The Friend I Had Never Met

By Ward Shope

During a party today, a friend I had never met before sat down at the table where my wife, Debbie, and I were sitting. While actively engaged in another conversation, but still wanting to draw the circle a bit wider, we introduced ourselves. Generally I listen closely to the first name and let the second slide. After all, rarely do you expect to meet someone again that you’ve never met for the first 59 years of your life. Still, my name is fairly unique and I noticed that it had pricked his attention. So I asked him again what his last name was. When he told me, we quickly got up, shook hands vigorously, and fell into a bear hug – much to the amazement and amusement of our wives!

Tim and I had met each other more than 10 years ago – on the phone. That first call was a business call which developed into a warm exchange. Over the years, other phone calls and emails followed. I confess that we never intentionally pursued friendship. Each contact was business-provoked and, at the same time, kindred in spirit. Our ministry and church circles were intertwined and I would hear things about him, but somehow the Lord orchestrated our lives in such a way that we never ended up in the same space at the same time. It was only at this “chance” meeting at a party after all these years that we saw each other face to face – and all of sudden realized who we were.

It probably should not be unlike that each time a believer meets another. As God’s calling to each of us comes through the redemption of Jesus Christ, and as each of us matures and grows into a servant of God’s one kingdom, we find ourselves drawn into the similar circles of service and commitment. People we have never met before during our earthly days are all of a sudden divinely revealed to us and discovered as kindred spirits, sharing in the same kingdom efforts often anywhere in the world we happen to be. We ‘belong to one body and one Spirit – just as we were called to one hope – one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all’ (Eph 4:1-6).

When the kingdom finally comes in, this surprising and amazing discovery of friends we had heard about but never met face to face will be commonplace, but never common. Instead, there will be spontaneous joy with hugs all around as we realize who we are.

Tim invited me to get together with him face to face again. I think I’ll take him up on his offer.

Revolving Around the Church

By Ward Shope

Despite my 65-pound frame, I was the starting defensive end on our community six-man football team in sixth grade. In fact, most October and November Sunday mornings, I used the sermon time at church to daydream about my exploits that afternoon on the football field. I wasn’t avoiding listening to sermons. It just seemed that football was more relevant at the time.

Two years later, I was still playing football. But by then the Lord had gripped my heart and I was listening to the sermons. I was also excited by the community our church middle school students experienced. My believing friends and I lived miles apart, but somehow we managed to end up at each other’s houses on a regular basis. We were beginning to understand the Bible together as our youth leaders guided us. We were praying with one another, planning retreats together, involved in service projects, and even starting to lead our own meetings. I’m sure we had no idea what we were doing, but we were glad the church was there to do it in.

As I continued to grow in faith, I began to understand how God has provided the church in remarkable ways to help believers grow, to care for each other, to enable them to reach out in the name of Jesus, and to represent him in society. Without the church, Christians drop out, become less vital and may end up denying the very faith they proclaimed. The church’s good is worth living for. As Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “ And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We desperately need the church to be the people God has called us to be.

And yet, Scripture has shown me more about the church that forces a Copernican revolution as I perceive her. As much as God loves me and gave Jesus to die for my sins, as much as he has given the Spirit to transform who I am, his eyes are on the Bride who will come down out of heaven. She is the one he cares for as His own body, the one he makes holy and becomes “one flesh” with (Ephesians 5:25-32). Her destiny is my destiny. It is through her umbilical cord that I have been born again. I believe because she carried the treasure of the Gospel.

The peculiar sin of our culture is identifying ourselves as the center of the universe, even to the point of seeing God move heaven and earth to save us. But how gracious and loving God is to allow us to tag along with the church to eternity and beyond. “To God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:21).

What I Want My Daughters to Know About Beauty

By Jane Highley

Dear Virginia and Sonia:

I want to teach you so much about beauty. I know that you see me getting ready for work or for the occasional date-night: the lipstick, the hair, the outfit, the earrings, and the shoes. All those things mean a lot to me because I want to feel confident when I am teaching at school and feel beautiful when I am going out to eat sushi with Daddy.

But all that means very little to God. He looks at the heart. Remember what God said to Samuel? He said, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). God is exactly right about people — we all tend to care more about what’s on the outside than what’s on the inside. And this verse makes me feel totally guilty! Because I’m lazy and selfish, but I often make silly judgements about people based on how stylish or how neat they look. I don’t want to spend the time to get to know them and “look on the heart” as God does. Plus, I’m tempted to think that I’m better than others, which is very unloving and un-Jesus-like.

Girls, here’s another confession: Sometimes, I doubt God’s love, especially when I feel ugly about myself. When do I feel ugly? When I am tired; when I am “hangry;” when I haven’t had a good, long run; when I am stressed about school work. You’ve seen me like this. In fact, all of those things were true about me just last week, and I didn’t like myself at all. I don’t blame you for thinking that some evil, cranky twin has switched places with me. When I am like this, I really, REALLY don’t like myself because of how it looks on the outside.

But here’s the good news: God knows my ugliness and he knows yours, too. How is that good news, you ask? It’s good because, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Even while I was neck-deep in my ugly, sinful life of not knowing God’s huge love for me, he loved so much that he allowed his son to die for my sins. So no matter how polished I look on Tuesday or how shabby I feel on Friday, there is nothing I can add or take away from myself to make God love me more. A sparkly necklace or a lovely pair of boots will not make me more lovable to God; he already loves me too much!

And he loves both of you too much. You can’t make him love you more because his love for you is already at 100%. And we can love him back because he has given us the capacity to love. “We love because he first loved us” (I John 4:19).

Sr. High Retreat – Ocean City, NJ

By Justin

I have lived in PA for the last year as a foster child, and since being here, I have had a lot of firsts in my life. This was my first trip with the New Life Dresher youth group and to Ocean City. I have had a lot of struggles in my life and have been blessed to do things I never dreamed I would be able to do. Going to Ocean City was one of them.

I will never forget when Todd and I were going out on a rock ledge. This rock ledge was like the walk of life. At some points it just dropped off, and at others it was a little rough to walk over and you could slip very easily. It reminded me not to give up when things are rough in my life.

The next morning our first session is going to be my most memorable. It started with youth-led worship with just a keyboard and two talented singers. Sometimes that’s all you need. After that we started our lesson, which was the crucifixion, which most of us had heard many times before. However, this time was different. This time we went in depth to every person involved and where they were coming from, as well as how it affected others around them. The question that presented itself to me, what did I think of Pilate? Where did he stand with God? That question resonated with me all weekend.

Saturday evening was another memorable night. Again, we had youth-led worship, and then we talked about the other people involved in the crucifixion: Mary, the disciples, the soldiers. We talked about their involvement with Jesus, and how they were affected by the loss of Jesus Christ. Sunday morning, we had what I call the conclusion session, which tied everything together. The whole setting of the crucifixion was a brutal scene to say the least. It made it feel more real to me. God gave his only son to die for us and not just die, but to be beaten and treated like no other human before.

I am very thankful for the experience. I had fun with my leaders and peers. I got to see and experience Ocean City for the first time in my life, and I really enjoyed the small-group interaction.

I would recommend every youth to go on these retreats if possible.

A Penny for Your Peace

By Rae Barnes

My summer with four littles home started with a bang. First, my eldest got lice from one of her girlfriends at school after sharing a headband. Two days later, my three-year-old son tried to eat a penny, and we ended up in the ER at CHOP to get it removed.

It was the evening of Father’s Day. I sat, in the dark, nursing our youngest, while my son Benjamin lay in his bed in the same room. Suddenly, I heard what sounded like near vomiting sounds. “Benjamin, go get your dad. Go to the bathroom.” “Mommy, I ate the money. Now, I need to throw up.” Well, friends, it got stuck. A penny got lodged in his esophagus. He could breathe, but he couldn’t swallow so well. I volunteered to take him to the ER at Abington to see what they said since it was Father’s Day, and Chris was tired from a busy day. They rushed us to x-rays to make sure it wasn’t a battery (as that is considered a TRUE emergency). Nope. We could see Lincoln! (Appropriate, he was born on Lincoln’s birthday). So… we were in for a long, long night at two ERs with an ambulance ride in between.

My three-year-old son that screams and cries when his cereal isn’t poured quickly enough was calm and patient through the whole ordeal. He had a penny in his throat and HAD to be so uncomfortable, but he was still. He asked me to read him the longest, most boring book about Samuel Adams. He asked me to cuddle. He was calm. He even slept. I was shocked.

I expected tantrums. I expected screams. I received none of that. At one point, just after the nurse explained to us the procedure of how they would remove the penny, Benjamin realized I wouldn’t be with him while they did this. He became a little clingy and noticeably nervous, and I looked him in the eyes and told him Jesus would be with him when I can’t be. “You have nothing to be afraid of,” I said to him. He calmed down. The nurse affirmed what I just said, which made this very tired mama tear up.

I do not have as much scripture memorized as I should, but I had this verse in the front of my mind throughout the entire 13-hour ordeal. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

I do not claim to be as thankful as I should be. But that night, I found so many things to be thankful for. I prayed constantly, petitioning the Lord, and we had peace. And that peace completely transcended our understanding and our expectations. Thanks be to God our son is back to screaming when his cereal isn’t poured quickly enough (or better yet, he has learned to pour it himself this summer)!

Session/Staff Retreat – Transition

By Ward Shope

Apart from the Lord, none of us knows what the future holds. He assures us that there is stability in the world He has created. God is more faithful to his covenant with his people than the covenant he has with the rising of the Sun and its setting (Jer 33:19-26). But despite the security of his promise, we experience the journey more like a balloon aloft in the breeze, which can and does often shift or contain volatile gusts and which may take us in a direction we never expected.

The important thing is that we make the journey with everyone in the basket. Keeping together at New Life while keeping with the Lord takes a lot of effort. That’s why the Session and the ministry staff met and worked together at the fall retreat on September 9 and 10 and focused on the transition coming to the church with Ron’s retirement and a new lead pastor taking his place.

We focused on five different areas that were raised at the Session Spring Retreat.

  • Probably the most practical part of the transition is moving Ron’s current responsibilities to someone else. Obviously, some of those will shift to the new lead pastor. But our new pastor’s gifts, interests and workstyle may require divvying up tasks and oversight in different ways than Ron has done them.
  • That means we may also organize ourselves differently. Both the Session and the staff will adjust to the leadership change. We are hoping this will lead to healthy interdependency and clarity of how the two groups work together for the good of New Life – and that will lead to unity of purpose.
  • In the midst of transition, we want to allow ourselves to celebrate the ministry Ron and Sue have had among us – and even allow for grieving. At the same time, we want to coordinate this so that Ron and Sue won’t be tempted to jump out of the balloon because of the weighty number of engagements they have!
  • All of this needs to be communicated well throughout the congregation so that we float together. We need to use multiple means and venues to get the news out, including the growing digital resources of our world.  Keep your antenna up here.
  • Finally, we understand that a successful transition is from the Lord. Prayer must undergird all that we do.  We’re looking to intentionally use groupings we already have to promote dependent prayer – but we are also looking at special gatherings as well.

As we do these faithfully, we should all end up landing together on the other side of the transition.  As always, the gospel will be at the center of it all.  And we’ll continue to anticipate how the Lord will use New Life in the future.

Being Still

By Melanie Kauffman

A few weeks ago, I had to get my car inspected in Doylestown and annoyingly enough, it didn’t pass inspection all because the front bumper cover was loose. This preoccupied my thoughts while I drove out of the dealership parking lot and turned in the opposite direction of home. I wandered around a bit, not really trusting that my GPS was taking me the right way, until finally I decided to pull into a tiny little lot on the edge of a lake to see where I was.

My GPS told me I was going in the right direction, but since I had stopped, I figured I might as well get out and look around. I soon discovered a tiny trail leading down to the water.  So I took a book from my car and sat and read. After that I ended up walking around a bit, the troubles of this world far from my mind. I felt a sort of stillness that I hadn’t felt in a long time, and I felt as if God had orchestrated the entire day so that I would accidentally stumble upon what turned out to be Peace Valley Park. Thinking back on it now, I’m reminded of Psalm 23:2-3: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.”

In today’s fast-paced society, it can be difficult to quiet ourselves and listen for the whisper of God. We get the idea in our heads that this requires an inconvenient change in our daily schedule – and sometimes it does. Sometimes it means waking up an hour early to read the word, or setting time aside before bed to spend in mindful prayer. But sometimes it’s as simple as taking an hour out of your day to take a walk in the nearby park, or sit in your backyard and hear the birds chirping and feel the wind in your hair. The next time the world around me gets too overwhelming, I’ll seek out that little corner of Peace Valley Park and I will quiet my heart beside the still water.