’t last. None of your physical possession can be taken with you past death. Heaven, however, is forever, so you should focus on that rather than your short time here on earth.

I’m going to close with my confirmation passage, which I think fits perfectly with this message. ‘‘Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’ ” (Hebrews 13:5).

Devon Perkins, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member of Holy Cross, Madison, Wisconsin.


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Author: Devon Perkins
Volume 103, Number 12
Issue: December 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Are fairy tales real?

Happily-ever-after is only true because of the promises of Jesus.

Melanie Rittierodt

“Once upon a time” is the beginning of my favorite story lines in books. This phrase brings hope that there will be a happily-ever-after for the characters of each book.

An important lesson that I have learned in my life is that the fairy tales we see in movies and read in books are nonexistent. However, God has a happily-ever-after for us. It will have faith, trust, and hope, but no pixie dust.

The authors of many fairy tales don’t tell you that the lives of the characters are not always what they seem. Disney characters never have it easy. Cinderella was only a scullery maid. She was treated poorly and had no one but mice to talk to. Snow White was poisoned by her stepmother. Simba witnessed his father’s death.

God never promised us a movie-star life, where we have the perfect hair and the perfect person to stand by us. He knows that because we have him in our lives, the devil will work even harder to take us away from him.

My mom battled with cancer for six long years and those years finished their course with her death last year. From that day on, I have learned to take care of myself and provide for myself and my family. Like Wendy Darling in Peter Pan, I take care of my two younger brothers, who need all the help they can get sometimes. I am not just the big sister in my house. I am the woman of the household. I feel like Cinderella, constantly taking care of my family along with myself; there is always something left undone. The fairy tale of a perfect high school career is only a dream.

In a way that I have yet to understand, God has put this tragic event in my story to help me. And, in some crazy way, the two childhood stories of Peter Pan and Cinderella have stuck with me and have almost become my reality. God works in mysterious ways. He knew that this tragedy would cause a stumbling block for me.

“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 29:11). This verse has rung in my ears ever since that day my life turned upside down. One day all I had to worry about was getting to work on time. Now my life isn’t just me anymore. I have my brothers, dad, and my own future to think about. I had planned my life according to the endings of my favorite fairy tales, but the ending to a story doesn’t take place until the plot is finished.

Are fairy tales real? No, at least not the fairy tales that we see on the silver screen. We don’t have the simple life of happily-ever-after. The world doesn’t give us our fairy tale; it gives us our story. God is the one who gives us our fairy tale. When our time is over and our story is complete, we will be with God and see Jesus our Savior sitting at the right hand of God. That is where the fairy tale begins. But it won’t be a fairy tale. It will be the reality of everlasting life in heaven.

Melanie Rittierodt, a junior at Evergreen Lutheran High School, Tacoma, Washington, is a member of Light of Life, Covington, Washington.

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Author: Melanie Rittierodt
Volume 103, Number 10
Issue: October 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Dancing with God

Waiting for the right person to be your spouse is trusting God to lead you.

Katelyn Edwards

Imagine: You gaze into the eyes of your fiancé on your wedding day. It’s the day you’ve been waiting for all your life. You’ve finally found that someone special who loves you with all his or her heart, someone with whom you can spend the rest of your life.

Many teenagers eagerly await the day when they will meet their spouse. Romance and dating are something popular in high school. Yet, your actions now will affect the future. You may not know your spouse yet, but you will one day, and he or she will care how you have treated those of the opposite gender before you met. It is tempting to fall for the first cute boy or girl you see, but you need to keep in mind that God wants the best for you.

Keeping yourself pure for your spouse goes far beyond the obvious in God’s Sixth Commandment. It also includes your thoughts, words, actions, and even the way you dress. God says in Proverbs 5:15-17, “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers.” It’s not wrong to have boys and girls as friends, but keep in mind who is yet to come. One person deserves intimacy.

I once heard an amazing phrase that struck home: “Dance with God, and he will let the perfect man cut in.” This relates more to the girls’ side of things. I like to think of it this way: In life, dance with God. Let him guide you and learn to follow his footsteps. Don’t look around for others on the dance floor. As tempting as it is, such a distraction could cause you to stumble or even fall. Keep your eyes on him, and, when the time is right, he will let the perfect man cut in. In turn, you will know how to dance as the partner, one who submits and follows your special man’s lead.

Turning to the guys’ side of things, the same idea can be considered with a little twist. Guys are “in training.” God is teaching you how to dance with gentle leadership. You learn how to lead the girl as you dance and take her with you every step of the way. When you are fully trained, God will lead you to the perfect partner. Trust him; he’s danced with her himself.

Popular Christian singer Jamie Grace sings it perfectly in her song “White Boots.” Don’t get your “white boots” dusty by testing out every girlfriend or boyfriend you have. Trust God and wait in patience. It is good to get to know others to see if he or she is the one God has chosen. However, leave the ultimate decision up to God. He’ll let you know when the time is right. Stay pure and untouched, so that you will have nothing shameful to hide. Choose to love your spouse before you’ve met him or her. Make it so that he or she smiles and says, “Thanks for remaining loyal to me, even before you knew me.

“Thank you for dancing with God.”

Katelyn Edwards, a junior at West Lutheran High School, Plymouth, Minnesota, is a member at Salem, Greenfield, Minnesota.

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Author: Katelyn Edwards
Volume 103, Number 8
Issue: August 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Are you being bullied? Turn to God.

God is with you through everything, even bullying.

Kaylee Elen Neupert

As we move further and further into the future, sin becomes even more prevalent in our everyday lives. There are wars; crimes; and what’s beginning to be more and more common in our schools, bullying.

Some of the synonyms of bullying are persecute, oppress, tyrannize, browbeat, harass, torment, intimidate, strong-arm, and dominate. I don’t know what you think, but this isn’t sounding like something that should be happening in our Christian grade schools, high schools, and homes . . . and yet, it is.

Bullying happens every day, whether it’s through obvious ways such as violence toward an individual, or through telling people they’re too fat, too thin, ugly, or stupid. Either way can be extremely devastating and can lead to bad things like self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and possibly suicide itself.

One of the hardest things to do when you’re being bullied is to speak out. You’re think that people may call you a tattletale or that nobody will believe you. Another reason you might not speak out is that you’re scared.

The thing that’s wrong with that statement, though, is that you’re never alone. God promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:5,6)

Think about Jesus. He was mocked and scorned. Sometimes we forget that although Jesus is perfect, his life wasn’t. They called him names, told him he was a blasphemer, spit on him, and beat him. Jesus knows exactly what we’re going through, and he’s always with us.

Here’s some advice:

To those who are being or have been bullied: Turn to God. Being bullied can make you feel miserable, like you’re not worth it. But you are. There will be trials in your life, but God will overcome them. Jesus reminds us, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

To those who know people who are being bullied: If your friend tells you he or she is being bullied or you see it happening, you need to tell someone. Your friend may ask you not to tell an adult, but you need to. This can be incredibly hard to do sometimes, but that’s what best for the bullied person.

I know that choosing to speak out can be one of the most difficult decisions you’ll make, but it’s worth it. Trust me, I know this firsthand. If you don’t tell someone about this, it may never stop. Depending on the type of bullying, it can leave permanent scars. If you don’t take care of it before it gets to be a big problem, it can cause you to distrust all the people you talk to, make you antisocial, and take away all of your self-confidence.

In conclusion, bullying is a terrible sin that affects the lives of many teenagers. It can be stopped, though, if the bullied and the witnesses go and tell a teacher or trusted adult about it. Speaking out about getting bullied is a hard thing to do, but God always will be with you.

Kaylee Neupert, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member at St. John Newville, Waterloo, Wisconsin.

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Author: Kaylee Elen Neupert
Volume 103, Number 6
Issue: June 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Teen Talk: Never hold back

Let your light shine even when someone is trying to dim it.

Krystal Taylor

I was having a relatively good day. Work was going fine. We were not busy, but we were also not completely dead. I thought the day was just going to be like any other day: help customers, eat some ice cream, and chat with my coworkers for a bit. That is until my coworkers, who are both 17, started talking about their sex lives.

Now, I don’t want to judge what people talk about, but I was getting very uncomfortable, so I asked if we could talk about something else. I thought they would let it go and move on, but one of them turned on me and said, “That’s right. You’re a Christian. You don’t know anything. Get real.”

I was honestly blown away. All I could utter was “Yes, I am,” but nothing else came out.

Has something like this ever happened to you? You are just going about life, and it seems for no apparent reason you are being judged for what you believe and you don’t know how to handle the situation. Sure, people get judged all the time for what they wear or how they look, but this is deeper than just style choices. This is something that many of us are not used to and have never truly thought of what to do if it ever did happen.

As children, many of us went to church regularly, and even though sometimes we did not quite understand what was being preached, we knew that Jesus was our Savior. We—myself included—never thought of what it would be like to be called out for our faith. We knew that not everyone agreed with what we believe and might openly confront us about it. It just never hit home that it really could happen.

That type of situation may not seem like a good thing, but in reality it is a blessing from God himself. This is a chance to bring another person closer to Jesus. “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12).

When facing a situation like this, never forget that Jesus went through the same exact thing, along with his disciples. Jesus was certainly not accepted by all, and he still isn’t. Yet he always kept his head high. He continued on and tried to help all who confronted him—and all others too. Some of the disciples were stoned and put to death, yet they stuck to God and are now enjoying paradise with him.

God is always with us and will never forsake us. I now know what I should have done in that situation: Speak up and proclaim what I believe. We need to be bold in what we say and do and not think of it as a task that hurts but as an opportunity to open someone’s eyes. “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).

Krystal Taylor, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member at St. John,Jefferson, Wisconsin.

A new resource for teens is now available on the WELS website. These weekly teen devotions offer God’s guidance for the unique situations teens face. Check out the devotions at wels.net/transformed.

 

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Author: Krystal Taylor
Volume 103, Number 4
Issue: April 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Teen Talk: From falling to soaring

Getting closer to her heavenly Father helps a teen through hard times.

Elizabeth Hahm

Is your life messed up? Mine is. I don’t have a real reason to be stressed. My Christian parents are married and plan to be forever. Although we aren’t rich, we are comfortable. I’m not bullied at school, and I am active in my church. I even read my Bible every night before bed. I don’t have any reason to be unhappy, do I?

I am, though. I can be so unhappy and depressed. Sometimes I am just a weepy mess. I curl up in a ball and sob. I feel like I’m falling into a dark hole. I feel alone, angry, worried, embarrassed by the past, and scared of the future. Sometimes I don’t even know what I feel.

One day a friend showed me a nightly devotion she did. She would read a chapter of the Bible, then pick a favorite verse from the chapter. I thought it was neat, but I was already doing my own Bible readings and didn’t feel like I needed it. Then later, when I was going through a particularly stressful time, I decided to give it a try.

I started reading 1 Samuel. At first I just read the chapter, picked a favorite verse, and wrote it down in a journal. It wasn’t difficult. I found some good verses, such as 1 Samuel 2:2: “There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”

But then it got harder. How was I supposed to pick a verse from chapter 4, which tells of the ark of the Lord’s covenant being captured by the Philistines, or chapter 8, which tells how the Israelites wanted a king? I had to pick unusual verses.

These verses sounded even more unusual written in my journal out of context. To clear things up, I wrote a few sentences about why I chose the verse. Before long, these explanations had turned into page-and-a-half Bible studies.

I always wrote as if I was explaining the passage to someone else, even though I was the only one who ever touched my journal. But I began to see the explanations were really helping me. Explaining the verses forced me to dig into the Bible. Sometimes after I was done with my devotion, I realized that I had just resolved the very issue that was making me upset that day. The message I got out of the verse hit home and was exactly what I needed.

I have kept up with these nightly Bible studies. It can be tempting to just go to bed after a tiring day, but I know how calming and comforting reading the Bible can be. Even on the good days, I still feel much better after my devotion that I did before it.

I only recently found my way. It was getting closer to God, studying his Word, and learning that he really is my friend and my heavenly Father who loves me. I encourage you to do the same. Get close to God.

Your life won’t be perfect. Mine certainly isn’t. Just remember: “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Betsy Hahm, a senior homeschooled in Hilton, New York, is a member at Prince of Peace, Fairport, New York.

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Author: Elizabeth Hahm
Volume 103, Number 2
Issue: February 2016

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen Talk: My life as a child of divorce

Divorce affects entire families. How can we support and encourage those struggling with the long-lasting effects?

I am a product of divorce. As a child, it defined me. My parents were divorced—so of course I must be a troubled child. At least that’s how everyone made me feel.

Already as a first grader, I remember being treated differently than other students. So I acted naughty. Maybe I played into the assumptions.

As school continued, I never talked about my parents and their divorce. I would get embarrassed when we would talk about the Sixth Commandment in school—“You shall not commit adultery.” “Divorce means adultery” would click in my head. I’d sit there and not say anything.

When I was in the sixth grade, my mom got married again. He seemed like a great guy. But later, we found out he was a struggling drug addict. I worried about my mom getting another divorce. I wondered if my mom would go to heaven. I look back and wonder why no one attempted to make it clear to me that I was okay, that my sister was okay, that my mom was okay. This man ultimately chose drug addiction over us, abandoning his marital duties. He deserted us. I avoided ever talking about my family.

When the Sixth Commandment came around in class again, I remember not wanting to go to school . . . but I went. No one clarified anything for me or comforted me. Maybe they didn’t know I was struggling with such things, and maybe I should have asked. But what 12-year-old is going to raise her hand and say, “Is my mom’s divorce okay?”

I went to a Lutheran high school. Not many people there had divorced or separated parents. I had a serious boyfriend for about two years, who ultimately broke up with me because my parents were divorced. He said he “just couldn’t deal with it and felt like he could never marry me.” Couldn’t marry me? We were just kids in high school! But it showed me again how divorced persons are perceived. I got the feeling I was somehow extra sinful because my parents were divorced.

Why is divorce looked at as worse than other sins? One sort of sinner is not better than another. People who get divorced can be forgiven. Our focus shouldn’t be on the stigma of certain sins, but on repentance and faith. Many people struggle with many challenges and sins. People who are judged for their circumstances can be turned off by such judgment.

I’m not saying to accept people in their sins. Absolutely not. But we need to show patience and understanding. Both law and gospel need to be applied. Struggling sinners are forgiven because Jesus died for them.

If you don’t know the story behind someone’s situation, don’t make assumptions. Don’t assume everyone who is divorced came to that position by pursuing sin. Don’t assume you know someone’s heart. Approach people with support, with loving words. That could be all they need to begin healing.

My point is not to complain about how challenging my childhood was or how everyone around me handled things wrong. That is not the case. I am writing this to raise awareness of things that could be happening if we are open to helping one another. Life is hard; we are sinful people. What is most important—in fact, the only thing of ultimate importance—is what Christ did for us. We have a gracious God who forgives all sins. Let’s seek to help and forgive each other, rather than making life more difficult for those who’ve been affected by hurtful sins.

Because of the personal nature of this article, the author’s name has been withheld.

 

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Author: Withheld
Volume 102, Number 12
Issue: December 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Teen Talk: Bring it on

Don’t stress about the future. God will guide you and take care of you.

Maddie McKenna

You’ve probably thought about what you want to be when you grow up at one point or another. Scratch that. I know you have. Whether you have thought about it recently or back when you were in preschool and wanted to be a Power Ranger or a princess, you have given it a thought at some point in your life.

I’m a junior in high school, and many of my friends have an idea of what they want to be, maybe even what college they would like to attend. On the other hand, I have no clue who I want to be in this world. I’m uncertain about the future, and that might seem like a very scary thing.

For many people, the thought of growing up and moving out is a scary one. For me personally, I was terrified of going to high school. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get to my classes on time, my friends would leave me for a better group of people, and I wouldn’t be able to open my locker. In some cases, those worries were true. However, what I didn’t realize at that time was that I didn’t need to stress about these things. I also don’t need to be stressing about what will come after high school; God will provide.

I have an older brother, and college life is definitely working out for him. Seeing him move out and do well has given me reassurance that the future can’t be that scary, though I’m still a little bit worried about how I will do out on my own. He still attends church and is strong in his faith. God has planted a seed in everyone, and I thank God that those seeds are prospering.

At times when I feel anxious about my future, I remember what Jeremiah wrote, “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’ ” (29:11). I don’t have to freak out about what’s ahead of me because God will take care of me and he knows what’s best. God has watched over me since the day I was born, and he will continue to do so up until and even after the day that I join him in heaven.

High school can be challenging at times, but God takes care of the hard times. My Savior has blessed me with an amazing support system. So many have helped me through my struggles in high school. Why wouldn’t they help me when I have troubles down the road?

God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes things don’t go the way you have them planned out in your mind. God may have a different idea for you. Don’t be discouraged or become frustrated. I completely understand that sometimes it’s hard not to worry. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in things that you aren’t certain of. Satan tries so hard to distract you and make you forget about God’s saving grace. But we are clothed in Christ’s armor. He takes care of us all the time.

The next time that you catch yourself worrying and being stressed out about the future, take it to the Lord in prayer.

Maddie McKenna, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member at St. John, Newville, Wisconsin.

 

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Author: Maddie McKenna
Volume 102, Number 10
Issue: October 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Teen Talk: Reaching out with Christ’s love

High school students share their outreach experiences.

Almost two dozen students from Illinois Lutheran High School, Crete, Ill.; Kettle Moraine Lutheran High School, Jackson, Wis.; and Winnebago Lutheran Academy, Fond du Lac, Wis., traveled to Texas in March to participate in an outreach event with four Houston area congregations. Truth in Love Ministry provided training to help them engage people and share the gospel. Here students from Illinois Lutheran High School share thoughts about their experience.


“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This was most certainly true for our mission trip in Texas. God’s presence was more than evident during our canvassing and through everything we did for the church. He was working through people who had never shared the gospel with anyone before. God blessed our work, and everything is credited to him. We will remember this experience for many years to come.”—Janelle, senior


“I have never done anything like this before in my life. At first I was very shaky on how it was going to go. Going out in the neighborhoods and actually talking to people was really great. It was interesting to see and hear how many people haven’t heard about Jesus. That was the most surprising to me. It was really cool to see how excited and interested they were to hear and learn about God. Canvassing was a great experience, and I can’t wait to do some more.”—Hannah, sophomore


“I was terrified at first, but then after I did the first couple houses, I got a lot more confident and knew that God was right there with me. I got more comfortable because I knew that God was giving me the words to say. I realized that the canvassing really worked because the Sunday that we invited people to come, the church had 30 visitors.”—Emma, freshman


“Let me tell you it was an amazing experience! We had great training from our instructor and then we were sent out! We went into the neighborhood and told people about our church. The Lord was truly speaking through me to spread his Word. I loved sharing my faith with strangers. It was just such a cool experience to be able to tell people about my faith and what amazing things the Lord has done for us.”—Sophia, freshman


“To say that being a part of this program was a huge blessing, would be true, but it goes way beyond that. It has given me lots of confidence to just share God’s Word in my everyday life, not only when I’m on a specific trip to do just that. Some people you meet while canvassing are 100 percent not interested, which is so very sad. But there are also those that you get to talk to that just totally open up to the message. Those are the moments in which you can really just see the Holy Spirit working through you. There was one lady I talked to who said that after she read the brochure she got in the mail, she passed it on to a family member. That in itself was super exciting, but it got even better! She asked for a couple more because she thought she could keep sharing it! Isn’t that so cool? To sum it up, I feel so much stronger in my faith, and I can’t wait to do this again next year!”—Hannah, sophomore

Kingdom Workers coordinated the student volunteers for this trip. Interested in participating in a mission trip in the future? Find out more about Kingdom Workers at www.kingdomworkers.com.

 

 

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Author:
Volume 102, Number 08
Issue: August 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

The truth about lies

The truth about lies

Rumors can hurt, but Jesus is always there to help.

So you’re walking down the hallway at school. Just another normal day, right? That’s what you think until you see the quiet stares from people looking at you like you’re from another planet. And they’re whispering. You think, Is there something on my shirt? Is my hair messed up? You duck into the bathroom to check the mirror, but nothing looks out of place. You start to head out the door when your best friend pulls you aside and tells you that someone started a nasty rumor about you. Your stomach drops. What do you do?

High school can be nasty—real nasty. I don’t care if you go to public school or private school because there’s always sin around every comer. Private schools are not by any means perfect just because they are “Jesus schools.” The rumors at my private school can be nasty, and I definitely wouldn’t want to be the object of one.

Sadly enough, I became involved in one, and it stunk. Someone pulled me aside and told me that my boyfriend cheated on me with a girl I considered to be my friend. I felt betrayed, hurt, and most of all disappointed. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t talk to my boyfriend who was five hundred miles away at college, and I didn’t know if I could trust my so-called “friend.” People left and right were telling me things about my own life I didn’t even know, so how in the world would I know whom to trust?

Of course I had talked to my close friends about it. But the thing that helped me the most was the religion class I had the period after I found out about the rumor. Sitting there in class, I was reminded to pray.

When the topic of rumors comes up, the “first grade” answer is that you ask Jesus for help. Well, I’m going to be honest with you: That’s not always the first thing that comes to mind. Most likely, you’re a typical teenage kid, and you panic. I’ve been there. You want to know who started it, and you probably want to confront them. Or maybe you’re a person who just wants to hide out in the bathroom for the rest of your life. Whatever kind of person you are, there’s one thing you should do before you go hunt anyone down or change your name and attempt to leave the country. That one thing is to pray.

When I felt like everyone was against me and lying to my face, I went to the one person I knew would tell me the truth when no one else would. That was Jesus. All I wanted that day was the truth, and by praying for help, Jesus led me to it. He helped me to stay calm and handle the situation. I realized that it doesn’t matter what other people say.

So finally I talked with people who would know whether the rumor was true or not. And with Jesus’ help, I decided that the rumor was exactly that: a rumor.

I don’t know why people start rumors, and I probably never will understand it fully. I know high school can seem like an endless circle of gossip sometimes, but don’t go hunt anyone down, and please don’t change your name and move to another country. You may feel like you’re physically or emotionally at your weakest, but with God you’re always at full strength.

Pray, because when rumors and lies hurt, Jesus can help.

The author asked to be kept anonymous.

 

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Author: Anonymous
Volume 102, Number 6
Issue: June 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Death is nothing to be afraid of

Death is nothing to be afraid of

Even though it can be sad when someone dies, take comfort knowing that Jesus has power over death.

Mason DeNoyer

Picture yourself sitting in one of the church pews listening intently to the sermon for a loved one’s funeral. What goes through your mind at that time? Is it sadness? Joy? Maybe a little bit of both?

Death is a scary thing to think about, but because of what Christ did for all people on the cross we no longer need to be afraid or sad because of death.

I had a grandparent who was near and dear to my heart pass away after three long and hard years of battling cancer. It was a challenging time for my family and me because we knew that we would not see him again until we were reunited in heaven. But we know he is in heaven because Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). It is a comforting message during times of death.

For the people who loved my grand-father but do not believe in God, it was much sadder. It was their last time seeing him at all. They do not believe the comforting message God gives to us Christians. Our job as Christians isn’t just to keep the good news about heaven and eternal life to ourselves. No, we want to go out and proclaim the good news of heaven to others so that others will realize that the deaths of loved ones don’t have to be all about sadness.

Here’s something else about death. When you go to a funeral, you can tell the difference between a believer’s funeral and an unbeliever’s funeral. It’s obvious. A believer’s funeral is Christ-centered. Don’t get me wrong. Both kinds of funerals are sad! Both are sad because they won’t see the loved one again on earth. But believers find hope in Christ.

Two thousand years ago Jesus encountered the death of a dear friend. When Jesus heard that Lazarus had died, he did not control his emotions. He cried. It isn’t wrong to cry when death occurs. Jesus called his friend’s death a temporary sleep and then raised Lazarus from the dead. This shows how Jesus has power over death.

In Revelation God reminds us that Jesus will wipe away our tears because there will be no more death. We won’t have to worry about death.

Here on earth if God chooses that it is time for a person to die, God has his reasons and knows what is best for that person. We have no right to question why God does what he does because he is God and knows what is right.

The next time you are at a funeral, your thoughts and emotions may be mixed. But take comfort knowing that Christ won the epic battle on Calvary and then rose again from the dead. Death is no longer such a scary thing to think about but rather a happy time knowing that the person who died is with Jesus in heaven and that we will have a wonderful reunion in heaven.

And remember, don’t keep this precious truth to yourself but spread it to others so that there are more joyful reunions. “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

Mason DeNoyer, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member at Peace, Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

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Author: Mason DeNoyer
Volume 102, Number 4
Issue: April 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
Forward in Christ grants permission for any original article (not a reprint) to be printed for use in a WELS church, school, or organization, provided that it is distributed free and indicate Forward in Christ as the source. Images may not be reproduced except in the context of its article. Contact us

 

Social Networking: An adversary or ally?

Teentalk

Instead of using social media to tear others down, let’s use it help others and to share the gospel message.

Aaron Petersen

Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are just a few of the social networking sites out there. They are a great way to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. They can help invite people to events and let people see what you are doing. I believe that people like to see what other people are doing and the things they have done.

With these new ways to connect, there are also new ways to destroy. Cyber bullying is one of the hot topics in the news right now. It has even led people to take their own lives. Where does most cyber bullying come from? You guessed it, social media.

Social media gives a bully a whole new way to victimize people, without even looking that person in the eye. There is absolutely no confrontation when someone is a cyber bully. They can say what they want and not worry about others around them. It’s totally different than when someone is bullying in a school setting when there are teachers everywhere and others around who could stop the bullying. Cyber bullying is online, and, sadly, it isn’t usually known until the victim notifies an adult or does something so people take notice. The bad thing is that these people sometimes don’t talk to anyone else and believe the only answer is suicide. So social networking receives a bad rap.

But what if we teens worked to change that? I invite you to try out my new idea: cyber gospel. Think about how many people have computers at home, travel with laptops, and have smartphones and other Internet devices. What if we turned that into a whole new mission? Jesus says in Matthew 28:19, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I say, “Why not go and make disciples without even leaving your couch?” We can use these devices to spread God’s infallible Word to the ends of the earth.

Now some might say, “WELS already has a website. They are already doing that.” But think how many people wake up in the morning and search the WELS website on Google. I don’t think there are too many, but I can tell you how they get led there. You! I always think of the analogy of five friends. If I have five friends and they have five friends, and so on—you quickly realize that you are connected to everyone in the world. Just think, after the great flood, only Noah and his family were left. All the six billion people on this earth came from one of those survivors. So everyone on this earth is related to one another. Would you let your own brother go down to cyber bullying, or would you stand up for him and give him hope? Could you tell him that even though he is going through a tough time, God is there to support him and loves him even if a thousand bullies say he’s no good?

How do you cyber gospel? It’s really easy. Instead of posting what you are eating for lunch, try posting something encouraging and helpful for others. Instead of posting how ugly someone’s shoes are, try complimenting them. These kinds of things are contagious. All it needs is one person, and that person is you.

So I encourage you, brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s go cyber gospel . . .

Aaron Petersen, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member of St. Paul, Lake Mills.

 

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Author: Aaron Petersen
Volume 102, Number 2
Issue: February 2015

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen Talk: Being bold

Sometimes it’s difficult to stand up for what we believe in, but we need to let our light shine.

Annah Dobson

It’s not always easy to be bold—to stand up for what you like, love, and believe. We all have times where we just want to fade away in the back, ignore the questions, and disappear from everyone’s mind. But we shouldn’t.

One day I was hanging out with my friends, talking. We started talking about high school. The majority of the girls in the group go to public school. They know that I go to Lakeside Lutheran High School. So one girl asked why I go there. Another said she was thinking of going there but knew she could use her money for college or something better. They all made their case for why I should change schools.

Finally one of my friends asked again why I go to Lakeside. I didn’t know what to say. I stood there for a moment, then I quickly changed the subject and tried to forget how I didn’t answer her question.

On my way home I couldn’t shake how I had failed to say anything. That night I recalled my religion class and how we talked about being bold in our faith and standing firm in what we believe. I always thought in class, Yeah, yeah. I can speak my faith very well. It will never happen to me that I won’t be able to. Well, that night I proved myself wrong. I just didn’t understand why!

I felt so alone. I knew I had done the wrong thing and thought I was so stupid. If it had been anyone else, he or she would have been right on the ball and said the truth.

But I soon began to realize that I wasn’t the only one. Peter was right there in the same boat with me. He had denied being a follower of Jesus, not only once but three times (John 18:15-27). I could never understand how Peter could have done such a thing. But as I stepped into his shoes, I realized that with everything going on around me, I had done exactly the same thing.

I know what I can do differently next time. I can boldly show my faith by stopping, taking a breath, and thinking for a moment. I can show my beliefs by saying why I love Lakeside, why I am glad—no, privileged—to be attending such a school.

They may not want to spend thousands of dollars on four teenage-crazed years of their life. But I am proud to say that I go to a high school where we pray a lot and set time aside every day to worship. I go to Lakeside because I want to stay close to Jesus. I don’t want to forget about him now or even later on. I want to stay forever close to my Lord, who will bring me to my rightful home in heaven. I’m just sorry I didn’t say that when I had the chance.

When you get caught in a sticky situation and you feel like curling up in a ball or crawling away to hide, don’t freeze up. Pray! God will guide you in what to say. Even if you do make a mistake, you will learn from it and know what to say next time. Like it says in Acts 4:29, “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.”

Don’t hide your light. Let it shine!

Annah Dobson, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member at Immanuel, Farmington, Wisconsin.

 

 

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Author: Annah Dobson
Volume 101, Number 12
Issue: December 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen Talk: God is in control

Doubt about the future can drive you crazy until you realize who’s in control.

Amelia Asmus

A person’s entire school career prepares them for the life ahead of them. From preschool to senior year of high school is typically about the amount of time someone has to choose what field of work they want to enter. A lot of people decide what they want to be by the time that they enter high school. I am not one of those people.

When I was little, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but when I entered my freshman year, I realized that I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life anymore. I began to get scared. The majority of my classmates had already chosen what jobs they wanted and were even starting to plan what colleges they should look into. My head was starting to spin, and I seemed frozen in time while the rest of the world flew by me.

Then one night, after spending a lot of time thinking about my dilemma, I turned to God’s Word for guidance. I found Jeremiah 29:11: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” Then I sort of had an epiphany: It was completely okay that I was uncertain. God is in control. I need to let him do the planning, because his plans have no flaws.

That one little Bible passage brought me so much comfort. I do not know my future—even what is going to happen tomorrow—but that doesn’t matter. God has a plan designed specifically for me, and I pray that God gives me the faith to trust his path and to follow him without a doubt. God once told Abraham to pack up his family and everything he owned and go to a place that God would show him. Abraham trusted God wholeheartedly and gladly followed God’s command to leave.

Imagine the amount of blessing that God has in store for us if we put our trust in him. From the beginning of time, God had a plan to save us from sin by sending his one and only Son to die on a tree. The entire Bible is centered around that promise of a Savior. God had a plan to save the entire human race from eternal damnation, so why wouldn’t someone put their trust in God when it comes to their future job?

I had my whole life planned out for me about a year and a half ago. But now I have absolutely no idea what I want to do. I strongly believe that God faced me with this

indecision to wake me up and show me that I am not in control—he is. I realize that it’s a terrifying thought if I’m in control. God’s control, on the other hand, is steadfast and strong. Being unsure about the future is okay. What really matters is trust in God, because he always leads you onto the right path.

So now, as I listen to all my classmate talk about becoming teachers, doctors, and football stars, I know that it is completely okay not to know what job I want right now. God has a plan for me, and I know that he is going to do what is best, because he loves me.

Amelia Asmus, a junior at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, is a member at Trinity, Watertown, Wisconsin.

 

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Author: Amelia Asmus
Volume 101, Number 10
Issue: October 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen Talk: Change can be scary

Change can be scary

Everyone on earth must go through change, but, thankfully, God never changes.

Aaron Schultz

The time came for the school year to draw to a close. Leaving the school building, I said good-bye to my closest friends. Freshman year was not to be forgotten. The transfer from grade school to high school was a little intimidating, but after a couple of days I was used to the new school life.

While I was leaving, I looked into my yearbook at the autograph section to read the notes people had written me. One message stood out to me the most. It said, “Don’t ever change!” I kept the thought close throughout the summer.

With that thought in mind, I came back to school, now a year older, and I noticed things had drastically changed. I’m not talking about moving up a class, receiving new courses and lockers, and making new friends. I’m talking about the attitudes of fellow classmates. Some people changed so much over the summer. Their new attitudes and personalities scared me.

Everyone must go through change. After all, it is a part of growing up. Change can be good. But change is also scary, as in changing to bad attitudes that harm you and others. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). We should keep our attitudes to what reflects Jesus and live according to what God says.

However, keeping a Christlike attitude in this sinful world is not easy. The devil comes to us in the form of friends who do not reflect Christ’s attitude and tempt us into changing our Christian lifestyle just to fit in. If we don’t, we’ll get picked on and maybe lose some friendships.

We can be thankful that Jesus never changed. When he was tempted in the desert, Jesus resisted with God’s Word saying, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’ ” (Matthew 4:10). Could Jesus have escaped being arrested, tortured, and crucified? Yes. But did he? No! Jesus willingly suffered so we wouldn’t have to pay for our sins. And since he rose from the dead, God now gives us a new holy life in Jesus.

Now that we are children of God and have the attitude of Christ Jesus, we dare not change back to the sinful life we once lived in. How do we keep our Christian attitudes then? Regularly going to church and Bible class, doing personal Bible study, and surrounding ourselves with fellow Christians.

Looking at the yearbook notes even more, there was another sentence I read. Another friend wrote “I hope you continue to shine a light on everyone you meet.” As children of God, we can share our Christian faith by our attitudes. When other people see this, they will want to know why we act the way we do. This is a great opportunity to show how much our Savior loves us. We can spread that light to others so they can hear the good news.

The quote “People change. Memories don’t” is very true. As we go on with the rest of our lives, the people we meet will change, and so will we. But the memories we make will never change. I also can always trust in God because “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). No matter what may happen, God will always stay perfect. Guaranteed.

Aaron Schultz, a junior at Luther Preparatory School, Watertown, Wisconsin, is a member at First Lutheran, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

 

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Author: Aaron Schultz
Volume 101, Number 8
Issue: August 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen Talk: Share God’s grace

Here are some important things to remember as you share your faith in Jesus.

Angelina Kim

Grace is the undeserved love of God for sinners. Believers receive the gift of forgiveness through faith. These are two statements that we as Christians should share.

I am a believer in Christ, a Lutheran, and a member of a WELS church. Unfortunately, most of my family members are either atheists or Buddhists. Having loved ones who reject Jesus surely is not easy, and if they pass away before you even get a chance to share the Word of God, it is heartbreaking. For many years my faith was strong, yet I was scared to discuss sin and the need for a Savior with my unbelieving family members.

Not every Christian teenager has the same situation as I do, but you might have friends from public school, coworkers, neighbors, or maybe family members who do not attend church.

Where should I talk to them? When? How should I start the conversation? What is the most important part that I must share with them? These are the four main questions that I was unsure of. I would like to share with you what I have learned as I talked to my pastors and teachers.

First, where should you talk about Jesus? When Jesus said “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), he didn’t just mean at church. It can be at school or even on an airplane. Pastor Kim, a pastor of East Seoul Canaan Church in South Korea, told me a story of his mission trip to Beijing, China. During the two-and-a-half-hour flight, he got to know a Korean passenger well enough that the pastor shared the faith with him and even invited him to church. Later the passenger did visit the church.

Next, when should you share your faith? You might feel awkward when you have a conversation with your friends about serious religious subjects like heaven and hell. Always think as if you are the last Christian this person will ever meet before they face the judgment of God. Now is the time.

Okay, so you have decided to share the Word of God to others right now, wherever you are. But how should you start the conversation? How to start the conversation is probably the hardest part. First, if a person you are trying to share the Word with is not someone you know well, you need to get to know them: Ask how they are, about their family, their jobs or school work, whether they are believer or not, and so on. Then, see if the person needs the law or the gospel first. If a person isn’t aware of his or her sinfulness and doesn’t realize their need for a Savior, you should use the law as a mirror, in a loving way, to show the person his or her sin. On the other hand, if the person already recognizes his or her sin and is searching for the way to be forgiven—like the jailer at Philippi—you can say, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Lastly, tell the new Christians that we are saved by grace and faith alone. The very first Bible verse I learned was Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” What comfort and certainty this verse gives about our salvation!

Angelina Kim, a junior at Shoreland Lutheran High School, Somers, Wisconsin, is a member at Faith, Antioch, Illinois.

 

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Author: Angelina Kim
Volume 101, Number 6
Issue: June 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Talk to God

The words, “It has been a crazy week,” echo through the hallways of every high school. But how often do we forget that our greatest help comes from Jesus?

Samantha Sievert

Life is stressful. It’s inevitable. Sometimes we find it hard to cope with the chaos of life. The pressure put on us by parents, teachers, coaches, employers, and friends can make it difficult to focus on what is really important. What happens when we feel the pressure build and we have to shoot an important free throw? What happens when we have a difficult clarinet solo? Do we call on God in times of stress, or do we push him aside and let the pressure of a chaotic life get to us? It seems that we tend to abandon God when we feel the most pressure.

The truth is that even when we are nervous, the best person to help is God. In Psalm 46:10, the Lord tells us, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Sometimes we feel that we don’t need to bother God with our problems. But he is God, almighty and powerful, and he wants us to take the time to be still and talk to him. You know the old phrase, “You should stop to smell the roses.” I think we should change the phrase to “You should stop to talk to God.”

One of the best things about God is that he is never too busy for us. You will never have to leave a message after the tone. Jesus is our greatest friend, and we should make an effort to talk to him every day. What would your best friend do if you went a day or two without talking to him or her? Thankfully for us, Jesus doesn’t keep track of how many times we forget to talk to him.

God doesn’t require a fancy prayer. He just wants to hear from us about anything. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I talk to God like he is a friend sitting next to me. He doesn’t expect much; he just wants to hear from us. God is never too far away. “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

We know that we talk to God, but shouldn’t we listen to him too? God gives the best advice through his Word. We can find it all over the pages of the Bible. It doesn’t matter if we are feeling lonely, depressed, frustrated, or brokenhearted—God wrote something for us. What a comforting thought it is that God knew in advance that we would be feeling lonely, so he gave us Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Spending a few minutes each day finding what advice God gives you can be so important. God has a lot to say in his Word, so we should take the time to listen.

A chaotic life is unavoidable. We know that for sure, but we also know that there is something to keep us calm in the face of pressure. Exodus 14:14 tells us, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Don’t worry about anything. God’s got your back!

Samantha Sievert, a senior at Illinois Lutheran High School, Crete, Illinois, is a member at Zion, Crete.

 

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Author: Samantha Sievert
Volume 101, Number 5
Issue: May 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen Talk: Growing up with non-Christian parents

Jesus makes a difference in our lives, but being his disciple sometimes comes with challenges.

Michael Wu

My parents sent me to a Christian school not because of the religion aspect but because they believed that a private school would give me a better education. They wanted the best for me. But my mom was Buddhist and my father an agnostic, so I knew the conflict in belief would cause some problems in the future.

My parents, however, were surprisingly receptive of my beliefs. My father didn’t care what I believed in, and my mom, although she clearly didn’t agree with my faith, told me that I can believe in whatever I want to believe in.

Even though I didn’t have to do any convincing for my parents to accept that I was Christian, other things always seemed to take priority over taking me to church. They seemed to consider going to church services as something that was unnecessary and something that I could only attend once all the work was done. I would often find myself running errands, doing homework, or on a family vacation on Sunday mornings, rather than in church where I much rather would have been.

This put me in a dilemma. I didn’t want to disobey my parents, but at the same time I knew that going to church and studying the gospel were more important than my parents seemed to think they were. The only thing I could do was be as persistent as possible, trying to show my parents how important being a Christian was to me. When I was required to attend church for something like a school event, I stayed for the entire service rather than leaving halfway through like I used to so many years ago. I asked my parents to take me to church every Sunday even when I knew the answer would be, “We probably won’t have time this weekend.” I did this to try and get the point across that I wanted attending church to be a routine for me, rather than a once in a while event.

As time passed they seemed to realize that I really valued my beliefs. I read devotions each night and was attending church more regularly. Our family schedules started to work around Sundays rather than through them. I am lucky enough to live very close to church and started walking there each Sunday. Now I am freely able to practice my faith and am no longer held down by the restrictions I had growing up.

I was fairly lucky growing up. My parents sent me to a Christian school, and, although they didn’t support my beliefs, they didn’t restrict them either. As time has passed I feel my parents are becoming more accepting of Christianity. As it stands my mother is now atheist, and my father is an evolutionary creationist. Although they are not Christian, they are not very stubborn in their beliefs. I’ll continue to share Jesus with them and pray they will become Christians.

Sometimes the choice between obeying your parents and obeying God can be a difficult one. Remember that God is all-powerful and your faith is more important than facing an earthly punishment. I have sometimes thought about just giving up on converting my parents. I’ve wondered whether it is truly working or if I should just not waste my time. But even though a result might not be visible right away, giving up should never be an option. Always be respectful of your parents and remember that there is always a way with God.

Michael Wu, a sophomore at California Lutheran High School, Wildomar, California, is a member at Reformation, San Diego.

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Author: Michael Wu
Volume 101, Number 4
Issue: April 2014

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Teen Talk: Let your light shine

It should not matter to us how popular or unpopular we are. All that should matter is that we do not hide our faith.

Ashley Dyrssen

What are some things that you think about before you head off to school in the morning? Maybe, “What should I wear today? What will other people think of my outfit? I hate my hair!” Okay, maybe that is more from a girl’s point of view. From a guy’s point of view you may be wondering about other things: “Will I play well in my game tonight? What will people think of me if I ask that girl out?” We might wonder if we will do something to become the nerd that everyone ignores.

A big struggle for teens is showing people who we really are. Many of us feel like we are out of place. We are scared of what our friends may think of us. For instance you may want to act, be on the chess team, or want to play the trombone, but your friends reaction keep you from following through. What others think of the clothes we wear, the personalities we are stuck with, or our appearances may make us change. Sometimes we might even change our attitude towards God.

As little kids most of us went to church or Sunday school and sang many songs about Jesus, but now that we are older we have a totally different slant on all those things. We may not want to live our faith because other people may think it is not cool. We skip church because we think that other people will judge us for going, but that should not matter.

Just because we think going to church may not be the cool thing to do, it still is the right thing to do. What friends think about our church attendance does not matter. What matters is what God says, and he tells us not to stop meeting together.

This is a case where we should not care about what others think of us, but it should be a time when we can let our light shine. God says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We know that since we believe in God we will have eternal life in heaven. The “cool” things that other people do—like drink or do drugs—should not matter to us.

We should not be afraid of what other people think of us. God will help us through all our troubles no matter how big or small. It should not matter to us how popular or unpopular we are. All that should matter is that we do not hide our faith just because it is uncool. People make us think that we have to be like them because that is how we will stay friends, but that might be the time to evaluate if these are the friends we should have.

Jesus had this same issue that we have. People had different expectations for him. Some just wanted him there to be their earthly king and free them from the Roman reign. Others just wanted him to take care of their physical needs and do miracles. Jesus had to overlook all those incorrect expectations and do the right thing. He obeyed his heavenly Father and died for the sins of the world.

Even though it might not always be the popular choice, we are forgiven and can follow God’s will. Don’t be afraid to let your light shine and be uncool.

Ashley Dyrssen, a sophomore at California Lutheran High School, Wildomar, California, is a member at Beautiful Savior, Carlsbad.

 

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Author: Ashley Dyrssen
Volume 101, Number 2
Issue: February 2014

Copyrighted by WELS Forward in Christ © 2017
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Teen Talk: Standing out

Sometimes we are tempted to blend in and slide into sin with others, but Jesus is the one thing needful.

Brittany Moldstad

Have you ever been completely judged for what you believe in? I think most, if not all, of us can say we have. Ever since I started high school I hated listening to people babble on and on about my faith and my religion. It’s always been a struggle because occasionally I might collapse and slide along with the peer pressure. Sometimes it’s easier to do that than to just walk away or to say anything.

Living miles and miles away from home can be a struggle. I live at a dorm school, so I rarely see my folks. Sometimes I forget all that my parents have taught me about being a good and well trained Christian. When friends want me to do something not God-pleasing, I occasionally go along.

Many of us Christian teenagers try to be that “cool” kid and give into temptation. Why do we think that we have to? Do we gain anything? Instead, we may stray away from the one thing needful, which is Jesus Christ. We all sin in our daily lives, I get that, but why do we have to sin just because someone else wants us to? Doing what is wrong kills us from the inside out and destroys us like venom.

Recently I discovered that saying no is the most powerful thing a Christian can say in a peer pressure situation. Isn’t that the point of being a Lutheran—being a witness for Christ? God says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The devil is continually tempting and distracting us to leave the narrow road to heaven.

People constantly tell us that we are just “goody goodies” who think we are better than them. Really? Why so quick to judge? Think about the Lutheran church in this way: The church is like a hospital; we are all sick and dying because our sinful nature corrupts us. God is our doctor. He is the only one that can heal us from our disease.

I have felt many times that no one is ever on my side, that being alone feels better than standing up for my faith. I always look at the negative angle of things. Constantly we seem to be distracted by all the blessings God has to offer us and instead seek disastrous temptations. This should not be the case. We fail every single day when we try to be that “cool” kid who thinks we don’t need God’s medicine, the gospel.

Why do we feel like we need to give in to temptation when we know it’s clearly a sin? Honestly, is it worth doing all those sinful acts just so we won’t get judged by others? Well, that’s false; everybody gets judged sometimes. The reason people are so quick to judge Lutherans is because they don’t want to admit that we might be right. So stop trying to fit in when obviously you can’t. Instead follow God’s Word, and you will never fall.

Next time you think high school is stressful or a place to just give up, think twice. The fact that people may judge isn’t supposed to be taken in a bad way. If you really think about it, it means they notice how you live your life not of this world, but for God’s glory.

Brittany Moldstad is a graduate from Great Plains Lutheran High School, Watertown, S.D., and currently a freshman at Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minnesota, and a member at Peace, North Mankato. 

 

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Author: Brittany Moldstad
Volume 100, Number 12
Issue: December 2013

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