Revelation: The Church of Thyatira

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before His Presence with singing. Enter His Gates with thanksgiving, and into His Courts with praise. Be thankful unto Him and bless His Name, for the Lord is good. His Mercy is everlasting, and His Truth endures to all generations.

Hi. This is Reverend Kenn Blanchard. Welcome back to Speak Life Church. This week we’re going to be hittin’ the Church of Thyatira in the Book of Revelation. And, I got some apologetic questions I’m going to answer. It might be kind of hostile, but that’s not my intention. I’m just sharing, but you’ll see what I mean when we get there. Amen? This show is dedicated to you in the hopes of encouraging your spirit, feeding your faith, and blessing your life.

Heavenly Father, somebody came to listen to a word. Somebody came for a message. Somebody came to hear from You. Somebody came to learn more of You. Somebody needs You, right now, Lord God. We need You right now. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy Sight, oh Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer. Father God, I just thank You for today. I thank You for all that You have let my eyes see and my ears hear. Help us, Lord God, to hear from You today. Help us to feel Your Presence. I humbly ask that You forgive us of all of the things we’ve done against You in Your Sight. Help me to do Thy Will today. Help me to reach out to somebody new. Help me to encourage somebody old. Help me, Lord God, to do what You’ve called Your servant to do. This is my prayer. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, The Christ I pray. Amen.

Good people, I am just so happy to be back on the microphone, and hopefully, it sounds even better than last week. I’ve got some more gizmos that I plugged into it, and I’m diggin’ the sound. I don’t hear the hiss I was hearing before. You might’ve never heard it, but…..I’m becoming an audio snob. Now that I’m working on becoming a voice actor, I’ve learned some stuff. I’ve got a couple more classes left, and a coach, and a demo tape to do. I’m kind of excited about it. Sarah, if you’re listenin’ —and I know you are — she’s been doing a cracker-jack job in our transcribing, and you can now go to speaklifechurch.net and get the show notes following the episode. It might be a few days or a week after, but the site has been updated, and I’m hoping you will find that there is a new subscription link where I’m asking all of us to sign on so that I can send you out collective newsletters and emails and prayer requests and things like that, as a church, all right? Because one of the things I want to do in October is get us together for a Zoom call, a prayer thing, a talk-and-answer just to share. We’re going to use technology to the next level. I’ll need your email addresses for that. So, go to speaklifechurch.net and sign up!

All right, this week, we’re talking about the Church of Thyatira: Revelation 2:18-29. The city of Thyatira was probably founded by Alexander the Great some 300 years before Christ. It was a wealthy city in Macedonia noted in the ancient world for its outstanding color dyes. Yeah, for the color it made for clothes. It has been suggested that the city was evangelized by the Ephesian Church or perhaps by Paul’s first convert in Philippi named Lydia. You’ll find that in Acts 16:14. The main characteristic of this church seems to be its works towards people rather than its doctrinal belief. In fact, as we will see, it was indicted for permitting a false teacher to spread her “soul-damning heresy.” It’s known as the Pagan Church. It happened in 606 to the Tribulation, so we could be in the Dark Ages, or the Pagan Church Age, right now. If you’re reading the text, it says, “I know your deeds, your love, and your faith, your service, and your perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.” That’s the commendation that Christ gives. The condemnation is, “You tolerate that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teachings, she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of foods sacrificed to idols.” His counsel: “Only hold on to what you have until I come.” The challenge: “To him who overcomes and does My Will until the end, I will give authority over the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter. He will dash them to pieces like pottery just as I have received authority from My Father. I will also give him the morning star.” All right, I said the Church of the Dark Ages, which indicates that the program I’m merging paganism with Christianity, which began under the Church of Pergamum increasingly emphasized paganism in which is darkness. The Light Jesus Christ has and entrusted to His Church all but flickered out during the Dark Ages, and was not rekindled until the Day of the Reformation. If you continue the history of the Church where we left off with the Church of Pergamum, there’s a whole bunch of stuff that happened, that was added to the “church” during this period from 606A.D. up until 1965A.D. Want me to tell you what they are? Here’s some stuff that was added to the “church”:

607A.D. — Boniface III was made the first Pope
709A.D. — kissing the Pope’s foot
786A.D. — worshipping of images and relics
850A.D. — the use of holy water began
995A.D. — the canonization of dead saints
998A.D. — fasting on Fridays and during Lent
1079A.D. – celibacy of the priesthood
1090A.D. – prayer beads
1184A.D. – the Inquisition
1190A.D. – sail of indulgences
1215A.D. – transubstantiation (Communion “blood” becoming true blood of Christ)
1220A.D. – adoration of the wafer host
1229A.D. – Bible forbidden to laypeople
1414A.D. – the cup forbidden to people at Communion
1439A.D. – Doctrine of Purgatory decreed
1439A.D. – Doctrine of Seven Sacraments affirmed
1508A.D. – The Ava Maria approved
1534A.D. – Jesuit order founded
1545A.D. – church granted equal authority with The Bible
1546A.D. – Apocryphal books were put into the Bible of this church
1854A.D. – the Immaculate Conception of Mary
1864A.D. – the Syllabus of Errors was proclaimed
1870A.D. – the infallibility of the Pope was declared
1930A.D. – public schools condemned
1950A.D. – the Assumption of the Virgin Mary
1965A.D. – Mary proclaimed Mother of the Church

Since all of the stuff I just said can be substantiated by history, it seems ironic that the Church of Rome today likes to boast that Rome is always the same. The tragedy is that in spite of the drastic changes I just mentioned, many believe that to be true.

Thyatira comes from two words meaning “sacrifice” and “continual.” Continual sacrifice. This introduces the central heresy that has produced other false doctrines, that is, the Church of Rome denies the finished Work of Christ, but believes in the continuing sacrifice that produces such things as sacraments and praying for the dead, burning candles and stuff. All of these were borrowed from mystery Babylon — the mother of all pagan customs and idolatry, none of which is taught in the New Testament. During this period between 607A.D. up until today, the universal — dare I say it? — Catholic Church headquartered in Rome gradually became more Babylonian than Christian. Heresy falls into one of two basic categories: a false concept of the personal deity of Christ or mixing works with faith. The Church of Rome can scarcely be accused of teaching a false concept of the personal deity of Christ, however, their emphasis on the continual sacrifice and rejection of our Lord’s Finished Work breeds a concept that causes people to try to earn their own salvation by works, penance, indulgences, and many other Satan-like conceived ideas — labeled by our Lord in Revelation 2:24 as “Satan’s so-called deep secrets.” One of the dangerous trends during the 20th century in the Church of Rome is the elevation of Mary to a status just short of deity. News media reports indicate that millions have petitioned the Pope to declare her a member of the Trinity, though the official line is that that is not going to happen….yet, although she is referred to as the Mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, and in some instances appears to be the Dispenser of Salvation — which contradicts many Scriptures. Notice Jesus’s own Words in 14:6 — “I Am The Way, and The Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” So, to even suggest that anybody, even his Ma, participates in dispensing the gift of eternal life is not only heresy, it’s blasphemous. As the apostle Peter was speaking exclusively of Jesus as the official dispenser of salvation said, “There is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Scripturally speaking, there is only one person under Heaven who dispenses salvation to humankind, and it ain’t Mary. And, for the record, if you happen to be Roman Catholic and listening, I don’t know what to tell you other than I’m not assaulting you. I’m just giving you what I know. If you ever go to Mexico City, and you get the chance to see the largest Roman cathedral on the North America continent — it’s called the Shrine of Guadalupe — you will see some seriously Pagan rituals being done there. They’ve got a thing called penance, and when it happens, people crawl around on their hands and knees for hundreds of yards on concrete, which causes gashes and blood on their knees and hands, in an effort to punish themselves, whereas the Scripture teaches “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and it’s not from yourselves. It is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) The room in that church, too, is so dark that photographs can’t be taken, and everything is in a gloomy state. The Bible says in John 3:21, “Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light.” It’s always mysterious, right? The mysterious nature of the service could be seen in the fact that individuals could not understand the Latin being spoken during the mass, and no message was given in any language they could recognize. Parents came to the glass-encased form representing a dead saint thinking that, by rubbing the casket or placing an offering in the slot provided, they could rub blessings on the forehead of their infant children or other loved ones. In contrast, the Lord Jesus talked about those who hear the Word and understand it in Matthew 13:23. Idolatry, straight up.

Prominently located on every wall were idols representing Christ, the apostles, or other saints. You could see lots of them — seventeen! And though idolatry is typically a pagan worship, it is forbidden in The Bible. All the way back to Exodus 24 where it says, “you shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in Heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below.” Chanting, during the service, much chanting was performed by the priest. Individuals who had come to worship prayed by saying the same word, over and over again, whether they knew its meaning or not. And, by contrast, our Lord has warned, “when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7) The cross, the crucifix well-known in Roman forms of worship, was all that could be seen of our Blessed Lord. Whereas the Scriptures speak not of “continuing sacrifice” but in the words of Christ Himself speaking of the sacrifice, “It is finished,” He said. The Angel on the Day of Resurrection, “He is not Here. He has risen just as He said.” (Matthew 28:6) Oh, that these people might recognize the principle conveyed in the Words of our Lord: I am the Living One. I was dead, and behold, I live forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:18) One of the obvious differences between Catholics and Protestants is the Cross they use to symbolize their faith. The Catholic cross usually depicts Christ on the Cross, commemorating his continual sacrifice for our sins. The Protestant Cross is empty, depicting that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again on the third day. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) In this text, the character of Christ was revealed. It says, “These are the words of the Son of God whose eyes are like blazing fire and his feet are like burnished bronze. Our Lord’s selection for the title, Son of God, for Himself is the most instructive when compared to chapter 1, verse 13 where He selects the title, Like a Son of Man. These titles are synonymous or interchangeable. It should be born in mind in this day when false teachers are prone to advocate the human nature of Christ at the exclusion of His Divinity. Also, it is instructive to those in the Church of Rome who are prone to think of Him as the Son of Mary. Eyes like blazing fire and feet like burnished stone denotes that Christ is looking with piercing judgment on the Church because she has permitted false teaching to creep into her midst and mislead His servants.

Christ’s commendation of Thyatira comes in the form of six words. (Revelation 2:19) He commends them for their deeds, that’s the first part, indicating that many through Rome’s long history have been faithfully serving Jesus Christ as a result of receiving Him. Two, love — a love for humankind characteristic of this Church. For, in ancient times, hospitals and sanitariums were almost exclusively the work of the church through its nuns and priests. Three, faith. Although it’s not given the prominence of works and love, it nevertheless is a characteristic of that age in church with the main exception noted. Number four: service means ministry. Five, perseverance. It means endurance and speaks of a long time period of this church. Six, “now, doing more than you did at first,” the good works of the Church of Rome — except for those appearance of the Inquisition when many were wantonly murdered — are commendable. It should be born in mind also that the majority of members have been held in ignorance and darkness. Many have been faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. Some outstanding products of that period are John Wycliffe, John Hus, Girolamo Savonarola, and many others who earned the Crown of Martyrdom because they refused to give up their adherence to the Word of God and Christ Jesus the Lord. In fact, one of the bleakest marks on the history of the Church of Rome was that it burned at the stake men like Wycliffe and Hus, whose only sin was trying to translate The Bible into the mother tongue of the common people. Historically, no jailor has ever kept a prisoner in total confinement the way the Church of Rome kept The Bible from God’s people for over a thousand years. No wonder this age has been called the Dark Ages. The Bible is the light of the world. It is the church’s commission to let that light shine.

Christ’s condemnation in this section says, “Nevertheless I have this against you. You tolerate that woman, Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teachings she misleads My servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.” Out Lord’s condemnation of the Church of Thyatira took two forms. One, He condemned her for permitting a false teacher to enslave or to lead astray His servants, and two, He condemned her for not repenting when she had the opportunity. Who is this Jezebel chick? The Lord reaches back into the Old Testament for the name of a woman who brought Baalism into Israel and perverted the nation, using her as a point of comparison to those who brought paganism and this devilish teaching into the church. Whenever a woman is used symbolically to convey a religious teaching, she always represents a false religion. Our Lord’s parable in Matthew 13:33-35 concerning the woman who took leaven, a symbol of evil, and hid it in three measures of meal “until it worked all through the dough,” is a prophetic glimpse of what took place during that false teaching of this period. The teaching of the false prophetess Jezebel took two forms. The first, by her teachings she misleads my servants into sexual immorality which is a symbol of the idolatry brought in during this period, and two, the eating of food sacrificed to idols, a symbol of the union of the church with the world. During this time, Rome sought to bring the kingdom of the world under the domination of the Pope in Rome, though contrary to the teachings of our Lord who said, “My Kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) Church leaders at the time seriously attempted to make her the kingdom of this world. There was an opportunity to repent. It says, “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.” Plenty of opportunity was given to this church to repent. Almost a thousand years was granted. Yet, she is unwilling. Christ’s future judgment of this church: I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely unless they repent of her ways. Our Lord, here, predicts that this church and those that are persuaded to follow her false teachings will go into the Great Tribulation, when she will, according to Revelation 17, be the Church of Tribulation. This warning should speak to every Bible-believing Christian in the world about having an entangling affiliation with the ecumenical movement that Pope John, the 23rd made popular through his ecumenical counsel on the concept that all of them will be one. Protestant unbelievers and heretics are advancing this program on every hand. God’s faithful followers should be careful to measure everything according to the stated Word of God, and, if need be, stand by your lonesome. That stuff was just heavy, so I’m going to let that go for the rest of the day. Feel free to rewind and listen again in case I missed some points, and I’m ready for questions if you want to hit me back, attack me, disagree, I can show you where I got it from. Amen?

Christianity is monotheistic. Christians believe in an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God. We also call him Jehovah. God is a spiritual being who is personable and knowable. God is One, yet existing in three distinct persons: God, the Father. God, the Son. That’s Jesus Christ. And God, the Holy Spirit. Referred to collectively as The Trinity. Jehovah God is said to have many attributes with the most important being love. Christians believe that God speaks to His People, makes promises to His people, and reveals Himself to people. God and the universe are not seen as one. God is believed to be the Creator of the universe and all that is within it. It is also believed that, while God is sovereign and permits evil, He is not its direct cause. The Holy Bible is the divine and inspired Word of God. There are two main divisions in The Bible, the Old Testament and the New. The word itself, “testament” means “covenant” or “agreement.” The Old Testament is an account of a nation, Israel, while the New Testament is an account of a man, Jesus the Christ. There are thirty-nine books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament. According to The Bible, men and women are created in the image of God to share in His Glory. God gives mankind free will. As a result of Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey God, sin and rebellion entered into the human race. The Bible teaches that this rebellion separates individuals from God. Because God hates sin yet desires to have a relationship with us, He had to deal with the sin problem. The only way sin could be permanently dealt with was through the Person of Jesus. Jesus was punished and died on a cross to pay the penalty owed by mankind. As a result of His sacrifice, individuals could receive forgiveness for sin. For salvation and freedom from sin, evil, and guilt, one needs only to trust in Jesus the Christ for eternal life. Christianity teaches that no amount of good deeds carried out in this life can help a person gain salvation and eternal life. It is believed that salvation is a gift from God, and to receive this gift, the individual must accept it by faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain for what we do not see, as Hebrews 11:1 says. We read The Bible to learn about God. We believe that God is passionate about every aspect of our lives. The Bible is full of instructions about each area of living — outward and inward. God is believed to forgive anyone who repents. The Bible teaches that salvation is rooted in the grace and love of Jehovah God. Christianity is unique in teaching that a person cannot do anything to win a place in heaven, but rather must accept what Jesus Christ has done on his or her behalf. It is believed that there is hope for everyone, but to receive this gift of salvation and eternal life, we must accept Jesus as the Son of God and believe in Him by faith.

The word “Christianity, “ the religion of it, teaches that Jesus Christ is the only way to a relationship with God. Individuals are given the freedom to make a choice for or against Christ. If anyone chooses Jesus the Christ, salvation is secure. If not, the individual makes his or her own choice to not receive salvation and is doomed for Hell. Being a Christian means acknowledging that you have sinned and are in need of God’s forgiveness, and accepting that forgiveness freely offered by Jesus. I’m going to hit you now with some of the most popular question people ask who are skeptic about this whole Christianity thing.

1. Can we really be sure that God exists?

Well, see there are ample proofs in nature that there is a creator, and the evidence for the truth of The Bible assures us that this Creator and God, Christians worship and serve. Theism, the belief that a creator exists who not only made the world but who also has acted in this world, is defensible on philosophical, historical, scientific, and experiential grounds. All the possible objections against the existence of God can be sufficiently answered. Based on these lines of evidence and the absence of legitimate counter evidence, it is rational to conclude that God certainly must exist.

2. What does God say about profanity?

After all, they’re just words, right? Well, let me make sure we’re meaning the same thing by “profanity.” Strictly speaking, profanity means to take God’s name in vain, to profane it. God’s command is that we do not do this because His Name is holy, and should be respected. A lot of what today is called profanity is actually just vulgar speech. It’s really more a matter of propriety that we not speak in that way, and the apostle Paul commands us to avoid “coarse speech” and joking, just in case you wanted to know.

3. I’m a spiritual person already. Why do I need to be a Christian?

Well, being spiritual is not enough. Besides, what do you even mean by “spiritual?” Christianity doesn’t ask us to be spiritual, it demands we obey God while continuing to live as physical beings in the physical world He created.

Okay, now that I’ve officially stirred up the pot, and got you thinking, or maybe gave you exactly what you needed for this week, it’s time to go. Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the Presence of His Glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Just in case I don’t see you again on this side of the river, I will see you, my Brother and Sister, at the Feet of Jesus. Amen. God bless you. Talk to you soon.

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.

Peeking into Paradise – God’s Plan Pt II

Tony Aquilino

One of the most troubling reasons people give to deny the existence of God is “why does God let bad things happen to good people?” Why war? Why the Holocaust? Why cancer? Why abusive parents, teachers, preachers, cops, national leaders, and spouses? Why babies with massive birth defects?

My starting point to answer that question is the idea that God is not the kind of parent who believes in spoiling the child. Nor does God punish. God lets each of us work through the perils, pitfalls and blessings of our own life. God is an equal opportunity deity. The rich, beautiful, talented, athletic, well-born and perfect in every physical way among us have as many problems as the rest of us who are not rich, beautiful, endowed with genius intelligent quotients and maybe have a physical problem or two.

The reason the opportunities God provides everyone are misinterpreted, overlooked or ignored by most is simple. Each, whether benign or harsh, is an opportunity or option left for us to decide how to respond in order to become a good and decent person.
john aquilino and friends
The idea behind the above interpretation of God’s relation to human life isn’t new or unique. In fact, it begins with conception and birth. Life, every aspect from the time the fastest swimming sperm cell enters the egg to life’s last breath, is a crap shoot. We don’t know from one moment or one day to the next what’s in store for us to encounter and decide how to respond whether it will be something to be enjoyed, feared or conquered. There are no guarantees. No set of instructions on how to deal with each: birth, disease, the journey to adulthood, or death. What happens and how we deal with it is the measure of whom we are.

A gift from my son, Tommy, provides a decent starting point or background against what I’m about to try and say. It’s a very simple, short, clearly written and thought-provoking book by Sebastian Junger called “Tribe.”

Towards the latter third, Junger explains the difference between people who correctly understand the way we best fit into the universe and those who wander about in a state of self-absorbed idiocy. Somewhat counterintuitively, Junger uses the bonds formed by civilians and military enduring the real dangers of being in the midst of combat to illustrate the finer qualities of life.

He describes life during the London Blitz of World War II and the more recent genocidal Bosnian War. The daily reality of random death from a bomb or sniper’s bullet, the lack of safe shelter, sufficient food and water did not lead to cultural chaos. Depression and suicide were not the n norm for individuals. Looting, raping and thievery did not characterize societal behavior. Quite the opposite. The awful burden of war brought people together. They helped each other and shared what little they had. War, as horrific as it is, brought the values of tribe to the fore.
When peace and prosperity returned, society descended to the depths of depravity. People forgot the bond of the tribe and became self-absorbed, greed driven individuals. Depression and suicide rates rose. Those who lived through the war years yearned for the time when they laughed more and were their happiest.

Once done with his wartime examples, Junger’s prose slides onto the subject of “litter.” Those who toss a cigarette butt or candy wrapper or plastic water bottle to the ground are clueless about why we inhabit the earth. They think only of themselves. They have no connection with others, with humanity, with nature. Those who don’t ignore others or community or nature, who pick up the trash strewn about by others do connect. They understand that we are part of a “tribe” in the broadest sense of the term. They strive, without seeking honor or praise, to live as decent, caring humans…as God hoped we would.

Peeking into Paradise: Why I believe in Angels

Thomas Aquilino

Three times my late son, Johnny, changed my life.

The first time was when he was born. That was the experience only parents who care and are aware of what it means to be parents understand.  It was the instant when why we are here on earth became un-mistakeably clear.

Tony Aquilino

The second time was when he died March 10, 2010 ten days before his twentieth birthday.  He wasn’t supposed to live many days after his birth.  He was born with his heart’s left ventricle, the major chamber that pumps oxygenated blood from his heart to his body and brain, missing.  It’s called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a fairly common birth disorder.

PeTA, the ever so kind and enlightened community of animal rights activists, said of him in a note to me that his life was not worth that of a single lab rat sacrificed by medical research to find a correction or cure for the problem.  You might have guessed it, I don’t take kindly to PeTA or their intolerant tribe.  The fallacy of their fanaticism became apparent when, at a meeting of the Humane Society of the United States (a multi-million dollar group that runs no…repeat no…animal shelters and whose staff ranks are replete with PeTA-philes) I asked “so is medical research on animals that benefits animals also wrong?”  They were not terribly responsive or happy with my presence.

The third was many years later after a Tai Chi class at a gym in Rockport, Texas.  A wonderful instructor, a street tough and gentle lady with multiple “black belts” each being high up the skill achievement totem pole and whose martial arts skills rival most Navy SEALS, beckoned me over.  Victoria is her name.

She began by saying “I hope you don’t think I’m crazy but…” What followed the word “but” both rocked my consciousness and brought me great joy.

“For the past few days I’ve been visited by a young boy surrounded by bright light. I had no idea who he was or what he wanted but he was very persistent.  The second you walked into the room he rushed to your side.  He’s here now.”

I listened with more than my usual skeptical demeanor, but also with a non-judging look to my face.  I wanted to hear what she had to say.  With my diminished hearing capacity thanks to a day at the national high-power rifle competition without hearing protectors, I strained to capture her every word.

“He says to ‘tell Dad’ I’m tall and can dance.  Tell him not to worry, everything’s going to be all right.  Tell him I love him and that I’m happy.”  She went on to describe Johnny perfectly.  I had never met her before, nor had I told her or anyone she knew anything about or even the fact that I had two sons, Johnny and Tommy, and that Johnny had passed.

Johnny, thanks to his biological mother’s omission of a single rule of CPR – to clear the airway, spent the last six or so years of his life as a non-verbal quadriplegic.  Watching a television comedy, he had a seizure and passed out.  During her attempt to revive him, he aspirated the late-night cereal he was eating into his lungs and halted the passage of oxygen to his brain.  It took two years before, she said my blame for the EMTs who first administered to him was misplaced.

She called one day and said Johnny gave up and quit eating, that he had died.  My sorrow almost overcame the simultaneous question of how was that possible?  He was fed via a machine and a tube leading to his stomach.  To say I was enraged would be quite accurate, however my loss and natural instinct to display no public emotion other than a stoic stare at horrific incidents took control.  Don’t ask why.  It’s not an act.  It’s just how I react, with a dead silent poker expression searching mentally for any and all facts of the incident.

Victoria keeps me posted on all of Johnny’s antics.  Before Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport, Texas as I attended her class on ancient Chinese defensive movements.  The class after Christmas she told me Arthur Meru was having a great time with Johnny.  Arthur was a new Rockport/Corpus Christi friend.  He was one of the most intense, gentle, and spiritual persons I’d ever met.  He was Hispanic, a former Vietnam-veteran U.S. Marine.  He was a private investigator and a member of a 900-year-old Japanese Ninja family.  For a man my age, 70 at the time, a pat on his back was identical to hitting a solid oak board, he was that tough.  Arthur came to one of Victoria’s classes.  He dressed in Samuria armor.

Arthur died in his sleep Christmas night.  Now, Victoria tells me, Arthur hangs out with my son Johnny and a passel of angels.  Yep…angels.  Some are little…cherubic faces with wings.  Others are pretty impressive in stature.  Angels are one of God’s creations.  They guard us and upon occasion are his messengers.

The angels are described as almost a background chorus while Johnny and Arthur try to make Victoria laugh by dancing.  They too were smiling and laughing…a sign of God’s good humor. One day Johnny and Arthur showed up in grass skirts doing a version of the hula. Two little angels sat on their shoulders. Nothing like a martial arts instructor cracking up silently while angels sing and my son and Arthur dance.

 

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.

 

Julie Golob is Wild at Heart

Julie Glob is Wild at Heart

This is the first design in a promotional tee shirt design called Wild at Heart with the superstar pro shooter, mother, veteran known as Julie Glob.  In this first rendition I chose someone I just know that is both a child of God and a multi-time world, a national shooting champion, an experienced shooting instructor, woman of the outdoors, proud US Army veteran, published author, wife and mom.

Here is how you can get one of these as a shirt or something else cool from our shop.

I got this idea to create action tee shirts based on the spirit of this ministry.  The Speak Life Church ministers to everyone seeking an honest relationship with God but we are focused on ones that live life to fullest.  For too many, churches today are reserved for the elderly or have become stagnant in dogma.  Religion is how we are comfortable in worshipping a Holy God.

I am looking forward to worshipping our Creator and the lover of our souls with others like me on the range, on the water, on two wheels and online.

Wild at Heart

I remember getting persecuted for being pro-gun in church too often as I grew in ministry.  At the same time, I know many gun owners, competition shooters, and hunters that love the Lord Jesus but don’t regularly attend church for more than one familiar reason.  I have been called to minister to God’s people regardless of what the brick and mortar churches are saying to them.

So true to form, I am back in the wilderness, where I am comfortable, using the internet to teach, preach and reach people for Christ.  I’m not alone.  God is with me.  He was in the wilderness a lot if you think about it.  He was with the Israelites, the prophets, Jesus, and John the Baptist in the wilderness.

If you would like to be considered for a tee shirt to made of you representing a follower of Jesus that is wild at heart, send me a high definition photo of you in action.

Collect all of them.  Inspire a design.  Join us.  Follow Christ.

Get Yours Here

 

10 Things to Do When You Blow Out Your Knee

blown knee bandage smurf

One day I felt super excited about life, getting ready to embark on an outdoor writers’ event that promised driving fast trucks on off-road trails, shooting at a world class clays range, fishing with bass pro anglers and more fishing with fly-rods in a pristine world-class stream. The next day, I found myself back at home, sitting in a chair with crutches by my side and ice wrapped around my knee. A torn meniscus did me in, while at the reception at the aforementioned event, and waylaid me so that I couldn’t hobble around in the outdoors with a throbbing knee and frankly, now sour attitude. So, what can I do while I’m out of commission – along with deadlines and work that I’m committed to doing? Here’s my list and 10 suggestions to do when you blow out your knee, or something else.

10 Things to Do When You Blow Out Your Knee

  1. Order a fresh devotional book or find one that you like to read in your own library, and put your Bible on the table next to you. You know what to do next. I’m re-reading this one: God Always has a Plan B.  Seems appropriate. Cross reference the devotions to Bible passages.
  2. Read a book, or 5. I’m currently working through Band of Brothers ( a book I’ve always wanted to read), Among the Reeds (how a Polish family survived the Holocaust), Portraits of Courage (George W. Bush’s paintings of wounded warriors) and Meditation for Beginners.
  3. Pick up your laptop and sort through email inboxes, create files, discard, delete.
  4. Do the same to your photos on your phone and computer. Time for new files and deletions. Get everything backed up into the cloud or on a separate hard drive.
  5. Call people you haven’t chatted with for a while. Touch base with older family members. Concentrate on their lives, not your current, laid-up position.
  6. Drink a lot of water. Now is the time to start eating clean. You don’t need any extra empty calories.
  7. Clean out drawers. And organize. Read The Life Changing Art of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondō. She stresses touching everything you will organize. This helps you to associate with each item and to decide whether it really has meaning in your life.
  8. Do you meditate? This is a great time to start or improve.
  9. Listen to podcasts. Catch up on your favorites. Of course, one of my favs is the “Speak Life” podcast.
  10. Take a class. Craftsy and Skillshare are 2 websites I love for this reason — opportunities to learn something new, under the tutelage of pros and people who know. Just ask my family about my chicken fried rice from a previous class with Grace Young, the “Stir-Fry Guru”; it’s amazing.

blow out your knee exercise womanIf you have more suggestions, please share them here.

The Surprisingly Simple Remedy for My Lukewarm Christian Life

Here’s an example of a podcaster using what is available in social media to reignite his passion for the Lord.  The tale of a project called Miracles & Atheists.  The surprisingly simple remedy for my lukewarm Christian life.

What do you mean, “when was I born again?”

I grew up in a church, I’ve always believed…it’s awesome that you found Jesus right before you were about to take your life, that God spoke to you as you opened the door to cheat on your wife, that you were delivered from your 10-year addiction, but I don’t have a story.

The Dilemma

I prayed for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior when I was a kid I guess, but I don’t remember being saved. What I do remember is praying that same prayer several times throughout my childhood, on 5 or 10 occasions maybe. I suppose I just wanted to make sure I was saved, but nothing happened.

The point is, I don’t have a story so don’t ask me about it, I get uncomfortable.

I don’t like being uncomfortable.

The truth is, not having a dramatic story makes me wonder whether I truly am saved. I believe, sure. At least I think I do.

But what does it really mean to believe anyway? I’m supposed to know that I know that I know I’m saved, right? That’s what the pastor says. Ok then, but how do I know for sure?

Faith is being convinced about things we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that; but am I convinced? The whole concept sort of stresses me out. Jesus tells us those who believe will cast out demons in His name, they will speak in tongues…wait tongues? What’s that all about anyway? I grew up United Methodist man, I don’t know what all this means.

Those who believe will pick up snakes with their hands and drink deadly poison without getting hurt. They’ll place hands on the sick and the sick will be healed…seriously? (Ref: Mark 16:17-18)

I certainly haven’t experienced any of that. Maybe I don’t believe then. But why not? What am I doing wrong? If I’m not saved, why am I wasting my time with church?

These are the things I struggled with during the first 38 years of my life as a lukewarm Christian.

People always used to tell me about the freedom they found in Jesus, but all I felt was condemnation. Paul says there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) so I felt confused all the time. What’s the point of it all?

My lukewarm Christian friends used to tell me not to worry about it…that I was bearing fruit, I was fine. Even so, I had a potty mouth, an adulterous heart and an empty feeling inside….continuously searching for fulfillment, for something more.

Far from freedom, I know.
The truth is I was doing something wrong. I was going through the motions: seeking after the Lord with one hand but holding onto the world with the other. I’ve learned it doesn’t work that way.

About 18 months ago I started an unexpected journey in search of making sense out of it all. It was a Sunday afternoon, where despite having three energetic kids running around the house, I found myself scrolling through a mind-numbing playlist of movies on Netflix, most of which were full of sex, violence, and self-centered living. I’d been watching too many of those lately and I needed something kid-friendly, but not a kid’s movie, I couldn’t stomach anymore of those.

I selected a documentary called “The Finger of God.” I thought to myself, “hey that’s different.” The premise of the film was to investigate why some churches were on fire for the Lord, while others were well, lukewarm, perhaps? The film’s producer, Darren Wilson, sought after churches that were seeing real-life miracles, with the goal of capturing them on film.

Before watching this movie I knew absolutely nothing about miracles. I never even thought about signs and wonders before, or that any of the miraculous things Jesus talked about still happen in the 21st century. The Holy Spirit was basically an afterthought to me.

I figured miracles were a conceptual thing, not literally something us humans here on this planet could actually partake in. But I tell you, this documentary got the wheels turning for me. I was fascinated by some of the things I was seeing: deaf people’s ears opening up, knees being healed on the spot, manna showing up in people’s Bibles. It was weird…was this the same Jesus I thought I knew?

The idea of seeing miracles stayed in the back of my mind for the next six months. I wanted to know more, but I didn’t do anything about it.

Doing something would make me uncomfortable, and I don’t like being uncomfortable.

It’s funny though, the Lord doesn’t seem to be concerned about my comfort. It’s like He has other plans for me or something…

So I figured the best thing would be to start getting into the Bible; to see what God’s Word says about miracles. Didn’t they go away? The problem was I found the Bible boring and confusing. I was going through the motions when I read the Bible and felt guilty about it. It shouldn’t be that way, having guilt didn’t feel right.

God knew I would get frustrated and blow off my Bible reading, and I did. So He put someone in my path who was well-versed in miracles, signs and wonders. I met Cale Nelson at a conference for podcasters in early 2017. We had only talked for five minutes or so, but I could see this guy was on fire for Jesus. I admired that, all the while wondering why I wasn’t on fire like he was…what was I missing, seriously?

At this point my finances were a mess and my marriage was about to fail. I was full of pride and selfish intentions. Yet, I put up a really good front. By God’s grace Cale and I kept in touch online, and after a few weeks I asked him whether he’d be interested in talking about Jesus with me more regularly.

Through Cale’s example, I learned how truly different real followers of Jesus were from the rest of the world. That scared me.
I was comfortable in my lukewarm world; I wanted to blend in.

Even so, I recognized in my search for fulfillment that I needed to make some sort of change. We all know the definition of insanity. So one of the first things I did was pray the Lord give me a hunger for His Word. If His Word truly brings life, I want to understand how.

Miracles and Atheist project

It took a few months, but the hunger I prayed for did eventually come, gradually. I made a commitment that the first thing I would do after waking up is get into the Word of God before I did anything else, even if just for five minutes. To my surprise, I actually started enjoying my time reading! For understanding, I started devouring any Christian media I could get my hands on related to miracles: audiobooks, YouTube videos, podcasts, and more documentaries.

It opened up a whole new world for me! I couldn’t believe I’d been missing out on such life in the here and now. For my whole life I’d just been concerned about not going to hell, but for the first time I realized Christ is actually inside me in the form of the Holy Spirit, I just needed to learn how to access Him.

I was sitting in church alone one Sunday morning and the pastor gave a sermon about taking risks for the Lord. He said faith had to involve some sort of risk, that without risk, it wouldn’t be faith. The message resonated with me.

I realized I had developed a fear of man. If I were to talk about my faith, to move outside my comfortable, lukewarm world it would be awkward. Talking to Cale every week was fine, but getting out into the world and being that weird Christian well, that was different.

Yet Jesus said “so everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33 ESV

Acknowledging Jesus would mean I’d have to take a risk, probably more than one, and I didn’t like that very much. On the other hand, I didn’t like going through the motions anymore either.

It was time.

A lot of Christians love to learn, but far fewer take action on what they learn. I wanted to take action.

The Lord gave me a vision of bringing atheists and believers together to talk about miracles, signs and wonders. The problem was that atheists intimidated me. They thought Christians were stupid, they talked with big vocabulary and I didn’t want them to challenge me on my beliefs. My theology wasn’t all that strong and I didn’t want to jeopardize my faith, so I stayed clear of any religious talk when I found myself in a conversation with an atheist. Nevertheless, I respected them. They weren’t like me, in that they made a decision. They didn’t question their beliefs, they just didn’t believe and moved on.

There’s something to be said for being decisive, yet I couldn’t understand why they would be willing to jeopardize their salvation. It was a fascinating worldview, and I realized I had a heart for the atheist.

So I took my first risk, I took action.
I needed to find atheists and Christians willing to have a conversation. So I put out a polarizing post on Facebook about the folly of the aggressive, Bible-thumping, “you’re gonna burn” Christian. I mentioned that I would be working on a project to address the issue. I put out the post at around midnight on an early Wednesday morning and within 24-hours, I had nearly 300 comments and 20 private messages asking me what I was doing.

My post took people by surprise, it was out of character. And it also struck a chord. The next day I found myself filled with what could be none other than the Holy Spirit. I felt like I was high! Nothing else mattered, not my finances, not my frail marriage, not the kids, nothing…just God.

It was one of the most fulfilling experiences I can remember; that day I was baptized of the Holy Spirit. I took my first risk for the Lord, and I got my first taste of real faith. Shortly thereafter I found myself laying hands on the sick, rebuking illnesses and starting to see people healed. It’s been nothing short of amazing (and a little crazy).

One week later I launched a four-hour livestream on Facebook – I call it Miracles & Atheists. The premise of the show is to facilitate a healthy dialog between atheists and believers about the supernatural. It hasn’t been easy, but incredibly fulfilling.
Piece by piece, brick by brick my faith strengthened.

Nowadays, I see my wife and kids growing in their faith. My marriage is stronger than it’s ever been and God’s handling our finances. My six-year-old is even laying hands and praying for the sick! It’s been an amazing roller coaster of a ride.

I don’t care about being the weird Christian anymore, I just want to help the lost and heal the sick.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 NIV

I had read that verse for years, but I never knew how to truly apply it in the fray of life, until I took my first risk for the Lord. Seeking God’s kingdom first means to truly die to yourself, every day. It’s means listening to the Lord when He calls you to do something, whether you know for sure that it’s Him or not. If it’s aligned with the Word of God, you go for it.

For me, I’d already lived the first 38 years of life for myself, so I’ll go ahead and live the rest out for Jesus.

If you’re like me, you may be afraid of going all in for Jesus. You probably don’t like being uncomfortable – believe me, I don’t either! Just know that your fear isn’t from God, it’s from the enemy. Push through and take that risk! When the dust settles, don’t be surprised when that mountain moves.