Join in with the Youth Group and Sunday School during the month of November as we strive follow Christ’s command to bless others out of our blessings this Christmas season. As it says to us in 2 Corinthians 9:8-12:
“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times you may abound in every good work. As it is written, ‘He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
It is a call that we often forget near Christmas when we get into present and family time mode and hunker down with those closest to us. What we forget is that the reason we celebrate, Jesus birth, is the really a call for us to go and bless others with all we have been blessed with. What better time to focus on blessing others than when the biggest blessing the world has ever known came into the world for the sole purpose of blessing the world and mankind?
Now through November 24 we as a church will be collecting a variety of items to pack into shoeboxes to send around the world to children who have far less than we do. Many of them will be receiving a Christmas gift for the first time, and for some children this will be their first experience hearing of Jesus love for them. Since 1993, more than 100 million boys and girls in over 130 countries have experienced God’s love through the power of simple shoebox gifts from Operation Christmas Child. Samaritan’s Purse works with local churches and ministry partners to deliver the gifts and share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ. So join us in donating items at the church now through Sunday, November 24, right in front of the youth ministry bulletin board. You can also pack a box as a family and bring it to church. We will make our final drop off on the 25th of November. These boxes are for children ages 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14 (your choice) and are gender specific based on your donated item. Please make sure it is all new things and be sure to include toys, school supplies (pens, pencils, writing pads, coloring books, crayons, markers), hygiene items (toothbrush, comb, washcloth, soap in a Ziploc), and even small clothing (t-shirts, socks, etc.). Please make sure not to include any war or weapon type toy as some boxes can be sent to areas with child soldier issues or civil wars and no sharp items either. Thank you so much for participating in our church wide effort to bless children around the world with what Christ has so richly blessed us with. Boxes are $7 each as well and you can leave a check inside your box or donate in cash at Sunday school or at the youth ministry board in the hall. Have a happy holiday season as we approach Thanksgiving and then Christmas, and remember, Jesus is the reason for the season!!!
St. Francis Youth Ministry 2013-2014
To Live is Christ…To Die is Gain – Philippians 1:21-22
This verse is well known, but it takes a whole lot more time and study to truly understand and grapple with then intensity with which Paul challenges us in these eight words alone. Let us look at what dying is, and what we are called to die from and then take a look at the opposite, which, if my theological math is correct, would be living…right?
So what does it truly mean for Paul to tell us that to die is to gain? For us to fully understand that we must first look at what we are told living in the world is. Let us start with the American dream, and quite possibly it will be sufficient to use that alone as the basis for dying. The American dream is one of insurmountable success and prosperity through making yourself the best you. It is the ideals that if you work hard enough, and be a good moral person and accepting of others that you will find financial success, career success, family success. Temporal things such as nice cars, big houses, bigger bank accounts, people liking you and an easy life are what the American dream tells us. It tells us beautiful women are 5’8” and 110 lbs. and argue this if you want, but that is the size of women who model the clothes and are in the ads you buy and see.
Let us look quickly then what Christ has to say about some of these same things in this life. In Matthew 19:24 he says, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." This isn’t to frighten us as we live in prosperity, but to warn us that if we use our riches as our own instead of blessing the kingdom, the poor, the oppressed, we will get back exactly what we gave. See it as an opportunity to bless others, not as a fulfillment of the American dream. Then we go on to see James give us an even harsher view of the call from Paul in chapter 4 verse four where it says, “don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” What are things that we like to be “friends” with that are outside of what Christ has called us to? It is a very intense call, and we should be quick to see it as such and very slow to ignore that call! Finally John says a few words to wrap up this part of the unpacking of Paul’s statement. In 1 John 2:15 it says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Anything in and of the world covers a whole lot of that American dream it seems, and maybe some stuff we don’t want to let go of. It is not a call to live homeless, it is not a call to quit your job and go volunteer, it is not a call to sell your car and walk everywhere, but what it is most definitely is a call to use all of those blessings not for yourself but to bless the kingdom. The question we all must ask is what are we doing with our blessings to bless God, by blessing his kingdom work?
Let us leave it here for now and ponder how we are to come to a deeper understanding of what exactly in our lives Christ is calling us to die to so that we might live for him. Are you putting your job before Christ? Do politics come before Christ in your life? Does your bank account get more attention than your Bible? Do you spend more time nourishing your physical body than your spiritual? This is just the beginning of what it means to say, “to live is Christ… to die is gain.” We are called to put into question every part of our life, even those things given by God such as family, friends, and our homes, and to answer those questions by being able to say without a doubt that Christ is above all of that. That is what we will be unpacking this year in the student ministry where students are hammered with the ideal outcome of 4.0 GPA’s, ivy league colleges, relationships built on false ideas preached by culture, getting a great job that will pay well, and being “successful”. We are going to challenge the idea of being successful this year, and instead I suggest we forget being successful and worry about being faithful. I dare bet that more joy, hope and enjoyment will be shared if being faithful becomes the goal rather than just being successful. Walk with us this year in this difficult but Christ-like challenge! AmenJ
Mission Trip - from a student's eyes
Going into Jamaica I had no idea what to expect or what God had in store for me. It was an experience that I will never forget, and although I was fairly confident that I had prepared for the trip, I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to listen to God and let his spirit completely live in me and control all my actions. The generosity that I saw in Jamaica was unlike anything I've seen. No matter their family or economic status, they were joyful about God and what he was doing in their lives. When we were in Jamaica we ran a vacation bible school for more than 100 children, and did construction at the church we were working at. Although the kids were loud and hard to control, they all had the sweetest hearts and loved being hugged, picked up, spun around and just talked to. The lessons I learned in Jamaica will never leave me, and God continues to show me what I have learned from the trip every day. My relationship with God grew a huge amount on the trip, and my love of God continues to grow. I hope to never lose my connection with God, but continue to strengthen it because he is my source of joy and my rock through anything. Jamaica was just a small look at what God can do in the lives of everyone. It was a huge learning experience and so fun, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.
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Student Ministry Contact Information Josh Ruiter - Youth Minister Office phone: 301-365-2055 Cell phone: 301-830-1060 email: firstname.lastname@example.org