The Dead Church

This week on the Speak Life Church Podcast, we’re going to end our chapter two of last week, start chapter three of the Book of Revelation — the Church of Sardis, I’m going to share with you a little about my journey, and talk about the Lost Books of The Bible.

The Bible says in Proverbs 18 and 21, that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Here, we choose to speak life. We are a 100% online ministry created to restore and strengthen the family, provide hope for those in need, and offer a nontraditional place of worship of the Lord Jesus Christ, using technology to be anywhere. All are welcome, including those souls still searching for what they believe in. My name is Kenn Blanchard. Welcome. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness. Come before His Presence with singing. Enter into 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. Welcome to Speak Life Church.

Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, we come before You to say Thank You for this day — a day that we have never seen before. Somebody comes, Lord God, for the first time. I ask that You would touch them right now, allow their ears to hear, their heart to hear what You say. Your servant seeks to lift You up now. Hear my prayer, oh, Lord. Use me in a mighty way to do what You called me to do. I bless the one who has returned and is calling themselves a member of this church — this church without walls, this church without a physical location, but that’s seeking to be a church called by You. Help us to do Your Work. Thank You for all of those who are a part of this family. Thank you for those who are a seeking a church home. Help me help them in whatever they need. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy Sight, oh, Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.

All right, last week we were talking about the Church of Thyatira in the Book of Revelation, chapter two, right? Man, I’m so deep in this thing we haven’t even moved! We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff. It makes me wonder, “How long do I do this?” Are you ready for some uplifting, different topics for the Speak Life Church? Let me know. Send me a note. Holla at your boy. We’re going to continue with Christ’s counsel. There are like four pieces that happen in all of the Church — the commendation, the condemnation, the counsel, and the challenge. We’re going to talk about the counsel — what Christ told this church, this pagan church. All right? We all back in touch? Back where we are at? Our Lord counsel to this Church of Thyatira was apparently directed to the faithful individuals within that church who rejected the false doctrines. He said, “Only hold on to what you have until I come.” That refers to the fact that many during the Tribulation refused to go under the false religious system also known as the Prostitute (Revelation 17). The challenge that Christ gives this church, this pagan church, He says, “To him who overcomes and does My Will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” There are two aspects of the challenge of our Lord to the individual overcomer of this period. One, he will give such an individual a position of leadership and authority during the millennial age if he or she is faithful in this age. Two, he will also give them the Morning Star. This is a beautiful title which is clearly understood here among scholars to be the light of our Lord’s Word in Revelation 22:16 where He explains that He is the bright, morning star. This promise is clearly the promise of Christ to come and abide if you overcome. So, who is an overcomer? First read John 5:1-4 and it clarifies that. That’s everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ.

All right, we are finally going to hit on the Church of Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6)!

This is the church that I kind of came from. I might’ve talked about it in the past. I was the pastor of this church, and it was killing me. Why am I calling the church where I was like the Church of Sardis? Listen, and you shall hear that there is nothing worse than a dead church. It’s like a man dying of thirst in the desert who sees a well in the distance only to find after he gets there, that it is bone dry. Many thirsty stumble through the desert of this world and they finally get to see what they think is a hope in the form of a church only to find that by entering it that it is completely dead. Well, that was the Church of Sardis and the age that she represents — the Age of Reformation.

Sardis, the place, the capital city of Lydia was prominent in Asia Minor. It was noted for its carpets. It was a wealthy city that was finally destroyed by an earthquake. The local church there seems to have had an acceptable name in certain areas, but it was still DEAD. This is tragic in view of the fact that life is a characteristic of the born-again Christian. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the fullest.” (John 10:10) There were, however, a few faithful believers in the Sardis Church who may not have soiled their clothes. The dead church is in the time period of 1520A.D. up until the Tribulation. Here are the commendations, the condemnations, the counsel, and the challenges:

• The commendation: “I know your deeds. You have a reputation of being alive.”
• The condemnation: “but you are dead. I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of God.”
• The counsel: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die. Remember, you have received and heard. Obey it, and repent. But, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.”
• The challenge: “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and His angels.”

Sardis itself means “the escaping ones” or “those who come out.” This name, together with the Lord’s condemnation of the church, provides a perfect description of the Reformation Churches, the Protestant Reformation developed as a result of the continued emphasis by the Church of Rome on pagan doctrines rather than adherence to Scripture. The basic emphasis of the Reformation Churches originally was from Martin Luther’s watch word taken from Scripture: But the righteous will live by faith (Romans 1:17). Now, they have recoiled from trying to make salvation the result of works and sparked the resurgence of interest in studying the Scriptures, but the tragedy of the Reformation Churches that earned for the them the condemnation of the Lord of being dead is twofold. First, they became “state churches.” Luther, for example, sought the approval of the political leaders, and eventually, the Luther Church became the state church of Germany, as did others throughout Europe. The danger of this is that the Church then includes the entire population thus eliminating the need for personal acceptance of Jesus Christ and an emphasis on the individual’s relationship to God. Another danger is the tendency to please the government rather than God. Secondly, the Reformation Churches did not sufficiently change many customs and teachings of the Church of Rome. Baby baptism was continued in spite of the fact that there is no scriptural verification for it. Sprinkling was also continued in ritualism including some elements of sacraments was perpetuating. Ritual and formality, characteristics of pagan forms of worship, are not conducive or genuine in they worship for they appeal to the sensuous human nature. That’s the whole big fuss about other doctrines. A lot of the stuff that we like in church is because we like it, not because it’s in The Bible, not because God asked us to do it. It’s that we’ve always done it that way. We never looked to see what was wrong with it. We just continue because that’s the way we like to worship, but you’re not putting it to the One who asked for it. Just saying. The Bible teaches that God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Ritual that comes from paganism cannot be of the Holy Spirit and does not convey truth. The main, main purpose of a church is the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This should be done in song and in word. If people leave a church with the mysterious feeling of worship, but have not been face-to-face with Jesus Christ in a personal way, then they have been worshipping a dead church.

Let me tell you about the church that I was a pastor of. My church had been operating for years. They were an affluent African-American congregation. Everybody in the church had been somebody. They were doctors, lawyers, senators. We had an astronaut in there. There was a whole bunch of people, and they were proud of their lineage and their heritage and their name, and they all got together, and it was like a social thing. They would meet and do business. They would make sure that they only talked to other people who they knew were affluent like them. They were snobby, and they broke off. Their pastor died, and they raised up this younger guy to become their new pastor. He was like the worship leader, the younger youth pastor, and they sent him to Harvard and Howard and all these acclaimed schools so they could brag that their pastor was highly educated. They paid for his whole education, but in his learning, he learned about true worship. He learned about God, and he learned that some of the stuff that they were doing was ritualistic and paganistic and it wasn’t of God. When he became pastor, he sought to change everything, and they went crazy. The church split. About two hundred of them left and started their own church. They changed the name just slightly, and they took a bit of their wealth and money with them, and they continued their practices, but they couldn’t find a pastor, so they found another young guy who didn’t have a church, and they made him like a master of ceremonies. They wouldn’t called him “pastor.” They just kind of put him on salary, and his job was to preach occasionally, not too many times, and they would find other pastors, other preachers to fill the pulpit because they didn’t want anyone to lead them. They had their own business. They were older people. All of them were 65+ and I got in that group of ministers that would come quarterly to preach. I was a newly ordained minister. I wanted to practice my craft, and every time I got in front of these 35-40 people, the Lord had me say some pretty harsh things to them. The Lord spoke through me, and the next thing I knew, I was there permanently. But they told me right off that I was not going to be “it” because I was not their “kind of person,” but they were glad I would stick around until they found it. The Lord had others things for them.

I became the pastor after two years of serving there, and for the next five years, we fought, and we changed. We got the church to grow and we did a whole bunch of stuff, but they, in their hearts, were dead. They did not want my change. They did not what what the Lord had for them. They fought it at every avenue, so with straight reservation and no backing, no support from any other ministers I knew, I resigned, and they cheered. They were glad, and they sought to find somebody they could mold and make in their own image. They stumbled for a couple of years, but then they found somebody, and as soon as he got his credentials that he had been pastor for two years, he left and went back to the church he was trying to get all along. That church, right now, is empty. It was a dead church.   Most of them are still around, but they had to go worship at another church, and some other stuff has happened to them. It’s a strange world out here, but at the same time, I didn’t stop. I’ve been preaching on the corners, preaching at gun ranges, preaching everywhere I can go, wherever folks will listen, and then I found that the Internet allowed me to do this from my basement. I could actually do what I’ve been called to do. When I needed to go out somewhere, BAM! There I go. So, now I’m actually working at a church as an associate of the associate who was working with me! He is now pastor and I’m making sure that I take some of the hits and fiery darts that are thrown his way, and shield him, uplift him, and help him when I can which is always, and help him right his ship, help him do his job, and I’m feeling blessed for it all. That’s enough for the Church of Sardis and Kenn Blanchard today. We’re going to hit more about this church next week, all right?

In my last job, I was a supervisor of armed security officers and we used to just sit around and talk about all kinds of things, stuff that was inappropriate for the job, just typical security guard/law enforcement chatter, and one of the things that was a hot topic was faith and religion. Folks knew that I was a pastor, so they would cautiously and tactfully ask a question that starts a mess to see where people would go. One of the newer guys, one of the nicer guys, had just recently found his faith and he was working with this church, which I think was kind of a cult. They had gathered some extra books and made their own bible, pretty much. And he said it was the Lost Books of the Bible. Have you ever heard of that? “What about the Lost Books?” Has that ever come up into your vernacular, into your mind? See, this question relates to the subject of canonicity. When somebody speaks of the canon of Scripture, they are referring to the collection of sixty-six recognized books that have come to be known as The Holy Bible. The word “canon” means “measuring rod,” actually. And Christians believe that The Bible is the measuring stick God has given us for evaluation of what is true or false, right or wrong. Just as a ruler helps the carpenter saw the board at the right length, our spiritual measuring instrument, the canon, helps us get things right according to what God wants for us. But how did the volume of Scripture get compiled? Why did some ancient religious books from that era not make it in? And, for a whole bunch of reasons, Christians accept that God determined through his prophets this canonicity. Over time, the people of God discovered which of these books were prophetic and therefore canonical. During the time of Jesus, the Jewish Scriptures that made up the Old Testament had long been collated and recognized. The last book of the Old Testament, Malachi, was complete 400 years before the birth of Christ. About 250 years before the birth of Christ, the Septuagint, the rendering of the Jewish Scriptures from Hebrew into Greek, was translated. Historically, by the time of the early church, the inspired writings that would ultimately make up the New Testament began to achieve circulation. During this time, there was also writings in circulation that Christians recognized were not from God, and those were rejected for this canonization. Books from the Old and New Testament eras that were not recognized as belonging to the God-ordained collection of Scriptures, came to be known as apocryphal, meaning “hidden.” Somebody by the name of Origen, who lived around 185-254A.D. may have been the first scholar to use the word “apocryphal” in alerting early Christians to the questionable value of this non-inspired writings. Depending on how one divided the chapters, sections, there are a dozen apocryphal books that exist from the Old Testament era, and about fifteen from the New Testament era. So, the questions becomes: Why should the apocryphal books be rejected as uninspired and therefore not part of the biblical canon that we all know as The Holy Bible, the sixty-six books? Well, here’s the reason: Unlike the actual biblical books, no apocryphal writing claims to have been penned by a prophet in the case of the books from the Old Testament era or by one of Christ’s apostles regarding the writings from the New Testament era. Also, the New Testament quotes Old Testament books but never quotes any of the apocryphal writings except in one instance and that’s in Jude, chapter nine, which does not contradict the Old Testament. Also, Jesus and the apostles never quoted from any of the apocryphal books. Few early church leaders ever referenced any of the apocryphal writings the way they canonical Scripture. Early church leaders who did not consider the apocrypha to be canonical Scripture include Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Origen, and Jerome, a 4th century biblical scholar and translator of Latin. But, wait! There’s more. In the 2nd century, A.D., the earliest copies of the Peshitta, the Syriac bible, did not contain any of the apocryphal writings. When the Dead Sea Scrolls — (now, we’ve heard about that before, right?) the collection of more than nine hundred ancient texts — were discovered at a place called Qumran in the mid 1940’s, included were commentaries of all of the Old Testament books. Within a cache of manuscripts, were some fragments of Jewish apocryphal writings. However, while there are commentaries accompanying all the Old Testament books, there were no commentaries written on any of the ancient apocryphal books leading many to conclude that the ancient scholars from that area, known as the Essenes, didn’t view the apocryphal writings as being on the same plane as Scripture. One of the most respected Dead Sea Scrolls scholars, a guy by the name of Millar Burrows, said, “There is no reason to think that any of these works were venerated as sacred scripture.” So, when somebody’s talking about apocryphal writings and the canonical Bible as we know it, the comments and writings of notable leaders from the early Christian era are worth noting. Philo, who lived 20B.C to 48A.D was a Jewish teacher from Egypt. He quoted the Old Testament prolifically, citing virtually every canonical book, however, he never once quoted from the apocrypha as inspired. Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived from 30A.D to 100 referenced the same thirty-nine books that we know as the Old Testament, and through demonstrating familiarity with them, he never quotes any apocryphal books as Scripture. The Westminster Confession of Faith written in 1647 said, “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are not part of the Canon of the Scriptures, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved or made us of than any other human writings.” So, the wrap-up is: I can be confident that the Scripture that you know as The Holy Bible, the sixty-six books, is complete. Regarding the New Testament, Jesus alluded to the closing of the Canon by the authority He appointed to His apostles of all whom died before the end of the first century. You can check out John 14:26, 15:27, and 1Corinthians 2:13. And what I have known personally is that people will often cite these other books as being “the stuff they don’t want you to know.” It’s like click bait. It makes you want to read, and it also gives you pause to think you’ve been cheated or left out, or that you’ve been missing something. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, and correction, for instruction in righteousness. I believe that the apocryphal books, the story of Enoch, and there’s a whole bunch of other stuff in there, are interesting, but they are not God-breathed. They are not inspired by God. They are not profitable for your doctrine, for reproof, or correction., They will not give you instruction in righteousness. So, at the job, when we were talking, and folks were saying, “See! This part they don’t want you to know! And this right here, what do you think about that, Rev?!” And, I’d just shake my head, “No.”

And, in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

All right, let me tell you what’s going on with your friend and your brother from another mother, the Reverend Kenn Blanchard: I am building the Youtube channel for us, and I’ve decided, through divine intervention, to try to do some children stuff on the website. So, keep me in prayer, as I am going to try to do four-five minute videos for the young at heart, and it will be like a children’s Bible thing in addition to everything else I’ve got going on. Why, Lord, Why? But, it’s a work in progress as I try to figure it out. I’m over the video thing now. I’ve got to worry about the editing and trying to make it sound halfway decent and be entertaining and be understood, all of that. That’s going to be on Speak Life Church Youtube channel. They’ll be link on the show notes for this week. I need to try to build at least one hundred people there. I might try to do the podcast on there as well. That would be different, but I might just put the audio there. I think that’s what will happen because it’s just too much. I can’t, with any accuracy or to the best of my ability, do a 35-40 minute show while the camera’s going and try to make it okay, so, that’s just a bit much for your homey.

The website is up! Please go to speaklifechurch.net and we are making in-roads to making it better for you. Fall is here, officially here, at the time of this recording, and we are hitting October now, and the leaves are starting fall, and it’s still raining. It’s still moist, and trees are falling, and it’s kind of beautiful outside, actually, during this pandemic time. This reminds me of one of those quotes about finding beauty in everything. Somebody once said that life is what you make it, and beauty can be found in anything that you make. If you find the beauty in your own life, you will find beauty in everything, even in the ugliest of times, Right now, some of you are going through a rough time, physically. I am praying with you. Some of you are going through a tough time, financially. I am praying with you. Some are going through a tough time, spiritually. I am praying with you. And, if you don’t believe that, call me, email me, Instagram me, contact me, and we will pray right then! That’s why I’m here.

(Transcriber interjection: He really means this, people. One day, I texted him to please pray for my husband. A few minutes later, I received an audio text of our Brother praying for my husband by name and in detail and at length. He means it. Reach out to him! Ok, that is all. Thank you. -Sister Sarah)

 

This isn’t just a podcast to be on Pandora somewhere like the rest of them. This isn’t just a podcast to pontificate religious niceties. This is not just a podcast that makes you feel good because you didn’t go to a physical church, No! This is a part of the Kingdom of God. This is a part of the Church. This is a part of the Kingdom, and my job is to help you. My job is to inspire you. My job is to help you worship the Most High who doesn’t need a brick-and-mortar building, the Most High who desires to be a friend of yours as He is a friend of mine, the Most High, the One and Only True God who loves you so much that He let a pirate like me work for Him. And, we have not got a date yet for our first meetup online, and if I had announced it today, I’d probably have just two people. So, do you want to do it on Facebook? Do you want to do it on Zoom? Do you want to do it on a gotomeeting platform? I need some feedback, ya’ll. Please, give me a call. Leave a message or something! (202)579-9435. You can leave a message 24-hours-a-day. Let me know your preference, how you would like to reach out, how you’d like to connect with your friend and your brother from another mother, the Reverend Kenn Blanchard who’s trying to do what thus saith the Lord. So, we got the new Youtube channel coming. There’s going to be a section for the kids. There is the new site. Please check it out. There is a membership signup on that, so I can send out newsletters. Look for that newsletter link in the widgets on that page, and what else? I think that’s it. Thank you so much for being a part of this ministry and allowing me to serve you. If there is anything I can do — oh, yeah, we still got the Facebook page, too. We got two, the Speak Life Facebook page, and the Speak Life Church Podcast page.

You matter, just in case you didn’t know that. Oh, yeah! Just a reminder in case your mind is playing tricks on you. You matter. You are important. You’re loved. God loves you. And, your presence on this earth makes a difference, whether you see it or not. This past weekend I went to Hersey, Pennsylvania, and I got a chance to do a wedding of two soldiers — a young man and a young woman. They met in Korea, or Ft. Huachuca, I think that’s where it was they met, and they had all their families assembled together, and it was a big wedding for this pandemic time. I had to keep praying — I’m still praying — I didn’t catch nothing, but I got my Covid test scheduled for Monday, and I’m trusting in the Lord. I social distanced as much as I could. I stayed with one of the families and met a nice brother up there who’s like my new family member, actually. He does all the stuff I wish I knew how to do. He’s a hunter and a fixer, a manly man! Former Army dude, does gunsmithing, does everything. Cool guy. So, I’ve been taking pointers from my younger big brother mentor now on some stuff. Looking forward to that. I’ve got a new fishing buddy, whenever we can get around to it. He doesn’t live, like, next-door, but I will make the trek back to PA to find him. And, although I haven’t mentioned it in a couple of weeks, I want to thanks those who are considering donating and keeping the podcast rolling. Thank you for your enthusiasm. Thank you for your encouragement, in both word and financially. The giving links will be on the show notes, as they always are. I’m not pushing the money thing. God always provides, and if He doesn’t, then, that just tells me something else, right? Roll on, Brother! Do somethin’ else! It’s good though. We’re doing good. We took an extra expense to get the transcripts, and that’s going to be a positive, so I’m not even taking it as an expense. It’s like a needed thing. We needed to make sure that some people could read what I’ve been mumbling, in case you missed a point. So, to God be the glory for that.

Now, may the Lord bless thee, and keep thee. May the Lord make His Face shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee. May the Lord life up His Countenance upon thee and give thee peace. Just in case I don’t see you again on this side of the river, friend, family, my brother and my sister, I will see you at the feet of Jesus. Until next week, shalom, baby. God bless.

 

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Very respectfully, 

Kenn 

pastor@speaklifechurch.net

202-579-9435 (24/7 voice mail)