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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

'( The ) Christ Lives in Me'!

'Why do you call Me good?[f] No one [ is ] good but One, [ that is ], God.'
Matthew 19:17 -NKJV


With verses like Jeremiah 17:9 & Psalm 14:3, 'The heart [ is ] deceitful above all[ things ], and desperately wicked; who can know it?' & '[ There is ] none who does good, no, not one' ringing in their ears, it is no wonder that some Christians today feel that they themselves, even though they believe they house the Holy Spirit, are not good, even worthless! The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Church at Rome ( Romans 7:15 ), writes, 'For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do'. Although it may seem difficult, in this corrupted world that we inhabit, to say these verses no longer apply today; even among Christians, one would be hard-pressed to say this is no longer the case. The desires, the longings that all of us, if we're honest with ourselves, feel on a daily basis, make us feel that the words above apply to every human being ever born!

The funny thing about context is that it must be correctly understood, in order to correctly understand any certain verse! Both historically & covenantally speaking, context determines interpretation, so when we read in Scripture, '[ There is ] none who does good, no, not one', we can see, in context, that the Psalmist is saying that there is no such thing as a good fool, in particular, one who says, '[ There  is ] no God' ( Psalm 53:3 ) When the prophet Jeremiah seemingly denigrates the 'heart' of humanity, the context makes clear he is speaking of a specific people; In speaking of 'The sin of Judah', using similar language to that of the Psalmist, Jeremiah decries the fact that the heart of these people ( Psalm 53: 4 ) is 'deceitful above all[ things ], and desperately wicked'. This is not to say that every thought of our 'heart' is now completely pure ( in a puritanical sense), because, as we can all attest to, everyone has an 'impure' thought at least once a day, whether it's sexual in nature, or just wanting to take an unwarranted jab at someone!

Reading the words of Jesus, in Matthew 19:17 above, those who carry a more modern ( or ancient, as the case may be ) version of the Bible, rather than seeing Jesus denigrate His Humanity, might rather understand that He was reminding the rich young ruler that the Jewish Law told him how to be good: it was their own law that told them to love God & their neighbor as themselves! The apostle Paul, seemingly on the other hand, writes about what most deem his personal struggles in Romans 7:13-25; however, context again must determine our interpretation of his words! Paul, although like the rest of us understood his natural longings & desires, nevertheless was warning his contemporaries against their main adversaries, as he did in all his letters. It was not Roman, but Jewish Law that told them, 'You shall not covet'. As with the rich young ruler, Paul pointed out that it was their own law that condemned them, not their inherent nature. Previously, in the same passage, the apostle had given them this caveat; 'But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not [ in ] the oldness of the letter', much like he wrote later ( 8:1 ) to the same Body, '[ There is ] therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,[a] who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit'.

Because of the glorious fact that 'Christ lives in me' ( Galatians 2:20 ), the apostle Paul realized that, though the Body of Israel had become dead through their own law, those who walk 'according to the Spirit', were no longer under that law & thus its condemnation! In this day & age, one might argue, the corruption that the apostle mourns in his letter to the Romans is alive & well on planet earth. It would seem that they are right, because we bear witness to much depravity that is sounds very similar to what they witnessed in Paul's, even Jesus' own day! However, we understand through context, both historical and covenantal, that we, particularly as Christians, living in the 21st century, are not under that law. While common sense tells us still that to covet another's belongings will only get us in trouble, it is no longer the Law that condemns us, but we ourselves!

While Christians traditionally have well understood the glorious fact that we are not under the condemnation of the Law; it seems there are many who fail to realize the gravity of 'Christ lives in me'! Going back to Romans 7, Paul lamentingly states that 'I am carnal, sold under sin': as a representative of the Body of Israel, Paul realized that, even though they had the Spirit, the Comforter ( John 8 & 14 ), as long as they were under the thumb, so to speak, of the Jewish economy & while the Temple still stood, they were still in captivity, according to the flesh.  Once Jesus had been revealed as the very Son of God from Heaven & having ended the Jewish economy with their reign of terror, even that Law which had plagued the Body of Christ was taken out of the way, having proven to be contrary to the Israel of God ( Colossians 2:14 ). With, as I call it, the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, we have become One with our Heavenly Father, not in the sense that we have become Him, as in the Creator, but as in marriage itself, wherein we are consumed by the same desire!

Although we still fail, to one degree or another, to fulfill the Law of Love, this is not to say that we have failed our humanity! Because the Spirit of Him who 'loved the world' ( John 3:16 ) lives in us, we have been empowered to do what is right; we WANT to do right, not that we always do. Even so, as the apostle wrote to the Church at Rome, 'now, [ it is ] no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me', he realized that, with the Revelation of Jesus as the Christ & the destruction of the Jewish economy, the dwelling of God was now with man ( John 14:23 ), no longer would sin dwell with him or his brethren!

Our desires, even as Christians, seem to often bring us in conflict with the Law of God! However, we must ask ourselves; 'do we really flout the Law of Love, or do we simply fail to live up to it, condemning ourselves in the process?' If the Law does not condemn us, even the Law of Love, then why should we? We are not fools, to deny the Creator & we do not, as Israel according to the flesh, persecute His people. Our failure to always love as we are Loved does not denigrate our humanity; rather, through our failure, we understand our weakness, our finiteness, our physicality!

As we strive, in our humanity, to love our God ( Creator, Father ) & our neighbor as ourselves, we can be sure, even as Paul was, that we serve in the Spirit, bet even more, we live, not in the old 'flesh', but in the new biology, one that relies, not on laws, but on the Spirit! With the apostle, let us live in the Spirit, for we do not live in the flesh; we never have!

Charles Haddon Shank


Monday, January 09, 2017

The Drowning of Atlantis, the Plagues of Egypt & the Exodus Theme of the Hebrew Scriptures

Many have noted the theme of exodus from oppression throughout the Scripture, but still, seemingly contrary to history, affix a literal & supernatural interpretation to the Exodus Story, as passed down to us in the book of the same name! This is not to say that the events laid out for us in the book did not actually happen, nor is it to say that there was nothing supernatural about the event; this is simply to say that the events need not happened, either chronologically or exactly as they are so colorfully & poetically described, in order for them to have taken place. As we can ascertain in the New Testament, in particular, this Exodus Theme is significant of the Gospel of Jesus, who was the Christ; as He was typified by the leader of the original exodus, Moses; Jesus figuratively & really led His people out of the bondage of Sin & Death, which had been typified by Egypt & in His own time, by Israel according to the flesh!

The funny thing about myths is that they are usually ( however loosely ) based in historical fact & so, I imagine, is Plato's reference to the mythical island of Atlantis! If Atlantis ever actually existed ( some say 'yes, while others say 'no'; it should be clear that such a place, though probably not literally accurate according to legend, probably did, at some point in time exist. Though it was most likely not call 'Atlantis'; it is probably fairly safe to speculate that Plato's reference was not original, as he claimed. Most modern critics theorize that 'Atlantis' was merely an allegory for some sort of utopia, a vision of 'the perfect society', while others have striven to prove that such a place did, at one time, exist, though maybe called by another name. Whether it did once exist or whether it IS just an allegory, Atlantis stands forevermore as a legend & an ideal to be sought after by those who believe in the innate goodness of humanity!

The fact that the magicians of the Pharaoh's court, as reported in the book of Exodus, were able to duplicate the first two plagues that Moses pronounced on the Egyptians, as well as turning their staffs into serpents, has always interested me, but with no obvious explanation presenting itself, has remained a mystery to me, though I have been known to speculate on the matter in the past! Why were the Pharaoh's magicians able, like Moses, to bring frogs upon the land, as well as turn the water to blood, but were not able to duplicate the lice ( 'lice' may be a faulty translation here, as it is translated very differently in Isaiah 51:6 ). After this, the magicians seem to have given up, since the Story does not record them striving anymore, though it does record them acknowledging, 'This [ is ] the finger of God' ( Exodus 8:18 ). No matter why they were able to generate the frogs & turn the waters into blood, but were not able to duplicate the 'lice' & following plagues, one thing is clear, these plagues all had one thing in common; they were all natural occurrences!

By claiming that the Plagues of Egypt could all be explained naturally, I am by no means saying there was no supernatural causation; this IS our Father's ( the Creator's ) world after all & all things naturally occurring do so only through His almighty governance! According to my research, a certain  ( volcanic ) island in the Mediterranean Sea erupted quite massively around the time of the purported Exodus. As this eruption put the much more recent Mount St. Helens eruption to shame, it also could account for every single one of the Plagues of Egypt, even the famous 'Parting of the Sea' ( usually called the Red Sea, but more correctly, 'The Sea of Reeds ), though not necessarily in the same chronological order as the author of the book of Exodus recorded them. The resulting ash cloud, being much greater in scope than the fairly recent eruption in Washington state, could easily account for the darkness that the inhabitants of Egypt experienced, as well ( 'dare I say it?' ) the 'deaths of the firstborn'. 'Now that,' one might protest, 'is going too far; that was obviously supernatural!'

Truly, the plagues recorded in the book of Exodus were naturally occurring phenomena, though not necessarily everyday occurrences! The frogs & flies, for instance, could easily be explained by the dead fish resulting from the waters of the river turning to 'blood', which, in turn, might be explained by the fore-mentioned ash cloud, or even ocean currents from as far north & west as the northern Mediterranean Sea. 'If all the Plagues of Egypt may be explained away naturally', one might wonder, 'wouldn't that mean that the Exodus might not have actually taken place, that it's all just a big Story?' Well, it IS a big Story & that's precisely what we must keep in mind here; the Exodus account, as all of Scripture, was written in such a way, not necessarily chronologically, as to reveal a greater, spiritual truth!

Minoan civilization, of which the island of Thera, also known as Santorini, has been found to have been far advanced over any other ancient civilisation, so it would not be surprising to learn that it may have been the origin of the 'Atlantis' myth, or legend. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, the effects were felt as far east as the Dakotas; when Thera erupted, 3,000+ years previously, it affected most of the known world! With the explosive force of hundreds of atomic bombs, Thera's ( underwater ) volcano, as the Finger of God, had more than the capability to rain down down devastation, not only on Egypt, but anything or anyone else unfortunate enough to be in its path!

It is quite likely that the Minoan civilization on Thera, or Santorini, was the genesis of the Atlantean myth! At the time & even looking back on such a society as must have resulted from such advancement, the Minoan civilization must have seemed almost 'utopian'; it certainly would have struck certain philosophers as an ideal society. In fact, there are those of our day who seem to think that all of our political contrivances & technological advances will usher in the vaunted 'Age of Aquarius', but so far, all we have seen is the lengths that humanity will go to maintain its power over others!

The Typology of Scripture is without doubt! As mentioned previously, The Exodus from Egypt typified the True Exodus, that from the bondage of Sin & Death, so in that sense at least, need not necessarily have happened in the exact way it is recorded in order to meet the necessary requirements. The Exodus, the True Exodus did occur; that is also without doubt: Israel met its Messiah, who led them in a Spiritual Exodus! The details, far from being unimportant, were obviously of great import to the original audience, the Hebrew people & those who followed them out of Egypt, but to us, living in the 21st century, the importance lies in the blessed fact that we are the benefactors of thatSpiritual Exodus, though we in turn, are saddled with the responsibility of leading others out of darkness into the everlasting light!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, January 05, 2017

In Dreams We Soar

Deothora felt the wind rush against her face, in gentle remembrance of her mother's soothing touch when she had a fever. To her surprise, the landscape which opened beneath her was one which was almost totally foreign to her, yet, somehow, familiar! At first, she was startled by the fact that she was viewing this scene from such a great distance, but she felt no fear as her stable flight seemed to continue with no sign of ending. Dipping low over the mountain, Deothora tried flapping her arms in an effort to maneuver around the highest peaks, but she found that her arms were pinioned gently by her sides! Consciously taking more note of her immediate surroundings, Deothora found that, on both sides, she was firmly but gently being held by what appeared to be a large, furry, green paw ( or was it a hand? )! Craning her neck as far as she could, she followed the paw/hand back & upward till she found what she had sought for so long. The face she saw, except for the almost cartoonish goofiness, would almost have made one's heart skip a beat & indeed, hers almost did, that is, until she found herself gazing into the kindest, gentlest eyes she had ever seen. As Deothora hung there motionless, having forgotten for a time that she was hurtling at a gentle speed through the clouds, being held by some strange contrivance, she heard a gentle, but obviously powerful voice come out of that cartoonish, almost goofy face above her; 'oh good, you're awake'! When she finally found her voice, which seemed to have been removed from her, ever since she had awoken in such alarming, but peaceful surroundings, the first syllables Deothora was able to utter were, 'who are you? & 'where am I?' The gentle giant chuckled, one of those deep belly-laughs that dragons are famous for-yes this was an honest-to-goodness dragon; 'I am your dream come true' he roared-although it entered her ears as more of a comforting whisper. 'As to where you are,' the dragon continued, 'open your eyes & see!' 'It should be obvious where you are, for you have traversed this country many times!' Turning her wandering gaze downward once again & without even straining her eyes, Deothora discovered that she recognized many of her most favorite places! Having never seen them from this vantage point, though, they had not resonated in her memory, like they should have.

'You have always been so close to the ground', her furry friend said, 'you might not have noticed the beauty that was there all the time, just waiting for you to soar above it all!' Deothora found the view quite breath-taking as they continued to glide effortlessly through the clouds. Though she had experienced the wind in her face before, she had never imagined it could be this exhilarating, or......comfortable?! As high above the ground as they were & as swiftly as they were moving-although it felt like they were just out for a stroll-Deothora was amazed that she was not in the least bit cold! 'Of course', she thought, almost laughingly, 'I AM surrounded by fur!'

Deothora's heart had been captured by a dragon, which, if you know anything about dragons-or think you know-have gotten a bad rap! Dragons are pictured in many fairy-tales as almost the personification of evil. However, we who know, know that dragons are simply creatures like us! Okay, so they have wings to fly, but really, so do we! We can read a book, or even just sit with our eyes closed, listening to music & soar through the clouds of imagination. While our bodies are tethered to the ground-through the unseen force of gravity, or some such vain imagination-our spirits soar through the clouds, allowing us to rise above it all & appreciate the beauty that surrounds us, though too often it seems we can't see the forest for the trees!

Elothar-that was the dragon's name- had surprised Deothora in a dream one day, lifting her out of her slumber & giving her a view of her country that she had only ever imagined in her dreams! As they flew over the ever-changing landscape, Deothora began to relish the wind in here face; 'faster, faster!' she cried. Tilting his huge head down, her furry friend replied, 'if we go any faster, you won't enjoy the journey, my dear!' To prove his point, Elothar sped up his pace very minutely & THEN Deothora realized that she was beginning to feel the cold air they had been soaring through all along!  She had such a peaceful feeling, clutched in Elothar's giant paw,  that she had never before noticed the chill that was in the air, forming the very mists they were flying through!

Deothora had never experienced such bliss, though in her dreams she had always suspected that she had glimpsed it! Elothar had given Deothora more than just a glimpse, however; he had shown her how to rise above it all. He had shown her that, while in dreams we soar, even in our waking moments, we CAN rise above it all, see the beauty of the forest in which we live & enjoy the comfort & security which dragons may afford us. Soaring through the clouds, though, as Elothar & Deothora did that day, we must be ever careful to curb our speed, for if we try to go too fast, we may miss something along the way; as dragons know best, a slow, but steady, pace is best for both comfort & enjoyment!

As all good things must come to an end, as they say, so Deothora's flight of fancy came to an abrupt, but not uncomfortable conclusion! Elothar spoke to her in a tone that was both joyful & sad; 'our time together is over for now-do not say 'goodbye'-but never fear, always soar; I will see you in  your dreams!' As he spoke these parting words, Deothra felt the giant paws tighten about her in a kind of farewell hug & then, for what seemed like hours-though it couldn't have bee more than a minute or two-Deothora was soaring by herself, in a steady but gentle glide towards the country she had grown to love & the place she called Home. As her favorite bed rushed up to greet her, with its loving embrace, the gnawing realization finally hit her; 'WAIT, I remember you NOW!'

For Deborah,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Inner Sanctum

We have just celebrated the birth of Emmanuel, or 'God with us'; as Christians, of course, this is something we celebrate year 'round (let that sink in ), but how often do we really think about what that means; in other words, 'what does it mean to us that God is with us ( John 14:23 )?' As discussed in a previous post, 'sure, we have the Spirit indwelling us', but why are most Christians waiting for more, in other words, why do they continue to look for salvation outside themselves? The concept of looking within oneself for salvation will most likely sound heretical, even blasphemous to most, but given the twin facts that Israel was the receptor of the salvation we read of in the Scriptures & that the so-called Godhead, or Trinity now dwells with us, in our hearts, so to speak, it should really not be shocking to realize that it is within ourselves that we should look for the Strength to work ( out ) our own salvation!

The subject of 'Heaven' is quite a controversial one: whether it is an actual 'place' out there somewhere, in the heavens or whether it is a separate realm or dimension, one thing is clear; it is the Dwelling ( place ) of the Creator God, also known as our Heavenly Father! Jesus told the Pharisees, who were a bit confused about the Nature of the coming Kingdom, 'the kingdom of God is within you' ( Luke 17:21 ). Coupled with Jesus' words in John 14 ( 23 ), 'if anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him', it should not be hard to understand that 'Heaven' is in our hearts. By saying 'in our hearts', of course I do not refer to the physical organ, nor to biology at all, but to our inmost being, our spirit. As the Kingdom of Heaven & the Kingdom of God seem to be interchangeable in Scripture, we may safely conjecture that they are the same & refer to the Realm of the Creator God!

The Creator, or 'God', if you will, though He has made His ( Her, Its ) Home with man, is not however confined to mankind: He ( She, It ) is still the Creator! One issue I have encountered when bringing up John 14:23 in conversation is the supposed omnipresence of the Creator God. I do not mean to say, along with the Deists, perhaps, that after everything had been finished, the Creator God stepped out of the picture & let it all go to hell, nor do I mean to imply that it is only with ( in ) His human Creation that He abides, or dwells. I mean simply to say that our Heavenly Father has awakened us, opened our eyes, so to speak, to the Reality that we can exist on two different planes, in two dimensions at once!

The fact that we are spirit beings having a physical experience is one that I have tried to make clear in my writings, as it has become more impressed upon my own mind of late. Along with this realization has come its own difficulties, leading to further study & consideration. The issue of gender, for instance, has been a rather hot topic lately! If, as I posited in a certain conversation recently, the body, not the spirit, determines gender, then may we rightly say that there are male & female spirits? Could this be one thing that the apostle Paul  referred to when he wrote, 'there is neither male nor female' ( Galatians 3:28 )? Another question that might arise is, 'do spirits dwell in the physical ( biological ) realm, or do they exist in the another dimension altogether, although right alongside the visible realm?' Is this not what the prophet's servant saw, as recorded in II Kings 6:17? Could this be the real import of what Jesus said in Luke 20:34-36?

Jesus, as recorded in John 6:63, said, 'It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [ they ] are life'. A bit out of context maybe, but couple this with the fact that in the beginning, the Creator God breathed into Adam 'the breath of life' ( Genesis 2:7 ) Along these same lines, the prophet's vision in Ezekiel 37 showed that it was not the physical, or biological body of Israel that needed to be resurrected, it was the spiritual body which was about to be raised to life once more.At the end of his famous diatribe on 'faith without works', in James 2:14-26, the apostle wrote 'the body without the spirit is dead' & in the same breath that 'faith without works is dead also'.

Believing in a Covenant Creation, as I & many others do, one might note a seeming inconsistency with this viewpoint, in that the body of Adam, as the Body of Israel in Ezekiel 37, had no life until 'the breath of life' entered the picture, because that would mean that Adam, or mankind, had no life in them previously. Well, that might pose a difficulty if it were not for the fact that Ezekiel 37 at least, is metaphorical of the fact that the body of Israel had become entangled in the lies of Sin & Death! With that aside, one might well note that it is the spirit, with or without the blessing of the Spirit of Life, that animates the body!

The spiritual dimension, though known & experienced by many since the dawn of time, has recently been opened to the eyes of even more. Some religions, but the Christian religion in particular, has traditionally taught that it is not until the spirit leaves the body that one enters this realm, also known as 'Eternity'. This could lead to another discussion entirely, but I believe that, since the Resurrection occurred in the first century, we inhabit that Realm! As human beings, yes, our biological 'self' is confined to this earthly ( physical ) realm, but as spiritual beings, we have ascended, or at least are ascending, in a manner of speaking, to the spiritual, or heavenly realm. Is this not what the writer to the Hebrews meant when he wrote 'you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn [ who are ] registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect' ( Hebrews 12:22 & 23 )?

The Creator God, we can truly attest to, operates without the confines of Time, which all human beings, biologically speaking, are liable to! Since the Kingdom of Heaven has been brought to earth, we, though not our 'flesh and blood' ( I Corinthians 15:50 ) have entered this Hidden Realm. One might wonder if the spirit had not always existed in that other dimension, but that might be another matter for another post. While in this body, we often feel as if we're in 'Hell', so to speak; it is with our spirit & strengthened by the Spirit, that we can choose to transcend this mere biological experience & make a home in 'Heaven'!

'Somewhere, out there.............' is a cry of hope that a host of dreamers have uttered for millenia! The traditional Christian hope of 'Heaven' is not a false hope ( 'Yes, Virginia, there IS a Heaven!' ); it is simply a misplaced one! Heaven is not some place that we will inhabit only in the after-life ( ? ), 'Heaven' is another dimension, another plane of existence, if you will, in which our spirituality leads our biological bodies to live in a way that's heavenly!

As we prepare to enter upon a New Year, in a timely manner, let us determine within ourselves to live beyond the mean, to realize that we are spiritually with our Lord, the Creator God, our Heavenly Father! Though these biological bodies will never enter this Realm, we may, through the Strength of the Spirit Within, transform our World into a recognizable 'Heaven', as the Spirit causes Life to flow through our fingertips, from one Realm into another!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Pattern of Prophecy & the Exodus Theme

The Story of Scripture, from Adam to Jesus, is the Story of Israel! If you follow my meanderings at all, this is not an unfamiliar notion to you. The concept that our first parents, Adam & Eve, were not the first human beings to traverse the planet is not a new one, though among most Christians, it is a fairly radical notion. Scientists, especially those who cling to the theory of evolution, have purported for ages that mankind has roamed the earth for tens of thousands of years. The notion that Adam & Eve were not the first humans to inhabit the region we know as the Near East is an idea whose time has come; the fact that they were simply the first ones through whom the Creator God deemed to enter into His Creation, is a radical one indeed, so radical, in fact, that it may just end up transforming our theological landscape!

The question has come before this blogger recently, of why we are reading the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures, rather than learning about the life of the Buddha, or other Ancient Near Eastern 'gods' ( or their servants ). Why are we, here in America, studying the Bible rather than the Q'ran? As I discussed in one of my recent posts, it is because of 'The Resonance of the Story'! As I discussed, the Story of Israel is really the story of humanity. The Story of Scripture, though it tells about how the God of Creation chose to make His Purpose known through a special people, the children of Israel, or Jacob, actually mirrors humanity very well, as it records the rise & fall of many an individual, corporate body & empire!

Following the Story of Israel, from Adam's Fall in the Garden to the Fall of the Corporate Body of Israel, from the murder of Abel to the murder of Zechariah, we may note a pattern throughout that resonates within us, even here in America, so far removed from the original subject matter. From the first prophecy of a messiah ( Genesis 3:15 ), to when that longed-for Messiah came 'in the fullness of time', as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, we see a pattern throughout, prophecies which pointed to & were indicative of a time to come when the Creator God would dwell with His People, as pictured in the tabernacle & the Temple. We've covered this ground before, but as He walked with Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden ( the original Temple ), so He would again, through Jesus, walk among His People &; indeed, fashion them into His New Temple!

As we have been blessed, at Covenant Community Church, by the ministrations of our two teaching elders, we have become fairly familiar with the Exodus Theme that runs throughout Scripture. The Captivity of Israel, in its many iterations, was typical of the bondage that the human race has been embroiled in since its inception! The Fall of Adam & Eve in the Garden, especially when read with the understanding that it is apocalyptic literature & Ancient Near Eastern at that, should resonate with anyone who reads the account in Genesis 3. The following accounts of the murder of Abel, the Falls of Noah & Abraham, the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel & their fleshly struggles throughout those wanderings, the times of the Judges & Kings, all leading up to the Final Exodus of the Israel of God & the Birth of the Promised One in the midst of captivity & His ministry remind us all of our own struggles & search for salvation!

The Exodus, from Egypt, of the children of Israel, although traditionally understood as historical narrative, has come under critical fire in the past few decades, as there seems to be no evidence, aside from Scripture, that it ever occurred exactly as we read it in the biblical narrative! There can be found, with some speculation, records of similar events that happened around the same time, but the main weight, which we can ascertain from a cursory reading of the Greek Scriptures, is that the events of the first Exodus ( from Egypt ) served as a picture of the Final Exodus that Jesus ( who was the Great Anti-type ) led His People in, an Exodus from the Bondage of Sin & Death!

The Creator God not only walks with His People once again, He has made us His Temple, His Dwelling on Earth! The Pattern of Prophecy, as we have noted previously, pointed to this Reality & still today, as the Scriptures are carefully read, resonates within the hearts of true believers, reminding us of this Chief End of Man ( kind ). As the Israel of God, the True Temple where He now resides in His fullness & having been made aware of our true, spiritual nature, we serve as the purveyors of His Love. It is when we fail to share that Love that we notice problems such as are recorded in the pages of Scripture!

The Hebrew Scriptures, standing alone, would indeed paint a far different theological landscape than that which we admire today! Though much of our orthodox doctrines are still based on the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures, it is widely accepted that most of what was prophesied in them was fulfilled in the Christ. We, here in America follow the Scriptures rather than the Q'ran because of what I'll call 'The Fulfillment Factor'! 'The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed'. This is a true & noteworthy statement; Jesus, or the Messiah of Israel, being prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, was truly & finally revealed in the Greek Scriptures. In the Q'ran, we see no such thing: like many Christians, we may note that the Blessed Hope of Islam lies primarily in the 'afterlife'. Unlike most Jews, these Christians believe that though the Messiah came as prophesied, He must come again to finish His work of Redemption. The Realization that He came as promised & prepared us as His Dwelling ( place ), His New Temple, helps us to understand that His work, to Redeem Israel, WAS finished; now we simply fulfill ( continue ) that work!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Out of the Bag

'Mom.....Dad.....Y'all might wanna sit down for this.....'

Lynn should have known better; every parent dreads what comes next-okay, so sometimes it's not nearly as bad a their child thinks it is-but especially Lynn's folks; both were good upstanding members of a local congregation & her dad was even a deacon! Lynn Gaylord had always felt...............well, special; never quite fitting in with all the others-boys or girls-but somewhat of an affinity for both. She had, up to this point, led a fairly normal childhood, but now that she had hit puberty, full-force, so to speak, Lynn was beginning to hear 'The Call of the Wild' even more!

As her parent's blood began to warm their faces again, Lynn continued her confession; 'I always had this nagging feeling that I wasn't quite like all the rest-I'm sure you had your suspicions too-but as I've bee doing a lot of growing in the past several years, I've discovered that I prefer...................'Boyz II Men'. As soon as the words had left her mouth, both of Lynn's parents jumped to their feet, words rushing out of their mouth like water from a freshly un-kinked hose!

'Oh, honey, we're so relieved; we had noticed as you were growing up that you were a bit.....different, but this is such a load off our minds!

'But, mom..........dad..............', Lynn replied, as she picked her mouth up off the carpet, 'I said I like 'Boyz II Men', not boys in general; I'm both cissexual & cisgender, if that's what you were worried about!'

Well, of course, being old 'fuddie-duddies', Lynn's poor parents had never even heard the term ( s ) before, so back up went the blood pressure, almost immediately reaching the boiling point-for her dad, anyway!

'What the hell..........' her dad began to protest, as her mother quickly tried to calm the storm that was brewing. 'we love you anyway, dear, no matter what you choose to be..............' Lynn's mom had heard terms like 'transgender' & transsexual' before, so she knew enough about those kinds of things to know that they just weren't quite right. Lynn's dad, on the other hand, knew enough about these 'things' to know that no child of his was gonna have anything to do with such 'things'!

'I forbid..............', he tried again-more weakly this time-as Mom turned the full force of her 'death stare' on him! 'Dear', her mom asked, 'what exactly do you mean by 'cisgender' & 'cissexual'?' 'We've heard other similar terms, but these are new to us.' To tell you the truth, Lynn's mom was actually more worried about the 'sexual' part more than ''gender-her little baby daughter was only 15, for God's sake!

With a petulant, almost perturbed look on her face, Lynn gave her parents the definition of both cisgender & cissexual. 'Cissexual' , she replied as her eyes tried to roll up like some old window blinds, 'simply means, 'noting or relating to a person who is comfortable with having the physical characteristics of that person’s biological sex'; in other words, one who is not transsexual!'

Both Lynn's parents felt quick & obvious relief at this, though, now that her father had gotten past the first stages, he too felt a twinge at the word 'sexual'-both parents had grown up in a puritannical environment, so this was to be expected! Their daughter was simpy pulling one on them, they quickly realized, assuring them she was straight, while 'getting their goat' by using unfamiliar words like 'cissexual' & 'cisgender'!

Lynn was relieved; 'you're not mad about the 'Boyz II Men' thing?', she asked, somewhat incredulously! 'Oh, dear,' her mother replied-her father hadn't found his voice yet-he'd talk to HER later, 'we're just so relieved that you haven't made any..............strange, choices, we really didn't even pay much attention to the 'II Men' part; of course it's okay that you like them, but be careful who you tell though, those boy-groups ARE a bit....strange!'

This has just been a parable of sorts, but also a warning, a warning that one day your own son or daughter might face you-the parent-with such a confession! When he or she does, the best thing to do is.......'SHUT UP & LET ME FINISH!' They might be trying to tell you, in their own weird way that they're pretty normal, or, they might actually like 'boy-groups': then, my friends, you might have REAL cause for concern!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, December 19, 2016

Emmanuel-'God With Us'

Yes, it's that time of year again, the Season in which we traditionally celebrate the Birth of the Savior of the World! We know that Jesus was most likely born in a very different Season, but, as the story goes, religious leaders borrowed from pagan tradition & settled the day that we celebrate Jesus' Birth to coincide with the Winter Solstice, or the time when the days begin ( slowly ) to get longer: some call this 'the coming, or appearing of the light'. No matter its origins, the Christmas season has been one in which we lay aside our worries for a season & gather together as friends & family, whether to celebrate the Birth of Jesus, or just to have a jolly good time!

Seasonal Affectations aside, the Winter Season is harder on us then any other Season; especially living in any of the northern states, where it usually dumps a lot of snow & the temperatures often drop ( way ) below most people's comfort level, the Winter Season can be one of the hardest to survive while maintaining any degree of sanity. While there are many who work year-round, there are quite a few, particularly in the more rural areas, who work seasonally, in other words, as the conditions allow; hence, for those whose work is primarily done outdoors, the Winter season IS a time of Rest, but if not careful, it can be a time of hardship as well!

What does it mean to you that God, or the Creator is with us? Ask anybody, including most Christians & you'll probably receive a fairly 'pat' answer, something like 'His Spirit dwells in us!' True enough; His Spirit DOES indeed indwell His people, but, Scripturally speaking, nowhere does the Bible record those words; sure, a general misreading & misunderstanding of certain texts ( John 8 & 14 ) seem to IMPLY that He does ( or will ), but only one portion actually says ( outright ) that ANY part of the so-called 'God-head' will indwell us & the Spirit is not even mentioned ( by Name? ) there: 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him'. These are the words of Jesus, as recorded in John 14:23.

The Creator God, as far as we know, is a Spirit! It is universally accepted that this is so, yet still, we have most Christians saying that within the so-called 'God-head', we have the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. I've asked this question before & it sounds almost so profoundly simple as to be somewhat ignorant, but 'does a Spirit have a spirit?' Such a concept might lead to other seemingly ignorant questions like, 'IS the Creator God a Spirit Being?' One might be lead to ask, 'is the Creator God human, like us?' 'Is that what it means when it says we were made in His Image?' Believe it or not, I've actually heard reasoning akin to this!

Whatever the case may be, when Jesus was born of the Virgin ( young woman ), He fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel' ( Isaiah 7:14 ) A natural objection might be, 'but Jesus was NEVER called Immanuel ( Hebrew? ), or Emmanuel ( Greek? )!' In Matthew's record of the Gospel, though, the Birth of Jesus IS recorded as fulfilling this hopeful prophecy & it is universally accepted that this Jesus was, as the hymn-writer put it, 'Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing'!

The Indwelling of the Spirit HAS made a world of difference! No more do we strive with 'the flesh', though at times it sure seems like it; no more must we wait for a time when our Messiah will come (unless we, like the Jews of Jesus' Day look for a political Savior )! Whether one trusts the biblical record or not, Jesus came as 'God in the flesh-God with us' & so brought to an end the reign of terror that the children of God had labored under since Adam fell!

With this Season of Rest comes hardship as well; for those who do not carefully prepare during the previous times ( seasons ), Winter can be the worst season, especially for those who can only work 6-8 months ( if that ) out of the year. You've no doubt heard the saying, 'make hay while the sun is shining'; those who make their living doing mostly seasonal work ( Spring through Fall ) know the meaning of this well-used phrase best! In order to make it through the Winter months, these must often scrimp & save to put aside during the months when certain kinds of work can be done.

The Celebration of Christmas, or the Mass of Christ, is a long-standing tradition, one that will probably never die! Though most who celebrate it realize that it is most likely the wrong season, not many realize, or acknowledge it's pagan roots. Like a good friend of mine recently said, though,'we have co-opted it'; in other words, we have made it our own! We do dot celebrate the birth of the Sun ( god ), we celebrate the Birth of the Son. We do not honor the false deity of the Roman god Saturn, we honor the Living God, who in the form of His Son, Jesus who was the Christ, came to dwell with us forever!

As 'God with us', Jesus brought to fruition the Promise of the Ages! He did not come simply to set His People free & then return to some far off 'Heaven' where He bides His time waiting to return & finish His Work; He came to indwell them so that they could continue His Work! The Dominion Mandate given to Adam so long ago is at the heart of this Season; through the Spirit Within, we have the Strength, not only to continue His Work, but to Rest, like He did, in an Eternal Seventh Day!

Charles Haddon Shank