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Sunday, September 23, 2012

The True Worship of God

'God [ is ] Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.'


 Newspaper Exegesis?

In this day and age, we have many Christians who throw up their hands at the latest outbreak of hatred, whether in the Middle East or in our own nation, news of the latest natural disaster to strike, or the latest religious scandal to signal 'the falling away', and say, 'Jesus is coming soon'! They believe that this world is under the dominion of 'Satan' ( rather than God ), and that 'he' is the cause of all this evil, which does seem to be escalating and growing more rampant with each passing day!

You hear a lot of talk, especially among conspiracy theorists and anti-government 'whackos', of the coming one-world government, and you may well believe it! There is most likely more truth to the 'rumors' and 'murmurs' than most of us feel comfortable admitting. Although this is most probably ( to some, 'undoubtedly' ) happening as we speak, and quite possibly further along in planning and closer in actuality than even they had imagined, we, as Christians especially, must realize who the True Ruler of this world is! These are simply the plans and machinations of evil men, men who were created by the God we serve, and thus, whether they like it or not, are completely and utterly subservient to him; 'under His thumb', so to speak!

These same Christians ( I'm almost inclined to employ quotation marks here ) 'see' all these events happening all around us, and all the evil that seems to run rampant without check through this world, and say things like, 'how could a good and righteous God allow this evil in the world?', or make statements like, 'if God was really in full and total control of this world, all this evil would not exist'; 'no, just wait till He comes back; He will set everything to rights again!'

Really?!

This is not going to be an essay about preterism; I'm not going to go to any great lengths to try to prove that all is fulfilled! My purpose is to remind all my fellow Christians ( no quotations here ) that, as Jesus said in the verse above, we are to worship Him 'in spirit and truth'. Most Christians will readily admit that when Jesus spoke these words, He was referring to the fact that it was no longer in a specific place that He was to be worshiped, like the Temple ( in Jerusalem ), or on the high places ( in Samaria ), but that wherever His people were, He would be worshiped 'in spirit and truth'. So many of us today, I believe, do not really understand this, or realize the full import of this statement. Jesus first of all said that His followers would worship Him 'in spirit', which we could safely assume to have the basic meaning outlined above, but He also said that we would worship Him 'in....truth'. Here's where we get into the 'tricksy' part, the biblical argument for fulfillment; I'm not going there ( 'been there, done that' ); better men than I have done an excellent job of showing ( proving ) that. All I would tell my fellow Christians ( again, no quotations ); look at all of these passages that you've been told by your pastor, etc. teach that this world is in the grasp of the devil ( 'Satan' ) and that God is not ruling on earth, that His Kingdom has not come 'on earth as it is in heaven', as Jesus Himself, the Son of God prayed, with all honesty, and then try to tell me that the above is true! I think you will find that the Spirit of the most Holy God will begin to convict you and show you that He has fulfilled, and is continually fulfilling, all His promises to His people!

 And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Daniel 2:35b

Does this sound like 'a one world order' to you? It sure does to me! John wrote, in Revelation 11:15, 'The kingdoms of this world have become [ the kingdoms ] of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!' Even when taken in the context of the time and place in history in which these statements were made, it is pretty clear what these men of God were saying; 'The earth [ is ] the Lord’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein.' ( Psalm 24:1a ) 'This is Our Father's World'; this is a fact which no true Christian will deny, so why do we have such a problem believing what He Himself said about when He was coming, and what He said about His rule of this world?

When we disbelieve that He spoke truthfully to His first-century disciples of His soon ( 'about to be' ) coming, and attribute the dominion and rule of this world to a 'creature' that He said was defeated and cast out ( destroyed ) in the first century, can we truly say that we worship Him 'in spirit and truth'? When we spread hatred and discord ( disunity ) around the world, and even around our own country, within the bonds of peace, can we truly be said to be followers of Jesus?

Let us all be honest with ourselves, and realize who the True King of this 'New World Order' is, and worship Him 'in spirit and truth', following the path of truth and righteousness that He has set before us!

In Love, and for the unity of the faithful,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Civil Liberty and The Powers that Be

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. 
For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

There are several ways that this verse could be interpreted. This verse is only a part of a larger passage from which is gleaned the accepted ( among most Christians ) understanding of the authority of the civil magistrate. As accepted by most Christians, this passage is usually understood as saying, at the very least, that we must obey all civil authorities, as long as what they command does not contradict what God commands. As the apostle Peter once said, 'We ought to obey God rather than men'. This is true; we ought to obey God rather than men! God has given us a list of commands, or laws to live by, and when we follow those laws rather than the laws of men, we have the peace that passes beyond all understanding and blessed communion with our Creator. These Christians argue that if the civil government orders us to do something which is contrary to the laws of God, we most surely should disobey, though usually in a pacifistic manner, their orders. At the worst, I believe, other Christians will blindly obey the civil 'authorities', even acting contrary to the laws of God, either out of pure or even willful ignorance.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.

Beyond the clearly eschatological nature of these statements, they hold a very clear and blatant message for us today; 'True rulers, those ordained by God, do not, as many today, 'call evil good, and good evil', but rather execute ( God's ) 'wrath on him who practices evil'! Those 'authorities' who do not this are no authority at all, and should not be obeyed as such!

For because of this you also pay taxes, 
for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.

As before, many Christians believe that we should dutifully pay every little tax that our governmental 'authority' levies on us, and will vilify anyone, especially another Christian, who doesn't do the same. I'm not a tax lawyer, and neither will I make this all about dutifully or not paying any taxes, because I believe that some taxes should be paid, especially with the system we have set up in this country. The road tax would be one of those taxes; 'somebody has to pay for it!'

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The verse above, though it may seem  to have nothing much to do with Paul's little sermon earlier in Romans 13, has *everything* to do with it!  Love, as we can see throughout the Greek, or New Testament Scriptures, 'is the bond of perfection' love is what it's all about, and when Paul speaks of love here, it's not the 'touchy-feely' kind of love that we are most familiar with today, a 'love' that can enrapture to people one minute, and the next minute fall crashing to the floor! No; this love fulfills, or fulfilled, rather, the law; it is active, not doing harm to another, respecting their liberties as you would your own!

Paul was reminding the Roman Christians of their bounden duty before God to love those whom God had put in authority over them, as Peter said later, 'whether to the king as supreme' ( I Peter 2:13 ) or to governors, 'those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and [ for the ] praise of those who do good'. These were not commands to obey all authority,even that which only claimed the authority, but only that true authority which acknowledged that higher Authority, the authority which God alone has, Absolute Authority! Any earthly power who claims to have or tries to wield absolute authority is not of God!

In conclusion; a quick note on the eschatological nature of the verses above. If, as some suppose, the 'governing authorities' of which Paul writes were indeed the Roman, or civil authorities; it could truly be said that they had been ordained of God, but for the annihilation of the ministry of death, the punishing of the evils that Judaism had brought upon God's covenant people. On the other hand though, 'God’s minister to you for good' might well refer to that same ministry of death, or the commandment, rather, which, as Paul wrote elsewhere, 'which [ was ] to [ bring ] life', for although they ( the Jews ) failed to fulfill God's purpose for them, which was to bring life to His greater creation; they were still the 'Keepers of the Commandments', so to speak!

So, as we continue to see our civil liberties go down the drain, let's keep in mind that, first; Paul was addressing a particular situation that a certain people faced, in a time long ago and a land far away. Secondly; let's keep in mind that these words, though certainly applicable to us today, are not a command to obey just anyone who claims the authority over us. There is only One who truly has authority over us, and He has ordained certain ministers to reward those who do good and to punish those who do evil!

Let us not just simply watch our liberties, civil or otherwise, go down the drain; let us stop using a misinterpretation of Scripture as an excuse to sit on our laurels and then complain when nothing good comes of it!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, September 10, 2012

All God's Children?

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood [ shall be ] upon them.
Leviticus 20:13

Several things we might note about this 'command'; first, it IS a part of the Mosaic Law, which most Christians will heartily agree, passed away at the cross, and secondly ( and these are not necessarily in order of importance ), this only speaks of male with male, there is nothing said here ( or anywhere else, to my knowledge ) about female with female, or two females with a male, or any other such combination. You might note that it IS impossible for a woman to lie with another woman after the manner she would with a man, and in a sense you'd be correct, but for the purposes of purely selfish pleasure, this is somewhat possible. With the marvels of modern technology, it might even become possible for two women to have sexual intercourse, and for one of the women to become pregnant through such intercourse. Although they are working on this too, it is still not possible for two men to lie together ( have sexual intercourse practicing sodomy ) and for one of the men to become pregnant. It just doesn't work; unless the sperm penetrates the egg, there is no conception!

Traditionally, especially among the more 'conservative' Christians; sexual intercourse, between a man and his wife, has been hallowed for it's procreative essence, almost solely, and up till 100-200 years ago, depending where you're from, maybe, it was deemed an almost 'necessary evil', and only to be practiced as the means of natural procreation. Some of these puritanical ideas exist even among certain sects of Christianity today! It most definitely was not purely a pleasurable past-time!

God made the male and female bodies so that they would mesh perfectly, and devised an ingenious delivery system that would not only safely and efficiently deliver the sperm to the egg, but He also made the system in such a way as to afford a kind of orgasmic pleasure to both partners! He created us in such a way, too, that there was not a conception every time this system was utilized, but that it was always, or at least, almost always, depending on the situation ( 'headaches', etc. ) enjoyable!

Biblically speaking, then, there is the verse quoted above, that speaks against what is known as homosexuality, or sodomy, in some circles, and the episode of Lot and the two messengers in Sodom, as recorded in Genesis 19, that speak most plainly against this life-style ( or death-style, as I've even called it in the past ), but interestingly enough, Jesus never condemned the practice in His day, though you must know it was around. The Ten Commandments never mention it, and when Jesus summed them up in Matthew 22; if He attached as much importance to the condemnation of this practice as most Christians do today, you'd think He would have at least added, 'oh yeah, and that thing about a man lying with a man back under the Mosaic Law........', but He didn't; not one iota!

Now don't get me wrong; I believe that God instituted the marriage of a man and woman, for as I've often said, 'God brought Eve to Adam, not Steve to Adam'! This is most likely where the puritanical notion that men and women are supposed to 'come' together solely for the purposes of procreation came from ( 'Be fruitful and multiply' ). Now, as described above; it is not even possible ( they're working on it, though ) for a man to get pregnant, as he only carries the sperm, and not the egg. Sperm with sperm only creates confusion, when there is no egg to penetrate, or invest in! I'm not saying that homosexuality is not wrong, but neither will I condemn it as a more terrible transgression of God's word than any other selfish idolatry, or any practice of rebellion against God!

Children of God?

In this post-eschaton ( some might even say 'post-biblical'; oh, wait, that was me! ) era in which we live, there is a growing tendency, even among some Christians, to say that the law is no more, even to an almost neo-anti-nomian extent. There may be a sense in which that is true; the so-called Mosaic Law, that which was written in stone, was fulfilled in Jesus the Christ, and nailed, with Him ( in Him, might be a better way to say it ) to the cross: the Law died! Without going back over too much ground that we've already covered, Jesus, in that sense, was the Law, and Jesus was resurrected! In the same way then, the Law was resurrected, only this time, it wasn't written in stone; this time, the Holy Spirit of God entered into us, much as in the pictorial story of Matthew 1 and Luke 1, and planted, much as a seed, the Word of God within our hearts.

As our Creator, our Father, if you will ( okay, even if you won't ), God has many children, but traditionally, again, Christianity tells us that only those who accept God and His Christ, and live according to His Word are children, or rather, sons of God. Scripture does say, in several notable passages, that the sons of God are those ( and only those? ) who do His will and keep His commandments. In a previous article, I hinted rather strongly at the possibility that this phrase was simply an eschatological statement. Not only do I believe this to be so, and that this phrase was used in opposition to 'sons of Abraham' ( Adam ), or even 'sons of the devil'  ( which is what Jesus called the Pharisees ( John 8:44 ), but that all men ( women too ) are the children, sons and daughters of their heavenly Father.

One way to explain this post-eschaton, and almost extra-biblical belief, would be to use the analogous example of a human father and his children. Like it or not, and it happens even among Christians ( I can attest to this in my own life ), something happens in families, where one or more of the children become estranged, for whatever reason, from one or both of their parents, and even though in some cases, the offending child will often be disowned, this child is still a part of that family, though maybe not an integral part, and not privy to the blessedness of family life. As long as both parent and child live, there is always the hope of a future reconciliation!

So it is with our heavenly Father; all His children have been reconciled with the one final and atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Christ on the cross. One can argue till they're blue in the face that it is only those who subscribe to the Covenant  that have been reconciled, but I believe that common sense, at the very least, should tell them how wrong that is! I agree; all have not reconciled with their Father, and so, in that sense, have not been reconciled to their Father, but the Christ finished His work at the cross; He reconciled His children to Himself! It is now up to us, with the Power of the Holy Spirit of God, of course, to reconcile the world with Him!

In His family,
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, September 06, 2012

"Why is this happening to ME; what did *I* do to deserve this?' ( the Patience ( and Wisdom ) of Job )

Often, when we are beset with trials and temptations, we tend to ask ourselves ( or God, rather ) questions like this. When we are faced with such situations, however, it is not as usual as it used to be, to turn to the story of Job, and seek the wisdom that he employed when faced with his tribulations ( I can almost guarantee you; what he faced was worse than pretty much anything most people face ) There is much hidden wisdom to be gleaned from the book of Job, but my purpose is not to seek out this hidden wisdom, necessarily, but to seek that which is plainly written.

'Have you considered My servant Job, that [ there is ] none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?'

When reading this story, this is what we need to keep foremost in our minds; God saw Job as the Perfect Man, doing as he should! God was not wrong about Job, although one might tend to that conclusion as one enters the story, He did not speak falsely concerning Job; Job lived up to every expectation God had for him!

'Why, then, did God allow all this to happen to him?', you might ask. You might as easily ask, 'why did God place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden, knowing, as He must have, the trouble it would cause?' Going back to our first question, for we might dismiss the second for a later time, again we can see, as we read through the story, some reasons for why this might have happened to Job. First of all, we might ascertain, as some have, that God was simply using Job as a test-case, to prove to his Accuser that He ( God ) was right about Job. This, although it almost seems unfair, and certainly somewhat petty of our Creator and Father, may seem to have a sort of *wisdom* about it, and almost certainly is the clearest answer as to why Job had to endure what he did, I believe, is not the answer!

If something were to happen in our lives which made us feel akin to Job, and even when we have done things that we know are deserving of this or worse, it is natural to look back on our lives and ask ourselves ( even others ), 'why is this happening to ME?', and 'what did *I* do to deserve this?' As individuals, and again, this is only natural, we tend to selfishly think that WE must have done something wrong to warrant this tribulation! Though this is sometimes the case ( we do reap what we sow ), it is not always so; look at Job and ask yourself, 'what did Job do to warrant this?' Well obviously, seeing as God proclaimed him 'a blameless and upright man', he didn't do ANYTHING to deserve it, so 'why', again, would God do this to poor old Job?

Often, more often than not, sadly, when such things take place in our little lives, we're tempted to murmur and complain, lash out, and sometimes, to despair. However, when we realize that we are not simply individuals ( we are that, but ' no man is an island' ), but that we are part of a larger Body, a part of God's creation, and therefore subject to a higher Power and Purpose, things might begin to fall into place, so to speak, for us!

Job's friends, as we can see from our own reading of the story of Job, had some good points. They were wrong in many aspects about Job, but they spoke quite correctly about certain aspects of God's nature.They actually seemed to have a certain *wisdom* about them!

As we find later in the book though, Job's friends had not spoken rightly of God, especially  concerning Job, maybe, so Job offered sacrifice ( theirs ) and prayer for his friends, and they were spared the wrath of God who would have dealt with them according to their folly, had he not! Looking at Job's friends, then, we can ascertain at least one aspect of the wisdom of this piece of literature. If Job had not gone though all that he did, the folly of his friends would not have been exposed and so would have been 'dealt with' ( we can only speculate what THAT might have involved ), and Job would not have had the opportunity of 'playing priest' ( atoning ) for them!

We, therefore, when we go through these trials and tribulations, whether deservedly, reaping what we've sown, or whether, hard, as we try, we cannot fathom why God would allow such calamity to befall us, should first ask ourselves, 'how does this calamity affect those around me?', 'what might God be doing for them through me?' The realization that it is not all about me, but that it has everything to do with us, should give us pause, and even the greatest comfort when we go through what some have called 'the trial of our faith'!

The question before all of us, and I will say, almost selfishly, before me, first and foremost, is, 'will we use these situations to glorify God, to strengthen and edify the Body, or will we selfishly murmur and complain, even despairing of life? Will we use the wisdom that Job showed, and persevere, or just do better, or will we continue to reap what we sow, wallowing in our own guilt and misery?  

The choice is yours; choose wisely!

Sufferingly,
Charles Haddon Shank






Monday, September 03, 2012

The Main Event; the dissonance between true preterism & partial-futurism

'The only good 'ism' is a prism'

Have you ever heard this saying before? If you have; have you ever really thought about what it means? From a theological point of view, it should remind us that 'isms' are usually based on men's actions, or ideas ( 'baptism' may be the single exception ). As long as human beings exist, though, 'isms' will persist! That's just the way of it! Men ( and women ) naturally think that they are right, that they have the truth, and that any who disagrees with them on what that truth is ( including the logical implications of that truth ) does not have the truth. That's where 'isms' come in; they become dividing factors ( factions, even ) that serve to make a schism ( there's that 'ism' ) in the Body of Christ!

It is true that there are two 'isms' present in the title of this article, but they are present simply to show why there is such dissonance, or lack of harmony, especially when it comes to eschatology, within the Body of Christ, which Body we are, as manifold Scriptures clearly proclaim. Speaking of eschatology, or the study of end things; it is either fulfilled, or it is not! You can't have it both ways! There are others out there who are better equipped than I, who have taken great pains to show that ALL of the Scriptural promises related to eschatology MUST needs have taken place in the first century with the return of Jesus ( God ) in judgment on His Covenant people.There will be no proof-texting in this article, but I do adjure you to carefully, and within the covenant context, READ all the relevant texts, and remember Jesus' own words in Matthew 24:34; 'Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place'!

I have recently viewed a video by one such brother, which chronicles this dissonance, in which he shows that the main difference ( three, actually ) between the two camps named above is that true, or full preterists ( he calls them 'hyper-preterists' ) believe that the final Return of Jesus, the Resurrection and the Judgment are in the past, having been fulfilled in the event that transpired between the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and His final 'coming in the clouds' judgment of His Covenant people, while the partial--futurist ( he call them 'historic preterists' ) belie that there is a final Return, Resurrection, and Judgment in our Future. They DO believe, hence the 'partial' moniker, that there was *a* return, *a* resurrection ( of sorts, not quite sure how all that works out ), and *a* judgment, but that these were not the final word, so to speak; the fat lady has yet to sing!


Without going into great detail or discussion here, and without making this article too long and tedious; let's take a quick look at each of these events, beginning with the main event, and working our way down, which leads back, naturally, to the Main Event!

Return

Jesus told His followers, 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'. Through the witness of the Holy Spirit, which His Father sent as a Comforter to the first-century church ( 'the church in short-pants', anther brother has called it ), and His subsequent Return; Jesus kept this promise! I anyone denies that He did, then that one is indeed without hope! While none will disagree that the Godhead now make their home with us through the Holy Spirit, you might hear arguments about a promised future bodily return.

Since Jesus promised that both He and His Father would come and make their home ( dwelling ) within the Body of believers, you would think it follows that Jesus now dwells with us; so where is this 'return'? Will He leave us at some point in our future, and then 'return' ( again? ) to.................???????????

Oh, wait.............

'I will never leave you nor forsake you'!

A bit of proof-texting, or an eschatological statement? Either way, as the writer to the Hebrews ( 13:5 ) made this quote most likely from the Septuagint; it is a very clear statement that God would never forsake His people! This may seem to be a simple, even childishly weak argument, but it may serve to show the ignorance of the whole idea of this future 'return'. Again; since God now dwells with His people, having made His dwelling ( home ) with them once more, what need is there for a 'return'?

Resurrection

There is no doubt, for Scripture plainly relates it, that there was a major resurrection 3 days after the death and burial of Jesus. This was ostensibly a bodily resurrection ( Jesus' was ) and even during the ministry of Jesus, we read about several bodily resurrections. There were some recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures as well, but all pointed forward to THE Resurrection, which was, and is, Christ!

The same brethren which were mentioned earlier, seem to have a problem wrapping their heads around the idea of corporate resurrection, or the idea ( fact, really ) that it was NEVER about individual bodies, though individual bodies must necessarily be involved; it was all about a corporate resurrection of the Body of Israel, God's chosen people, His 'firstborn'! A careful ( as opposed to 'care-less' ) reading of Ezekiel 37 is probably the clearest example of this corporate ( though again; individual bodies were involved ) resurrection!

As a covenant document, Scripture stands as testimony of the faithfulness of God to His people, individual people, yes, but as a Body, the resurrected Body of Christ!

Judgment

As we have seen  in previous articles, judgment, as opposed to being a bad thing, or having a bad connotation, is a good thing! Judgment can be made for good or for evil, as God made known throughout the prophetic Scriptures, by bringing the curse upon one group of people, and heaping blessings upon another ( see the corporateness there? ). we are called to judge whether a thing or idea is good or evil, right or wrong. Sometimes we make wrong judgments, based upon our own feelings, and call good evil and evil good!

The Judgment that God ( Jesus ) meted out in His Return in the clouds ( AD70 ) was an adverse judgment on His typical Old Covenant people, yes, but more than that, and weaving back through the tapestry of Resurrection and ending ( beginning ) in the beautiful and continuous symphony that was His Return; He dwells once more in the midst of His people, and unlike the typical Tabernacle in the wilderness, this a permanent dwelling place, never to be destroyed, and without the separating veil!

The Conclusion of the Matter

You may have already come to your own conclusion, or accepted blindly the conclusions of others; you may have even stopped reading before this, because you figure I'm just 'off my rocker', and 'way out in left field', maybe 'too far gone', but these sorts of conclusions would only further strengthen the notion that 'the only good 'ism' is a prism'! If you are so sure that you are right, and thus everyone who disagrees with you is wrong, that you are willing to separate over it, and to foster schism within the Body because of it, then maybe you should have stopped reading a while back; you're part of the problem!


By emphasizing, as I have done, that those who foster such schism within the Body are part of the problem, and by pointing the finger at THEM, I inadvertently point even more fingers at myself! No MAN, I don't care how innocent he thinks he is, or how righteous and truthful; no mere human being, for we are weak by nature, can truthfully say that he does not, to some extent, fell, or have felt this way about his brethren; I know I cannot!

In conclusion then, as the wise man once said, 'Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all': as the great Anti-type to which he pointed said, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is [ the ] first and great commandment. And [ the ] second [ is ] like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'. Love is the main thing, and if we do not have enough love not to separate the Body of Christ over our 'isms', then I believe it is questionable whether we have the love of God in Christ!

Fearfully, Charles Haddon Shank