This New Life: A Website Devoted to Biblical Hope and Radical Grace

Welcome to This New Life, a website devoted to biblical hope and radical grace. Thanks for stopping by. We’re Tim and Sonya Valentino. We live in Fleetwood, PA, a small town halfway between Reading and Allentown. Both of us are into family, nature, hiking, music, art, history, museums, Christian ministry, theological education, and the Philadelphia Phillies. We’re also into coffee. The darker the better.

We’re on the journey of life with the Author of life. Let’s walk together and marvel at the scenery. As we go, let’s “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We’ve created This New Life as a resource to help with that endeavor. We also write to clarify our own thinking. And laugh at ourselves.

On this site we will try to provide a balance of content creation and content curation. Creation refers to the materials we generate ourselves. Curation refers to the materials that other people publish and we repost. Our goal for This New Life is simply this:

Creation + Curation = Inspiration + Formation

For more information on who we are—personally, vocationally, educationally, theologically, politically, and relationally—check out the About page. For the rest of this post, we’d like to share why biblical hope and radical grace are so important to us.

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In some ways we’ve lived a privileged life. But in other ways we’ve slept in the emotional gutter from time to time. Life can be challenging like that. One moment things are delightful; the next they’re devastating. Today everything is beautiful; tomorrow everything is broken. Disappointment gives way to disillusionment, and rank cynicism tries to move into the attic of our minds. “Vanity, vanity,” says the Teacher. “All is vanity” (cf. Eccl 1:2).

But there’s one thing that has always kept us going—one thing that has always been an anchor for the soul in troubled times: our unshakable hope in the grace and goodness of God. Jesus is risen from the dead, and that changes everything. Hope refuses to die in a world where Christ has conquered death.

Hope refuses to die in a world where Christ has conquered death.

Ask the average Christian why Jesus came to earth, and you’ll get a variety of answers:

  • Jesus came to die for the sins of the world.
  • Jesus came to reveal the heart of the Father.
  • Jesus came to destroy the power of death and hell.
  • Jesus came to heal, teach, and forgive.

These responses are all correct. Still, there’s another color on the palette to paint with. Jesus himself answered the question this way: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). That’s a beautiful, hope-filled statement, and it thrills the heart of anyone who’s ever been able to say, “I once was lost but now am found.”

We can say it. Jesus came to seek and to save the two of us. We revel in this good news—and the new life it brings. “Because I live,” said Jesus, “you also will live” (John 14:19).

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But how did Jesus go about seeking the lost? What was his approach? Luke 7:34 says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” That’s a fascinating statement. How would you have filled in the blank? The Son of Man came ____________ and ____________.

  • Teaching and preaching?
  • Healing and forgiving?
  • Loving and restoring?
  • Dying and rising?

Again, all true answers, but the text says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking.” Fellowship and hospitality were his modus operandi. In fact, a major feature of Luke’s Gospel is that Jesus is usually going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. Every time we turn the page, we smell another dish from the kitchen. Markus Barth has said, “In approximately one-fifth of the sentences in Luke, meals play a conspicuous role.”

A major feature of Luke’s Gospel is that Jesus is usually going to a meal, at a meal, or coming from a meal. Every time we turn the page, we smell another dish from the kitchen.

But does that sound like a holy man to you—more feasting than fasting? More parties than protests? What kind of a rabbi is this? Indeed, the rap on Jesus was that he was “a drunkard and a glutton,” a man more into parties than piety, or so it seemed to the religious crowd (cf. Luke 7:34b).

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A drunkard is someone who drinks too much alcohol. A glutton is someone who eats too much food. Jesus was neither of those things—the Bible says he never sinned—but apparently he gave his enemies enough ammunition to make the charge stick.

It stuck, not because he was eating and drinking per se, but because he was eating and drinking with all the wrong people—the blind, the lame, the diseased, the prostitutes, the thieves, the criminals, the tax collectors, the unfaithful, the ceremonially unclean—“sinners” who were as low as you could go on the religious food chain.

Not only that—and we may need to swallow hard on this—there’s no record that these folks ever had to “repent” before they could come and eat at Jesus’ table. The fact that they came at all, and ate and enjoyed his welcome, apparently was repentance enough for him. Many of them changed after eating at Jesus’ table—precisely because they had had a life-transforming encounter with him.

There’s no record that these folks ever had to repent before they could come and eat at Jesus’ table. The fact that they came at all . . . was repentance enough for him.

The word for that is grace. Amazing grace. Radical grace. Scandalous grace. Even Peter—the lead disciple who had walked with Jesus for three years and received the keys to the kingdom—needed a lot of it. Over and over again.

Even after the great day of Pentecost, when he was filled with the Holy Spirit and preached to thousands of people, Peter blew it. Again. For example, Peter once broke fellowship with people whom God had accepted—a clear denial of the gospel, and it needed to be corrected lest the good news become ugly news (cf. Gal 2:11-21; 1:6-9).

Thankfully, Peter never gave up. Throughout his life and ministry, Peter received grace every time he needed it. Such is the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus came to bring. Religion parcels out grace in teaspoons to those it perceives to be worthy. Jesus lavishes it on those who know they need it.

Religion parcels out grace in teaspoons to those it perceives to be worthy. Jesus lavishes it on those who know they need it.

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But the grace that Jesus gave to people was a little too much for the religious bureaucrats in the first century. Tim Chester has said, “In Luke’s Gospel Jesus got himself killed because of the way he ate.” It’s true. Before Jesus ever picked up the cross, he picked up the fork. In fact, the one led to the other. Jesus died, in part, because of grace. For some folks, his grace was a little too amazing.

Before Jesus ever picked up the cross, he picked up the fork. In fact, the one led to the other.

Grace means that no believer can ever feel smug. Every time we take Communion, we sit at Jesus’ table, too. Do we deserve to be there? Of course not. Like Mephibosheth at King David’s palace (cf. 2 Samuel 9), we come to Jesus’ table as guests, and by invitation only. All are welcome there, and none are excluded unless they refuse to come by faith.

And that’s why the two of us are really into biblical hope and radical grace. We need it. We love it. We want to share it. It’s changing our lives, and it can change yours, too. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life” (Acts 5:20).

Sure thing, Lord. The privilege is ours.

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Evangelical Seminary: A Place Where Grace and Truth Go Together

Christian Higher Education

We are privileged to use our many years of church experience to serve the aims of Christian higher education within the world of evangelicalism. Tim works as an Instructor of Biblical Studies and Practical Theology at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA. Additionally, Tim and Sonya both work as Directors of Community Relations, where we help recruit students and cultivate donors for the school.

Seminary is not just for pastors anymore. In fact, Evangelical offers a variety of degree, certificate, and audit programs for all kinds of Christian leaders, with many of our courses delivered conveniently online. On-ground programs are offered across three campuses in South Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania:

•  Myerstown
•  Harrisburg
•  Reading

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At Evangelical Seminary, we will inspire you to love God and his Word. We will motivate you to be bold and compassionate for Christ and his kingdom. We will train you to serve your community and nurture healthy relationships. In short, we will help you learn how to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10). The gospel deserves no less. Might God be calling you to join the Evangelical journey? If so, feel free to contact one of us. The programs we offer are as follows:

Graduate School of Marriage and Family Studies

Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy
Graduate Certificate in Marriage and Family Counseling

Graduate School of Bible, Theology, and Ministry

Master of Divinity
Master of Arts in Ministry
Master of Arts in Religion
Master of Arts in Bible
Doctor of Theology (in Development)
Graduate Certificate in Lay Ministry

Graduate School of Leadership and Formation

Master of Arts in Leadership
Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation & Direction
Graduate Certificate in Spiritual Direction

Museum of Biblical Archaeology

Evangelical Seminary also houses the David A. Dorsey Museum of Biblical Archaeology. This unique museum contains nearly 500 artifacts from the lands of the Bible. It is designed to give visitors a window into everyday life in ancient Israel in order to better understand the books of the Old and New Testaments. The artifacts date from all periods of ancient history, and come from all parts of the biblical world. Your group can sign up for a tour by contacting the museum.

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Evangelical Seminary
David A. Dorsey Museum of Biblical Archaeology
121 South College Street
Myerstown, PA 17067-1299
(717) 866-5775
info@evangelical.edu

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Grace Notes Music Academy: Private Piano, Voice, and Brass Lessons

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The Studio

Grace Notes Music Academy is committed to promoting musical literacy and excellence while nurturing the whole student, helping each person realize his or her God-given potential. We offer private music lessons for children, teens, adults, and special needs students in the following disciplines:

  • Piano
  • Voice
  • Trumpet
  • French Horn

The studio is located on the lower level of our home at 590 N. Richmond Street, Fleetwood, PA, directly across the street from the Fleetwood Area High School and Middle School parking lot entrance.

The Instructor

Sonya Valentino is a magna cum laude graduate of West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts, where she studied under a full scholarship in voice. She has taught music in both public and private schools, with nearly four decades of experience in teaching private lessons.

Seven of her former students are presently working as professional music directors or performers. Dozens of others regularly serve in churches, community theater, and other volunteer music positions. Additionally, more than a dozen former students have gone on to teach private music lessons themselves.

The Students

At Grace Notes Music Academy, students are the focus of instruction. Musical excellence is extremely important; however, the students’ needs and goals are the primary concern. Students are challenged to do their individual best, whatever their capacities might be. Encouragement and supportive approaches are used to motivate the students.

While Sonya has an extensive performance resume in a variety of venues, she most enjoys seeing the gift of music expand both to and through her students. She sees each pupil as a person whom God has placed in her life to serve and to love. For more information, contact:

Sonya Valentino
Grace Notes Music Academy
590 N. Richmond Street
Fleetwood, PA  19522
(610) 944-5289
timsonya@ptd.net

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Faith E.C. Church: A Local Congregation Aiming to Love Jesus and Others

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Our Fellowship

Faith Church is a small but growing congregation located in Temple, PA, just north of Reading. It’s a family of believers dedicated to “Loving Jesus and Others.” The worship is “blended,” and the fellowship is intergenerational.

We’re just ordinary folks, but we serve an extraordinary God. He’s at work in our midst, and we’re seeking to join him wherever we find him doing what only he can do.

A member of the Evangelical Congregational denomination, Faith Church is all about proclaiming the gospel, sharing grace, announcing hope, and pursuing God’s truth together on the journey of faith.

We treasure authenticity, fellowship, encouragement, and love. Our desire is to deepen the ministry and let God widen it as he sees fit. Pastor Brett Kindig serves Faith Church as the Lead Pastor, and we’re privileged to help out as part of the church staff.

Tim serves as the Pastor of Connectional Ministry, a role that involves teaching, leadership development, and the assimilation of new and existing members. Sonya works on staff as the Ministry Director, a role that involves leadership development, the assimilation of new and existing members, and worship renewal.

Faith church has a variety of programs and activities for the whole family, though we try to keep things simple and not clutter up the calendar with unnecessary events. We’d love to have you join the adventure as the Lord leads.

Our Doctrine

Believing the Bible to be our final authority for faith and Christian living, Faith Church affirms the following:

•  The universe is the purposeful creation of a personal, loving, almighty God. As such, all human beings are made in the image of the Creator and are of infinite worth.

•  Our world is under the sway of sin as a result of a historical and a personal human rebellion against God, so that suffering, death and separation from God are the experience of humankind; without the intervention of God’s grace, this would be the eternal state of all persons.

•  Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, through his virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death on the cross, and glorious resurrection and ascension, graciously offers new life to all who receive him by faith.

•  The Holy Spirit, indwelling believers, gives us a desire and an ability to follow biblical standards of conduct in our personal lives and in society.

•  The Christian faith is lived in the community of the church, where worship and witness are embodied through the spiritual gifts of its members.

•  Jesus Christ will return to this world, bring an end to history as we know it, inaugurate the final judgment, and welcome believers into his eternal kingdom.

Faith Church
400 N. Temple Boulevard
Temple, PA 19560
(610) 929-1895
Office: Ruth@wearefaithec.com

9:00 a.m. Sunday School for All Ages

10:15 a.m. Sunday Worship Service

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Our Family: Just a Handful of Nice, Nutty People on the Journey of Life

The Five of Us

Tim, Sonya, Andrew, Bethany, and Micah. That’s our immediate family for now, and we’re exceedingly glad that God has decided to put us together for this life. We’ve had plenty of good times over the years, and a few challenges, too. But through it all, we’ve loved each other without limit and have encouraged each other always to make Christ our highest treasure. We’re not batting a thousand on that, but we’re still in the game.

We like to think of ourselves as “nice, nutty people on the journey of life,” though lots of people probably think we’re more nutty than nice. We’re not inclined to argue the point. We just soldier on, trying to answer the call that God has placed on each of our lives as best we can. Our extended family is likewise precious to us, though they’re far too numerous to mention here.

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L to R: Bethany White, Micah White, Sonya Valentino, Tim Valentino, Andrew Valentino.

Tim Valentino

I was born in Philadelphia, PA and adopted 13 months later by Carl and Cherie Valentino, of Reading, PA. Dad was a blue-collar worker for the Reading Eagle newspaper, and mom went to work for the same company after all three of us kids started junior high. Our parents provided us with a lower middle-class upbringing, and our youth was filled with myriad sports, school activities, and trips to the emergency room.

In earlier days, my brother called me, “Harry Homework.” The nickname was well deserved, though I didn’t like it very much. (I wanted to be cool, not geeky.) Our challenges were many, but we pressed on together when life was tough. Today I’m a grace-loving husband, father, pastor, seminary professor, conference speaker, swimmer, softball player, and incurable Philadelphia Phillies fan. I have an odd sense of humor. You can read more about me on the About Page.

Sonya Valentino

I was born in Marietta, OH and spent much of my young life in that state, where mom and dad served as church planters with the Southern Baptist Convention. My siblings and I moved around a lot, helping our parents start new churches in new towns. On several occasions we served as the nucleus of a new children’s ministry or youth group, learning to do Christian ministry firsthand from mom and dad. Eventually we wound up in West Virginia, where I went to college on a music scholarship.

My school days were filled with lots of joy, laughter, music, church activities, and homework. Mom and dad taught me to love God and put him first in my life, which was easy to do since they didn’t just preach the Christian faith, they lived it in front of us. Today I’m a grace-loving wife, mother, music teacher, ministry leader, and development assistant in Christian higher education. Unlike Tim, I have a normal sense of humor. You can read more about me on the About Page.

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We have two adult children, Andrew and Bethany, and a son-in-law, Micah, whom we claim as our own.

Andrew Valentino

Our son Andrew holds a film and media arts degree from Temple University and currently works as a videographer for WFMZ-Channel 69 in Reading, PA. He also does photography and videography on the side. His interests include film, anime, screenwriting, science fiction, apologetics, philosophy, and music. For better or worse, he looks like Tim and acts like Sonya.

Bethany White

Our daughter Bethany holds a speech language pathology degree from Bloomsburg University and currently works as a psychiatric assistant at Pennsylvania Counseling Services in Lebanon, PA. Her interests include worship, dance, discipleship, and sharing her faith. For better or worse, she looks like Sonya and acts like Tim.

Micah White

Bethany’s husband, Micah, holds a psychology degree from Kutztown University, and a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy degree from Evangelical Seminary. He currently works as a counselor at Salisbury Behavioral Health in Wyomissing, PA. His interests include music, worship, guitar, computers, woodworking, and car repair (thankfully). For better or worse, he doesn’t look or act like Tim or Sonya at all. Yeah, that’s probably for the better.

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