VIDEO The Valley of Light

Dec 4, 2016

Made-for-TV drama about Noah, a homeless World War II veteran who settles in a small North Carolina town and develops relationships with Eleanor.

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The Best Gift Ever

The Best Gift Ever

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15

At a winter retreat in northern New England, one of the men asked the question, “What was your favorite Christmas gift ever?”

One athletic man seemed eager to answer. “That’s easy,” he said, glancing at his friend next to him. “A few years back, I finished college thinking I was a sure bet to play professional football. When it didn’t happen, I was angry. Bitterness ate at me, and I shared that bitterness with anyone who tried to help me.”

The best Christmas gift is Jesus bringing peace and forgiveness to others.

“On the second Christmas—and second season without football—I went to a Christmas play at this guy’s church,” he said, gesturing toward his friend. “Not because I wanted Jesus, but just to see my niece in her Christmas pageant. It’s hard to describe what happened because it sounds silly, but right in the middle of that kids’ play, I felt like I needed to be with those shepherds and angels meeting Jesus. When that crowd finished singing ‘Silent Night,’ I just sat there weeping.

“I got my best Christmas present ever that very night,” he said, again pointing to his friend, “when this guy sent his family home without him so he could tell me how to meet Jesus.”

It was then that his friend piped up: “And that, guys, was my best Christmas present ever.”

This Christmas, may the joyful simplicity of the story of Jesus’s birth be the story we tell to others.

The best Christmas gift is Jesus bringing peace and forgiveness to others.

INSIGHT:Do you struggle at times to find the right words to talk about the good news to someone who hasn’t yet accepted it? If so, the apostle Peter offers a refreshingly flexible approach to sharing our faith. He urges us to give others a reason to ask about our hope in Christ (3:15). If we honor Christ as Lord in our hearts first, the difference it makes in us will prompt questions (v. 15). Peter envisions the kind of transformation that others will envy—in the best sense of the word. Those living under the influence of Christ will treat one another with compassion and humility (v. 8). They won’t return evil for evil, or insult for insult, but rather blessings for curses (v. 9). This difference in our lives will help others open themselves up to receiving the best gift they could ever receive.

Free to Enjoy God

Psalm 37:3-5

The gospel writers spoke about children coming to Jesus, giving the impression that the young were very comfortable around Him (Matt. 18:2-3; Matt. 19:13-14). Some probably climbed onto His lap, while others perhaps sat at His feet. We can picture them asking Him lots of questions, begging to hear more parables, and whispering secrets in His ear. It isn’t surprising that they would gather around Jesus; children can usually sense when an adult loves them deeply.

Contrast this snapshot of the Savior’s welcoming, loving nature with the picture some Christians have of God—they see Him as a judgmental taskmaster who motivates by intimidation. While it’s true that we are to obey the Lord’s commands, we’re also to delight in Him, just as we would enjoy the company of a close friend.

Do you think of God as a stern overlord who weighs good actions against bad? If so, you’ll have trouble considering Him a friend. Christians who envision a harsh God devote much time and energy to proving their salvation is deserved. How much better to have a biblically accurate view—namely, that God, while sovereign over the universe, balances authority with love. He wants us to relax and enjoy spending time with Him.

Taking pleasure in the Lord requires that we understand His attitude toward us: Our Father loves us passionately. He sees past our faults and mistakes to the precious child He created. In fact, He loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to save us and enable us to be with Him in heaven eternally. We have no greater friend!

Sorrow According to God

“And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

In one of the most important passages in the New Testament regarding repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9-11), Paul uses essentially the same phrase three times to express what he means by repentance: He rejoices that the Corinthian believers were made “sorry after a godly manner” (v. 9), calls it a “godly sorrow” (v. 10), claiming that they “sorrowed after a godly sort” (v. 11). This phrase could literally be translated “sorrow according to God,” which leads to repentance. Such sorrow is contrasted to the “sorrow of the world [that] worketh death” (v. 10), which is a mere regret of consequences or remorse of conscience, which does not yield repentance but only despair and possibly suicide. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (v. 10).

Just as godly sorrow leads to repentance, so should the blessings of God. “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4). God desires repentance on the part of the sinning one and is free to use whatever vehicle He chooses to bring it about.

True repentance involves a recognition of sin as a crime against God and a violation of His holy nature. Our recognition of this fact brings godly sorrow that leads inevitably to a change of mindset toward the sin and a confession of it as sin (1 John 1:9), and this brings forgiveness from God.

Christ taught that this “sorrow according to God” brings great joy elsewhere in the universe: “Likewise, I say unto you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10). JDM

Silence in the Presence of God

Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. —Psalm 4:4

The Bible and Christian biography make a great deal of silence, but we of today make of it exactly nothing….

At the risk of being written off as an extremist or a borderline fanatic we offer it as our mature opinion that more spiritual progress can be made in one short moment of speechless silence in the awesome presence of God than in years of mere study. While our mental powers are in command there is always the veil of nature between us and the face of God. It is only when our vaunted wisdom has been met and defeated in a breathless encounter with Omniscience that we are permitted really to know, when prostrate and wordless the soul receives divine knowledge like a flash of light on a sensitized plate. The exposure may be brief, but the results are permanent.

Today, Lord, I long for that moment of silence in Your majestic presence. Speak, Lord, in this stillness. Amen.

The Word Was Made Flesh

And lo, a voice from heaven saying, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17)

I have given much thought and contemplation to the sweetest and tenderest of all of the mysteries in God’s revelation to man—the Incarnation! Jesus, the Christ, is the Eternal One, for in the fullness of time He humbles Himself. John’s description is plain: the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

I confess that I would have liked to have seen the baby Jesus. But the glorified Jesus yonder at the right hand of the Majesty on high, was the baby Jesus once cradled in the manger straw. Taking a body of humiliation, He was still the Creator who made the wood of that manger, made the straw, and was Creator of all the beasts that were there.

In truth, He made the little town of Bethlehem and all that it was. He also made the star that lingered over the scene that night. He had come into His own world, His Father’s world. Everything we touch and handle belongs to Him. So we have come to love Him and adore Him and honor Him!

It is our wisdom, as well as our necessity

It is our wisdom, as well as our necessity, to beseech God continually to strengthen that which he has wrought in us. We often forget that the Author of our faith must be the Preserver of it also. The lamp which was burning in the temple was never allowed to go out, but it had to be daily replenished with fresh oil; in like manner, our faith can only live by being sustained with the oil of grace, and we can only obtain this from God himself. Let us, then, day by day, go to our Lord for the grace and strength we need. We have a strong argument to plead, for it is his own work of grace which we ask him to strengthen. Only let your faith take hold of his strength.

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