• Topic > Christianity & Culture

    Gifts from Above

    According to an old story, a man born in 270 AD named Nicholas heard about a father who was so poor that he couldn’t feed his three daughters, much less provide for their future marriages. Wanting to assist the father, but hoping to keep his help a secret, Nicholas threw a bag of gold through an open window, which landed in a sock or shoe drying on the hearth. That man was known as St. Nicholas, who later became the inspiration for Santa Claus.

    When I heard that story of a gift coming down from above, I thought of God the…

    Loving the Stranger

    After a member of my family converted to a different religion, Christian friends urged me to “convince” her to return to Christ. I found myself first seeking to love my family member as Christ would—including in public places where some people frowned at her “foreign-looking” clothes. Others even made rude comments. “Go home!” one man yelled at her from his truck, not knowing or apparently caring that she already is “home.”

    Moses taught a much kinder way to act toward people whose dress or beliefs feel different. Teaching laws of justice and mercy, Moses instructed the children of Israel, “Do not…

    Feeling Small

    Many movie critics consider David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia one of the greatest films of all time. With its seemingly endless vistas of the Arabian deserts, it has influenced a generation of filmmakers—including Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg. “I was inspired the first time I saw Lawrence,” said Spielberg. “It made me feel puny. It still makes me feel puny. And that’s one measure of its greatness.”

    What makes me feel small is creation’s vastness—when I gaze at an ocean, fly over the polar ice cap, or survey a night sky sparkling with a billion stars. If the created universe is so…

    For Love or Money

    Irish poet Oscar Wilde said, “When I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know that it is.” His comment was made tongue-in-cheek; he lived only to age 46, so he never truly was “old.” Wilde fully understood that life is not about money.

    Money is temporary; it comes and it goes. So life must be about more than money and what it can buy. Jesus challenged the people of His generation—rich and poor alike—to a recalibrated value system. In Luke 12:15, Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your…

    Wise Aid

    As I stopped my car at a red light, I saw the same man standing beside the road again. He held a cardboard sign: Need money for food. Anything helps. I looked away and sighed. Was I the kind of person who ignored the needy?

    Some people pretend to have needs but are actually con artists. Others have legitimate needs but face difficulties overcoming destructive habits. Social workers tell us it’s better to give money to the many aid ministries in our city. I swallowed hard and drove past. I felt badly, but I may have acted wisely.

    God commands us to “warn…

    Out of the Trap

    The Venus flytrap was first discovered in a small area of sandy wetlands not far from our home in North Carolina. These plants are fascinating to watch because they are carnivorous.

    Venus flytraps release a sweet-smelling nectar into colorful traps that resemble open flowers. When an insect crawls inside, triggering sensors along the outer rim, the trap clamps shut in less than a second—capturing its victim. The trap then closes further and emits enzymes that consume its prey over time, giving the plant nutrients not provided by the sandy soil.

    God’s Word tells of another trap that can capture unexpectedly. The apostle…

    Through a New Lens

    “It’s amazing to look at a tree and see the individual leaves instead of just a blur of green!” my dad said. I couldn’t have said it better. I was eighteen at the time and not a fan of my new need to wear glasses, but they changed the way I saw everything, making the blurry beautiful!

    When reading Scripture, I view certain books like I do when I look at trees without my glasses. There doesn’t seem to be much to see. But noticing details can reveal the beauty in a boring passage.

    This happened to me when I was reading…

    Sharing Slices

    As a sixty-two-year-old homeless military veteran, Steve made his way to a warm climate where sleeping outdoors was tolerable year-round. One evening, as he displayed his hand-drawn art—his attempt to earn some money—a young woman approached and offered him several slices of pizza. Steve gratefully accepted. Moments later, Steve shared his bounty with another hungry, homeless person. Almost immediately, the same young woman resurfaced with another plate of food, acknowledging that he had been generous with what he’d been given.

    Steve’s story illustrates the principle found in Proverbs 11:25 that when we’re generous with others, we’re likely to experience generosity as…

    Don’t Miss the Chance

    “Don’t ever miss the chance to show your babies the moon!” she said. Before our mid-week prayer service began, a group of us talked about the previous night’s Harvest Moon. The full moon was especially striking, as it seemed to sit on the horizon. Mrs. Webb was the elder voice in our conversation, a gray-haired lover of God’s grand creation. She knew my wife and I had two children in our house at the time, and she wanted to help me train up them in a way worth going. Don’t ever miss the chance to show your babies the moon!

    Mrs.…

    In God’s Image

    When her beautiful brown skin started losing its color, a young woman felt frightened, as if she were disappearing, losing her “self.” With heavy makeup, she covered up “my spots,” as she called them—patches of lighter skin caused by a condition called vitiligo. It’s a loss of skin pigment, melanin, which gives skin its tone.

    Then one day, she asked herself: Why hide? Relying on God’s strength to accept herself, she stopped wearing heavy makeup, gaining attention for her self-confidence. Eventually she became the first spokesmodel with vitiligo for a global cosmetics brand.

    “It’s such a blessing,” she told a TV news…

    Here for You

    On the outskirts of Paris, as in other cities around the globe, people are coming to the aid of the homeless in their communities. Clothing, covered in waterproof bags, is hung on designated fences for those living on the streets to take according to their needs. The bags are labeled, “I’m not lost; I’m for you if you’re cold.” The effort not only warms those without shelter, but also teaches those in the community the importance of assisting the needy among them.

    The Bible highlights the importance of caring for those who are poor too, instructing us to be “openhanded” toward…

    “God Saved My Life”

    When Aaron (not his real name) was 15, he began praying to Satan: “I felt like he and I had a partnership.” Aaron started to lie, steal, and manipulate his family and friends. He also experienced nightmares: “I woke up one morning and saw the devil at the end of the bed. He told me that I was going to pass my exams and then die.” Yet when he finished his exams, he lived. Aaron reflected, “It was clear to me that he was a liar.”

    Hoping to meet girls, Aaron went to a Christian festival, where a man offered to…

    Marvelously Unique

    Human beings are not special—at least according to the London Zoo. In 2005, the zoo introduced a four-day exhibit: “Humans in Their Natural Environment.” The human “captives” were chosen through an online contest. To help visitors understand the humans, the zoo workers created a sign detailing their diet, habitat, and threats. According to the zoo’s spokesperson, the goal of the exhibit was to downplay the uniqueness of human beings. One participant in the exhibit seemed to agree. “When they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds them that we’re not that special.”

    What a stark contrast to what the…

    Enjoying Beauty

    The painting caught my eye like a beacon. Displayed along a long hallway in a big city hospital, its deep pastel hues and Navajo Indian figures were so arresting I stopped to marvel and stare. “Look at that,” I said to my husband Dan.

    He was walking ahead, trying to find the elevator to a doctor’s office. But I hesitated, bypassing other paintings on the wall to gaze only at that one. “Beautiful,” I whispered.

    Many things in life are beautiful, indeed. Master paintings. Scenic vistas. Inspired crafts. But so is a child’s smile. A friend’s hello. A robin’s blue egg. A…

    Not Like Yesterday

    When our grandson Jay was a child his parents gave him a new T-shirt for his birthday. He put it on right away and proudly wore it all day.

    When he appeared the next morning in the shirt, his dad asked him, “Jay, does that shirt make you happy?”

    “Not as much as yesterday,” Jay replied.

    That’s the problem with material acquisition: Even the good things of life cannot give us the deep, lasting happiness we so ardently desire. Though we may have many possessions, we may still be unhappy.

     

    The world offers happiness through material accumulation: new clothes, a new automobile, an update…

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