Teen Devotions

Transformed – teen devotion – July 23, 2017

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

Best. Prayer. Ever. – YOUR Kingdom Come

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformed – teen devotion – July 16, 2017

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

Best. Prayer. Ever. – But how?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformed – teen devotion – July 9, 2017

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

Best. Prayer. Ever. – Bold prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformed – teen devotion – July 2, 2017

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

Best. Prayer. Ever. – Refrigerator privileges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformed – teen devotion – June 25, 2017

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

Jesus: Our true hero

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transformed – teen devotion – June 18, 2017

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
1 Kings 19:9-10

Elijah: Where is everybody?

The trends of Christianity in our country are alarming to say the least. From 2007 to 2014 the amount of people who describe themselves as Christians dropped by almost 8%. The younger the group of people, the worse the statistics. For example, 36% of millennials are now considered ‘nones’, meaning they have no religious affiliation.

Sadly, we see these same trends in our own churches. Confirmation classes of 20 – 25 students are turning into teen groups of 4 – 5 students. Many faithful young people are heading off to college to never return to the church. Let’s not even talk about the mocking and ridicule Christians receive from those in our society with the most influence and largest platforms.

What about you? What is your trend? Are you a committed teen who is looking around for your brothers and sisters in Christ and wondering, “Where is everybody?” Are you part of the 36% that considers themselves a ‘none’? Are you struggling in your faith right now due to all of these outside pressures and are tempted to just give up?

Our hero this week, Elijah, once felt that way. He was coming off one of the biggest smackdowns in human history. He had challenged hundreds of false prophets to a test to see who the true God was. Long story short: Our God won and Elijah lived; their god lost and they died. Elijah, though, didn’t have much time to celebrate because the evil Queen Jezebel vowed to murder him within the day.

Elijah fled and found himself alone under a broom tree asking God to take his life. Instead, God nourished him and Elijah made a 40 day trip to Mt. Horeb. It was while spending the night in a cave, that God came to Elijah—not in the wind, or an earthquake, or in fire, but in a gentle whisper. Through his grace and calmness God reminded Elijah that he was not alone.

Wherever you find yourself in your Christian walk, know this: You also are not alone! You can be sure of this because your Lord and Savior was willing to die alone on a cross, forsaken by his own Father in heaven, for you.

When you are tempted to just give up or to feel that you are all alone turn to God’s beautiful promises in Deuteronomy 31:6, Romans 8:31-38, Matthew 28:20, and Isaiah 41:10. Like Elijah, be spiritually strengthened and uplifted as the Lord speaks to you through the gentle whisper of the Gospel!

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, you promise that we are more than conquerors through your Son who loved us. We are convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our 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 – June 11, 2017

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
2 Samuel 12:13

David: The beautiful sound of forgiveness

David was living the Israelite dream! He made a name for himself by defeating the giant, Goliath. He won war after war. He brought prosperity to Israel. The people loved him. He started from the bottom as a shepherd and made his way to the top as king of Israel. But in 2 Samuel 11 & 12 we see very different David. We see a David who was depressed, weak, and joyless even though he was still the king.

Why the change? It was the result of a year long coverup of his sins. This sin began when he lusted after Bathsheba as she bathed on the rooftop. Lust led to adultery and to an unexpected pregnancy. Next, David tried and failed to make it look like the child was Bathsheba’s and her husband Uriah’s. With his back against the wall David made the fatal decision to order Uriah to be murdered on the battlefield. He took Bathsheba home to be his wife. But then our great hero of faith and the writer of so many psalms goes silent.

While David’s series of sins is shocking to read about, we’ve been there too. At times, we have covered up one sin with more sin. Sometimes we are pretty good at it. Maybe you were clever enough to convince your teacher that you didn’t cheat on the test. Or you continue to find ways to work around the filters your parents put on your phone or computer and then cleverly delete your browser history. You may have successfully convinced everyone at church that you are a model Christian teenager while your weekend activites tells a different story. Although ‘getting away with it’ may bring temporary relief, in the end it just leads to stress and guilt.

No matter how hard we try to cover up our sin from people in our lives, we cannot hide it from the One that truly matters—our Father in heaven. It didn’t work for Adam and Eve; it didn’t work for David; it will not work for us.

But what is even more breathtaking is the way that God loves us still. Even though God sees everything we do out in the open and everything we do behind closed doors, he still loves us. He loved David. He loved David enough to send Nathan to call him out for his sin. And then when David was led to confess his sins, he had a better message, beautiful words of forgiveness. Just like that he was once again at peace with God.

God might not send us a Nathan, but he has given us his Word. As we read and hear it in worship or in studies, we can’t help but see our sins and confess that we are sinners. Then the Gospel, over and over again, points us to the Savior, to the full and free forgiveness we have through Jesus. We’re not going to die because in Jesus God has taken away our sins. And just like that we are at peace again with God.

What a God we have who loves us and keeps calling us back! He keeps on forgiving and never gives up on us even when others do.

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father we have sinned against you and against others. Keep us from trying to cover these up, but instead lead us to confess them. We thank you for the forgiveness won for us through Jesus and ask that you would create in us pure hearts. Your forgiveness and your mercy is new every morning. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – June 4, 2017

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to the rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water…Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out…But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
Numbers 20:7-12

Moses: Don’t hit the rock

Moses had seen some things! He was called by God from a burning bush. He was a firsthand witness to the awesome display of God’s power in the 10 plagues. He walked through the Red Sea on dry ground as he and the Israelites escaped the approaching Egyptians. He trekked through the wilderness for forty years in the same pair of shoes that never wore out. I am sure you wish that was the case with your Jordan’s!

God used these experiences to form Moses into a great hero of the faith and a humble leader. But Moses was also a sinner. On the surface his sin didn’t seem to be that bad. Sure, God told him to speak to the rock. But what difference did it make if he hit it instead? It didn’t seem like that big of a deal, but judging from the consequence—no entry into the promised land—God felt differently about his sin.

Aren’t we often tempted to feel the same way about some of our sins? We convince ourselves that they aren’t that bad. The only reason I make fun of my teacher is because he/she is weird. That snap I sent out was innapropriate but it goes away after a few seconds. Everyone talks that way. Everyone dresses that way. Everyone watches that show. What’s the big deal?

We have the same problem that Moses did. Every time we fail to appreciate the seriousness of our sin, we minimize his commands. God tells us in his Word to be holy, to be perfect. In school a 99% will still get you an A. But with God a 99% means complete failure. The consequence is not just missing out on a trip to the promised land but missing out on eternal life in heaven.

Thankfully, we have a Savior who kept God’s commands 100% for us. This perfect Jesus took all of our sins to the cross for us. Even those we don’t recognize. He rose for us. Now through the wonderful gift of faith we get what we could never deserve on our own—eternal life in heaven! Heaven and the inheritance waiting for us there far surpasses any promised land here on earth.

So, don’t hit the rock. Instead live in a way that gives glory to God in all you do!

Prayer:
Dear Heavenly Father, too many times we fail to understand the severity of our sins. Forgive us for those sins we knowingly commit and those we don’t even know about. Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus, who never failed to keep your commands. He was willing to die so that we could live with you forever in heaven. Work in us to become pure and holy that we may shine like stars in a world that does not know 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 – May 28, 2017

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39

Superheroes

What’s the worst you’ve ever lost in a game? There was a high school basketball team in California that lost a game by the score of 161-2. Ouch!

As bad as that might be, how would you feel if you were naked, starving, and had the sharp blade of a sword pressed against your neck all because of your faith in Jesus? You would probably feel defeated.

It’s not easy being a Christian in this world. You will face ridicule and shame and hardship because of your faith in Jesus. There are times when you will feel defeated. There are times when difficulties and struggles will make you question God’s love for you. But there’s something you need to know. You have already won because Jesus won! Nothing can separate you from God’s love!

God proved just how much he loved you when he sent Christ Jesus to die for you. Even more than that, Jesus was raised to life and is interceding at God’s right hand for you. You have victory over sin, death, and over any enemy that tries to stand between you and God’s love.

So God picks a special word to describe you because of what Jesus has done. Romans 8:37 is the only place in the Bible where this word appears. God calls you a superhero or a super-conqueror! The brand “Nike” (which means “victory”) comes from this word. But God doesn’t say that you are victorious or even a little bit victorious. He says that you MORE than victorious. You are a super-conqueror because Jesus was a super-conqueror!

Prayer:
Heavenly Dear Jesus, when I feel defeated and ashamed in this world, remind me of the victory I have in you. Assure me each day that NOTHING can separate me from 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 – 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.