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    Our True Selves

    Inside my parents’ old photo album is a picture of a young boy. He has a round face, freckles, and straight light-blond hair. He loves cartoons, hates avocado, and owns just one record, by Abba. Also inside that album are pictures of a teenager. His face is long, not round; his hair is wavy, not straight. He has no freckles, likes avocado, watches movies rather than cartoons, and would never admit to owning an Abba record! The boy and the teenager are little alike. According to science they have different skin, teeth, blood, and bones. And yet they are both…

    Water Where We Need It

    Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake, is vast and magnificent. Measuring one mile deep and nearly 400 miles (636 km) by 49 miles (79 km) across, it contains one-fifth of all the surface fresh water in the world. But this water is largely inaccessible. Lake Baikal is located in Siberia—one of the most remote areas of Russia. With water so desperately needed in much of our planet, it’s ironic that such a vast supply of water is tucked away in a place where not many people can access it.

    Although Lake Baikal may be remote, there is an endless source…

    In the Garden

    My dad loved to sing the old hymns. One of his favorites was “In the Garden.” A few years back, we sang it at his funeral. The chorus is simple: “And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own, and the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.” That song brought joy to my dad—as it does to me.

    Hymn writer author C. Austin Miles says he wrote this song in spring 1912 after reading chapter 20 of the gospel of John. “As I read it that…

    Watch Me!

    “Watch my fairy princess dance, Grandma!” my three-year-old granddaughter gleefully called as she raced around the yard of our cabin, a big grin on her face. Her “dancing” brought a smile; and her big brother’s glum, “She’s not dancing, just running,” didn’t staunch her joy at being on vacation with family.

    The first Palm Sunday was a day of highs and lows. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the crowds enthusiastically shouted, “Hosanna . . . blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:6–9). Yet many in the crowd were expecting a Messiah…

    Hosting Royalty

    After meeting the Queen of England at a ball in Scotland, Sylvia and her husband received a message that the royal family would like to visit them for tea. Sylvia started cleaning and prepping, nervous about hosting the royal guests. Before they were due to arrive, she went outside to pick some flowers for the table, her heart racing. Then she sensed God remind her that He’s the King of Kings and that He’s with her every day. Immediately she felt peaceful and thought, “After all, it’s only the Queen!”

    Sylvia is right. As the apostle Paul noted, God is the…

    Slum Songs

    Cateura is a small slum in Paraguay, South America. Desperately poor, its villagers survive by recycling items from its rubbish dump. But from these unpromising conditions something beautiful has emerged—an orchestra.

    With a violin costing more than a house in Cateura, the orchestra had to get creative, crafting its own instruments from their garbage supply. Violins are made from oil cans with bent forks as tailpieces. Saxophones have come from drainpipes with bottle tops for keys. Cellos are made from tin drums with gnocchi rollers for tuning pegs. Hearing Mozart played on these contraptions is a beautiful thing. The orchestra has…

    Know His Voice

    One year for vacation Bible school, Ken’s church decided to bring in live animals to illustrate the Bible story. When Ken arrived to help, he was asked to bring a sheep inside. He had to practically drag the sheep by rope into the church gymnasium. But as the week went on, it became less reluctant to follow him. By the end of the week, Ken didn’t have to hold the rope anymore; he just called the sheep and it followed, knowing it could trust him.

    In the New Testament, Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, stating that His people, the sheep,…

    Knowing the Father

    According to legend, British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham once saw a distinguished-looking woman in a hotel foyer. Believing he knew her but unable to remember her name, he paused to talk with her. As the two chatted, he vaguely recollected that she had a brother. Hoping for a clue, he asked how her brother was doing and whether he was still working at the same job. “Oh, he’s very well,” she said, “And still king.”

     A case of mistaken identity can be embarrassing, as it was for Sir Beecham. But at other times it may be more serious, as it was…

    Sending Out an SOS

    When the hut of a settler in a mountainous region of Alaska caught fire, the settler was left without adequate shelter and with few provisions in the coldest state in the United States—in the middle of a frigid winter. Three weeks later, an aircraft flew over and spied the large SOS the man had stamped out in the snow and darkened with soot, and he was finally rescued. 

    The psalmist David was certainly in dire straits. He was being pursued by jealous King Saul who sought to kill him. And so he fled to the city of Gath, where he pretended…

    Running to Tell

    The modern-day marathon is based on the story of a Greek messenger, Pheidippides. According to legend, in 490 bc he ran approximately twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greeks’ victory against their formidable foe, the invading Persians. Today, people run marathons for the personal satisfaction of an athletic achievement, but Pheidippides had a greater purpose behind his effort: each of his steps was run for the sheer joy of delivering such good news to his kinsmen!

    Some 500 years later, two women also ran to deliver good news—the most pivotal news in all of history. When…

    All Roads?

    “Don’t get on the expressway!” That text came from my daughter one day as I was leaving work. The highway home had become a virtual parking lot. I began trying alternate routes, but after experiencing gridlock on other roads, I gave up. The trip home would have to wait till later in the day, so I drove in the opposite direction to an athletic event my granddaughter was involved in.

    Discovering that no roads would lead me home made me think about people who say that all roads lead to an eternal relationship with God. Some believe the road of kindness…

    Our Compassionate God

    The winter night was cold when someone threw a large stone through a Jewish child’s bedroom window. A star of David had been displayed in the window, along with a menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. In the child’s town of Billings, Montana, thousands of people—many of them believers in Jesus—responded to the hateful act with compassion. Choosing to identify with the hurt and fear of their Jewish neighbors, they pasted pictures of menorahs in their own windows.

    As believers in Jesus, we too receive great compassion. Our Savior humbled Himself to live among us (John 1:14), identifying…

    What to Name the Baby

    Here’s one conversation Mary didn’t have to have with Joseph as they awaited the birth of the baby she was carrying: “Joseph, what should we name the baby?” Unlike most people awaiting a birth, they had no question about what they would call this child.

    The angels who visited both Mary and Joseph told them each that the baby’s name would be Jesus (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31). Joseph’s angel explained that this name indicated that the baby would “save his people from their sins.”

    He would also be called “Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14) which means “God is with us,” because He would be…

    Christmas Presence

    “No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.” Those words from Phillips Brooks’ much-loved hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” point to the very heart of Christmas. Jesus came into our broken world to rescue us from our sin and give all who would put their faith in Him a new and vital relationship with God.

    In a letter to a friend decades after he wrote the hymn, Brooks poignantly described the outcome of this relationship in his own life: “I cannot tell you how…

    Sweet Again

    Russian wedding customs are filled with beauty and significance. One such custom takes place during the reception as the toastmaster proposes a toast in honor of the couple. Everyone takes a sip of raised glasses and then begin shouting “Gor’ko! Gor’ko!,” meaning “Bitter! Bitter!” When the guests shout that word, the newlyweds must rise and kiss each other in order to make the drink sweet again.

    Isaiah prophesies that the bitter drink of desolation, ruin, and the curse upon the earth (ch. 24) will give way to the sweet hope of a new heaven and new earth (ch. 25). God will…

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