Teen Devotions

Transformed – teen devotion – February 19, 2017

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9

The peacemakers

How would you define “peace”? No one bugging you? No work or responsibilities in the near future? Everyone happy with you? That would be nice. But there’s more to peace then that.

Have you ever gotten into a big fight with someone close—a friend, a brother or sister, perhaps even mom or dad? That was bad. Now imagine you’re still fighting. You haven’t made up yet. You’re not sure you’ll ever talk to this person again. Soon after the anger passes comes a gaping hole when you realize you may never talk to this person again unless peace is made.

Even after the big fights have been resolved, its easy to think that the other person is to blame or at least shares the blame for the fight. Here’s the thing: You’re the one who broke the peace when you and mom got into a fight. You’re the one who broke the peace when you gossiped about your good friend and now the two of you aren’t talking anymore. You’re the one who broke the peace by mouthing off to the teacher. You broke the peace.

You’ve also broken peace with God. And if that relationship were never fixed, the reality is that you would never get to talk with God again, never feel his love, never have his care and attention.

God did not want things to end like this. Something was required to make peace, to make up for your past misconduct, especially because God did nothing to break the peace. It was all you.

And God did what needed to be done, even though it wasn’t his fault. He sent the Prince of Peace, Jesus, God’s own Son, to make peace. Without the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness. That was the price. That’s how bad our sins are. The wages of sin is death. But Jesus died in our place. He made peace by his death and resurrection.

Through faith in Christ you have peace with God—a blessing! Because you have peace with God as his own beloved child of faith, you can have peace with others. After all, as God has forgiven you much, you can forgive others and make peace with them.

Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, Thank you for making peace between me and God. Help me now to live at and work for peace with others. 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 – February 12, 2017

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5

The meek

When was the last time you used the word meek? Unless you were singing “Oh Jesus, So Meek, Oh Jesus so Mild” recently, it has probably been awhile since you’ve used that word, if at all in regular conversation. “Meek” is just another word for humble.

Next big question: What is humility? Let’s start by what it is not. Humility is NOT being a push-over. Humility is NOT about ignoring compliments given to you. Humility is NOT about having no opinions of your own. Finally, humility is NOT necessarily about keeping your head down, never taking credit for a job well done, never setting goals.

Humility is not about ignoring focus on yourself. It’s about not internalizing the focus on yourself. Humility means that we say, “Life isn’t about me.”

The bad news is being humble and being young don’t seem to mix. #SorryNotSorry. Truth hurts. You are not known for thinking outside of self. Instead, you often think and act as if the world revolves around you.

Part of that is hormones. Part of it is the transition from kid to adult. A good majority of this, however, is from a broken nature. By nature, we are self-centered. And if you’re saying to yourself, “Not me. I’m not self-centered. I’m humble!”—guess what? That’s an awfully proud statement to make.

More bad news. Everyone fails at humility. Even worse, you can’t grow out of sin. It just shows up differently. In the grand scheme of eternity we’ve got nothing to be proud about. No amount of A+’s, or medals, or “likes” gets us any closer to God.

Feeling pretty humble? Maybe broken is a better word. Can I give you some good news? We do have something to be proud of. We have a God who was willing to humble himself, to lower himself for our sake to make us great. The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians that Jesus humbled himself. He was even willing to submit to death on a cross so that sin would be paid for. He did all this so that the new heavens and the new earth of the eternity would become ours through faith in Christ.

Yes, blessed are we who are humble, who recognize our sin and who rejoice in our Savior and his gifts.

Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, in humility I confess my sins. I owe everything to 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 – February 5, 2017

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3

The poor in spirit

What’s up? Life, right? There’s school—both the classes and sports or theater or whatever. There are relationships and friendships. There’s life at home. And perhaps, you even have a job on top of it all.

Feeling kind of stretched? Sure there are fun times. But not always. Sometimes there’s just too much. Trying to balance everything could lead to poor grades, poor performance on the field, poor relationships, or maybe just poor, because any money you do make at your job goes to expenses for things you have and purchases for things you want.

Put these altogether and you might end up feeling poor in another way, poor in spirit. Poor means you’re missing something. Poor in spirit could mean you’re feeling like you’re running on empty, spiritually. How is that blessed?

Consider this. When you’re short on cash and you need to fill up the car, would mom or dad still pitch in for a worthy cause? When you realize you’re not doing so hot in class, isn’t that when you bite the bullet, get over your pride, and get some help? When your relationships are strained, whether it’s between you and a friend, significant other, or even family, that’s when a ‘talk’ is needed.

To be poor in spirit means you recognize you need spiritual help.

We all need help. You’re starting to realize that life is not all fun and games. Things are hard. And more often than not, you’ve messed up. You’ve done, thought, and said things that are wrong. There’s a reason for that. We’re sinners. Let’s just get over the pride and admit it. We are poor. We need help.

We have help. We have Jesus. He has all the riches of heaven. And he left it all for a time to make you rich, to give heaven to you by paying for your sins and coming to life again. He gives you the riches of his love and forgiveness. In this way, no matter what, you are blessed.

Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, I am poor. Yet you have made me rich by your overflowing grace. Lead me to repentance. Help me to remember I am rich in forgiveness. Then lead me to rejoice in all I have from 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 – January 29, 2017

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-20

Encountering Jesus: Training

Starting anything new can be paralyzing and nerve wracking. It might be starting at a new school, playing on a new team, or working at a new job. It can be a frightening thing to consider, even paralyzing.

Now, imagine starting a new job, in a totally new field of work, in a moment’s notice. That’s what Peter and Andrew did. They were simple fisherman with no training in teaching or leading. In a moment, Jesus changed all that. He called them to leave their fish nets behind to start a new job in a new field of work—soul saving and fishing for people’s hearts.

“But I don’t know the Bible that well. I’m not that smart; I’m a simple fisherman. I don’t even know what or how to teach.” That’s what I might have said.

But Peter or Andrew didn’t. Immediately they left their nets to follow Jesus based only on the promise from Jesus, “I will make you to be fishers for people.” Jesus promised to equip them to do what he had just called them to do.

I’ve never met a parent who had a trial run at parenting first. They may have read some books or watched some videos about being a parent. But they didn’t get to try it out first. God called your parents to be parenst when they gave birth to you and promised, “I will equip you to be a parent.”

I’ve never met a pastor who had a trial run at pastoring first. Sure, he went to Seminary and had a vicar/intern year. But until he was installed as pastor, he didn’t really know what being a pastor meant or looked like in that new ministry. Or maybe that’s just me. But he had—as did I—the promise from Jesus, “I will equip you to be a pastor.”

Jesus promises to train us for the things he calls us to be, just like he promised to equip Peter and Andrew to fish for people. Paul says it like this, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

So relax. Whether you’re taking on something new or sticking with something old, relax. God will train you to serve him wherever you are and whatever you do. He will be with you to help you, strengthen you, and uphold you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, sometimes in my life I find myself faced with things that I’m not sure I can handle. It feels like I pushed into the deep end of the pool and I’m in over my head. Train me to do the things you’ve called me to do. Strengthen me to do the work and help 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 – January 22, 2017

Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).
John 1:40-42

Encountering Jesus: Share

These days we like to share things about our life. We take a picture of our lunch and hashtag it on Instagram and Facebook. We put a snap of the most every-day things on our snap story. We take selfies. We take pics. We share almost everything about our life, especially the things that we are excited about.

That’s how Andrew felt about Jesus. He didn’t have Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, but he did have feet. The first thing Andrew did after hearing John the Baptist was share with his brother, Peter, what he learned and who he met. He couldn’t keep this quiet. John had told him that Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He had to tell Peter. To him Jesus was the celebrity above all celebrities and he couldn’t wait to share this with his brother and then beyond.

When was the last time you shared Jesus with someone in your life? When was the last time you told someone about Jesus and said, “We’ve found him. The One we need.”

Sadly, though we share many other things about our lives, we don’t share this most important part of our lives with the most important people in our lives. We’re eager to snap a picture, but not as eager to invite a friend to a church night or to share what we believe about Jesus. We share things that we are excited about, but not Jesus? This doesn’t seem quite right.

Why not? Could it be that we’re not as excited about Jesus as Andrew was? Could it be that we’ve been around Jesus so much that he’s almost as normal and routine to us as breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

The answer is to remember why we believe in Jesus in the first place. The answer is to remember why we are willing to give up everything to follow him. We’ve learned and believe that he is the One who takes away our every sin. We’ve learned and believe that he is the One who hears our every prayer and meets all our needs.

Then, as he puts a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts because of who he and what he does, we’ll share it in our lives.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you are the Lamb of God who takes away all my sins. I admit that I’m often not excited to share my faith with other people. I admit that I often keep quiet when I should speak up. Help me to love you again with all my heart and to remember why I love you. And then make me bold to speak up and share you with other people in my life. 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 – January 15, 2017

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Galatians 3:26-27

Encountering Jesus: Defining moment

At the end of each year and into the new year, a lot of evaluation happens. We look at the defining moments of the past year—the good, bad, ugly, and the best. Each year has them. The future is shaped by those moments. We are defined by them.

Imagine standing at the free throw line with the game on the line. Your team is counting on you. Your fans are cheering for you with bated breath. Miss it—you’re a dunce. Make it—you’re a hero.

We face moments like this nearly every day. We face decisions about where we will go to school. We face the choice of whether or not to take that underage drink. We face moments with a boyfriend or girlfriend that can alter our future. Make the wrong choice and you’re done. Make the right choice and your life is on the right track.

But that’s not even the point, is it?

In these moments, whether we make the godly choice or the sinful one, there is a greater defining moment than any of these. It’s your baptism. There, your Savior clothed you with his righteousness and cleansed you with his blood. There your Father adopted you as his child, making you an heir of heaven and a citizen of eternity. This is the biggest defining moment in your life.

Keep going back to it. When you stumble and sin by bad choices and decisions, run back to the baptismal font for forgiveness. When you thrive and God blesses what you do, run back to the font for affirmation from God alone—you are his beloved child. This is one defining moment that didn’t depend on you. It depended on Jesus, and it happened at your baptism.

You may not remember th day of your baptism, but it was one of the most important days of your life. Mark it! And keep returning to it.

Prayer:
Father, today I will be faced with choices and decisions both big and small. Keep me from sinning. Help me to honor you. And, above all, help me remember whose I am—I am yours! You made me your child at my baptism. What a special day that was. 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 – January 8, 2017

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2

Encountering Jesus: No distance too far

On Christmas Day my family and I watched the movie “Sing.” Buster Moon is one of the main characters; he is an eternal optimist and a little bit underhanded. He loves his theater though, and is willing to go to any length in order to preserve and save it. When he is at risk of losing it to the bank, he goes to extraordinary lengths to try to keep it.

How far would you go? How long would you wait? How much would you pay? What is the thing in your life that you would do anything to keep? Who is the person in your life that you would do anything for in order to preserve the relationship?

The Wise Men had encountered Jesus in his Word. Then, they saw that star. And somehow, some way—they knew the star belonged to Jesus. It was his star. He was the One for whom they were willing to travel an incredible distance to worship. They gave up rich treasures in their lives to honor him with their gifts. No distance was too far. No gift was too big.

That’s how Jesus views you. There is no distance too far, no gift too big when it comes to you. In fact, he traveled from heaven’s high throne and was born in Bethlehem for you. He gave up the riches of heaven to give you the riches of heaven. He gave up his own life to give you eternal life. No distance was too far, no cost was too great.

Just like the Wise Men, you’ve seen his star. You’ve encountered Jesus in the Bible. Let nothing keep you from him. He will let nothing keep him from you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you left the riches of heaven for me so that I could have the riches of heaven. There was no distance too far or cost too great. Make me like the Wise Men—let nothing keep me from you. Make me ready and willing to seek you no matter what the cost. 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 – January 1, 2017

As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:9-13

Hope for the holidays: Fresh start with Jesus

Do you struggle with who you are? If you had a “do-over” for 2016, would you change anything? Maybe your relationship with your parents is strained. Have you broken any rules that you know you shouldn’t have? Or maybe there were times that you didn’t show kindness when you could have. We can disappoint others—and ourselves. If you feel like this, then you should know: You are not alone.

Matthew struggled with who he was every day. He was a tax collector—people who were known cheats. As a result, Matthew was a hated man who couldn’t even step foot in church. There was a ban on “those types of people.” Jesus went over to where Matthew was doing his dirty work and asked him to step away from his life of sin and to follow a different path. That path was to follow Jesus. Matthew moved away from sin and followed Jesus.

Jesus cares about you. The love Jesus has for you moved him to action. Jesus sought you out! He saved you, not by approving of sin, but by removing sin. He came to earth at Christmas so that one day he would die on the cross and earn forgiveness for you. Jesus knows you have baggage, but loving you so dearly he forgives you.

And now with the dust settled on the old year and a new year just underway, he desires you to follow him, no matter what your 2016 looked like.

Who will you be in 2017? Are you looking for a fresh start? Jesus offers you one with him. Come, follow him.

Prayer:
Lord, you heal the sin-sick soul. As you called Matthew to follow you, so you have called me to follow you in the pathways of life and on into the heavenly realms for all eternity. As I enter 2017, I hear you calling me to be your disciple. Help me follow 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 – December 25, 2016

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
John 1:1-4

Hope for the holidays: Life from Light

Winter can be a great time. Skiing, skating, and winter sports can put a smile on your face as you tear up the slopes.

Winter can also be a tough time, especially in the north. The sun is often hidden away behind clouds. The wind blows and beats down on you. You’re stuck inside to get away from the tough conditions outside. Some people even suffer with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

For many people Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. It’s a time for the celebration of Jesus and so many other gifts from God. We celebrate with parties, concerts, and special worship services.

For others, it is a time of stress and frustration. Stress and frustration from all the busyness. Stress and frustration from the tension that exists in relationships. At a time when there should be peace on earth, peace is often missing. We may end up suffering from SSD (Seasonal Spiritual Disorder).

People get SAD because the sun is hidden. The same sun that makes plants grow is the sun that makes us alive to thrive.

People get SSD because they have hidden themselves from the Son. Whether by busyness or by distraction, Light from the Son is hidden from them.

Come to Jesus. Come to the manger with the shepherds. Come to worship with the Wise Men. Come, wonder and ponder with Mary.

There in the manger is God, the one who made all things. There in the manger is God, the one who formed you just as you are and just as he wanted you to be. There in the manger is God, the one who rules all things; yes, though he hardly looks like a King, he really is. There in the manger is the one who gives life because he is the Light.

Come stand in the Light! Come bask in his glory! The Son came to give us life by his death. The Son came to set us free by taking our sins on himself. The Son came to give us his perfection as our very own through faith. The Son came to help us in temptation by walking at our side through them. He gets it. He’s been there. The Son came to give us access to the Father’s throne so that we can get help in just the right way at just the right time. The Son came to shine on us with all his love and glory so that we might really live.

So, bask in his Light today. Your life comes from his Light.

Merry Christmas!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, your Light breathes life into my soul. You make me alive to live again. Your peace grants peace to my soul. Your forgiveness grants freedom to my conscience. Your presence gives me hope in dark times. Help me to bask in your glory today and find life in your Light. 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 18, 2016

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
Luke 2:8-21

Hope for the holidays: Jesus is for all

They were dusty, dirty, and smelled like a flock of sheep. These shepherds were the first visitors to praise Jesus as the Savior, and they came just as they were. When Mary and Joseph saw them coming, they didn’t roll their eyes and shut the door. No, they welcomed them into the humble stable where the Savior of the world was lying in a manger. Can you believe it? —A feeding trough for animals like sheep. Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds worshipped Jesus together. Later the Wise Men, a rich and elite crew, did the same.

Christianity isn’t a private party. It isn’t a table reserved for the cool kids. The angels went out to the country among the shepherds to tell them the good news. They also clearly told them that this message wasn’t only for shepherds. The news that the Savior has been born is “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

Middle school, high school, and college can be vicious. Girls can be mean and exclusive for any which reason they choose. Guys can be combative instead of welcoming. It’s hard to fit in, and you might feel like nobody cares about you at all.

At times we might think that even the salvation Jesus brings is just as selective—that so-and-so (or maybe, you) is not “good enough” for the gospel. But that is wrong, sinfully wrong. Jesus is for everyone. “The Lord saves” is the meaning of his name. He saves people coming from every tribe, language, and people. The wise men and the shepherds. The cool kids and the rest of us. He saves us from our sin. There is another seat at the table. Will you join in? Will you welcome another?

Prayer:
Jesus Christ, as I ponder your great love for all people, including me, I worship you. Whether or not I mean much to the world doesn’t matter. I know of your love which matters more to me than all the world. I am moved to praise you with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” 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 11, 2016

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 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 4:14-16

Hope for the holidays: Peace instead of pain

Pain. We all experience it. We all have it. Just in different ways.

Does December make you depressed? The new smartphone or a set of keys to your own car might not be coming. December might be a reminder of how little money your family has. Jesus understands. He’s been there. Hear this: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

Now don’t get me wrong. Jesus isn’t promising you a smartphone, or a car with a big red bow on it. He promises something better. An eternal life with the Lord—tied together by the red ribbon of his blood that flows from the cross. Now that is true riches!

Pain can come with the loss of a family member or a marriage torn apart. There might be an empty chair at the dinner table where Grandpa used to sit. Or a family Christmas at Mom’s might be cut short so that you can finish Christmas Day with a family Christmas at Dad’s. Neither situation is easy.

Jesus understands. He knows the sorrow of death. He knows people who have turned away from him for all the wrong reasons. He knows what relationships are like. His perfect love is there for you.

Maybe there is a different pain—the pain of temptation. Is temptation to sin staring at you in the face until you blush? Does anyone know what it is like to be tempted and to stand pure without giving into temptation?

Jesus knows the strength of temptation. He went through temptation like us. But he did not sin. I don’t tell you this to make you feel like a failure. I tell you this so that you know you have a Helper. More than that, I tell you this so that you know the perfect life of Jesus who earned righteousness, which is yours by faith!

Go to God with repentance in your heart. He knows your hurts and temptations better than anyone. You find God’s amazing love speaking to you in the Word, even if he finds you crunched up in a ball in the corner of your bed. He has compassion on you. He sent Jesus to save you from sin, guilt, and despair.

No matter what pain you have, Jesus reaches out and finds you. He reassures you of his love and understanding in spite of all the pain.

Prayer:
Lord God, struggling with finances, failing in relationships, and falling into sin is not who I am. I am a child of God. You love me, Jesus. I see this from the manger to the cross. Even though there is pain in my life, lead me to you for love and peace. Make me alive in you, O Lord. 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 4, 2016

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:38-42

Hope for the holidays: Be with Jesus

December is crazy, isn’t it? There are the parties—parties at school, parties with friends, and parties with family. Then there are the concerts—band concerts, choir concerts. And don’t forget the shopping! Maybe it’s fun and wonderful, but it can be exhausting.

“We’re just too busy to go to church in December.” Does that sound like you? Do your feet hurt from the mall, and are your eyes strained from Amazon.com? Does your soul feel a little empty?

Stop.

I know it is hard, but just stop. Turn off everything. Leave Target. Come to Jesus.

Come to the manger tucked away in that nativity scene. Right there is a picture of what God did to secure your salvation. He came to earth. He was born among the animals. He lived to die so that we would have peace forever with him. Enjoy that peace—it is what we need! Martha needed to stop; there was one thing she needed. And the one thing is Jesus.

Go to church on Sunday or maybe a special mid-week service! Make it a point to read these online devotions! Read a chapter of the book of Luke each day for the rest of this month! Find the peace of Christ in the middle of the busyness and craziness!

A busy life will always be there. Jump in anytime you want. But make sure you make time to be with Jesus. Fill your soul with the hope and joy that only Christ can bring. Enjoy the beautiful hope of his presence this December!

Prayer:
In this busy month, I know that I will be pulled in many directions. Jesus, help me to be like Mary. Teach me to make time for you. Lead me sit at your feet and hear your words of hope, your love, and my salvation. I will never find peace in the distractions, but you promise me peace that the world cannot give. In your presence, I receive it. Thank you, Lord. 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 27, 2016

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
1 Timothy 4:12

All in this together: True greatness

Seth, Nick, and John—three guys I envied.

Seth was the best athlete to ever attend our school. I wanted to run as fast and jump as high as Seth.

Nick was a genius. He got A’s on all his tests but studied half the amount of time I did. School came easy to Nick. I wanted to have Nick’s brain.

Everyone loved John—especially the girls. He was funny, charming, and good looking. I wanted the same attention that people gave to John.

I thought that if I could just combine these three guys into one person and then become that person, I would be truly great.

God blasted my thought of true greatness. That’s what Jesus did to his disciples. They were arguing with each other about who was greater and Jesus said, “Be last! Be a servant.”

From the day of my baptism, I have always believed in Jesus as my Savior. But I never thought about what made him truly great. His path to greatness was not aimed at being on top, but at the very bottom. His desire was to become the greatest servant of all. That’s just what he did. He gave up heaven to become a man and then served you by taking your place on the cross. Now that’s a great guy!

You can be great, too! You don’t need to be an athlete, a genius or gorgeous. You can find many ways to lower yourself and serve others. Start with your family. What can you do this week to be truly great by serving someone in your family?

Athletes get old, brains slow down, and beauty fades. But you can always be great through being a servant no matter where you are in life.

Prayer:
Jesus, you showed me what true greatness is by becoming my servant. You lowered yourself so that I could be lifted up. You’re awesome. Help me be awesome, too. Convince me that true greatness comes through service. Let me start by serving my family. In your name I pray, 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 20, 2016

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
1 Timothy 4:12

All in this together: Church of today

It bothers me when people say that teenagers are the hope of the future. And, it bothers me when Christians say that teenagers are the church of the future.

Yeah, it’s true. You definitely will have an impact in the world and in the church in the future. But I think that line of thinking shortchanges your abilities. Paul was speaking to a young man named Timothy and he urged him, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example!”

God sees you as a leader right now. When it comes to making a difference, age is just a number! Jesus didn’t just save you from something (your sin). He saved you for something (spreading God’s love to others)! You are the church of today! You can set an example for others to follow—even your own family.

God created families to be mini churches—places where parents and children would learn his Word and put it into practice. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

You can influence your family by simply talking about God with them. Your family needs to be reminded daily about God’s promises and commandments. You can be that reminder! Start a conversation today with your parents or siblings about God. You may be surprised how much you both will enjoy it.

Prayer:
Dear God, thank you for your Word. You show me my sin and my Savior. Help me put your Word on my heart. Help me talk about you with my family. Thank you for making me part of the church of today. Help me influence others for 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 – November 13, 2016

Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:8

All in this together: Your family needs you

I love my kitchen hutch, but not just because it holds all of our dishes. My dad built it in his high school wood-shop class. He built it so that his parents could have a place to keep their dishes. They used it for over 40 years. Now it sits in my kitchen and reminds me of my dad. I’m amazed at how well it’s built. My dad had some serious skills, even at a young age!

He put those skills to use in other ways to help his family in high school. My grandpa was a carpenter who built homes, and my dad helped him build them.

My dad’s family needed him.

I admire how my dad took 1 Timothy 5:8 to heart, even as a teen. “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” My dad used his skills to help provide for his family. He put his faith into action.

Here’s even the better part. My dad carried this attitude into his own family as he got older. He never stopped providing for us. He built upon the attitude he had way back in high school.

I have to admit that I focused a lot of my time on myself in high school. I often thought I was too young to have to think about anyone but myself. I thought that being young gave me the right to be selfish. I believed the lie that my family didn’t need me.

What about you? Do you find yourself making excuses for your selfishness? Do you think your family doesn’t need you?

They do. Maybe they don’t communicate it well, but you’re an important part of your family. They need your help. They need you to put your faith in Jesus into action.

The good news for you and me is that we’re not alone in this. We have our brother, Jesus, who brought us into God’s family through his life and death. You and I needed Jesus. Our lives depended on it. And he delivered! He promises to be with you always.

So, what can you do for your family? I figured out that my family didn’t need me to build them a hutch or a house. Those weren’t my skills. I discovered that God gave me gifts in communication. I learned my family needed me to listen to them. They needed me to talk with them. And it felt pretty cool to use my gifts to make a difference in their lives!

What gifts has God given you? Think about something right now you can do for your family. If you’re not sure, ask your family and friends what you’re good at. They’ll tell you.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for making me part of your family. When I needed you, you delivered! Help me discover and use my gifts so that I can help my family. 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 6, 2016

If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Luke 14:26-27

All in this together: Grow closer

Even if you don’t love the game of basketball, I bet you know what the goal of the game is: Put the basketball in the hoop.

But, a good player knows that sometimes you have to pass the ball away from the hoop so that another player can get a better shot to score a basket. That sounds a little crazy. You deliberately go away from your goal so that you eventually reach it? Yep!

This week, our goal is to grow closer to our families and close friends and partner with them to grow closer to Christ.

So why would Jesus tell us to hate our fathers or mothers, our brothers or sisters? Isn’t hating our family members wrong? Won’t hating them bring us further apart and not closer? What’s Jesus really saying here?

Actually, it’s another case where going “away” from your goal really gets you closer to achieving it.

Jesus’ ultimate goal for you and your family is to hug them in heaven. He wants to spend eternity with you, and that only happens through faith in him. Jesus wants to be number one in your life. But, he knows that other things or people are often put in that prime spot instead of him. So, Jesus uses strong language as a way to get his point across: Don’t let anything come in between you and him.

As we grow closer to Jesus, something amazing happens. Our relationships with others get stronger. Philippians 2:5 says: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.”

Jesus’ mindset was to give up everything so that we could have forgiveness, hope, and life! He made himself a servant. He humbled himself and even died on the cross for us. He showed us unconditional love.

If your goal is to grow closer to family and friends, go first to Jesus. Rest in his promises. Enjoy his forgiveness and love.

As you do that, you’ll notice something happen. That same forgiveness and love will come overflowing out of your own heart into your relationships with others. You’ll grow closer to them by growing closer to Jesus! And then, everybody wins!

Prayer:
Jesus, help me grow closer to you. Remind me each day of the forgiveness and love you have for me. Let nothing come between our relationship. Let that same forgiveness and love overflow out of my heart into my relationships with my family and friends. 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 30, 2016

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. “He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’ “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered. “He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’ “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’ “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 20:1-16

Surprising grace

What kind of Christian are you? Are you a 6 a.m. Christian or a 5 p.m. Christian?

You might be a 6 a.m. sort of Christian if you get up in the morning and think, “How can I serve Jesus today? I can’t wait to do it.” You give him everything that you can. Whether you are serving your family or shopping at the store, your constant thought is “How can I serve Jesus right here, right now?”

You might be a 5 p.m. sort of Christian if you get up in the morning and think, “How can I make this day about me?” You sit on your hands and only think about what you can get out of the day. You lazily lounge around with little to no thought of serving Jesus at all.

But notice, regardless of where these workers fit in the day, Jesus, the landowner, is still coming to them and asking them to come and work. I mean, if I’m the boss, I don’t want the slackers. I want the go-getters, the ones who are on the ball and who are ready to go to work for me. Jesus also wants the ones who have been standing around all day with their hands in their pockets.

Jesus wants us all to come and work.

What we do matters to God, but all we do does not earn God’s favor for us. Notice the pay that each worker receives at the end. Everyone gets paid for a day’s wage whether he worked for 12 hours or only 1. That’s what is so surprising about grace. The worker gets paid out of the master’s generosity, not because of the intensity or length of work. Because of Jesus’ love for us and his surprising grace for us, we have forgiveness of sins and an eternity in heaven regardless of how long, how hard, or how dedicated we are to him. Eternity is a free gift from him!

At the very same time, Jesus would have us get to work right away, right now. He would have us wake up in the morning and say, “My life matters for Jesus; I’m going to get up and serve him today no matter what I do.” And then he would have us lay our heads on our pillows at night and say, “The only thing that counts before God is Jesus’ righteousness.” The only thing that counts is what Jesus did for you. He was, and he still is all in for you. He gave his all for you on the cross. He lives and reigns in heaven for you, all day and all night. His life and his death are the only things that count for you.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, sometimes I think too highly of my work. I boast and brag about all the things I do for you. And sometimes I don’t think enough about what I should be doing for you. I sit on my hands instead of standing on my feet eager and ready to serve. Make me always ready and eager to serve you. Teach me always to rest and rejoice in the gift that you, dear Jesus, have won for me. That’s the only thing that counts. 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 23, 2016

“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’ But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’ Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”
Matthew 25:1-13

Waiting

What are you waiting for? Are you waiting for that special someone to ask you for a date? Are you waiting for that quarterback to notice your perfect route and throw you a perfect pass? Are you waiting to hit that perfect note that will get you first chair? Are you waiting for that package from Amazon or that next update for your favorite video game? Are you waiting for your dad to tell you he’s proud of you, or for your mother to finally talk one-on-one with you about whatever it is that has been twisting you inside-out for weeks?

How do you get ready for that moment to happen? Whether it is practice or training, whether it is constantly watching for the package or eagerly waiting for a moment to talk, we prepare so that we are ready when the moment arrives.

Just like we prepare for a big event, Jesus wants us to get ready for him, because he is coming back soon. There are many days when we have to admit that we don’t spend our time getting ready for Jesus. There are days, maybe even weeks and months, when we spend zero time reading God’s Word or looking forward to hearing it in church. As we read this lesson from Jesus, we have to admit that we have “fallen asleep” AND let our oil run dry.

You may fall asleep every time you make preparing for this world number one in your life, but Jesus stays awake and vigilant for you. You may run dry, but Jesus fills you up with his Word. You might forget to be ready, but Jesus forgives you with the Lord’s Supper. Worldly attractions and your mixed up priorities may tempt you to doze, but Jesus splashes the waters of your baptism in your face.

You don’t have to get ready. You are ready. By Jesus’ work on Golgotha’s cross and by his resurrection, you are ready right now. He simply reminds you today and every day, to stay ready.

So what are you waiting for? What’s number one on your list? Jesus has called you his own in faith! Jesus has given you the victory by his work for you! Jesus is more than a package, he is the complete gift and he is already in your heart. To him, you are always number one! As your Lord and Savior, he calls on you to be ready for his glorious return.

God bless your week in Jesus; you are ready for this!

Prayer:
Dear Lord Jesus, King of heaven and earth, come quickly. I am eager for you to return and take me to be with you in heaven forever! Until then, keep my faith strong and my lamp burning. Fill my oil reserves through your Word and Sacraments and remind me always of your saving work for me so I can help others wake up to your love and grace! In your name I ask it. 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 16, 2016

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
Matthew 13:44

Treasure(d)

If you had to spend every day with just one thing you owned, what would that one thing be? Now, if you had to give up that thing, what would you ask for it? In other words, what do you value most in your life and what it is worth to you?

We live in a world that asks us every day to give, give, give. At school we need to give our time and our energy to our teachers for a grade. We have to give even more to our friends. Some of us have jobs already which require more giving. Even at church we can sometimes be overwhelmed with all the opportunities to give! Today God challenges you, no, blesses you with this thought: “What are you willing to give for me?” Thankfully, God doesn’t leave you alone in your decision. He leaves you with Jesus.

While you ponder that, simply enjoy what Jesus was willing to give up for you. Notice how I said, “enjoy this.” That’s what God wants you to do. Enjoy his gifts and his giving and realize how valuable you are to your Savior! As you think about that, think also about how you are now able to give of yourself, which isn’t always easy!

The Bible tells us that we have Jesus, “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8)

God didn’t make it difficult for us to make the decision to give. He made it painfully easy—through the pain of our Savior Jesus on the cross. God has given us the greatest reason to give. He gave us Jesus, and we are treasured by him. He proved that when he gave everything for us! We have Jesus who forgives us when we don’t think we’re worth much of anything. He says, “I don’t need anything from you. But I want your heart, your life, and your soul.” Because Jesus loves us so much, we want to give everything to our Lord. We work to put him as number one in our lives not because we have to, but because we want to.

What’s the most valuable thing to you? Although you may struggle to show it all the time, it really is Jesus. He is your treasure and you are his. God bless you as you put him as number one, and show others the love of Christ in all you do.

Prayer:
Dear Savior, help me remember that I am precious to you. Help me to remember that you are the most precious thing to me. You did everything for me, help me to say “thank you” every day of my life for you! In your 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 – October 9, 2016

[Jesus] told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”
Matthew 13:31-32

Leaving a legacy

If I went to your classmates, teammates, or friends and asked them to describe you in ten words or less, what do you think they would say? What words would they use? Do you think ‘Jesus-loving’ or ‘Christian’ would be ways they’d describe you? Sadly, my mind goes back to high school, and I’m pretty sure that those two descriptions might not have made my list.

All kinds of trials and temptations come at us daily, especially in high school. Popularity, sports, drama, music, choir, good friends, fun friends (who aren’t necessarily good for you), and family—all of these present you with chances to make good or pretty terrible decisions. They all give you opportunities to add some positive or really negative words to that list of ten.

Jesus knew those challenges would be coming your way. But notice. He doesn’t expect you to be great; he teaches you to have faith in the One who is great. In the parable for this week, Jesus said he wants your faith to be the size of a mustard seed. (By the way, a mustard seed is about the size of the earbud hole on your iPhone 6 or Galaxy S7.)

And then look at the promise Jesus makes. This little seed of faith grows! As it is nourished by the Word and sinks its roots down into Jesus, it grows into something bigger, bigger than we might ever imagine. Eventually, it gets big enough to make an impact on the other plants and animals in the garden too. This mustard seed grows to become shade and refuge for all kinds of birds. The seed of faith grows because it is planted in the work of Jesus—his perfect life, death, and glorious rising from the grave on Easter. This is the work he did for you. Yes, you! You are his forgiven seed. So bloom where you are planted.

Your faith and your life may not be that impressive. But the Savior that your faith holds is impressive. And as you hold him more and as you hold him tighter, you will grow and have a great impact on the people in your life. Not because you’re great, but because he’s great. And then people will know you as you really are, a “Jesus-loving, still-growing, faith-filled Christian!”

Prayer:
Dear Jesus, help me to keep growing up in my faith so that more and more people see and know me as I really am—your dear child, who is Jesus-loving, still-growing, and faith-filled. 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 2, 2016

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27

Foundations of faith

Growing up, were you one of those kids in Vacation Bible School who got all fired up when it came time to do the sing-alongs? You’re probably sitting there right now saying, “No.” Maybe you were that kid that came home and acted like the day was utterly brutal. Then in your room, when no one was around, you sang EVERY SONG! Yup, consider yourself busted. Totally.

One of my favorite songs is based on our reading for this week. The song was “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock.” Remember it? It went like this:

The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
The wise man built his house upon the rock
And the rains came tumbling down!

(By now I’m sure you’re doing or at least thinking of the hand motions, right?! Moving on…)

The rains came down and the floods came up (repeat 2x)
And the house on the rock stood firm!

The foolish man built his house upon the sand (repeat 2x)
And the rains came tumbling down!

The rains came down and the floods came up (repeat 2x)

(And then we come to my favorite part where all of the hyper kids like me made a pretty disgusting noise, or fell to the floor in a clump of splattiness.)

And the house on the sand went SPLAT!

Already today you may be able to say, “That song was truer than I could ever have imagined!”

This month we focus on some parables of Jesus, and in all of them, we see a real man talking to real people about real issues. The first one reminds us that if we try to build our lives, our hopes, our dreams, our friendships, our grades, our whatever on anything but Jesus and his precious Word, we’re going to go splat. Maybe not right away, but eventually it all comes tumbling down. Maybe you’ve even experienced that already.

As you look at these verses again, did you notice that the wind, rain, and storms came and blew against both houses? Jesus never said if they were shacks or castles. You can look in the mirror every day and consider yourself, your looks, your clothes, your life to be in the running with either one. A run-down shack with boards hanging from your roof, ready to fall off with any little gust. Or a confidence filled, “perfectly content with who you are” mighty castle, with soaring towers and a big draw bridge. To Christ it was never about what the house was made of, it was all about what the house was built on.

What a blessing to know that when The Builder looks at you he says, “You know what? That building is so precious to me, I think I’ll buy it with my life!” That’s what Jesus did.

Jesus died for your house—he died for your soul. By grace through faith, you are his forgiven child now, and he wants to build in you as you build on him!

So stay in the Word. It’s so hard, but God wants you there. When you are, you will be in a place where he will comfort you and keep you strong. Be in worship regularly, whether you like the music or not. Go to be fed with the Word of God. Eat it up like you did in preschool! Dine on forgiveness with your fellow believers as you enjoy the Lord’s Supper. Remember your baptism and your confirmation day!

Share the message of Christ with your friends, especially when the wind and waves of life are pounding them! They need you. God placed you in their lives to help keep them from going SPLAT! Oh, and sing. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord—make it about your Lord, and watch the blessings come up! They may not be what you expected, but they will be exactly what you need! Trust in the Rock. Trust Jesus who did more than just give you a foundation. He gave you his life on the cross, and took it back again on Easter to prove to you that he will never fail you!

God bless your week in him, and God bless your foundation, your faith, and your song!

Prayer:
Jesus, help me to build in you and your Word. You are my Rock, my Redeemer, and the One who calms every storm and brings me through them safely. Help me remember your love this week and always. In Jesus 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 – September 25, 2016

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14

Swagger

In the early 1990’s Saturday Night Live aired a series of skits called “Daily Affirmation with Stuart Smalley.” Stuart Smalley, the lead character in the skit, would share daily catchphrases which would try to replace “stinkin’ thinkin” with self-help psychobabble. One the most famous was “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” In the skit, he was searching for a way to feel good about himself and to help others to do the same.

We walk into our day and almost immediately we feel judged. We walk into a classroom and classmates and friends judge our appearance—our clothes, our hair, our mannerisms—everything about us. We sit down to do our work, and we are judged based on our performance on that particular assignment or project. Our coaches judge us based on practice and game performance. Every move we make matters and counts in their book. Even our parents and family make judgment calls about us based on our success in school, on the field, in the workplace, and with our friends.

It is almost as if on a daily basis we walk into a courtroom of human opinion. And then we walk into God’s courtroom and find that we’re not walking in line with the Spirit as God’s word has taught us to. We’re not fighting that battle well at all. In our life, where are those “fruits of the Spirit” the Bible talks about? This is an oppressive and scary place to live.

But in view of this, notice the boast that the apostle Paul makes! He wasn’t walking with swagger because of what other people said or thought about him. He wasn’t walking with his head held high because of how well he performed on his missionary journeys. Paul had already left those human courtrooms. He had walked out of those courtrooms with a verdict from Jesus and his cross: NOT GUILTY! FORGIVEN! LOVED! PERFECT! In God’s courtroom Paul was in the clear.

There is no goofy psychobabble that will help you escape from the courtrooms of human opinion and no amount of positive self-talk will justify you in God’s courtroom. Only the cross of Jesus sets you free. Only the cross of Jesus declares you not guilty. And that court has already adjourned and the verdict is in: For Jesus’ sake you are NOT GUILTY! You are FORGIVEN! You are LOVED!

Walk with some swagger because of his cross and your justification.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, your cross is everything for me. It means that my sins are forgiven. It means that my debt has been paid. It means that I am not guilty. It means that court is no longer in session. Help this be my confidence today as I walk with a swagger that comes from 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 – September 18, 2016

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.
Galatians 6:1-4

Check Yourself

Don’t you dislike it when someone starts bragging? You know what I mean, don’t you? You have a friend or a classmate who talks about all the kind things that they’ve done for other people. You see their Facebook post about how they’ve helped those in need. Does that kind of thing ever get under your skin? I know it does mine.

But why? As the apostle Paul rightly tells us, we should be the kind of people who help to carry the burdens of other people. Shouldn’t we be thankful for their kindness to other people rather than upset about it? Shouldn’t we praise God for the way they serve other people? Shouldn’t we be encouraged to follow their example as we follow Christ’s example first of all?

Check yourself. We’re often upset because we want that same pat on the back. We want that praise and applause from our crowd of friends. We want the ‘like’, maybe even the ‘love’, from our followers.

Check yourself. We live for an audience of One—Jesus Christ, not for feathers in our hat or for likes from our friends. We live to please Jesus and serve him. In response to his love for us, we live to love those around us and to help them in their need. And that has nothing to do with what other people are doing. That has nothing to do with what other people are saying.

Check yourself. But not against the attitudes or actions of others. Check yourself against the clear words of God. Check yourself against the example that Jesus set. Check yourself daily and bring your thinking, your talking, your walking, and even your serving into line with God’s will and word.

Prayer:
Lord God, I often find myself in competition with other people in this world. I find myself competing to get the most likes, the most applause from other people in my life. Forgive me, Lord. Remind me that I already have the most important applause from you, who says even of me, “You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” 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 11, 2016

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Galatians 5:16-18

Smeagol versus Gollum

Fifteen years ago, four planes were hijacked, and everything changed. Fifteen years ago, the twin towers collapsed into a pile of debris, and everything changed. We’re in a war whether or not we see the enemy. More security measures have been put in place to help protect us from an enemy who might be hiding in plain sight. Everything changed fifteen years ago. There is a war on terror that is more and more visible every day.

And yet at the same time, nothing has changed. There is a war in my heart. There is a war, a conflict, in the heart of every Christian. This is a war between the flesh and the Spirit. There is a war between the Christian-me and the sinner-me. There is a war between Gollum and Smeagol. Let me explain.

In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gollum is a gangly, pale looking creature who is addicted to and bound to serve the ring. But he wasn’t always this way. He began as a pure, wholesome Hobbit named Smeagol. As you get to know this character we see the struggle between Smeagol and Gollum. Smeagol wants to serve and help Frodo on his journey, to do the right thing. Smeagol is joyfully free, eagerly bounding off to get some breakfast for Frodo. Gollum, however, is a wicked little creature who only hates and wants to kill. He is constantly plotting and scheming, trying to find a way to get what he wants. He serves with a grumble and does only enough to get what he wants. At times this creature has a split personality as Smeagol and Gollum face off in his mind.

This is the same war that we find in each of us. The Smeagol (saint) in us wants to serve Jesus and follow God with a joyful and free heart—bounding off to serve him. The Gollum (sinner) in us hates to follow him and lives in self-service!

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo woos the good in Smeagol by calling him by name and leading him with cords of kindness, mercy, and grace. God does the same for us by his Spirit. He woos us to himself by naming us his child at our baptism. He continues to lead us with cords of kindness, mercy, and grace. In this changing world, full of uncertainty and terror, we need our Savior more than ever before. Follow him, won’t you? There is no better, no freer way to live.

Prayer:
Father, you call me your child! You have set me free from sin, from condemnation, from hell itself. Help me in the battle against my sinful desires. Help me to overcome. Continue to lead me by your Spirit that I might serve you freely, joyfully, gladly. 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 4, 2016

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery… You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.
Galatians 5:1,13

Freedom

Three Rivers is a foreign film that takes place in Vietnam. One of the main characters is a rickshaw driver named Hai. He falls in love with a beautiful hotel prostitute named Lan. Hai is poor. He can’t afford a night with her. A rickshaw race takes place in the city. Hai wins.

With the money he purchased a night with Lan. He took her to a very expensive hotel. As they walked to the room she knew what was coming. But what she expected to happen didn’t happen. Hai refused to sleep with her, kiss her, or even touch her. All he wanted was for her to have one peaceful night of sleep. He wanted her to rest well and at peace. He was willing to give up every dollar he had to rescue her from her scandalous life for a single night—one night of restful peace.

Does that sound familiar? Jesus saw us. He saw the scandalous life of sin that we lived. And he gave up everything to set us free. Jesus gave up the riches of heaven to enter this world. And then he gave up his body, his breath, even his very life to rescue us not for just a night, but for all eternity. Jesus gave up everything he had so we could be at peace with God. Jesus gave up everything he had to set us free! Jesus gave up everything to free us from the yoke of slavery to sin. Jesus gave up everything to free us from a life that served only ourselves.

Do you know what happened to Lan, the prostitute, after her good night sleep? She couldn’t go back to her old life after being with someone who loved her the way Hai did. How could she after she had been loved like that?!

We know a greater, more extravagant and more lavish love. We’ve experienced God’s forgiveness and gracious adoption to be his children. How can we live any other life than one that serves and loves like that?!

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, your love is truly extravagant. You gave everything to make me yours for all eternity. You gave everything to set me free for a life of love. Help me to live a life that loves as you have loved 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.