HERETIC ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WARNING; READING THIS BLOG MAY PROVE UNHEALTHY TO YOUR ORTHODOXY!!!!

Monday, July 17, 2017

From the Ashes Of Orthodoxy

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of  persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
II Peter 3:10‭-‬13 NKJV

'Have you ever thought that, if you're wrong, you're going to hell?!'

'Well, it's a good thing I don't believe in hell then, huh?'

The orthodox, or 'accepted, traditional' doctrine of 'Heaven & Hell' has always been that of certain places, whether geographical or otherwise, that a soul enters upon the expiration of one's biological body. To differing extents & please correct me if I'm wrong, the notion of spending the afterlife in torments or pleasure spans the major religions, including Christianity, Judaism & Islam. These beliefs go back to well before the time of Christ. The Christian doctrine of 'Heaven & Hell' was heavily influenced by Greek mythology, Dante's picture of 'Hell', or 'Hades' being perhaps the foremost example.

'Heaven & Hell' are not the only doctrines under fire today; the resurrection of the body, the nature of the Christ & of the Creator God Himself ( Scripturally speaking ) are all in need of reexamination! The Nature of the Creator God, of course, is of utmost importance in understanding our own nature. If we do not understand correctly the Nature of our Heavenly Father, then we cannot, as His Creations, His Children, truly understand & embrace our own!

The Resurrection is arguably THE most looked-for & longed-for event in human history! Whether or not one believes the Resurrection is in our future, or whether one accepts that the Resurrection spoken of in Scripture already transpired in history, one thing should be clear; if the resurrection of individuals, whether biologically or spiritually, is in view within the pages of Scripture, this has obviously not happened yet. Maybe it's an ongoing thing; if the Resurrection is merely a spiritual event, on an individual basis, would that not mean that it occurs when a person ( again, Scripturally speaking ) 'comes to (the ) Christ'? On the other hand, if the Resurrection is/was a one time event, maybe the futurists are right & it is only the End of Time itself that will prove this miraculous event!

Jesus the Christ, as Israel's long-awaited Messiah, or Savior was raised from the dead! Scripture records this miraculous event & says that His resurrection was an indication of our own. Let me back up here a little & say that this Resurrection was promised to Israel, the Body of which had died ( metaphorically ) through covenant separation. The Resurrection, then, has already, according to Scripture, taken place, as true Israel rose like a phoenix from the ashes ( dust ) of Israel under that first covenant!

The miraculous nature of Jesus' birth aside, it is clear that He WAS a Man; however, according to the orthodox understanding of Scripture ( not necessarily wrong ), He was also God! That Jesus was God, though only the Son, not the Father, He Himself made perfectly clear. As the avowed Son of God, Jesus stated that 'before Abraham was, I AM' ( John 8:58 ), thus claiming to be the Creator God Himself!

Here's where understanding correctly the Nature of the Creator God comes into play: as we noted before, in order to truly understand our own nature, we must first understand our Heavenly Father's! First of all, He is the Creator; we are creators: being made in His Image & bearing His likeness, we. to whatever extent create life or bring death, just like our Father-God.. It is ultimately our nature, yes, which allows us, gives us the power to choose whether we will do one or the other. Being made like Him, we are judges of the earth, with the power & authority to determine matters of life & death.

The orthodox understanding of the nature of man, or mankind, is that man, through his own doing, is fundamentally flawed. According to this doctrine, it is only a supposed second appearing of Jesus, in His biological body, that can rescue mankind from this terrible situation he has placed himself in. In some sense, this doctrine is on the right track; it has simply been misplaced! As the Christ rises in our hearts ( resurrection? ), we are awakened to our true nature, that of Sons of God ( individually ), or the Son of God ( corporately ).

The true nature of Jesus, as the Christ, then, was that, as a Man, He was imbued with Power from on High, by which He was enabled to rescue His people Israel from the ( awkward ) situation they had placed themselves in. As God, He was able to rise from the dead, as significant of what He had done for His people, in raising them from the ash-heap. Jesus was the personification of the Christ & being made in His Image, we too are Christs, with the Power, through our choices, to raise people from the ash-heaps of their own making, or condemn them to a thousand deaths!

Every myth is based in truth & so the doctrine of 'Heaven & Hell', as taught by the orthodox church, though based on myth, also has its foundation in reality! Through individual choices, one may experience the joys of  'Heaven' or suffer an eternity in 'Hell'. Experiencing 'Hell' may not seem like much of a choice, but by deciding to quit walking certain 'paths', one may escape the rigors of 'Hell'. By then following the right 'path', one may experience, though fraught with danger, an eternity in 'Heaven'!

'Orthodox' does not ( necessarily ) mean 'wrong'! For the past many millenia, the Kingdom of the Creator God has seen much growth. Even with their limited understanding of these few doctrines I have enumerated, the Good News of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth has captured, without force of arms, many hearts. Having risen from the ashes of orthodoxy, though, for there is quite an ash-heap therein, may we truly understand the nature of what is & with that knowledge, bring resurrection to a world that has fallen into the dust of sleep!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I AM; the Divine Principle

The great search for light, life and love only begins on the material plane. 
Carried to its ultimate, its final goal is complete oneness with the universal consciousness.
 The foundation in the material is the first step; then comes the higher goal of spiritual attainment. 
 - Doreal



Did Life, as we know it, have a Beginning? Will it have an End? I guess I could be a little less ambiguous & just say outright that I'm writing on two main assumptions here, the first being that the Bible is not a Science textbook; the first couple of chapters in Genesis, what most know as 'the creation account' ( or 'accounts' ), are NOT a record of the literal formation, however many eons ago, of the known universe, even of what what most people envision when the term 'heavens and earth' pops up. My second assumption here, built upon the first, is that the inhabited earth goes back much further in Time or Eternity than previously thought.

Principle, more or less, is the Law by which a thing is governed. It may also be called the Source. The Source, or Principle, ultimately, of all created things, both visible & invisible, is what we call 'God'. This 'God' is known, by most religions, to be the Creator of all living things, the Divine Source of Life. It is this Divine Principle which governs all things & while most people, especially Christians, will put a 'face' on this Creator God, or Source; It may rightly be defined as Universal Law. It is when this Law is not obeyed ( Jesus presented this Principle ) that problems, diseases & such are presented by human beings & animals alike.

The History of Humanity proves that mankind has always been aware of the Creator. The mythologies & legends of time past show that even the most ancient of civilizations knew that there was a Higher Power that initiated Life on this planet, in particular. Now, to be sure, most if not all of these ancient civilizations honored a multiplicity of Gods, while we as Christians, worship the Creator as One God, in several different aspects ( most Christians use the term 'Trinity' ); however, this is not to say that the ancients, with their pantheon of Gods, were totally wrong!

Our God, our Heavenly Father, as many call Him, is, according to our understanding of the Truth revealed in Scripture, the Source of all Life. 'In the Beginning, God Created': these opening words of our English Bibles, we now know, spoke, not so much of the beginning of Time, but of the institution of a special Covenant, the End ( Goal ) being the Revelation of the Son of the Creator God. Scripturally speaking, we know this Son of God as Jesus. Jesus the Christ was the Messiah of Israel, for He presented to the World, through Israel, the Creator God, the Principle of Life, in human form. Though obviously human, Jesus incorporated Divinity, revealing to all with eyes to see that humanity had been perfected, indeed, was perfect!

Perfection, in this day & age is most often viewed as something to be attained, but when we try to attain perfection rather than just being perfection, we run into the problem that ego presents. We tend to overthink things & when combined with the erroneous notion that we must attain perfection, we often end up actually fighting against our own perfection! The ego, also know as the lower ( base ) mind tells us that we are naturally prone to evil & therefore we focus unduly on the equally erroneous notion that we are mere human beings & must be thus perfected. This error has caused humanity to fight against our true nature, something the Creator God obviously never intended!

We may use the analogy here of the opposite poles of the Earth, or of a magnet. They, especially in the case of magnets, might seem to be opposing forces & though they a seem to be opposite in nature, they do not oppose each other in the sense that they are antagonistic. Rather they bring balance to the object they are a part of. As with positive & negative ( charges ), Yin & Yang, Body & Spirit, All are necessary to the perfect balance of Nature, whether it be human, animal or plant.

Universal Law thus brings it all together, human, animal & plant life. All are meant to live together as One & when one part isn't functioning correctly, the balance is affected, however slightly or greatly. When this occurs, we have death, disease & kinds of evil!

All ARE One, coming from the same Source, but not all function thusly & so we have wars & rumors of war. If all were to function as the One that we ARE, wars would cease & the brotherhood of man ( sisterhood of women ) would rule supreme: until that glorious day, however, we must focus on reconciling with our own perfection, our own spirituality & from there, work outwardly!

Jesus told His Disciples they would do even greater works than He did, according to our understanding of Scripture. Whether or not this was a metaphorical statement addressing their present distress, or a universal one for all Eternity may be up in the air, but one thing is for sure; He knew that human beings were capable of so much more than they had, to that point, at least in the History of Israel, exercised. If only humanity could move past that barrier, break through that veil & pierce the darkness, only glory awaited!

By saying we are One with the Source of All, we are not saying we ARE that Source; we are simply of the same Essence & being of the same Essence, we carry that same Fire, or Spark of Divinity! Not all manifest that Divinity to the same degree & some never do manifest it. Even so, it is there, even though it be smothered to the point that it is all but unrecognizable. When we present the Christ, however, we do manifest that Divinity to a gasping world that desperately needs to realize the glorious fact of our oneness. Realizing this glorious fact will bring humanity to the brink of a lasting peace such as the prophets foretold!

The same Principle that formed the worlds & brought Life into existence is the Principle that brings us together into this necessary realization. Understanding that this Divine Principle is our Beginning & End, our Alpha & Omega, helps us to realize that as we belong to It, so does everyone & everything else! Thus, while we may have our differences, as parts of a whole, we may function as One Body, living together in Peace & Harmony, the way Nature intended!

Asking if Life had a Beginning, in a sense, is akin to asking if the Universe itself, even if Divine Principle had a Beginning. Christians, for ages, have viewed biblical history as the Beginning & End of Time. With further unveiling, we have discovered that, just as the End of biblical history did not signal the end of time, so the Beginning of biblical history did not reveal the beginning of Time. Maybe it's time we stopped thinking of History, or Time, as linear & started understanding it's circularity: 'What goes around comes around', right?

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Masters of Destiny

But, there was a catch! It seemed there was always a catch. If she had really thought about it, nothing was truly free; somebody had to 'pay the piper'. Destiny had never really given it much thought before, because, growing up in a more or less loving home like she did, she had never really had to pay her own way. Her parents had always made sure she had everything she needed ( even some stuff she wanted ), so Destiny had never had to fend for herself; plus, the fact that she had not really ever been taught to survive on her own counted against her.

So when Destiny's new 'friend' told her that she was going to have to carry her own weight, she was a bit flustered. At first, she was kinda okay with what he told her she must do ( 'after all, it WAS just him, right?' ), but when other girls starting staying with them ( even other men! ), Destiny felt pretty sure that this wasn't the future she had dreamed of. She played the role for what seemed like years ( maybe it was! ), getting more & more tired, wearing herself out till she had earned dark circles around her eyes. She was losing weight, becoming almost waifish in appearance. The drugs he gave her didn't help much either, not like they were supposed to, anyway. The more she relied on them, the more she needed them.

Destiny continued to suffer the rather short leash she was on, because she thought she had no other choice, but one day someone came along, promising to take her away from all of this! The drudgery that she went through on a daily basis had taken an obviously heavy toll on her body, which was looking pretty old for one so young. If she ever hoped to see her twenties, she had to act quickly!

It took some doing, but her new 'savior' finally convinced her old 'friend' to let her leave & go with him to a different city. Destiny was glad for the change: she had worn herself out in that other place, doing certain things she was pretty sure weren't healthy, physically or spiritually speaking. When she was finally free of that place & settled down in her new home, Destiny breathed a sigh of relief; it was good to be able to just rest & recuperate without having to do all those things that other man had made her do!

For the first year or so, Destiny was almost tempted to think she had died & gone to Heaven! Her 'savior' played the part of 'the white knight', seemingly going beyond the call of duty, making sure she had everything her little heart desired. She was beginning to fill out again, the dark circles around her eyes were almost gone & she was beginning to regain her youthful appearance again ( she WAS only almost 18, after all ) If she had thought about it, Destiny would have known that, someday, there would be a price to pay, but as we've seen, Destiny never was much of a thinker!

'Out of the frying pan, into the fire!' Very quickly, Destiny was learning the horrifying truth of that phrase. If she thought she'd had it bad before, she found that this man was ten times worse. Although she was spared the horrors that she'd suffered before, she quickly learned the evil that men are capable of: and this time, they didn't leave a mark!

She was not subjected to the filthiness that she had endured before, but now she learned that the game could be played much dirtier than she had ever thought possible! Destiny found herself playing the part of a pawn in a very large game of chess, or cat & mouse, if you prefer. As long as she did exactly what she was told, when she was told. Destiny had no serious issues, but the minute she questioned her erstwhile 'savior', she learned very quickly to keep her opinions to herself. She also found out how much pain one could be subjected to, all without leaving a mark!

When Destiny finally decided she'd had enough & made plans to escape, she found this master a bit harder to leave behind. Leaving, for one thing, would involve leaving behind all the comforts, cold though they were, to which she had become accustomed. It would also mean making her own way & as good as that sounded, it scared her as well. She had, ever since she left her parents behind, been taken care of, to whatever extent, even though there was always a price to pay. Destiny knew, though, that she couldn't continue on this path if she was to have any hope of surviving this journey!

The decision to quit this business, Destiny knew, was the best she had ever made. Though she knew it would mean, once again, pulling up roots & finding another city, doing so would probably save her life! While leaving this master behind, to say nothing of her former life-style, was by no means an easy task, she was finally able to break free of her chains. Once free, Destiny vowed, with all the Strength that was in her frail body, never to return!

___________________________________________________________________________________

The Destiny Saga, from the beginning, has been almost totally a work of pure fiction. However, some might find that it resonates with their spirit, whether because of similar personal experience, or that of a loved one or mere acquaintance. Whatever the case may be, we should all be able to relate, to whatever extent, with the theme of having a master over us. We are, each one of us, the master over our own destiny, through choice. Destiny was finally able to break free of her bondage, though she bore the scars of experience till the day she passed on her life to Sarah.

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah & the Lamb of God

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
Isaiah 11:6
 
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust [ shall be ]  the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”
Says the Lord.
Isaiah 65:25 

 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose[b] its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold,[c] in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Revelation 5:5 & 6

Contrary to popular opinion, no Bible, to my limited knowledge, has EVER used the phrase, 'the lion & the lamb will lay down together' ( or any other similar iteration )! Although some have come up with pretty wild theories as to why the phrase is in existence ( one that I have heard recently is that the words were supernaturally changed, even in old copies ), one theory that bears hearing out is that it comes from Sunday School lessons & sermons from early on. This would explain why many think that the words have been changed to say, 'the wolf & the lamb'. However, it does not explain why the Sunday School teachers, even the preachers of old used the phrase.

The projected imagery of the Lion of Judah finds its roots in the patriarch Jacob's final words to his sons, the Children of Israel, found in Genesis 49: of Judah he prophesied saying, 'Judah [ is ] a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?' We know that this tribe, the tribe of Judah, was that through which the Messiah of Israel came, so we see as well, throughout the History of Israel, that this prophesy & all such subsequent prophesies led to the revelation that Jesus, the Son of God & the Son of David, was the True Lion of Judah.

'The Lamb of God', yet another phrase descriptive of Jesus, takes us back to the so-called Old Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures are full of examples of the Old Covenant sacrificial system which involved, in part, a lamb or young goat being sacrificed to atone for sin. As we know however, these sacrifices merely pointed to the True Sacrifice, that which was personified in Jesus the Christ, the Messiah of Israel. According to John's Revelation above, as well as numerous other passages, Jesus was also the Lamb of God.

:We begin to see, at this juncture, why the true wording, 'the wolf and the lamb' might have morphed into the more popular, 'the lion & the lamb'; it seems to fits better with the meta-narrative! Does it really, though? A famously fierce creature like a lion, laying down with a weak & timid creature like a lamb might seem to present a stronger image, but the image of a wolf laying down with a lamb actually is truer to the History of Israel, both actually & metaphorically speaking. In that region of the world, shepherds were in abundance ( still are ) & if knowledge serves correctly, according to Scripture, anyway, wolves, not lions, were their main problem.

Jesus, according to Matthew 10:16, told His Disciples, 'Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves'. Going back further into Israel's history, He had warned them previously, saying, 'Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.' ( Matthew 7:15 ( Genesis 49:27 ) He spoke these words concerning the Pharisees & later the Judaizers who claimed to be of God's 'flock', but who were actually trying to destroy it! 

The apostle Paul used this metaphor, as well, when he warned the elders of the Church at Ephesus, 'after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock' ( Acts 20:29 ). Although we know that lions did/do inhabit that country ( note Sampson's Story in Judges 14 ), they apparently were not as prolific or problematic as wolves, especially in connection with sheep & shepherding. I Samuel 17 also recounts young David's encounter with both a lion & a bear who came upon his flock, but that is another story for another day & a slightly different metaphor. 

Jesus sometimes referred to His followers as His 'flock', as did His disciples after Him ( Matthew 26:31, I Peter 5:1 ). He is most famously recorded as saying, 'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me' ( John 10:27 ). The writer to the Hebrews, in his famous benediction, called Jesus 'that great Shepherd of the sheep' ( Hebrews 13:20 ) Though Jesus was the Shepherd of Israel, He was also the Lamb of God, both as the Great Sacrifice foretold throughout their history & as an Israelite Himself, 'who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh' ( Romans 1:3 )

Using highly metaphorical language, a dying father described how the tribe of Judah would rise to preeminence over the other tribes, those fathered by Jacob's other children. As the lion is known popularly as 'the king of the jungle', so the tribe of Judah was prophesied to rule over his brothers, sometimes with a fist of iron ( I Kings 12:10 ), to their own hurt. Jesus, on the other hand, as one of those sheep Himself, became 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' ( John 1:29 ) Rather than ruling over them, as previous kings had, He laid down His life for them ( John 15:13 ), showing them He was with them in their trials & suffering ( Revelation 1:9 ).

So, while the phrase in question, referring to the Lion & the Lamb, personifies Jesus as the Christ, the actual phrase from Scripture, 'the wolf and the lamb' speaks better to the history of Israel. As it is used popularly, speaking metaphorically of the peace that has come to us through the Kingdom of the Christ, it is being fulfilled daily as 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' flows through us to bring peace to the entire creation.

We, in our limited vision, read & hear the news of the world, despairing of seeing this peace gain a foothold in our generation ( if ever ), much less becoming a way of life, yet can bear witness to this truth, first in our own life, then in the lives of those around us & finally, to the rest of the world. When we stop acting as 'wolves', devouring others of the 'flock', instead realizing our part in & with the Lion of Judah, who became a Lamb, then we can lay down with the rest of the flock in peace. As this Peace spreads throughout the world, not only will the wolf lie down with the lamb, but we will bear witness to the fact that the Lion laid down AS a Lamb & rose as King!

May it be,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Christ as Inner Reality

'Christ in you, the hope of glory'; when the apostle Paul wrote these mysterious words to the Church at Colosse, he had just been telling them about his sacrificial service on their behalf. ( This in itself might give us a hint as to what Jesus meant when He told His disciples they would do 'greater works' ( John 14:12 ) than He did ). By telling them this, was the apostle simply telling them that the Spirit of the Christ, or God, would be their Guide, or was he telling them something more delicious? He used the phrase 'Body of Christ' a lot, too; what do you think he meant by that? Was he just using a metaphor, juxtaposing the Body of Christ with the body of Moses, or was he saying something different?

Many people seem to think that 'Christ' was Jesus' last name! I'm not well-versed in ancient history, but I know enough to tell you that Jesus, if indeed He had a last name, would have been called 'Jesus ben Joseph' ( kinda like 'Judah ben Hur', from the classic movie starring Charlton Heston ), for, as far as most people could tell, Joseph was His father. Put simply, 'Christ' means 'anointed, or sent'. As such, Jesus was called 'the Christ' because He was sent by His Father to redeem His people, the Jews.

In his letter to the Church at Rome, Paul explained the somewhat enigmatic phrase in question a little more in-depth. He wrote to them ( Romans 8 ) that, since the Spirit of God ( the Christ ) was in them, their innermost being, they were thus free from the sin that so easily beset them. He went on to tell them that though they were free now, they were still going to suffer much pain from those who had not been freed like them.

Though the apostle's words were written to address a certain situation that his original audience was about to face ( if they weren't facing it already ), we should also take his words to heart, for they are almost as relevant today, or so it would seem! Those who have 'accepted Jesus', so to speak, having thus been freed from the burden of guilt that many of us still seem to bear, often seem to suffer still, at the hands of those who have not, nor will 'accept' the Messiah of Israel, or Jesus the Christ.

Much of the suffering that goes on around the world, in this manner, is totally unnecessary! To 'suffer for the Name of Christ' is still worn by many Christians as a Badge of Courage. This is not to say that the suffering of people like Corrie Ten Boom or Richard Wurmbrand ( there are countless others ) was useless or that the sacrifices they made were for nothing. On the contrary, through their suffering, the Kingdom of Heaven advanced & continues to advance.

Much of the problem, as this blogger sees it, is that many or most Christians have not realized the true gravity of 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'. Not only are we free from indwelling sin, but as Jesus said, we will do & have done 'greater works'! 'The Christ', as most, if not all Christians view it, was embodied by Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Biblically speaking, Jesus was THE Christ, but was Jesus the only one?

As Christians, we confess, along with Scripture, that Jesus was/is the only begotten Son of God.We also agree that it is through Him alone ( the Christ, the Son of God ) that one gains access to the Father ( John 14:6 ). What most fail to realize or remember is that 'as He is, so are we in this world' ( I John 4:17 ). In context, I realize, the apostle's words were directed to a specific audience for a specific time, but they also bear this meaning for us today; when we face trials & suffer for our witness, we face them with the same Strength He did!

'We are not Him', most will argue: 'agreed, we are not Jesus, we were not born over 2,000 years ago, nor are we Hebrews ( Jewish? ), but have we not been sent for the very same purpose, have we not been anointed to carry on His labors; were we not told we would accomplish 'greater works'? As He was the Christ for the redemption of that world, are we not given the ministry of reconciliation for our world? Yes, Scripturally speaking, we understand that He was 'Sent' to 'save His people from their sins' ( Matthew 1:21 ). We do not save people from their sins, maybe, in the exact same sense that He did, although, through the same Love that He showed those He healed, we do forgive them & help them to see the Light!

The Story of Israel comes from a culture that is both ancient & almost totally foreign to us, though our economy is based largely on theirs. The Sacrifice of Jesus at Golgotha had been foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. ( Animal sacrifice was apparently an acceptable thing in that culture; in ours, not so much ). This is not to say that Jesus suffered & died for the Jews alone; His atonement baptized the entire creation, both Jew & Gentile. In other words, it was universal in scope, heightening our responsibility to carry on His work, as the Christ, spreading the Good News of Redemption & Reconciliation throughout our world!

As mentioned before, the trials & sufferings that Christians have gone through in the past & continue to go through around the world fulfilled & continue to fulfill their purpose. Though these men & women suffered as the Christ, most do not recognize this, nor do they realize, sadly, their Power. Use some mysterious term like 'the Body of Christ', if you wish, say that they were/are merely representing the Christ; these men & women were & are presenting the Christ to a lost & dying world. for all intents & purposes, they ARE the Christ!

The apostle's words in Romans 8 hold as true for us today as they did back then! It is this blogger's opinion that many today, even Christians, suffer death because though they acknowledge the Spirit in them, they yet deny, or at least fail to realize that it is not a borrowed Strength they wield; it is the very same Strength as Jesus employed. Because of a misplaced hope, as well as other reasons, many or most Christians, while realizing their spiritual nature, to whatever extent, yet place overmuch focus on their carnal ( physical? ) nature & thus end, physically speaking, in death, just like Paul warned ( Romans 8::6 )!

Jesus DID embody the Christ; there is no doubt, but when we do those 'greater works', so do we! We present the Christ every time we show the Love we were shown by our Heavenly Father. Every time we help a little old lady across the street, every time we feed a starving orphan, every time we defend the fatherless & widows. The Christ is being presented all over the world, even though those who embody Him may not realize it: this is the true meaning of 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'!

Live it, Love it, Lavish it!
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Love Without Judgement?

There's a lot of talk going around these days, even in the so-called Christian camp, about how we shouldn't judge: quoting Matthew 7:1, the argument goes something like this; 'the Bible says we shouldn't judge others, because if we do, we'll be judged'. Well, that's not quite true! First of all, we need to remember that Jesus spoke these words to a certain people, at a certain time, in a certain place. .Jesus told His first-century listeners ( Jews, mostly ) that when they judged others for not keeping the Law, they condemned themselves, for though they may have kept the letter of the Law, like circumcision, cleanliness & tithing, they ignored the weightier matters, 'justice and mercy and faith' ( Matthew 23:23 ). Jesus' words in Matthew 7:1 do not say that we shouldn't judge, only that we should be prepared to be judged in the same manner that we do judge!

'Unconditional Love' has been the topic of many conversations lately, as well. 'If only people could just love one another without judging each other', might be a representative statement. One might well ask, 'is it possible to love without judgement?' Many would immediately respond with, 'YES, just love; Love is all that matters!'.  Love IS all that matters, but then we must define Love; 'what IS Love?' A better question might be, 'Who is Love?!' According to I John 4:8, 'God is love'. If one follows the Law of God then, according to the apostle Paul ( Romans 13:10 ), one has loved another.

Some might say that hate is the opposite of love. Although there may seem to be some truth to this, nothing could be further from the truth! In this day & age, love seems to be defined more as a feeling than anything else; I love _______', or 'I hate ________'. Of course, these feelings may change & the one that was 'loved' one day may be 'hated' the next! The object of true ( holy ) hatred is not a certain person, though they are definitely on the wrong, or receiving end, but rather, it is the actions of any given person that should inspire hatred. If one is doing wrong, especially since that wrong will, at some point, come back to bite them in the ass, it is not unloving to tell them so. Not to tell them so, in other words, not to warn them, would in fact be unloving.

Biblical, or holy hatred is aimed more at ones actions, rather than at the person themselves; Jesus showed this when He congregated with those the Jews called sinners, more than He did with, say, the Pharisees, the religious ruling class. According to John 8:1-12, Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery for this very reason. The Pharisees sought to condemn her, or rather force Jesus to condemn her, but Jesus knew they were guilty of the same crime.

The phrase, 'hate the sin, not the sinner' is thus true; while we should deplore sin in whatever form it appears, rather than hating the wrongdoer & furthering the wrong, we should lovingly alert that one to his or her crime, warning them of the consequences to come. If they will not listen to us & continue in their particular crime, then we have done what is required of us, to love our neighbor as ourselves but if they do listen & cease their unlawful actions, then, according to Scripture ( Matthew 18:15-17 ) we have gained a brother or sister.

As it is impossible to love without some sort of judgement, so it is impossible to have a right or holy hatred without just judgement. In order to love rightly, one must judge for themselves, first of all, what it truly means to love. After they have determined what love truly is, then they must judge how best to show that love. Thus with a holy hatred; one must determine what is the true object of that hatred before one can truly & rightly hate. Scripture teaches us that a true & righteous hatred is reserved for that which the Creator God loathes, nothing else!

To love unconditionally does not then, mean to love with judgement! To go around, as some do, telling everyone you love them is one thing, but to act on that statement is another. It's fine to tell someone you love them, but unless we show them that love by acting according to the Laws of Nature & Nature's God, our words are less than useless. Love without judgement is no love at all, for even in determining not to judge, one has made a judgement & unless one determines to love another, he or she may as well have murdered them!

Judgement is a funny thing; like a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways! Judgement can be for good or evil, right or wrong. To judge rightly, whether in matters of love or hate, one must have a true, biblical understanding of both. To have a holy hatred, one must understand what the Creator God hates & why. To rightly & truly love, as well, one must know what it means to love. If we would like to be judged in the same way we judge others, then we'd better make sure ours is a righteous judgement!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Future Destiny

They say that time flies when you're having fun. He 16th birthday was looming already & she was having the time of her life..........................er, something like that, anyway. With such an interesting beginning in this existence, Jim & Sharon knew that she was destined for greatness, but the whirlwind that the past 16 years had been was nothing like they expected! When Jim received the call that fateful evening, he had no clue what his affirmative would mean for him & his barren wife.

Jim had never been very close to his sister, though 'God knows' he had tried, so when he heard Destiny's voice on the line, he was taken aback & rendered speechless for a time. Jim loved his sister, always had, in his own way, but had never really been able to figure out the best way to show it. Therefore, he had remained silent, letting his sister suffer alone. When he heard his sister's plea that day, therefore, Jim was all ears! 'I'm dying', she told him. 'I've lived a wild life ever since I left home & it's finally caught up to me!' Destiny next asked her brother a question that would change his & Sharon's life forever.

'Would you raise Sarah for me?' With barely a moment's hesitation, just long enough to signal for his wife to pick up the extension, Jim replied that he would be honored. Sharon, when she became aware of the situation, immediately echoed her husband. Not knowing much about Destiny, for Jim had never talked much about his estranged sister, Sharon instinctively knew this was the chance she had been waiting for. They had found out, soon after the wedding, that she could never bear children, so when Destiny made this strange request, both Jim & Sharon knew that they had been given a second chance!

From the beginning, they knew this was no ordinary child! The day that Sarah arrived at the local airport, Jim & Sharon noticed immediately that she was more aware than any newborn they had ever known. With bright, attentive eyes, Sarah looked out on her new world with a steadiness, almost an understanding of her surroundings that surprised all with whom she came in contact. The caretakers that had brought the child to her new home barely even noticed the fact that this was no ordinary child, but her new parents picked up on it immediately.

On the short ride home from the airport, Sharon remarked to her husband, through her tears, how blessed they were to have received this Gift. As Jim piloted the vehicle down their long, paved driveway, he fought the lump in his throat while a stray tear coursed down his face. He HAD been given a second chance; a chance to prove his love for the sister he had barely known. Raising Destiny's Child, he knew, would not turn back the sands of time, but maybe, just maybe, he could redeem himself by showing her the love he had failed to show her mother!

Jim & Sharon Weatherbey were well-to-do. They were not as fabulously wealthy as some, at least not as wealth is most often measured in this world, but neither did they lack. With Jim pulling in six figures as an independent contractor & Sharon doing a computer-based business from home, there was plenty to share. The lifestyle they led barely showed their affluence either; the Weatherbeys led a fairly quiet life, not wanting to make a big fuss.  They had a beautiful 4 bedroom house, with a two-car garage that housed a late model pickup for Jim & a nice, modest little SUV for Sharon. They were surrounded by nearly 30 acres of land, including several large groves of trees & a well-appointed man-made pond.

Jim continued to reflect on the Gift they had been given, while he brought the vehicle to rest in its spacious home. Moving past his wife, who seemed in a hurry to introduce their new child to her new home, he opened the door that led into the kitchen, stepping back with a flourish. 'Aren't you going to carry us across the threshold?' Sharon asked, almost jokingly. With no hesitation, Jim scooped up both his bundles of Joy & proudly carried them through the welcoming open door!

When his wife & the baby were securely ensconced in his mother's old rocking chair, Jim knelt before them both & enfolded them in his arms, while the tears finally fell freely. Mingling hers with his, they stayed in this position for what seemed like hours before Jim finally raised his head. With a husky voice still full of tears, he first apologized to his wife for not discussing his sister with her like he should have, then thanking her for allowing him to take the second chance that he, or they rather, had been given. Still fighting tears herself, Sharon could only hold onto him tighter, almost forgetting, for the moment, that Sarah was enjoying the same embrace.

The next few years were no picnic! The Weatherbeys, don't get me wrong, thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, but raising a child like Sarah, with such an obvious Destiny, was no easy task. From the day she had arrived on their doorstep, Destiny's Child demanded their undivided attention. She was so aware of her surroundings, while at the same time, everything was so new to her that Sarah often resorted to tears of frustration, largely due to the fact that her tiny, immature body was usually unable to keep up with her 'old soul' & independent, free spirit.

Raising Sarah was certainly an adventure, even a rather painful one sometimes, but Jim & Sharon never held a moment's regret for their quick decision those many years ago. Sarah was not always the easiest child to raise, for she was still a child, at least, in her body & Jim spent many hours in tears, because every time he watched Sarah, he could not help reliving that time so long ago when he had watched his sister struggle through life. While he had not been able to love his sister like he wanted to, he was now able to shower her Gift with all the love he held for her.

When Destiny finally caught up with Jim those many years later, he was more than ready to love this sister that it seemed he barely knew anymore. She told him enough of her adventures, or rather, misadventures, that he was pretty certain he didn't want to know anymore. She had changed, this beloved sister of his & now she was ready for a new beginning. With Sarah in a good home, a family that loved her & better prospects, Destiny knew that this was the second chance, the greater purpose she had been longing for.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Destiny's Story is not an unfamiliar one & as we continue to follow it, some parts of it, to whatever extent, will likely resonate with us, whether because we, a friend or relative has gone or is going through a similar storm. The Second Chance that she received should hold out for all hearers
( readers ) that when we fail, there is always the next time, another chance to right the wrongs of our own world. Even death itself does not bring an end to the Story!

Charles Haddon Shank