• adncana

Psalm 34:18

18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

In difficult times we can always turn to the Bible. I love the psalms for this reason. It is packed full of prayers and often ones that were written in difficult times.

There is a great deal of anger in the country. There is division. We are the United States in name only I fear. We are divided into “us” and “them” camps. Christians are called to live in unity with one another. We are told to turn the other cheek. We are told to go the extra mile when someone asks. It is not easy, but it will hopefully get easier as we learn more intimately that we are broken.

Psalm 51:17

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

God wants us to have a contrite heart. That means “feeling or expressing remorse or penitence” or “affected by guilt.” With the growing unrest in our nation, we are all in need of a contrite heart. There have been times when anger burned within me when I would watch the news. Do I serve God when I get that way? No. The Bible tells us:

Ephesians 4:26

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

Paul wrote this that we should not let anger fester. If we do, it will grow like a cancer. He also wrote this for people in the local community. If they had a problem with a neighbor, they would seek to resolve the issue quickly, so that bitterness and anger did not grow.

We are now a more global community. People that hurt or offend us may not live anywhere near us. We still should not let the sun go down on our anger. Like the Disney song says, “Let it go!”

If you can’t let it go and are weary of what is going on in the world then you are not alone and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is for you.

Matthew 5:3

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Each of us has days when we feel poor in spirit. Remember God is still on the throne and no matter how crazy or stupid things get down here, there is a place for us in heaven. We should also not beat ourselves up because we feel less than perfect.

Hebrews 4:15-16

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jesus is there for us. He has sent the Holy Spirit to get us through these difficult times. Lean on him for support.

Matthew 6:25-26

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

God has a plan and he will get us through any kind of difficult time. This is not just about food and clothing, this also applies to our mental and spiritual health. No problem is too hard for him to deal with.

Lean on God and he will get through this difficult time.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

I prepared the following for evening prayer, but it snowed that night and I found it rather difficult to drive and having damaged two cars traveling to St. Georges in the snow in the past, I am loath to do it again. Fr. Marc filled in for me and did a wonderful job, so let me now offer my reflection that I would have shared then as a blog before Christmas. The readings are as follows if you would like to look at them ahead of time.

Psalm 116-117 Isaiah 59 Luke 17:20-37

I want to offer a short overview of Isaiah and then focus on how powerful our God really is. Verses 1-8 cover the sins committed by the people that deprive them of God’s favor. In Chapter 58 the Israelites seem to be a Holy people. They fast and seek after God’s wisdom, but Isaiah calls them out saying that they are hypocrites. Now in Chapter 59, any one of these listed sins would be enough to separate them from God, but Isaiah points them all out, because you can’t just take care of one, because that still leaves the others. When we look to clean up our own lives, we probably have to tackle one problem at a time, but we need to deal with them all at some point. One bad habit often leads to another, so it may take awhile to undo all the damage we have done to ourselves.

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;

The Israelites had suffered at the hands of the Assyrians, but they could not blame God, saying that he was not powerful enough. The fault lay with the Israelites who failed to follow God’s laws.

Non-believers will say that God is not able to help his people, but Christians will recognize that God is able to do a great many things. While he no longer parts the Red Sea, it does not mean that he is out of the miracle business. God does hear and I believe that he hears our prayers.

Numbers 11:23 And the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord's hand shortened? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.” ● God is just as able to help today as he was back then. ● God's power has not lessened in any way. ● His reach and where he can affect things has not lessened in any way. ● He can cause change anywhere on the planet or in the entire universe.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

His attitude on prayer has not changed. He is as ready to answer prayer now as he was then. God does not need a hearing aid. He hears us perfectly. If you think that he grows tired of hearing our prayers, consider this:

Luke 18:1-3 The Parable of the Persistent Widow 1 And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.

3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’

If you know the story, you know this corrupt judge gave into the widows demands. So how much more will a God that loves us do for us. If our prayers are not answered, maybe it is because we gave up too soon on praying or that our ears are the ones that became heavy and aren't really listening. Maybe he is telling us no or not now in our prayers? We have to be sensitive to his voice.

I know that there were times in the past when I prayed for release from certain temptations and grew weary of praying. But then this verse resonates with me and encourages me to persevere.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

If we throw in the towel, there is a way to separate ourselves from God and that is sin.

Isaiah 59:2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

We can pray all that we want, but let us not pretend that we can hide anything from God. He knows what we will pray before we say it. He knows what we are thinking even if we do not say it. God save us from ourselves!

Isaiah 59:3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness.

We need to be 100% honest with God. We actually don’t have a choice in this matter. You may delude yourself into thinking that you can get something by God, but we can’t. He is more shrewd than the shrewdest lawyer and more insightful than the most insightful psychologist.

Isaiah 59:4 No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.

We know that many approach the law with their own motives. It is hard for a person, apart from God, to be selfless. By our nature we are selfish. We have to learn what it means to be civilized. But even being civilized does not mean that we are self-less. When a soldier, police-officer, or fire-fighter performs their duty for the greater good, they are being self-less.

When someone in the medical field works with the most contagious, like with COVID-19, that is being self-less. When a parent forgoes something essential, so their child can benefit, that is self-less. We have to approach God in the same way. There is no debating with God. He has a plan for each of us. We can either get on board or the train will just leave without us.

So what have you done this Advent season? Please continue to be in prayer. Like our psalm for today we can say that we love the Lord! Amen?

Psalm 116:12-14 12 What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? 13 I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, 14 I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Likewise, let us end looking once more at the end of the passage from Isaiah.

Isaiah 59:20 20 “And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.

Christmas is imminent. It may have already passed by the time you read this. We celebrate the coming of Jesus and his birth. But he has already been born, so in reality we look forward to his coming again. We need to be preparing ourselves for that day.

Isaiah 59:21 21 “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

Let us not thwart the Holy Spirit this Holy season. Remember Christmas is coming, but it is not a holiday, it is a Holy Day. Let his words never depart from our mouths. Amen?

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

This blog is about Thanksgiving, but it is not your typical Peanuts Thanksgiving Special kind of talk.

Genesis 22:14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

Maybe you have heard the phrase Jehovah Jireh, which means “the Lord will provide.”

God will provide for us in many ways. He will provide for our country. He will provide for our health, especially in the midst of this pandemic and the rising number of cases. But it is not just the big things. God provides in the small things and we need to be aware of them, so that we give him the glory, but also so that we acknowledge that God is still at work in our lives. God did not just create the earth, set it in motion, and then left us to our own devices. He is with us every day.

So my father who is quite old has not retired and still runs his used bicycle business. He has been worried because he has delayed servicing his septic tank for too many years and now is worried because it is being used more.

I tried myself to find it, but gave up after realizing that what I thought was the tank was likely just my hitting large rocks.

My father worked with several companies to try and service it, but they all needed to actually find the tank. You see there is no accurate map of where it is. One company said they would come, but never did. Two actually came and tried to look for it, once used some sort of ground penetrating radar and the other just a metal rod to probe the ground. Finally, one of those two came back and tried to dig for it by hand, but found nothing.

My father in all of this grew more anxious. On November 21st, Gideon and I went down to Keyport to visit my father. I expected that we would probably do some bike repair, since that is what we did the previous week. The contractors, who dug the hole, suggested that the tank may have disintegrated. I decided that Gideon and I could expand the hole, possibly digging it deeper and a little wider. Maybe we would get lucky and find the tank? All we knew was the area where the sewage line left the house. The area that the tank could be under was probably no more than 40 feet by 15 feet. But we did not know how deep underground the tank would be. If so, searching that entire area by digging to any particular depth could have taken days.

We probably had not been digging for more than 30 minutes when Gideon found something that appeared to be a significant amount of stone. It appeared to be flat, so in the hope that it was the wall, we dug along it to the left. It did appear to be a wall. As we dug to the right, we found a corner. We figured that this must be the wall. We both started digging on the same side of the hole and quickly we were able to expose the top corner of the tank. Dad, all excited, acted as the foreman, with Gideon and I as the laborers. Gideon marked out what we thought would be the shape of the tank and we dug a channel in the dirt towards the center on a diagonal, figuring that once we found the edge of the hatch (or whatever you call it) we would expand our digging and expose the hatch, so the pros could open and clean it out. It may have taken us an additional hour of digging, but we eventually found the hatch and cleared it off completely.

My father was ecstatic, to the point of getting choked up over it. I was amazed that we were able to do something that the professionals had not been able to, even though they were very close. When I think about it, I think God had his hand in the mix. You could be a doubter and say that the professionals didn’t want to find it. I am going to trust that they tried their best and missed finding the tank by inches. In the end, all that matters is that we found it.

Later, at dinner, I asked my father if he would like to give thanks over the meal and he started, but immediately got choked up again and could not. If that ever happens to you, don’t feel ashamed that you can’t pray. God knows your heart.

Romans 8:26 "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

I said a prayer for the meal (pizza and zeppoles). It was not Thanksgiving Day, but we were ever so thankful to God for finding that tank. This time of year you may have a hard time finding something to be thankful for. Or you may have a hard time putting it into words. Don’t think that you need to be eloquent. Never compare how you pray to the way someone else prays. God wants to have a conversation with you. That is what prayer is. Do your part and thank him on Thanksgiving for something, even if it seems small. Are you still here and breathing, that is enough! But maybe there is something too emotional going on this year. This year of 2020. If so, the Holy Spirit will intercede for you. Maybe just a moment of silence? God knows your heart and hears your prayer. He knows what you need, even if you do not.

This hymn of praise might help inspire to think about things to be thankful for.

1 We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land, but it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand; he sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain, the breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.

Refrain: All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above; then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord for all his love.

2 He only is the maker of all things near and far; he paints the wayside flower, he lights the evening star. The winds and waves obey him; by him the birds are fed; much more to us, his children, he gives our daily bread. [Refrain]

3 We thank thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good, the seed-time and the harvest, our life, our health, our food. Accept the gifts we offer for all thy love imparts, and, what thou most desirest, our humble, thankful hearts. [Refrain]

Common Praise (1998) #258

Jehovah.Jireh. The Lord will provide. Amen. Amen!