Who Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

Who Do You See When You Look in the Mirror?

Hey guys! 

When I was asked to write something for the blog I was so ecstatic! So I figured I would write a little guide to get you through these tough years of your life.

Being a teen means going through new and exciting situations, but along with these new experiences can come many issues. At times you may lack self-esteem, others are bullied, or sometimes you just feel out of place. Now, if you feel these I promise you, you are normal! Teens go through these all the time... does that make your situation easier? Well no, but knowing you are not alone helps in a HUGE way! Acceptance of yourself is very important. 

Many teenagers suffer with self-esteem issues, and well, how can you blame them?

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Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Valentines day, guys!  

Regardless of whether you have a "Valentine" to share smooches and flowers with today, let's take some time today to focus on the author of love, and how we might love by His example...

1 John 3:23 - His command is clear; Believe in the name of His son, Jesus, and love one another as He commanded.

Why are the 2 parts of this commandment so important?  Can we have one without the other?

We cannot have one without the other....the evidence that we love Jesus is that we allow Him/His Holy Spirit to flow through us...it shows through when we love others fully and sacrificially.  It's God's kind of love flowing through us!  God loves those around us more than we can imagine...He went to the cross for them.  We get this skewed idea that God is annoyed with peoples faults and flaws in the same way we are - He's not!  He loves with grace, focusing on the good and on people's potential.  He leads them gently on the right path, giving them time to learn, grow and change.  He covers over little faults and flaws.  He forgives freely.  

What if we loved this way?  How different would our interactions with and thoughts about others be if we viewed them through the lens of God?  

1 John 4:19-21 - We love because He first loved us....Anyone who does not love a brother or sister, whom he has seen, cannot possibly love God, whom he has never seen.  He gave us a CLEAR command, that all who love God must also love their brother and sister. 

The evidence that we truly love God is that we love others well.

Here are some more verses that if we let them, will inspire us to love like Jesus loves...

Model love that: 

GIVES: John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

UNITES: Colossians 3:14 - And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

ACTS: 1 John 3:18 - Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

SACRIFICES: John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

FORGIVES: Proverbs 19:11 - Smart people know how to hold their tongue;
    their grandeur is to forgive and forget.

With love,

Christina L.

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A Christmas Tale...from Broken to Beautiful

A Christmas Tale...from Broken to Beautiful

Many tales have been told about the origins of the beloved Christmas hymn “Silent Night”. 

One that I especially enjoy is….

On Christmas Eve in 1818
A blizzard stranded the tiny village of Ogledorf
Nestled in the Austrian mountains
That same day the people of St. Nicholas' church found their organ broken
So the priest and organist began composing a song that could be sung without
An organ yet beautiful enough to express their Christmas joy
All day and all night long they worked
And at midnight the gentle carol Silent Night was born
The pure clear tones echoed through the hills
And the world has been captured by the beauty of that simple song ever since.

- Kelly Clarkson

Knowing the history of how a song was written stirs up certain emotions when you hear or sing the words.  You have a depth of understanding and it results in it being a true and personal declaration.  The words to “Silent Night” in its simplicity brings me to the night of our Savior’s birth, it paints the night with color that makes me see it in blues and browns, and a little gold.  It’s a carol that I don’t get tired of hearing. The sweetness of the tune encourages me to have a thankful heart.  And I am thankful, I am thankful that God...

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What's in Your Treasure Box?

What's in Your Treasure Box?

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, it’s a time when we express what we’re thankful for.  Sometimes the true meaning of Thanksgiving can get lost in all the food and Black Friday shopping.  I want to encourage you to put your treasure into perspective this Thanksgiving.  What are you really thankful for and how can you treat it like a treasure?

                Matthew 6:20 says, “Store your 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.”  Later in Matthew 6:33, Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

                The treasure you store away refers to the things we can’t hold onto.  So, what is it that you treasure?  How will you store it in Heaven?  ....

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What Mask are YOU Wearing this Halloween???

What Mask are YOU Wearing this Halloween???

Are you seeing pumpkins everywhere you look?  Not only outside on front porches but also in your coffee, donuts, cheerios, Oreos, Doritos??? OK, I haven’t seen pumpkin Doritos yet but I won’t be surprised when I do!

Fall is in the air.  Fall brings pumpkins, colorful leaves, cool crisp air and…Halloween!  I’m not writing to talk about the holiday (although if you’re wondering, I’m not a fan of the spooky stuff) but thinking of Halloween has me thinking about masks…and not just the scary kind.

Is it possible for our Christianity to become a mask we wear?  Do any of the following thoughts sound painfully familiar?

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Bring Your Fruit to School - a message from Sarah Bartis

Bring Your Fruit to School - a message from Sarah Bartis

Galatians 22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

The first day of school is exciting and a little nerve-racking.  It’s a time for new beginnings and it can also be a fresh start for a new way of thinking and a new way of acting...

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This Christmas...

Hey, did you hear….

 

This Christmas our youth group is collecting the following items to donate to ABC Women’s Center in Middletown, CT:

 New or gently used baby clothes (size 0-3T)

-Diapers (newborn - size 5)

-Wipes

-Baby Books

 **Please drop off items in the donation box in the youth center by December 18!  If you have any questions, see Christina Leal, Katie Bauer or Kayla Lazzari**

Summer of Missions & Fun

It's certainly been a busy summer, full of exciting moments!  Our youth group sent 2 youth missions teams to Colombia and York, PA this summer.  These were life-changing opportunities that gave everyone the opportunity to participate in a missions trip this summer.  

In Colombia, we held a 3 day kids camp.  We preached God's word using skits, songs, dance and spoken messages.  We showed God's love by connecting with and loving on all of the kids who attended the camp.  Some of these kids had never left their cities or towns to come near the ocean.  Our camp was held right near the beach and gave them a once and a lifetime experience... a small escape from the difficulties and trials of life.  

We then had the opportunity to visit 6 of the churches within Victory Christian Fellowship International.  We were welcomed by each church with excitement and love.  We gave out gifts to the children at each of the churches and gave words of encouragement and strength to the pastors and leaders.  Although we live thousands of miles away, these people are part of our VCC family and they are so proud to call themselves our brothers, sisters and friends!

An unexpected blessing was that we got to connect with our body guards in a unique way and see their lives changed and impacted by being with and serving our group.  We truly became family.  The last day before heading off to the airport, our team and the body guards sat around the hotel room and exchanged fond memories and words of encouragement and love.  Many tears were shed.  It was a precious and anointed time in which we all felt God's presence so tangibly.

These are just a few of the highlights from this life-changing trip.  If you'd like to check out some of the pictures, click here: 

http://www.vcconline.org/photos#nanogallery/nanoGallery/6169161028582922337

 

The trip to York, PA was also a huge success.  The team really got their hands dirty and served the community in many areas.  Some visited nursing homes, some renovated and restored a local Christian park, others moved an entire food bank to a new location.  They worked long days in the heat doing work that would not be considered glamorous.  They truly had an impact on this impoverished community and it's an experience they will never forget!  Photos from this trip to follow!

We hope you've enjoyed your summer, had some relaxing days and have also taken time to love and serve those around you!  We are the hands and feet of Jesus!  We are so proud of the youth who sacrificed their time and energy to participate in these amazing trips!

With Love,

Christina and Pastor Petey Leal

Words of Encouragement for Pastor Saeed Abedini’s Family

Let’s join together as a group and send some words and thoughts of encouragement with Pastor Saeed Abedini’s family. Pastor Saeed has been imprisoned for more than two years in Iran for his Christian faith. In a recent letter to President Obama he wrote, “These days are very cold here. My small space beside the window is without glass, making most nights unbearable to sleep. The treatment by fellow prisoners is also quite cold and at times hostile. Some of my fellow prisoners don’t like me because I am a convert and a pastor. They look at me with shame, as someone who has betrayed his former religion. The guards can’t even stand the paper cross that I have made and hung next to me as a sign of my faith and in anticipation of celebrating my Savior’s birth. They have threatened me and forced me to remove it. This is the first Christmas that I am completely without my family; all of my family is presently outside of the country. These conditions have made this upcoming Christmas very hard, cold and shattering for me.” Pastor Saeed concluded his letter with this charge: “This Christmas let the love of Christ enter into the depth of your heart and make you fiery, ready to pay any cost in order to bring the same love to the cold world around you, transforming them with the true message of Christmas.”

In a more recent letter, Pastor Saeed thanked President Obama for visiting his wife Naghemeh and his children, Jacob and Rebekka. President Obama encouraged Jacob that he would try to have his dad home by Jacob’s birthday, coming up this May.

Let’s join together as a group and pray for Pastor Saeed’s family, for his safe release and return to the US and that the Lord provides wisdom and direction for our President in dealing with Iran and petitioning for the release of Pastor Saeed.

Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3

Type your messages, words, verses, poems or prayers for Pastor Saeed’s family in the comment box below and we will print them out in two weeks and mail them to his family. If you prefer to email your message privately, send it to christinacarlson1107@yahoo.com.

 

I thought this was a really interesting perspective on life and what comes next. What do you guys think?

In a mother’s womb were two babies. One asked the other: “Do you believe in life after delivery?” The other replied, “Why, of course. There has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what we will be later.”
“Nonsense” said the first. “There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?”

The second said, “I don’t know, but there will be more light than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can’t understand now.”

The first replied, “That is absurd. Walking is impossible. And eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.”

The second insisted, “Well I think there is something and maybe it’s different than it is here. Maybe we won’t need this physical cord anymore.”

The first replied, “Nonsense. And moreover if there is life, then why has no one has ever come back from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said the second, “but certainly we will meet Mother and she will take care of us.”

The first replied “Mother? You actually believe in Mother? That’s laughable. If Mother exists then where is She now?”

The second said, “She is all around us. We are surrounded by her. We are of Her. It is in Her that we live. Without Her this world would not and could not exist.”

Said the first: “Well I don’t see Her, so it is only logical that She doesn’t exist.”

To which the second replied, “Sometimes, when you’re in silence and you focus and you really listen, you can perceive Her presence, and you can hear Her loving voice, calling down from above.” - Útmutató a Léleknek

Let's get talking...

Hey everyone!  Just want to extend a quick welcome to our youth blog space!  We'd love to make this a place where we (your leaders) can share our insights and perspectives on different topics that we discuss during youth group.  We also want this to be a place for you where you can ask questions or just continue a discussion that may have begun in youth group.  

So, in the comment box below, please let us know (in a word or phrase) what topics you might like to hear from us about!

Love you all!

The Company Leaders