• Deacon Greg Ventura

"The Holocaust didn't happen but it should have". Those are the words on a sign carried by a masked protester in Arkansas recently. The Neo-nazis had shown up to protest a Holocaust Remembrance March. It is terrible that there is still so much hatred in the world. It is incredibly terrible that such hatred still exists in our own country and that it could happen as recently as this month.

It makes you think that these people must be brainwashed, but I believe that it is what happens when you hear a lie, but are repeatedly told it is the truth. Some Neo-nazis have been raised that way from their youth. Their parents sow this poison in them. Worst of all is how some of them can even think that they are Christian, but again, an evil person can twist the truth of the Bible. If I were to cherry-pick verses out of the Bible and misinterpret them, I could paint Jesus as having a grudge against the Jews. Jesus would never condone violence. In fact he commands a more peaceful approach. Matthew 5:38-40 English Standard Version (ESV) 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. Now you could point of John 2:15 where Jesus drives the money changers out of the Temple, but there he uses righteous anger to correct an abuse of God’s Temple. In our politically correct world, his actions would be taken as nothing less than violence, but we have long departed where a little physical punishment was considered the standard way of changing behavior. In any case, it does not indicate specifically that he actually hit any of them although at the very least he must have threatened to do so. In any case, these people, whether they are Christian or not, are in desperate need of the Word of God. They are need of our prayer. We need to pray that God will bring them to their senses. Especially the ones that are Christian, because their faith is warped. They do not really understand the Bible and what Jesus came to do. A Christian cannot believe that genocide is acceptable in any way, shape, or form. If they would simply look at the evidence, it would be overwhelming. Sadly the number of people who lived then and saw the sights dwindle each year. John 14:6 English Standard Version (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. ​ I think if they took that verse to heart, they might want to read a little more of the Bible and little less of whatever filth they are filling their minds with. The same is true for us as well. We need to fill our minds with good things and not the garbage that easily sells, has the highest ratings on TV, or is on the best-sellers list. John 8:31-33 English Standard Version (ESV) 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” The Jews at the time thought Jesus meant free as in not a slave, but he was talking about spiritual freedom. When you are sinner and you KNOW you are, then you realize that you need something. Some people think it just the right information or if they do the right thing or say the right prayers or perform the right ritual, they will be saved. It is so much easier than that. “Abide in my word”: This means to read the Bible, but not just read it casually. It means to absorb it, digest it, dwell in it, saturate yourself in it. You don’t have to become a monk to do this. Just crack it open each day and you are on your way. “Know the truth”: When you spend time in the Bible enough it will strengthen your faith. Things will start to make sense about your faith. Your confidence will not be shaken when someone questions you, because you will have read something about that recently. “The truth will set you free”: When you are trying to earn your own salvation, you are like a hamster on a wheel. You are going around and around in circles, but you are going nowhere. We should always proclaim the truth, because there are forces, even entire nations like Iran that want to deny the Holocaust. But in the future it might not just be the Holocaust. It could be the Bible. It could be your right to speak out against ungodly practices.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

Awhile back, I needed to fill in for Pastor Lafferty and the Old Testament reading was the beginning of Genesis, chapter 15. While I commend the entire chapter to your reading, I want to pay particular attention to this verse. ​ Genesis 15:5 English Standard Version (ESV) And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

That very day, when I got home, I started listening to some Christian music, which is not an uncommon thing for me. However, let me just take a moment to share a funny story about myself. I have a playlist on Youtube, actually I have several, one for popular Christian music covering everything from pop to rock, some country, and even a little gospel. Each list has over 100 songs, but the songs are always played in the same order. Youtube has a feature that lets you shuffle the list, but I find that it doesn’t shuffle properly after a certain number of songs, almost like it just can’t handle long lists. Due to that problem, my family is probably a little tired when I play it, because they often hear the beginning but not the end of the list. Just so you know, even I get tired of it, so I do rearrange the order of the list about once a month. In any case, on my regular Christian Music list is a song currently near the top called Calculate and as I listened to it that Sunday, I saw the connection to the reading from Genesis. Now most of the song is just praise and thanksgiving to God for all that He has done, but the following part, I believe, was inspired by the verse in Genesis. ... Your love is like the stars, filling up the skies It’s impossible to count all the lights I could spend forever, but it’s not enough time No it’s not enough time No it’s not enough I can’t calculate, calculate All the ways that you love me, that you love me I can’t calculate, calculate All the ways that you love me, that you love me Oho, oho, oho, oho, can’t calculate ... ​ Calculate by Everyday Sunday Songwriters: Kipp Williams / Chris Sernel / Glenn Walter Iii Pearson John D Salbego Calculate lyrics © Artist 101 Publishing Group, Oh Hush Makes Me Blush If you would like to watch their Official video, you can find the link below. It is very upbeat song that I would hope inspires you as much as it does me. Click Here to View Video I have spent many nights looking up at the stars. The darker the place you are in, the more stars you will see. Still I would find it INCREDIBLY hard to count the stars. You know they don’t line up for you. If they were in a nice even grid pattern it would make counting much simpler. We can thank God that in his infinite wisdom, he gave us such variety in the night sky or we never would have all of the wonderful constellations. Plus, a grid would not look natural. If I could make a little tick mark either visually or mentally next to the star, I would be to keep track of what I tried to count. I suppose I could take a picture and then I could use the tick-mark method. That option, however, was not available to Abraham. Using a high-quality photograph(s), the task of counting the stars is just laborious. Using just the naked eye, it goes to nigh impossible. The number of stars are too many to “Calculate.” Likewise, God’s provision for us, IF we were to sit down and list all of our blessings, would be too numerous to count. Give thanks today for the air that you breath. There are places on this Earth with worse pollution than New Jersey. Give thanks to God for your health. There are plenty of people with worse health than most of us. Give thanks to God for the food you eat. You may not get to go out to eat as often as you like, but you are not scrounging the garbage heaps fighting off dogs for something to eat. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 English Standard Version (ESV) 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

Pastor Lafferty in one of his Sunday sermons shared the following story, which I am going to share along with pictures, because his illustration worked so well. Pastor Lafferty is a ham radio operator. In order to get on the air, he strung a wire behind the Rectory between two trees as an antenna. Recently there was a LOT of wind, but the wire was strong and did not break the wire. But a tree branch fell down and landed on the wire and the weight of the tree limb was more that the wire could bear and down it came. Pastor Lafferty noticed that this branch that came down had ivy growing on it. In that moment he realized he had a sermon illustration.

So here we go! The picture above illustrates a tree like the one that Pastor Lafferty hooked his antenna to.The only difference being that the tree above has leaves.The ivy is on one side of the tree. The little green line running down the side of the tree is the ivy. Now imagine that the wind is blowing, but it is hitting the tree on the side opposite where the ivy clings to the tree. In this instance, the tree is protecting the ivy. This is much like the situation, whereGod is protecting us.

God protected the Israelites on a regular basis. You may recall how he brought plagues on the Egyptians to convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrews leave. Likewise, in the New Testament, Paul was whipped, stoned, bitten by a snake, almost drowned, and yet never killed until God wanted to bring him to Heaven. Sometimes however, God is not protecting us. In this case, the wind blows right at us and the tree is NOT protecting us. You may ask, “What happens then?” The ivy, due to the wind pressure, is pushed into the tree. What this means for you and me, is that when difficulties arise, we too are pushed into God.

This means we are being nudged either forcefully or even strongly to get closer to God. We can do that by reading the Bible. We can do that praying or being prayed over. We can do that by staying in the community of other Christians. So that you know that the Bible is always an excellent place to find inspiration to lean further into God, here is a good verse. ​ Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.