• 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 2 of the book. This review is going to cover “Part 3,” titled “General Counsels for Young Men.” Again, I will be taking just a small selection of quotes from the book, but there is SO much more to read. As I have said before, this book is good for anyone, not just the young and not just men.

The first quote is both a warning and good advice.

Will you play with poison? Will you sport with hell? Will you take fire into your hand? Page 39

We all see the wisdom in good advice. There is something to be said for using repetition. It reinforces the main idea. So look at this advice and decide whether you think it is worth following. Your parents have probably told you to not play with fire. Your parents hopefully also kept poisonous chemicals including things like bleach out of your reach and warned you against spilling them on yourself or drinking them. Do you think that you can beat the Devil at his own games? Don’t think that like the song, “Devil Went Down To Georgia,” that you are smarter than the Devil. Your only hope of beating the Devil is turning your life over to Jesus.

The second quote concerns whether you know Jesus intellectually or also in your innermost soul.

It is not the mere knowing Christ's name that I mean, it is the knowing his mercy, grace, and power, and knowing him not by the hearing of the ear, but by the experience of your hearts. Page 40

Head knowledge may only take you so far. At some point, you have to acknowledge that you are a sinner and deeply in need of a Savior. Odds are you have spent a great deal of time, trying to earn your way into Heaven. At your moment of revelation, you cannot help but feel moved that a person, you never met in real life, died over two thousand years ago to save you from Hell. You feel like you are no longer carrying around this heavy burden of guilt and shame.

Romans 8:31 English Standard Version (ESV) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The third quote reminds us of something that we take for granted and since we cannot actually see it, we probably tend to ignore. Never forget that nothing is so important as your soul Page 42

Why would we neglect our soul? Science is probably not our friend in this. Since we cannot prove we have one, we have to take it on faith. If your faith is strong, then this might not be an issue for you. I hope and pray that is the case. Your soul is your connection with God, in the sense that it is an intangible part of you and will continue on after you are dead. Why would any sane person do anything to jeopardize where that soul ends up? If you believe in an afterlife and I assume that my audience here is mostly Christian, then you have to be thinking of what comes after death. Don’t waste the time you have left doing any damage to your soul.

The fourth quote asks us to make sure we know where our priorities need to be. No! You were meant for something higher and better than this. You were placed here to train for eternity. Page 43

I think we all wonder at some point why we are here. In some cases, we think we are here to do some sort of job, but that is not the most important reason for our existence. It might be that you are doing a really important job. Where would we be without doctors? Still even a doctor’s job is not very important at all if they are not also seeking the Kingdom of Heaven.

The fifth and last quote points us back to the book that I hope you are reading every day. But not newspapers, novels, and romances be read, while the prophets and apostles lie despised. Page 49

I have joked along with many other clergy that people need to dust off their bibles and actually read them. There is plenty to read and I am not suggesting that you don’t read any good novels. I love reading. I hope you do as well. However, we should not neglect reading the Bible. It is the most important book you will ever read. In addition, when you are done, you need to read it again and repeat that until the day you die. It is worth it, believe me!

That is all for this review. I hope you have gained some new insight into your faith from this and are encouraged to possibly read this book or even better to go read your Bible. Stay tuned in about a week for the next and final installment on this book.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

This is a continuation of my previous blog regarding a book recommended at our last Synod, by our Canon Theologian Henry Jansma. If you want a general overview of the book, go back to the previous blog, which is titled Review #1. This review is going to cover Part 1 of the book. In this review I will be sharing four quotes from the book, in the hope that these gems will inspire you to find even greater treasures in the book.

Here is the first quote. “Run no risk when your soul is at stake.” Page 7

How often do we risk sinning? It is just a little lie? You might think, How bad can it be? Well, it doesn’t take a big leak to completely destroy a dam. The water may start off as a small trickle, but erosion will break it down slowly over time. Likewise with sin, it does not take much sin to ruin your life. Sin left unchecked often leads to something even worse. Listen to what Paul says.

1 Corinthians 5:6 English Standard Version (ESV) Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

In Jewish life they would need to make unleavened bread for Passover. Any yeast would ruin the bread and it could not be used. Likewise, in community, we cannot tolerate even a little bit of sin or the rest of the community might think that openly sinning is allowed. In a similar fashion, we have to be careful with our own thought life, what we say, and what we do. A little sin, eventually becomes habitual and that certainly leads to spiritual death. Let’s move on to our next gemstone.

“Think not you can live with Esau and then die with Jacob.” Page 9

J.C. Ryle has a great way with words. This is one of those phrases to commit to memory. This essentially reinforces what I said about the previous quote. If you think that you can continue to sin and repent later, then you are deluding yourself. I remember hearing that in the ancient past, people would put off repenting because they did not want to mess up and sin afterwards and so ruin their chance of getting in Heaven. They planned on repenting on their deathbed. Maybe you recall this story from the bible.

Luke 23:39-43 English Standard Version (ESV) 39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

That particular passage should give you hope that it is possible to repent at the last minute. However, that is still taking a HUGE risk. The longer you live in sin, as in living with Esau, the less likely you are to repent before it is too late. It is more likely that you will dive deeper and deeper into your favorite sin and possibly add new sins along the way. Let’s move on to the third quote.

”Habits, like trees are strengthened by age. A boy may bend an oak, when it is a sapling, -a hundred men cannot root it up, when it is a full-grown tree. Page 11

Talk to anyone in recovery. Talk to the former alcoholic. Ask them if they could go back to when they first started down the road to sin, would they like the opportunity to talk some sense into themselves. Many that are in recovery know what it is like to deal with a bad habit. Take care of the habit while it is a sapling, because by the time it becomes an oak, you will need God’s help to break it. This leads into the fourth quote from Part 1.

“Go and ask believers now, and I think many a one will tell you much the same. "Oh that I could live my young days over again"; he will most probably say. "Oh that I had spent the beginning of my life in a better fashion! Oh that I had not laid the foundation of evil habits strongly in the springtime of my course!” Page 16

If you have not heard the song Dear Younger Me by MercyMe let me share one verse. “Dear younger me

I cannot decide Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life Or do I go deep And try to change The choices that you'll make cuz they're choices that made me Even though I love this crazy life Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride Dear younger me, dear younger me ‘Dear Younger Me lyrics © Essential Music Publishing, Capitol Christian Music Group, Music Services, Inc

There have been times in my life that I wish I could have a do-over, I would like to go back and give myself some better advice. However, time travel is not an option that God gives us. Fortunately, he knew that we would be in this predicament and so sent his son Jesus to die for us and save us from the sin that would otherwise plague our lives.

I hope that this has encouraged you and if it has sparked your desire to read more of the book then that is even better. Stay tuned for the next installation where I will cover Part 2 of the book.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

At our last Synod, our Canon Theologian Henry Jansma recommended this book and so thinking of my son, I began to read the book. J.C. Ryle initially paints a dismal picture of the state of young men. This might make reading a little hard at first, but the reward in the end is worth it. I would encourage even older men, even women to read it, because it contains insights that I think might be new to you.

It is a short book, only 75 pages long and it follows a simple outline:

1. Reasons why young men need to be exhorted; 2. Dangers young men face; 3. Counsels (more general principles); 4. Special rules for young men. The Forward has a more detailed outline (pages ix-x). In Part 1, he asks, “Are you thinking you will have a convenient season to mind these by and by? So thought Felix and the Athenians to whom Paul preached; but it never came…” Let’s look at this particular passage that Ryle is referring to. Acts 17:22-23 (ESV) 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. Paul is preaching to them and trying to tell them that though they have many gods, they also hold onto an insurance policy of this unknown god just in case they are not aware of him or her. Paul tries to explain that this unknown God is in fact, Jesus. Acts 17:32-34 (ESV) 32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. Some people heard the Word and believed, but others did not. What would you do if you were in this boat? Maybe you will get a second chance? Maybe some other preacher who is really good will come along and convince you? Or maybe not. Acts 18:1 (ESV) 18:1 After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. So they had no second chance after that. If you have not heard Billy Graham speak, your only option now is to listen to a recording. Don’t wait, the Holy Spirit maybe tugging on your heart right now. Don’t resist or you may never get another chance. Not only did Paul talk to regular people, but also to people in positions of power. It is sad really that it maybe harder for a more affluent person or someone in a position of power to come to a saving faith. Acts 24:22 (ESV) But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” Felix knew about Christianity, which at the time was called the Way, but he was not convinced. Acts 24:22 (ESV) 24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison. Not only was Felix not convinced, but he tried to extort money out of the Christians. Don’t wait till the last minute to come to saving faith. Now is the time, if you have read the bible and still have reservations, then this book will help you see your need of Jesus. Another option you also have is that every Sunday, EVERY Sunday, you can come to St. Georges to hear the Word of God preached. That is all for now, but I will explore other parts of the book in my next blog.