Transformed – teen devotion – December 9, 2018

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Emmanuel

There is no other time of the year like this. I really enjoy the season of Advent and the many Christmas services. Most people do. It is a special time of year.

It wasn’t quite so special for the shepherds, at least not at first. Suddenly the night sky was lit up with angels. The shepherds were scared. They should have been. God had come. God’s glory was all around them. They were exposed.

That’s what light does—it exposes. It uncovers all ugliness and sin. That’s the part that we hate. The glory of God and the light of his Word shines in the deepest corner of your heart to expose the dark thoughts of your heart. The light of his Word exposes the sins that have owned and controlled you this past year. You know what he’ll find, and it’s dark.

God does not withhold the truth. In fact, Jesus is full of truth. He tells us things just the way they are. He tells us he sees all the sins hidden in our hearts. God doesn’t hide the truth or cover it up.

Instead of covering up the truth of our sinfulness, God covered himself up.. To save us and to spare us from his blazing glory, God covered or clothed himself in flesh. That’s what John is saying: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” God clothed himself. How does the hymn go? “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate deity… pleased is God with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

God clothed himself in flesh. He hid himself in the flesh of baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. He hid himself behind the frailty and weakness of a human being. Yet, right there, in the flesh of Jesus, all the fullness of the Deity lived in bodily form.

God comes at Christmas, but not to consume us with his anger. That’s why the angels spoke up quickly when the shepherds were so scared. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you! A Savior has been born for you, he is Christ the Lord.” God had come to help his people. God clothed himself in flesh to cover you with blood. Don’t be afraid! His name is Emmanuel, which means God with us. God is with us to save us!

Prayer: Lord God, you clothed yourself in the flesh and came to this earth not to condemn, but to save the world. Help me to marvel at the majesty clothed in flesh; you are Emmanuel! Help me to rejoice that you have clothed me with your blood; I am forgiven. 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 – December 9, 2018

The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
John 1:9-13

Rejection

Rejection is a natural part of our lives. You are rejected when you don’t make the team or get a call back for a second audition. You get rejected while dating and in so many other situations in life. Everyone experiences rejection in their life.

There is someone who knows what rejection feels like—Jesus. From the very start of his life and ministry, he faced rejection and ridicule. People saw the miracles he performed and expected him to be their earthly king. When Jesus made it clear that he wasn’t an earthly king, they left him. Even his own family rejected him. Some of his brothers didn’t believe he was the Son of God.

Jesus was rejected throughout his entire life. Out of love for you and me, he chose to take our place and to take our sin on himself in order to suffer the death we deserved to give us the life he earned. That’s why Jesus came. He came to be rejected by men, so that we would be accepted by God. He came to be condemned by God for our sins, so that we would be forgiven. He even came to be rejected by God, so that we would be accepted by God. Because of Jesus and his rejection, God receives us as children of God. We will not be turned away or rejected by him.

Dear friend, receive the Word of God this Christmas: Jesus loves you! He has come to give you new life and to bring you into the family of God. Rejoice! You are an accepted child of God!

Prayer: Father, we confess that we often have rejected and rebelled against your Word. Forgive us. Thank you for restoring us daily as your children. We rejoice that in Christ our Savior, you accept us as children of God! 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 – December 2, 2018

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:1-5

Light has come

I was sitting in a strange car in the middle of Buenos Aires when I heard these very words from St. John. A friendly man was driving me to the airport. After some roundabout Spanish small talk, he told me that he too was a Bible-believing Christian! He plugged a flash drive into his car’s stereo and together we listened to these words, “En el principio ya existía el Verbo.” Translated, it is the opening of John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word.”

Studying Spanish in a foreign country helped me understand the power of words. My words could communicate to a waiter that I’d like to order the pizza with extra cheese or help me navigate my way through the city in a taxi. But when I consider that Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit created the world with a word from their mouth, my words seem like nothing. I can use words to tell people what I want, but God used the words “Let there be,” to create the world from nothing! And he saw that it was good; yes, it was very good.

God was happy with his perfect creation, but that perfection didn’t last long. The first sin plunged the world into spiritual darkness. But God doesn’t settle for mediocrity, he demands perfection! I can’t do anything perfectly. I snap at my siblings, throwing insults at them. I gossip. I blame. I complain. God hears every terrible word I say, he even knows each sinful thought I think. Do you struggle controlling your words and thoughts too?

Our future would be bleak if God didn’t say anything after the first sin, but he did. God spoke to Adam and Eve and promised them a Savior to bring light into the darkness. What gracious words!

Flash forward to Good Friday. The sky is dark as night in the middle of the afternoon. Jesus suffers on the cross while the sin of all people of all times hangs on his shoulders. This gruesome death in the pitch dark brought us life. There in the dark, Jesus, true God, spoke, “It is finished.” What powerful words!

After three days Jesus rose from the dead! He burst out of the tomb after conquering the darkness. Death has lost its power. Death doesn’t lead to eternal darkness and terror. Jesus promises us victory over death and eternal life in heaven. He is the light! He is the life! Yes, he is our light and our life.

Prayer: Dear God, your words are powerful. Your words created this world. The Word made flesh, Jesus, saved me from sin and death. The Word came to scatter the darkness. You have brought us light! Now, help us be lights to others so that they can also be with us 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 – November 25, 2018

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Changing shapes

Have you ever looked in a mirror that distorts your body? Some of the mirrors make you look tall and skinny, and others make you seem short and fat. I was at the mall the other day and watched as a boy in a wheelchair came up to the mirrors. He sat there and rolled back and forth between the two mirrors. He seemed to be having such a great time. Even though he was not able to fully enjoy the effects of it, you could see the happiness in his eyes.

How could that boy be thankful for having to sit in a wheelchair for the rest of his life? Have you gone through times in life and sometimes found it hard to be thankful? When things don’t go our way, we tend to start blaming God for not providing. We may go as far as disowning God for a short time. When we do not know the outcome of our future, doubt starts to creep in and causes us to take matters into our own hands. The truth is that we do not deserve a God who gives us perfect gifts. We are lost and hopeless sinners.

Jesus never promised that being a Christian would mean freedom from problems. Our verses remind us to be thankful in all circumstances. We don’t know the plan God has for us in the future. We may even be in pain while going through a bad time in life, unable to see light at the end. We may even feel completely lost and feel abandoned by everyone, and God still tells us to give thanks! We have a reason to be glad because we have a way to handle problems. James tells us our God does not change like shifting shadows. Shadows come and go. Our God is forever. He promised to be with us forever whether walking or in a wheelchair. He knows your burdens. He will help you carry your burdens.

Stop and take a moment to thank God because you woke up this morning. Thank God for life. For each other. For friends. For parents. For house and home. For Christ and salvation. He is the satisfaction for my soul.

Prayer: Dear Savior, you hold me in the palm of your hand. Give me the faith to thank you even on the darkest days. Even when all hope seems lost, remind me to give thanks because you have washed us clean by the blood of your innocent Son. 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 – November 18, 2018

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
1 Peter 1:3

Joy

Before you begin to read this, make a list of things that make you happy. You can write it down or make a mental list. Try to get as many as you can.

Did you get them all? Now continue reading … .

In an episode of VeggieTales, Madame Blueberry says she has everything she could ever need, but she is not happy with what she has. On her way home from the store, after buying pretty much everything, she passes a girl who is with her mom and dad on her birthday. The girl does not have much, but she is happy. That’s when Madame Blueberry realizes that she does not need material items to be happy.

It is easy to get caught up in material things. Go back to your list of things that make you happy. What’s on it: A TV show? A book? Your pet? Mom, Dad, Aunt Sally, and Uncle Joe? Did God, church, or the Bible make your list? When we think of what makes us happy, it’s so easy to get caught up by the things we see and touch nearest to us. As long as we live, we face the temptation to place God who brings us his salvation on the backburner.

Remember to focus on the reason for that joy:

  • God gave you “new birth” through baptism!
  • God gave you “living hope” through Jesus’ resurrection!

Our hope is alive because Jesus is alive! Now we look forward to an eternity in heaven with him! That’s something to be happy about! No more trials. No more heartache. No more temptation. We will have the honor of standing at the feet of Jesus. He wiped away our sins with his death so that we can finally know what peace feels like. Resting our hope in Jesus Christ will bring us eternal happiness, no matter what struggles we are faced with here on earth.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for the joy of life everlasting in your arms. Continue to work through me so that I can help others find your joy. Guide me to hold tight to your Word when I am faced with trials, and help me to find joy here on earth, knowing that I will find eternal joy it is in heaven with 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – November 11, 2018

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
1 Timothy 6:6-10

Contentment

Some people think that contentment means getting everything they want as soon as they want it. If that’s contentment—a desire and want of more—it can easily lead to a negative view of life that says, “Look what I DON’T have.” It can lead us to resent what others have but we don’t.

What is the secret to happiness? God says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Being content with what you have rather than looking at what you do not will put your focus on the positive and not the negative. Contentment is the heart of a believer who believes God is our provider, who provides for our spiritual and earthly needs because we are his children. Jesus gave up his breath on the cross. There we find all debts of sin are paid. It promises peace with God. It assures of salvation. It leads to the conviction that “God works all things out for our good”.

One of the best definitions of contentment that I have heard is, “not having all you want but wanting only what you have.” Satisfied with what you have—that is being content. It means having all you need not craving for more. “But what if I do not have all I need to support my life?” Jesus answers, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26) Yes, you are valuable to Jesus! Find contentment in him!

Prayer: Dear Lord in heaven help us to be content with what we have and not to worry about what we do not. For we know that you will provide everything that we need to keep our bodily life. Thank you for sending your Son to die on the cross in our place so that we can be content in you today. 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 – November 4, 2018

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:19-27

The cause

A quick jab to the nose! A left hook to the temple! The enemy is gaining on you. His punches are coming one right after another. After another left hook to your head, he finishes you off with an uppercut that sends you to the ground. Staring at the mat beneath you, you wonder if you will ever be able to get back up again.

Have you ever felt this way? As if you are trapped in a boxing match and life is throwing punches at you, one right after the other?

What about when it comes to telling others about Jesus? Our text for today shows us how the author, the apostle Paul, tirelessly tells others about Jesus. Like Paul, our purpose here on earth is to share the gospel and win souls for heaven. This is easier said than done. We get rejected, we feel we don’t have the words to say, we don’t think we are getting through to anyone, and maybe even our own friends laugh in our faces. These are the punches that come with sharing the gospel, and the truth is…we can’t win this match on our own.

We don’t have the strength to finish the fight. We are weak and sinful human beings. Because of the sin that corrupts us to the core of our very being, we and all those we love deserve only eternal damnation. If we ourselves are destined for death in hell, how then can we expect to win the souls of our fellow damned for heaven? The dead cannot raise the dead. That friend you have that does not know Jesus, you will never be able to convert him…on your own.

Jesus Christ, our mighty substitute, steps into the ring. He fights for you and me! He came to earth, lived the perfect life we could not, died an innocent death on the cross in our place, and then raised to life so we too may rise. As if that was not enough, he also promises to be with us as we tell others about his love. It is only with his power that we, and many others, will receive the crown of eternal life in heaven.

Prayer: Dearest Jesus, I am weak. So often I do not take hold of the opportunities you give to me to proclaim your Word. Fight for me, dear Savior. Be with me as I tell others about your amazing 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – October 28, 2018

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Mark 8:34

Rebel #4 – The Weight

Many things make it hard to follow Jesus. We’ve talked about some of them this month. There are more that we haven’t even talked about. There are the temptations the world holds out as a lure. There is the direct opposition the world brings, for we believe things the world directly opposes. The devil is constantly after us like a roaring lion. So much is stacked against us as we live for Jesus and rebel against this world and its ways.

Those struggles are hard enough, and then Jesus adds one more. “Deny yourself.” In other words, Jesus is calling us to put others ahead of ourselves. We are not first, Jesus is. We are not even second, everyone else is. Which means—we are always last! “Deny yourself.”

We want “me” time, to be taken care of, and to have our turn. We want what is good for us. It’s what we want. But Jesus says, “Deny yourself. I’m first. They’re next. You are always last.”

But we want what’s good for us. We want our way the way we want it and when we want it. Jesus says, “Deny yourself. What I want for you is what you should always want.”

This is the cross that Jesus gives us to carry, the cross of self-denial. Yes, this is the cross Jesus calls us to carry as we follow him.

As we step under the weight of our cross and learn to say “God your way is best, and I trust you,” then we find contentment and even joy in the life that God gives us. When we learn to say, “God, I will give up my wants for the good of the people around me,” then we find that God will provide for us in ways that we didn’t even imagine with even more than we could have thought.

The weight of the cross and the struggle against it drives us to our knees so that we rely on God and on him alone. When God is all we have, we learn that God is all we need. He gives us salvation, support, and strength. He gives us all that we need.

So, step under that cross and accept in faith whatever God gives. Step under that cross and deny yourself as you live with other people.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, you call me to deny myself, take up my cross and follow you. O Jesus, it is hard and heavy. I ask you to give me strength to carry this cross. As I do, draw me closer to you, knowing you meet all my needs. 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 – October 21, 2018

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1:18

Rebel #3 – The Bloody Fool

Jesus would never make the list of superheroes. He just wouldn’t. He doesn’t carry himself like a superhero. He doesn’t act like a superhero. The cross appeared to be his kryptonite, rendering him powerless. If you look at the man, Jesus, and his story, you’ll see that he has quite a dismal end.

When human eyes look at Jesus, they may be tempted to see only a failure. His enemies got away with his murder. He appeared to have lost everything at the grave.

Human ears hear things that don’t make sense. His enemies tell lies about him, and Jesus doesn’t defend himself. The people mock him, and Jesus silently lets them. We hear sounds of defeat and loss, and Jesus seems powerless to stop it.

This is our Savior!?! The one who loses to all his enemies? The one who is mocked and doesn’t even offer a response?

He is the one we worship. He is the one in whom we believe.

It’s no wonder that people think we are foolish. The One we call on for help and salvation couldn’t even help himself. “He couldn’t even save himself, how will he save the world,” they mock. “He was silent against all his enemies, maybe they were right,” they laugh. The One we trust seems like a failure, and we look foolish for trusting him. People think we’re crazy for believing in Jesus as we do.

But it’s not as foolish as it seems. In the weakness of Jesus, we see the power of Jesus letting people take his life so that we could have our life forever. In the death of Jesus, we see Jesus taking all the punishment that our sins deserved, so that we wouldn’t be punished for the things we had done. In the cross, we see the triumph of Jesus over and against all our enemies. There at the cross and in his death, Jesus delivered a death blow to our enemy, the devil.

There in his death, we find our life and resurrection. There in his weakest moments, we find our salvation. To the world, our Savior Jesus seems like a bloody fool. But to us, he is our Savior and our God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for helping me to see you as you really are. You are not weak, you are mighty to save. You are not foolish, you are wise to win me for heaven. Grant me faith to believe you even when the world says I’m crazy and foolish for doing it. Amen.


TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – October 14, 2018

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Matthew 19:16-22

Rebel #2 – The Guide

People love a good “how to” guide. We want to know how to fix a phone that got dropped in the toilet. We want to know how to run a little bit faster. We want to know how to do all sorts of things. We even want to know how to get into heaven. This week we consider the guide that we have from our God, the “how to” of getting to heaven.

In Matthew 19, a man came up to Jesus to ask, “What good thing must I do to get eternal life?” He had the idea that if he did the right “good thing” he could get heaven. He was looking for a “how to” guide from Jesus. Jesus did give him a guide, but he couldn’t follow it, so he went away sad.

Take a moment to evaluate yourself and your relationship with God. How close to God are you on a scale of 1-10? Rate yourself closer to 1 if you feel like you’ve got a long way to go. Rate yourself closer to a 10 if you feel like you’re doing a good job in your relationship with God. After you’ve evaluated your relationship with God, read on.

I would be willing to guess that you didn’t rate yourself a 10. You looked at your relationship with God and felt like you weren’t quite where God wants it to be. You’re not a “10.” By doing this, you’re evaluating yourself the way this man did. You’re looking for a “how to” list from God to be good enough. If you can to do all the right things, you’d be a 10. But if you keep evaluating yourself this way, you’ll always walk away sad because you’ll never be a 10.

Jesus wanted this man to completely give up on his own ability to be good and find his goodness in Jesus. This man walked away before Jesus could tell him the only way to be good. Jesus would have told him, “I am your goodness. I am your righteousness. I am your perfection.”

We are perfect because Jesus declares us so. We are good because Jesus declares us to be good. We are righteous because Jesus makes us so. The apostle Paul says it like this: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). So you see, you already are a “10” in God’s sight.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on my sin and claimed it as your very own. You give me your righteousness, and by faith, I claim it as my very own. You became what you were not, to make me what I was not. By your grace, I’m a “10” in your sight. Thank 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – October 7, 2018

So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:21-25

Rebel #1 – The Enemy

Do you ever feel like you don’t belong? Do you ever feel like you don’t fit in?

It’s supposed to be that way for us in this world. The Bible calls us aliens and strangers in this world. We’re supposed to be different. While our friends go one direction pursuing sin and priorities that are not God’s, we go against the stream pursuing that for which Jesus took hold of us. We don’t belong in this world. Heaven is our destiny; that is where we belong. Not only that, but we have a different God, a different guide, and we fight a different war than everyone else in this world.

This month’s devotions consider what it means and looks like to be rebels as followers of Jesus. This week we look at our enemy. Immediately, we think of the devil who like a prowling lion creeps in the tall grass looking to devour us. We also think quickly of the temptations that the world dangles in front of us.

Those are certainly our enemies, but sometimes you are your own worst enemy. Paul knew it was true: “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” There was a war inside of him. It made him a prisoner to sin. Previously in Romans 7, Paul expresses a deep frustration because he isn’t doing and can’t do what he knows he should.

You’ll find the same thing as you look at your heart and life. You know the good that you should be doing, but you don’t do it. Sometimes you intentionally plan to do that thing you shouldn’t do. Other times, you fall into sin and feel helpless against it.

Paul is teaching us a powerful and important truth about ourselves: We’re worse than we thought. There isn’t a spark of goodness in us. We can’t just get over our sin by trying hard and doing the right things. It’s not in us. What a bunch of wretches we are!

Our only hope is that we are more loved than we would even dare imagine. Our God has delivered us from sin and death. Our God has even rescued us from this wicked, sinful nature in us. He has drowned it to death in our baptisms. He has given us complete victory in our Savior Jesus and set us free to live for him. He does it daily for us as we confess our sins and hear his forgiveness. He does it daily in the waters of our baptisms.

The truth is you don’t belong to sin anymore; you belong to your God. He redeemed you by his Son and gives you the victory through his Son, Jesus.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am so frustrated by the sins I commit. I don’t want to do them. Sometimes I do them on purpose. Sometimes I do them without even thinking about it. Forgive me for them all and set me free by your blood to live for you. I belong to you. Help me to live for you. Amen.


TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – September 30, 2018

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
Luke 22:39-43

God’s strength

This week we’re wrapping up our devotions on spiritual habits. I want you to think back to all of these devotions and notice something. We want to spend time in God’s Word, because in his Word he gives us his strength, courage, and motivation to live for him. We want to spend time talking to our God in prayer, because God promises to always answer our prayers. We want to spend time with the community of believers, because they will give us strength from the Lord.

A theme emerges from these spiritual disciplines: They turn us to our God who gives us his gifts of strength, answers, help, and courage.

We see an Jesus’ example as he cried out to his Father in anguish. He was thoroughly overwhelmed by what was about to happen. He even begged that God would take this cup of suffering away from him. Look what God did in answer to his prayer: An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.

This is what God promises to do for you as you walk through life. He promises that his Word is power for salvation; it is food and strength for you and your soul. He promises that he will always hear your prayers for help and for strength. He says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:15). He promises that his church, his community of believers, will endure to the end. You will never be alone on this earth as you live by faith here.

God has given you the gifts of his Word and Sacraments, prayer, and his people to give you his strength and his support through life.

Prayer: Father, thank you for giving me your gifts to help me stay faithful to you until death. Thank you for giving me your strength to live for you all the days of my life. Amen.


TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – September 23, 2018

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Matthew 26:41

The power of habit: Know your weakness

No one gets married and thinks, “In ten years, I’ll be unhappy in this marriage and go looking for love somewhere else.” No one ever says to themselves, “I think I’ll be a drug addict or an alcoholic when I grow up.” No Christian ever confessed their faith thinking, “I won’t always believe this.”

Yet it happens every day. It even happens to pastors of churches and the most dedicated students of the Bible. They fall into sin and away from Jesus. What happens?

Peter never dreamt that he would be the one to deny Jesus. He actually took an oath, because he was so sure that he would never do it. But just hours later, he swore another oath saying that he didn’t even know who Jesus was.

What happened?

Jesus identifies it for us: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We have the heartfelt desire to remain faithful and steadfast. We have the sincere intention to stay true, faithful, and steadfast in our faith. Our spirit is certainly willing.

But our flesh is weak. Our nature has been weakened by sin and weakness. Ever since Adam and Eve, our nature has been tipped toward sin in the most despicable and vile ways. Even as Christians, our sinful nature is still a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak. Because of the weakness of our nature, we need spiritual disciplines to bolster and to hold us up. We need the power of God’s Word to correct, rebuke, encourage, and train us. We need to be people of prayer, constantly turning to our source of strength. We need close and trustworthy Christian friends around us to keep turning us back to the God of our salvation.

Because of our sinful weakness, it vital for us to keep active in God’s Word and prayer and to stay close to God’s people.

His Word, prayer, and his people are God’s gifts to keep us close to him all the days of our life and to call us back when we stumble and fall. Use them. They are God’s gifts to you.

Prayer: Lord God, I know my weakness more and more each day. Keep turning me back to you for strength and direction. You are my Savior. I need you. Please help. 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 16, 2018

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23-25

The power of habit: Christ-centered community

These are the days when we are more connected and yet more disconnected at the same time. We are more connected on our phones, more connected through social media. At the very same time, we are also quite disconnected as we live life. We’re connected thumb-to-thumb but not face-to-face and not soul-to-soul.

That can be a dangerous thing. Social media can lead us to be fake with other people. We easily filter the way life is really going. We can easily hide what is really going on with us. We can easily isolate ourselves from the Christ-centered community that we so desperately need. The truth is: The lone wolf gets picked off. That’s who the devil goes after because there is no one around to help when tempted.

God’s people need each other. We need other people in our lives. That is precisely why the writer wrote these words to us. He knew that we needed a Christ-centered community around us.

On the one hand, we need each other to see the blind spots in our faith and the sins that hide in the corners of our lives that we can’t see. We need other Christians to show us our sins. Even more than that, we need them to show us Jesus’ forgiveness. We need a Christ-centered community around us to keep us close to our Savior.

On the other hand, other people need us just as deeply in their lives. They need us to lovingly show them the blind spots of their faith, the sins that hide in the corners of their life. They need us to show them their sins and even more than that to tell them that Jesus has forgiven it all! They need us to spur them on with gospel encouragement!

You, dear Christian, need the family of believers, the community of Christ-followers, around you. In fact, they are God’s gift to you to keep you close to Jesus until he returns. And in the very same way, you are God’s gift to them to keep them close to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear God, thank you for blessing me with many wonderful friends. Be with my friends and me. Help us to encourage each other to grow in your Word. Keep Christ as the center of our lives and bring us closer to each other by bringing us closer 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – September 9, 2018

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.
James 5:16-18

The power of habit: Prayer

Why we don’t pray more? I can only speak for myself, but I sometimes don’t pray more because I think I can get more done if I actually “do” it than if I pray about it first. I think that my thinking, my working, my worrying, and my planning are more powerful than actually praying about it.

When I write it down it sounds pretty foolish, doesn’t it? But our lack of prayer says just that. Our lack of praying says to God that our activity and our working is more important than asking him to act and work and do.

James inspires us to believe that prayer is a powerful thing. He tells us that our prayers are powerful and effective. Our prayers matter. Our prayers change things. Our prayers make a difference.

If you believed that something was powerful, would you do it? Of course. If you thought something would make all the difference in the world, you would make sure it happened. If you thought something mattered, you would make time for it, intentionally, purposefully, regularly. That’s what we do for things that make a difference and matter to us.

James gives an example of an effective prayer. He reminds us of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17 and 18. Elijah prayed that it would not rain—and it didn’t rain. God withheld rain for three and a half years because of Elijah’s prayer. Then Elijah prayed again that it would rain—and God sent rain.

Prayer works. Prayer matters. It is powerful and effective, not because of the person who is praying, but because the person praying invokes God’s powerful name and humbly relies on God’s gracious promises and saving will. The story of Elijah—and many other stories throughout the Bible—show us that this is true.

So pray. Make a habit of it. Your Father in heaven loves you. He has forgiven all your sins, and he now invites you to call on him in prayer. In his love for you, he hears your prayers and works powerfully for you and for the world.

Prayer: Lord God, you teach me that prayer is a powerful thing. In your grace, Father, you invite me to pray. Help me to understand how powerful prayer is so that I make it a part of the very fiber of my life. Yes, Lord Jesus, teach me to pray without stopping. 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 2, 2018

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:14-17

The power of habit: Bible reading

What if I told you that you would die tomorrow unless you took one pill? Would you miss it? Probably not. You would probably set an alarm. You would do something to make sure that you always took that pill every single day, because you know it is a matter of life and death.

There are other things like that in our life, things that aren’t a matter of life and death, but still very important to us. We have daily routines and habits that are really important—brushing your teeth, taking a shower, doing your homework, or eating meals. These things have become part of your regular life, and you wouldn’t really consider cutting them out.

This month we’re going to talk about some disciplines that are important for your spiritual health. These are things that we want to be diligent about practicing. If we don’t practice these things, we put our faith at risk. We risk falling from the faith and losing out on eternity. Jesus himself tells us to “watch and pray” so that we don’t fall into temptation.

The first habit is Bible reading. It’s something that Paul tells Timothy to continue. He urged him, “Continue in what you learned and have become convinced of.” Paul wants to Timothy to make a habit of remembering what he had been taught. He wanted Timothy to keep Scripture on the front of his mind, continuing to remember it.

Then he tells him, and us, why.

The Scriptures make us wise for salvation. There is no better or higher reason than this. God’s Word rebukes us when we are wrong. It teaches us of God’s love for us. It points us to God’s forgiveness of our sins in Christ. It equips us for a life of righteousness. It gives and strengthens our faith in Jesus.

God’s Word is good for everything else in this life too. In short, God’s Word is also a personal trainer for our daily walk as Christians. It equips and trains us to live as God’s people in this world.

Would you ever skip brushing your teeth on purpose? Of course not! It wouldn’t be healthy. The same goes for daily Bible reading. Sustain your spiritual health and grow in it by including God’s Word in your daily life.

Prayer: Dear Holy Spirit, we thank you for the many opportunities you give us to make your Word a part of our daily routines. Strengthen our bond with you and help us realize the importance your Word has on our daily lives. In His name we 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 26, 2018

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21

Tough conversations about stuff

This morning as I scrolled through my Facebook memories, I caught a project from about a year ago. I was laying some flooring in the first floor of our Texas home and also painting the exterior. I was trying to make that house our home. But that was a year ago. Today, my family and I live in Milwaukee. Someone else is living in what used to be our freshly painted, newly floored, clean and pristine house. We’re living in a house which meets our needs well but needs some maintenance and work.

Things in this life are temporary and fleeting. We live in a house for a while, maybe even for a long time. But the house wears out and needs to be updated and repaired. Or we move to a new house, maybe into a new city, a new state, and a new school. Things in this life constantly fall apart. We buy a new pair of shoes, and in just weeks they’re already creased and wearing out. Our favorite pair of jeans becomes thin and worn.

Everything in this life is temporary. Yet, these are the things that we chase. We’ve got to have the right shoes, the right jeans, the right clothes. We want just the right house in just the right neighborhood where we drive just the right car. We work extra hours to have a little extra spending money. Then it disappears and wears out. It’s here today and tomorrow it’s gone.

That’s not even the most dangerous part. Jesus points it out to us: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If our hearts treasure the stuff of this world—which can make life comfortable and enjoyable—then we will go the way of our treasures. Away. Worn out. Tossed out and away from God.

That is why we must have this tough conversation. In some ways, it is none of my business what you do with your money and what kinds of things you enjoy, especially if it isn’t forbidden by God. But I am concerned for your heart and for your eternity. That’s why I have to warn you. If your treasure is your stuff, then you will go the way of your treasures.

But when Jesus is your treasure, you have everything. You have forgiveness, life, and eternity. You have a Father in heaven who loves to give all these things to those who seek first his kingdom and a Spirit who loves to dwell in your heart to give you contentment and joy whatever the circumstances of your life. When you have Jesus, you have everything. He isn’t ever going to go away. He won’t ever wear out or fade away. He will remain for you and with you forever.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are everything to me. You are my life, my righteousness, my redemption. You are my eternity. Help me to set my heart on you and treasure you above all things. 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 19, 2018

Or 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

Tough conversations about sexuality

“I am straight.” “I am gay.” “I am lesbian.” “I am bi-sexual.” “This is who I am. This is what I do.”

These are the days when people are more proud than ever to say these kinds of things. You’ve likely heard people say these things with pride before; maybe you’ve even said them yourselves.

Paul has something to say, “These people who claim this identity and live this life will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Paul actually enlarges this group to those who also say: “I am a thief.” “I am greedy.” “I am a drunk.” “I am a swindler.” “I am a slanderer.” “This is who I am, and this is what I do.”

If you—or if anyone else—want to claim an identity and live a life that God calls sin, then you are asking God to leave you out of heaven. Paul is clear. “These people will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

But that’s not the only answer here. He is talking to you, dear Christian, who is struggling with what to think about your sexuality. For you who refuse to be identified by your sexuality but instead by your repentance, something else is true. For you, who struggle daily with what God says is sin, who grieve because you know the good you ought to do but don’t do it, Paul says something else to you. “That is what some of you were.”

You were identified by sin, but now you’re not. Now you are identified by your Savior Jesus. You are cleansed by his blood. You are justified and not guilty in his sight. You are washed. You are not who you used to be. You are forgiven.

If you’re struggling with your sexuality, reach out to a Christian friend and lean on God’s Word and Jesus’ blood for salvation for help. If you’re struggling with the sexuality of your family or friends, seek God’s wisdom in his Word and some counsel from your pastor. Tough conversations about sexuality do not have easy answers.

But there is always this: Jesus takes us as we are and makes us someone new. He always forgives. He always helps us in our struggle with sin, whatever that sin happens to be, even in our sexuality.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me your words and your wisdom as I talk to people in my life about their sexuality. Give me a broken heart when I see how I have sinned against you in my own sexuality. Lead me to find my identity and my salvation in what you have done. 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 12, 2018

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:5

Tough conversations about depression

Your body aches, your energy runs low, and all you can think about is how much you would love to just stop to rest. You keep running toward the finish line, but it seems as if the longer you run the more distant the finish line is. No matter how hard you keep pounding the pavement, the end never comes. You tell yourself “Just one more step, just one more step.” Eventually, you collapse. Out of energy and in pain, you wonder if it will ever end.

Does this sound like everyday life for you?

Depression is a reality that can hound and chase us every day. It seems as if everyone else has their lives put together. But for you, each day is a struggle. The loneliness, the guilt that haunts us, the fear of what’s going to come next, or simply not even having drive to get moving in the morning, depression cripples everyday life. This describes the life of many people, maybe even your life.

Depression has always been a very real thing for God’s people. In this psalm, the writer experiences a very real despair. He asks despairing questions: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” and “Why have you forgotten me, God?”

What do I do with this depression? How do I go on from one day to the next? What does God say about all this?

The answer is found here in the psalm. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” There is no magical cure to make the darkness go away, but there is a rock, a sure foundation to stand on when dark days come. It is our salvation and our God, Jesus Christ. Christ, your God, came down to be a man and suffer as you have, as your own brother. He took upon himself the guilt of the whole world. All your sins, every last one is nailed to his cross, and they cannot come back again. Now Jesus rules all things for your benefit.

Put your hope in God. He is your Savior. He is your brother. He is your God. He knows your struggle. He knew a despair that is greater than anything you have experienced. He knew what it was to be abandoned by God. This One is your Savior and your God. Put your hope in him. He is with you in the deep waters of your depression, and he won’t ever leave you.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, when depression comes and overwhelms me, lead me to put my hope in you. As the storms of life assail me, continue to be my rock and salvation. Turn my thoughts and my heart to you, so that I trust your promises. You are my Rock, my Salvation, and my God. Stay with me and help me. Amen.


TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – August 5, 2018

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.
Psalm 146:3-5

Tough conversations about politics

Over the next month we are going to talk about things that are deeply personal. We’re going to look at things that are highly controversial. Just a single post about any of the topics this month sets off a firestorm of comments on both sides of the conversation.

These are topics about which it would often be easier to be silent. But God is not silent on them. So, we won’t be silent either. This week, the topic is politics.

As we tackle it, let me ask a question: Why are we often troubled by what our leaders do? Why do we often get so upset and sometimes even rebellious when we talk about our leaders? The answer is simple: We’re not in control, and we want something else to happen. We don’t trust these leaders to do what is good for us. Sometimes we actually think our leaders are out to harm us.

The psalmist puts his finger on the problem. We are looking to human beings to do for us what only God can do. We’re looking to our human leaders to take care of our bodily needs, to give us a blessed life, to protect us, and keep us safe. But that’s a job that only God can do.

Only God can save. Only God can provide. Only God can give the blessed life. Only God protects. God is the only one who can do these things. And he does do these things. He does them through the leaders he has put in authority.

So, trust your God. He is your help and hope. Even when our earthly leaders and rulers don’t seem to be doing good for us, God is always doing good for us. Our God gives the blessed life.

Pray for your leaders. Pray that God would give them wisdom and lead them to do what is good for us. Pray for their health and wellness. Pray for their families. Most of all, pray that they would turn to the Lord and be Christian, godly rulers as they rule over us.

Prayer: Lord God, be with our leaders, our president, our representatives, and all who lead our country. Give them health, wellness, and most of all wisdom. Lead them to rule over our country so that we may live peaceful lives and so that more people might 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 29, 2018

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The Bible doesn’t say: “God won’t give you more than you can handle.”

When I was growing up my mom gave us a mantra to encourage us to keep going. She would say, “You can do it if you try, go Nate, go.” She’d sing it again and again. She wanted us to get it into our heads that we should persevere, that we should never give up, that we should push on and forward no matter how hard it got. That’s good advice. That’s even Scriptural. God’s Word would urge us to persevere and push forward in faith with the strength God provides, no matter how hard or bleak it seems.

As with anything good, sayings like this get perverted. This “You can do it, if you try” mantra turns into “you can do anything you set your mind to.” That, simply stated, is not true. There are certain things in life that we simply cannot do. Should we make a list? It isn’t hard.

There are things in this life that you just can’t handle. You can’t control the events of this world. You can’t even control some of the events of your own life. You couldn’t stop that tire from going flat. You couldn’t stop your mom or dad from getting sick. You couldn’t control whether you kept or lost that job. There are things in this life that you just can’t handle. It’s too much!

There are certainly things in the spiritual world that you can’t handle. That’s what Paul is getting at in the verse for this week. He’s talking about temptation that comes to all people; he even says, “God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” That’s where people get the idea that God won’t give us more than we can handle.

That’s not exactly what Paul says. Notice carefully what he says, “When you are tempted, HE…” Paul isn’t saying that you’ll have the strength to escape this and the strength to handle it. Paul is saying that God does and God will. God will provide the strength. God will provide the escape. God will handle it.

In many cases, that is exactly God’s purpose. When temptation comes, God would have us fall to our knees unable to handle it and pray, “Lead me not into temptation.” When trial and hardship comes, God would have us fall to our knees unable to deal with it and pray, “Deliver me from evil.” God would have us turn to him for strength and help; he will give it!

Things will come into your life that are far more than you can handle. In your weakness find strength in your God who says to you, “My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In this, learn to boast of your weakness against temptation. Learn to boast of your weakness when you suffer trial, insults, hardships, persecution, and all kinds of difficulties. Learn to say, “When I am weak, then in Christ I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

It may be more than you can handle, but it is never too much for your God to handle.

Prayer: Lord God, when hardship, trouble, and temptation enter my life, turn me to you. I am weak, but you are strong. I can’t handle it, but you can and in your love for me, you will handle it. Amen.


TeenCreative Commons License Devotions are brought to you by WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 22, 2018

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James‬ ‭1:2-4

The Bible doesn’t say: “Suffering always comes because of sin.”

What goes around, comes ______________. You reap what you _________________. You can probably finish those sentences without too much thinking because they are so deeply embedded in our American culture and even more embedded in our human nature. We naturally think that if I do bad to someone else, something bad will happen to me. On the flip side, we also naturally think that if I do good to someone—if I pay it forward, good will come back around to me. What goes around, comes around. You reap what you sow.

Then when something painful enters our life we think, “What did we do to deserve this?” Even people in the Bible thought this. When painful things happened to Joseph’s brothers they immediately thought, “This is happening to us because of what we did to Joseph” (Genesis 42:21).

Nothing could be further away from the way that God deals with us and rules over our lives.

There is no more punishment for our sins. All our sins have been already punished and paid for in the wounds of Jesus. God is not out to get his pound of flesh from us. When suffering comes, God is not punishing us.

The way that God deals with us in our lives is purely and completely out of his grace. When good things enter our lives, it isn’t because we deserved it or because we did good. This isn’t some law of “sowing” and “reaping,” where one good turn deserves another. No, God pours out grace upon us purely because of his grace and goodness, purely out of his love for us.

That’s what happening when we suffer too. James tells us to consider it pure joy when we suffer and face trials. He wants us to find joy in our suffering, because God is graciously at work in our trials too. He is at work drawing us closer. He is at work purifying us. He is at work chiseling us to make us mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Suffering doesn’t come because of sin, as though God were out to get us. No, even in suffering, God is acting as our dear Father who loves us most and desires us to live and walk with him eternally.

Prayer: Dear Father, help me to see my suffering as it really is. It isn’t punishment for sin—you already forgave all of mine and the world’s. Rather, help me to see that in my suffering you are making me mature and complete in faith and for life. Help me to see it and rejoice in it, 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.
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Transformed – teen devotion – July 15, 2018

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1-5

The Bible doesn’t say: “Don’t judge others.”

Actually, the Bible does say it. You can read the words from Jesus’ lips right there. Jesus himself said, “Don’t judge or else you will be judged.”

We need to understand that Jesus is talking to us in these verses. He’s talking to us about our attitudes and our own sin. It’s probing and piercing when Jesus says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye…” He’s right. You can’t possibly come to someone else in this life to point out their sin and help them out of it when you haven’t addressed your own sin first. Jesus urges us to repent and ask for forgiveness and cleansing for our own sin.

This leads us to be honest with ourselves and with God about the sin in our own lives. It isn’t that Jesus forbids us from pointing out the sin of others. Jesus wants us to be honest with him and with ourselves before we do.

Honesty leads us to be humble and broken as we point out other people’s sin. It helps us see that we are no different from the people whom we want to call out for their sin. We are also under the threat of God’s judgement. Jesus wants us to “see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

In all of this, as you call people out for their sin, remember these two things. 1) God is ultimately the judge. You are not the judge; you are simply telling people carefully, clearly, and lovingly what God says in his Word. Let his Word speak to these dear people. Let God be the judge. 2) Remember your goal. Your goal is not to get people to change their ways. Your goal in pointing out sin is to lead people to repentance and then to tell them the good news, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Learn from Jesus who, even though he could have tossed stones at a woman caught in adultery, said to her: “Woman, has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go now, and leave your life of sin” (cf. John 8:10-11). He addressed her sin, most importantly forgave her and urged her to leave that life behind.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I don’t like it when people turn from you and live in sin. I want them to turn to you for repentance and faith. Give me honesty, humility, and deep love for them as I talk to them about the sin in their life and your never-ending forgiveness. 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 8, 2018

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:11-13

The Bible doesn’t say: “Obedience always leads to blessing.”

This week we’re looking at another statement that people claim comes from the Bible: ‘Obedience always leads to blessing.’ Like the saying from last week, it sounds good and can even be understood in a true, biblical sense. “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and obey it,” Jesus said (Luke 11:28). God gives us his commands because he wants to bless us. He wants us to live his way in this world. That is the best way to live. It is a blessing to live God’s way in this world.

But what if I do obey God, and it doesn’t turn out well? What if I obey God and honor his will, but I lose my job because of it? What if I’m living a life of obedience and get made fun of? Or I get cancer? What if I’m doing all the right things, but my life is one hardship after another?

This saying falls apart when obedience doesn’t lead to blessing, but instead leads to hardship.

The apostle Paul grappled with this in his life. After his conversion to Christianity, Paul devoted himself to doing God’s will. Even then, he had to admit, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Sometimes his life went well. He was well fed and had plenty of God’s gifts to enjoy. But there were other times when his life did not work out so well. He was hungry. In fact, Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians from a table in his jail cell. Things didn’t turn out well at all.

But Paul gives us the secret to a blessed life. He tells us how to be contented and happy whether the circumstances of life are good or not, whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Paul knew that the secret to a blessed life was found in the gifts that Jesus gives, in the rule that Jesus exerts, in the protection that Jesus offers.

This is where we find contentment and blessing. Jesus gives us gifts every day, exactly what he wants us to have. He never shorts us (even if we think sometimes that he does). Jesus always gives us the right gifts and the right amount of them because he is good. Jesus rules over our lives. Yes, he rules over the good times and the hard times. He rules over them for our eternal good, because he wants us to spend an eternity with him. He protects us from danger, especially danger to our souls.

Sometimes there are good times. Other times there are hard times. But our Father rules over both the happy and the sad times. He rules over our lives for our good and promises to give good and perfect gifts to us. He does it all, not because we obeyed, but simply because he is our good and gracious Father in heaven.

Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, thank you for ruling over my life for my eternal good and not for my harm. Help me to understand that you always bless me and do good for me, even if it means that hard things enter my life. You are good at all times, O God. Your will is always good 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 1, 2018

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.
Romans 8:32

The Bible doesn’t say: ”God helps those who help themselves.”

This month we are going to look at sayings that people, even Christians, use which are not from the Bible. We want to be careful not to believe things that aren’t from the Bible. Sometimes these unbiblical sayings seem harmless. At other times, these sayings are downright harmful and dangerous to our faith. We are going to look at a few of the more dangerous ones.

This week we look at: ”God helps those who helps themselves.”

At first glance, it sounds pretty good, right? It seems to say that if we want to get anywhere in life, we have to help ourselves by doing some work. It seems to say that we have to work to accomplish anything or amount to something. That’s true. Even the Bible says: “If a person won’t work, he won’t eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10). God does tell us to work with all our might in life.

But look again at that saying. We are not only being told to work or “help ourselves out in life.” It is telling us that if we help ourselves, God will help us. We are told that our actions push God into action. We are even left with the impression that if we don’t help ourselves, God won’t help us.

Here’s where the saying gets dangerous. It treats God like a vending machine. You get something out after you put something in. You have to do work, before God will do his.

Always trying to earn God’s help is a stressful way to live and the wrong way to believe.

It is a faithless way to live too—using our work to try to earn God’s favor. It leaves us relying on ourselves for earthly things—and heavenly things too—rather than relying on God’s grace.

Look what Paul says about why our God gives, about why our God helps. He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things. He tells us that God gave us his Son as the proof and the evidence that God will give us all things. He uses the word “graciously” because he wants us to know our salvation is God’s gracious and undeserved gift to us through his Son. He uses this word to teach us that God’s help in our lives comes without our work or our help. It’s all grace. It’s a gift. God helps us because he is good and he loves us.

So, yes, get to work. Plan for your future. Do what you are asked to do in your daily life.

AND, believe that God will help you both now and eternally purely because he is gracious. His love for you is the reason he helps. It has nothing to do with what you have or haven’t done. God helps simply because he loves you.

Prayer: Dear Lord, keep me from believing that my work earns your favor and your help. Keep me from relying on myself. Instead, teach me to trust your grace and your goodness to me. You promise to help me because you love me. In your name I pray, amen.


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