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

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ouroboros

For centuries, the Church has been her own worst enemy! This is nothing new, and though it is a saddening and sobering revelation, it is really not all that shocking!

Many people out there in today's society in general, and even some followers of Christ, have turned their backs, if not on God, or the traditional concept of God that has been prevalent in most churches for years, then on the Church itself, at least the traditional concept of 'church', that which we are all most familiar with.

Why is this, and what can we, as the Body of Christ, do to remedy the situation?

Quoting from Revelation 22, a passage that I quote quite a lot; 'the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations'. The 'tree', of course, refers to The Tree of Life, Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and the 'leaves' refer to us, His people, those who abide in communion with Him. First of all, we need to clearly understand one important fact; while we ARE, indeed 'for the healing of the nations', it is only as we abide in, and thus derive our life and healing properties from The Tree that we will have any healing effect, and conversely, if we do not abide in The Tree, we will have no healing effect at all!

Taking a careful look back through history, one can ascertain that we have not done a very good job, sometimes, at 'healing the nations'. What we have done, has, I believe, caused more harm to the nations than healing. Now, don't get me wrong; the Church in general has made many advances, and through the power of God, has done much good in the world, but it would seem that in many cases she has devoured herself, while meaning to devour the enemies of God.

A false or otherwise misdirected religion has been, to varying degrees, the cause of much tyranny and bloodshed around the world. From some accounts, people have been forced to convert to Christianity at the edge of the sword! We can even read, in the final passages of the story of Esther, how many, out of fear of the Jews, converted to Judaism. One must always be wary of such conversions, for, more often than not, they are mere outward observances, and not true conversions, 'from the heart', so to speak. True conversion is not based on a terrifying fear, but rather on a reverential fear, a reverence that is founded upon a thankfulness and gratefulness that comes from the heart.

There is much hurt in the world today, and most, if not all of it can be traced to a religious misunderstanding, ultimately, of the nature of God. The Old Testament, which many 'churches' base their polity upon, has been misinterpreted in such a way that they have only seen a vengeful, terrifying God, and have thus taken a terrifying vengeance upon all those whom they perceive as being enemies of God, when in fact, these 'enemies' were simply creatures of God who needed to be shown the kindness and mercy that Jesus Himself showed, rather than the terrifying vengeance that they perceived our Creator to show. Now, again, don't get me wrong; our God IS a God of vengeance, and He can be quite terrifying! Scripture indeed says, 'our God is a consuming fire' ( Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29 )! It is quite clear, from the texts that we have available, that He did order the mass genocide of many of His enemies! For them, it WAS a terrifying ordeal, a genuine, though not saving ( in most cases ) fear!

Although many factors have contributed to this misunderstanding of the nature of God, maybe none is greater, or more culpable than a misunderstanding of The Covenant! Because of a misinterpretation of the covenantal context of Scripture, or just a blatant ignorance of it, the Church has traditionally viewed The Covenant as two separate and almost contrary covenants, one based on Law, one based on Grace. The covenantal context of Scripture shows, however, that there was always Law, and there was always Grace. The thing that escapes most people is that Grace came first: God showed Grace first, for instance, in bringing His people up out of Egypt, THEN He gave them His Law! Going back to our first, most blatant example; God made man ( Adam ) 'in the image of God', THEN gave him His Law, 'you shall not eat......'. Grace did not come in the stead of Law, or as opposed to Law, but rather Law came as a result of Grace, and in agreement with it, not as a means of attaining it, but a means of showing our faithfulness, our thankfulness for that Grace!

Getting back to the subject at hand; it is through Grace that we 'heal' the nations, those 'nations' being those persons with whom we come in contact on a more or less regular basis. While God's Law stands; we must realize, and show the world ( again, those with whom we come in contact ) that it is not through the keeping of the Law that we earn or maintain that Grace, but that because of, and through the Grace shown, we keep His Law out of thankfulness for that Grace, and in due reverence! We must show them Grace first, then if they respond in kind to that Grace, Law will have its due. Too often the Church has approached unbelievers with the idea that unless they first obey the Law, and repent of their transgressions, they cannot have, and are not worthy of Grace. While it is true that they must repent, agreeing with God that they have transgressed His Law, it is not because of their repentance that they receive forgiveness, or Grace; rather, it is because they receive Grace first that they are led to repentance ( Romans 2:4 ). We must show them the Love ( Grace ) of God in Christ, then introduce the Law. Actually, when they meet with the Grace of God first, they will be more inclined, out of thankfulness and a cleansed conscience, to obey His Law! How many unbelievers have you met who, when faced with the stringency of God's Law ( as traditionally presented ) reject it outright? Think how this certain instance might have gone had you presented Grace ( Love ) first!
 
Let us, as the Body of Christ, the Church of God, do as He did, showing Grace to all those with whom we come in contact, not accepting their wrong as right, and not excusing it, but showing them the Love of Christ in our actions toward them. We need to show them the Love and Grace of God, in our own lives, not by acceptance of their wrong-doing, but by acceptance of them as 'the apple of God's eye', as one of His beloved creatures, in spite of their former wrong-doing! Let us do as Jesus did, showing Grace first, then introducing Law!

Thoughtfully,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Abdication of Stewardship

When we leave the education of our children to the welfare state, we should not complain or be shocked when they claim ownership!

Obamacare, and it's requisite insidiousness, has been much discussed of late, especially, but not solely, among our Christian population. Just the latest outrage that has been foisted upon the American people by a government that 'only wants to help', and is 'doing it for our own good', this plan, which, in part includes forcing everyone to get health insurance, is socialistic to the core, but should not surprise us in the least, being the logical progression of state-ownership, a farce to which many well-intentioned, maybe, but ignorant Christians have subscribed.

For the past hundred years or so ( at least ),  ignorant stewards, both Christian and otherwise, have slowly given their right of stewardship over to the welfare state who says, 'we'll give your children a good education and prepare them for a life of servitude; you just go and serve your gods of selfish comfort and prestige!' Actually; no statist official that I know of would admit to that, but when you really think about it, that's exactly what they're saying! Don't think too hard about it, though, because you'll get a headache!

Recently, a story was related to me, and this is not uncommon ( or shocking ) about a couple who birthed a child, and while hoping to deliver the child at home, to avoid certain complications, were forced, because of other complications, to deliver the child at a statist hospital. The staff at this hospital dutifully assigned the child a Social Security Number, against the express wishes of the parents, because they realized that, according to their own indoctrination, this child belonged to Molech, or the god-state, and would forever be indebted to it for its very existence!

While we may disagree with this doctrine, many Christians have accepted this doctrine, if not in theory, then in practice. Although and especially as followers of Jesus Christ we should abhor and repudiate it, we have marched our children, our stewardship from God, often kicking and screaming, off to the state-run and almost totally anti-Christian public schools, for 8+ hours a day, where they receive indoctrination antithetical to the spiritual training that they are receiving at whatever church they attend with their parents once, maybe twice every week!

Besides the fact that Scripture passages like Deuteronomy 6:7 tell parents to 'teach them diligently to your children' ( speaking of the Law of God ), it only makes sense, especially since the statist government-run schools are, to somewhat differing levels maybe, totally anti-Christian, that even if parents DO diligently train their children in the admonition of the Lord, when they send them off to these houses of indoctrination, they are almost completely, if not totally, undoing the training their children are receiving at home. To be fair; we must readily admit that this is not always the case, but more often then not, children who are educated by the state, and this, also more often than not, includes their spiritual education, turn out to be statist to the core, having swallowed 'hook, line and sinker' the doctrine of Molech, or the king ( state ) as God!

As we saw above; if we cede our rights, nay, our duty, as the stewards and educators of those whom God has entrusted to our tender loving care, then we really can't complain when the statist federal government, 'the nanny state', comes along and says 'you must immunize your children', or, 'you must have healthcare'. These children, like many of our rights and freedoms, which have been entrusted to us by God for our stewardship and care, are slipping from our grasp, and will continue to do so, until we, as a nation, repent of our sinful idolatry, and, focusing more on the gifts that God has given us, rather than that which we want and really don't need, begin to firmly hold onto the gifts that He has given, educating our children ourselves, bringing them up wholly in the fear of the Lord, rather than freely giving these rights, these duties, over to a God-less, statist, and nationalistic government, one that is determined to retain their status as gods!

May we, as the people of God, in the Strength of our Creator, take our stand, and diligently teach His statutes to the children with whom God has entrusted us, and bring them up in the training and admonition of our Lord!

Charles Haddon Shank


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Inevitable Appointment

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,  
 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. ( Hebrews 9:27, 28a )

There is no doubt, physically ( biologically ) speaking; men do die but once, at least, in normal circumstances, and that is the way it's supposed to work; that's the way we are built, our biological bodies aren't made to last forever! With certain compensations and considerations, men can live, more or less a longer life then we usually grant human beings, but as Scripture itself attests to; 'The days of our lives [ are ] seventy years; and if by reason of strength [ they are ] eighty years, yet their boast [ is ] only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away'. ( Psalm 90:10 ) Even in the days before the judgment of the flood, God said of them 'his days shall be one hundred and twenty years'. ( Genesis 6:3b ).

The first verse is testifiably accurate, biologically speaking; about 70 or 80 years is a fairly normal and average lifespan, and although some have lived as much as a decade or more beyond a century, others have only lasted 30-50 years. The second verse that we read here, though, is where things could get a bit confusing. Is this the point where men began to live for a shorter time, as some have speculated, or is this 'one hundred and twenty years' symbolic of a certain period of time allotted before judgment falls, as others have speculated? There is no question that this is somehow related to eschatological matters, for several mentions of the flood judgment of Noah's day can be found in The New Testament Scriptures, Matthew 24:37-39 and II Peter 3:6, for example.

I believe that, when read in the covenant context; Hebrews 9:27 & 28, as quoted above. is not making a biological statement, and, in that sense, not even a spiritual statement about some personal judgment, but rather, is a wholly eschatological statement, one that is altogether related to the coming events of AD66-70.

To find context for the verse above, from the letter to the Hebrews, we must go back to near the beginning, in Genesis 2:16 & 17, where Adam was told, 'Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.' As we read in the next chapter ( 3 ), although Adam did not physically die, as one might think from God's words, he did experience the adverse judgment of separation from the blessings of the Presence of God; from that day forward, he no longer had access to the Garden where he was used to walking with God in the cool of the evening, and because he had tried to gain wisdom before he was ready for it, he must undergo the struggles which that decision had saddled him with.

The book of Hebrews, as anyone can easily ascertain, is a book of 'betters', a better covenant, a better mediator, a better sacrifice, etc. The writer to the Hebrews, in our central verse above, is simply showing us, in different, but similar terms, how Jesus' sacrifice is better than the old; as Adam had been condemned to death, or separation from God, thus necessitating all the blood-sacrifices to symbolically bring man ( adam ) back into the Presence of God, so now the One, True Sacrifice, to which all of this simply pointed, was sufficient to permanently bring man back into the Presence and Blessings of God. The writer is simply making another comparative statement about the betterness of Jesus, and of the New Covenant, not a statement about the biological cessation of existence, and a personal judgment!

Does/did God judge His people individually?

As I've quoted before, the Gospel of Matthew ( 1:21 ) states that Jesus came to save His people from their sins. This, in context of the writings of Scripture ( at that time, the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Septuagint ), told Mathew's original audience that the Israelites, that seed of Abraham that, by faith had remained true to the faith of Abraham, were the recipients of that salvation. They would have understood, from passages like Ezekiel 37, the famed 'valley of dry bones' passage, that although individual bodies, as part of the corporate body,  would be raised, but that rather than individuals who were dead, or dying; it was the corporate body of Israel that had died, and needed this salvation, this resurrection that the prophets had foretold, and of which Matthew wrote!

As I've also discussed before; judgment has come to have only a bad connotation. Many Christians ( 'mea culpa' ) are quick to say, when they observe a people or nation, even a certain individual undergoing tribulation, of whatever sort, 'that person ( nation, people ) is under the judgment of God!' This may be true enough, but not necessarily in the way that we're used to thinking! Judgment is simply a mental decision about a person, place or thing. 'That girl is pretty', 'that guy is handsome', are two examples of judgments that we make everyday that are, in most cases, what we would call 'a good judgment'. How we act upon our judgment, and how the girl or guy responds may determine if we have made a true and just judgment. 'That person is doing wrong' is an example of an adverse judgment, and again, our action, based on that judgment, and their reaction to that judgment, may determine whether it turns out to be 'a good judgment', or whether it has a lasting, rather than cleansing, effect!

God works in the same manner; in AD70, or rather 66-70, God implemented the final and lasting ( age-during ) effects of His adverse judgment of His old covenant people, and at the same time brought the effects of His righteous and kindly judgment upon His true Covenant people ( also age-during), which resulted in their salvation!

So; is it truly appointed to all men to die and then to be judged? I believe not! The writer's words, in Hebrews 9:27 & 28 were not meant to convey this idea to men and women thousands of years in the future, but rather to bring comfort to those who knew that with this one final sacrifice of the Christ, His death on the cross,no more would they have to be eternally separated from their Creator because of an adverse judgment against their sin; they, through the Christ, had been judged, and judged righteous ( II Corinthians 5:21 )!

Ga-low-ray!
Charles Haddon Shank