• Deacon Greg Ventura

You may have heard we are one generation away from being a nation without Christianity. If that seems odd to you then let me explain. If day after day the bank of a levy is eroded, eventually the water starts to trickle down the side. At that point, water and erosion shows its true power. Little by little the erosion makes the opening larger and eventually washes away large sections of the levy which then causes flooding of the nearby area. Likewise if year after year fewer people go to church you will eventually have couples getting married who no longer attend church. We are currently well into that right now. I know plenty of people who were raised as Christians, but if they ever darken the doorstep of a church, I am not aware of it. It is sad, because many of them were raised in the church. Some of them used to go, but have fallen away. We need to do something about this problem. There are many things that can be done,but I think the most important thing we can do is pray.

It would be nice to see more people in church, but I want to be clear on something, I am not saying force your child to go to church or Christianity is doomed. Maybe you will recall the following: Proverbs 22:6 English Standard Version (ESV) Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. I don’t think that this means that you force your child to go to church. It means train them. We have to somehow impart our Christian walk on them. I could get completely off-track and dive into something on parenting, but that would be counter-productive, plus there are many people with more wisdom in this manner than I. All I know is that I have too many friends who were forced to go and now no longer do. There are things we can do to make the service more appealing to the younger generation. I am probably one of the few people my age who actually enjoy listening to hymns. Probably 99.9% of all children and a large percentage of adults below some ever increasing age do not like singing hymns. At some point, when we are ready, we will need to move back into more praise style music. Fr. Lafferty is working on that. We need to provide events that are appealing to younger people. I think we have made great progress in this regard with the Kidztown focus on the Strawberry Festival. I hope that continues to be a good focus and helps us to grow in influence within our community. Still my purpose in this blog is to not lay out a plan for St. Georges, but to discuss this problem of the church dwindling. We are living at a time when people don’t know that the bible says. When I get into arguments over the morality and the culture of sin that exists in our country, people are no longer appalled by it because they don’t even think that it is sinful. If two people say its love, then who are they to disagree with them? It is sad, because truth for them is relative. They say that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Let’s look at a bible passage that gives us a practical example of that. 2 Kings 22:8-13 (Hilkiah Finds the Book of the Law) 8 And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. 9 And Shaphan the secretary came to the king, and reported to the king, “Your servants have emptied out the money that was found in the house and have delivered it into the hand of the workmen who have the oversight of the house of the Lord.” 10 Then Shaphan the secretary told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king. 11 When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes. 12 And the king commanded Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Achbor the son of Micaiah, and Shaphan the secretary, and Asaiah the king's servant, saying, 13 “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.” Matthew Henry’s Commentary suggests that this “Book of the Law” was either the actual book written by Moses or an authentic copy. He also suggests that God must have been involved in this to safeguard this book. Evil people might not have wanted their deeds revealed, but their guilty conscience prevented them from destroying the book outright. Good people might have realized that the evil kings before might have sought to destroy it and thus tried to hide it hoping that someone good might find it in the future. But therein lies the problem, it could be a LONG long time before such a book is found. There are plenty of science fiction movies that have similar moments and not always for the better. You may recall in the movie, The Planet of the Apes. The main character George Taylor is an astronaut and he thinks he has crash landed on some planet, where apes rule and humans are slaves. He doesn’t realize that he is on Earth, just in the future. It is not until the end, when he escapes that he finds the buried Statue of Liberty that he realizes that he is on Earth and some terrible nuclear war must have taken place. Those are just two examples of who things can go terribly wrong when information is lost. Let me close with prayer, because I believe that after everything else that we try to do, we need to pray. I pray that my children do not walk away from their faith. I pray that if they do, that they return before long. Likewise, I pray for our whole church and the children in it. I pray for all of the children who are now adults and have turned from you God. I pray that you motivate them in only the way that will work for each of them to turn back to you. I pray that each of us will raise up our family, friends, and neighbors in prayer, that they may come to know the love that you have for each of us Lord Jesus. Thank you for hearing my prayer. In your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

Normally I talk about subjects with an emphasis on the Bible and the Word of God. This time however, I want to talk about an app. I literally JUST found out about this app on Anglican Unscripted. ACNA stands for the Anglican Church in North America and our diocese has been apart of ACNA for awhile. So now they have an app that you can install on your phone or tablet.Please don’t be rolling your eyes. I bet one of you is rolling their eyes and just about to stop reading. This is helpful not just for you, but also for all of us. So bear with me, because this will be pretty quick. ​ You can download the app to your phone from Google Play or the Amazon Appstore. You might be thinking what is the benefit? What can this app do and why would I need it on my phone? Well it can help people find Anglican Churches. Why is that important you say? Churches are easy to find, right? I would disagree! Places of worship are easy to find, but are they all Christian? I would venture to say that many Christian churches are Christian only in name. It used to be VERY easy to find an Episcopal, especially in New Jersey, but since we left the Episcopal Church, finding Bible believing, non-revisionist, orthodox churches is a LOT harder.

There are two main reasons why being able to search for other like-minded churches is a good thing. First, when you are on vacation, visiting some place far from home, or maybe even a business trip, you can look to see if there is a local ACNA church. We did this once down in Virginia and ended up at an a wonderful spirit-filled, thriving, ACNA church. The Church Finder also has links to the church’s website, so you can see what the service times are. Second, other people when they are visiting New Jersey can do likewise. Maybe they will come to visit St. Georges because of it? We are hearing from more and more people that are finding us on the Internet. See what a search on the app shows for a given zip code. Maybe you have friends or family that are moving to a new area. They might not know what church to go to, but you could suggest one for them or show them the app and let them decide. I know a person that plans to move to Virginia. It turns out there are several down there. While this person is not an Anglican, my prayer is that they find it similar to what they are used to. In addition to finding a church, the app also gives you access to 1) event resources for all of the ACNA conferences, 2) Watch or listen to past conference keynotes and breakouts, 3) Check out an ever-growing list of podcasts, 4) Keep track of all denomination happenings with the calendar and news feed. With all of the goofy apps people put on their phones, here is one with truly eternal possibilities. Try it out and I hope you like it. ​

  • Deacon Greg Ventura

When you take a test and score 100% on the test that is good. REALLY good. Essentially you cannot do better than a perfect score, unless there is extra credit. In life, however, there is not always any extra credit.

The Bible indicates that God would often put someone to the test. Job is a classic example of God allowing the Devil to test Job. But there are also plenty of times both Old and New Testament where the people put God to the test. Christians will relate to how the Pharisees and Sadducees would often ask Jesus some sort of trick question so they could discredit him and accuse him of breaking The Law. Lastly there are numerous places that are prayers or wisdom to help us get through a time of testing. That said, let us dive into the Bible, keeping in mind that God maybe using this very moment to get us to test ourselves in the light of God’s Word. God Tests Us Genesis 22:1 (ESV) [ The Sacrifice of Isaac ] After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” You probably recall the story, where Abraham is told to sacrifice his only son, Issac. You may recall that Abraham kept saying that God would provide. God took Abraham right to the edge. He almost killed his only son. Abraham had given himself 100% to God and consequently scored perfectly with God. I pray that none of us are ever in such circumstances, but it does not mean that we won’t face difficult choices. Will we do as well? I pray that we all do. Exodus 16:4 (ESV) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day's portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. This is a rather simple test to see whether the people would follow God. God would feed the Israelites every day with enough food, but they were not supposed to be greedy. The test is not always a hard one like Abraham’s or Job. Likewise, our test may not be hard. How are we doing on the weekly Sunday attendance? Pretty simple for a test. All you have to do is show up. Let’s move on an look at some of the ways in the Bible and in real life, we put God to the test. We Test God Exodus 17:2 (ESV) Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” The Israelites were going through a difficult time. They remember how life used to be easier when they were slaves. Does that sound ironic? They were no longer slaves, but they were complaining that God was not taking better care of them. Deuteronomy 6:16 (ESV) “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. The test in the wilderness is probably why this verse was later written. Matthew 4:7 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” You may recall that Jesus had to remind the Israelites about it. However, there is ONE exception to this rule and that is the following: Malachi 3:10 (ESV) Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. What is our score in this regard? How often do we trust God? If we do trust him, is it 100%. I must admit, that often I want to do the driving and control how things turn out. Fortunately, everyday is an opportunity to turn back to God and trust him more. The Holy Spirit Gets Us To Test Ourselves Finally, let’s look at some scripture that may help us during our times of testing. Psalm 17:3 (ESV) You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress. Each of us needs to be purposeful in life, prayer, reading of scripture. If not then it is like going to an exam, without having studied at all. Lamentations 3:40 (ESV) Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! ​ The Holy Spirit, through the Psalmist, calls on each of us to look inward and examine our lives. Where are we with regard to God. We all want to get at least a passing grade when it comes to our faith. The problem with The Law is that if you don’t get a perfect score, 100%, then you fail. That is how a works-based theology goes. We think that we can earn our salvation when in fact we can’t. Fortunately, Jesus makes our salvation much easier. All we have to do is believe in Him and we are saved. Luke 8:13 (ESV) And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. This comes from the parable of the seeds, where the seeds are sown in different places. The rocky place meant that when persecution comes along they fall away from the faith. This should be a challenge to us, because the country that our parents grew up in is very different today. It is a country much more hostile to Christians and much more likely to embrace almost any other kind of faith no matter how absurd. Romans 12:2 (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Many opponents of Christian faith will say that our faith is blind, but here we have our very own Bible encouraging us to test our faith, so that we better understand God. Reading God’s Word will transform us. Since none of us were around when Jesus preached, we have heard his words through other ministers and through the Bible. However, that means at some point in our lives, it all began to make sense. The Word sunk it and transformed us. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV) Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I used to think that I was a very inward looking person, but it took a few years with a psychologist and group-therapy to really help me to start to looking inward and testing myself. You don’t need to share your test results with me, but I am certain that it is not 100%. If it is, maybe you can start to give me lessons in how to walk on water? By now you might be getting weary of this Bible, but we are in the home stretch here. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (ESV) but test everything; hold fast what is good. ​ Like I said before, test your faith. Why do you believe what you believe? Check out the Bible, you can find your answers there. James 1:12 (ESV) Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. This is my life verse. God help all of us to not cave in when we are in any trial, whether it is medical, financial, emotional, spiritual, or anything else. 1 John 4:1 (ESV) [ Test the Spirits ] Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. Something else to keep in mind is that we might think that something is from God when in fact it is not. Test it against the Bible. If it contradicts the Bible, then it is not a good spirit. Revelation 2:10 (ESV) Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Like I mentioned previously, there will be times of persecution. It can easily be your family. They might not like it that you love God or love Him more than they do. They might not like that you want to go to church EVERY Sunday, even though it IS the Lord’s Day. It is very easy to not earn 100% when it comes to your salvation. In the Old Testament days, the people would bring sacrifices all the time in order for the priest to make a sacrifice for their sins. The price had to be paid over and over, because it never satisfied it 100%. Fortunately, all you need is faith. Faith that Jesus makes up for our inadequacies. Faith that Jesus stands before the Father and intercedes for us. Faith that He is our advocate when we are tested and judged before the throne of God. Jesus paid the price 100%, so there is nothing more that we can do or add to what he has done. All we can do is accept it and believe.

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