Transformed – teen devotion – May 20, 2018

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John‬ ‭14:26

Who is the Holy Spirit?

1993 was a long time ago. Twenty-five years ago to be exact. That was the year in which I publicly confessed my faith and was confirmed. My confirmation was a long time ago.

I sit with my kids as they grow up and are confirmed too, and I find myself learning it all over again. I forgot some things over the years. I look back at my life recall those moments in high school and college when I wandered away from my confirmation promises. I remember my sins and my failures. God’s grace means so much more to me now. I sure do need it!

Sometimes I even wonder how I’m still a Christian at all. I’ve done things that aren’t things that Christians should be doing. Science and reason pose challenges to my faith. Pressure from my peers and the lure of temptations seem to constantly pull me away.

I wonder if you, dear teen, can relate. Your faith is constantly attacked by atheism, science, or just seemingly good arguments. Your morality is constantly challenged by pressure from friends or the lure of sex, drugs, or drink.

Are you going to make it as a Christian?

Yes, and Jesus tells us how. He makes an astounding promise to his disciples, that he’s going to send the the Holy Spirit. This Holy Spirit would remind them of the things they once learned but would soon forget. This Holy Spirit would teach them everything God wanted them to know. This Holy Spirit would convict them when they sinned and forgive them when they turned back. This Holy Spirit would be with them and walk with them through life. He would work to keep them in the faith until he finally would raise them from the dead on the Last Day.

That, dear teen, is God’s promise to you. He promises this same Holy Spirit to you. He promises that this Holy Spirit whom God gave you at your baptism will be with you all the time. He will teach you all things. He will remind you of what Jesus has taught you up to this point. He will assure you of God’s forgiveness. He will keep you in the faith and will finally raise you from the dead in the Last Day.

And so, twenty-five years from now you can look back at your life and marvel at how God has kept you in the faith. He’ll do it. That’s his promise.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, send me your Holy Spirit and keep me in this faith. Keep temptations far away from me. Keep teaching me. Keep reminding me of your Word and promises. And so, Lord Jesus, keep me in the faith. Do whatever it takes so that I remain your child until heaven. Amen.


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

Transformed – teen devotion – May 13, 2018

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 1:22-23

Who is the Son?

For twenty minutes, 149 passengers were absolutely out of control. A fan blade broke off, causing one of the engines of their plane to explode. For those twenty minutes, they didn’t know whether they would live or die, and they couldn’t do anything about it except sit and wait. They were absolutely helpless and couldn’t do anything except pray.

We can relate when we hit that patch of black ice on the road in the middle of the winter. We can relate when the other driver rear-ends us or crosses the middle of the road into our lane. We can relate when sickness or cancer comes without any cause at all. We can relate when someone suddenly loses a job through no fault of their own.

We couldn’t stop our tire from going flat or our car battery from dying over night. We couldn’t stop the other driver from falling asleep at the wheel or rear-ending us. There is so much in our lives over which we have no control at all. It’s such a helpless feeling, because there is nothing we can do about it.

That’s why these words from Paul are so important to remember, especially when life seems out of control. Do you see what Paul says about Jesus? Do you see what God did? He put all things under the feet of Jesus. All things. Things like the exploding engine in that Southwest plane. He ruled over those moments when the engine exploded and the plane suddenly lurched toward the ground. He ruled over those moments when your car skidded out of control on black ice. He ruled over those moments when you or someone you love suddenly got sick or lost a job.

He is Lord and ruler over all things “for the church.” That’s Paul’s way of saying that Jesus is Lord for the people who believe in him. He is Lord over all things for you, for your good, for your benefit.

Things may be out of your control, but they are never outside of his control. He sits as King over all.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, when my life seems out of control, remind me that you are Lord and ruler over all things. Remind me that things are never outside of your control. Calm my heart with the truth that things are never outside of your rule. Amen.


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

Transformed – teen devotion – May 6, 2018

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Holy Spirit was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.
Acts 4:7-12

Who is the Father?

God the Father is the Creator of all things. He created everything perfectly. He created it all simply by saying the word; he spoke and it came to be.

When it came to people, God chose a more personal way of creating them. In the same way that a potter uses his hands to carefully and intentionally form his masterpiece, God took his time to shape and fashion Adam. He helped Adam to see that it was not good to be alone. Then after putting Adam to sleep, he made Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs.

God made all this and more. He is mighty and powerful. He is careful and creating. He is kind and gracious. He is the Father of all created things and especially of you.

Your relationship with your earthly father may at times not be a great one. It could make looking at God as your Father slightly discouraging. It might be something that you don’t like to consider at all.

But know this: your God is perfect in every way—especially in his duties as a father. He made us fearfully and wonderfully. He says that he has numbered each and every hair on your head. He knew your name before you were even born. You cannot hide from him. God the Father looks after your needs and will satisfy your desires. He will work everything out in your life so that it it’s good for you and for your soul.

Our Father in heaven knows us intimately and desires that we would know him intimately as well. And there are good reasons to know him well. He is kind and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love (Num 14:18). He is everything that you want a father to be and more. He cares about you and wants you to be with him in everlasting life. He has sent his Son, Jesus, to be the atoning sacrifice for your sins so that you can be with him in heaven. It proves that your God in heaven is your Father who loves you most.

Prayer: Almighty God, my dear Father, you made me and all that exists. Thank you for creating me. Thank you for caring for me. Thank you for giving your Son for my salvation. Keep watching over me all the days of my life. Keep me as your child until I reach heaven. Amen.


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

Transformed – teen devotion – April 29, 2018

“They [the Sanhedrin] had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Ruler and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:7-12

Standing tall

Peter and John, apostles of Jesus, had just done something miraculous: they healed a 40-year-old crippled man in front of numerous witnesses. But not everyone was happy with the miracle. Instead of giving thanks to God for this act of mercy, the local religious leaders threw Peter and John into jail. The next day, they were questioned by the Sanhedrin—the highest authority of Jewish law and culture.

The members of the Sanhedrin felt threatened by the apostles. They wanted to stop them from spreading this message of Jesus around the people. So they ordered Peter and John to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, but the apostles would not bow to such a command.

The apostles of the early church didn’t have it easy. They were put in prison multiple times, flogged, stoned, mocked, kicked out of different regions, and killed. What would cause them to be willing to suffer all of this?

Jesus.

Peter, John, and the rest of the early church believed that Jesus is the only way to heaven. His death and resurrection meant that they would live forever someday. His name is the only name that saves. You can see why they wanted to spread this good news to everyone.

What do you say when someone asks about your faith? What do you do when someone confronts you about your Christian convictions? What do you do when someone attacks you? It’s easy to shrink back and avoid giving a real answer. It’s intimidating to stand up for what you believe, especially with close friends.

During times of questioning, look to the example of Peter and John: Stand tall. Don’t be ashamed of the name of Jesus. He gave you everything: the forgiveness of all your sins, new life, and a home in heaven. Like Peter and John, “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” in Jesus’ name (Acts 4:20).

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me stand tall and be a bold witness for you when I’m asked about my faith. Amen.


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

Transformed – teen devotion – April 22, 2018

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are his witnesses of this.
Acts 3:15

We are witnesses

It’s hard to talk about Jesus and share our faith. We live in a world that largely doesn’t want us to talk about Jesus. We live in a world that doesn’t want to hear what God says. I can’t imagine how hard it was for Peter to look at the Jews and say, “You killed the author of life…” But then, listen to what he says next: We are God’s witnesses.

As we read the story of Jesus, we often hear about how the disciples struggled to trust him even when he was right there with them physically. Time and time again, Jesus showed them how powerful he was. He showed them that he was trustworthy. But even after his resurrection as he is about to ascend to heaven, some of them doubted, and in the past they had proven to be afraid.

But on the day of Pentecost, God gave the apostles the boldness and strength to speak about his Word. They went out on that day unwilling to be stopped.

God’s promise for you is the same. He promises that he will empower you to tell other people about what God has done. Jesus himself said, “The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12:12). The Holy Spirit will help you to share God’s Word and tell people that you are a Christian.

Remember: we’re witnesses. The witnesses in a court trial tell the story of things that happened as best that they can. They testify about what they’ve seen and heard. That’s what we as witnesses are to do. We tell people what we know and believe. We tell people what the Bible says about Jesus. We’re witnesses!

Yes, it’s hard to talk about Jesus and share our faith. People don’t often like what we have to say or want to hear it. But we have nothing to hide. We don’t need to be ashamed. Jesus is always with us, and his Spirit will give us both the boldness and the words. We are witnesses of what God has said and what Jesus has done. Talk about it!

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the strength to speak and the words to say to those who don’t believe in you. Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, and give us your power to spread the Word. Help us to put all our trust in you as we live 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.

Transformed – teen devotion – April 15, 2018

Every day [all the believers] continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.
Acts 2:46

Don’t forget your team

It’s game day. You know what you have to do, so you get out on the court or field to face your opponents. Then you realize something’s wrong. You’re all by yourself. The other team is there, looming over you like a dark storm cloud from the other end of the field. However, not one of your teammates can be seen. Not on the court. Not on the bench. Nowhere. You have no one on your side.

Do you ever feel like that is your spiritual situation? Maybe you feel like the only Christian at your school facing the whole science department that teaches evolution as truth. Maybe you’re the only one at your job who doesn’t want to take a longer break than allowed. Maybe you’re the only one at a party who doesn’t want to drink because you’re underage.

In those situations, you may feel alone and unable to handle the pressure. You know his promise to always be with you, yet the present situation makes you question God’s presence.

That’s one of the reasons God surrounds us with the church and puts other Christians in our lives. God does not want us to be alone. He wants us to be together.

God equips your Christian friends to help you through all kinds of life’s problems, earthly or spiritual. Whether you have questions about the Bible or about your homework, whether you’re trying to pick a college or what to wear to school tomorrow, Christian friends can help because they (like you) know where to find answers to life’s critical questions. Christian brothers and sisters can remind you of God’s promises and give encouragement, comfort, or even correction from God’s Word. And not only do you get to enjoy these benefits, but to share them! God calls you to be that encouraging, supportive Christian friend to others too.

Most importantly, when you do crack under the pressure and give in to sin, your Christian friends are there to point you to Jesus. Your Christian friends are there to show and give you Jesus’s forgiveness. His perfect life and innocent death paid the penalty for all your sins. That’s the message you need to hear most of all. That’s also the message your friends need to hear from you most of all.

Do you have Christian friends? Thank God for them! Surround yourself with them. Then be one for them!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you so much for blessing me with Christian friends so we can encourage each other to stay close to you. Forgive me for the times I haven’t been the friend you want me to be. Thank you for being the perfect friend. Amen.


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

Transformed – teen devotion – April 8, 2018

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Acts 2:37-41

Bold

My parents decided to take my family to the circus when I was about five years old. I was entranced by the animals, the trapeze artists, and the silly games and activities. But when the clowns came out, I tried to run away. There was something about them that scared me.

My brother played on this fear one year by dressing up as a clown for Halloween. He would pop up around random corners of our house. For many years, I shyly avoided any interactions with clowns at parades or fun family events because of my fear and lack of confidence.

Finally, my dad took me by the hand and showed me some clowns behind the scenes. I saw them putting on makeup, taking it off, and doing human things. The realization that clowns weren’t what they seemed helped me overcome my fear of them. The encouragement and support of my dad made me stronger and bolder to face my fears.

Jesus’ disciples had their fears as well. They saw Jesus arrested, scorned, mocked, and put to death on a cross. The disciples’ sinful human nature made them susceptible to the devil’s temptations of fear and doubt.

But after his resurrection, Jesus appeared to them as they hid behind the scenes. He showed them that he really was alive. He showed them (and us!) that all our enemies had been overcome. By the Holy Spirit’s strength, the disciples were rescued from their fear and doubt. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on them, giving them the courage and boldness to go out into Jerusalem to preach and teach the saving news of Christ to others so they might repent, believe, and be saved.

The devil will always tempt us to hide away and to be afraid. But this Easter, see what Peter saw that made him bold to speak. Look behind the scenes and see that Jesus is victorious and reigning on his throne. Then by the Spirit, share Jesus with boldness and confidence.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, send your Spirit down on me. Through the Holy Spirit, help me to speak boldly and confidently your Word and your Son. Keep me in the saving truth of Christ now and always. Amen.


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

Transformed – teen devotion – April 1, 2018

Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see it…I will not believe.” …Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Select verses from John 20:24-29

The Resurrection Scars

“You wouldn’t believe the game of putt-putt golf I had today. I got a hole-in-one on every hole!”

Is it hard to convince a friend of yours that someone has done the impossible? No matter how many times you tell them, they will probably ask you to prove it; sometimes seeing is believing. No matter how hard they want to believe you, they have to see it with their own eyes and touch it with their own hands.

This is how it was for Thomas. Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to his disciples. But Thomas wasn’t with them. The disciples told Thomas what they had seen and touched, but it was too much for Thomas. He said that he wouldn’t believe them unless he put his hands in the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and feet and felt his side. A week later Jesus again appeared to his disciples. This time Thomas was with them. This time Thomas got to see and touch. Finally, he believed.

But why did it take so long? Thomas was there when Jesus had told his disciples that he would be raised from the dead. Jesus told them more than once. Why would he need so much convincing?

There are times in our lives when we too need a lot of convincing, but why? Why do we doubt? The truth is, some things are heard to believe when we can’t see and touch them. At times it feels like we have a blind faith.

But our faith is hardly blind. Jesus reminds us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Our faith stands on the sure words of Jesus. These words are even more sure now that he has kept his promise by rising from the dead. He truly has overcome the world.

Thomas wanted a “scar story,” something he could see and believe. And in great love for Thomas, Jesus came to him in his weakness to show him his scars, to even let him touch those scars.

In your times of doubting and wanting to see, look at the scars that Jesus showed Thomas. Look at the scars that Thomas touched. Know that all your doubts are forgiven. Jesus really has conquered sin and death for the world. Jesus really has risen from the dead, just as he said. His Word is true! His promises are sure. You can count on it. His scars are the proof.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for bearing those scars and showing them to us. In times of doubt remind us of your words “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Remind us of the sure things that Thomas got to see and touch. Then, give us faith to believe it. Amen.


This Lenten series we’re taking a look at the scars we all have from our sin and from the sin of others. Ultimately it’s not about our scars, but rather the scars of Christ which he took for us on the cross.


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

Transformed – teen devotion – March 25, 2018

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

Successfully healed

History gives us a long record of horrific events where people suffered greatly because of sin: the conquistador conquests over native civilizations, centuries of slavery and slave trade, the Armenian genocide, the Rape of Nanking, the Holocaust, and more. Dating back to the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden, death has been the ultimate result of sin.

Truth is, history proves the same about us. Even more horrifying is the thought that we have caused the suffering of others. We personally have given scars to countless people physically, mentally, and spiritually. Not only have we hurt others, we have hurt our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the most. We pierced him. We crushed him. We caused him to die on the cross. We put the Son of God through hell. Our sin killed the one who came down to save us from sin, death, and the devil. We deserve to shoulder the suffering of our Savior. Instead, all our sin, all our guilt, all our punishment was put on his shoulders, and he suffered hell for us. What a loving God! A God who loves us so much he sent his only Son, fully God and fully human, to die for our sins so that we may have eternal life in heaven with him.

The theme of the month has been ‘Scars.’ Holy Week is a perfect time to reflect on the scars Jesus received in our place. Through the pain of his suffering and death, we have peace. Just as he rose from the dead, we too shall rise to live with him eternally in heaven.

Our teenage years are often a time to learn about and form our own identity. What better identity can we have than one that is found in Christ? Because Jesus forgave us for the scars we placed on him, we also forgive people for the scars they have placed on us, and we seek forgiveness from those whom we have hurt. Let us live with the scars of Jesus in mind, the scars he received for us and for the entire world.

Prayer: Lord, during this Holy Week, help me remember and be thankful to you for the suffering and hell you went through so that I may have eternal life. Through your scars, the scars caused by my sin are healed; through your resurrection, I have hope and life with you forever. Thank you for that peace that nothing can overcome. Amen.


This Lenten series we’re taking a look at the scars we all have from our sin and from the sin of others. Ultimately it’s not about our scars, but rather the scars of Christ which he took for us on the cross.


 

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

Transformed – teen devotion – March 18, 2018

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”
Luke 18:31-33

Successfully healed

Have you ever witnessed a “scar battle”? It’s when a few people whip out their slowly fading lighter patches of skin and start comparing tall tales of old accidents. Sometimes people seem quite proud, or at least able to laugh about their klutzy moments. However, they probably were not laughing when the accident first happened.

Scars often prompt painful memories even if they now make interesting stories. As a rule, we try to avoid those moments of pain. Yet, much as scars are viewed as past injuries, they actually show the place where your skin was successfully healed.

Some scars go further than just skin-deep. The pains of being betrayed emotionally, of guilt, or of the struggle to see ourselves as God’s loved creation can cut deeply into our soul. As with any physical scar, the impression can last even after the wound is healed.

We are not alone in that battle: Jesus also felt our scars. He felt the whip and the nails. But he also carried the sins of the whole world. He did not avoid the scars of our sins but bore them for us. He has given us the eternal hope of heaven and has promised us ultimate healing. He also promises to be with us and be our strength in every moment of pain while we are here on this earth. We are being healed spiritually through Christ’s forgiveness each day. He is growing and shaping us in his love so that one day we may have a perfect home with him where all those scars will finally fade away.

Prayer: Dear Lord, forgive us for the times we have been the cause of scars found on others. In your love, you allowed your only Son to be scarred for us all. Those scars have given us forgiveness and salvation. Help us find peace in you while we are still on earth because we know that all our scars and difficulties are part of your plan to bring us home to heaven. Amen.


This Lenten series we’re taking a look at the scars we all have from our sin and from the sin of others. Ultimately it’s not about our scars, but rather the scars of Christ which he took for us on the cross.


 

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

Transformed – teen devotion – March 11, 2018

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30

Weight of the world

Atlas, a Greek god of mythology, carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had to hold the skies in place. It was a heavy burden to carry. Can you imagine?

You don’t carry the weight of the world as the Greeks say Atlas does, but sometimes it probably feels like it. When your parents lay responsibilities on you, it can be a heavy burden. When your family goes through tough times you take on the troubles, the struggles, and the burdens of your parents as if they belonged to you. And then there are the burdens that are yours alone: bills you have to pay, school work you have to do, and planning out the future course of your life.

Jesus says, “Come!”

Unlike the mythological character Atlas, Jesus actually carries the weight of the world. Hebrews says that he created the whole world with his powerful word, and he still holds it all together with that same word (look up Hebrews 1:3). Jesus actually controls the wind and the waves as he did when his disciples were panicking in the middle of the lake. Jesus really holds our lives in his hands just as he gave health, life, and provision to so many people during his earthly life. Jesus promises he will continue to do all this.

The truth is we’re foolish if we try to carry the weight of all our problems by ourselves. We’re not Atlas. And we’re certainly not Jesus. So why do we try to be? Jesus is already carrying all these things that we worry about.

And Jesus says, “Come!”

He carried our heaviest burdens of death and hardship to the cross so we wouldn’t have to endure them forever. This means he must really care about our lives, even down to the hairs on our heads. He knows all of our days before even one of them comes to be. And best of all, he is on our side. Yes, our God is on our side. He’s fighting for us. He’s fighting to save us.

Jesus says, “Come! Bring your burdens to me and I will carry them.”

So what are you waiting for? Cast all your cares on the Lord because he cares for you! (Cf 1 Peter 5:7).

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, you are the King of creation and my Savior. You truly carry the weight of the whole world’s life and the whole world’s sin on your shoulders. Teach me to cast my burdens on you because you really do care for me. Amen.


This Lenten series we’re taking a look at the scars we all have from our sin and from the sin of others. Ultimately it’s not about our scars, but rather the scars of Christ which he took for us on the cross.


 

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

Transformed – teen devotion – March 4, 2018

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
1 Peter 2:23

Wounded by words

Words are powerful. I think we can all look back and pinpoint something someone said that was so deeply painful that you remember it years later. Between your ears, you hear echoes of someone telling you that you’re stupid, you’re fat, that you’ll never amount to anything. You see memories playing in your mind, mocking and ridiculing you.

The things that people say to us and about us wound us more deeply than we can imagine. As a parent I’m beginning to realize that I have to be far more careful with my words. Even things I say to my children in an off-handed, joking way, often hit home in their hearts and wound them deeply.

Peter has some advice when words wound and scar us deeply. He shows us what Jesus did: nothing. He took it! He let them say whatever they wanted. He remained silent.

I sometimes wonder why Jesus didn’t respond, especially when their words were flat out lies. Sometimes people say things I don’t like, but if it’s the truth I can’t say much to them. If those awful things are lies, I can hardly stand by and let them ruin my reputation. There are times when I feel like I can’t stay silent. But Jesus did!

Did you catch why?

He entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He put himself into the hands of his Father who had said, “This is my Son. I love him! Listen to him.” He put himself into the hands of his Father, who would get justice for all their lies through his submissive son. He put himself into the hands of his Father who loved him dearly.

That’s where we’ll find healing and hope for the wounds that words bring. We’ll put ourselves into the hands of our Father who says of us, “You are my child. I love you.” We’ll put ourselves into the hands of our Father in heaven who says that he will defend us from every evil attack and bring us into our homes in heaven. We’ll put ourselves into the hands of our Father. There we’ll find peace, joy, and healing even when hateful words fly.

Prayer: Dear Father, the hurtful things that people say hurt me deeply. When their words wound me, remind me that I am yours and that you love me just as I am. Remind me that I am pleasing in your sight. Remind me that I am in your hands. Heal the scars in my heart from their words with healing of your Word. Amen.


This Lenten series we’re taking a look at the scars we all have from our sin and from the sin of others. Ultimately it’s not about our scars, but rather the scars of Christ which he took for us on the cross.


 

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

Transformed – teen devotion – February 25, 2018

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Mark 14:34

Abandonment scars

The story she told me sounded like it came right from Doctor Phil. In fact, it hardly seemed real, but I believed every word she said. She was born in a third world country, but her mother couldn’t take care of her. Her mom paid a friend to care for her for a little bit, but that didn’t last long. Eventually, she was left at an orphanage where she spent the early years of her life. She doesn’t know how old she really is because no one has a birth certificate. When she was adopted by an American family, she was malnourished and underdeveloped socially, verbally, even physically. To this day the pain of being abandoned has left a deep scar on her heart and soul. Her story is extreme, but I think we can all understand the depth of her pain to a certain extent.

Abandonment leaves deep and lasting scars on all of us.

Broken families leave us abandoned by a mother, father, and maybe even both. People who you thought were friends scattered when you needed them the most. A girlfriend or boyfriend leaves you with little warning or no explanation. Your parents disown you. Then after the trauma of a break comes the deep pain of silence. The pain of abandonment scars us more than we might even begin to imagine.

Jesus understands. Jesus gets it because he’s been there. He’s suffered abandonment. He was despised and rejected by mankind. When he needed them most in the Garden of Gethsemane, his own disciples fell asleep on him. Some friends! People from his own nation, his own race, his own religion called out with anger for his crucifixion. And then, when it seemed as if it couldn’t get worse, Jesus’ own Father abandoned him! Jesus cried out in anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (cf. Mark 14:23)

Jesus gets you. He understands the pain that you experience when people in your life walk away, abandoning you when you need them most.

But know this: He was abandoned by everyone in his life, even his own Father, so that you would not be. Jesus is your big brother who steps to your side through his suffering and death. He stepped willingly into abandonment by his own Father just to keep you close to him and to your Father forever. By his abandonment he brings us near to God so that these words and promises of God are true: Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you (Isaiah 49:15). In another place he promises, I will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

This is God’s promise to you. Though everyone may abandon you, even your father or mother, he will not. He is with you forever.

Prayer: Dear Father, at times during my life I feel so alone. I feel as though everyone has abandoned me. At those times remind me, dear Father, that I am not alone. You will never forsake me. Your Son, my Savior, was forsaken so that I would never be abandoned. Amen.


This Lenten series we’re taking a look at the scars we all have from our sin and from the sin of others. Ultimately it’s not about our scars, but rather the scars of Christ which he took for us on the cross.


 

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

Transformed – teen devotion – February 18, 2018

“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Mark 14:34

What are you sweating?

I don’t think anybody saw it coming. I don’t think anyone expected that we’d wake up to discover that Robin Williams had committed suicide. Robin Williams was a comedian who brought joy and laughter to many people from many generations. And just like that, you discover that he had an inner darkness and a deep sadness that led him to take his own life.

What’s scary is that his story isn’t so strange. There is a darkness and a deep sadness in many people that lies hidden behind smiles and laughter. Maybe it’s hiding in your heart too. As we start this new devotional series, I want to ask you: What are you sweating?

Are you breaking out in a mild sweat? I’m talking about the trivial things we worry about—making it to a meeting on time, looming deadlines, family crises, broken devices, the news, terrorist threats, the dwindling oil supply, another downturn in the economy, or an endless number of other things.

Maybe it’s more serious than all that. Are you sweating bullets? Maybe it’s an illness in the family, an impending move, a job loss, struggling to pay the bills, even a relationship on the rocks. This is the bigger stuff, the stuff that really affects our lives.

Maybe there is something so heavy on your hearts that you’re sweating blood. You may be so overwhelmed with fear, sadness, and depression that you’re sweating drops of blood, overwhelmed to the point of death.

That’s what Jesus felt when he prayed in Gethsemane. Jesus was sweating blood because of his anguish. That is precisely what he confessed to his disciples. Jesus was so overwhelmed by what he was carrying and by what he was about to do that he turned to his disciples and asked them to pray with him. That’s how heavy this burden was.

But that’s just it. He already carried this burden to give you peace. He did it willingly and gladly to lighten your burden and to wipe the sweat from your brow. He carried your burden to heal you and give you peace. That’s what Isaiah promised he would do: The punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed (cf. Isaiah 53:5). That’s what I pray you’ll see over the next weeks in this series of devotions.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you sweat drops of blood and carried my burden to bring me healing and peace. Give me this hope and this healing when I am sweating all the things that happen in my life. Amen.


This Lenten series we’re taking a look at the scars we all have from our sin and from the sin of others. Ultimately it’s not about our scars, but rather the scars of Christ which he took for us on the cross.


 

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

Transformed – teen devotion – February 11, 2018

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Ally #3 – The Church

Loneliness is not fun. In fact, it’s awful. It’s one of the worst feelings anyone can experience. You have probably felt lonely at some time in your life. Being alone itself is no fun. Yet suffering alone through trouble, hardship, break ups, broken friendships, temptations, and anything in between feels even worse. In fact, it can be bad for us.

The devil comes after you with the temptation that church isn’t important and you don’t need to go. He wants you to think that there is no one who cares for you. He wants you to believe that you are absolutely alone. The devil also tricks you into thinking that you can handle life alone. He wants you to think you can handle temptation alone. He tricks you to think you can walk through life alone so that you might even purposely isolate yourself.

But here’s the truth: You’re not alone. In fact, it’s good for us to seek out Christian friends to help us face life and the trouble it brings.

King Solomon wrote the passage that we focus on today. He was a man familiar with popularity and admirers. He was the wealthiest king of Israel. He was the wisest person to ever live. Foreign kings and queens sought his advice. If anyone had it all, it was him.

But Solomon was also a man familiar with great loneliness and sorrow. Read the book of Ecclesiastes. Despite all his wisdom, riches, power, and influence, he felt alone. He realized the importance of community, the importance of being together. You can read it in these words. One person is overpowered easily. Two people can actually defend themselves. Two people will help each other out. Two people can keep warm. But three? That’s even better. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Solomon is making the point that community is key in your life. The most important community is your Christian community. This Christian community is most easily and readily found at church. When believers come together, they can endure great hardships. They can survive great atrocities. They can withstand the worst things imaginable. They can face temptation.

Why? Not just because they have each other, but because they have their God and Savior Jesus. This Christian community has God’s Word.

You have a community of fellow believers who suffer through many of the same things that you do. They face the same temptations and struggle with the constant battle against sin. This community gathers at your church and is there to help you. You are the two that defend each other, who keep each other warm. This community warns us about sin, false teachers, and the devil. This community comforts us with the truth that God is with us, that God forgives, that Jesus has already won the war by rising from the dead.

The people aren’t even the most important part of this community. Solomon talks about a cord of three strands. The third strand is the God who protects you, forgives you, provides for you, and carries you in times of weakness. God is the one who is your strength and comfort.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me see the blessings of your Church and its community. Help me rely on you and your grace, strength, and mercy to get through hardships and trials. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – February 4, 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

Enemy #3 – The Flesh

Have you ever done something bad and had a parent ask, “Why did you do that?” What’s your first response? If you’re like me, I remember my first response being, “I don’t know.” And the thing is, I truly didn’t know. And then later on in the day, I would think back at what I had done and wonder, “Why did I do that?! It was so dumb and foolish. I feel so bad!”

Right before the our section of Scripture the Apostle Paul said that he did that same thing. He said, “I don’t understand what I do. I want to do good, but I can’t. And the bad things I don’t want to do, those are the things I do.”

You see, you’re not alone. This happens to every single human being on this earth. Why? Because we all have a sinful nature. That’s what Paul means when he says, “I want to do good, but evil is right there with me.” Until Jesus comes back to take us home, we will have to battle a very fierce enemy. The worst part—we will never be able to leave this enemy because it’s our own sinful flesh. It’s in us! It’s our own sinful nature. Adam and Eve sinned and passed it on to us.

This war wages inside of you. The good versus the evil, the part that wants to follow God’s will against the part that wants to follow sin. The battle is intense and never ending; it is always raging inside of you. No matter how much good you try to do, no matter how much you compare yourself to others or others compare themselves to you, nothing that you can do will save you from your sin. Nothing you can do will make you look better in God’s eyes. You will never be able to escape it.

But we have a rescuer. We have someone who saves us from ourselves and the sin in us. It’s Jesus Christ. Jesus came and faced temptations from the devil and the world. He was constantly under attack. Yet he never fell into sin. He never had to respond shamefully to his parents with, “I don’t know why I did that.” He was completely perfect all the time. He did that all for you.

When you’re fighting those temptations, run to the cross because that’s where the battle is already won. When you can’t seem to do anything right, run to Jesus’ empty tomb and see your deliverance from the war raging inside of you. He has and will rescue you.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me fight against my sinful flesh and do what you want. Help me stand firm and overcome the battle that takes place inside of me. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – January 28, 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 servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:14-17

Ally #2 – Scripture

The Olympics are about to begin. It’s a fun time to watch the athletes compete for the gold medal. These athletes have trained their entire lives for this one moment. They know the battles they will face. They will need to endure trial and suffering. They will have to give up certain luxuries that other people can take. But, yet they give up those things and focus on their one goal. They train for one purpose—to win their event. So, they keep training for years and years.

And then the event arrives. The pressure builds. In that moment, what do the Olympic athletes rely on? Their training, their coach, and their form. They have practiced and practiced. They have trained and built their strength so that when the pressure is on, they know exactly what to do and can do it without even thinking. Their training has become a part of them.

The Christian life is similar to the training of an Olympic athlete, except a Christian isn’t training for a one-time event like the 800m run, the 100m dash, figure skating, or speed skating. Being a Christian isn’t an event; it is a way of life. And the Christian path is filled with trials and temptations. The devil and the world, who influence you and your friends, will want you to do certain things, to “enjoy” sinful things, and to give up all your training for a good time.

In those moments, there is a lot of pressure. When temptation is standing right in front of you, the pressure is on. You can feel it. In moments of temptation, what can you do?

Many times our strength isn’t as great as the Olympic athlete, and we fall to temptation. In those moments of weakness, what can you do?

Like an Olympic athlete, you have something to rely on in moments of temptation and weakness. You have God’s Word. You already know God’s Word and can learn to know it better. Read again Paul’s words to young Timothy. Paul encourages Timothy to continue in God’s Word! Paul encourages Timothy to not give up his “training” but to continue in reading, studying, and applying God’s Word. Why? God’s Word gives you the power to tell the devil and all the temptations, “No.” God’s Word points you to Jesus and reminds you he’s won the contest for you. God’s Word tells you about forgiveness from all your guilt—yes even your secret guilt—because of what Jesus did.

When temptation’s pressure is on, remember your training. Run to God’s Word.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me constantly train in God’s Word, so that by your grace I may fight temptation until you take me to be with you 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.

Transformed – teen devotion – January 21, 2018

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Matthew 7:15-20

Enemy #2 – False Teachers

Remember Little Red Riding Hood? On the way to her grandmother’s house, she runs into the Big Bad Wolf who wants to eat her. The wolf goes to her grandmother’s house and tries to trick her by dressing up like her grandma. The wolf tries to get Little Red Riding Hood to come close so that he could eat her. But Little Red Riding Hood knew it wasn’t her grandma because of the wolf’s teeth. She recognized her enemy and escaped.

Jesus warned his disciples about false teachers. He warned them not to follow these teachers because they would be lead to destruction and hell. Here, Jesus tells his listeners how to discern between good teachers and false teachers—by their fruit.

In our Christian life, we are going to run into people who talk to us about the Bible but don’t accurately teach what it says. We call these people “false teachers.” They seem harmless and look innocent like sheep. They might be nice people. It is easy to listen to their message because it seems right. They have great youth programs. If a lot of other people follow them, they must be ok. The teachers appear safe, but their teachings are harmful and dangerous.

Why are they so dangerous? Because they don’t point us to the Jesus of the Bible. They point us to a different version of Jesus, a different version of the cross, and a different version of how God wants us to live. They point us to ourselves rather than to Jesus.

Jesus says, “You’ll know a false teacher by looking at their fruit.” Their fruit is what they say about the Bible and about Jesus. We can look at what they teach, what they do, and even their attitudes. It was easy for the Big Bad Wolf to say the right things. But he couldn’t hide his teeth and his bad breath. It’s easy in the church world to say some of the right things, but mix in false things too. False teachers put on a good show and make a good argument but can’t hide their false teachings. We need to watch out for those false teachers.

God’s Word and his Spirit help us. We can watch out for false teachers because we have the Word. With the Word, we can learn to identify truth and lies. The Holy Spirit leads us to the truth. We know the message of the Bible: We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Good teachers will always point to Jesus and what he did for us on the cross.

Prayer: Dear Lord, keep me safe from false teachers. Help me discern good teachers from bad teachers so that I may be with you forever 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.

Transformed – teen devotion – January 14, 2018

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
John 16:12-15

Ally #1 – The Holy Spirit

Having a bad day? Feel like God has abandoned you? Does it seem like God says one thing but does another? The devil will try to make you feel like that. The devil will try to get you to doubt God and that God is truthful. But you don’t have to be afraid.

Take these verses from John 16 as your encouragement. You aren’t alone.

Jesus’ disciples were afraid. He had just told them that he was going to leave them. This man who could drive out demons, calm storms, and raise the dead was going to leave them. They were frightened and felt alone. They felt abandoned.

But Jesus gave them encouragement. He told them that they wouldn’t be alone. He promised and sent the Holy Spirit to be their ally, to fight the devil with them and for them. The Holy Spirit would show what is good and truthful. He would tell them exactly what the Father told Jesus, and what Jesus told them.

That promise and encouragement is for you too. At times, it can feel like you have no help, and are battling the devil alone. By yourself, you can’t do it. None of us can. By ourselves we all would fall victim to the devil’s lies and tricks. The devil’s lies are attractive. They sound very similar to what we believe is true. They look like things that please others around us. They seem good to us as we try to figure out our life and the meaning of life. But they all lead us away from the truth.

The Holy Spirit speaks only the truth and only what he hears from Jesus, who heard it from the Father. The Holy Spirit will never try to trick or trap you. Instead he fights for you by pointing to what Jesus did.

It’s good that we have such an ally in the Holy Spirit. In baptism God sealed you with the Holy Spirit who now lives in you. Your baptism snatched you out of the devil’s grasp and put you behind the shield of God’s truth and love. So no matter what happens, you are now on the Holy Spirit’s team. The Holy Spirit will always tell you the truth through God’s Word. He exposes the devil’s lies and traps and gives you the ability to say “No” to sinful desires. The Holy Spirit strengthens you in the faith. He fights with you, and for you, by swinging the sharp sword of the Gospel.

Prayer: Dear Holy Spirit, thank you for always pointing me to the truth about Jesus and about my salvation. Thank you for speaking truth to me about you and your will in the Bible. Thank you for fighting the devil and his lies by reminding me about Jesus and what he did for me. Help me live according to the truth of your Word. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – January 7, 2018

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11

Enemy #1 – Satan

Have you ever wondered why life seems so hard? Why school doesn’t seem fun? Why your relationships are filled with highs and lows? Why it seems no matter what you do, you can’t do anything right and you just feel terrible about yourself? Have you ever wondered why everything your parents tell you not to do seems so much more enjoyable than what you are supposed to do? Have you ever wondered if it seems like there is some force that is constantly working against you and tricking you?

It’s not just an unseen force, it’s an evil force that is very real. His name is the devil, and he will do anything he can to devour you.

The apostle Peter warns us about the evil and the danger of the devil. He’s not just some force of evil. He’s not some goofy figure dressed in red with pointy horns and a pitchfork. He’s not something unseen that won’t do you harm. No, he is a real being. He is looking to devour you. The goal of the devil is to rip your focus and your attention away from Christ. He will do whatever he can because he doesn’t want you to be with Jesus in heaven.

The hard part is that the devil doesn’t show himself—just like a lion hiding in the long, tall grass, waiting and watching so that he can pounce and then devour you. He’s doesn’t come to you looking like the most evil man in the world. Instead, he comes to you like a friend and as someone who seems to care about you. He gives you beautifully wrapped gifts. But as you unwrap them, it ends up being nothing but a box of worms.

Peter tells us, “Stand firm.” You don’t have to fall victim to the devil. You can say “No” to the devil. “Resist him!”

Why can you do this? Because God, the God of grace, makes you strong. He restores and forgives you when you fall. He gives you the strength and the ability to stand firm. In his love and mercy, he will keep you safe from the devil’s attacks.

One way he does that is simply by warning you about the devil. He also does it through his Son Jesus, who removed the lion’s teeth and made his bite nothing. Jesus crushed the power of the devil on the cross and when he rose from the dead. To him be the glory!

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me flee from the attacks of the devil. Keep me strong and focused on you. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – December 31, 2017

Salmon (was) the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab…
Matthew 1:5

God changes our labels and gives us a new name

Rahab was a prostitute. There, I said it. There’s no sugar coating what profession she had chosen to make a living. Rahab’s line of work, though, is not the reason she is so famous in Bible history. If you’ll remember, she is the one who protected the two spies who came into Jericho to scout out the land promised to God’s people. When Israel came into Jericho and destroyed it, Rahab and her family were spared, and Rahab jumped into the line of the Savior as the great grandmother of King David himself. It’s amazing to think of both whom God uses to achieve his good purpose and the ways in which he works all things out for the good of those who love him.

We are ending one calendar year and moving into another. What do you regret about this past year? What mistakes did you make, or what things didn’t go the way you envisioned them? Everyone has these thoughts and memories of ways in which we have failed our God and fallen short of giving him the glory in all things.

No matter who you are and no matter what you’ve done, God has a plan for you in his kingdom. He changes the labels of your life from “deserving of death” to “recipient of eternity” motivated by nothing more than his love for your soul. He calls you “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Happy New Year knowing that you are dearly loved by God himself. Happy New Year knowing that he loves you dearly always.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, what a blessing you have been to me in this past year. You have guided me; You have blessed me; You have kept me in your tender care. Watch over me in the new year, O Lord. Keep me close to you and your Word that I might be strengthened in my faith and able to take on the devil and all his schemes. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – December 24, 2017

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

Jesus is a sign from God

Very little is known about Joseph, the one pledged to be married to Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus. What we do know about him shows that his life was pretty chaotic. Joseph’s fiancé was pregnant, and it’s not his. He’s a godly man and doesn’t want to shame her, so he’s ready to quietly call off the marriage. God, however, has an angel appear to him in a dream to assure him everything was on the “up and up” and that the baby she was going to give birth to was the Savior of the world. Wow.

Do you ever feel like life is spinning out of control? Even as we take time this week to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, there is still a lot to do and places to go and people to visit and things to finish, etc… etc… etc… The angel who appeared to Joseph, though, assured him that everything was under control. He even pointed Joseph to the Old Testament prophecies which announced, “’The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means, ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). Jesus is a sign of God’s love for mankind. Not only that, but Jesus is the peak of God’s love for mankind.

There is a passage from the Psalms in which God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”(Psalm 46:10). Take time out as you celebrate Christmas to truly “be still.” Tune out the craziness in your life. Turn off the TV and put away the cell phone. Simply celebrate the truth that the virgin did give birth to a son. And this Son is your Savior.

Prayer:Heavenly Father, What a reason to celebrate I have in the birth of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Thank you for this gift. Thank you for his love. Thank you for revealing him to me every time I open your holy Word and marvel at your goodness and grace. This Christmas and always, I cherish who you have declared me to be and marvel at the eternity which awaits me 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.

Transformed – teen devotion – December 17, 2017

Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…
Matthew 1:3

A Savior from a line of secret sinners to save sinners from their secrets

Genesis 38 is not one of the easiest chapters of the Bible to digest. It reads like a modern day soap opera. God strikes down a son of Judah because of how he approached his marriage to Judah’s daughter-in-law, Tamar. And then he strikes down another son of Judah for doing the exact same thing when he married her. The story gets worse when trickery takes over, and Tamar becomes pregnant with her father-in-law’s child.

Ugly sin horribly rears it’s ugly head, with God’s people living as anything but children of light in this world of darkness. And yet, even in this God achieves his good purpose and keeps the line of the Savior moving closer and closer to Bethlehem.

Do you have secret sins that no one else knows? Have you failed your God in a way that you’re ashamed to even contemplate, let alone discuss with others? We all join together with the apostle Paul who lamented, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing,” (Romans 7:15,19) even begging the question, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (vs. 24). Sin follows us every moment of every day. We fail God—both openly and in ways which no one else knows about.

And yet, Jesus loves us—despite what we’ve done or how we’ve failed him. Paul answered his own question, “Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” by proclaiming, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24-25).

Jesus loves you, dear young friend! No matter what you’ve done. No matter how secret your sins are. He died for you. He washed you clean. You are his.

Prayer: Almighty Lord God, guilt is something that Satan uses so often in life to make me feel isolated and alone. Daily remind me through the power of your Holy Word that your Son Jesus has washed me clean in his blood shed on the cross, called me his own, and taken away all guilt. While I know that I am still sinful, I also cherish that in you I have forgiveness and salvation. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – December 10, 2017

Salmon (was) the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,

Matthew 1:5-6

A King from sinners and for sinners

Did you ever pretend to be a superhero when you were younger? Little girls pretend they are Wonder Woman, and little boys dream of being Superman, Batman, or Spiderman. What person from the Bible intrigues you? Some of the better known names even those marginally familiar with Bible history might recognize include Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, Paul, and more. Each of these Bible “All Stars” have exciting feats of strength and might attributed to them and play a part in God’s salvation history. They also have something else in common: They were all sinful human beings.

This shouldn’t surprise us. God himself tells us in Scripture, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12). This timeless truth included the Bible “All Stars.” This truth includes us, as well.

That’s what makes the genealogy of Jesus so amazing. That’s what makes it so grace-filled. According to his human ancestry, God the Father used a family line of sinful moms and sinful dads to bring about the sinless Son of God. Jesus is a King who came from sinners in order to save sinners. What depth of love this is for us who do not deserve it! What amazing love this is that assures us of our salvation!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, the history of mankind is littered with sin and failure and shortcomings. Your earthly ancestors were no different and neither am I. Yet, despite mankind’s sin, you came into this world perfect and willing to take my place and suffer the punishment my sins deserve. I praise you for your love, O Savior. I worship your holy name. Amen.

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

Transformed – teen devotion – December 3, 2017

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar,
Perez the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,

Matthew 1:1-5 (selected)

A Savior from all nations for all nations

The Lord gathered Adam and Eve around him in the garden that had been tainted by sin, and offered the first gospel promise to mankind as he revealed his master plan of salvation to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). From that moment on, even though sinful mankind tried to mess things up, the Lord kept his promise intact until one silent night, that holy night when the Christ-child was born.

Matthew chapter 1 shares with us a partial geneology of this Christ-child. He begins with Abraham and ends with Jesse, the father of King David. The purpose of sharing this information is clear and simple: God’s Son who is indeed true God himself also became true man, tracing his roots all the way back through the ages, to different people and nations whom almighty God used to achieve his good purpose of saving us.

What’s your story? What’s your past? It involves parents and grandparents and distant lands and interesting antecdotes, doesn’t it?! God used all of these things to make you who you are and to give you life on this earth so that you might worship him, praise him, and serve him with your very life.

Don’t be afraid to look back. Don’t shy away from knowing both who and where you came from. No matter your history your Lord is with you every step of the way. No matter what your history, you have a Savior who came from all nations to save you.

Prayer: Almighty Lord God, you watch over me always and you make all things work out for my good. I praise you for guiding the events of Old Testament history to keep your promise of a Savior made so long ago in the Garden of Eden. Your love revealed to me through your Son is the reason for the hope I have and the sole source of my salvation. 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.