• Deacon Greg Ventura

The band Kansas released their album, Point of Know Return in 1977. I was 16 at the time and I am pretty sure that I probably did not hear it till maybe a few years later. I was too busy listening to pop rock. It probably wasn’t until I got into college and started listening to a classic rock station that I probably ever heard this song. I know that by the mid-80’s my musical taste had increased dramatically, and I actually owned this album. Still even though I would sing along with the song, the words just rolled right off me. It wasn’t until my mid to late twenties that I started paying attention to the lyrics. Let me share some of them with you.

“I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment's gone All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity Dust in the wind All they are is dust in the wind” Songwriters: Kerry Livgren / Kerry A Livgren Dust in the Wind lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC We all have dreams and by that, I mean desires. I am not talking about the dream you sometimes have that you are like Superman and can fly. What you’ve never had that kind of dream? I have, but I digress. Maybe you dream of retiring to Florida or sending your children to college? Those are good dreams, but the point of this song is that nothing is eternal or at least nothing on Earth is eternal. “Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see Dust in the wind All we are is dust in the wind” Dust in the Wind lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC This song is so up-lifting! Aren’t you excited just listening to it? Face it, this song is dreary. In New Jersey, this time of year leading up to Ash Wednesday can be a bit lifeless. The weather is often cold. We have passed the highs of Christmas and New Year’s. The flowers are not yet in bloom. Your life may not be going well, your job may be stressful, your health may be deteriorating, or your spirituality may have ‘crumbled to the ground.’ “…Now, don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky It slips away And all your money won't another minute buy Dust in the wind All we are is dust in the wind…” Dust in the Wind lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC Finally, we get some advice. The songwriter reminds us that our money will NOT buy us even a moment in time. You may be humming this song right now in your head. Given this cheery song that I have shared, what do we do with our lives and where do we turn for answers, especially since our money is useless? The answer is simple. We turn to God for what He has said, and we turn to the Bible as His gift to us so that the answers that were given back then, remind us of our salvation. Genesis 3:19 (ESV) "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The words, “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” are often used at the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. This reminds us of our sinful nature and that sin leads to a physical and spiritual death, if we chose to live apart from Jesus. Job 2:12 (ESV) "And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven." Dust or ash was often used as a sign of mourning. Job’s friends mourn for the situation that they find their friend in, because things are SO bad. Ecclesiastes 1:13-15 English Standard Version (ESV) "13 And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. This passage was written by Solomon, who also was a song writer. You might wonder to what extent Kerry Livgren might have been influenced by this verse? Well Kerry did not come to faith till a few years later. Still he might have been exposed to this passage. There is a beauty in this verse. Solomon is the wisest man that has ever lived. According to the God’s statements about Solomon, no one since Solomon has ever been as wise as Solomon, so we should pay attention to what is being said here. The wisest of the wise says that all the pleasures that one can run after are NOTHING. Even chasing knowledge, making it into an idol is meaningless. The reason why is because we have a limited time here on Earth. But there is hope in being dust, as it says below. 1 Corinthians 15:48-49 (ESV) As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. ​ So, this Ash Wednesday, take some time and visit church and put on the symbol of our Lord in ashes. Be reminded that you too will also one day return to the dust, but like Jesus you will also rise to Eternal Life!

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

Matthew 28:19-20 (ESV)

You may have found that sharing is not always easy. You may hope that your actions, lifestyle and what you stand for will be enough. The only problem with not using words is that there are plenty of atheists and other non-Christian believers who also do nice things. How will the average person tell the difference, if you don’t share why you believe? I try to share wherever I can. I even share on Facebook. I have yet to be blocked for posting something, but I know that some of my friends do not agree with me. What amazes me is that they have not unfriended me. I give thanks to God that they have not, because it means I have time to try again. People may unfriend you or say that you are intolerant, just remember that Jesus told his disciples the following: Matthew 10:14 English Standard Version (ESV)And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” ​ My beliefs have had an effect on my friends and I am sorry that they feel that way, but I have to honor God first. I believe that I am being as pastoral as is humanly possible. I really strive to not get into arguments with people, but rather have good conversations. I try very hard to convince them without belittling them. I am not a debater. I was never on a debate team, but I have read the Bible and I have not shied away from discussions on it, because I want my faith to be stronger. We could also just hunker down in our church and not try to venture out into the world and risk making anyone angry. This is a fortress mentality. That is not the Great Commission. Notice what I emphasized in Matthew 28. God is going to be with us even to the bitter end of this age. That means that if we die before the age comes to an end, then God has been with us. If the end of the age comes soon, then again God has been with us. WE ARE NOT ALONE. When we left the Episcopal Church, we were the only CANA church in New Jersey. Now there are more. When CANA joined the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA), we became part of what is perceived to be the new Orthodox Anglican Province in the United States. Look at the map below. It is a map of the ACNA churches in the Eastern and Central part of the country. I have even marked where St. Georges is. You cannot even see the borders of New Jersey there are so many churches in the Greater Tri-State Area. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. God is with you. God is with me. God is with us. God is doing something. It may have seemed like he was not doing anything before, but now he is. In addition, we are no longer hampered by unorthodox beliefs that you have to dodge when people question you on what you believe. I am so glad to not have to make excuses for why I went to a conservative church in a denomination that was turning away from biblical orthodoxy. Do not be shackled any longer, go out into the world telling people why you believe in Jesus. Our Lord and Savior requires us to do so.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

Reflecting on Psalm 139:13 - A blog by Deacon Greg Ventura

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb."

There are some topics, I will speak boldly on and others that I will speak more quietly on. This is the later. There has been much talk recently about a law passed in New York that affects abortion. This is a very heated topic. People on both sides are quite passionate. There is no value in getting angry with the opposition. There is nothing to be gained by being belligerent. This is not an issue that will go away with petitions. 

This is only an issue that will go away when Christians get about the business of making disciples of all nations. I am not going to talk about the people who advocate one way or another on the issue. I want to talk about the people dealing with the issue. Those are the people making the decisions.

How are Christians helping these people?

The people in these circumstances go someplace for help and counseling, where might that be? I would imagine that many go to Planned Parenthood. How many come to church? I am sure that some do, but do many expect to be judged if they were to confess that they or someone they love is pregnant? There are local organizations that can help, but how well do you know them? There are alternatives in almost every county in New Jersey. Some of these are church-affiliated, like Catholic Charities, others like Life Choices Resource Center in Metuchen are Christian, but not by any particular church. These kinds of organizations need help. Parents need diapers, toys, baby food, and do I really need to spell it out for you? You know the drill. They need stuff. LOTS of stuff. Babies grow fast, so they need support for a while, when it comes to clothing. This is a wonderful opportunity for someone who might have a passion for this to do some volunteer work.

Do these people know that God formed them in their mother’s womb?

Maybe if this psalm resonated with more Christians, then maybe we could help other people to better understand it themselves? We are more casual about sex as a nation. Go out into your backyard and get some dirt, rocks, sticks, and vegetable matter. Go the drug store and get some medical supplies. Go to the hardware store and get some metal, wood, nuts, bolts, and piping. Now go home and try to build a human being. You can’t do it with all that stuff, but God gave us a gift of life. When a man and woman are intimate life can be created. It is so simple that we take it for granted, but life is miracle. Pregnancy is the miracle of life. Yes, it has been going on for quite a long time and maybe it has lost its luster. Maybe you need to spend a few minutes sitting with a couple that cannot get pregnant. I know of two couples that could not get pregnant the normal one. One went to many extremes and ending up adopting not one child, but three, those children are now all young adults. Another friend could not conceive and so tried various in vitro fertilization methods and they are finally pregnant. Spend some time with these people and you will hear about the frustration about trying to do it normally when you cannot. Maybe we all need to read a little more of the Bible and see what that says about this?

Did the writers of the Bible care about children?

People will say yes and no on this issue. In one respect, people needed to have lots of children, because the likelihood that they would reach adulthood was low. It was also important in the culture to have an heir. Still this verse from Psalms I believe is an indication that God cares about us at every moment of our life. There are those who will say that life does not really start until you are actually born. If that is the case, then why would we have this verse? Why are there so many stories about how difficult it was even back then to always get pregnant. People might have thought it must have been very easy, but then why are there so many bible stories about barren women? The stories that we have are just the famous ones that went to do great things, but we need to look on these stories to better understand what God thinks about life and how God care about us in our desire to have children.

Genesis 11:30 English Standard Version (ESV)

Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

Remember the story of Abraham and Sarah and how they were barren and old? God promised that they would have many descendants and so they had Isaac.  Genesis 25:21 English Standard Version (ESV)

And Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren. And the Lord granted his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

Isaac and Rebekah have two sons, Esau and Jacob.

Judges 13:3 English Standard Version (ESV)

And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son."

Judges tells the story of the birth of Samson.

Luke 1:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

This Gospel chapter tells of the birth of John the Baptist. Numerous stories of couples who could not have children. Did their husbands dump their wives for someone more fertile? No. We have something to share. Jesus knows about suffering. He is ready to walk with people who are suffering. We need to be his arms and legs.

How do you feel about not being aborted?

It’s a fair question. If you are reading this, then you would not aborted. How do you feel about that. It makes me pause. What if circumstances in my life had been different. My parents suggested that my brother, Mark, three years younger than I, was not planned. They talked about aborting him, but thank God, they did not. What if life had just been a little harder on your parents? What if you were not planned? What if your parents had no church family that would support them? How DO you feel about not being aborted.

I am VERY thankful. I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without Mark. He is a blessing to me. Yes, there were times when he was a young goofy kid that he drove me crazy, but then he grew to be the coolest brother I could have. He’s an engineer. He builds cool stuff. He is a business man. I give thanks that my parents made the right decision. It may have been the most difficult decision they ever made.

Do YOU know that God formed YOU in YOUR mother’s womb?