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Monday, February 13, 2017

The Sacrifice of Self-Love

Love, as anyone who has ever experienced the 'softer side' of it can tell you, is 'A Many Splintered Thing! When I say, 'the softer side', I'm referring of course, to the emotional 'feelings-based' version, the one that can change as quickly as the weather. Love, as we've often explored before in this blog, is, first & foremost, an action, though often based on feelings. Many recognize love as a choice, but only some choose to love sacrificially, while others love only superficially, as long as it suits their purpose & doesn't interfere with their plans.

As we near the middle of this month of februation ( look it up ), we should ponder the meaning of love; 'What is it good for?' 'Why should we care?' 'Who is it for?' 'When should we show it?' If love is based on physical intimacy, as some unions seem to be, it's likely that union won't last very long! Even in relationships built on physical intimacy, unless one or the other is willing to sacrifice their desires for the other's, the relationship will suffer harm even more quickly. Sacrifice, when it comes to matters of love, particularly in today's vernacular, is almost a foreign concept; O sure, when the relationship is in its beginning stages, one or both participants may try to make a good first impression, but once the relationship has gotten off the ground, so to speak, it often becomes difficult for the either of the two parties to give way to the other.

Self-love is gaining in popularity, of late! Social media outlets like FaceBook have noted a rise in the awareness of the necessity of loving oneself. Self-love is not a new concept & it's really only common sense to say that, unless & until one loves him or herself, it's not possible to truly love another. Though this idea has been around for centuries, even millenia, institutionalized religion, Christianity in particular, has done much to drive people away from the whole notion, teaching us that we are totally depraved, in essence, teaching us to hate ourselves because we are so depraved that we will not, on our own, choose to do what is just, right & good!

The doctrine of Total Depravity is almost impossible to refute, especially in this day & age, where depravity seems to run rampant! However, much of the problem can be linked to institutionalized Christianity, which has taught for centuries that this depravity will only get worse, until finally Jesus will come back & end it all. This belief, or doctrine has allowed the Institutional Church to sit back on its 'laurels', its Blessed Assurance, so to speak, almost welcoming this depravity as surety of the imminence of the so-called 'Second Coming!

Though the Parousia occurred in the 1st century, just like Jesus said it would ( Matthew 24:34, 26:64, etc. ), many Christians in this day & age do not believe His Word on this account; in fact, Institutional Christianity has taught for many centuries that Jesus has not yet returned as He promised. This in turn has had a detrimental effect on the culture around it & thus we see the degree of depravity that we do. Now, don't get me wrong, we can't blame institutional Christianity wholly; the individual still bears the full brunt of responsibility for their own choices, but institutionalized religion, Christianity in particular, must shoulder some of the blame as well!

Loving one's own self is different than being selfish! In the past, even in this day & age to some degree, it may seem there's not much difference, given the modern definition of love, but the difference is clear; loving oneself enables that one to love others, since it is impossible to give love without knowing what love really is. Selfishness is really almost the opposite of true love, for selfishness is not the love of self, but is more akin to a lust for self & things, even if they belong to another!

We have been taught for centuries that we are selfish, wicked creature & so we are! Humans are not naturally this way, though we have been noted for our tendency to make bad choices. Much of what we have been taught in this area is being discarded as hogwash by many in this day & age, rightly so, but along with it, many have seemingly thrown out the baby with the bathwater; some have gone so far in the opposite direction that they are living in direct contradiction to EVERYTHING they were taught. Thus, we bear witness to the 'free-love' of the 60s & the depravity of today!

'Love is not a victory march', sings a famous modern-day troubadour: much of our problem in this day & age, one might say, is that many view love as a conquest, something to be won! Really, if you think about it, when a person so loves themselves, it will be obvious to that significant other that, 'here is someone who knows how to love, who knows what love really is!' The love that a person has for another will be proportionate to the love that one has for him or herself. Any attempt to love another will not last unless one first learns to love oneself & I speak to myself here, more than to anyone else.

Many relationships fail because, 'I just don't love him or her anymore'! This is sadly true, largely because the love shown is equal to the love held & the willingness or unwillingness of either party to capitulate, or sacrifice for the good of the other. Here again though, one must understand what love truly is in order to wield it to the best effect. If one person sees love as merely physical intimacy, then that one will think of self-love as selfishness & will manifest this in any relationship that he or she strives to enter into. On the other hand, if one recognizes love for what it truly is, the ability to freely choose to do what is just, right & good, then that one will be able to truly love, not just him or herself, but the other as well!

The choice to love another is, at the same time, both the easiest & the hardest choice anyone can ever make! Love is sacrificial in the sense that we have to give of ourselves in order to love another. If we do not love ourselves, we cannot love another. Many people have a sort of superficial love, a love that might even go beyond those three little words that everyone loves to hear, a love that might flare up when it suits ones own selfish purpose, or fits into their plans.

A love that's built to last, though, must begin with ones own self! If we can but learn to love ourselves unselfishly, not lusting after our own needs & desires above those of everyone else, but treating ourselves with the justice, goodness & rightness that we would have others to treat us with. When love starts with ourselves, only then will it build any sort of lasting relationship.

May we BE the love that we wish to see in others,
Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Revelation of the Son of God; Ad Infinitum

'And I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, begotten, not made, being if one substance with the Father.........'

Was Jesus, who was the Christ ( Messiah ), truly the only ( begotten ) Son of God, as the Bible seems to claim? Jesus claimed to be the Son of God & to be sure, that most famous of verses, John 3:16, says that Jesus was the Creator God's 'only begotten Son'. In this oft-quoted passage, as well as in many others, John used the Greek 'μονογενής', transliterated 'monogenēs', meaning, 'single of its kind, only'. In relating the metaphorical Story of the sacrifice of Issac, the author/compiler recorded that Yahweh told Abraham to sacrifice his 'only  [son ] Isaac'. Now, whether he was simply reminding Abraham that he only had one Isaac, or using prophetic imagery pointing forward thousands of years to Yahweh's own sacrifice of His only ( begotten ) Son, we can rest assured that though John made the point that this Jesus was the only 'begotten' son of His Father, He was by no means the only one; Adam, In Luke's genealogy ( chapter 3 ), was called '[ the son ] of God'; although the words 'the son' do not appear in the original Hebrew, so that it should simply read, 'Adam, of God'; Luke uses the same word structure throughout, saying, for example, that Isaac was 'of Abraham'.

Most Christians will deny the Fatherhood of the Creator God to those who have not covenanted with Him & specifically claimed the name of Christ, or Christian. Although this is biblically defensible, some might argue, living in what might be called 'a post-biblical era', that when Scripture makes the division between 'the children of God' ( I John 3:1 ) & 'the children of the devil' ( I John 3:10 ), we should think, not in terms of 'us versus them', as we have been taught, but historically of those who accepted Jesus as the Messiah of Israel versus those who denied Him as such, the Jews, or Israel according to the Flesh. Biblically speaking then, in our Western tradition, even those today who do not accept Him as the very Son of God are denied His divine protection!

According to Scripture, we, as the Church, are the Body of Christ! This glorious fact, although it is easily recognizable as metaphor, should be readily acknowledged as indicative of our Oneness with the Creator God;: the apostle Paul wrote to his brethren that marriage is a picture of this Divine Union. As such then, it may be noted that we, in this sense, are the Son of God! Again, most Christians would have difficulty saying this, as they believe that Jesus inhabits His biological Body in a place called 'Heaven' ( ? ). Since we are the Son of the Creator God, then we, like Jesus was, are 'begotten' of Him & of the same substance with Him. As we are 'spirits having a physical experience', we essentially are all part of the same Energy that was used to create the universe, in actuality, the Creator God Himself!

Some have gone so far as to say that we ARE the Creator God Himself & though we ARE one with Him in both His Divinity & Essence, we are NOT Him! Just as husband & wife become One, biblically speaking, they are yet two separate & distinguishable people: we, having become One with the Creator God, are yet distinguishable from Him, though we ARE of One Essence. As creators ourselves, we even play a 'god-like' role, though on a much smaller scale, what with our intellectual & biological properties. To a somewhat limited extent, we even create life! History, too, is full of examples of the intellectual properties that men & women of old have created!

As the Body of Christ, corporately speaking, we are most certainly NOT the same biological Body in which Jesus walked this earth, almost 2,000 years ago! However, we understand that the apostle, when he wrote this in his letter to the Church, was using the allegorical language that was common to his people. Although Paul referred to the Church in a metaphorical sense, we know that, in a very real sense, Jesus, the Creator God Himself, does inhabit His biological Body, us! John, in his revelation of the Gospel ( John 14:23 ), recorded Jesus as promising, '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'. Though these words were spoken to Jews in the first century ( AD ), they are universal in impact, as true now as then!

It is widely-accepted, traditionally speaking, that Adam, in the Garden, was in covenant with the Creator God! Although this is without doubt, the first time a covenant is specially named & elucidated as such is when Yahweh instituted one such with Abram ( Genesis 15 ). The Adamic Covenant, rather than being based upon a mutual agreement, as was the Abrahamic covenant; the Creator God's covenant with Adam, on the other hand, was not like that one, in the sense that there is no record of Adam having ever acquiesced to any covenant, spoken or otherwise. The Creator God simply placed Adam into the Garden ( Paradise? ) & placed him in charge of it all & brought him a wife: no commitment, nothing, except 'do this & die!'

Much like today, there was such a thing as Natural Law ( AKA, the Laws of Nature & Nature's God ); Adam somehow broke that Natural Law, that unspoken covenant & was removed from ( the blessings of ) the Garden for his pains! We have been taught, traditionally speaking, that he ate from a tree that he had been forbidden, but the allegorical nature of this part of the Story is obvious; the true meaning, however, is not, so we can only speculate on what was meant by 'the tree of the knowledge of good & evil'

Even though Adam broke this first covenant & tried to shift the blame, in essence, to the Creator God Himself, we find that he still enjoyed Divine Protection, as did his descendants ( Genesis 4:15 )! Cain, like his father Adam, broke that Natural Law, as did many after him ( at least one every generation ) & though he suffered greatly because of it, like his father, he still enjoyed favor from the Creator God; in that He promised 'vengeance.........sevenfold'.

Scripturally speaking, there is no denying the fact that the 'sons of God' were those who accepted Jesus as their Messiah! Even in the Hebrew Scriptures, the term was often used to refer to the godly line of Seth, as opposed to the sons of Cain, or for example, 'sons of Belial'. In the Western Christian tradition, even today, we are used to observing the same distinction, referring to ourselves as 'sons of God' & to those who do not share our beliefs as somehow almost less than human!

Jesus was born according to Promise, much like Isaac, thousands of years earlier, was! Yes, the Gospel records, according to prophesy ( Isaiah 7:14 ), that the Holy Spirit would 'overshadow' Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph & that the Child would be called 'the Son of God': many years earlier, the Creator God promised Abraham, 'I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son' ( Genesis 18:10 ). It is widely accepted ( if given much thought at all ) that Isaac was the natural-born son of Abraham, yet the language here used is not unlike that in the Gospel account!

Was Jesus indeed the only begotten Son of God, as our Bibles tell us, or was He simply the Creator God Himself who took the form of a Man in order to redeem His ( covenant ) Creation to Himself? The doctrine of the Trinity makes much of the distinction that Scripture seems to make between the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit; without going to far in theorizing over this matter, suffice to say that if it was simply the Creator God Himself, the Father of all the Living, who took the form of the Man Jesus, then this doctrine seems to fall flat on its face!

Did Jesus walk the earth as the Son of God, in part to show us that human beings could indeed be sons of God? What if, rather than being 'God in Three Persons', the Creator God simply invested Himself into His Creation in order that they ( we ) might realize our innate Oneness with Him? Are we Sons & Daughters of the Creator God, our Heavenly Father, by merit of accepting the biblical Jesus as our Lord & Savior, or are we His children through spiritual generation?

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Power of Positive Thinking; a Modern Parable

Bob had never been to a healer! Sure, he had gone to plenty of medical doctors who prescribed any number of pills, even vitamins. He'd even been to those who practiced Oriental medicine & stuck him full of needles. Homeopathy, although fairly recently enjoying more wide-spread acceptance, was not out of the picture either. Now, faith healers, like those infamous televangelists that like to push people down & then claim they've healed them, Bob knew enough about their kind to know that most were full of shit & not worth their salt! But a real, honest-to-God healer, one who was more concerned with realigning things like 'chakra', or 'qi', now that, he'd been told, was just a bunch of Eastern mysticism crap & he should avoid it like the plague! I mean, really, a 'holy' man standing there chanting a bunch of mumbo-jumbo over your inert body; that's supposed to do something for you?!

So, Bob had been to all kinds of doctors, taken all kinds of vitamins, even some potions & while they seemed to do some good, at least when he faithfully took them, he had noticed that his affliction seemed to slowly worsen! Sure, it was all but imperceptible sometimes, but after all, the doctors all said it would get progressively worse! When Bob finally broke down & decided to thumb his nose at all that was culturally acceptable, he visited one of those 'mumbo-jumbo' guys. Though a bit unsure at first, he had begun to accept that just treating symptoms was no longer an option; though it would very likely take a long time, by finding the problem at the 'heart', or the innermost ( spirit ) being, the adverse effects of any disease could be reversed, at least to some extent; some effects simply cannot be reversed!

Energy, positive or negative, is a natural fact! Whether one thinks positively or negatively has a lot of bearing on, not only how one acts, but also on their health. Knowing this, Bob had always tried to be positive about life, its ups & downs, but as we can all attest to, life has a way, to some extent & in some situations, of turning that smile into a frown, of making one forget the positive aspects & get caught up in the negative. The effects were noticeable; Bob had become increasingly listless, though he tried to keep a 'happy face' on; it had become increasingly harder to stay on top of things & life, in all its ugliness, had begun to drag him down! Oh, he still kept the beautiful parts of life in the back of his mind, but even there, those moments seemed to be getting further apart & fewer in between!

Life is beautiful & when you, in your innermost being, are correctly aligned with it, it's even more beautiful! Yes, life is still the School of Hard Knocks ( if anyone knew this, Bob did ), so one kinda has to take the good with 'bad'. However, with a positive outlook, 'it's ALL good!' Even what we normally look at as 'bad', or even 'evil' becomes good! Bob knew Romans 8:28 by heart ( his favorite, in fact ), along with certain other Bible verses, having been taught from an early age to 'keep these things' in his heart. The apostle Paul tells us that 'all things work together for good to those that love God', or something to that effect. He had always believed this & tried to look at it this way, putting a positive spin on things, but damn it, some things were just impossible to look as as having a silver lining!

Bob's energy had been zapped! Almost without notice & for whatever reason, things had been going downhill fast! It was not that he had lost his precious faith; he still believed the apostle's words, but something has been draining his energy & he didn't know why he felt the way he did. When he finally broke down & decided to try something that was 'off the beaten path', so to speak ( though it had been an ancient practice ), Bob could tell right away that he had taken the right step. He felt his energy ( he was positive ) returning to him. His smile was back & he was noticing more & more of the beautiful aspects of life & less & less of the ugliness. Oh, the ugliness was still there, don't get me wrong, but it was beginning to be less noticeable to him!

As the healer intoned those famed words over him & employed his 'mumbo-jumbo' ( good 'ju-ju', so to speak ) Bob could feel the negativity leaving his body!  Already, he felt the healing power, the energy that was being employed. All his life, Bob had been taught to seek healing outside of himself, so to speak, but as more positive influences began to affect him, he had begun to note that his own choices had the greatest effect on his own life, mind, spirit & body. Doctors had their place, to be sure, vitamins & other supplements were surely advantageous, but the greatest thing that one can do is to make the right choices; not the ones that everyone tells you are right, but the ones you know are right!

Bob had learned that not everything that is culturally acceptable is right & that not everything that is culturally unacceptable is bad! In order for our bodies to heal themselves, as they were meant to, Bob had found out, it is supremely necessary to know oneself! We may learn much about our bodies by visiting doctors, visiting medicine men & even shamans, but it is within us, deep within us that we will find the answer to our pain; it is there that we must begin!

Charles Haddon Shank





Wednesday, February 01, 2017

In Dreams We Soar; To New Heights

It was a familiar feeling. When Deothora opened her eyes, however, it was almost as if they remained closed! The air rushing by her face somehow felt different too, like before, yet even colder! Though she felt the same security as she had before, there was something different, like it was................heightened, somehow. The familiar greeting rumbled down to her, 'Oh good, you're awake!' That goofy, almost cartoonish face she had grown to love now loomed into view as she craned her gaze upwards, but as she did, her attention focused, not on the green furry thing that was transporting her, but on WHERE he was transporting her! 'Where ARE we?' she wondered. Before she could voice her concerns, however, as if reading her thoughts, Elothar answered with his powerful, yet gentle voice, 'Where do you THINK we are?' Deothora didn't answer for the longest time, as she took in the dark beauty around her. Somehow she knew the answer, of course, but the glory of it all literally took her breath away!

Deothora had gone to her bed several hours previously, but had spent that time tossing & turning, drifting here & there, finally falling into a troubled sleep just a little before finding herself transported to these dark reaches. Well, 'dark reaches' was actually not quite correct; there was light all around, the light of what seemed countless stars, like pinholes of light shining through a piece of black construction paper. Finding her voice once more, Deothora tremblingly answered the question ( which she had all but forgotten ), with yet another question, 'are we in outer space?' With an almost startling roar, which sounded strangely like a laugh, Elothar responded with another question; 'outer space', what's that?' 'If you mean the heavens beyond, then yes; we ARE in Space & Time, yet outside of both, in a manner of speaking.' Satisfied, yet somehow dissatisfied with this answer, Deothora was content to let her gaze wander, as she rested secure in those mighty, but gentle paws.

Soaring slowly by, it seemed, were blazing jewels of all shapes & sizes. Some of the shapes, she noticed, were more or less recognizable as the planets she had grown up studying in her astronomy books. Astronomy, for some reason, had always held the greatest fascination for Deothara! Ever since she was a little girl, she had always dreamed of soaring through the heavens, viewing these jewels from a safe, yet wonderful distance. up close & personal, you might say! Surrounded as she was by the beauty of the heavens, Deothora had almost forgotten the cold darkness that surrounded her, though she shouldn't have been surprised, safe & secure as she was, in the folds of those giant paws!

As they soared through the heavens, something occurred to Deothora that had previously not even been a concern; 'How is it that I'm not having any trouble breathing, as high as we are?' Feeling the almost imperceptible laughter in his gentle voice, she felt as well as heard the dragon's short reply, 'you're with me!' 'When you fly with me, Time & Space are not a concern; the life that you experience in the 'everyday' is constrained by Time & Space!' 'No one could bear these heights, not to mention the cold darkness, on their own, but in my presence, these constraints are no more!' Silently pondering these things in her heart, Deothora returned her gaze to the heavens that surrounded her. She looked down for the first time since she had awoken in that familiar grasp & noticed that, far below her, she could just make out a brilliant jewel, not as bright as the lights that surrounded her, but somehow more glittering!

Elothar, without waiting for her to ask ( it's like he knew what she was thinking! ), suddenly swooped toward the glittering jewel she had just taken note of. Gently swooping toward the brilliant object below, Deothora began to recognize different colors & patterns; there were noticeably blue areas, smaller green areas & even differing tans & browns. As they gracefully descended toward the glittering jewel, Deothora realized, with as light tinge of sadness, that their time together was drawing to a close. Drawing ever closer, Deothora noticed, with a new fascination, the vivid contrast that this particular jewel held, over all the others she had seen! The colors stood out in such a way that she wondered at the way the different colors stood out like different paints on an artist's pallette, yet the way they melded together brought to her mind the notion that beneath it all was a living, breathing being.

It seemed like they had been soaring for hours, even beyond the limits of Time & Space, yet when Deothora woke in her own bed the next morning, she felt rested; more than she had for quite some time! As she thought back on her flight of fancy with her favorite dragon, Deothora knew that she had found 'Heaven'; soaring through the heavens, beyond the reach of Time & Space, so to speak, she had experienced what so many of us long for, what we only dream of, what we hope for. 'Heaven', as Deothora glimpsed that night ( 'was it 'night'? ) is within; all we need to do is grab hold of our 'dragon' & soar to new heights!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

From Evolution to Revolution: Scripture as Allegory

This may come as a surprise to many, but the Bible is not a science book! Even further than that, while it is a history book, of sorts, it is not a history of the world, as in the entire creation. It is a covenantal history of a peculiar ( particular ) people, one through whom the Creator God choose to reveal Himself to His Creation. I've said it before & I'll say it again, 'the Story of Scripture is the Story of Israel!' Much as we'd like to think it's all about us, it's not; it speaks to us, resonates with us, yes, but first & foremost, it's solely about a certain group of people in the Ancient Near East ( ANE ); furthermore, it's written in a way that is quite unfamiliar & fairly strange to our western mindset!

Strange as it may seem, Abraham, contrary to our reading of Genesis 22:1-19, need not necessarily have tried to kill his own son in order for the account to shadow the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, some millenia later. This is not to say the story in Genesis is not true & factual, only that stories like this have been fashioned to foreshadow the coming of the Messiah of Israel. There are many other such accounts, or occurrences, in Israel's history which serve to point to the Messiah, for example, the Law itself, as stated by the apostle Paul, 'was our tutor [ to bring us ] to Christ' ( Galatians 3:24 ). Here too, we must understand that Paul spoke, not to us, but to his fellow Israelites, in the 1st century!

It is without doubt & beyond question that this Creation, this universe ( multiverse? ), is the product of Intelligent Design! Much as many scientists would like to prove to the contrary, beauty & symbiosis like we witness on a daily basis does not just happen; it HAS to have been orchestrated & engineered by Someone or Something 'smarter than the average bear', so to speak! The theory of evolution as put forth most famously by Charles Darwin, the notion that mankind evolved from a single-celled organism & that the universe ( stars, planets & such ) is simply the manifestation of a random event known as 'The Big Bang' is not totally without merit. Though we know, as Darwin & others like him fail to ascribe to, that this was all the work of the Creator God, it is not outside the realm of genuine possibility that these are the means that were used to bring about all this beauty. Science has made great strides, in fact, toward this end, though maybe inadvertently!

The discovery of subatomic particles like the Higgs boson, the development of things like 'string theory', Quantum Mechanics & such have given scientists a boost in their search for understanding! Though many seek this knowledge in the vain hope of denying the Creator, many more, through these findings, have no doubt developed an even greater respect for the Master Builder.  The fact that all of these things work together to orchestrate the symphony of Life should be enough to convince even the most ignorant & stubborn of us yet falls on blind ears!

Even with such great leaps forward, mankind knows fairly little about how the universe ( or multiverse? ) was formed, much less, the intricacies of its clockworks, so to speak! By means of the Large Hadron Collider, a multi-million ( or is that 'billion'?? ) dollar project over in Switzerland, scientists have 'created' one of the subatomic particles they believe may be responsible for the 'Big Bang', or the formation of the universe.as we know it. It may very well be that this process, or one very like it, is indeed responsible for the glories of 'the heavens', but, as I would love to ask of any Darwinian Evolutionist, 'where did the particle come from?'

Was there an actual Man named Jesus who was in fact the Creator God incarnate? Did He indeed suffer on a literal cross for the sins of His People? We have faith that He did & now lives within us, leading us in the Way of Righteousness, to love the Creator God with all our heart, mind & strength, to love our neighbor as ourselves & to treat others as we would have others treat us! However, much of what we read in Scripture is related in such a way, through metaphor, similitude & allegory, as to represent a certain truth, a truth that might not be plainly accepted if plainly told. The Gospel accounts all serve to witness to the fact that the Creator God did indeed love His Creation so much that He sent His only ( begotten ) Son, that whoever belives in Him should never die, but have eternal life!

The Scriptures, as many Christians have begun to discover, were not written to us, though they are for us, being applicable to our own situations in many areas! Even reading the Bible with our Western mindset & particular point of view, humanity has made great leaps towards discovering the true nature of the Creator God & our relationship with & to Him/Her/It. As mankind continues to work out the implications of the fact that our Western thought-processes might not cut it, so to speak, we will continue to grow in the knowledge that we are indeed One with the Creator God, being of the same Essence!

May we ever use that Knowlege for good & not for evil,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

'Is There Anybody Out There?' or 'Realms of Glory'

The Hebrew Scriptures, the Psalms in particular, are very clear that the Creator God, 'Yahweh' to the Hebrews, makes His home in 'the heavens', or, more traditionally, 'Heaven'. When it comes to a description of 'Heaven', though, things get a bit cloudy, so to speak! Jesus' parabolic story of the rich man & Lazarus in Luke 16 describes it as a place of comfort: David & the other Psalm writers simply use the word 'heaven' or 'heavens'  ( 'Hebrew-shamayim-'lofty, the sky ) & speak of it as a 'place' that is higher, or more elevated than us. The closest we get to an actual description of 'Heaven', probably, in the entire Scriptures, is in the Revelation, where John offers us his very typological ( or is that 'anti-typical'? ) description of the throne room. The point is, our traditional notion of 'heaven', with 'a harp, a home, a crown', is not really supported by Scripture, but is almost pure speculation-no, I didn't forget the 'mansions' that Jesus promised in John 14, but as we've discussed in previous posts, these simply refer to those souls which have welcomed the knowledge of the Creator God!

The fulfillment of Scripture, in the past tense, anyway, seems to present modern Christianity with many problems, one of which is that if eschatology is indeed in the past & the Kingdom of God, or Heaven has come to Earth, then where DOES the Creator call home?! We have also explored previously in this blog, in a number of posts, that Jesus promised, also 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'. The objection might well be made here, such as, 'Though God, in the Spirit, HAS made His home in our 'hearts', He is STILL omnipresent, dwelling in 'Heaven'!' As the case may be, the Creator God, although He/She/It, as promised, has made His/Her/Its Home with mankind, I'm certainly NOT saying that the Creator of the Universe has been relegated to one certain 'place', the 'hearts' of His/Her/Its People!

Is there an actual 'place' out there somewhere in the Universe, called 'Heaven', or is 'Heaven' or the realm of the Creator God ( some would call it simply 'Energy' ) in another dimension altogether, as has been  speculated about on this blog of late? I must say, I've heard it put forth by certain Christians that 'Heaven' is actually a certain physical location, somewhere in the Universe, where the Creator God dwells with His Son, Jesus the Christ, in His human form, no less, who sits at His right hand, 'whence He shall come............to judge the living and the dead'! This is actually the traditional Christian doctrine of 'Heaven', more or less & while it does agree with Scripture, also ends up denying what Jesus Himself promised!

What if 'Heaven' IS simply in another dimension? The words of Jesus, for example in John 18:36, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.', would seem to make some sense. It is true, some research will easily show that the 'world' of which Jesus spoke here ( Greek-kosmos ) was the 'world' of the 1st-century Jews, but we may infer that, since Jesus used  'kosmos' rather than 'oikoumenē', that the entire Creation, of which we are only a very small part, may be in view here!

Jesus' promise as recorded in John 14:23 does not state specifically where, in us, the Great Spirit would make Its Home, but, as we have loosely maintained that it is in our 'heart', I will leave it up to private speculation as to what might be meant by 'heart'-most certainly not the biological organ! The mind, or even brain, might more specifically indicate the dwelling-place of 'God in the Spirit', as this is primarily the seat of knowledge & might be called 'the physical manifestation of the spirit'.

Eschatologically speaking, Jesus promised that He would return in His Father's glory to the generation of people then living: though some died before that generation had passed away, many had not & to say that He did not is to deny this very important truth! Jesus also taught His disciples to pray, 'Your kingdom come.
Your will be done o
n earth as [ it is ] in heaven' & though it might well be interjected here that Jesus simply instructed them to pray that His Father's will be done on earth 'as [ it is ] in heaven', rather than that His Kingdom should come to earth, it has been almost universally accepted that it what Jesus meant!

The Glory of the Creator God is definitely NOT limited to this heavenly realm, or dimension, if you will; its all around us! Call it 'Energy', call it 'God', call it 'the Universe' ( even 'Mother Earth' ), it is obviously manifested in & through us, as well as the Creation that surrounds us. When we call upon our Heavenly Father, the Energy that makes up our very being, or the Universe itself, we pray, not so much to a Force outside us, but to One that is Within us as well; One that is a part of us, One that makes up our very existence!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Pneumatophoric Human, or, The Human Animal

What sets us, as human beings, apart from all the other animals, or created beings? Most people, probably more or less correctly, would immediately say something like, 'human beings have souls'. The human animal, one might say, unlike other animals, has learned to codify ( ? ) spoken language & to live morally, in civilization, but then, the tables could easily be turned, showing that many human beings act worse than any wild animal! There have been studies done that show that many so-called 'wild' animals seem to have more morality & live more civilized lives than many human beings.!

The phrase, 'all dogs go to heaven', though it has waned in popular use over the past decade or so, is still very much alive, in concept anyway! Ask most any pet owner nowadays, especially the older ones & they will tell you their pets are their 'kids'. In fact, some of them will tell you they like them better than most humans! In some sense, one can't really blame them! Over the past year or so, it has become popular when one's pet has died, to say that they have 'passed over the rainbow bridge' & will be waiting for them once they too, 'pass over the rainbow bridge'. No matter the case, whether or not these beloved pets will be reunited with their owners in some sort of after-life or not, one thing is abundantly clear to anyone who 'owns' one of these animals; they ARE possessed of some sort of spirit & while they might not possess the intelligence & abilities we, as human beings, do, it is evident they do communicate with each other!

Human beings, while in most cases a step or so above the other animals, have traditionally been regarded as special, largely because of a misunderstanding of the first chapters of Genesis! The misunderstanding is that the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 is a record of the beginning of Time. The 'creation' of Adam & Eve has always been understood by the majority of Christians as the actual foundation of the human race. Science has proven beyond any reasonable doubt, however, that human beings roamed the planet long before the genesis of biblical history!

When Genesis 2:7 records that the Creator 'breathed into his nostrils the breath of life', we should understand that, like in the prophet Ezekiel's vision ( Ezekiel 37:9 & 10 ), it was not biological life that came over Adam & Eve, but spiritual, or covenantal. It was awareness of the Creator that came upon them that 'day', awareness that the Architect of the universe was not a cold, faceless Being, but one that sought blessed relationship with those He ( She/It ) had created.

Human beings have doubtless been endowed with the Spirit of Life! While Scripture tells a Story of that Life being awakened within humanity, it also gives us what might be noted as a clue, a glimpse into the whole concept that even animals, as creations of the Great Architect, are not without the blessings of the Spirit of Life! Humankind could, in fact, learn many an important lesson from what we have traditionally called 'dumb' animals; some have noted these important lessons & embraced their more or less elevated status, while others have chose to remain ignorant & hopelessly flounder in what might be called 'the primordial ooze'!

The Human Animal, having been chosen, biblically speaking, as the engine through which the Creator would become One with His ( Her/Its ) Creation has a larger brain capacity than most domesticated animals, to be sure, but there are many yet in the wild who's brain capacity is much larger than ours! Although it cannot be proven, I believe that the brain is the physical manifestation of the spirit, so therefore, according to that reasoning, the bigger the brain, the higher intelligence manifested by the controlling spirit. This theory, of course, is not 'water-tight', but one has to wonder why some humans seem to have 'pea-', or even bird-brains', while some of these 'dumb animals', whether domesticated or yet wild, seem possessed of greater intelligence?

As a race, humans have enjoyed an ascendancy, especially with 'The Dawn of Civilization', over the other animals; indeed, Scripture itself tells the Story of how Adam & Eve were given dominion over the rest of the 'creation', including the animals. With the advent of such life-changing concepts as Covenant Creation & the notion that Adam & Eve were not the progenitors of the human  race, one might begin to wonder; 'if the animal mentioned throughout Scripture were not actually animals at all, but human beings of lesser intelligence, or awareness, then maybe we were not necessarily given the dominion over these 'dumb animals', as we thought, but rather, maybe we should understand that it's really just a Story about how Israel was the Creator God's tool whereby He brought all into subjection under Him!'

If we can get past the notion that wild or domesticated animals ( as opposed to the human animal ) are there only for our pleasure, maybe we can begin to to learn from them how to be truly civilized! Although human beings normally have a larger brain capacity than most domesticated animals, it is by no means a given that they use it to its full capacity; some animals, on the other hand, seem to exceed their brain capacity! We could learn a lot from what we call 'dumb animals' & while some have learned some life-altering lessons, others have failed to see this most important of truths, continuing to treat their fellows, whether human or 'mere' animal, as simply their next 'meal-ticket'!

Charles Haddon Shank