PYP – Play Your Part

Sermon

I got the opportunity to preach Sunday, March 14th at http://www.StMatthewsBaptist.org

As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Kjv

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. NRSV  – 1 Peter 4:10

 

God doesn’t make mistakes or waste things.  Everything has a purpose including you and I.

You have a gift, you have a reason to be here, you have a purpose.

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. NRSV  – 1 Peter 4:10

If I can help somebody, as I travel along
If I can help somebody, with a word or song
If I can help somebody, from doing wrong
Then my living shall not be in vain

 

Playing your part.

Sometimes it changes, sometimes you don’t know that what you have is needed.  You won’t know unless you try to help, get involved, see what is lacking…

Left alone, in quarantine, on lockdown, isolated… in a rut, is bad because you are not acting with others that you can help, that is our purpose

To do what one should and is expected to do within a group in order to achieve a particular result; to perform one’s role.

Some gifts are easy to see…
My daughter can cook
The pastor can cook
I’m really good with animals and used to be a pretty good marksman

Homes have parts we play too. And we can mess that up too

Failing to play your part hurts the team.

Have you been or are you a good steward of the gift that God gave you?

In church, it can hurt worship

Do you want to be the one responsible that kept someone from getting to God?

Playing Your Part

The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God,

prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.

The choir has parts – soprano, alto, tenor, and bass

In sports they say – play your position.

A team has members, football team receivers, tackles, kickers, guards, and quarterbacks- looking for the person with their hands up

God is looking for those with their hands up – in worship, to bless, to RECEIVE

God owns this team. The Pastor is the quarterback, the ball is snapped, he is looking to bless someone one, if he wins the whole team wins…. Whos got their hands up (worship hands)

Put ’em up
Put ’em up
Put ’em up, put ’em up, put ’em up
Put ’em up
Put ’em up, put ’em up, put ’em up

Conclusion

It’s important to play your part. Everyone is important. But you can hinder or help

You can curse or bless

Encouraging words can go a long way.

Once you know who you are and from whom you come and then to where you are sent, then your value cannot be undermined or redefined.

Seek God who made the determination of knowing your value. Your life is not an accident nor are the thoughts that take you from day today.

There is substance and purpose in all you have experienced. Take courage in knowing that you don’t have to compete with anyone for what life has promised you.

Play your position, the quarterback is looking for uplifted hands and a consistent heart that is reliable when needed

Stewards of the gift of Grace.  Serving one another with whatever gift you have received

What happened to the person who didn’t use the talent that they were given?

We Must Put Our Talents into Action

We Will Be Granted Exactly What We Need to Fulfill God’s Bidding

We Will Eventually Be Held Accountable

Podcasting For Christ

Every baptized Christian is called to evangelize. We must all profess Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Contrary to lazy beliefs, it is not the pastors job. We must tell those around us, especially our friends and family. We are all tasked with professing Christ, giving witness with our lives and our words. This is not an option. If we don’t profess Christ in front of men, Christ won’t profess us in front of His Father. That’s in the Word.

For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels. — Luke 9:26

God the Holy Spirit manifests the gifts to the Church in whatever way He pleases. The Spirit’s gifts reflect the diversity of imitating Christ in the Christian life. Not everyone is called to be apostles, prophets, teachers, healers, administrators, or interpreters of languages.

Matthew 9:37 says, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”

Don’t live with the lie that you are not needed to share the gospel, because there are many that still need to hear the truth of Jesus, and you might be their only chance to hear the gospel. Ephesians 4 raises a challenge for pastors: Are we training our people to do evangelism? Are we setting an example for them in our own personal evangelism? Some people run from the idea of evangelism because they assume it means they must be obnoxious and pushy. There are many approaches to sharing the gospel. The only fixed method is the message: telling others about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you are reading this and considering learning about Podcasting for Christ, it is most likely the urging of the Holy Spirit. I am planning a private course based on my knowledge of podcasting, presentation, preaching, and using technology to evangelize. I’ve been doing the unorthodox, “out of the box” type of ministry since I began in 2001. When the world shut down in 2020, the ministry I worked in grew. God set it all up to win.

When podcasting started in 2004-2005 it was only for geeks and the tech savvy. In 2020, kids are choosing to start social media businesses instead of traditional work it is so popular. With your podcast you could reach a global audience. You could win souls for Christ, save lives, raise awareness, money and help people outside your area. You could pre-record your shows and have them available regularly for your audience. You can focus the Message to a particular audience that doesn’t contradict or interfere with the ministry of your local church. You could actually help your branch of Zion through outreach. You can create a show at your convenience. You could reach a broader audience than your church does.

It is in the how that separates the successful and those that quit. You must know your ‘Why.” You must know best practices. Podcasting can be learned from watching old Youtube videos and from listening to current podcasters but Podcasting for Christ should be a purposed act on your part. It should be a Calling. There are a few good things that will come from that if you do. The best is that it is on Him not you. All you have to do is remain faithful to the end.

Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). We have been given no greater gift than the gospel, and we have no greater stewardship than to share that message of good news with others. Paul expresses it well in 2 Corinthians 5:14: “for the love of Christ controls us.”

Podcasting the best you can means with a reasonable investment of equipment. Knowledge of platforms your audiences are on, understanding the legal restrictions, being able to edit your audio, understanding microphone technique and what makes people like or not like a presentation. You should know yourself, your audience, and when its time to change, or quit the way you are doing something.

An expensive microphone and a computer doesn’t guarantee success, nor does trying to do everything on the cheap. You must be consistent, persistent, timely, respectful and have integrity. This isn’t for likes, fame or fortune, it is for the Kingdom of God.

Podcasting for Christ, is an online class I am considering putting together for a small number of students to share my experiences and successes with the Speak Life Church podcast and others I have done since 2007.

I gave a presentation to seven pastors in January of this year about what they could do with podcasting and using online resources to preach and grow their churches but none paid any attention to me. Then COVID happened in March and everyone had to do it in some way or another. I know how Noah felt for a minute. If you are interested, contact me here.

https://forms.gle/ZRE4CgjXJjWprgvUA

Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift.

This week I want to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. Hi, I’m Reverend Kenn Blanchard. Thank you for listening, downloading, and subscribing to the Speak Life Church Podcast. This show is dedicated to you in hopes of encouraging your spirit, feeding your faith, and blessing your life. [Intro music plays]

2 Corinthians 9:6-15
6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.
9 As it is written:
“He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.”
10 Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11 while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, 13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, 14 and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

You know, Thanksgiving is an annual tradition in the United States. It’s been that way since 1863 — celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, it’s the time of year when we get together with friends and eat a huge meal — eat more than we ever do any other time. It’s the weekend where everybody travels to be with people they care about. It’s when hotels are booked and flights are backed up, and folks are just trying to be in the right frame of mind.

It’s when they start thinking about Christmas and giving and being nice to each other. It’s the beginning of that season. Folks start taking four-day weekends, schools are off, colleges are out. There’s a Black Friday sale. That was a big thing back in the day before the age of corona and Covid-19, when you would go out after being stuffed all day, all night, and maybe even go out with the family to shop, and buy stuff to begin Christmas. People united and some people ate Chinese food. That might be because we traveled a long distance and they know the chefs were in the kitchen and nobody wanted to mess up their meals, so we ate pizza or Chinese food, or we ate something that was fast. Some people even fast it to put more room in their stomachs. It’s also the busiest night for bars and clubs because not everybody has somebody.

Thanksgiving.

And, on that note, it’s also a time for folks to start getting depressed, and get the blues, and get really, really down. It’s a time of increased suicides. It’s a time of increased drinking and melancholy, and it can be really a dark time for some people who are remembering folks who are gone. In the midst of your week your week, in the midst of your celebration, in the midst of your planning, please pause to remember to call, to lift up, to be nice because everybody doesn’t have it as good as you do. As I prepared for this week, as I prepared for today and prepared for this message, my head was pounding and I wasn’t feeling too great. I know some of it was the Enemy. And some of it is just getting old. Stuff happens to us all, but you know what? I thank God for this opportunity to talk to you, to be with you for these few minutes. You have made a difference in my life, allowing me to do what thus saith the Lord. You’ve allowed me to pray with you, to talk to you, to hear from you — sometimes in an email and sometimes in just a quick note somewhere — to let me know that you’re there. Right now, I’m sitting alone in my studio, but I’m not alone, am I? Our Heavenly Father is here, and you are here. So, let us pray to begin this episode of Thanksgiving.

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High: To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. [from Psalms 92 and 95]

Heavenly Father, I thank You. I thank You for this day. I thank You for this time. I thank You for this week. Father, I ask that You would lift up my weak voice, and make it strong for these, Your people. I pray, Lord God, for them. Sometimes we don’t know what to ask for. We don’t know what to say when we come into Your Presence, but You know what we need. I pray Your Will over our lives. I thank You for hearing our prayers over and over again. I thank You for being a God of graciousness, a God of love, a God of mercy. I thank You for the people You’ve put into our lives. I thank You for the time You’ve given to us in this time. I pray, Lord God, that You allow us to continue to learn and to grow, to appreciate You and all that You’ve given us. Help us to have a thankful heart. Help us, Lord God, to see You in everything that is happening — to have no fear because You are with us, to hear Your Voice in our dreams, to see Your Work in Your Handiwork everyday. Allow us to feel Your Presence and to share it with other people. Heavenly Father, Your daughter called me today and she asked me that despite what she’s done, do You still love her? Does God still allow me to pray? She was feeling alone. She was feeling no in the season that we’re going into. She was feeling outside. Father, I ask that the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable. Allow me to remember the right things to say when somebody asks. You told us to let our conversation be without covetousness, and to be content with such things we have because You said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” You will never leave us, nor forsake us. Help us to remember that throughout this time. I truly thank You, Lord God, for the breath in my body, the blood running warm in my veins, for all that I have and all that I don’t have, all that I’m about to receive, for the beauty of the day, the quiet in the still of the night, the peace in the lonely times because it is and has to be. Thank You for all that my eyes can see, my ears can hear, my mouth can taste. Thank You for being truly my God, my life, and my strength, my soul and my shield. Thank You for allowing me to lie down and get back up. I thank You for the job. Thank You for the opportunity. Thank You for the connections. Thank You for the friends and the family. And if I fail to mention anything, please, forgive me because I am still very thankful for everything You’ve provided for me and my family. I ask a special blessing for all who are listening. Thank You, Lord God. I ask this all in the Name of Your Son, Jesus. Amen. [The Lord’s Prayer sung here]

You know, it’s easy to take things for granted. We live in a free country. Most of us have way too many pounds on us because we eat so well. We have shelter, and we have a little bit of money. We might not be as well off as some people, but compared to most of the world, we’re pretty rich. We’re not only blessed materially, but we have friends, family, and a future. In spite of all this, we are sometimes slow to acknowledge our blessings.

Because we have grown so accustomed to what we have, we take things for granted, and every once in awhile, we need to be reminded of just what we have been taking for granted and what we should be grateful for. I think 2020 has been the time that many of us have asked for, unfortunately. And now, in special times like this week, like Thanksgiving, we focus our attention on the things that really count. This is an American holiday, like I said before, a special time of the year. It’s the beginning of the holiday season for many. It’s a time when we look back on the blessings that God has given us, and a time when we look forward to blessings that will come in the eternity.

We can focus now, though, on the present, and celebrate the greatest gift of all — the Gift of God’s Son, Jesus the Christ, but before I get all theological and sound like I’m all pious and holy, I gotta tell you that I haven’t always been who I am now, and that I’ve struggled and messed up over and over again. In many times, like this, I thank God for not taking me out. I thank God for allowing me to still call Him my Father in Heaven. It’s times like this when I look at the evil I have done in this life, the things that I have done that I am not proud of, the things that have allowed the Enemy to use me to do, the things that the Enemy has taken from me, destroyed.

I give thanks to God for His Mercy. And, like Job said, “Though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him.” And I tell often, that other voice in my head, that other me, “I am still standing. I am still here.” And I thank God for that. See, I don’t know what you. You might’ve had a super life and you never made any mistakes, you never had any regrets, but for somebody to be truly thankful, he or she must be grateful for something and to someone. I thank God for everything. You see, the Greatest Gift that was ever given by the Greatest Person was God’s Son, Jesus the Christ. He’s the real basis for all Thanksgiving. Our principle text in 2 Corinthians 9:15 says, “thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift” — the greatest gift that anyone has ever given to mankind is God’s Gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus because

He loved us, and so He could do the greatest work for us that anyone has ever done, and that work was dying on the Cross for our sins so that we could be set free, so that we could approach the Throne of Grace, so that we could cry out and be heard by our Holy God. Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins. He died so that you would not have to, eternally. He suffered so that the bondage of sin could be broken. He took our place on the Cross. He died for you, and He did it because He loves you with a love that doesn’t even come close to what we can do here. God responded with the greatest sacrifice — His Death, so He could give us the Greatest Gift — eternal life. God gave Jesus. Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift.

Theologically, there are 550 references to this in The Bible. And, with a whole bunch of emphasis on Thanksgiving, there must be some great benefits as well, or it wouldn’t be in The Book. Consider the benefits of cultivating this attitude of gratitude. Perhaps the greatest is that Thanksgiving has a powerful effect on our lives. Thanksgiving makes us different. Look around you. Daily you will see people who are bitter. It’s been said that some people are bitter not because they do not have anything, but because they do not have everything. We live in a time when it’s good to be greedy and ungrateful. We are bombarded with commercials that remind us of what we don’t have.

Everything’s made to make us want more. Christmas has become a depressing time for many because they can’t get as much as they want — not how much they need but as much as they want. We’re led to believe that if we don’t have the things that we want then we will not experience happiness. We’ve been lied to, and it’s enforced, reinforced over and over again. Most unhappy people are unthankful people. Now, just look around. You may think them unthankful because they’re unhappy, but the opposite is true: They are unhappy because they are unthankful. The true spirit of Thanksgiving has the power to transform us into different people. We will not only be different from the people around us, but we will also be different from the way we used to be.

We will be what The Bible calls transformed. It’s a pretty good word actually because transformed changes our thinking and our temperament. As you seek to cultivate this attitude of gratitude, your thinking will be transformed. The way the world is concentrated on the negative, you want to flip it to where Christ emphasized the positive. Your mission if you choose to accept it is to look for the good in everything.

Philippians 4:8 tells us: Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good rapport, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”

As I wrap up this message today, I want you to remember that thanksgiving is something unique that we can give to God. When you think of it, all the material things we give to God were given to us by Him, but our thanksgiving is ours — a personal gift and an offering of praise to God. We should learn how to express our thanksgiving well, not only to God, but to one another. We’re sometimes too much like that little boy I hear about on his return from his birthday party. His mother asked,

“Little Bobby, did you thank the lady for the party?” And Bobby said, “Well, I was going to, but the little girl ahead of me in the line on our way out said, ‘ahhh, thank you so much!’ and the lady said, ‘aw, don’t mention it,’ so when it was my turn, I didn’t say anything! I wasn’t going to mention it either!”

But, think for a minute about the last time you gave a gift to somebody and they didn’t appreciate it. They didn’t say thank you. They didn’t light up when you gave it to them. You really didn’t want to give them anything else because they were kind of ungrateful. Think about your Heavenly Father who has given you so much. When was the last time your eyes lit up? When was the last time you were enthusiastic about saying thank you? It matters, friends, brothers and sisters. It matters. Be grateful. And like Paul said, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable Gift.”
Amen. [church music plays]

Amen. And one of the things I want to say: I want to thank Sister Sarah for doing the transcriptions. If you go to speaklifechurch.net, you will see our website and all the last four or five messages have been transcribed by Sister Sarah. I try to make it look presentable on the Web in case you are hearing impaired or you want to see where my texts came from, or what I was talking about. We’ve been studying the Book of Revelation for the last few weeks, and you can see the notes there. She also surprised me the other day with a bumper sticker…two different types, one color like a tan and the other is blue. They say, “He who has an ear let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.” That comes right out of Revelation 2:7, and if anyone wants one of those, just shoot me a note with your address, and I will mail you one!

The Rapture

Something else that happened this week which was a surprise — I don’t know why it was — but somebody who had been following us on Facebook asked me a question: What is the Rapture? I realized that they probably hadn’t been listening to our series studying in the Book of Revelation which we shall continue next week, hopefully. I plan to go away the weekend after Thanksgiving, and I’ll let you know what I did while I was out, but since the beginning of Christianity, believers in Jesus have been waiting for His Return. Just in case you’re wondering and you haven’t been following, if this is your first time, the Rapture is an event that comes before the end of the world as we know it where, according to 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-17, the dead in Christ will rise, along with those living who believe, into the air and we will just vanish. It won’t be like the movies, but it won’t make sense to anybody who’s left either. This absence of multitudes of people will, of course, be evident here on Earth. After that, there will be a period of seven years of tribulation on the earth. The real anti-Christ will pop up and folks will be required to worship him, and some more weird things will be happening which we’ll be learning about in the Book of Revelation. Christ will return to the earth with His Church — the saints who were raptured, and that’s all coming from Matthew 24:30, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, and 1 Peter 1:13, and Revelation 1:7. In the end, He will be victorious over His enemies, and will reign on the earth for a millennium with his saints and the church.

So, that’s what the Rapture is, just in case you’re joining us late or it’s your first time ever hearing about it. But, you’re not too late — no, no, not at all — to still be in that number. If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, please call me, please contact me, please reach out to me, and let’s talk about it. Let’s get you where you need to be.

My number is (202)579-9435. Call me anytime, 24/7, leave a message and I’ll get back to you: (202)579-9435, or you can email me at pastor@speaklifechurch.net or kenn.blanchard@gmail.com, either way. I will get it and be glad to holler back at you and give you the deal. I’ll pray with you. We will talk about salvation.

We’ll talk about Jesus the Christ. We’ll talk about what He did for us to allow that to happen, and it won’t cost you anything but some time, and time is one thing we don’t control, but you can decide where you’re going to spend your eternity pretty quickly. I’m hoping that you don’t eat too much, but you get everything that you ask for.

Until next time, may the Lord continue to bless you and keep you. May Heaven’s Face continue to smile upon you and give you great peace. Until that great day when there is no dawning and there is no sunset, I will see you at the Feet of Jesus. Thank you for being a part of Speak Life Church online. If you’d like to contribute, there are links on the show notes. God bless you.

 

The Latest Episode of the Podcast

Knowing vs. Feeling

If you’ve been following any of my past blog posts, you know that I, like many of you, have been struggling a little bit during this truly outlandish time in which our world has found itself. The Bible says that there is nothing new under the sun, and this is true, but most of us alive right now haven’t experienced our world the way we are experiencing it today. I’ve always found comfort and hope in the promises of The Bible.

The promise that has seen me through some of the toughest times in my life can be found in chapter thirty-one in the book of Deuteronomy. It says,

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

This promise can be found several times in Scripture: Hebrews 13:5, 1 Chronicles 28:20, and Joshua 1:5, just to name a few. Equally comforting and encouraging is the promise that God made to us regarding His Holy Spirit who dwells within every believer forever (1Thessalonians 5:19 and Romans 8:11 — again, just two of the many places this promise can be found in Scripture).

I know that God has been with me, right beside me for my whole life and definitely for as long as I’ve been a Christian — thirty-eight years now! On a spiritual and intellectual level, I know He has never left me alone.

We’ll fast-forward now to something that happened a few weeks ago that shook me to my very core. I never realized it, but I know now something that I have taken for granted my entire life. It was a blessing that God gifted me for so long — a blessing of which I am utterly undeserving, as I am of all His blessings. God had blessed me my whole life with the feeling of His Presence.

Never, not once, even during the dark years when I did everything I could to not be close to Him, did I ever not feel Him. There were times in my life I rejected Him, decided to walk my own way for awhile, and I did, but even during those days, I still felt Him right beside me, and even dwelling within me. I’m not talking about the knowing I mentioned earlier. I’m talking about straight-up feelings.

All I can hear in my head right now is my Dad singing, tongue-in-cheek, of course: “Feelings…nothing more than feelings…” while he explained to me growing up that God gives us feelings, but we aren’t supposed to trust those feelings.

We’re supposed to trust Him. Still, looking back now I realize how special I must be to my Heavenly Father that he would give me not only the gift of eternal life with Him, but that during this life on Earth, He would also give me the gift of feeling His Very Presence. It’s one of those things you don’t appreciate nearly enough until it’s not there.

Now, let’s rewind just a little. A few weeks into the pandemic, I found myself feeling pretty despondent. I was lying awake in the middle of the night (not really a new thing for me), and I decided to pray. Sometimes, when I feel like this and don’t know how to pray, I just say the Name of Jesus out loud. There is power in that, and it brings about comfort all on Its own. When I’ve done this in the past, usually, like, my-whole-life-usually, I would instantly feel God right there. And the Presence I felt was always a welcoming, comforting, kind of come-here-my-child feeling, never judgmental or resentful.

I wouldn’t feel alone anymore. Instead, that night, I felt echoes. I can’t explain that any further except to say there was an emptiness, a vast emptiness that shocked and frightened me. Never before had I ever uttered the words, “God, are you there?” or “God, if You can hear me…”

I had always felt Him. I didn’t, couldn’t feel Him that night, and I can’t explain how foreign and wrong it felt. I realize now Satan was working hard on me. He knows he can never win me, but he can certainly keep me from being effective for Jesus here on this Earth. He was feeding me lies, telling me my Father had abandoned me. I knew it wasn’t true, in my brain and even in my heart, but boy, did it feel kind of true.

            Eventually, and I’m not even sure the moment it happened, but God returned that blessing to me, and I hold it so tightly now, now that I know not everyone gets to experience that, at least not for the lifetime I’d been given. I’m not sure why He allowed me to have that experience, but I’m really glad He did. God promised us He would never leave us nor forsake us, but He never promised that we would always feel His Presence.

When you experience that, treasure it in your heart forever. It is my prayer for all of you, my Brothers and Sisters, that you would be blessed with feeling the Presence of God. And those times that you don’t feel Him, just keep knowing the truth — that He is there, and keep saying His Precious Name.

Preaching to an Empty Building

The word of the Lord that came to me, from the prophet Micah in the days of Trump, 2020 A.D.. It was a time of uncertainty.  There was a global pandemic of a Coronavirus.  People were dying.  People were getting sick.  People lost their jobs. Some showed their faith through their actions.  The “ISMs” that separate people returned (racism, cronyism, nepotism, nationalism, separatism, paganism) The way of life for many had changed.  The nation was divided.  Foreign powers had succeeded in fueling mistrust and anarchy through the use of arrogance, ignorance and social engineering.

During this time, I got the opportunity to be the worship leader and preacher of the Gospel at St. Matthews Baptist Church, in District Heights, Maryland.  The new church was empty. Except for security, the trustees, the audio-visual engineer and those that rendered the music.  The choir and the musicians struggled to deliver what sounded beautiful in the sanctuary to the limitations of the internet.  Technical problems abounded.

 

The Pastor, a brilliant and humble servant of God, was invited to share at a neighboring church which gave me my first chance to stand in.  Since his installation, he has worked tirelessly to grow and prepare the church for the way things are becoming.  It has not gone without challenge.

 

The threat of COVID -19 shut down traditional church services, celebrations, annual events and things people took for granted in the old Baptist church traditions.  In an instant, leaders had to become televangelist, using the internet instead of the TV.  The need for tech, monitors, WIFI and new procedures had to come fast.  Social distancing, and medical precautious had to be combined to limit exposures and sickness.  Not everyone is onboard.

 

So this pastor of an internet based churched called Speak Life Church, Incorporated that has been prepared for this online situation since 2007, got the opportunity to preach in an empty building, with an outstanding choir, expert musicians that didn’t sound as heavenly as it did it person online.

 

To God be the Glory…

 

You can watch the YouTube video below.

“What Does God Want From Me.”

 

 

God bless you.

 

Rev. Kenn Blanchard

Revelation and the Church of Laodicea

The Church of Laodicea

This week we’re going to start with a little introspective thinking. I want the Lord to walk with you and walk with me. We’re going to conclude the Church of Philadelphia in the Book of Revelation and start on the Church of Laodicea. All that and more, coming up next.

This week we’ll be finishing up with the Church of Philadelphia, Christ’s counsel and His commendation to that church. And also, I just want to break from the norm, and just tell you a couple of things.

First, I’m really, really happy that you’re here. I mean, there are a lot of podcasts out there. There are a lot of people who are preaching the Gospel, and that’s a good thing, but I’m glad that you’re here with me. You make a difference. You.

Yeah. I don’t even know your name sometimes. There’s maybe ten people who I have correspondence with, on occasion. There’s a few that have emailed me, that have called me. There are three I have actually seen on our live chat we had that one time, but the power of the Spirit is everything.

As I start this week, I want to start it in a spirit of thanksgiving. I got a chance to see somebody, personally I know who is Covid positive, got sick from the coronavirus. It was my son, and I watched the power of God heal him. Two weeks in quarantine, our family, he was in isolation, and he’s okay now. Only God can do that.

When I look back at my life, which has been pretty…..pretty eclectic, pretty active, pretty busy. I’ve done a lot of stuff, not all good, but God has saved me from myself, allowed me to come back from it all.

Twenty-nine years of marriage, not twenty-nine all solid, good years, either. There were some hard-earned dog years in there where I gave me wife Hell. I learned from her. Her faith, strong. Her conviction, strong. She taught me. I’m still the same guy I was twenty-nine years ago, but wiser, smarter, trying to be more like Jesus. That means a lot.

That means I’m trying to walk humbly, show mercy, show justice, live this faith thing. I don’t think myself higher than I am. I make sure that I season all of my words so that it uplifts and helps somebody else. It’s made me a quieter person because I want to make sure that I listen and don’t miss what God is talking about today, what God has for me. If I can help somebody along this journey, then my living will not be in vain.

Sometimes the Lord allows you to be in situations that you’d rather not be in, but while you’re there, you get the chance to minister to somebody. You get the chance to encourage to somebody, and it always backfires and encourages and motivates you right back.

The gift of giving is as cool as I don’t know what. There are a lot of people trying to get somewhere. Where I want to get is with God. I am thankful for my daughter who lives with me. She is an excellent chef, so even though in this quarantine, I’ve been eating like a king. My wife makes sure that we walk and exercise and do physical stuff so that the weight is not there. She makes sure that I am not looking like my Dad used to look, like he was about ten-months pregnant.

I miss my Dad, and I’m quite sure there’s somebody in your life that has transitioned on and no longer here that you miss. But, while we’re down here, how about we live? How about we do the best that we can do? How about we do better, physically? How about we do better, mentally? Look in the mirror. Take a checkup from the neckup. How is your attitude? How are you taking every day? Is it doom and gloom? Are you subscribing to the same misery as the rest of social media? Or are you doing better for yourself, improving your mind, improving your spirit, improving your body? Have you got a couple of Covid pounds? A whole bunch of stuff starting to look like a triangle? That’s on you. How about if you tried to lose a few pounds for your health? How about physically, have you had some checkups from physical, medical stuff?

Sometimes marriages wane because we are no longer physically appealing to one another. That’s normal, but you’ve got to admit it and work through it. I’m not saying go on a crash diet because your husband or wife doesn’t like the way you look. I’m saying, how about ya’ll actively work together, or admit that there are some issues? Talk that thing out. Talk it through. Don’t let it be festering in your head. The worst thing you can do is let stuff fester, let it grow. How about you just say, “Hey, I’m husky. I’m fat.” You might find out that your spouse doesn’t really care about your butt being big or whatever, your stomach, your gut, but they do have a thing with your arms, or they do have a thing with your endurance. It’s usually something else that’s not physical, not visible, but if you don’t talk it out, you can work out the wrong thing. You can go on a diet and be skinny lookin’ like a bone, and nobody really cares about that, but you have to talk it out with the other person. Once it’s out, it on them. And, the same thing goes for finances, past issues that we try to cover up by either drinking, smoking, druggin’, somethin’.

We all try to hide stuff — our own pains. How about talking that thing out while we’ve got time. We’re still on lockdown. We still can’t do stuff. You might have lost your position. You might have lost your job. Something has changed. 2020 has changed awhile lot of things, but there is always opportunity in change. There’s opportunity to talk, opportunity to get closer, opportunity to love, opportunity to grow, to try new things. There’s opportunity to look a different way at the same problem.

Time is equal to everybody. How are you using yours? Since you don’t have much to do, you could be planning for 2021, ’23, ’24, ’25. This could be the season of planning. You could be writing down some stuff, some goal setting. This is a good time to get out of your funk. Let this be your launchpad year. You don’t have anything holding you back. There’s nothing keeping you down except for you. What’s in your head? The Lord shines on the just and the unjust equally.

If you were to open your Bible up to the third Book of John, chapter two, you’d find something that says, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health even as thy soul prospers.” What does that mean to you? Dear friend, I pray that you are prospering in every way and are in good health, just as your whole life is going well. That’s what I’m saying. And, if not, what are you keeping yourself from it? Think on that today. Make a move. Make a change. Get out of your own way.

Let us pray.

Eternal God, our Father, it is the Name of Your Son, Jesus that I ask that You would forgive me of everything I’ve done contrary to Your Will. I ask, Lord, that You would hear my prayer. Somebody right now is contemplating horrible things. Somebody is thinking the worst they can think. I’m asking, Lord God, that You will refresh their minds, that You will clear their spirit. Allow them rest when they sleep. Allow them, Lord God, to have a moment of peace so that they can get some clarity. The enemy is trying to kill, steal, and destroy. The enemy is trying so much to keep them frustrated, to keep them down, to keep them behind the bunker so that they can’t see the Light. Father, I ask just for a little bit of peace for them so they can rise above, so they can see the Glory of the Lord, so they can see the blue sky, so they can enjoy the darkness that the night has. Even in the darkest night is when you can see the stars. I’m praying for peace, for a mindset of peace in the midst of a storm. Father, I thank you for blessing me. I thank You for keeping me. I thank You, Lord God, for rescuing me. Thank You for all that You have allowed me to do. Thank you for those who are here. You know what they are standing in need of. If it be in Your Will, please, grant it. This is Your servant’s prayer, in Jesus’s Name. Amen.


Alright, we are in the Book of Revelation, chapter three, and we were talking about the commendation, the condemnation, the counsel, and the challenge of the church that Christ loved: The Church of Philadelphia. Today, we’re going to start at Christ’s counsel for this church and the church age. He said, “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one will take your crown.” Our Lord’s counsel to the Church of Philadelphia is based on the promise of His Coming. It is interesting to note that the challenge is made on the basis that the Church of Philadelphia will be in existence at His Coming. It is clear from history, that this church age — now, almost 300-years-old — is one of the shorter periods of church history. Christ’s counsel to them is to hold fast to what they’ve already been doing, and to continue faithfully until the end. The Church of Philadelphia is characterized by a spirit of revival that promotes evangelism and a missionary-minded church. You know, there are three basic essentials for building a spiritual church: evangelism, missions, and good, Bible teaching. Did you get that? If you want to build a strong, spiritual church, it has to be strong in evangelism, mission work, and Bible teaching. Churches that follow this formula are growing, even in Covid-times. Now, this is in sharp contrast to Sardis and Laodicean churches, which are having a hard time maintaining the status quo, and many are losing more members than they are taking in. Their problem is that they have not “kept His Word” and they “have denied His Name.” The emptiness of our civilization these days is because of its atheistic, humanistic philosophy. Mmm-hmm. That has given the Philadelphia churches the greatest opportunity in their almost 300-year history to harvest. For the first time in centuries, the human races is not only philosophically empty, but also aware of that emptiness. Faithful churches with a Bible-teaching, evangelistic, missionary-minded ministry are leading the way. Christ’s challenge to this church, those who are born again, is three-fold. First, He said, “Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the Temple of My God. Never again will He leave it.” A pillar speaks to stability. Christians have stability in this life only in Christ. They are often buffeted and rejected for their faith, but, in life to come, we will not be outsiders, but we will be in with the relation to Christ. Number two, “I will write on him the Name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which is coming down out of Heaven from My God.” This writing of the Name of God is indicative of the fact that true believers are identified with Christ by a seal of the Name of God, which entitles them to have entrance into the City of God. Christ promises to prepare a New Jerusalem that will come down to the New Earth, and you’ll see that more when we read Revelation 21:9 and 22:6. And three, “I will also write on him my New Name.” Believers of the Church of Philadelphia may not only have the Name of God, which entitles them to entrance into the City of God, but also the Name of Christ which, according to Revelation 22:3-4, entitles them to be “His servants.” They will see His Face. One of the blessed promises in the Word of God to us is that one day we will see the One who is the object of our affection, the Lord Jesus Christ, Whom we have worshipped in Spirit and in Truth through this Word of God. So, we will see Him face-to-face. This is the exclusive experience for all those who are overcomes. Those who are just hearers of the Word of God are not justified before God, but those who have received the Lord Jesus and are prepared to meet Him at His Coming, are justified before God. You got that?

Revelation 3:14-22 talk about the Church of Laodicea.

The last of the seven churches is the most disappointing. In fact, it is disgusting. Our Lord compares it to the nauseating experience of drinking anything lukewarm. In this sense, it is a graphic prophesy of the modern day apostate church. Laodicea was a wealthy, inland city, about forty miles from Ephesus. It was big in Greek culture and learning. It was a thriving center of commerce and industry, and the local church must’ve been wealthy as evidenced by the fact that among present day ruins are three churches dating back to early days of Christianity. But, in spite of her wealth, nothing is known of the ministry of this church in preaching the Gospel.

{weird mechanical sound heard} I can’t believe that sound just popped up. In preparation for this message, I got hit with all kinds of interruptions, but I digress. Please continue to pray for our church, this one! Please pray for this Pastor, that I not fall, that I not fail, that I not forget, that I do not forsake, that I keep on going if it be His Will. Amen?

The apostate church or the people’s church, in this church age which is from 1900’s to the tribulation age itself, for the commendation, the condemnation, the counsel, and the challenge, there was nothing that Christ commended this church for. Not one word. It was condemned: “So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot, nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich. I have acquired wealth. I do not need a thing,’ but you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” That’s pretty harsh, right? He counsels them. He says, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the Fire so that you can become rich and white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness and salve to put on your eyes so you can see.” There’s some preachin’ stuff right in there.

The challenge, though: To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My Throne. The Laodicean Church Age is now, actually, when there are a lot of churches that are apostate. It should be kept in mind that the first three church ages differ from the last four in that each of the former stopped at the beginning of the next church. Ephesus was replaced by Smyrna, Smyrna by Pergamum, and Pergamum by Thyatira. A look at how this thing works will show that we have Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia with us at the present time, and Laodicea adds to this church age by arises from the three that preceded it.

The Laodicean Church Age began around 1900, I said, and it’s increasing in intensity at a breakneck pace. The characteristics of a Laodicean Church Age can best be seen by a detailed examination of what Christ condemned her for. What was that? Do you remember? Being lukewarm. Aren’t there a lot of lukewarm churches right now? And, I’m going to stop right there. Why?

Because the Spirit told me to. Let’s pray again.

Heavenly Father, I’m asking, Lord God, that You allow the person listening to me right now to feel Your Presence. Help us, Lord God, to be in one accord. Forgive us of all our sins. Bring us closer to You. You know what we need. We are asking for that. You know what we want. If it be according to your Will, please grant that, too.Father, help us in our unbelief. Help us to be stronger. Help us to be more forgiving — of both to ourselves, and to what others have done. Give us a brighter outlook on tomorrow. Help us to be as You called us to be. We thank You, Lord God, for answering prayer, for saving us from ourselves, for giving us another chance to get it right. We bless Your Name. We thank You, Lord. We thank You for Your Son, Jesus The Christ. Amen.

Well, that’s it, my friend. Until next time, may the Lord continue to bless you and keep you. May heaven’s face continue to smile upon you and give you great peace. Until that great day when there is no dawning and there is no sunset, I will see you at the Feet of Jesus. Thank you for being a part of Speak Life Church online. If you’d like to contribute, there are links on the show notes. God bless you.

Jesus, The Church and Us

The Church of Pergamum

This week, the Church of Pergamum in the Book of Revelation, and some teachings about the church, Jesus the Christ, and where we are at right now.

2 Peter 1:20-21 — Above all you must understand that no prophesy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation, for prophesy never had this origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Heavenly Father, Lover of our souls, we thank You for this opportunity to come before Your Throne of Grace. We ask for Your Mercy. We ask that you would cover us with Your Blood, that You would allow us, Lord God, to approach Your Throne. Hear our prayer, oh, Lord, Most High God, Creator of everything, Lover of life, Maker of Heaven and earth, the only one true God. Father, we ask that You would forgive us for all of the things we’ve done against You that would keep us from being close to You. Help us, Lord God, when we don’t believe. Help us to understand the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart. Let these things be done as You say, according to Your Will. Help us to grow closer to You. Help us to defeat the enemy in this time period, in this season of our lives. Help us to overcome our struggles no matter what they are. In the name of Jesus, we pray — Amen.

Last week, my friend, we were talking about the Church of Smyrna, and the challenge of Christ to those who have spiritual ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, and there is a challenge to overcome. As you’ve already heard, this is dependent upon one’s personal faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible says that he who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. We’re already heard in the vision of the Christ of the churches of Revelation 1:18 that Christ holds in His Hands, the keys to Hell and death. God’s children have Christ’s personal promise that they will never be hurt by the second death that’s described in Revelation 20 as “a time when Hades the present abode of the unbelieving dead and death are cast into the Lake of Fire.” This Lake of Fire is the second death. We’ll talk about it when we get to chapter 20, verse 14. Understand what the Bible means by the second death. It is the Bible’s term for the complete ruin of a person’s life so that they can never fulfill God’s Plan for their life, which is eternal. We think linearly, in a straight line. We think what we can see, feel, touch, hear. There’s much more to this world. Death occurs when a person is forever separated from God instead of being united with Him as is His intention. The second each is that stage when people who have died in unbelief are resurrected, and cast alive in an eternal separation from God in a place called the Lake of Fire — not the Ring of Fire that Johnny Cash sang about, but the Lake of Fire. This second death need never cause the child of God to fear for it will have no power over them. I made sure I said that again because sometimes, this stuff makes you think that you’re doomed. And, if you’re listening to this, if you’re a child of God, then you’re good to go! The Church of Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17), have we talked about this yet? Well, let’s get on down to it, all right?

Pergamum was the capital city of Asia until the close of the first century. It was a dirt given over to the worship of Greek idols. We haven’t changed too much. You know, a local Roman rulership, unable to cope with the multitude of religious differences in the city, demanded cooperation of all the groups. So, two of the most prominent religious systems of that city were the worship of Bacchus, the god of revelry and parties, basically, and the worship of Asclepius, the god of healing. If you look at verse 13 in chapter 2 in the Book of Revelation, verse 13 twice refers to the city as the place “where Satan has his throne,” or “where Satan lives.” A detailed commentary on this condition can scarcely be given with accuracy for we don’t have access to this thing. We were never there, right? But, we can say that the following conjecture to a large degree is representative of the truth: Satan has a kingdom. Babylon, from the earliest times, has been considered the capital of his kingdom. Idolatry gained its start in Babylon through Nimrod and his mother, inspired by Satan. As long as Babylon was a dominate world power, it made a pretty good headquarters for Satan’s attack on the human race. However, when Babylon’s glory began to decline, and it was left desolate, Satan looked for another location. He selected Pergamum because of its strong idolatrous religions. Missionaries have been in this area so pagan in its religions, that it seemed as though the very atmosphere was charged with the presence of Satan. No doubt that these were the conditions in which this little church in Pergamum was faithfully preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It reminds me of when you see a little storefront church next to a liquor store, or in a really bad part of town, and it’s struggling — whether it’s like five or ten members to do what saith the Lord. They called the Church of Pergamum the indulged church. The actual church was around 312 to around 606A.D. The commendation that Christ gave this church was: I know where you live, where Satan has his throne, yet you remain true to My Name. You did not renounce your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was put to death in your city where Satan lives. He did have something to condemn in this church, though. He said, “nevertheless, I have a few things against you. You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols, and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teachings of Nicolaitans. The counsel, repent therefore, otherwise I will soon come to you and fight against them with the Sword of my Mouth.”

The challenge here, for this church: “to him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden mana. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” You know, as soon as you say the words “Satan” and “church,” folks’ ears perk right up. I mean, it’s like, “oh, man, he’s talking about some good stuff today!” Why is that? I don’t know. Maybe we like being scared, or nobody else is talking about this stuff. They called this the indulged church because Satan learned from his attack on the Church of Smyrna that persecution only causes the church to flourish and continue in a perpetual state of revival. After the Diocletians’ unsuccessful attack on the church, Constantine seceded him as Emperor of Roman. Constantine’s ascendancy to the throne was not without controversy, and it had far-reaching affects on the Christian Church, way back in the fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries. Now, Roman history tells us that Constantine contended for the throne with Maxentius after the death of Galerius, and both Roman history and church tradition indicate that Constantine, already attracted Christianity, allegedly saw a vision of a fiery cross in the sky, and saw the words, “in this sign, conquer.” Constantine believed his vision was a message from God, that if he would embrace the Christian religion, he would be able to conquer his enemies. He accepted the Christian faith, and declared himself to be its defender and protector.

There are some who accept this as a bona fide conversion on the part of Constantine, however, a careful examination of his life indicates that he either he had a poor concept of Christianity, or he had never been truly born again by the Spirit of God. One commendable thing he did, though, he ordered his bishop Eusebius to supervise the production of fifty copies of the Holy Scriptures to be used by the churches. Some of these manuscripts are the oldest existing copies of God’s Word. When Constantine became Emperor of Rome, he became the virtual emperor of the western world. As the self-styled protector of the Christian faith, he issued an edict of toleration for Christianity, and showered many favors on the Christian Church. The government provided money for the operation of the church, and many of the pagan temples were taken over by the Christians. To please the emperor, these leaders adopted customs that were parallel to pagan practices. And, this right here, is really going to mess some of you guys up. One compromise invariably leads to another, and what seemed at the start to be a great blessing, ended up to be a great curse. During the seceding three centuries of this period, many anti-Christian practices of pagan origin were adopted, which robbed the church of its fire and its evangelistic fervor. Now, what am I saying? There was this church that went around the world in the sign of the Cross, and it would meet other religions, pagan religions, and instead of casting them out or changing them, it would say, “all right, we’ll just name your god, Boo Boo Boo Boo, the Virgin Mary, and we’re going to build a church here over on top of your other temple.” That happened throughout the world. The influence of Paganism on the church increased over the years, step by step. The church began to shroud itself in a “mystery and ritualism that had a strong resemblance to Babylonian mysticism.

The Greek Tao, which is the elevation of the large T at the end of a pole, was changed to the sign of a Cross. The rosary of pagan origin was introduced. Celibacy of priests and nuns, which has no scriptural verification, finds a counterpart in the vestal virgins of Paganism and was conceived. I can give you a list of non-scriptural changes introduced during this age. Gradually, these changes became more prominent than the original teachings of Christianity. In 300A.D., Prayers for the Dead. Also, the making of the sign of the Cross. 375A.D., the worship of Saints and Angels. 394A.D., mass was first instituted. 431A.D., the worship of Mary began. 500A.D., priests began dressing differently from lay people. 526A.D., extreme unction. 593A.D., the doctrine of purgatory was introduced. 600A.D., worship services were conducted in Latin, and in 600A.D., prayers directed to Mary. From 312A.D. on, the church became more Roman and less Christian in its practices. The Roman Catholic Church of today is hard-put to trace its ancestry beyond 312A.D. Until that time, the church was an independent collection of local churches working together whenever possible, but not denominated by a central authority.

The name Pergamum literally means “marriage” or “elevation.” As the church became married to government authority and elevated to a place of acceptance, it declined in spiritual power and blessing. You know how everybody talks about the imminent return of Jesus? Well, that was big in the first three centuries, and it produced evangelism, it consecrated and made a fervent church, but that changed when Christianity became a state religion, a countrywide religion. As the church became rich and powerful, it was suggested that the world was getting better and better, and that Christ’s Kingdom was already ushered in, and that He would come at the end of the thousand-year reign. This demanded a reinterpretation of the status of Israel, which was accomplished by suggesting that Israel had been cast off forever, and the promises of Israel now applied to the Church. It was not until 1,400 years later that the coming of Christ was reemphasized, and with that came a return to evangelism. Whenever a local church or denomination has maintained a strong emphasis on the second coming of our Blessed Lord, it has been an evangelistic, missionary-sending station. Where this doctrine has been neglected, the church becomes cold, old, indifferent, and worldly. Just sayin’.

You know, the nature of Christ is revealed in Pergamum. Scripture says, ‘these are the world of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.” We had previously heard that Christ selected one of the aspects of his nature as revealed to John in his vision, and presented it to each individual church. To Pergamum, he revealed the sharp, double-edged sword, which, without question, is the Word of God. The cure for the problems of the local church at Pergamum, of the Pergamum-age of the church, or any church that is of God, Christ used that word to sanctify His Churches, as in John 17:17, to cleanse it in 15:13, to bring it joy in 15:11, and to bring it peace in 16:33. Had the church, or any church of Pergamum, heeded the Word of God, the evils of the dark ages could well have been avoided.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, You said in Your Word, “be still and know that I Am God.” There are so many things going on right now where we need to hear that more and more. There is nothing that You can’t stop, that You can’t fix, that You can’t help, that You heal. We ask, Lord God, that You would help us to move towards You so that we can hear Your Voice, follow Your lead, and get the blessings that we desired. Thank You for everything. It’s only in the matchless and wonderful Name of Your Son Jesus that I ask this thing. Amen.

There’s a common phrase that you’ll hear almost on any news station or any talk radio thing where they say, “speak your truth.” That’s a load of crock. That’s some B.S. That’s some bovine excrement. If all truth is subjective, everybody must be right, no matter how ridiculous, perverse, or immoral their beliefs are. You know, back in the day, back in the 70’s, a lot of R&B songs, there was a phrase that we used to say: Yo, man. Everything is everything. Well, today, they say, “speak your truth.” If all beliefs are true, then non-beliefs are false. How could anybody learn anything in the scheme of things? Also, if true is subjective, then we can hardly attempt to challenge or correct somebody else. Everybody would be just as right as the next person. Logically speaking, it’s only the absolutist who can actually challenge a belief or philosophy, and that’s because the absolutist believes people can be wrong in their beliefs. If truth is relative, it includes all moral truth, which means no one should complain about robbery, murder, or slander by those who have the moral right to do so.

See, one big problem we have with relativism is that no one can live it out consistently. So, in essence, it is much easier to consistently accept the idea that absolutes do exist in the sphere of morality and truth. How does this relate to religion? All religions claim to be the truth, even scientific ones. And, as a result, a lot of people are confused. Of course, not all religions can be fully true since they clearly contradict one another in spite of a few similarities. I always say that all of us — every religion, every faith, every belief — have some commonalities and at least one thing that is right. So, how does one know which religion is really true? Well, to answer this question, one would need to consider the claims made by each religion. Any religion claiming that it, alone is fully true and produces solid evidence to that affect is worth serious consideration for that reason alone. Of all the world religions, biblical Christianity is the only religion that makes the claim it does.

In fact, Christianity makes bold claims that other religions do not, including salvation and forgiveness of sin based on grace not merit or deeds, assurance of salvation and eternal life through faith and belief in Jesus Christ, and in Jehovah God being the only one and true God, Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. Either Christianity is the greatest thing for mankind or the biggest lie ever told to mankind. What really makes Christianity unique among world religions? Jesus. If you want to see how everybody is rollin’? Ask them what the Jesus thing is in their faith. Who is Jesus to you? That separates everybody. You want to draw a line? Bring up Jesus. So, why is it that you can talk about God, and nobody gets upset, but as soon as you mention Jesus, people want to go and stop the conversation? Why don’t the names of Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius offend people? What makes Jesus so different from other religious leaders? I’ll tell you what. These others didn’t claim to be God, but Jesus did. That is what makes Him so different. For many people, this claim is too exclusive, too narrow for them to want to believe, as if one’s belief is the key element. See, that’s not so for Christianity. One’s belief is important, but not the key element. Christians do not accept the cliche that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you believe it enough.

The Christian faith is an objective faith, therefore it must have an object. Jesus Christ is that object. For the Christian, the value is not in the one believing, but in the One who is believed in. Faith’s object: Jesus Christ. The issue is not what we want to think or believe, but rather who Jesus Christ is, and who He claimed to be. You follow me so far? I’m going to try to tackle at least one big, audacious subject like this every week, if I can.

One of the things that happened, and one of the things that is a big misconception is that folks say that Jesus didn’t really claim to be God. They try to find an out. One assumption is that those who lived at the time of Christ misunderstood Him as we are misunderstanding Him today. In other words, Jesus didn’t really claim to be God. But, He did. Jesus not only claimed equality with God as His Father, but He also asserted that He was the one in essence or nature with God. Go to the Gospel of John. Jesus continually spoke of Himself as being One with God. In the Book of Mark, Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins, which, according to Jewish Law, only God could do. Folks were ready to stone Him every time He brought this up. The Scriptures attribute characteristics to Him that can be true only of God — self-existent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, possessing eternal life. And the Gospels present Jesus as the actual embodiment of truth and love.

It’s important to understand than an attribute isn’t something that is a part of God, but something that is true of God. How about the trial of Jesus? Unique among criminal trials is this one, which, not by the actions, but by the identity of the accused. That’s the issue. Jesus was tried for blasphemy. In most trials, people are tried for what they have done. Jesus was tried for what he was claiming to be. You see, the people of His day, were highly cultured and intensely religious people. They did not misunderstand Him, just as we are not misunderstanding Him today. The references are abundant and their meanings are clear. In Mark 2:10, Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sin. He said that He was Lord over the Sabbath. That’s in Mark 2:28. In Mark 14:62 and Luke 22:66-71, Jesus called Himself “I Am,” the name God used of Himself in Exodus 3:14. Jesus said He was the one who sent prophets to Israel in Matthew 23:43. He referred to Himself as fulfillment of the Scriptures, like, a few times. Luke 4:21, and John mentioned it in 5:39. He claimed that to reject Him was to die in sin. Ain’t my words, it comes right out of the Book, in John 8:24. In the Book of John, chapter 8, verse 51, Jesus said that those who kept His Words would never see death, and in a few verses later in verse 58, He attested to His own eternalization. In John 10:30, He claimed to be of the same nature as the Father. He claimed to be Lord in John 13:13, and the only way to God (John 14:6), which people just go crazy over. And in John 14:9, Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” Equally significant, though perhaps not as noticeable to our 21st century Western minds, our Jesus’s repeated references to Himself as the Son of Man. More than eighty times, Jesus uses “Son of Man” as a title for Himself. Jesus’s use of the term was referenced to Daniel 7:13 and 14 in which the prophet speaks of “one like a Son of Man seated with the Ancient of Days who presided with authority over the world and all its people.”

See, Jesus’s listeners would have known that passage as well. We find one such use of this title, Son of Man, during Jesus’s exchange with the Jewish high priest in the Book of Mark, chapter 14, verses 60-64. The New American Standard version says, “The high priest stood up and came forward to question Jesus saying, ‘Do you not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?’ But, He kept silent and did not answer. Again, the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am. You shall see the Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of Heaven.’ Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. How does this seem to you?’ And, they all condemned Him to the deserving of death.”

The reason they called for Jesus’s execution was because, in their minds at least, He had committed blasphemy. He said that He was God. And, that is why nobody wants you to say that Jesus word.

 

Ever Heard of the Synagogue of Satan?

Church of Smyrna

This week on the Speak Life Church Podcast, I’ll rant about an educated skeptic. We’re talking about the book of Revelation, chapter 2: The Church of Smyrna. And, I have a handful of questions I ask you during this episode, which is a little longer than usual, but I want to hear from you.

1 John 5:14 says, “and this is the confidence that we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His Will, He hears us.”

[Rev. Kenn praying]

Heavenly Father, Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Lover of my soul, thank you for the promise of Your Word that tells me that when I call on You, You will answer me and show me great and mighty Things. This wonderful promise inspires me to learn to pray more effectively and to experience all that You have for me in prayer. I thank you, Lord God, for the confidence that I have in You – that if I ask anything according to Your Will, You will hear me. And because I know You hear me, I know I will receive whatever petitions I ask of You. Your Word reveals Your Will to me, therefore I will pray according to Your Word. Your Word is filled with so many precious prayer promises. Thank you, Father, for each one. As I meditate on these promises and learn to pray Your Word and Your Will, I know Your Word will never return until You void. You will always accomplish Your purposes. Help me, Father, to be in Your Will. Help me to study Your Word. Help me not to be so selfish and so self-focussed that I forget that there are others who stand in need of help. Help me to pour out Your Love to other people. Give me the joy that surpasses all understanding, the happiness that only comes from You by helping other people. Help me, Lord God, to feel Your Presence today. Somebody listening right now has had a rough time. They need a word. They need a touch. They need Your Presence, Lord God, in their life. They don’t know that You are right there. Help them to feel Your Presence. Help them to see You — like the air that we can’t see, but we know is there because we’re still here. We’re still breathing. The Holy Spirit helps us. Help us to understand those things that are so misunderstood, to trust what we cannot see. Help us to trust the Holy Spirit to lead God in every area of our lives. Father, I thank You for teaching me what’s important — opened my eyes and my ears to see Your Work, to see Your Creation, the miracles that are happening all around me. Give me an appreciative heart, a heart of gratitude, a heart of love, a heart that still can be receptive in a hard time. This is Your servant’s prayer. In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Before we get into Revelation this week, I want to talk about the educated skeptic — you know, that person that’s just so smart, they don’t believe what you and I believe, or maybe somebody listening is considering, “maybe this stuff is okay for you, but I don’t really get it yet.” Perhaps you’ve met that person already, the guy who is too smart to be a Christian: “Oh, sure! Christianity is fine if it gives you comfort.” But, you know better. You know that there’s really nothing to it — sort of like there’s nothing to Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Those are just stories we tell people until they’re old enough and smart enough to know better. A lot of times, the educated skeptic is a college student home from their first year of college. They’ve been exposed to a lot of new ideas and levels of learning they’ve never experienced before. A good example of this is from a story from the guy who created the Life Without a Net website that caters to skeptics and atheists. His name is Bill Hamby.

Hamby says he was raised in an evangelical home and he recalls his college days. He said the first thing that happened was he took a course in evolutionary biology. “I took a course concurrent with geology. I began to see that the world was not 6,000-years-old. I had been trusting a very old book, the Bible, when I ought to be trusting new science. Then, I took some classes in ethics. I began to see that you can establish a system of ethics without relying on authoritarianism.” That’s a word for you. He goes on to say, “You don’t need a guy with a stick holding it over your head. I do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.” That, in a nutshell, is how a lot of educated people become skeptics.

Someone once complained about the argumentative, know-it-all friend: “I’m not bothered by what he knows. What bothers me is what he knows that ain’t so.” That’s often the case with the educated skeptic. He or she might be very well-educated with a bunch of degrees on the wall, but educated in some matters doesn’t mean educated in everything, and an educated skeptic might be smart in some matters without realizing they aren’t smart in the terms of Christianity. It’s not that what they know about biology, geology, or any number of other topics – it’s what they know about Christianity just ain’t so. They often have a bias against Christianity. In other words, they didn’t become a skeptic by examining the evidence and coming to a conclusion. No, often they’ve been led in that direction by things they’ve read, people they’ve talked to, and things they’ve heard. They often take pride in their level of education, and can become totally unaware of their prejudices or the prejudices of those they read. They don’t see the walls they have erected, or the gymnastics they have employed to reach this conclusion about Christianity. You know, when you’re dealing with an educated skeptic, it’s probably not wise to try to convince them that they’re wrong about things that ultimately have no bearing on the truth of Christianity. You might be very smart when it comes to such matters. I say, engage them on those things they know ain’t so. Let’s take this guy, Bill Hamby, for example, who wrote this blog post. One of the first teachings of Christianity that he called into question was the claim that the Earth is 6,000-years-old. His study of biology and geology seemed to provide evidence that the Earth and the Universe are much older, so he figured that there must be something wrong with the Bible. The problem is, nowhere does the Bible teach that the Earth is 6,000-years-old. There may be some Christians who believe that though, but nowhere are you going to find it in the Book.

So, here’s one strategy for dealing with the educated skeptic. Make sure you clarify what Christianity teaches versus what they think it teaches. The 6,000-year-old-Earth idea originated with the Bishop James Ussher back in the 1500’s and 1600’s. He was a prelate of the Church of Ireland. Ussher postulated that God created the Earth at nightfall preceding Sunday, October 23rd, 4004B.C. Yeah, I know. For real. Ussher was a well-educated man, not some guy making guesses. He arrived at this date by looking at the historical events in the Old Testament that we can reliable date by going through the various genealogies in both the Old and New Testaments.

This process required great depth of learning in history, including knowledge about the ancient Persians, Greeks, and Romans, as well as expertise in the Bible — biblical language, astronomy, ancient calendars, and chronology. Ussher’s methodology worked to a point, that is to give just a couple of examples: He accurately placed the death of Alexander the Great in 323B.C., and the murder of Julius Caesar in 44B.C. But the problem for Bishop Ussher was that he didn’t have access to all of the archaeological research and scholarship that we have available to us now. Remember, this was the 1500’s.

For example, few biblical scholars today believe that genealogies in the Bible mention every single person in that line of descendants. For various reasons, including cultural and symbolical, the writers of these genealogies skipped some generations, in order to, for example, emphasize certain persons in a lineage. In other cases, if you add up the generations listed, you’ll find that they are all multiples of the number seven, which was considered the number of perfection. I’m not saying that these genealogies were made up, metaphorical, or otherwise not true. I’m just saying that the writer had a purpose other than the literal, straight-line listing of every person in a given genealogical line, and it is work of hermeneutics to discover this. (Hermeneutics is the art and science of interpreting scripture.) I’m not arguing here for an old Earth or a young Earth.

The important points are is that the Bible doesn’t teach that the world is 6,000-years-old, and that many Bible-believing Christians come down on different sides of this issue. Help your educated skeptics understand this is not a nonnegotiable point of Christian doctrine, and therefore not a compelling reason to reject the Christian faith.

The second reason Bill Hamby has for becoming a skeptic: He says, “I began to see that you can establish a system of ethics without relying on authoritarianism. I do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.” There are several problems with this statement. Let’s start with the first one — Hamby misunderstood the source of our understanding of good and evil. He sees God as really commanding a thing because He wills it to be so. So, in effect, in Bill Hamby’s view, God says, “Do it, or else I’ll smash you. Either now, or in the afterlife, or both.” And, this makes God arbitrary and authoritarian.

You’ll often hear skeptics throw out other things like Plato’s dialogue. Socrates asks his young questioner — I think his name was Euthyphro — whether an act is good because God wills it, or if God wills it because it is good. If an act is “good” merely because God wills it, then He is arbitrary. Morality has no root beyond God’s Will and the power to enforce it. So, as one atheist website puts it: “If God can define good and evil however it likes, then of course, there is no problem with God always being good. Good is whatever God does, by definition. But, now we simply have the ultimate case of ‘might makes right.’ There’s no real difference between a speed limit of 55mph and ‘thou shalt not kill,’ except, presumably, God enforces its rules better. You could say, ‘no, an act is not simply good because God wills it,’ thus dodging the arbitrary-ness problem, but if God wills it, it is because it is good. Now, you’ve hit the second horn of the dilemma: If God wills it because it is good, then there are some standards outside or before God that defines ‘good’ — something that God Himself must conform to. This means that God is not Sovereign, but rather subject to something outside Himself.” A famous mathematician and atheist, Bertrand Russell, makes an argument similar to that one. He said, “The dilemma can be stated this way: Either God is not good, or He is not sovereign.

Either option conforms to classic Christian teaching, and here’s the way out. You arrive at this dilemma only by asking the wrong question. The correct answer to Euthyphro’s dilemma is ‘none of the above.’ Morality is neither something arbitrarily commanded by God, nor something outside of God to which He is, too, subject.” Real morality is rooted in God very nature. He didn’t make up this thing or get it from somewhere else. Good is what comports with God’s nature. Evil is what goes against it. God cannot sin — not because He has superior will power, but because it would violate His nature, and He would then cease to be God. When I was taking philosophy class, this stuff made my head go ‘round in a circle. And, I watched other students who were trying to just suck up to the teacher, and I saw people lose their faith in seminary. I really did.

I watched folks try to pick a side, and wanting to sound important and smart, and quite a few who couldn’t explain themselves just decided that maybe this stuff was made up. The educated person — not just a college student; it could be anybody. There’s quite a few pastors I challenge today — well, it’s not up to me actually. It’s God, Himself that will challenge them. They’re highly educated.

They have doctorate degrees, but they act as if God doesn’t exist when nobody’s watching. What I’m trying to say is education doesn’t help your faith sometimes. We go back to the statement this guy Hamby made: “I do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Right. Right as compared to what? Wrong as compared to what? If there is no objective standard to measure against, what does it mean to say right or wrong? Let’s look at it this way: In tennis, the umpire can say the ball hits on the wrong side of the line because A. there is a line painted on the court and B. the objective rules of tennis say that the ball must land on one side of the line to be in, and anything else is out.

Morality is the same way except the line is God’s Law written in our hearts, and the rules are what conforms to God’s intrinsic nature. Being created in God’s image, we instinctively all know that. So, when this guy talks about right and wrong, we all have a general understanding of what these terms mean. The problem for this guy and other skeptics though, is that they have no basis for saying no.

Here’s the big thing: Without God, we have no way to judge if something is good or evil.

Just by chance, if I’ve touched a nerve with you, and you want to get more into apologetics, which is the study of defending your faith, then let me know. Then I can pray on it and get deeper into it so that I can actually come correct and say the right things, and we can have some good dialogue so that you’ll be able to defend the faith better, which might not be a bad idea. Let me know where you are on this whole thing, and I’m hoping I didn’t just take you right off the charts with this little division or derision I took here, but something was pushing so I thought I would just go with it, talking about the educated skeptic because sometimes, we can be too smart for our own damn good.

And I think, I really think the reason this was tugging on me is probably coming from a conversation I had with someone not too long ago, and this thing didn’t get resolved, so it was sticking in my head. Matthew 18:3 says, “Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted and become as little children you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Why would a grown person want to be like a child? I am reminded of when my son was small, and I had to bend over to pick him up, and he’d just kind of put his arms up in the air and move his hands to get my attention. That meant, “Daddy, pick me up!” He trusted me to pick him up without saying anything. It was a nonverbal thing between us, and I automatically knew that I was going to pick him up, no matter what the deal was. You want to have that same kind of faith.

You want to be able to look up into Heaven with your arms outstretched and have your Daddy, your Heavenly Father pick you up. That doesn’t require a PhD. It doesn’t require you to jump through any hoops, just the acknowledgement that God is your Heavenly Father, the Creator of all things, the Master and Lover of your soul, and when you trust Him, He will always be there. He shall be.

If you grab your Bibles and go to the New Testament book of Revelation, chapter two, we will hit verses eight through eleven this week. We’re talking about the Church of Smyrna — not Smyrna, Georgia, but the Church of Smyrna. Amen? “Until the angel of the church of Smyrna write, the first and the last who was dead and has come to life, say this: I know your tribulation and your poverty, but you are rich, and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan, do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison so that you will be tested and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the Crown of Life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.” The church in Smyrna was a much persecuted church in a wealthy city that had little time for Christians. The city itself, founded about three centuries before Christ was a well-planned accomplishment of Alexander the Great. The commercial center of Asia Minor, it was on the direct trade route from India and Persia to Rome. The large variety of coins found by archaeologists in the city clearly indicate that it was a wealthy city. The Jewish segment of the population seems to have been the most irreligious and neglectful of spiritual things. Few specific details are known of the history of the Smyrna Church, other than what is given in Scripture and text. It can be safely deduced, though, that it was a most faithful church in the face of persecution. From this account, the known characteristics of the condition in the Church of Smyrna indicate that the Judgment Seat of Christ will reveal this church to be one of the most outstanding local bodies of believers in all of church history. It was the persecuted church. The commendation of this church: “I know your afflictions and your poverty, yet you are rich.” Condemnation: Not one thing. The Counsel: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. Be faithful even to the point of death.” And the challenge to this church: “He that overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” The Smyrna Period of church history is probably the greatest time of persecution the Church of Christ has ever known. Satan unleashed a violent attack on the church in an effort to obliterate it, for it became evident to him that the Apostolic church, because of its faithful preaching of the Gospel, had become a serious threat to his worldwide Godless empire. That he was unsuccessful in this attempt is easily seen in a study of church history. For God overruled and Satan learned a valuable lesson: The more he persecuted the church during this period, the more the church overcame the one condemning characteristic of the Apostolic Age — that of having lost his first love. Not one word of condemnation was hurled by Christ at this church. So, from this, Satan learned a great secret: Persecution will not stamp out the Church of God. Consequently, the age ended with the easing of persecution when Satan used which turned out to be his most effective weapon to weaken the Church: Indulgence. Or endorsement. You know, one of the things we do as students of The Bible is look at the types of these churches that are talked about in the Book of Revelation. See their characteristics, and see if the churches you are in now, or that you were a part of, have some of those characteristics. So, what I just said was, when the church didn’t have a lot of money or material wealth, but were rich in character and personality, they were getting abused by the Devil, attacked by the Devil, they were persecuted, but folks hung in there. The Devil understood that if he attacks the Church directly, we will dig in. But, if we let folks get puffed up in themselves, full of themselves, if he actually endorses the Church, if he actually encourages some of our foolishness, then we self-destruct. Those are some of the lessons in the Church of Smyrna.

The Synagogue of Satan piece pops right at your face, right? Let’s talk about that for a minute. Satan has his own religious faith. He also has his church. It’s called Synagogues of Satan. Any church that preaches a gospel other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is a Synagogue of Satan, regardless of what it’s called. Many so-called “Christian churches” today are just like the Jews at Smyrna. They are not Christians at all, and are condemned by the Savior Himself because they preach a message other than the one laid down in the Word of God. In reality, they are the Synagogue of Satan, not the Church of Jesus the Christ. That’s heavy, right? I know. I know. But, you see, the two basic heresies that come from the Synagogue of Satan in the name of Christianity were apparent before the end of the second century. In fact, they existed at the time Christ gave His Message to the Churches of Ephesus and Smyrna. These heresies are a false doctrine of Christ in mixing of law and grace. The latter was the work of the Judaizers condemned by the Savior in verse ten.

Practically every false religious system and cult coming out of Christianity can be traced to one of these two heresies. Either people are confused about the personal deity of our blessed Lord, suggesting though He was a good man, He was not a virgin-born Son of God who lived a sinless life, died a sacrificial death, rose bodily from the grave, ascended physically into Heaven, and promised to return physically to this Earth someday. Or the add-to-salvation by grace through faith saying than in addition to believe on Jesus, we should also see the Sabbath, observe certain rites and ceremonies, eat or not eat certain types of food, etc. The church of the first three centuries in large measure successfully withstood these two insidious teachings that are still deceiving many people today in one cult or another. I almost want to do a mic-drop, but I just got this microphone, so I’m not dropping it. And, here’s the challenge that Christ gave us — to those of us who have spiritual ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches, and it is a challenge to over come. As you already know, this is dependent upon one’s personal faith in Jesus Christ. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. We have already seen, in the vision of Christ and the Churches in Revelation 1:18 that Christ holds in His Hand the keys of Hell and death. God’s Children have Christ’s personal promise that they will never be hurt by the second death described in Revelation 20. There will come a time when Hades, the present abode for the unbelieving dead, will cast the dead into the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire is the second death (Revelation 20:14). You have to understand what the Bible means by “death.” It is the Bible’s term for the complete ruin of a person’s life so they can never fulfill God’s Plan for their life which is eternal. Death occurs when a person is forever separated from God instead of united with Him as is His intention. The second death is that state where people have died in unbelief and are resurrected and cast alive into an eternal state of separation from God in a place called the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15). The second death need never cause a Child of God to fear. We’re not going there, so, no sweat! But, if you’re not in Christ, then I might worry. Heavy, right? This is the short part of Smyrna, but man, it’s full of stuff! I know. Next week, we’re going to do the Church of Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17).

I just want to say thank you, again, for listening, for being a part of this church, being a part of my prayer circle. I’ve been praying mightily for quite a few of you because you’ve called me, you’ve sent me emails, you’ve let me know how you’re feeling. I just want to give a quick shoutout to Sarah who will be doing some work with us, helping print some of these notes, so that you can back it on up, and get the details of the stuff I’ve mumbled through and said, get some clarity from her. She’s going to put this to text, and you’ll be able to find these show notes on speaklifechurch.net once I get that all rockin’ and rollin’. And, no pressure. It’s going to happen. The church is on the move. We’re doing some good stuff. I’m rockin’ a new microphone right now from Heil, the company. They make some pretty good stuff. It’s a gain-hungry thing, so I’m hoping you don’t hear too much of a hiss in the background. Let me tell you how I got this thing. My microphone, the old one, the rubber just fell off it, and the thing was dangling. It was kind of embarrassing, but it was a twelve-year-old microphone and a setup I’ve just been moving around. I called on a friend, a believer, and asked him if he knew anyone who wanted to donate a microphone to a brother. This was the one I wanted. I’m not going to mess around. I’m going to ask for this one right here. I sent him a little link from Amazon, and he got back to me in about fifteen minutes. I was expecting him to tell me, “Man, you got some cajones to be askin’ like that!” But, he said, “Continue to do good work. It should be there in about ten days. I just ordered it.” Man! You could’ve knocked me over with a feather. Look at God! Thank you for being a part of that same spiritual power. Your prayers, those who donate, those who work for this virtual church. We were doing this virtual church before corona, and I do believe we may be doing some Zoom stuff in the future. If you would be interested in doing that, let me know. It won’t be every Sunday because I couldn’t handle it, but once a month, how ‘bout we get together and do a Zoom meeting? Let me know what you think about that too. So, I’m going to give you a couple of questions and calls to action, and I’d love to hear from you. My email is pastor@speaklifechurch.net or kenn.blanchard@gmail.com. Let me know what you think about any of those questions I asked you today. I think one of them was, basically: How you doin’? Simple. I would like to hear from you. The second was: Would you like us to talk about apologetics? Would you like us to get deeper into the subject of this week, The Church of Smyrna? I think I asked you about my new microphone: Is it okay? Can you hear me okay? Is there too much hissing or background noise? Do you hear anything extra that I should be working on? And, I’m just looking for conversation, to touch bases with you. You matter. Yeah, you. You and me, in this thing together. Don’t think you’re by yourself. I want to hear from you this week.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, God of Israel, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Father of us all, Father, please forgive me and us for everyone we’ve done against You. Please, hear my prayer. Allow me to approach Your Throne of Grace. I plead the blood of Your Son over my life, over my words. Cover me so that I may approach Your Throne. Have mercy on us as we look to the future and seek to do right in Your Eyes. Help us to seek You first in all that we do. Help us lean not on our own understanding. Help us to walk upright before You. Help us to do Your Will. Help us to do what You asked — to love our neighbors as ourselves. Help us to honor our parents. Help us to turn away from evil. Help us to focus on what is good and acceptable. Help us to love our spouses. Help us to be better stewards of all the things you’ve given us, starting with our very lives. Help us to listen more and talk less. Hear my prayer, oh, Lord. I recognize and acknowledge what I am to You. I acknowledge what You have done for me, and that is everything. I acknowledge what You have provided for me, what You have blessed me with, delivered me from. I stand before You only because You allow it. I bless You, Lord God, for where You have taken me and kept me from. Thank You for leading and guiding me thus far. Thank You for feeding me, clothing me, being a roof over my head, and keeping the Death Angel away from my door. If I had ten thousand tongues, Lord, I couldn’t say “thank You” enough. This is Your servant’s praise and prayer. Amen.

I want to thank you for being a part of my life and this ministry. Thank you for your support financially. Thank you for your support spiritually and your prayer. Thank you for your encouragement online. Thank you for all the things you, personally, have done for Speak Life Church.

Now, may the Grace of God, and the Sweet Communion of the Holy Spirit rest, rule, and abide with you both now and forevermore. Just in case I don’t see you on this side of the river, I will see you at the Feet of Jesus. Until I hear from you, or until next week, God bless you.

A View of Catholicism Today

This I believe. I believe in heaven.  I believe in God.  I believe each of us has a soul that after death resides with God and angels and the souls of countless others in eternity.  I believe that angels exist, reside in eternity and are God’s messengers to we dwelling on Earth.  I believe that any creature capable of loving, caring and having feelings for others has a soul that too, after death, resides in heaven.  That goes especially for animals.

I am also a Catholic

I am a mightily disturbed Catholic over the public outing of those miscreants who call themselves priests.

 

I have countless times over my adult years said “I’m a Catholic in spite of the Church.”

 

I identify as a Catholic mainly from communal, social, and family reasons.  I’m from a half Italian, half Sicilian family.  The distinction is verification that I know the difference.  I went to Catholic elementary school, Catholic high school and a Jesuit college (the distinction is intentional as many within the church cast a skeptical eye towards Jesuits, even calling the head of the order “the Black Pope”.)  My relatives are Catholic.  For the most part, my friends and classmates are Catholic.  I attend Catholic Sunday services. Quite unintentionally I’m a founding Grand Knight of my parish counsel in Maryland.  I consider myself part of my new Texas Catholic parish community.

 

Being Catholic is part of my identity.  I would not feel comfortable or honest to say otherwise.

 

The Catholic religion is based on faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s a legitimate part of what followers call Christianity. We don’t worship statutes as some think.  We don’t worship angels.  We don’t worship Saints.  We worship one God and it doesn’t, to me at least, matter what anyone calls the Supreme Being, even using the Hebraic phrase that acknowledges God but refuses to use a name to that effect.

 

I also need to be very clear that I really bridle at being asked if I’m a Christian.  If you can’t tell what I believe from the way I act then I don’t deserve to use that description anyway.

 

Another reason I don’t subscribe to the “have you accepted Christ” club is that I find it a tad insulting and just as offensive as Muslims demanding fealty to Mohammad’s cult of belief.  I say cult because any group that believes “others” who, for whatever reason, refuse to join that group deserve death is no fellowship that worships the true God.

 

If, as many claim, Mohammed was an impressive and quite successful plagiarist of world religions his epic work’s most despicable admonishment that non-believers must be slain can be traced to an equally disgusting era of intolerance of those from whom he borrowed ideas including the Catholic Church.  The Inquisition was one.  Oliver Cromwell and his Roundhead Generals genocidal slaughter of Irish Catholics as compelled by “the wrath of God” is another.  Witch trials were part of that horrid mindset.

 

The idea of any one religion claiming exclusivity to (pick a name) heaven, paradise, nirvana, or whatever the name du jour for eternal happiness might be is utter, egotistical bull.

 

My attitude is simply that what I practice as a form of worship is none of your business. As I said, my life is my membership card and if that’s not good enough for you…that’s your problem, not mine.

 

That said I have a very real problem with the historical and present Catholic Church, the regal structure of the clergy and the offenses against God and mankind that follow.

 

I can’t stand anything that walks like, talks like or has pretensions of royalty.  I’m sure it’s due to equal parts of my Sicilian/Italian genetic disdain for overbearing authority and the intrinsic importance of independence to being American.  Bow to a King or Queen or kiss a Cardinal’s ring…thank you no.  I’ve shaken a few Presidents’ hands but taking a knee to anyone or any group is out of the question.  We are all the “Chosen.”  Why else would we be here?  We all deserve equal respect until we prove otherwise.  And, we are all servants no matter if others call us by any exalted title.

 

In my seven decades as a Catholic I’ve encountered priests who understand their role as servants of God and their fellow humans, and I’ve known many who posture as divine arbiters of human behavior.  I’ve found Irish Catholic priests more often than not tend to act like petty tyrants who demand the faithful follow their every idiotic command as coming directly from the mouth of God.

 

The recent, but by no means new, revelations of the wholesale sexual depravity of some Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania and elsewhere were not shocking.  They didn’t shake my faith or cause me to jettison my identity as a Catholic.  The horrific sexual predator practices among scores of priests in Pennsylvania is but one of the most recent in a long-standing history of that abomination.  Not that such damnable behavior is restricted only to the Catholic clergy.

 

Catholicism to me is not an exclusive club, nor the only community whose membership enjoys favor with the Divine although church figures throughout history would beg to differ. I do not hold the Catholic clergy or their hierarchy of pretentious titles – monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, even the Pope – in any particular awe.  They are just men doing a job who tend to wear funny outfits.  Respect I give for the individual on a sliding scale depending on their dedication to service to all of us, humans and animals alike.

 

There is but one God. To me, it does not matter the flavor of believe espoused: Christianity, Islam, Protestant faith etc. with which one identifies.  (Islam is mentioned here with a figurative cautionary asterisk attached.)

 

A great lesson was taught me when my wife and I sought a cleric to preside over our marriage ceremony.  We made inquiries of a wide range of religions.  The local, Maryland Catholic priest declined.  He said our previous, less than successful forays into domestic disfunction, required the past unions to be annulled.  The idea that children even those from the worst parental pairings would be, in theory, the offspring of a newly deemed non-existent union was pretty offensive and insulting.  Even a minister whose website proclaimed theirs was a community of progressive thinking, acceptance, and quite “universal” that met in a glorified tree house said “no.”  One man, whose initials begin with “Kenn,” stepped forward. I believe his background was Baptist…and definitely former Marine.

Rev Kenn Blanchard at Duke University

Attending the event were many Catholics including two nuns.  One of the nuns approached me once the vows were made and documents signed and said that the Reverend’s service was the single most spiritual she’d ever seen.  No robes, no altars, no organs accompanying vocalists singing hymnal or Hollywood songs.  It was a spiritual event orchestrated by a true clergyman saying true words in honor of the true God.

 

So,in spite of the church and too many predators in priest clothing, I remain a Catholic but my form of worship is grounded in how I live my life, embrace others, open my heart to the companionship of those who passed before me and accept the many gifts, both positive and painful, the Divine One allows me to experience during my journey here.

A Visit to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte

Billy Graham Library

It’s supposedly the #1 attraction in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, the Billy Graham Library. That means it’s more popular than NASCAR. Although I had seen the billboards advertising the Billy Graham Library and I routinely visit Charlotte and the surrounding area, I hadn’t visited until … my parents joined me in Charlotte for a family wedding. I grew up watching Billy Graham’s amazing crusades on our black and white TV, back in the ’60s. As a teen, I went forward to answer the call at a crusade in my hometown of Sioux Falls. And now, it seemed fitting, right, to go to the library and to visit the resting place of Rev. Graham and his wife, Ruth, at the library in Charlotte with my parents, the wonderful people who not only brought me into the world, but also, who started me on my journey of being a Christian.

Billy Graham library

These are my lovely parents, who are standing in front of the Billy Graham Library on a wet and chilly April day in Charlotte. The grounds are gorgeous.

Billy Graham Library barnInside the Billy Graham Library

Although the building looks “barnish,” it houses valuable documents and artifacts that chronicle Graham’s mission in life — to preach the gospel of Christ. Rev. Graham preached for almost 80 years, and you can follow, chronologically, his own journey. The Library is hosting special displays this year:

  • June-August: “New Frontiers” – 1980s & 1990s
  • September-October: “Looking to the Future” – 2000s & 2010s
  • November-December: “Then and Now” – Today

I especially liked the display that featured the time that Rev. Graham went to Berlin. It features live footage of the occasion, and the magnitude of the crowds is really, rather overwhelming. There is a hunger in the world to hear the word.

displayVisitors to the library will follow the life and journey of Billy Graham, and also learn about his #1 helpmate, his soulmate, Ruth Bell Graham — whose parents were missionaries in China. Find out more about this lovely lady and about how her plans, of eventually returning to China as a missionary, were changed and melded into an even greater plan.

Billy Graham's preaching bibleThis is a super interesting display — the preaching Bible that Billy Graham used on his crusades across the world.

Billy GrahamThroughout the library, you will be exposed to videos and photographs of the world and the times and how Rev. Graham effected change.

guns on display Billy Graham LibraryHow can I even improve on this little piece of information. Life changing. You’ll find nuggets of wisdom and pearls of knowledge throughout the journey in the museum, which will take at least 2 hours. Make sure to visit the gift shop, where you may find Rev. Graham and his team’s books, as well as several devotional books and lovely mementos of your visit.

Billy Graham farm homeRev. Graham had his family home moved to this site, keeping 80% of the original materials. He lived in this house from the age of 9 until he left for college. The interior is similar to how the Graham family lived, with original appliances and furniture, along with fascinating photographs.

billy Graham gravesiteRev. Graham passed away in February 2018, at the age of 99, and his grave is located on the site near his wife’s grave.

No admission charge, but a donation is accepted.

Visit the Billy Graham Library.