Transformed – teen devotion – September 15, 2019

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11

We are one

Division hurts. No, not the mathematical functions that hurt your brain in homework sessions. Division between people hurts. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you’ve seen and experienced the pain of divisiveness.

The family that once was whole, now ripped apart by divorce. The friend group that crumbled because of backstabbing gossip. The team that couldn’t get along. The street filled with opposing protestors screaming back and forth. The red-faced political pundits debating (and debasing) each candidate for office.

Quite frankly and quite sadly, when you look out at the world today, there isn’t much you see except division. Does anyone get along? Will anyone play nice? Is anyone united anymore? YES! We are.

The apostle Paul reminds us of a spectacular truth that Christ Jesus has accomplished for us. He has made us to be one in him. We are one body of believers!

There really is nothing like it in the world. You see, you could be black or brown or white, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, or any other combination of variations and differences in life. Yet you stand side by side and united with the entire holy Christian church on earth and every saint already in heaven. Each soul is bought with blood of Christ and each soul is brought into his family through baptism. Together we form one body united in our Savior and our salvation won for now and eternity.

On this side of heaven, you certainly will feel the pain of division. Sin tears apart and separates. It creates loneliness, isolation, and sadness. But the next time that hurt creeps in, remember your vast support system—a vast body of believers throughout the world and throughout time in heaven and on earth who are your brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

We are one. What strength! What comfort! What peace!

Prayer: Lord of the Church, you have purchased and won for yourself the souls of all mankind, and in baptism you have united all believers together as members of your body. Give me comfort in times of loneliness and courage in times of hurt that the body of Christ is there to support me. Help me also to love and support my brothers and sisters in need. 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – September 8, 2019

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good… All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
1 Corinthians 12:4-7, 11

Every service matters

“I just want to find a good job someday—you know, doing something that matters and is meaningful.”

It seems to be the elusive dream of every teen. Get into a good college or trades program. Find a job that is influential and important. Do something that really makes a difference. After all, who wants to be a low-class person doing low-class work?

The apostle Paul challenges you to think differently today. There is no such thing as doing more important work than others. There is no such thing as being gift-devoid or ability bankrupt, as if everyone else has some special gift (academics, athletics, personality, etc.) but you have nothing. Whether in the world or in the church, all work and all workers are equal. Why is this?

Because it is the same Holy Spirit who distributes gifts to each person. It is the same God who works in and through each person.

So yes, some people may function as leaders in the world or in the church. Some people may have higher profile jobs that get more attention than others. Some people may make more money than others. But what of it? Different does not mean better. Each person has gifts from God and so is an instrument of God with those gifts.

Think of the bread you eat in your home. Some farmer raised and harvested the crops. Someone bought the product. Workers in a factory processed and produced and packaged bread. Truck drivers delivered it. Stock boys (or girls) put it on the shelves. Someone rang up the groceries. And someone in your family purchased it with money earned from their job. Each had a different set of skills used in a different vocation (life-calling), but God used each to provide for you and many others.

Think of a Sunday morning. The pastor often gets the limelight and attention. But what if no one replaced the lightbulbs, turned the lights and AV on, or even paid the light bill for that matter? What if no one greeted you, gave you a service folder, collected and counted the offering? What if no one played an instrument or led the congregation in singing? Or, God forbid, what if no one made coffee or had snacks available?

This is precisely what Paul is teaching. There are many gifts and many kinds of service. Each is valuable and important—both inside and outside the church. You have been given gifts and abilities by God. So friend—get to work! And trust that your service is important and valuable to God and to others. Why? Because God himself is working through you!

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to see the gifts that you have given, to make wise use of them, to be grateful for the opportunities to serve you and 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – September 1, 2019

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Every moment matters

What does it even matter? It’s just Algebra. Like you’re ever going to use Algebra in your life! Then again, what’s the point of any of your classes? Dependent and independent clauses? Give me a break!

The same goes for your job. You get paid so little to ask, “Would you like fries with that?” And this certainly isn’t your future career. Who cares if you slack off a bit to eat up the time clock? What does it matter?

Well, actually it does matter. A lot. Every moment does.

Satan wants nothing more than for us to think that every moment of our lives is meaningless. If he can convince us of this, soon he’ll convince us to indulge in a selfish laziness in those moments—an attitude of, “What does this matter if I don’t like it or it doesn’t benefit me?” But as soon as he has you trapped in thoughts of meaningless monotony, he will then push for the death blow of you doubting God and his purpose for your life. “If these moments don’t matter, what do I matter? If I don’t matter, what kind of God is he anyways?”

The apostle Paul reminds us in this verse that the opposite is true. Actually, every single moment of your life matters. Why? Because you mattered to God. God came for you. God lived for you. God died for you. God rose for you. Jesus gave everything of his life for yours as he washed you and bought you with his blood. He did so in order to make you a prized possession of our God—his own dear child.

Knowing this value your life has to our God means that every moment of your life also has value, because every moment is an opportunity—an opportunity to live to the praise and glory of a God who has loved you so much.

So do your quadratic equations and do them well. Flip burgers with all you’ve got. Take notes with all the intellect you’ve been given. Compete and perform with every ounce of strength and ability. In fact, live every moment now and into the future with your best and to the fullest. And know that when you do, it matters. It matters because you are glorifying your Savior God.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, fill me with the joy of your love found in Christ so that my heart spills over with thankful living for you and your glory. In Jesus’ 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – August 25, 2019

On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “He’s alive!” Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left. The people took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
Acts 20:7-12

The fall of Eutychus… (a.ka. “Sleepy”)

Our last Bible character could be called Sleepy, but Scripture tells us his name is Eutychus (pronounced “Yoo-ti-kuss”). Of all the Bible characters we’ve met over last few weeks, he is one we might be able to understand the most. Especially if the pastor has droned on during a warm summer morning at early service when your parents tore you away from your comfy bed. Didn’t they realize you had a long night texting a friend through her troubled relationship or going for that next rank in a game of Rocket? Eutychus was a boy who was in church listening to the apostle Paul speak for a long time. He fell asleep. Not because he hated Jesus, nor was he annoyed by the Word of God. He fell asleep because he was human. He tried, but he still fell…asleep. Sadly and shockingly, he also fell…three stories to his death.

The lesson to the story is not to stay awake in church, especially if you are sitting in the balcony.

Look at this story from a different perspective. Why was Eutychus still there? Why did he stay so late at night that he fell out of a window? Because he loved God’s Word that much! He was tired. He probably wanted to be in bed. He was weak. But he still loved God’s word that much so that he stayed. And that’s the place where we need to start. Even if we’re tired. Even if we’d sometimes rather be somewhere else. Start there and show up for church. At least we’re there.

And then realize that we need a wake-up call. Because attendance is not the same as attention. Showing up in church is not the same as honoring God’s Word and taking it in for our souls and for our faith. We certainly need a wake-up call because God’s Word is more important for our faith than getting a few more hours of sleep in the morning. God’s Word is more important than mastering that next level of your game.

Jesus died and rose again so that you can wake up and do this again. He died for all of you who “mean well” but in reality “act bad.” He died for you who fall asleep in church or don’t even get up for it. He died for a world of sinners, of whom I am the worst. He died for all of us. And that means he died for you. And on the third day Jesus didn’t rise from sleep; he rose from the dead. He rose to wake us up from our slumber, to open our weary eyes, and to let us know that this is what we get up for. And not just on Sundays, but EVERY DAY of our lives! So, friends in Christ, “Wake up!”

There will still be the occasional boring sermon on a hot summer’s day after a long weekend. But may God wake you up to see his forgiveness, his love, his peace, and the power to wake up, praise him, follow him, and rouse others from their slumber of sin to the wide-awake joy of life in Christ now and forever! To him alone be the glory and praise!

Precious Lord, remind me of my baptism as I pray:
My loving Father, there you took me
To be henceforth your child and heir.
My faithful Savior, there you let me
The fruit of all your sorrows share.
O Holy Spirit, comfort me
When threatening clouds around I see. Amen.
(Christian Worship 294:2)


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – August 18, 2019

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.
2 Kings 2:23-25

Elisha the prophet

In the short three verses of our reading, a number of things happen. A bunch of boys made fun of Elisha, a prophet and leader of Israel. Elisha called down a curse on them for their sin. Then bears came out of the woods and mauled the children. Afterwards, Elisha goes on his way without another word.

What is the lesson from this story?

When I was young, I thought this lesson from God’s Word was to teach us not to mock those God has placed over us—those serving the Lord in their lives to the best of their imperfect ability—otherwise you will be punished like those who were mauled by bears. But there is more to the story.

Think about the words of Hebrews 13:17: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.” (NIV 2011) The lesson of Elisha is more than a lesson on punishment that we deserve for not respecting and honoring those in authority over us, it is a powerful reminder of what God wants us to have—joy in loving, obeying, and having confidence and trust in those God has given to take care of us.

That’s not always easy. When a parent completely embarrasses you in front of your friends, you may feel like calling them names or saying bad things about them to your friends. When you are frustrated by your teachers’ high expectations of you in school, you complain about them to fellow classmates. When people in charge of us do things that bother us or seem unfair, all kinds of names, phrases, and disrespect bounces through our brains and comes out of our mouths.

But God has given them to you so that you might honor and obey them. God has given them authority over you for your benefit. And he wants you to see him when you see them. These authorities that are over you—teachers, parents, pastors, government—these are his representatives. He has put them there to exercise his authority. When you honor them, you honor him! And when you dishonor them, you dishonor him. So when these boys called Elisha “Baldy,” they were disrespecting God.

Learn from this strange story. Apologize for your disrespect. Confess it to God. Confess it to the one you disrespected. See that these people over you are standing in for God. See those authorities differently and give them respect that is due them.

Thank you, God, for the authorities that you have placed over me. Thank you, Father, for forgiving me when I forget to show them respect and giving me a new day to show it again.

#PGFWABF ALWAYS!

Prayer:
All that I am and love most dearly—
Receive it all, O Lord, from me.
Let me confess my faith sincerely
And help me your own child to be!
Let nothing that I am or own
Serve any will but yours alone.
(Christian Worship 294:4)


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – August 11, 2019

After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.
Judges 3:31‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Shamgar the judge

What can you do with a 10-foot pole? It’s an odd question. Shamgar used one, called an oxgoad, as a weapon. An oxgoad was a long, pointed tool used by farmers to prod their cattle and make them move when they decided to stop and rest for a while. God called Shamgar to use his oxgoad for more than oxen. It was a strange weapon to use to kill 600 men, and the odds seemed impossible for Shamgar. How could Shamgar believe that a stick with a sharp iron point would be all he would need? Shamgar knew it wasn’t the stick or his ability that accomplished the seemingly impossible. It was God’s power that gave Shamgar the confidence to fight and God’s grace that gave him victory.

The previous two chapters in Judges show that time and time again Israel decided to leave God, follow the world, worship false gods, and enjoy the sensual sins that accompanied the worship of those false gods—in essence forgetting the true God altogether.

It’s rather sad. The God of grace was always before his children—saving them, providing amazing homes they took for granted, blessing them with parents who tried their best (flawed as they were) to put food on the table and clothes on their backs—only for another opportunity to save them when they decided to completely take him for granted and go their own way…. Suddenly, we are talking about more than the Israelites.

How similar we are to them! It’s not just the Philistines that deserve to end up at the end of a prodding pole. Our sin has earned us even worse. God gave Israel Shamgar and used him to save Israel in an amazing act of power, justice, and love!

God gave us Jesus. Taking on flesh, leaving his throne of grace, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! He saved you, in an amazing act of power, justice, and love! Now God prods us with the stick of his Word, driving us beyond ourselves and our selfishness to see not the oxgoad that skewered 600, but the staff of the Good Shepherd that pulls us along, guides us in truth, and seeks to steer us away from danger and sin every day. Better yet, we see the big piece of wood that held our Savior—his cross!

Thank God for Shamgar and his oxgoad. Most importantly, thank God for sending a Savior—the living, faithful, powerful, grace-filled Jesus Christ! Through water and the Word in baptism, he saves us!

#PGFWABF ALWAYS!

Prayer:
Baptized into Your name most holy,
My faithful God, you fail me never;
Your promise surely will endure.
Oh, cast me not away forever
If words and deeds become impure.
Have mercy when I come defiled;
Forgive, lift up, restore your child. Amen.
(Christian Worship 294:3)


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – August 4, 2019

Go ahead, try it. Name the seven dwarfs from memory. Can’t? You’re in good company. Hopefully, it also explains why the devotion series for August make sense. Each week in August will share a name of a biblical person that you may not know. But amazingly, they also served God’s purpose—each in their own unique way. Instead of Happy, Bashful, Grumpy, or Sleepy, you will hear names like Shamgar and Rahab. God help us to see who he has made US to be. Despite our flawed pasts, he uniquely gifts us to glorify him every day!

 

Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
Joshua‬ ‭2:1‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Rahab

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who said “One of the reasons I love the Bible so much—besides the amazing grace of Christ—is that it’s filled with broken people, like me.” I have never forgotten those words. And they still mean the world to me. I pray they do (or will) to you too.

I find it hard to imagine someone more broken than Rahab. She was a woman whose livelihood came from selling her body to be a “spouse for an hour.” That’s what a prostitute does. Rahab was a prostitute. Throughout the entire Bible she is called “Rahab, the prostitute” except in one place—the genealogy of Jesus. This broken woman who spent too much of her life in sin and loaded with guilt became an ancestor of Jesus himself! (Look at Matthew 1:5.)

What does this mean? The answer is simple: God’s grace smashes our guilt. God’s love completely wipes away our past. God’s gift of faith calls the most broken soul and conscience and says, “I am making you a brother or sister of Jesus now.”

Jesus didn’t just live perfectly for Rahab; he lived perfectly for you. The Bible says he was tempted in every way as we are. That includes Rahab. That includes you. Yet he faced it without falling. Jesus didn’t only die on the cross for his great-great-great grandmother Rahab; he died on the cross for you. Jesus didn’t just rise from the grave on Easter to prove that Rahab’s sins really were forgiven; he rose on Easter for you, to prove that your sins are forgiven too.

The Holy Spirit didn’t just come to create faith in Rahab through the message of the spies or whoever she heard it from first; the Holy Spirit came through water and the word, through the healing Gospel of Jesus to create that same “Rahab-faith” in you—broken, guilty, and despairing. The amazing thing is God didn’t just save Rahab, he used her to protect the spies. He included her in the family tree of Jesus. God didn’t just do that for her, he did that for you too. He intended to include you in his kingdom. He intends to use you in his kingdom, in ways that you can hardly begin to imagine.

God bless your week of growing, sharing, loving, and mending. PGFWABF (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow!) ALWAYS!

Prayer: Baptized into Your name most holy,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among your saints, your chosen host,
Buried with Christ and dead to sin.
Your Spirit now shall live within. Amen.
(Christian Worship 294:1)


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 28, 2019

Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.
Proverbs 25:20

Good smells and good advice

Walk by Bath and Body Works at the nearest mall, and you will be bombarded by vanilla, fresh rain, and summer berry (whatever that is). Step outside on the Fourth of July, and it’s likely you’ll be able to tell that someone in your neighborhood is grilling. Smell is a funny thing. A good smell can lift our spirits. A bad smell can kill our mood. Solomon compares good advice to a wonderful smell.

At times, our friends need our counsel, but our advice isn’t very good or very godly. Someone wrongs them, and you are filled with rage on their behalf. “You should totally get back at them!” Your friend wants to do something you know is wrong, but you want to be supportive, so you blurt out: “You should do what makes you happy!”

Sometimes you are the one who needs good advice but get bad instead. You needed someone to tell you a hard truth, but the people around you just told you what you wanted to hear.

Later in the aftermath of bad decisions, the smell of this bad advice makes us sick to our stomachs. Why didn’t we just say/seek the right things? A cloud of stink only enhances our misery.

Jesus gives the best advice. To the guilty and burdened he advises, “Come to me and find rest.” To the fearful and anxious he says, “Cast all your anxiety on me.” To those wrestling with relationship issues he says, “Love as I have loved you.” To those who are feeling lonely he says, “Know that I am with you always.” To someone about to do something harmful to their souls he says, “Be careful that you are standing firm on what I’ve taught you.” These pieces of wisdom are so good, they are better than even the smell of summer berry (whatever that is). They are so valuable because they come from God himself.

What does Jesus teach us here about wisdom for our friends? 1) Make sure your advice is well grounded in God’s Word. That’s yet another reason to make Bible study a priority. 2) Surround yourself with friends whose heartfelt advice comes from a heart where Jesus makes his home. I thank God for friends over the years who told me exactly what I did not want to hear and kept me from making terrible mistakes in the heat of the moment. 3) Be the friend and surround yourself with friends who tell you about the love and forgiveness of Jesus. I’m so grateful to God for friends whose wisdom took me back to Jesus’ cross and empty tomb again and again. The fragrant smell of their words still brings me joy to this day!

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, only you can teach me to be a good friend. Help me not only give sound, biblical advice but also surround myself with people who will do the same for 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 21, 2019

Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
Proverbs 25:20

Choose your song carefully

There was a sharply dressed older man. He had on his best black suit. For the last hour he stood in the church entry and greeted a long line of people who had come to say goodbye to his wife. They had told him they loved him and that everything would be okay; they reminded him that his wife was in a better place. He nodded and smiled. He knew all those things were true, but now he was just tired. He allowed himself to slump down into a comfortable chair and he stared straight ahead, wondering how long all of this would hurt.

Finally, one more visitor walked through the church doors. It was an old friend who had lost his own wife a year or so ago. He said nothing. He nodded hello and just sat down in the next chair. They sat like that in silence for a long time. It was the best thing that had happened all day. Sometimes it’s enough to know that someone else understands your pain.

When one of our friends or someone we know is going through something hard, we often feel like we have to say something. We want the person to stop crying, stop panicking, stop being negative. We want to make it better. So, we try telling a joke, and it is WAY too soon. We read someone’s cry for help on social media and respond with a praying hands emoji. We get under that heavy heart and try to lift it with all our might … but it won’t budge. It’s as sensible as thinking that stealing your friend’s big puffy jacket in the middle of winter would be a favor to them. That’s what Solomon is trying to say in this proverb.

There was a younger man in his early thirties at a different funeral. The man made no attempt to hide the tears streaming down his face. He was sad for his friend who was dead. He was sad for the two sisters this dead friend had left behind. He was sad because none of this was the way this world was supposed to go. This younger man is Jesus. He’s weeping at the funeral for his friend Lazarus. Even though he is well aware that Lazarus will soon be walking around alive again, Jesus takes the time to listen to Mary and Martha, joining in the sad song their hearts were singing. Jesus, as a good friend, gets down in the dust and ashes with them and with us.

What’s the lesson from Jesus? Listen. Take the time to listen. Then, consider carefully what someone needs in the moment. Remember that God’s design for us includes a healthy need to complete the grieving process. Sad songs can be just what we need at certain times. At other times, a different song is good to direct them to the words and promises of God.

Choose carefully the song that you “sing” to your hurting friends. Ask the Spirit for wisdom to discern what their heart needs to hear at the right time. Don’t be afraid to get down in the dust and ashes with them. Don’t be afraid to sit with them and walk with them in their pain.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, only you can teach me how to be a truly good friend. Give me the wisdom to know how to lovingly help those who are hurting. 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 14, 2019

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Proverbs 17:17; 18:24

Stand by me

I was doing yardwork this past Memorial Day when my neighbor pulled into his driveway. He served in the U.S. military for many years, so I took the opportunity to thank him for his service. He thanked me politely and then looked down for a few seconds. When he looked up again he said, “I miss the friendships…What I miss most is the friendships.” Then he walked inside his house. I spent the next few minutes behind my lawnmower thinking about those friendships built between my neighbor and his brothers in arms as they faced all kinds of adversity.

We need a friend who will stick by us during times of stress and trouble. That person becomes more than just a friend, they become a brother…a sister.

Can you picture the disciples sprinting away from Gethsemane in the moments after the soldiers began tying Jesus up? Can you see the desperate glances thrown back over their shoulders? The adversity has hit them hard, but they are certainly not acting like they are Jesus’ brothers.

It’s sad to consider how little adversity it can sometimes take for us to stop being someone’s friend. Maybe there was someone you used to hang out with in grade school, someone who was like a brother or sister to you. Lots of memories from sleepovers at each other’s houses. Then you got to high school, and other people decided that friend of yours was weird. Nerdy. Someone to be AVOIDED or MOCKED. You saw it happen. You saw the abuse they were taking. Rather than drawing close to them during their trouble, did you run away instead?

Jesus didn’t give up on the disciples as he was led away to the cross that night. He doesn’t give up on us bad friends either. In fact, his entire existence on earth was to prevent our ruin. He refused to leave us, even when it cost him dearly. He continues to stick closer than a friend or brother. Look at yourselves through Jesus’ eyes. You were the perfect candidates to be ignored and avoided. Yet Jesus still seeks a closer relationship with us and never leaves us.

As I think about the people in my life that God has graciously placed around me, I think about sitting on a dorm room bed and talking with some of them about guilt, about family struggles, about worries for the future. I think about them sticking up for me, even when they would have been better off sprinting away, casting desperate glances over their shoulders. I am grateful for friends who are closer to me than brothers and sisters, and I am well aware that I don’t deserve them. I pray that God allows me to be the kind of friend who supports people on the battlefield that is this entire life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, only you can teach me how to be a truly good friend. Give me the love and courage to support others, even when it will cost me something. 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 7, 2019

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.
John 15:13-14

The foundation for friendship

He says that he loves her. She is the best girlfriend ever. She makes him so happy. But he’s cheating on her. Every week at the same time after school. Does he really love her? Does he really?

The young woman claims this person is her friend. They have been through so much together. They’ve laughed and cried. But as soon as her friend leaves the room, the young woman immediately begins to criticize her. The way she dresses. The way she complains. How annoying she can be. Does she really love her? Does she really?

It is embarrassing to consider the things you have done or said to your family and friends. Think of all the passive aggressiveness. Think of the ways we have manipulated people to get what we want. Consider the ways we have failed to give the people whom we claimed to love what they truly needed. They needed us to sacrifice our time or energy. A friend needed our support when they were struggling. They needed us to sacrifice our pride and forgive them. But we just wouldn’t. We say that we love and care for people, but our emotions and actions project a different message.

Martin Luther said that there was a teaching that would be the key to a church standing securely or falling with a terrible crash. It was the teaching that we are declared not guilty in God’s courtroom because Jesus lovingly laid down his life for us, his terrible friends. That’s also the teaching on which our love for our friends will either stand or fall. If our love for others does not have Jesus’ cross as its foundation, that love will inevitably reveal itself to be fake.

His cross is both the foundation for our love and supreme example of what loves does. There the love dripped from his head, his hands, his feet, as he died. Here is perfect obedience to the Father’s command to love. “Whatever these people need,” Jesus said, “I will gladly do.” Jesus says he loves us. Does he really? Absolutely! Look at the cross and see it! Its selflessness covers all the times that our selfishness prevented us from loving in a real way. That is Jesus’ love for you.

Over the next month we’re going to think through what friendship looks like and what a good friend does. I want you to think about this question: “What does a good friend do?”

For now, rest on this foundation: Jesus is your best and greatest friend. He only thought of your needs and your salvation. Whatever you needed, that’s what he gave. He gave no thought to what it cost him. He only thought about what he gained, you. That’s true friendship.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, only you can teach me how to be a truly good friend. Forgive me for my selfishness and lead me to love selflessly. 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – June 30, 2019

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” … [Jesus] said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
John 8:1-11

Judge Not

Perhaps the most popular passage in our culture today is “Judge not!” (Matthew 7:1). Many pervert what Jesus is saying here. Some believe that Jesus doesn’t want us to ever point out anything someone does that is wrong. Of course, this isn’t true.

To save the world, Jesus had to point out sin. Jesus had to judge all hearts, whether they were sorrowful over sin and trusted in him or not. Jesus was all about saving, and he wants us to be too, just like him. He wants us to point out sin, first in ourselves, and then in others, not to stone them to hell, but to save them by the gospel.

A perfect example of how to judge someone to save them is John 8:1-11. Jesus encounters a woman who is clearly guilty of adultery, aa sin punished by death. Does Jesus condemn her? No, Jesus offers her “no condemnation,” telling her to leave her life of sin.

Like Jesus, do the same. Start first with yourself. See your sin. Then hear the most beautiful judgment ever declared, “Not guilty!” in Jesus. What a beautiful message to share with your friends whether straight or gay. To you and all your forgiven friends Jesus encourages, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to remember that on all issues of sin, your Scriptures were written not to condemn but to save people. As surely as you have saved us by your Word of truth and grace, help us share your Word with others in all truth and grace. Amen.

This devotion is part five of five devotions on the topic of LGBTQ. Be sure to search out the previous devotions for more insight from God’s Word on how to address this issue.


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – June 23, 2019

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
Proverbs 28:14

Can LGBT people be saved?

There seems to be the thought among Christians that gay people can’t go to heaven. That is absolutely not true. There are plenty of awesome children of God who have same sex attraction. Whoever believes that gay people can’t be saved simply does not know Scripture as they ought. Furthermore, what do people think about their own salvation, if they believe gay people are beyond saving but they are not? Do such people believe that their good works save them? Paul is pretty clear in Romans 3:20 that “no one will be declared righteous by keeping the law. Rather, through the law we all become conscious of sin in our lives.” We also see our need for a Savior. No one is good enough to save themselves, not even in part. No one is beyond God’s grace either, especially not gay people.

Sin is sin. All sin condemns equally, and all sin is equally forgiven by Jesus. The issue, then, is not homosexuality but the attitude in the heart of the individual. This is true for any sin.

The most important issue is repentance. Are you sorry for your sins? Is a gay person sorry for their sinful thoughts, words, and actions? Is the liar sorry for lying? Is the thief sorry for stealing? Do we trust that Jesus has truly forgiven us? Then by grace we are saved! That same grace covers the person who struggles with same sex attraction. The gift of God’s grace causes us to hate our sin and fight it all the more, striving toward holy living day by day.

What is the unforgiveable sin? It’s not homosexuality. The only unforgiveable sin is the hardened sin which rejects Jesus and the forgiveness he brings. The only unforgiveable sin is refusing to embrace in faith the Savior from sin.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, sin can be so tempting. Continue to lead us out of temptation. May we never choose sin over you and our salvation. Forgive us for all our sins and especially for our sinful natures which would only harden us against you. Amen.

This devotion is part four of five devotions on the topic of LGBTQ. Be sure to come back for more insight from God’s Word on how to address this issue.


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – June 16, 2019

Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.
John 3:3

Born this Way

“I was born this way. I was born gay.” Did you know there is a way to understand that to be true? That’s because people are born sinful, and none of us were born any differently. This is what David confessed about himself when he said, “Surely I was born sinful from birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). The apostle Paul helps us understand more clearly how devastating the effects of sin are on all of us. In Romans 7:18a, Paul shares that sin corrupts us absolutely: “I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.”

This means all people have the capacity to be any kind of sinner. We all have the same capacity to be liars and thieves as being gay. At the same time, we each have our different sins and gravitate toward particular perversities for various reasons. If it helps, think of all sin in your heart as either asleep, waking, or active and dominating your life. Usually when people say they are born gay, they are confessing that homosexuality is active in their life.

Although saying, “I was born this way” is biblically true, sin is not okay with God. That is also biblically true. Jesus points out in our passage from John 3:3 that the whole reason he came as our Savior from sin is because we weren’t born right with God. When Jesus tells us that a person must be born again, that means there’s something wrong with our first birth.

Thanks be to Jesus that he came to give us second birth, and you have been given second birth through faith in the waters of baptism. Keep holding on to your second birth! It is your forgiveness in Christ. Keep pointing others imprisoned by their first birth to the freedom of being born again.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are all born sinful. Help us to remember that you give second birth through your Spirit. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving us baptism where we are born again. Help us to live holy lives, born anew. Amen.

This devotion is part three of five devotions on the topic of LGBTQ. Be sure to come back for more insight from God’s Word on how to address this issue.


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – June 9, 2019

Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

LGBTQ

The trouble with googling an issue is that you can find a lot of wrong answers that sound right. This is true when it comes to the issue of homosexuality. If you want to find arguments showing why God is for homosexuality, you can. The thing is, these arguments are not biblical. Sure, they may even reference Scripture, but they do so unfairly. They do so out of context.

If you want a divine answer about what God says about homosexuality, the passage for our consideration is absolutely clear and an easy reference. There are plenty others, but this is excellent for at least two reasons:

First, the English is very clear in this translation and practically all others. Even in the ancient Greek, the biblical word used to express homosexuality as sin covers all its forms.

Second, homosexuality is grouped together with other sins that we are all guilty of. Notice that Paul doesn’t suggest that homosexuality is a greater sin which automatically condemns a soul to hell. Not even close. In fact, at the close of this passage, Paul notes that those who have committed sins of homosexuality but believe in Jesus are washed clean in baptism, just like any other Christian and any other sin.

Remember 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 for these two important reasons. Memorize it. All sin is sin before God. But all sin was also forgiven at the cross. Since we have been washed clean, let us leave our lives of sin and have compassion on all others embracing sin, whether homosexuality or anything else.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, even as we live in a culture that does not care about your word, help us to take your Word at face value. Help us to never pervert your words to justify sinful behavior. Help us also see that all sin is equal, and it has all been washed away by your grace in baptism. Amen.

This devotion is part two of five devotions on the topic of LGBTQ. Be sure to come back for more insight from God’s Word on how to address this issue.


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – June 2, 2019

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
John 13:35

Love

If you google “Christian LGBTQ” (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning), you’ll find out from the links that these are two communities in opposition. You’ll find arguments full of emotion, sometimes hatred, and rarely love.

Does that bother you? Does it especially bother you that many well-meaning Christians don’t come across as loving to LGBTQ? Many times, it almost feels like Christians forget about the souls on the other side of the issue. They can be quick to quote chapter and verse but forget about love. What good comes of it when Christians speak and act this way? The apostle Paul says that speaking the truth without love only sounds like clanging cymbals even if you have the voice of an angel (1 Corinthians 13:1). What’s a Christian to do?

Our passage today is the answer: “Love one another.” First, remember that we are disciples of the One who bled and died for all people, gay or straight. Second, act in love towards all, just as Christ acted in love. Jesus showed exactly what love in action looks like in the opening of John 13. He washed his disciples’ feet. Following John 13, he showed love again. Jesus forgave his enemies and died for them, even though they rejected the truth and continued in their hardened ways. Jesus was compassionate to all, not wanting any to perish but all to come to the knowledge of the truth and embrace forgiveness through faith and repentance. Those precious souls include you and me, once enemies of God but now are his children by grace. Jesus loved in both word and action as he also spoke the truth to everyone.

Saved, forgiven, and loved, we are called to do the same: Befriend those who identify as being gay. Build a relationship with them as you look to genuinely care for them. When the opportunity comes, point them to Jesus who can save them from their sin of homosexuality.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us show love to all people, whether they are gay or straight. Help us to point fellow sinners to you and confess how much we all need your love and forgiveness. Finally, Lord, open the hearts of the people to whom we show love. May they see we are your disciples. Amen.

This devotion is part one of five devotions on the topic of LGBTQ. Be sure to come back for more insight from God’s Word on how to address this issue.


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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – May 26, 2019

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.

1 Corinthians 15:35, 42-47

Easter swagger

Did you ever transform a plain white egg into a work of art? You know, the dying of Easter eggs. Do you remember the pride you felt, if one of your parents complemented your egg?

Jesus transformed our bland and basic lives into works of art. We weren’t very pretty. Our lives daily cracked and broke by the consequences of our sins. Our inner hearts smelled of the stench of sin. How incredible that God’s powerful love transformed us. Easter displays the handiwork of Christ who cleansed of sin and made us holy. Like colorful dyed eggs, we reflect what Jesus has already made us on the inside. We do that through works of service and works of love that the rest of the world can see. Our motivation starts from the inside and slowly works its way out to our outward appearance like the colorful dye on the egg.

Someday, God promises another transformation. Just as Jesus was resurrected with a glorious body on Easter, God will ornament our bodies into the works of art that will last forever! As we put off the worldly bodies, we will be renewed and regenerated with glorified bodies and a spiritual perfection. You will be God’s perfect work of art!

 

Prayer: Savior of eternal transformation, we thank you for removing our sin and guilt so that we can boast about our new spiritual condition. Lead us to accept our new calling as transformed sinners by your grace. Encourage us to look forward to the transformation of our bodies and souls when you accept us into our eternal home in 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – May 19, 2019

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the first fruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.
1 Corinthians 15:21-28

The final stomp

In the 2007 movie “Stomp the Yard,” a troubled teen tries to bring his own unique style of dance and interpretation to school. He wants to leave an impression on his peers and a special girl.

Jesus brought a new message of love and victory to a troubled class of sinners. Jesus stomped the yard in a way that had never been witnessed before. He left no doubt that all powers and authorities are squarely under his feet, especially Satan and the sway of death. Death held us hostage because of our mistakes. Which ones? All of them. Every bad choice or desire. It doesn’t matter how big or small, intended or accidental. Jesus realized the everlasting effects of our sin. So he literally stomped out the power of death by his death! In its place, our Savior lays claim to our lives and now wields lasting power over our long-term destination.

Death died a violent death as Christ secured his claim to victory on the cross. Death has been pushed off to the side margins of our personal diaries, and a new entry now appears as “Life Eternal in Heaven.” You can now stomp the yard with your own personal victory dance because of Christ’s victory.

 

Prayer: Lord of our personal destinies, you alone have charted our personal passport for eternal life. You have given us a face and a name through our conception and births. You have stamped our destination of heaven with your personal sacrificial blood. As we approach the customs gate of heaven, we have full confidence that you will accept us because of our faith and trust in your eternal sacrifice and your love 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – May 12, 2019

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
1 Corinthians 15:17-20

Signed, sealed, and delivered

Take a step back in time. The year is 1970, and Stevie Wonder is singing one of his many hits. This one is entitled “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.“ These words especially connected with the teenage crowd since teens were starting their personal search for “the one,” the person they could call their own.

The reality is that whether you are married or single, you have someone you can call your own. There is no denying that a person who dies in your place exemplifies love. Therefore, if a person denied that love exists, they are denying an undeniable truth. The same logic applies, if someone denies that Christ rose from death, the empty tomb and hundreds of witnesses of his resurrection would prove the opposite. The resurrection signed, sealed, and delivered the fact that God is alive and sin is dead! Here’s God’s promise to you: Your past no longer dictates your future with him. We often can’t hold the pieces of our life together, so God sent his son to make us whole again, redeemed, restored, and forgiven. Christ’s resurrection is his final signature for mankind that his total victory over sin, death, and Satan was completely accomplished. He shows you his hands and feet and body broken for you. He says, “I’m yours, and you now belong to me.”

How do you know that you truly are forgiven? Look in the empty tomb! Look at the living Jesus! It’s the proof you need—signed, sealed, delivered!

 

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for giving me all the proof I need in your holy Word that Christ came out of his tomb while my sins stayed buried. Help me to live my life today reflecting that undeniable truth! 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – May 5, 2019

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.
1 Corinthians 15:1-5

First things first

If you returned from the dead, who would you want to see first? What message would you want to deliver? In our reading, Paul shares the short version of the “Jesus diary” of accomplishments for human kind.

Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection put his followers into a tailspin about his person and mission. But Jesus returned to reveal himself to the apostles he personally trained over his three years of ministry. Jesus first appeared to Peter, the person who betrayed him. Then he appeared to the rest of the apostles who turned and ran from him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Which group would you fit? Would you be a “denier” or a “garden runner?” Who needed the most assurance of Christ’s forgiveness? Jesus chose to assure Peter that he was alive first. Perhaps it was because Peter felt responsible for letting his Savior down when Jesus needed his support.

“Of first importance”, Paul says, is this: “Christ died for our sins … was buried … was raised on the third day.” First things first, take your stand on those words! The one we hurt the most with our sins forgave us through his cross. Let that be your first thought every morning and last remembrance every night. With this understanding, may your appreciation grow for the one who makes YOU his first priority!

 

Prayer: Life-giving Lord, we praise you for giving us life at birth and then offering us second life through our baptism into faith. Your assurance of love through your death and resurrection constantly reminds us of your love for us and all humankind. Thank you for putting us first, so that through faith we can put you first in our lives and actions. 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – April 28, 2019

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1

What God calls you

What you are called by other people matters. People who know you call you by your name because they know you and who you are. Those who are closest to you might even call you by a nickname because they know you deeply. That nickname is a sign of affection. Others may call you by hurtful and hateful names. They describe you with words meant to tear down and demean.

Which words and names do you remember more? We tend to remember the hurtful things more than the helpful, encouraging things. We tend to remember how people tear us down rather than how people build us up.

Take a moment to look at your own actions too. You know how good it feels to have people call you by endearing names. You know what it’s like to be called by names that hurt. Yet how easy do you find it to call others by cruel and unkind names?

There is a name that you don’t want. Nobody wants it. But it is an accurate description of all people: sinner. This is a name that you’ve earned because of your behavior.

But while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8), God demonstrated his great love for you. He calls you by a different name: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” You are God’s child. How? God in his great love for you sent his Son, Jesus, to make sinners into his children. The Son of God loves you so much that he took all the hurtful names you’ve been called and all the unkind names you’ve called others, and he died on a cross to wipe them all away.

Child of God is who you are now! Child of God is your identity now, always, and forever.

So, when you hurt because of what others have called you, remember your identity in Christ. You are God’s child. He loves you infinitely more than the best earthly father ever could, more than you can even begin to imagine. He helps you, provides for you, strengthens and upholds you.

When you think of your sins and are weighed down by guilt, remember your identity in Christ. Your sin is washed away in Jesus’ blood. You are his forever. Child of God is who you are! Now go and live like the child of God that you are.

 

Prayer: Gracious Father, when I hurt because of the words and actions of others, show me in your Word that no matter what others say, you love and treasure me as your own child. When I hurt others, help me to recognize it and turn to you for forgiveness. Strengthen me to move forward as your child, seeking to show your great love for me to 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – April 21, 2019

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11:25-26

From death to life

The message was urgent. “Lord, the one you love is sick!” Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were good friends of Jesus. Lazarus became gravely ill. His time was running out. So his sisters sent word to Jesus with the immediate plea, “Come quickly! Help!”

But he didn’t. He stayed where he was for two more days. By the time Jesus arrived at Bethany, Lazarus had died, and his body had been in a tomb for four days. Jesus was too late.

As Jesus approached their house, Martha went out to meet him. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” she said to him. Why wasn’t he there when Lazarus was dying? But Martha also knew something else, “Even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Shining through her sorrow was the glimmer of faith in Jesus, the miracle worker.

To say that the death of a loved one is terribly painful is an understatement. Life is never the same after someone near and dear to us dies. Maybe you know that grief and pain all too well. Maybe someone near and dear to you is sick. You pray and ask Jesus for help and healing, “Lord, the one you love is sick!” But what if he doesn’t answer in the way you hope he will? Does the thought of dying make you afraid?

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus said to Martha. Then he walked up to the tomb and shouted into it, “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus did. Jesus brought the dead one back to life. He was there after all! He did something even greater than Mary and Martha even could have imagined.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He holds and uses absolute power over death. He showed it in raising Lazarus from the dead, and he proved it when he rose from the dead himself. That’s what we see on this Resurrection Day! Jesus will do for you exactly what he did for Lazarus. “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” He will do the same for all who believe in him. Jesus will raise all of his believers from the dead one day, and they will never die again! They will live with him in glory forever.

In this world, you will wrestle with grief over the death of a dear one. You will face the end of your own earthly life. You will face death, but in Jesus, you have eternal life! Don’t be afraid! He has resurrection power to reverse death. Someday, Jesus will shout to you, “Come out!” And his promise will come true, “You will not die, but live again!”

 

Prayer: Lord of life, in the face of sorrow and even death, give me joy, confidence, and hope in the fact that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! You are my resurrection; you are my life. Resurrect my faith today until the day you take me into glory. 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – April 14, 2019

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:4-5

Fruitful in Jesus

Jane thought that her status as a good Christian was determined by how well she could follow God’s commandments. Day after day, she tried her best to follow them. But day after day, she found herself giving into temptations to do what God said she shouldn’t. She gossiped. She disrespected her parents, because she thought they didn’t understand her. She gave into peer pressure, because she didn’t want anyone to think less of her. It bothered her so much that she began to wonder, “How can I call myself a Christian if I can’t even follow what God tells me?”

Maybe you think this way too. It’s easy to think that being a Christian simply means to do what God tells us to do. We find our identity in what we do and how well we do it.

That’s not where Jesus tells us to find our identity. In John 15, he tells us that being a Christian is more than just following a set of rules. He said, “A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine… I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him is the one who bears much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” If you cut a branch off a strawberry plant, you can’t expect that branch to have strawberries on it in the middle of summer. That branch must be connected to vine or the trunk to grow, bloom, and bear fruit.

To bear fruit in your life, you must be connected to Jesus, your Savior. Apart from him you can do nothing. He came to earth for you. He lived the perfect life you cannot live. He died on the cross to take away all your sin. He rose again to give you heaven. He saved you to live with him eternally! All of it is a gift freely given out of his love for you. When God connects you to Jesus through faith and brings you to realize that he did all of that for you, it changes you. The good works God wants from you will happen, not because of your effort, but because God has changed you.

Branches bear fruit because that’s what branches do when they are connected to the vine. You are a branch that bears fruit because you are connected to Jesus. Through that close connection with him, you are not alone to produce good fruit in your life! Stay connected to God in his Word and in the Lord’s Supper. You have his promise: God will make you fruitful in Jesus.

 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, you are the vine and I am a branch. Keep me connected to you through faith. As you promise, make me bear fruit and to do the things that you want me to do. 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – April 7, 2019

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6

The only way

What are you going to do after graduation from high school? Are you going to college, or will you join the workforce or military? What occupation do you want to have? Is there a family business or line of work you can join, or will you blaze your own trail? What way are you going to take?

Answering questions like these is no small matter. Weighing those decisions can be confusing and overwhelming. The pressure of the decisions can give way to worry and fear: “What if I make the wrong choice? What if my life doesn’t go the way I want?” On top of all that, the pressure of these decisions can lead us to think only about the here and now, thinking that the most important thing in life is your career or your status. We can think only about earthly life instead of eternity and heaven.

On the day before Jesus died, he was together with his disciples. He only had a little time left with them. In that time, he comforted them. In John 14, Jesus told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions… I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.”

The only way that truly and eternally matters is the way to the Father’s house in heaven. Jesus has gone there to prepare a place for you to be with him in glory forever. The most important question we can ask is the one asked by Jesus’ disciple Thomas, “…how can we know the way?” Jesus gives the answer, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is your only way to heaven. The truth that he suffered and died to save you from sin is the only truth you need. The life he came to give you is life unending in heaven. He is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life.

So, no matter the direction you choose to go in life, follow the Way. Follow Jesus.

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when I am confused about the direction of my life, when I am confronted with the temptations to worry about everything or to forget about you, grant me your grace and remind me you gave your life and rose again to give me a mansion in your Father’s house. Help me always to trust in you as the Way. 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – March 31, 2019

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 10:11

I am the Good Shepherd

Sheep are not very intelligent animals. In 2005, shepherds in Turkey watched 1,500 sheep walk off a cliff because the neighboring shepherds were not paying attention for a few minutes. Sheep are also defenseless. They don’t have horns, stripes, or speed to use as protection or for disguise. Sheep need a shepherd, because without one, they are an easy target for whatever predator gets to them first.

You also need a shepherd to guide you through life on the path to heaven. Trying to find your own path will lead to a terrible place. By nature, you won’t wander toward God but away from him. Following the crowd is dangerous too. Unless they know the true God, they are as lost as you are. You are also defenseless against the attacks of Satan. He is like a roaring lion looking to devour you. Temptation is always lurking for you, waiting to pounce like a tiger in the tall grass. Like sheep you are dumb and defenseless. Like sheep, you need a shepherd.

Thank God you don’t have an ordinary shepherd, but the Good Shepherd, Jesus. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” You would have ended up in hell on your own, but Jesus laid down his life for you, his sheep, to lead you into heaven. Satan had his sharp teeth and piercing claws ready to pounce on you, but Jesus destroyed the devil on the cross. He has no power over you. He is no longer a threat to you because of Jesus.

Rest secure. Each day when you wake up ready to face everything the world is going to throw at you, remember that you have the Good Shepherd watching over you. He will lead you in paths of righteousness. He will not let any harm come to you that he will not work out for your good. Yes, Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is YOUR good shepherd.

 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, my victorious Savior, I pray that your will be done. Destroy the work of the devil and his demons. Stop all of those who oppose your Gospel. As the Good Shepherd, guide and guard me, and bring me to glory everlasting. 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.
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