• Deacon Greg Ventura

The following are the opening lines from the song, “Right Here Right Now” by Jesus Jones (c) 1991

A woman on the radio talked about revolution

when it's already passed her by

Bob Dylan didn't have this to sing about

you know it feels good to be alive

I was alive and I waited, waited

I was alive and I waited for this

Right here, right now

there is no other place I want to be

Right here, right now

watching the world wake up from history

I believe that no matter when you live there is always something terrible and yet also something amazing going on. This song was inspired by the late 80s, particularly Perestroika in the Soviet Union. I wonder if they knew when they were writing this song that the year it was released would also be the year that the Berlin Wall came down?

People sometimes wish they could have lived during simpler days. People often look back on the past with a certain nostalgia. I was born in 1961. Would I like to have been born twenty years earlier? I think not, because then I would have been a young adult during Vietnam and even if I did not go to war, I would have had to deal with the Bay of Pigs at least mentally.

Holocaust Remembrance Day just passed. What a tragedy that was, I am glad that I did not live then, although there was much to celebrate when World War II was finally over.

No matter where or no matter when you and I might live or have wanted to live, there is one constant and it is our one and only hope, Jesus.

John 1:1-5 (ESV) 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

This tells us that God has always been there. Let me be clear, by God, I am referring to Jesus. Jesus was ALWAYS there. God’s plan in the beginning was for Jesus to die and save us. Jesus was not a Plan B.

God has always been on his throne. He currently still is in charge, even if things like the Corona virus come around. He will continue to be on the throne forever. God is eternal. “Right here, right now” this time is passing away. Today is merely a season in our life and spiritual journey. Some days it feels like we are in the fire. I think that time will often show us that maybe, just maybe, God was using the fire to forge us.

Maybe he is forging you into a hammer or some other kind of tool, in order to better serve him? Maybe he is forging you into a sword or some other kind of weapon, in order to fight on the front lines of the spiritual warfare that takes place.

My prayer is, God help us this Lent, with all of the things going on in the world, our country, and our lives. Help us to not dwell on our circumstances, but to turn to you more wholly and more obediently. Help us to know what to do and what to say when we see someone who is not dealing well right now. Help us to me in the moment and to truly listen. Thank you Lord for the Lenten season. Help each of us to set aside the time we need to draw closer to you. Thank you Lord Jesus for all that you have done for us, especially as we draw closer and closer to Good Friday. Thank you Holy Spirit for being with us now to guide, comfort, and counsel. Thank you Father God that you are still on the throne. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

This is the final blog regarding the above mentioned book recommended at our last Synod, by our Canon Theologian Henry Jansma. Check out the previous blogs for my overview and reviews of Parts 1 to 3 of the book. This review is going to cover “Part 4,” titled “Special Rules for Young Men” and the Conclusion. Again, there will be a small selection of quotes from the book, but read the entire book on your own.

A small leak will sink a great ship, and a small spark will kindle a great fire, and a little allowed sin in like manner will ruin an immortal soul. Page 55

The classic lie that many people tell themselves is that this is just one little transgression. It will not damn their soul for eternity. This is just an indulgence and tomorrow they will go back to being good. The problem is that the small leak is often left unattended and eventually rust around the hole makes the hole bigger and leads to the ship sinking. Maybe it only starts with taking drugs once at a party, but if a month later you are addicted, you have a serious problem. They often call some less lethal drugs, “gateway drugs” because people tend to fall into them, abuse them, tire of them, and move on to something more dangerous. Sin works the same way. There are many people in prison who started off doing lesser crimes and worked their up to rape and murder.

There is nothing finer than the point of a needle, but when it has made a hole, it draws all the thread after it. Remember the apostle’s words, ‘A little leaven leaventh the whole lump’ (1 Cor 5:6). Page 56

Likewise the sin may affect more and more of your life. It may also spread to the rest of your family. Never doubt that your sin has an effect on the people around you. Even if you are really good at hiding it, there can be subtle changes in your behavior that you may not even be aware of it. It is not enough that we determine to commit no sin, we must carefully keep at a distance from all approaches to it. Page 58

There is a classic poem called “There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk” by Portia Nelson. It is worth reading. It shows how sin can become habitual. It is so easy to fall into bad habits even after you think you have repented of them. You need to be self-aware. You need to understand yourself and how vulnerable you are. If something causes you to sin, flee from it, like Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife.

It is dangerous to play tricks with edged tools; it is far more dangerous to take liberties with your immortal soul. Page 59

Your willpower might be really good. Maybe you walk into enemy territory and not stumble. All things ARE possible with God, but why are you playing with fire?

Few indeed are to be found who pray; many who go down on their knees, and say a form perhaps, but few who pray; few who cry unto God, few who call upon the Lord, few who seek as if they wanted to find. Page 68

The blessing here is that today, even this very minute, you could pause and speak your heart to God. Let us renew our commitment to God right now and be more regular and honest in prayer with God. He wants to hear from us. He truly does.

The voice of conscience will become feebler and fainter every year you continue to resist it. The Athenians said to Paul, ‘We will hear thee again of this matter’, but they had heard him for the last time

(Acts 17:32)

You have heard it said to strike while the iron is hot. This means to do things while they matter and while you can have an effect. If you wait for the metal to cool too much, it will not be forged the way you want. Likewise, you have heard that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The older we are, the more set in our ways we become. It doesn’t mean we cannot change, but I believe that we need to try harder. We may need to hit rock bottom. That is a really sad place to be. Rock bottom maybe accompanied by miserable circumstances like death, divorce, imprisonment, or public shame.

It may seem that I am painting a rather miserable picture here, but there is hope in all of this. Jesus has paid the price for our sins. We need to turn to him as our Lord and Savior. This book might help you see better some of the practical ways that young men and women can avoid some of the pitfalls in life. I remember as a young man, even a teenager, that I did not want to really listen to people older than me.

I wish I had spent more time talking honestly with either a pastor or even other Christian youth, maybe I would have avoided some of the holes that I found in my sidewalk. I hope and pray that you have benefited somehow from these reviews and I hope that you have been inspired to consider reading this book.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

This is a continuation of my previous blogs regarding the above mentioned book recommended at our last Synod, by our Canon Theologian Henry Jansma. Check out the previous blogs for my overview and reviews of Parts 1 and 3 of the book. This review is going to cover “Part 2” titled “Special Dangers to Young Men.” Sorry that it is out of order. Again, I will be taking just a small selection of quotes from the book, but there is SO much more to read and as I have said before, the book is good for not just the young and not just men.

Another danger to young men is the fear of man's opinion. ... Like dead fish, they go with the stream and tide; what others think right, they think right; and what others call wrong, they call wrong too. Page 33

Let’s look at four Biblical examples of men that in fear of what other men thought made bad choices. Samuel told Saul that when they attacked the Amalekites that they were devote to destruction the people and their things. You might think this is harsh, but the thing to keep in mind is whether we think we know better than God. Saul thought that he was doing the right thing, because they kept the best of what was captured and planned to sacrifice it to God. God did not ask them to sacrifice the best of the spoils. So now let's turn to what Saul says.

1 Samuel 15:24 (ESV) Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. In Jeremiah, chapter 38, the prophet told King Zedekiah that he needed to surrender. If he did so, his life would be spared and the city would not be burned.

Jeremiah 38:19 (ESV) King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.”

So Jeremiah tries to convince him to do otherwise. He describes what will happen to the wives and sons. The king then tells Jeremiah to tell no one of their conversations. He later tried to escape, but was caught and had his eyes put out. If only he had listened to Jeremiah.

In Matthew 14, it says that King Herod has John the Baptists in prison. At his birthday party, the daughter of Herodias, his niece danced at the party and SO pleased him that he offered her anything. She asked for John the Baptist to be executed. Herod did not want to do and yet felt that he could not go back on his word and so had John executed.

Matthew 14:9 (ESV) And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given.

Finally we look at Pilate, Jesus is brought before him and Pilate finds nothing wrong with him. The people on the other hand seem to be on the verge of rioting. They keep calling for him to be crucified. Pilate's job as the Governor of Judea is to keep the peace. So he is feeling the pressure. His wife even tried to warn him.

Matthew 27:19 (ESV) Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”

Everyone of these examples are men in power. You would have thought that they strong characters in order to be made kings or governors, but they all failed in that regard. We likewise might make poor choices and need to remember that it is better what God thinks of us than what man thinks.