Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love

BROTHERLY (AND SISTERLY) LOVE

Yesterday was a “big day.” It was the day our children first got to meet their new baby sister, Noemi… and what a joyful meeting it was. The picture below pretty well sums it up.img_2846While visiting mommy and Noemi, each of the big brothers and sisters took their turns holding the baby. This was a special and proud moment for them.img_2816img_2820img_2824img_2835Everyone has been eagerly anticipating this little one’s arrival, and Noemi has been officially welcomed into our family with open arms. Now, I am naive enough to think our children will never bicker or fight, but these momentary frustrations do not negate deep and abiding love they have for one another. We are grateful to God for allowing this love to exist and flourish.

Interestingly, when God speaks of the love Christians should have for one another, he uses the love of siblings as the pattern. Hebrews 13:1 offers a simple encouragement: “Let brotherly love continue.” As you may be aware, the words, “Brotherly love” come from a single Greek word, “Philadelphia.” This term joins the Greek word for “love” and “brother.” The love that believers are meant to express to one another is patterned after the love that a family (specifically siblings) have for one another.

I know the deep sense of connection, and love siblings have. I am very thankful for both my brother and sister. Siblings are supposed to stick together, support one another, and encourage each other. We are called to live out the same commitment to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

My brother, John, and his wife Ruth were able to stop by last night as well and visit the baby.

img_2863img_2860And, of course, Grandmom was able to be there to see and hold her newest Grandchild. We have been richly blessed!img_2840

Introducing…

INTRODUCING…

We are thrilled to introduce Noemi Grace Valiante. She was born on 5/13 at 7:25pm weighing 6.49lbs and measuring 19″ long.img_2812Sarah is doing great, and we are thankful for God’s protection and strength during the delivery.img_2791Noemi is already a sweet little girl. She has been eating great and giving mommy and daddy some good rest in between feedings. The other children are eagerly looking forward to meeting their new little sister today. img_2803

Happenings…

HAPPENINGS…

While scrolling through  pictures from the past couple of weeks, I am reminded that life is a tapestry stitched together with a thousand “happenings.” Many of these “happenings” or events are mundane, yet each one becomes an integral part of who we are. The pictures in this post will give you a glimpse into the everyday happenings of the Valiante Family. We are joyful and thankful for this season in our lives.IMG_2640Micah and Kiersten enjoyed helping out at our home church’s Work Day (Lighthouse Baptist). It is especially fun when Pastor Witmer drives you around the property in the back of Pastor Pritt’s pickup truck.IMG_2715IMG_2711The kids did a great job helping clean out the RV in preparation for our first trip as a family of 7 in the month of June. I was able to de-winterize the RV, and all of the major systems checked out fine (plumbing / electrical / water heater / heater / air conditioner / stove / refrigerator / water pump etc.). We are excited to get it on the road!IMG_2646img_2734img_2739We are also enjoying our “down-time” together as a family. There was a marathon Monopoly game that spanned a couple of nights. Lydia would have destroyed Micah, but kept forgetting to call “Rent.” Micah took advantage and eventually won the game. The kids also enjoy eating Popsicles on the porch. They also like the many stops to restaurants during our travels. Our last visit to Burger King made me realize how much our food costs will increase as Micah enters his teenage years. He ate a Whopper, 3 Chicken Nuggets, French Fries, Onion Rings–all washed down with a Dr. Pepper. Although he is only 11, he is able to pack it in!img_2730Micah has not only enjoyed eating our food, he has enjoyed making it as well. The picture above shows deviled eggs he made all by himself. Just the day before he made Banana muffins. We have enjoyed eating his creations… all the while offering our critiques (I think the kids have watched too many cooking shows on the Food Network)!img_2724We have also had our share of sickness over the past couple of months. This past week, I took Kiersten to the emergency room after she experienced severe hip pain. After an X-Ray and MRI, the doctors determined that the fluid in her hip was inflamed with an infection. They believe a virus likely settled in that joint. Everyone in our family had the flu during the month of April, so it is not surprising to have some lingering affects from it. Thankfully, God continues to offer grace, even when we face trying times.img_2741After a year of schooling where we were not sure if Lydia would get a handle on reading, it seems like everything began to click in the last month or so. She is doing very well now, and enjoys having a little brother to read to. She is overjoyed with the thought of having a little sister to join him.

Sarah continues to do well, as we await the arrival of our little girl. These are exciting and joyful times in the Valiante Family. Thank you for your continued prayers on our behalf!

A Fitting End… For Now

A FITTING END… FOR NOW

Last Sunday was our final meeting for the next five weeks, and we could not have ended on a better note! We had the joy of getting to know Pastor Dave and Dawn Field, their family, and the congregation at Truth Bible Church (Alloway, NJ).

img_2670img_2651Of course, the reason we are taking a break for the next month is to prepare for the arrival of the newest member of our family. Traveling the past couple weeks has been a bit more uncomfortable for Sarah. Thankfully, our trip to Truth Bible on Sunday was only a 35 minute drive. Interestingly, Pastor Dave’s lesson in Sunday School was on the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. It was impacting to think about Mary traveling to Bethlehem while being great with child (Luke 2:5). Although it appears Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for some time before Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:6), she was certainly far enough along to make the trip uncomfortable. With regard to our own travels, I have been very thankful for how well Sarah has handled the hours on the road, especially trips over the last couple of months. Traveling in a van is not the easiest thing, but I reminded Sarah that it is still better than having to travel by donkey :).

In addition to Truth Bible Church’s proximity, we also found kindred spirits in the Field family. Pastor Dave and Dawn have four children (like us), with one more on the way (like us). Sarah is due in May, and Dawn is due in June. Not only that, but the ages of their children exactly match our own. The children had a blast spending time together in the services and during the fellowship meal.

Last week was a perfect ending… for now. We are excited for the arrival of our little girl. We will have about a year for our little one to get acclimated to our family, and we look forward to being in the Philippines around this time next year!

Storing God’s Word in Our Hearts

STORING GOD’S WORD IN OUR HEARTS

Every morning I meditate on the “verse of the day” in the YouVersion Bible app on my phone. In this morning’s verse from Psalm 119:11, David speaks of “storing up” or “hiding” God’s Word in his heart so that he might not sin against God. After thinking about this verse and spending some time in prayer I came out of my bedroom. When I came into the living room, I found my two oldest children living out the verse I had read just moments before.

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I am so grateful that our children are learning to make God’s Word a priority in their lives because I know that hiding God’s Word in their hearts and living out what they read will transform them. Listen to what Psalm 19 says God’s Word accomplishes: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).

Although we desire our children to read the Bible, this is not something we have forced upon them. Instead, they choose to wake up early and spend this time with God before the start of their school day. I am extremely proud of them, and their desire to know God more intimately. I pray that this is the beginning of a lifelong pattern of reading and studying the Word of God. As they hide God’s word in their hearts, they will find the rich blessings of God’s wisdom and grace.

No Greater Honor

NO GREATER HONOR

Over the years I have had the privilege of preaching all over the world in countless venues. I have preached in churches, at conferences, and at youth rallies. I have preached in jails, in nursing homes, and even on street corners! But this past Friday, I was given the greatest honor in my years of ministry when I preached my Grandpop’s funeral.

A week and a half ago I learned that my Grandpop had been admitted to the hospital. On Sunday, we were heading back from North / Central Pennsylvania and arrived at my parents’ house where we learned later that evening that Grandpop had taken a turn for the worse. I was able to go to the hospital early Monday morning, and while there, the doctors informed our family that Grandpop had passed away.

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Monday was a long day. My parents, aunts, and uncles began making the necessary final arrangements for Grandpop. After meeting with the funeral director that afternoon, they asked if I would conduct the funeral service to be held on Friday. I was honored by the request and grateful for the opportunity to preach my Grandfather’s funeral.

I met with my family on Monday night to discuss the details of the service. This was a sweet time to reflect on my Grandfather’s life. We crafted a service that we felt would glorify God as we honored the life and legacy of Anthony Valiante. During our time that evening, we talked about what made Grandpop special. First, he had a deep love and devotion to his family. He loved to be a dad, grandfather and great-grandfather. He also had a love for God. My Grandpop came to faith in Christ in the late ‘70s, and over the years developed a deep love for God’s Word. He read his Bible through 22+ times, and even made his own hand-written copy of the Scriptures.

Grandpop was also an amazing story-teller with a fun-loving personality. After I got home from a long day Monday night, I was pretty tired and went straight to bed. Even though I was still exhausted, I found myself awake early Tuesday morning. At 5AM I began thinking about the countless stories we rehearsed the night before from Grandpop’s life. Thinking about these stories I could not help but laugh. The more I thought the more I laughed. I found myself laughing uncontrollably for 15 minutes. I am certain Sarah thought I had lost it, but I could not stop laughing as I thought about those stories. Grandpop brought so much joy into our lives. Even in spite of the all of the hardships Grandpop faced through life, he maintained a joyful spirit.

Over the next few days I began working on the service for my Grandfather. This was a wonderful time to remember a man that I love and respect. Then, on Friday, I conducted my Grandpop’s home-going service. I did my best to honor his life, while making sure to preach the simple message of the Gospel. In the service we turned our attention to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. In this text we have the simplest explanation of what lies at the heart of the Gospel. You can sum up the Gospel with these simple words: “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and He rose again according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3-4). Each component of this message is vitally important. First, we find “Christ,” the Chosen One, the Savior and Son of God—God in flesh. Christ “died for our sins.” Jesus laid down His life as the payment for our sins. Jesus died in our place. He was “buried,” but as evidence that He overcame sin and death, He “rose again on the third day.” It is simple faith in this message that brings life. I am grateful for the impact this message made on Grandpop, and I am grateful for the impact this same message has made in my life. Death has a completely different meaning for those who have placed their faith in Christ. Because Jesus is alive, my Grandpop is alive today. Because Jesus is alive, I will live forever with Him. And as an added bonus, I will get to see my Grandpop (and all those who have placed their faith in Christ) again as well!

New Partners – Calvary Baptist Church

Our family is thrilled to learn that Calvary Baptist Church (Bloomsburg, PA), voted on Sunday to welcome us into their Missions Family.

This ministry has made a huge impact in our family over the past 8 years. While I was pastoring Emmanuel Baptist Church in Millville, we lived just 15 minutes away from Calvary, and our children attended their Christian School. In fact, we were up there this past week, staying in the home of dear friends, Dr. Scott and Lydia Greene (faithful members of Calvary Baptist), while we had meetings in the area, and our children took standardized tests at their former school. The kids loved getting to see their friends and teachers!

We are very grateful for the support and encouragement of Pastor Tim Smith, along with our many friends within this ministry. With Calvary’s support we have now surpassed the 60% mark! We are so grateful to the Lord for His continued guidance and provisions.

Calvary Baptist - Bloomsburg, PA

 

Hitting Your Sweet Spot

HITTING YOUR SWEET SPOT

Earlier this week I wrote a post titled, “Finding Your Sweet Spot.” In today’s post I wanted to share a bit of our ministry from this past weekend–a ministry that got me thinking about what it means to serve in your “sweet spot.” On Sunday we had the joy of being at Twin City Bible Church in Nitro, WV.img_2543img_2544While at Twin City, we got to reconnect with some wonderful friends, Pastor Scott and LeAnn Bandy, along with Pastor Ray and Rhonda Witmer. We first got to know the Bandys at Lighthouse as they came for a Missions Conference while raising support for their ministry in Ireland. After serving in missions for a number of years, Scott returned to the States in 2008 to begin pastoring Twin City.

While with Pastor Scott this past weekend, I could immediate tell he is ministering in his “sweet spot.” The love he has for the folks in his congregation along with his passion to minister in his community is obvious. I was amazed at how invested he is in the lives of each of the folks there. He wants to be a part of their lives because God has placed them deep within his heart. His preaching is pointed, passionate, and above all biblically grounded. As we sat down to eat lunch after a full morning of ministry, I said, “Scott, you have ‘pastor’ stamped all over you.” It is a great encouragement to see a man exercising his gifts for the glory of God.

One of the richest blessings of our travels over the past 7 months has been getting to see men passionate about ministry serving in their sweet spots. There is no greater joy than for a man to utilize the gifts God has given to make an impact in the lives of others, and the life of a church. May God give great joy in allowing us the privilege to serve Him–the King of Kings–with the gifts He has graciously supplied.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

FINDING YOUR SWEET SPOT

When I was growing up we had a field just down the street from our house. On that field my brother and I, along with our friends, played every sport imaginable. But the two sports we played most often were football and baseball. When we started playing baseball on this field we began hitting from the lower right hand side toward the street (we used a big tree that’s no longer there for our backstop). Eventually we had to move to the left side once we gained more power and started hitting the house just beyond the row of bushes. We then had to move from the left side once we started hitting the church building through the line of trees. The last place we could move to was all the way to the back of the field and hit toward the street. We eventually had to stop hitting that direction when the balls began soaring across the field, over the street, and started hitting the house across the street.

2018-04-11 Finding Your Sweet Spot PHOTO

Even though I enjoyed playing pickup baseball with my friends, I only played two spring seasons of organized ball. I was never a great hitter, but I surprised myself by making the All-Star team in one of those seasons. I assume the reason I was selected was because I was a decent fielder (playing Second Base), and I drew a lot of walks on account of my size (and how small my strike zone must have been). So, my on-base percentage was probably pretty high. Add on top of that I had pretty good speed on the bases. No doubt I was a force to be reckoned with on the diamond 😉 But, as I said, my hitting was very poor. I generally had a hard time getting the ball out of the infield. Practically all of my hits were infield singles where I outran the throw to first. But there is one plate appearance from those two seasons of baseball that still remains etched in my mind. It was the only time I felt like I really connected with the ball. As I came to the plate, and took my stance the pitcher sent the ball my way. I reared back, swung with all my might and smashed the ball. Now, lest you think I hit a home run, it was not even close. But the ball went much further than I had ever hit it before. In fact, it made it all the way to the fence (quite an accomplishment for me). I ended up with a Triple.

But what I will never forget is the feeling of hitting the ball with the sweet spot of the bat. The sweet spot is a place where the bat generates the greatest power when it connects with the ball. It is not on the very end of the barrel, but usually a few inches from the end of the bat. If you have ever played baseball, you know what it feels like to hit the sweet spot. You probably know the feeling when you miss the sweet spot–even if it is just by a fraction of an inch. Other sports have similar sweet spots (whether it is soccer, tennis, volleyball etc.), but there is nothing connecting with a baseball.

In life, we have sweet spots as well. Your sweet spot is where the gifts God has given you and the things you enjoy doing the most intersect. Many times, the things we love to do are the things we are the best at. Frankly, I never loved baseball (even though I enjoyed it), because I really wasn’t all that great at it. But I found that I loved soccer, or in school I loved History because God had given me abilities in those arenas. Some of you are gifted artists and love art. Some of you are gifted musicians and love music. God has uniquely gifted us with talents, along with desires that we can use for His glory.

Just a couple weeks ago I began (in earnest) to work on the course material for some of the classes I will be teaching at Haven of Grace Seminary. I started to work on a course in Hermeneutics, Homiletics and Systematic Theology. Now, for some, working on course materials such as these would be drudgery, but for me, I found it difficult to contain my excitement as I poured over textbooks and began preparing my notes. This is my sweet spot. This is the intersection of where I believe God has gifted me most, and where my greatest desires lie.

If you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit has gifted you as well. I would encourage you to consider 1 Corinthians 12 which speaks of the variety of gifts given by the Spirit. But what is most important in that passage is the reason for which these gifts are given. God gives His children spiritual gifts for the benefit of the body of Christ (the Church – you can also find this in Ephesians 4:11-13). Our gifts are not meant to simply benefit ourselves, but are to be put to use for the profit of all (1 Cor 12:7). It is helpful to take inventory of our spiritual gifts and ask ourselves the following questions:

  1. What talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts has God given me?
  2. What talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts do those closest to me see? (It is good to gain an outside perspective of what others see in your life, so maybe ask a spouse, parent, child, friend etc.)
  3. What kind of activities am I most excited about? What types of ministries make me feel most alive?
  4. How am I presently using the talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts God has given me for the benefit of His Body (the Church)?
  5. What are (new) ways I can begin utilizing my talents, abilities, and spiritual gifts for the benefit of His Body (the Church)?

As we ask ourselves these questions, and begin exercising the gifts God has given us, we can narrow in on our “sweet spot” of ministry. There is nothing better than to see the gifts God has given you and the desires of your heart meet together in joyful, fruitful service to the Lord.