Teen Devotions

Transformed – teen devotion – May 21, 2017

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us…And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:18,28

Groaning for glory

He was a seventeen-year-old with big dreams. But no one in his family believed that they would ever come true. It seemed that they would be right when he was victim of human trafficking and taken to a foreign country. But, for this young man, things did get better. But then they got worse again when he was falsely charged with attempted rape and thrown in prison. So much for his dreams!

Did you figure out who that was? That was Joseph’s story from the book of Genesis. Joseph had some difficult moments in his life from age 17 to 30. Can you relate? You probably don’t have the same problems that Joseph did, but do you find life as a teenager to be difficult? There is a lot of pressure to do well in school, to fit in with friends, and to achieve dreams for the future. It can be overwhelming. And things don’t always go the way that you have in mind.

But that’s okay. Romans 8 reminds us that our present sufferings and struggles aren’t worth comparing with the future glory in heaven that God has in store for us. At all times God promises that he is working for our good. Joseph’s life is a good example of this. Even when things were difficult for Joseph we find out, “The Lord was with Joseph” (Genesis 39:2,23). Even when things are difficult for you, the Lord is with you too. He’s with you, and he is at work for your eternal good!

Do you remember how Joseph’s story turned out? Eventually God raised him up to become second in command over all of Egypt. God used him to save many lives during a terrible famine. God has big plans for you too! He has big plans to use your talents in this life to be a blessing to others and to give glory to him. But best of all because of all that Jesus has done for you, God also has plans to spend eternal life with you.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, when I’m faced with hardships and sufferings, comfort me with your presence. Assure me that you are at work for my good and keep my eyes fixed on the glory that awaits me in heaven because of Jesus. In his 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 – May 14, 2017

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Romans 8:16-17

Adopted

Did you ever have to recite the words of Luke 2 at Christmas? “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree…” How much do you know about this ‘Caesar Augustus’?

He was the first emperor of Rome and an extremely powerful and successful leader. He said when dying, “I found Rome made of clay. I left it made of marble.” It’s true. Augustus helped build Rome into the empire it was. He transformed a city, a nation, and even history itself.

With power like that, you would think that he was born into that power. But you would be wrong. Caesar Augustus was born with the name Gaius Octavius and was pretty much a nobody in Rome. His only claim to fame was that he was a distant relative to the great Julius Caesar.

But then on March 15 in 44 B.C., something shocking happened. Julius Caesar was assassinated. As shocking as Caesar’s murder was, the real shock came when Caesar’s last will and testament was read. In his will, Julius Caesar adopted Octavius as his son and heir. This meant that Octavius was suddenly given power and wealth beyond his imagination. He was given the throne simply because someone with power and wealth, Julius Caesar, declared it.

As amazing as that story is, your story is even better! Someone with all power in heaven and on earth has declared something about you. Someone with an eternal kingdom and a heavenly throne has declared you to be his child and heir. At your baptism, God adopted you into his family. As you read this devotion, the Spirit is testifying to you that you are God’s child. This means you belong to a kingdom greater than Rome. You belong to him! His forgiveness is yours! His peace is yours! His heavenly kingdom is your heavenly kingdom!

 

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me never lose sight of the glorious blessings that are mine because I am your adopted child and heir. Let the Spirit’s testimony in the Word strengthen my faith each day. 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 – May 7, 2017

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.
Romans 8:1-3

Freedom

Abraham Lincoln’s famous “Gettysburg Address” isn’t very long. It’s only 272 words to be exact. Did you know that Lincoln wasn’t even the featured speaker at Gettysburg that day? The featured speaker was a man named Edward Everett, who gave a 13,607-word speech that went on for two hours. How much of his speech have you heard? Probably not much.

Everett later told Lincoln, “I should be glad if I could flatter myself to come near to the central idea of the occasion and accomplish in two hours, as you did in two minutes.” Everett recognized that Lincoln’s message was powerful and to the point.

God’s message in the opening verses of Romans 8 is powerful and to the point. In fact, he captures the message of our freedom in two words:

God did!

“God did what?” you might ask. God did “what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature.” Think about that. Let’s say that you were running for your life from a hungry grizzly bear. As you tried to get away from the bear, you ran to the edge of a canyon that was at least a mile deep and a mile wide. Just then you noticed a sign that said, “Jump across and you will live.”

There’s just one problem. No matter how strong your legs are or how good your long-jumping skills might be, you’ll never make it across the canyon. God’s law is like that sign. It powerfully shows us what God requires of us and it shows us the path of life. The problem is, we have a weak, sinful nature and lack the power to do what God’s law demands.

But what we were weak and powerless to do, God did! God did everything necessary to make you his perfect and holy child in Jesus. What you couldn’t do, God did. He sent Jesus to do what we couldn’t and to forgive each and every one of our sins. Rejoice in God’s powerful and pointed message to you in just two words—God did!

Prayer:
Jesus, assure me each day that there is no condemnation for those with faith in you. Help me to live in that freedom of what you did for me, now and always. 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 – April 30, 2017

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Mark 16:14-16

Oh, the People You’ll Meet – Missionaries

As we wrap up our series looking at some of the people Jesus met on his way to the cross and after his resurrection, we see Jesus meeting the Eleven. After rebuking them for their lack of faith, he forgives them with his word of peace (John 20:21-23). Then he sends them out into the world to carry out his mission of preaching the gospel.

In your life you will meet a similar group. You will meet missionaries, those sent by God to preach the good news in places you aren’t. While you may not personally meet many of the missionaries our church body sends out into all the world, you can “meet” them and learn more about them and the people they reach with the good news of Jesus on the WELS Missions website. Pray for them and their work. Support them with your offerings.

Like the other people that were in this series, we realize that we also meet this type of person in the mirror. We believe that Jesus is the only answer for humankind’s dilemma of sin and death. We believe that Jesus is the only means by which anyone can have a right relationship with God. And so, we who know and believe that good news want to share it with others. Having heard our Lord’s rebuke of our sin and his forgiving words of peace, we are compelled to share that same message with others. The Lord of the Church sends us into our world, to the place we live, to the people we know.

Prayer:
Dear risen Lord, the world is filled with people who need to hear about your love for them. Help us do all we can with our prayers, our offerings, and our lives to help carry the good news of your saving love into all the world. 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 – April 23, 2017

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:24-31

Oh, the People You’ll Meet – Doubters

Even though he followed Jesus, learned from him, and observed him perform miracles for three years—Thomas doubted Jesus’ resurrection. If Thomas, “one of the Twelve,” was overcome by doubt, how easy it is for us and others to be overcome by doubt today!

When you meet people that have doubts, know that their moments of doubt can be solved. When doubts enter your own heart, know that God can handle your doubts.

Thomas had doubts, but notice where he found answers. Thomas did not hop a boat to Greece to discuss with all the philosophers whether there could be resurrection of the dead. Thomas did not go to his fellow disciple Luke, a physician, to ask him whether or not he had seen a corpse comeback to life. Thomas placed himself among Christian friends, and the risen Lord Jesus appeared to him. He was in the right place for his doubts to be driven away.

So it is for the doubters you meet today and for you when doubts creep in. How can they grow close to Jesus today when he is in heaven? How can you? Take the doubters around you and the doubter in you to the Bible. There they will meet Jesus. That’s why it was written. It was given to us so that we wouldn’t doubt, but would instead believe in Jesus and what he says.

When doubts creep into the lives of those you know, when they creep into your life, put yourself in the right place to have those doubts dealt with. Go find Jesus in his Word. It is there that he appears to doubters. It is there that he speaks to doubters. All of his promises, including the promises of peace and forgiveness, have the power to chase doubt out of hearts and replace it with faith. Then the doubters that we meet, and the doubter we see in the mirror can say with faith, “My Lord and my God.”

Prayer:
O risen Lord, when doubts come to us, draw near to us in your Word and sacrament. Drive doubt from our hearts and fill us with faith. Fulfill your promise to bless us who have not seen you and yet believe. 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 – April 16, 2017

Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
John 20:11-16

Oh, the People You’ll Meet – Blinded by Grief

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

But Mary Magdalene wasn’t so sure. After a chaotic first trip to the Jesus’ tomb, Mary discovered no stone in front of the entrance and no body in the grave. She reported this to the disciples and returned to the tomb, struck with more grief. Not only was Jesus dead, but she couldn’t even finish the burial process that had begun on Good Friday. She stood outside the tomb, crying and weeping from her emotional devastation and grief.

When we are filled with grief, we often cannot see reality before our eyes. Mary could not see reality before her eyes. Literally.

Everything she wanted was standing right before her—a risen and glorified Jesus, not a dead body. Were the tears in her eyes too much for her to see reality? Was the expectation of the dead body of Jesus so strong that her mind did not register the resurrected and glorified Jesus who stood before her?

Whatever it was, it took another word from Jesus, a gentle and loving repetition of her name, to snap her out of grief. The familiar voice of her beloved teacher, the Son of God who had healed her of demon possession and given her life back, now gave Mary her joy back! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

But like Mary, we’re not always so sure. It’s not that we don’t believe the words of Scripture, but the griefs and problems life throws at us often cloud our perspective so we cannot see the obvious work of the risen Lord in our own lives.

The only way for Mary to break out of her grief was to have a direct encounter with the risen Lord. When you hear the Easter Gospel account you encounter the risen Lord through his holy and perfect Word. In Scripture you have a record so solidly preserved that you and I can have the exact same certainty about the risen Lord Jesus as Mary on that first Easter dawn. It’s like Jesus is right there assuring you through his Word, “I am alive.” Christ is risen! His risen indeed!

Prayer:
Lord of life, comfort all who stand at death’s door. Comfort all who mourn the loss of a loved one who has died in faith in the risen Savior. Comfort each of us with the assurance that because Jesus lives, we too will live. Remind us all that the death of a Christian is not a defeat. Because of Jesus, it is a day of victory. 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 – April 9, 2017

Jesus answered, A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.
Mark 15:21

Oh, the People You’ll Meet – Cross-Bearers

This week, as we continue the walk with Jesus to his cross and his empty tomb, we meet Simon, the cross-bearer.

Historians tell us that the Romans would have the criminal, who was to be crucified, carry his own cross to the place of execution. When that became too much for Jesus, Simon from Cyrene was drafted to carry the cross.

As you walk through life you will meet people who are bearing a cross for Jesus. Those crosses are not placed on them by a merciless Roman soldier, but by a merciful God. The essence of the crosses that God places on believers is found in these words of Jesus, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).

As you meet these cross-bearers, think about how Jesus might place you in the role of Simon. Think about how you might help them pick up that cross; how you might “carry each other’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2).

Recognize also that God has placed crosses on you. He may place on you the cross of fighting the restlessness and frustration that comes with the transition from adolescence into adulthood. There are many questions during teenage years that press hard. There are questions like, “If I don’t do what everybody else does, then I won’t have any friends. Worse yet, they will discover what I am working so hard to keep a secret: I’m weird! Why does God leave me so alone?”*

As you struggle to help others with their crosses and as you struggle to carry your own, keep your focus on the cross where Jesus hangs. He is on that cross for you. When you think of the times you refused to carry a cross, look at him refusing to come down from his cross. He refused to come down because he was thinking of you. He suffered hell and died thinking of you. When the teenage years get you questioning if anyone could ever love you, look to Jesus on his cross. It is proof that no one will ever love you more than he has or than he does.

* from “The Theology of the Cross: Reflections on His Cross and Ours” by Daniel M. Deutschlander.

Prayer:
Dear crucified Savior, as we endure crosses in this life, bring us closer to you by the message of forgiveness won by you on your cross. As we stumble under the crushing weight of our crosses, give us strength as we cling to your Word. Amen.
Christian Worship 356:2

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

Transformed – teen devotion – April 2, 2017

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
“What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
John 18:37-38

Oh, the People You’ll Meet – Truth Skeptics

It’s moving day, and no one is more bummed than Julian Jeremy Jaroo Jalloo. But when The Cat in the Hat appears, Julian is whisked away on a magical elevator ride. Then he meets all (or as many as he can meet in 24 minutes) of the interesting and whimsical people who may be in his future.

This month we’ll walk with Jesus to his cross and his empty tomb. Along the way, we’ll meet some of the people that Jesus met on his way to the cross and after his resurrection.

As you meet these people, you’ll begin to recognize them. You’ll recognize them as types of people you have met in your life already. If you haven’t met these people yet, I assure you, you will meet them in your future.

Not only will you recognize them as people you’ve met, but you’ll recognize a little bit of them in yourself. Their flaws are flaws you’ll find when you look in your mirror. Their triumphs are victories you share through faith in Jesus.

The first person you meet is Pilate. He is skeptical of any claim of absolute truth. He, along with all the truth skeptics you’ll meet, miss the irony of their claim, “There is no absolute truth!”

What do you do when you meet someone who holds that view? It is certainly wise to equip yourself with some rational arguments that can begin to break down the barriers these skeptics put up. The apostle Peter even tells us to “be prepared to give an answer” (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

The best tool, however, is the Word of Truth. Jesus has given us testimony about what is true. He says that is one of the reasons he came into the world. His testimony reveals the truth of salvation. His testimony in the Bible may not reveal the answer to every question, but it has revealed the answer to the most important questions. It reveals the truth about me, about you, about any skeptic. We are sinners in need of salvation. It reveals the truth about our God. He is the one who has won our salvation. Through faith, he is the one who gifts us with salvation.

Those truths stand no matter how strongly people suppress the truth. Those truths stand even when we are tempted to suppress the truth—the truth about us or the truth about our God. And even when we doubt, Jesus comes to us again with his truth. Then, since he has brought us to the side of truth, we will listen to him. He is the God of Truth. He cannot lie. His Word is truth. And his truth will stand.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, you are the truth; your Word alone true wisdom can impart. You only can inform the mind and purify the heart. Amen.
Christian Worship 356:2

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

Transformed – teen devotion – March 26, 2017

While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway. When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:66-72

The people you meet: There’s no denying it

Mike and Jack had known each other since preschool. You could follow their history through a series of pictures tucked into photo albums. Mike and Jack in a blanket fort. Mike and Jack on the same Little League team. Both boys were pretty nervous about their first day of freshman year, but at least they had each other. As they got on the bus, an upperclassman burst out laughing when he saw Mike’s Pokémon shirt. For a split second Jack made eye contact with Mike…and then began pointing and laughing too. Every man for himself. Mike trudged to the back of the bus.

Peter wasn’t going to be like that. He vowed to Jesus that he would never deny him. All these other clowns might run away, but not Peter. He had embarrassed himself when Jesus was arrested, but here was a second chance! He would have Jesus’ back during the trial! Instead Peter found himself cursing to prove that he had never met Jesus.

God gives us opportunities to stand with Jesus. But sometimes that’s very hard. It’s embarrassing to be known as a Christian when everyone around you is pro-choice. It’s hard to stand up when everyone else passionately believes that people should be free to marry whomever they want. It’s hard to be bold when everyone else in the classroom is laughing adoringly at the professor who uses his razor sharp wit to mock those who believe in creation. Denying Jesus makes so much sense when it means we get to be like everyone else. I don’t want to be the weird guy in the courtyard who knows Jesus. It’s easier to pretend I’ve never met him.

It’s important to recognize that Jesus knew all of this was going to happen. His march to the cross didn’t depend on Peter’s faithfulness, but on Jesus’ unconditional love. Jesus went to die in spite of Peter and for Peter. In the hour of our most desperate need, Jesus refused to deny us. Instead the Father’s face turned away from his Son. Our sin separated them, and Jesus’ death made it possible to truly know God intimately.
Like Peter, God comes to find us at rock bottom. Peter’s bitter tears were precisely what he needed at the moment. A broken man crumpled in the courtyard, ready to hear about forgiveness.

This week think about how you can proudly show your connection to Christ no matter what consequences may come. When you fail and perhaps find bitter tears streaking down your face, lean into your repentance. Meet Jesus, as Peter did in John 21, and find forgiveness for all your denial. Celebrate the fact that God knows you; there’s no denying it.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, we are very grateful that we meet you at the cross. Transform our hearts through the means of grace that we find forgiveness at rock bottom and celebrate our connection to 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 – March 19, 2017

While [Jesus] was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Mark 14:3-9

The people you meet: True value

Bill Gates, one of the co-founders of Microsoft, is currently the richest person in the world with 84.2 billion dollars to his name. Several years ago Gates said in an interview: “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.” To Gates, a successful expert in this world, church just isn’t that valuable.

Jesus met a woman named Mary on the way to the cross. Not long before he died, she poured a bottle of incredibly expensive perfume on his head. It cost apparently more than a year’s wages. The average income in the U.S. right now is about $27,000. Several people who witnessed this action were outraged. What a waste this was! That money could have gone to something with actual value instead of pooling on the floor under Jesus’ feet.

How much value does God have to us? Do we consistently bring our best to God?

The argument of Mary’s critics sounded kind of hollow out loud. Our hearts are often guilty of the same attitude: “Are you sure you want to give this up?!?” And so we keep part of ourselves from God: our efforts, our abilities, our time, our money, our heart. It’s worth mentioning that all of these items were gifts from God in the first place. Our best is often spent on things that have no real value, at least not as God defines it. Our best goes toward buying stuff, toward extracurriculars and sports, toward things we know will bankrupt us spiritually. These things all seem so hollow when compared with Jesus.

Jesus gave up everything he had for us. Mary’s use of the perfume demonstrated her understanding that Jesus would soon be dead and buried for all sinners. When we, too, understand the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are also equipped to give up everything. God doesn’t just want our time or money. He wants every single part of us. God finds eternal value in what Jesus has done for us and in what Jesus then does through us.

Here’s God’s investment advice. Invest time in meeting Jesus on a Sunday morning. Invest in time at home, on the bus, at lunch. Motivated entirely by God’s grace, give everything you are to Jesus. In Jesus’ view of economics, we gain by giving up.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, we are very grateful that we meet you at the cross. Transform our hearts through the means of grace that we might recognize your value and give up everything for you, as you have given up everything for us. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – March 12, 2017

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Mark 5:24-34

The people you meet: Fall down

He was only a junior in high school, but his life was falling apart. His backpack slid off his slumped shoulders. He fell forward onto his bed wordlessly and took a mental inventory of his life. His text messages were full of poison. His Instagram was a reminder that he was not the person he desperately wished he was. His Snapchat confirmed his suspicion that everyone he knew was happier than him. A small prayer escaped him: “God…make me better.” He rolled over and grabbed his Bible off the nightstand, opening up to his highlighted Confirmation passage.

The woman Jesus met in this text had suffered a long time. She had tried many expensive things to heal her illness, but she was worse off than when she started. Now she was sick and poor. We are that woman. We suffer the effects of sin in this world. We experience disease, loss, frustration. We suffer from the effects of our own sin in this world. We experience guilt, despair, and messed up relationships. We have spent all we have, our time, our effort, our money, on attempts to fix ourselves through the world’s remedies. We confess that we are getting worse instead of better.

We are that woman. We recognize that our only hope is, and always has been, Jesus. The woman’s hope stood out in its humility. She could not bear to even directly ask Jesus for help. Instead she clung to his clothes in trust that he could do exactly what she needed him to do.

God gave us Jesus’ clothes in our baptism. Jesus spent all he had on the cross, and we get all the blessings of that sacrifice in baptism. Salvation. Forgiveness. Eternal life in heaven. Jesus heals our bleeding, broken souls. He frees us from all our suffering, even if that suffering doesn’t go away.

To grow in faith is to say: “My world is pain and yet my world is glory…so full of God’s glory.” This is countercultural in our world today. The world often showcases pride and self-reliance. But you, broken child of God, be different by falling down. Fall at Jesus’ feet; grab his clothes; go in peace.

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, we are very grateful that we meet you at the cross. Transform our hearts through the means of grace that we recognize our complete reliance on you and find peace in the clothes you give us at our baptism. 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 – March 5, 2017

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
Mark 5:18-20

The people you meet: Before and after

If you’ve ever been desperately looking for something on TV while home sick from school, you’ve probably stumbled across an infomercial for weight loss products. Inevitably these commercials include before and after pictures. They lost 9 pounds! They lost 40 pounds! They lost 300 pounds! The person on screen stands inside one leg of the pants they once wore. It’s hard to believe one person could change so much.

Our text today features a man who went through a dramatic change. Before: he was running around a graveyard, cutting himself with stones, and terrifying anyone who encountered him. He was possessed by demons who forced him into crazy, self-destructive behavior. After: he was calmly sitting down, fully dressed and rational. Jesus met this man on the way to the cross and changed him forever.

The devil messes with us too. He urges us to engage in crazy, self-destructive behavior. He’s a big fan of the violent, angry words that tear through our relationships as easily as this man tore through his chains. We leave our parents, friends, classmates in a confused wake behind us. Why did we do that?

The devil loves the easy access we have to all kinds of pornography on our phones, a kind of visual graveyard where faith goes to die. Our eyes, hearts, and minds are slashed up by the stony shards of visuals we know we should avoid. Why did we do that?

Our day to day decisions seem so crazy when looked at later. Was that really us? Sadly…it was.

Like the man in our text, Jesus has mercy on us. Like the demons in this text, the devil must kneel before Jesus. Jesus set us free by letting himself be captured by his enemies. On the cross he suffered the imprisonment of hell in our place so that we might have the freedom of sins forgiven. When we meet with Jesus, conqueror of Satan, we are transformed.

This meeting with Jesus is not something that happens out of the blue, but rather in worship, in Bible study, in personal devotions. God uses his Word to open our eyes. We see that our crazy behavior is, well…crazy. Anything that threatens our relationship with God makes no sense. We want to instead calmly do what God calls and equips us to do.

The man begged to go with Jesus, but our Savior made him stay. This man had just become a walking infomercial for the power of God in Christ. Jesus leaves us here for a purpose too. The world needs honesty about our before and after picture. Let people see the miracle that is sins forgiven. Let them see how meeting Jesus puts an end to our crazy, self-destructive behavior. Let them see that you’ve met Jesus and now you are free. Who will be amazed by what Jesus has done for you?

Prayer:
Lord Jesus Christ, we are very grateful that we meet you at the cross. Transform our hearts through the means of grace that we might resist the devil and live out our faith as the people you have made us to be. 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 26, 2017

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 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 5:10-12

The persecuted

You like getting teased, right? Everyone loves getting bullied. No? Doesn’t it make your day to be called nasty names and get laughed at, pushed around, and hurt? So why would Jesus say that we are blessed when others do these things to us?

Hold on. That’s not exactly what Jesus is saying. He’s not saying that if you get bullied and persecuted for any reason you should consider yourself blessed. If you are bullied because you bullied someone else, you’re just getting what you deserve. If people do not like you because you act like a snot, you brought that on yourself.

But, if the reason you are persecuted is because of Christ, because of righteousness, it’s different. This means that you are seeking to live a Christian life and follow God’s commands out of love for the God who has saved you. When you’re persecuted for living this way, Jesus says, “blessed.”

Why? Well, first it means that you know your Savior. There is no greater blessing than that. Through Christ the kingdom of heaven is yours. There is our reward. Our reward was won for us by Jesus who freely gives us forgiveness, peace with God, and endless joy with God.

There’s one other thing. Persecution will come because you are a Christian. It will hurt. It will be painful. It may even leave scars, physical or emotional. As the world hated Jesus, so it hates those who follow Jesus and display that faith openly with their lives.

I tell you this so that when persecution comes, you can bear it instead of fighting back, getting angry with God, or worse, giving up the faith altogether. Instead, endure. Hang in there. Through faith in Christ, heaven is just around the corner.

Prayer:
Dearest Jesus, when persecution comes, help me be faithful even to the point of death that I may enter heaven. 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 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.