Teen Devotions

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.

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.