Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at Faith Church

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Christmas Eve Candlelight Service
Sunday, December 24, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.

Traditional Christmas Carols with Light Instrumentation

Faith E. C. Church
400 N. Temple Boulevard

Temple, PA  19560
(610) 929-1895

Pastor Brett Kindig, Lead Pastor
Pastor Tim Valentino, Pastor for Connectional Ministry
Sonya Valentino, Ministry Director

Series: Songs for the Savior
Sermon: “A Beautiful Mess!” (“O Holy Night”)

David Phelps & the Gaither Vocal Band:

 

O Holy Night

Words by Placide Cappeau
Translated by John Sullivan Dwight
Music by Adolphe Charles Adam

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine,
O night when Christ was born!
O night divine,
O night, O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand;
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend;

He knows our need,
To our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King,
Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King,
Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace;
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name;

Christ is the Lord,
O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory
Ever more proclaim!
His pow’r and glory
Ever more proclaim!

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Christmas Eve ‘Eve’ Candlelight Service at Faith Church

silent-night-graphic

Christmas Eve ‘Eve’ Candlelight Service
Saturday, December 23, 2017 at 7:00 p.m.

Traditional Christmas Hymns with Full Worship Team

Faith E. C. Church
400 N. Temple Boulevard

Temple, PA  19560
(610) 929-1895

Pastor Brett Kindig, Lead Pastor
Pastor Tim Valentino, Pastor for Connectional Ministry
Sonya Valentino, Ministry Director

Series: Songs for the Savior
Sermon: “What a Night!” (“Silent Night”)

The Winchester Cathedral Choir:

Silent Night

Words by Joseph Mohr
Translated by John Freeman Young
Music by Franz Xaver Gruber

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
’Round yon virgin mother and Child,
Holy Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heav’nly hosts sing “Alleluia”:
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born.

Silent night! Holy night!
Wondrous star, lend thy light;
With the angels let us sing:
“Alleluia” to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, love’s pure light,
Radiant beams from Thy holy face,
With the dawn of redeeming   grace,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

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This New Life: Top Posts of 2017

We are grateful for all our readers here at This New Life. Below are the top posts from 2017. In addition to our About and Events pages, which continue to invite a fair amount of interest, these are the most frequently read posts of the year:

New Beginnings: Back to the Original Call
This New Life: A Website Devoted to Biblical Hope and Radical Grace
Bookends of Grace (Reflections on David & Shimei)
Our Family: Just a Handful of Nice, Nutty People on the Journey of Life
Why Does God Want Our Praise?
Needing and Needling: The Painful Search for Christian Community
Literary Devices in the Bible, Part 1: Introduction (and Parts 2-11)
‘Better Than I Deserve’: A Tribute to Tammy Leisey (Sara Elizabeth, Guest Author)
Inspired by a Multiplicity of Martyrs
Just for Fun | Monday, December 18, 2017

We will continue trying to populate the Sermons, Studies, and Resources pages, but our growing ministry responsibilities often make that a slow-going process. Blessedly, “the race is not to the swift” (Eccl 9:11). Thanks for your patience.

Thanks, also, for your interest in Tim’s academic article recently published in the Evangelical Journal: “Artistry and Architecture in the Fourth Commandment.” As the Lord allows, we’re going to see if we can get a larger audience for the important and encouraging conclusions set forth in this piece.

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Just for Fun | Monday, December 18, 2017

Sometimes it’s good just to laugh a little. Or groan. Here are some lighthearted objects found while surfing the littered ocean of the internet.

Good question:

bacon-too-much-lettuce

Been there. Many times:

called-by-full-name

It’s the most wonderful time of the year:

cats-christmas-tree

Cosplay starts young:

charlie-brown-dressed-kid

It’s not bragging if you can do it:

14-day-diet

Students of biblical greek will appreciate this:

chick-fil-a-greek

Coffee is a public service:

coffee-people-skills-cup

Coffee is a also a therapist:

coffee-understands

Should have paid attention in geometry class:

cold-corner-90-degrees

Praying for unity in the home:

counter-argument

E.T. as a doughnut:

e-t-doughnut

The myth of equality:

his-side-her-side-e1513643604603.jpg

That’s what it’s all about:

hokey-pokey-clinic

Reason #739 why English is hard:

i-before-e-except

A friend in need:

if-you-fall-floor

Kitchen follies:

kitchen-whisk

The kids already knew this:

lucky-charms-cat-chow

I’ll have a large pizza with pizza:

pizza-topped-with-pizza

I’ve experienced this firsthand more than once:

power-steering-strong

He knows if you’ve been bad or good:

santa-instagram-clothes

It’s good to stay active as we get older:

stockings-still-fit

Tale as old as time:

taco-belle-dress

Renovations on a roll:

toilet-paper-curtains

Right, he is again:

yoda-dismay

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R. C. Sproul, Popular and Influential Reformed Theologian, Dies at 78

This New Life has just learned of the passing of Dr. R. C. Sproul, 78, the popular and influential Reformed theologian who served as founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries.

Sproul was hospitalized on December 3 due to severe respiratory difficulties exacerbated by the flu and complicated by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He died peacefully on December 14 in Altamonte Springs, FL, surrounded by his family.

Copious tributes will flow in the Christian blogosphere over the next several weeks, as Dr. Sproul’s impact was both deep and wide. He could be heard daily on the “Renewing Your Mind” radio broadcast in the United States and throughout 60 countries.

Sproul held degrees from Westminster College, PA, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the Free University of Amsterdam, and Whitefield Theological Seminary. He taught at numerous colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale.

He also served as Senior Minister of Preaching and Teaching at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, FL, where he began preaching in 1997.

Sproul was an ardent advocate of evangelical Calvinism in his many books, broadcasts, and audio and video publications. He was also known for his advocacy of the classic (or Thomistic) approach to Christian apologetics, having rejected both evidentialism and presuppositionalism as primary.

Themes that dominated Sproul’s ministry include the holiness of God, the grace of God, the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the supremacy of the gospel, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

“Loving a holy God is beyond our moral power. The only kind of God we can love by our sinful nature is an unholy god, an idol made by our own hands. Unless we are born of the Spirit of God, unless God sheds His holy love in our hearts, unless He stoops in His grace to change our hearts, we will not love Him. . . . To love a holy God requires grace—grace strong enough to pierce our hardened hearts and awaken our moribund souls.” – Dr. R. C. Sproul

In November 2014, Kevin Halloran posted a list of Dr. Sproul’s top books and favorite quotes, which can be found here.

Sproul enjoyed reading, golfing, painting, music (piano and violin), and hunting. He was married to Vesta Ann of Pittsburgh, PA. He is survived by two grown children, a daughter, Sherrie Sproul Dick, and a son, R. C. Sproul, Jr.

The lyrics of Sproul’s own “Highland Hymn: Glory to the Holy One,” are a fitting reminder today of the hope that believers have in seeing God face to face—the beatific vision now fully realized by Sproul himself.

Above the mists of Highland hills
E’en far above the clear blue skies
The end of pain and earthly ills
When we shall see His eyes

Refrain

Lutes will sing
Pipers play
When we see Him face to face
On that day

His face now hidden from our sight
Concealed from ev’ry hidden gaze
In hearts made pure from sinful flight
Is the bliss that will amaze

Refrain

We know not yet what we will be
In heaven’s final blessed state
But know we now that we shall see
Our Lord at heaven’s gate

The beatific glory view
That now our souls still long to see
Will make us all at once anew
And like Him forever be

While I may not have shared all his theological views, I can say, without hesitation, thank you, Lord, for the life and ministry of Dr. R. C. Sproul, now fully Coram DeoSoli Deo Gloria.

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Inspired by a Multiplicity of Martyrs

Radically Devoted to the Gospel

Attempting to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) in their day was deadly for the Apostles. Yet history tells us that they prized faithfulness to that commission above their own lives and well-being. Moreover, they sought to help other believers reframe their kingdom trials as they themselves had done:

“It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have” (Phil 1:29-30).

Granted? What kind of suffering could be regarded as a gift? What kind of single-minded focus could eclipse all other interests and pursuits under the sun? What kind of life purpose could be loftier than life itself?

twelve-apostles-portraits

For the Apostles, only one thing could command such radical devotion—the gospel and its worldwide success. When Paul sought to “pass the baton” of his Great Commission passion to his young disciple, Timothy, he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:5-8:

“Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist [euangelistēs, ‘a gospelizer’], discharge all the duties of your ministry. For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”

Shortly thereafter, Paul’s tongue and pen were silenced. Yet his worldwide influence remains to this day. The same is true for the other lesser known martyrs of the 1st century. Their witness in the face of certain death changed the world.

The Phenomenon of Apostolic Martyrdom

 The martyrdom of some Apostles is more established than others, as historians have different degrees of certainty concerning the circumstances of their deaths. For example, most historians would not take issue with the credibility of the martyrdom of Peter, Paul, or James. Accounts for other Apostles likewise have much historical credibility. Some apostolic martyr traditions, however, lack definitive support.

Still, it is widely accepted that all but one of the Apostles died a martyr’s death, even if we can’t be sure of all of the details in every case. Amidst some uncertainty, one thing is clear—the reason given for their death was the same in every account. They were killed because they claimed to have seen Christ risen from the dead. The Apostles all died because of an unwavering, unrelenting claim that “Jesus is Lord” because he rose again from the dead in bodily form. In short, they died for Easter.

stadium-martyrs-lions

In that sense, the gruesome deaths of the Apostles are a gift to the church. They contribute much to an overall apologetic by answering the “How do you know?” question concerning the central tenant of Christianity—viz., the resurrection of Jesus. People will often die for what they believe to be true (wrong though their beliefs may be; e.g., the 9/11 bombers), but they will almost never die for what they know to be false. When the choice is between your life and your lie, your life will win every time.

When the choice is between your life and your lie, your life will win every time.

Had the Apostles known the resurrection to be a falsehood, at least one of them surely would have “come clean” at some point. Instead, history tells us that all of them maintained their belief in the resurrection up to and including the moment of their execution. That none of them recanted argues convincingly that the resurrection was no fabrication to them. They were witnesses to the risen Christ, and they could not un-see what they had seen. Nor could they recant, for that would have been the lie. 

The Martyrs Roll Call

 In summary, the martyrs’ roll call is as follows:

stoning-of-stephen•  Stephen—stoned to death by the Sanhedrin right outside Jerusalem in 35 AD

•  James, the son of Zebedee—beheaded by Herod Agrippa for preaching in the Temple in 45 AD

•  Phillip—flogged and crucified in Phrygia in 54 AD

•  James, the brother of Jesus—thrown from Herod’s temple, and then clubbed to death in 62 AD

•  Peter—crucified upside down in Rome in 64 AD

•  Matthew—beheaded in Ethiopia in 65 AD

•  Paul—beheaded in Rome in 67 AD

•  Mark—dragged to death through the streets of Alexandria with a rope around his neck in 68 AD

•  Andrew—crucified on an X-shaped cross in Greece in 70 AD

•  Thomas—tortured and speared to death by an angry mob in India in 70 AD

peter-crucifixion-upside-down•  Nathanael—skinned alive and crucified upside down in Armenia in 70 AD

•  Matthais—stoned while being crucified in Ethiopia in 70 AD

•  James, the son of Alphaeus—crucified in Lower Egypt in 71 AD for preaching the gospel

•  Thaddeus—beaten with sticks by an angry mob in Persia in 72 AD

•  Simon the Zealot—crucified by the governor of Syria in 74 AD

•  John—boiled in hot oil yet survived, only to be exiled to Patmos near the end of the 1st century (and possibly martyred later, according to one stream of evidence).

How could they do it? How could they surrender their lives when a simple recanting of their faith could have spared them?

They were witnesses to the risen Christ, and they could not un-see what they had seen. Nor could they recant, for that would have been the lie.

Their Motivation—Becoming Like Christ

The martyrs’ mindset is captured well by Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:7-11:

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Alistair Begg captures well the sentiment of the 1st century witnesses—men who could not and would not recant their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, or relativize him to the status of just another god among many:


Steve Green
honors the original martyrs in this stirring musical tribute to their sacrifice, noting how they couldn’t recant because they saw the glory of God in the face of Christ:

Courage for Today

The martyrs’ mindset may seem unrealistic and unattainable in our day, but it is important to keep in mind that:

(a) God gives extraordinary grace where it is needed; and
(b) God gives extraordinary assignments to ordinary people.

This is to his glory, and it can inspire believers to be courageous today. We very may well need that courage in the years to come. So study the martyrs. Learn what enabled them to “surrender it all for the sake of the call.”

 

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‘Better Than I Deserve’: A Tribute to Tammy Leisey

GUEST POST: Sara Elizabeth is a dear friend of the family who’s been with us through thick and thin. She shares our passion for movies, music, museums, and the grace of God. We love hanging out together, visiting interesting places, and talking about life. We couldn’t ask for a better companion for the journey we’re on, and it’s our honor to welcome her to This New Life.



“He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” (Psalm 103:10)  

Jesus subjected himself to what he did not deserve so that he could provide for you what you could not earn.” (Paul Tripp)


A Mighty Warrior

“How ya doin’, Tammy?” I call to my friend who shuffles slowly up the sanctuary aisle. “You know, better than I deserve!” It’s a cheery response, with her lopsided grin and upbeat tone, almost as if she’d told a joke, except that she means it sincerely. I did know that answer was coming; it’s what she always says when someone asks how she’s doing.

I am awed and humbled by Tammy’s response. You see, Tammy has battled brain cancer for five years. The brain tumor that at one time had shrunken is growing again. She has trouble walking any distance, hence the lento shuffle of baby steps, grasping pew sides with one hand, leaning on a cane held in the other. Her breathing is labored, and it’s hard to hear her whispery voice. We’ve just been in prayer group together.

Tammy’s a mighty prayer warrior. As far as we can see, God hasn’t answered “yes” yet to our prayers for her healing. She prays still.

WatermelonSized Faith

Tammy’s got watermelon-sized faith. Most of us don’t even have mustard-seed faith. Christ said faith even as small as a mustard seed was enough to move mountains (Matt 17:20). My faith is weak. I’m discouraged after a few weeks or even days of silence. Tammy’s been praying for five years, not just for healing, but praying, “to 100 functional, Lord.”

Tammy’s got watermelon-sized faith. Most of us don’t even have mustard-seed faith.

Despite her illness and many other struggles, Tammy continues to love life and family enough to wish to remain beyond the threescore and ten years (cf. Ps 90:10) most humans can hope for. She knows she’ll be with the Lord one day, but meanwhile, difficult though these days under the sun may be, she also believes she’ll “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps 27:13).

grass-blade-water-drops-sun

Faith is certainly one of Tammy’s spiritual gifts, but it’s the joy and cheerful acceptance of her burdens that I find nearly beyond comprehension. “Better than I deserve”? Really? A sweet, kind, steadfast woman of God is plagued by a debilitating cancer, unable to work, unable to serve as she would like, facing an all-too-early departure from her treasured family, and that fate is better than she deserves? I would say she deserves all the wonderful things life has to offer. She doesn’t deserve cancer, and if she must endure it for a time, I believe she deserves a “yes” answer to her prayers:  complete healing with a cancer-free lifetime “to 100 functional.”

Knowing More Than Job

In what way could her situation on any given day in the last five years be viewed as better than she deserves? Even Job, that Old Testament paragon of suffering with integrity, knew his righteous lifestyle did not warrant the tragedies that struck his possessions, progeny, and person. I wouldn’t say that Tammy believes she deserves these burdens, and, thankfully, neither do any of her family and friends (unlike Job’s misguided companions).

Though I’m sure she wonders why healing doesn’t come, I never hear her question God, curse the day of her birth, or wish for death to come like Job did. I reckon that’s because Tammy knows some things Job could not yet know, Someone that Job did not meet on earth—Jesus Christ.

Tammy knows some things Job could not yet know, Someone that Job did not meet on earth—Jesus Christ.

Tammy knows she’s doing better than she deserves because of God’s amazing grace, the kind that saves lost wretches as we once were, giving us life and salvation in Christ. She recognizes that without Jesus we’d be wallowing in sin and shame, spiritually dead, heading for an eternity of torment separated from the holy God who made and loves us.

Providentially, as Tammy’s favorite verse John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Because of God’s marvelous grace in sending Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins, we are set free to live abundantly on earth and eternally in heaven. That’s a fate supremely better than than anyone deserves.

Challenged by My Hope-Filled Friend

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I am a recipient of this grace as well and forever grateful to God for it. Yet I struggle to find gratitude, contentment, and joy in the midst of the weight of this world’s tribulations, however heavy or light they might be. Perhaps I need to revisit the cross, to ponder anew the hope of this new life that Christ has made possible. As I hear again the old, old, story of Jesus and His love, I can receive afresh the God who is love and love Him and others better in return, as my hope-filled friend Tammy does.

Tammy loves the Lord Jesus with all her heart, soul, mind, and strength. Her big heart, deep soul, and able mind have a huge capacity to love. I’ve felt it. Her physical strengthnature-path-sunset-trees may be feeble, but there, too, is a love I can only hope to emulate. Her daughter will say, “I love you, Mama.” It takes every ounce of strength to speak, but Tammy pipes up with a robust, “Love you more!” I’m sure she’d say the same to God, but she knows His love for her stretches beyond the skies, unmatched by any human affection, unfathomable to mortals.

It’s a love we cannot earn, a love we could never deserve. It’s a love personified in the incarnate Christ, demonstrated in His death on the cross, experienced in a personal relationship with the resurrected Savior. As the song says, “Life is worth the living just because He lives.” Tammy loves life because she loves Jesus Christ and depends on Him, for everything—every need, every hope, every breath.

Tammy loves life because she loves Jesus Christ and depends on Him, for everything—every need, every hope, every breath.

Somewhere in the midst of the suffering, she experiences the love and presence of Jesus in a way so personal, so intimate, so consuming that the pain pales in comparison and she can mean it when she says she’s doing better than she deserves.

Scooped Up and Loved

I’ve written thus far as if Tammy’s courageous battle were ongoing, but it is finished. Her heavenly Father received her committed spirit at 12:45 a.m. on September 28, 2017. She slipped from the night’s darkness into a glorious, never-fading light. As my dear friend Sonya beautifully phrased it, Tammy has been “scooped up by Jesus and loved to wholeness.”

God did answer our prayers and heal Tammy, on the other side of heaven. She’s not only going to live to 100 functional, she’s living eternally because of her trust in Christ. The pain, the suffering, the prayers, they’re all in the past tense now; but Tammy’s love for the Lord, her faithfulness, her joy, they’re all as present as they’ve ever been, now more complete and full then we can imagine.

God did answer our prayers and heal Tammy, on the other side of heaven. She’s not only going to live to 100 functional, she’s living eternally because of her trust in Christ.

Her watermelon-sized faith has become sight. Is she dancing with Jesus? Maybe, but I think it’s more likely that she’s got her arms wrapped around her Savior, holding on tight as they race across the streets of gold on a big ol’ motorcycle. Tammy loved riding motorcycles, something she hadn’t been healthy or wealthy enough to do for many years. If she slows down long enough for anyone to ask, “How ya doin’, Tammy?” I bet you could guess how she’d respond. With a smile wider than than the motorcycle’s handlebars, she’d laugh and reply, “You know; better than I deserve!”

For once, I accept and agree with that answer. Yes, Tammy, yes you are.

sunburst-clouds-purple

Prayer of Reflection

God, grant me the grace to recognize the ways I am “better than I deserve,” no matter what life’s circumstances might be. I know that with my eyes fixed on You, the cares of earth will grow strangely dim, giving me an eternal perspective. Yet, even now, to have your Holy Spirit within me, to have the assurance of Your unconditional love and abiding presence at all times, such is a condition vastly better than I deserve.

Thank You, my Savior, for your mercy, for withholding from me the punishment I deserve and instead extending grace, to give me love, salvation, and riches in Christ that I could never earn. Thank You for not treating us as our sins deserve, but showing us love more limitless than the heavens, and moving our transgressions as far as the east is from the west, for You surely are merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love. May I be more like You. Amen.

Version 2Sara Elizabeth says she is slowly but surely growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. An art history aficionado, period drama devotee (especially all things Austen), and melancholy introvert, she’s often lost in museums, bygone eras, and thought. Currently she’s fulfilling a long-deferred dream by taking voice lessons at Grace Notes Music Academy, but mostly she just enjoys spending time with Sonya, sipping tea and discussing practical theology.

 

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Just for Fun | Saturday, October 28, 2017

Sometimes it’s good just to laugh a little. Or groan. Here are some lighthearted objects found while surfing the littered ocean of the internet.

This is a real dilemma for someone like me:

ocd-nightmare-picture

Sometimes a dad joke makes it into the comics:

a-frayed-knot

Everyone needs a support group:

anger-management-witch

Perspective is everything:

biscuits-and-gravy

Many a truth is said in tweet:

church-curmudgeon-coffee

Rules were made to be broken:

i-before-e-mug

Exuberance meets canine:

hyper-puppy

Every wall should be so beautiful:

books-hoarding

Even vegetables can have personal issues:

cool-cucumber

Sometimes odd speculation leads to real profundity:

jelly-fish-peanut-butter-fish

I need to remember this bit of kitchen advice:

onions-emotional-bond

Imagine the bonds formed here:

periodic-table

Arrested development can be embarrassing:

plato-play-dough

I’m sure you do the same:

potato-masher

The runner-up is still higher up than we are:

second-man-moon-neil

The interior of my car needs this:

starbucks-sippy-cup

I’ve never been bitten in the hypotenuse, but…

triangles-arguing

Here’s the biggest groaner in the collection:

age-of-aquarius

And finally, Yoder, the Amish Jedi:

yoder

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Adopted Twice: How I Became ‘One Less’

Tumultuous Era

The year was 1964. Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States, and the Beatles had just invaded America. The Surgeon General finally admitted that cigarette smoking was bad for our health, and the Warren Commission said—with a straight face—that Oswald had acted alone.

The Cold War was on, and flower children were getting it on in the new era of free sex and psychedelic drugs. “The times, they are a changing,” sang Bob Dylan. Indeed, they were changing as America grew into something of an adolescent nation. What Tom Brokaw now calls “the greatest generation” was giving way to what President Kennedy called, “a new generation, born in this century, tempered by war.”

The results of that generational passing of the baton proved to be tumultuous. The social fabric of society—which was newly awash in tie-dye—was tearing apart at the seams. The once-sacred institutions of our great country were getting a black eye in sit-ins and sit-coms all across the country. Our national face was not only getting bruised, it was getting a bad case of acne. Some of our shame was well deserved, but a good bit of the rebellion was gratuitous.

Back in the day, beards and beads were all the rage, as were fondues, fringes, and frolics in the park. In fact, one of the few places you could go to find the clean cut with a crew cut was NASA, but those guys were trying to leave the planet. Nearly everybody else was trying to make love, not war. Peace, baby.

The City of Brotherly Love

In the summer of 1964, there was a young, unmarried couple living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In time the young girl became pregnant. When that happened, the guy split, and the pregnant lady was left all alone. “Who would want me now?” she thought to herself.

But eventually she became romantically involved with another man—even while pregnant—and the new relationship seemed like it might fare better than the previous one. There was, however, one small problem. The new guy on the scene was not so sure he could accept—as his own—a child sired by another man. “I want you,” he said to his new lady friend, “but I’m not so sure I want the baby inside you.”

So a decision was made. When the baby finally came, he or she would be placed in a foster home. Abortion was not legal in 1964, so the options were limited. The young woman from Philadelphia had to carry her baby to term.

baby-toes-mom-hands

The Following Spring

On March 31, 1965, that baby was born and placed immediately—as planned—into a foster home. It was a boy. Because he was unplanned and unwanted, he needed a place to stay, and he remained in foster care for 13 months.

Enter the Children’s Aid Society of Philadelphia. “We’ll find parents for the boy,” they said. “We understand full well that one couple’s mistake is another couple’s dream—the answer to all their prayers—a blessing from heaven.” And “Miss Andrews” from the Children’s Aid Society went to work. Her labors eventually paid off. On April 20, 1966, another young couple—this one from Reading, Pennsylvania—walked out of the Berks County Courthouse the proud new legal parents of that baby boy.

This couple could not produce children of their own, but they could receive children of their own. And they did so through the miracle of adoption. In fact, this was their second of three trips down the adoption aisle, and they were thrilled with their new bundle of joy each time.

I am that second child—the adopted child of Carl and Cherie Valentino. This unwanted boy was wanted after all. And that’s why I am “one less”—one less orphan in the world today.

A Word of Thanks

To all those who are reading this post who have fostered a child, adopted a child, or provided resources for others to do the same, let me offer a sincere “thank you.”

valentino-tim-headshot-2017I am here today because of people like you.

I owe my very existence to people like you.

I can write this post today because of people like you.

You are the people who are filled with compassion, who genuinely care, and who not only love children but reach out to expectant mothers in crisis.

Charles Spurgeon once wrote, “Before we ever had a being in this world, we had a being in God’s heart.” That’s one of the great truths we find in Psalm 139.

God Almighty has a plan and a purpose for every child—each tiny miracle conceived in the secret place and knit together so fantastically in the womb by the Master Artist. And those plans are to give the little ones a future and a hope, just like he did for me.

The Beauty of Adoption

It’s an amazing thing for me to think about:

  •  I didn’t have a home, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
  •  I didn’t have a name, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
  •  I didn’t have a family, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.
  •  I didn’t have an inheritance, but through adoption the Valentinos gave me one.

I didn’t have food, clothing, shelter, money, hope or love, but through adoption the Valentino’s gave me all of those things, and so much more. Through a binding legal covenant, sealed in a court of law, I became the real child of Carl and Cherie Valentino.

It may sound like a bumper sticker cliché, but it’s true: Adoption is the option everybody can live with. Literally.

A Spiritual Illustration

When I read in scripture that God has “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:15), I get excited because I have a little bit of insight into that great truth. When we believe into Christ, everything changes.

  •  Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a home, but God gave us one in Christ.
  •  Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a name, but God gave us a new one, written down in the Book of Life.
  •  Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have a family, but God put us in one—his church, the Body of Christ.
  •  Spiritually speaking, we didn’t have an inheritance, but God gave us “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” and a salvation that can “never rot, perish, spoil or fade away.”

In that sense, I’ve been adopted twice, and I thank the Lord that he has allowed me to proclaim this good news as a minister of the gospel.

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They Told Us Early

Mom and Dad told us right from the beginning that all three of us were adopted. They were proud of that fact, and they wanted us to be proud of it, too. So they told us when we were very young. In fact, I think we were a little too young. I was maybe four or five years old, and I just didn’t know what the word “adoption” meant, so I formulated my own definition based upon the context of what they were telling us.

I thought the word “adoption” meant some special arrangement whereby no matter how bad we three kids were, mom and dad couldn’t give us back; they had to keep us! The other kids in the neighborhood—if they were bad enough, their parents could give them back at any time because they didn’t have this special arrangement called adoption.

Spiritually speaking, that’s not a half-bad definition of adoption! Having become a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we’re in the family of God to stay (John 8:35).

The Card That Came with Me

It was fascinating to me—and hopefully encouraging to you—that there was a greeting card that accompanied me back in 1966 on my journey from Philadelphia to Reading. I got to see it for the first time a few years ago.

card-new-baby-momIt was a card from my foster family, and it was addressed to “Timmie’s Parents.” (Now, if anybody tries to call me “Timmie,” you’re dead meat!)

It’s clear from the language in that card that the foster parents who took care of me for 13 months were people of faith. They were followers of Christ.

I don’t know their names. In fact, I don’t know anything about them except this: They had a very powerful ministry to children in need. The card indicates that they had prayed for me, for my new home, for my new siblings, and for my new parents.

The Valentinos were far from a perfect family, but I believe that God honored their prayers. In fact, those prayers are why I’m here today.

And to those prayers I would like to add my own grateful “amen.”

Image Credit: https://www.adoption-connections.com
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Why Does God Want Our Praise?

It is clear from Scripture that God is worthy to be praised, but why does he want to be praised? Indeed, why does he demand to be praised (cf. Deut 6:13)? The first commandment allows no room for any other gods besides Yahweh (cf. Exod 20:3). Such a claim seems narrow and exclusive in an age of pluralism and tolerance. Here’s a God who says that alternatives and substitutes are off limits to his people.

lewis-book-reflections-on-the-psalmsThat raises the question of whether or not God is ego-heavy after all. Is he not humble? Is he needy in some way? Is he insecure? Why must he always get top billing? People who act like that are considered narcissistic.

C. S. Lewis pondered the question, and he was troubled for some time by its possible implications. Is God, he wondered, like “a vain old woman seeking compliments?” After soaking his head in the book of Psalms, Lewis came to an insightful conclusion. In Reflections on the Psalms he writes:

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with. . . .

“The Scotch catechism says that man’s chief end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

Still, the question remains: Is the first commandment somehow a violation of meekness? Is there something arrogant about God wanting to be regarded as utterly supreme in the universe? No. God is utterly supreme in the universe! Moreover, he wants his people to live in sync with reality; anything less would be insanity.

Ancient gods that were the products of people’s imaginations—idols that needed to be worship-woman-field-sky-armsfed, dressed, bathed, and cared for by the priests in order to function—were not and are not ultimate; therefore, they are not worthy of worship. Serving such gods is a delusion, a waste of time, and ultimately disappointing. Only Yahweh is authentic, supreme, and able to “deliver the goods.”

Recognizing this theological truth is the beginning of wisdom and the first step toward living in accordance with reality. Deviate on this issue, and everything else will be askew—like missing the first buttonhole in a shirt; every other button is wrong, and the entire garment is misaligned. But to be properly aligned by recognizing the supremacy and exclusivity of Yahweh, and worshiping him alone, brings with it its own spiritual benefits, not the least of which is genuine life transformation. As Archbishop William Temple once said:

“Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose—all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.”

Such selfless adoration is indeed a great pleasure. Gone, for the moment, are all the cares of this world during true acts of worship. As Lewis said, “The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”

“The most valuable thing the Psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”

In the end, God allows people to reject him, disbelieve him, and not worship him as God (at least for now). And that’s the very definition of humility—to have infinite power to compel submission while putting oneself in a position to be rejected.

Like Father, like Son.

Image Credits: Crosswalk.com; Lori Thomason (Pure Devotion)
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