This is a couple of years old but it's a really important message and not just in the United States, but the whole world.
I’m on holiday in Queensland at the moment and it’s been pretty wet since we arrived. That can be a bit of a downer if you’re a tourist, but if you’re a farmer the rain is great. Practically everything you eat and drink relies on the rain. You also don’t get rainforests without rain. So rain can be a good thing - it depends on your point of view or attitude.
Life can be a bit like that - if we change our point of view and see challenges as opportunities for growth, we will be less upset by them. We will also learn valuable life lessons like patience, resilience and persistence, like Paul pointed out in Romans 5. It's hard to learn these lessons in the sunshine - we need to go through a few challenges.
Last April we got a rescue dog, Kevin. We think he had been a stray because he would steal food at every opportunity and hunt for scraps on his walks. One day in September last year he became unwell so I took him to the vet. They gave him a scan and found he had several foreign objects in his stomach. They turned out to be two corn cobs and a plastic stopper. If they had not been removed he would have died so he had surgery and we nursed him back to health.
Just like our physical health can be harmed by what we consume, our mental and spiritual health can be harmed by what we consume too. What you watch, listen to, read and the people you hang out with affect your mental spiritual health. When I was a teenager I loved Dolly magazine but many of the articles went completely against what I believed as a Christian. I was being tempted and led astray by the media I was consuming. Rather than trying to avoid the bad stuff, use your energy to find good stuff - good uplifting songs, magazines like Bella Rae and Teen Breathe, family friendly TV shows and movies.
There are some pretty cool temples in Cambodia and the food is delicious but the highlight of my trip was the people I met and the relationships I formed. In the western world we get pretty distracted with our grades at school, how many friends we have, how many likes we get, the clothes we wear and how we look. We forget about the things that God said are important. In John 13:34 it says, I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you. It's hard to love each other without forming relationships. The whole reason God put us on the planet was to love him and to love each other, not to be famous or beautiful or successful.
I've just returned from a trip to Cambodia to visit our sponsor children. We visited the centre for a week and did lessons with the kids, listened to them read, played frisbee and helped them practice their English. It was hot, we sat on tiny plastic chairs or the tiled floor, we had no electricity for several days but it was such a great time. These kids live in the slums, some of them only eat once a day, they don't have mobile phones, computers and televisions, they don't have access to good health care... They don't have much, but they are grateful for what they have. Even though they are poor, they are rich. Many of these kids love and follow Jesus. Even though they don't have much now, they will inherit eternal life with God and that's worth more than all the money in the world. James 2:5 says, God chose the poor people in the world to be rich in faith. He chose them to receive the kingdom God promised to those who love him.
I have just returned from a mission trip to Cambodia. I nearly didn't make it onto the plane because I had surgery just before Christmas, then I had post op complications and needed more surgery. I was uncomfortable, in pain and worried about travelling to a third world country while I was recovering. I prayed for wisdom and had the overwhelming sense that God was telling me to do it afraid. It's easy to step out in faith when everything is going ok. It's harder to do when you are not well, in a bad headspace, or when everything around you is going wrong. God doesn't want us to wait until everything is perfect before we do his work - that will never happen. He wants us to be obedient when we're stressed, depressed, afraid... I love 2 Corinthians 12:9 But the Lord said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, then my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me. I was definitely feeling weak but God helped me. I was able to participate in the trip. By the time I got home was almost fully recovered. I was really blessed by being part of the team and my faith has grown from the experience. Don't let fear stop you from doing what you think God is telling you to do - do it afraid.
There is some debate over when the wise men actually visited Jesus. But we do know that they visited Jesus in a house, not the stable. We're also not sure exactly what the wise men were, except that they were educated and wise. We don't know where they came from, except that it was somewhere in the east. And we don't know how many there were - there are three of them in most nativity scenes because we know they brought three gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh. The most important thing we know about the wise men is that they worshipped Jesus.
CHALLENGE: This Christmas make sure it's Jesus you're worshipping, not food, things, friends, good times etc.
You would expect the arrival of God's Son on earth to be a huge deal but when Jesus arrived the first people to be told were some shepherds who were looking after their sheep. In Bible times shepherds were considered to be outcasts, dishonest and unclean - yet God chose them to be the first to get the good news! All through Jesus' ministry he hung out with broken, messy people like tax collectors and prostitutes. The world says that some people are more important than others because they're rich, or beautiful, or famous, or successful, but that's not how it works in God's economy. God makes it clear that he loves everybody and we should too.
CHALLENGE: Find a way to love someone who is an outcast. Invite them to church, take them a food hamper from your church, say hello, smile at them...
Visiting, royalty, heads of state and celebrities stay in 5 star hotels or palaces when they are on tour. But when the son of the creator of the universe came to earth he slept in a stable in an animal food trough. Now I have visited a couple of farms and I can tell you that a food trough is not a particularly clean or hygienic place to put a baby. It just shows how much God loves humble, ordinary people. He comes into our sin-scarred lives and loves us in the middle of the mess. He doesn't expect you to tidy up your life and be a better person before you become a Christian, he asks to come in first and help you do life with him.
Cain was Adam and Eve's first born child. He was the first person to be born in the Bible and the first murderer.
Cain was a farmer and grew crops. When Cain and Abel presented offerings to God, he was jealous because God preferred Abel's offering so he killed him - pretty extreme, right? He was banished for his sin. He moved to the land of Nod, married, had a son, Enoch and built a city named after his son.
It was Cain's attitude that was the problem. God can see past our actions to the attitudes that motivate them.When Cain and Abel brought their offerings to God Cain just brought some of the produce from his farm but Abel brought the best of his flock. When we give God our time, effort and money do we give to him first, or do we give what's left?
Short and sweet inspirations for Christian teen girls.