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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

If you are at all familiar with the traditional 'Lord's Prayer', you should recognize this phrase as one of the final phrases in this prayer, and the final request. No doubt this prayer, as taught by our Lord Jesus to His disciples had more of an immediate significance to them, eschatologically speaking, but I believe that we might as easily 'voice' this prayer today.

As we struggle with temptations ( of all kinds ) daily, even though we are the New Temple of God, and bask in His Presence every day; we ought to realize that, though our conscience has been cleansed, we still deal with those who may yet live under the shackles of Law ( or so they may believe ), not to mention the fact that though we are a ( made ) new creation, the Body of Christ, and The Temple of the Holy Spirit, we are still human beings, with natural inclinations ( desires ), not altogether a bad thing!

Our prayer might better be directed toward our mothers, brothers and sisters today, for we are the Body of Christ! Physically speaking ( please don't get me wrong; I am not discounting the Spiritual ), it is to each other that we should direct our prayer, for although, as James said, it is from within that these ( evil ) desires come, if there is no object for that desire, there can be no ( evil ) desire. This is not to say that all desire is wrong ( evil ), but more often than not, desire is based on feelings ( still not altogether a bad thing ), and when those feelings change, which they most often do, at some point, and to whatever extent, the desire changes! As our desires change, our relationships often suffer, because they are ultimately based on feelings!

Feelings are not altogether a bad thing either; God gave them to us! They are one of the five physical senses that He built into us, as well as being a sort of sixth sense, spiritually speaking, which enables us, in our spirit, to know certain things which may not be ascertainable to the physical senses! If we are led by the Holy Spirit of God that is within us, our feelings should relate to us the sense that certain natural tendencies are wrong, while certain others are right and good.

Too often, and sometimes without realizing it, we tend to lead our brother, sister, father or mother into temptation, either by our words, actions or both. If we dress a certain way or act in a certain manner toward others, the other person may perceive the wrong message and act, or react rather, in a way that is not pleasing in God's sight, or in the sight of His People! Even in these situations, it is not so much the actions of the first person that are wrong, but in the reaction of the second. Even so, we should heed this injunction to the Body of Christ, and do our best not to lead our brother, sister, father or mother into temptation!

Being the Body of Christ, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit that we are, we still have those human tendencies, which can lead us either way! This is where necessary Communion with the Body of Christ comes in; when we stay in Fellowship with the Light, it becomes easier to overcome those ( wrong ) tendencies. Not all physical tendencies are wrong ( in fact, many are good and right altogether ), and as we are strengthened by that necessary Communion, our tendencies will lead us more into the realm of Right, rather than Wrong, God, as opposed to Evil!

This is not, as I must declare always, to discount the infinitely powerful work of the Holy Spirit, but more often than not I believe, God works through His People to accomplish His Will! In all things, and in all ways, His Will, His Purpose is accomplished, and so I agree with the musical artist, Jewel; 'We are Gad's Hands'!

Charles Haddon Shank



Friday, August 23, 2013

A Living Law

'There is a Law for God's people'!

You may have heard that the Law ( yes, the so-called Mosaic Law ) was abrogated at the cross, when, as Scripture says, 'having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us.......He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross' ( Colossians 2:14 ), but Jesus said, 'Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill' ( Matthew 5:17 ). The apostle Paul also wrote in another place, 'Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.' ( Romans 13:10 ) So, was the Law abrogated, put aside, and ended, or was it the Mosaic Code, or contract that passed away?

In a recent post, I pondered shortly the notion that the written code given to Moses on Mt. Sinai was a contract, rather than, as it has been traditionally ( orthodoxically ) viewed, a covenant. The Ten Commandment, as summed up by Jesus in Matthew 22:34-40, although given through Moses, and thus seen to be a part of the so-called Mosaic Law, ought more correctly to be seen as God's Law, or the Law of Love. The 613 some odd 'commandments' or stipulations given in the Mosaic ( written ) Code should be viewed simply as terms of a contract, which conditions to these terms are spelled out in Deuteronomy 28 and surrounding.

This contract, as also discussed previously, and by more learned men, might better be viewed, also in opposition to traditional orthodoxy, as a betrothal contract, or covenant. You may remember that, in a previous post on this subject, that I discussed the differences and similarities concerning contracts and covenants. A contract may be given as part of a covenant, but as a contract may involve, for instance, the building of a house, when the house has been built, the contact has been thus fulfilled and necessarily comes to an end, whereas if the contract is based in relationship, which may continue, it is seen to have simply part of a covenant. So with the Mosaic Code, or contract; as simply a part of the greater Covenant that God formed ( 'In the beginning' ) with His people, it was given as a betrothal contract of sorts, wherein God said, 'if you will keep my Law, at the consummation of the ages, I will come in to you and you will be My people ( Wife ) and I will be your God ( Husband )', and they lived happily ever after!

This Law of which we speak, better known maybe, as the Law of Love, the Law of God, may be seen to have been personified in Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God! 'God is Love' is a familiar and most famous and well-known fact; the Son of God was sent, not only to fulfill ( fill up ) the Law, but to become the Fulfillment of the Law, thus God, being Love, is also, by extension, the Law Himself!

I have reasoned previously that, as any earthly father; God has given His children a set of natural laws to live by, if we are to enjoy the blessing of His Presence!

Not only do we have this natural law of sowing and reaping to think about, when we fail to keep the Law of Love as we should, there are also blessings and cursings involved. If we love our Father, and our neighbor ( brother, sister, mother ) as yourself, we reap the blessing of Joy in the Presence of God, but if we fail to love as we aught ( and we all fail at times ), we experience the ( cursed ) loss of that necessary communion with our Father, and so live a cursed existence until such time as we return to that communion where we can enjoy the blessings of His Presence!

This is not to say that when we ( ourselves ) fail to love as we aught, that we are cursed forever. Since God sent His Love to dwell in us, that is, in His New Temple, we are thus filled with the Love of God, and because He is faithful, even though we are not always, His Love trumps our lack of love; Love wins!

Through the Fulfillment ( again, 'filling up' ) of His own Law; God has shown Himself to be a Living Law, One that is unchangeable, inscribed indelibly on our 'hearts', not just engraved in stone or written on papyrus!

As we continue to 'fill up' this Law of Love', let us always remember, that even though we fail in our labors of Love, it is His Faithfulness that guarantees us a seat at His table and a place in His Holy Family!

Even so let us strive to love as we are loved, and live in the Law that gives Life!

Amen,
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beautiful Lies?

But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, 
or causes[o] an abomination or a lie, 
but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Revelation 21:27

Utopia is a beautiful dream, but is it any more than that? John is describing one of the many facets of the New Jerusalem above, or, as some might term it, 'heaven'. If 'Heaven' is indeed a place where the 'wolf' will literally lay down with the 'lamb', and the 'lion' will literally feed alongside the 'ox', then maybe we are waiting, futuristically, for some far-off utopian landscape as John seemingly describes above.



Any simple Google search using terms like 'lion with lamb' ( which is based on a faulty tradition ) or even 'wolf with lamb' will likely reveal at least one story or video about unusually friendly animals cavorting together that are traditionally at enmity with each other, or at least are thought to be. Is this simply a preview of 'Heaven', a foretaste of what things will be like when Jesus finally comes back, burns up the earth ( including its periodic table ) with unquenchable fire, and ushers in 'the new heavens, and new earth'? Or is this merely the result of the peace that the Presence of God brings? Is this simply one of the many facets of the concord that we so fondly refer to as 'Heaven'?


To imagine a world without physical, mental, or emotional disability, especially for those like myself, is a pipe-dream; as the saying goes, 'wouldn't it be lovely?' Yes, that would be lovely; no more being carried like a back-pack around 'the Kitchen Sink', no more having to refrain from certain activities because my body just won't keep up with my mind, no more carrying a cane everywhere I go, and etc., but that's just me!

It has been said, and said often and truly, that the Book of the Revelation borrows more heavily on Old Testament history than any other book in the New Testament. This is not as clear as it should be to the casual observer, especially those who tend to disregard the Old Testament, except maybe the Psalms and Proverbs. When read in the context of the Hebrew Scriptures though, and even part of the Greek, it is easy to ascertain the truth of this statement. For instance, by reading the prophecies of Ezekiel and Hosea, we can easily ascertain to 'whom' John is referring when he mentions 'the great harlot'. When we read of the 'beast' of Revelation, especially the many-faceted one in Revelation 13, all we need to do is read the prophecy of Daniel ( and even Ezekiel ) to see where John got his 'picturesque' story from. There is truly, 'nothing new under the sun'!

No more shall an infant from there [ live but a few ] days,
Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days;
For the child shall die one hundred years old,
But the sinner [ being ] one hundred years old shall be accursed.
Isaiah 65:20

In the first few verses of Revelation 21, John seems to describe a utopian Paradise, an almost unearthly ( although hauntingly familiar ) dream-scape, but when in the context of like passages above, we can see that this is speaking of a present situation, though maybe future to the original audience.

In the modern evangelical church, this lie, among others, has been propagated out of mostly pure ignorance, though in many cases, it is purposeful ignorance, for whatever reason. Even though these lies, especially in the case of 'Heaven', may convey beautiful pictures to our naturally speculative minds, they are what they are, and not being defensible, in all honesty, from Scripture! As lies, especially in the case of 'Heaven' ( and related doctrines ), they may seem harmless enough, but they really are not!

Pretty obviously, at least, in the more traditional version, if 'Heaven' is a place that is often termed 'Utopia', or even 'Paradise', then futurism is right, and we have it to look forward to upon physical death ( depending on which version you ascribe to ), or at the return of Christ, which Scripture says has already happened! If one lives according to their belief that Heaven is a place that we only look forward to, then that one will naturally focus one's efforts on going there when one dies, instead of building God's Kingdom on Earth, as He instructed His disciples to do in the first century AD! Remember too, that Jesus told those same disciples, in the first century, that His Kingdom ( 'Heaven'? ) was near! If we do not understand this aspect of the Story, we will miss many other statements that Jesus made, and the many allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures that He, as well as the apostles, made!

Beauty, as Truth, is absolute! Either something is beautiful, or it's not! In some relative sense, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder', yes; one man might see beauty in a certain woman or thing while another may not. The beauty cannot be seen though, if it is not there! If one man sees it and the other does not, the other is necessarily deluded; the thing he beholds is beautiful, but he has been blinded to it's beauty! So it is with Truth; if a lie is taught long enough, and seems to be beautiful enough, it will be believed as truth! Beautiful as it may seem, though, 'Heaven', at least as we have traditionally been taught it, is a lie!

What is truly beautiful, though, is that God has made His people ( on Earth ) His New Temple, or dwelling place, and that is Heaven! It is the enduring Presence of God which is truly and absolutely beautiful, and this is what Scripture actually teaches!

Let us rest in this Truth, while doing our best to build up in His Kingdom of Beauty!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Stewardship of Creation

Go therefore[c] and make disciples of all the nations,
 baptizing them 
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
( Matthew 28:19 )

We have a problem here in Whitehall! Our church parking lot is normally open to the public throughout the week, but on Sundays, we close the lot to all but our congregation. We even have a sign posted to this effect  but people seem to just ignore the sign!

The verse above has been traditionally understood as an imperative to overwhelm with water any new convert to the Gospel that we disciple, or lead to a saving knowledge of our Lord. To be honest, though, this verse doesn't have anything at all to say about dipping them in water, or even just pouring water on them ceremoniously, much less repeating the action multiple times while muttering some mysterious catch-phrase.

When Jesus reminded His disciples, in Luke 12:50, that He was soon to be baptized ( leading to the demise of His fleshly body ), He did not mean to say that He was about to drown ( except maybe in His sorrows-Psalm 18:5 ), but that He was about to go through an ordeal that no mere man could persist through! He was ready to lay down His life for His Friends!

To baptize, according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, means simply to whelm, whether it be with water, with the Word ( of God-Ephesians 5:26 ), or by 'fire' ( Matthew 3:11 ). It is with this 'Fire' that we deal today! Our lot, as our lives, is not our own, but belongs to our Lord, Jesus who became the Christ! He is the 'fire' with which violators will be baptized!

'Oh sure', you might say, 'just because I park my car here when the law ( sign ) says not to; God's going to rain down fire from 'Heaven'? 'I don't think so'! Well, no, your car probably will not be instantly vaporized by a giant fire ball if you don't obey our law ( although, this is not outside the realm of possibility ), but when you disregard God's Law, or even the just laws of His People, it's going to catch up to you someday, and probably sooner rather than later!

This is not to threaten, but to remind any violator that ignorance, purposeful or otherwise, will not be disregarded. We recognize, as the Body of Christ, that we are given the stewardship of His Creation, even if we've turned it into a parking lot; it's still His! We are His, and all that we have is His!

As His Steward, 
Charles Haddon Shank


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The After-life

With all the movies, TV shows and books available today on the subject today, if you are not thoroughly convinced of 'life after death', then something may be right!

The traditional concept of 'life after death', while usually fairly pleasant to think about, is no more than mere speculation! Wouldn't that be awesome, especially for those with physical disabilities, not to mention mental ones, if, after this earthly experience, there was an other-worldly one, without the pain and suffering? I mean, think about it; no broken or missing limb ( 'no canes or walkers, either' ), no bad things happening to good people, and so on and so forth!

Sounds like a utopian dream! Much better than the dystopian nightmare we're living in right now, right?!

Well, 'Dream away', but while you're dreaming, make sure you don't dream your Life away!

You've no doubt heard, read and watched articles like '90 Minutes in Heaven', with people talking about their own or others near-death experiences and 'heavenly' previews, and shows or movies like 'Medium' ( who can forget 'Highway to Heaven'? ) and the recent 'The Lovely Bones'. All very interesting and fun to think about ( well................), but it's really all just vain speculation. People may tell you of their own, or loved ones experiences ( or experiences with their loved ones-that's pretty popular right now! ), and be totally convinced that what they felt saw or heard is very real. They may even convince you, and you may even have visions or some other sort of 'super-natural' experience! I'm not saying it's not possible, or even outside the realm of possibility! In fact, the more of this stuff that I hear and see, the more I'm beginning to believe that 'they' may be right! I DO believe in 'The Communion of the Saints' ( dead & living ) after all!

So, aside from the little bit of nothing that we can gather from Scripture on the subject; what DOES happen to us when our biological bodies expire? Ecclesiastes 12:7 says that 'Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.' Seems pretty 'cut & dried', right? After our physical body ceases to function and becomes worm-food, our spirit returns to God! Is it really that simple, or is this statement, like so many others in Scripture, an eschatological construct? Are we not with God at present? Paul wrote to the Church in Thessalonika that 'Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.' ( I Thessalonians 4:17 ) I quote John 11:26 a lot, but if we are now His Dwelling Place, where DO we go when our biological bodies cease to function?

It's nice to think that one fine day, we will see our loved ones again in some perfect and heavenly Paradise, but there is, sad to say, no Scriptural warrant for it! Again, watching 'the Lovely Bones' last night, I got to thinking about the probability of that kind of scenario ( except maybe the bit at the last about the 'possession'  ), but this again, can only be speculated about, although it may be good speculation, and even biblically based ( 'Logical Conclusions', remember? ).

The 'after-life', which we've reasoned about before from Scripture, is our present Life in the Kingdom of our Father! It is Life of the New Covenant which God Himself revealed to His people in the form of His Son, Jesus, who was the Christ ( the Anointed One ) Not to rehash too much of what I've presented before, but the apostle John wrote that 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life' ( John 5:24 ), and later, in a letter to his 'children', 'We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death' ( I John 3:24 ). These, by the way, though being eschatological statements, or applicable today, though maybe not to the same extent that they were then. According to these statements, especially within the context of fulfillment, we can see that we are alive forevermore, and living in this Life after Death which was promised to those who love Him!

One comment I received in preparation for this post was that it's better to focus on life before death than on life after death. I agree! We should focus on living life in the here & now for the glory of God and the good of His people, His Kingdom! Should we spare ANY thought, or engage in vain speculation about some sort of 'after-life'? Well, if we aren't living right in the here & now, we might worry about an 'after-life', but if we are living in right relationship with our Father and His Family right now, there is no need to worry about an 'after-life'; THIS IS IT!

'I hope you dance'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Fellowship of the King

One King to rule them all, One King to find them, One King to bring them all and in the Light to bind them.

Okay, so maybe it's just a little cheesy ( some might say 'sacrilegious' ) to take Tolkien's inspired words here and use them for this purpose, or is it? Is this not what our Father, in His infinitely glorious Covenant, does and has done?! When Tolkien wrote his masterpiece, I'm sure he had no intention of writing a treatise or thesis on the greatness of God and  the utter futility of the efforts of men to strive against His Master Plan, or did he?! This is pretty much what this awesome piece of literature turned out to be, after all, cleverly disguised as arguably the finest work of fiction the world has ever known! He showed, among other things, that it is most often the case that God uses the smallest, seemingly insignificant ( even foolish ) characters to confound the seeming wisdom of the wise, or the over-powering might of the powerful and the mighty!

This amazing book picks up where The Hobbit left off, though about 60 years later. In the aforementioned volume, Tolkien introduces us to this diminutive, quiet and seemingly shy ( to Big People, anyway ) folk, a folk who had, in recent times especially, become so reticent and seemingly insignificant in the affairs of the Big, Wide World, that most Big People barely take any notice of them. Our first meeting makes us think almost of a silly, fun-loving little people, comical even, but by the time 'The Fellowship of the Ring' rolls of the presses, we are made to understand that, though these Little Folk can be quite comical at times, even silly and almost stupid and bumbling, they are anything but insignificant!

'I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.'
' So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.'

This famous exchange between the wizard Gandalf, who interestingly enough, plays an almost Christ-like role in the Story, and Frodo Baggins, the diminutive, yet toweringly fearsome hero of the Story, is but one of the great quotes in the Book. In fact, these words could almost be said to mirror those of Jeremiah in his prophecy ( Jeremiah 20:9 ). They should bring to mind one of the most comforting passages in the New Testament Scriptures, wherein the apostle Paul comforts his readers in their afflictions, telling them that 'all things work together for good to those who love God' ( Romans 8:28a ). You can almost hear Mordecai's warning to Esther ( Esther 4:14 ) in this conversation between Gandalf and Frodo.

The Law, as given an Mount Sinai through Moses could almost take the place of the Ring in this Story. The Law, as the Ring was favorable to its Bearers as long as they followed its will, or rule. As long as they held it, they were blessed with unnaturally long life, though it was, in the case of Gollum, or Smeagol, a miserable existence ( did Bilbo fare much better? )! Israel, as long as it followed and held the Law given on Sinai, though they led a troublesome existence, were blessed, for the most part, with a long life on and in the Land.

Although Tolkien was avowedly a Christian, and hints of his Christianity can be seen throughout the body of his work, especially his Middle Earth saga, it should be noted as a flawed theology, as is much of Christianity! All of the types and figures that those with keen eyes and sharp minds can see within these pages are imperfect types, much as those that we see in Scripture. Tolkien, Christian that he was, made clear to his fans that this was not to be viewed as Christian literature, and reportedly denied any similarity of his creation to that we read about in Scripture!

As one wends through this first volume all the way through to the final one in this 'trilogy' ( though it is actually six books ), ending with 'The Return of the King', it is notable that though with the return of the King, the defeat of the evil power of the Ring, and an ensuing reign of peace, there are still real dangers in the world, which we read of in the closing chapters of 'The Lord of the Rings' ( 'The Scouring of the Shire' ). Because of the defeat of the power of this Ring and its final destruction, peace flourished throughout Middle Earth, and though there were still factions that threatened to disturb that peace, it could not be done away with as long as the True King sat on the throne.

Though not in the aspect of being bound that we often think of today, we are bound to the communion of the saints, much as the 'fellowship' were bound to each other. They, as we, are bound by the bonds, the Law of Love, to each other. He, love Himself, in His sovereign Rule and Power, sought us, He brought us ( together ), and bound us with the Law of Love written on our hearts! 

In His Love, we can enjoy this fellowship that He our King has brought us into, and while there are still dangers in this world, 'snakes in the garden', so to speak, we can rest in peace, knowing that, since our King has returned, come down to us, nothing can sever us from His Love, His Life, ar alter His Purpose, which is fo our good and His glory!

Amen,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The End of Faith

There is some talk in recent times, with the many and varied aspects and implications of the word 'fulfilled', that certain things have come to an end, or ceased, as a result of their fulfillment. In most cases, when a thing, such as a contract is fulfilled, it is necessarily brought to an end, the agreement being 'filled up'. For instance, one party may contract to do a certain thing for another party, such as build a house for them. When the house is built, and all the terms of the contract have been met, or fulfilled, the contract usually ends. Another example on the other end of the spectrum, so to speak, is the contract between a prostitute and her 'John'. Time is usually of the essence in these situations; the contract, whether simply being spoken or written, is often, from what I understand, made for a certain amount of time ( feel free to correct me if I'm wrong ). When the time is up, and the prostitute has held up her end, so to speak, and fulfilled the contract, her duties have come to an end and the contract ceases!

Contracts may lead to a relationship of whatever sort, to whatever extent, and they often do so in the case of house-building because of maintenance and up-keep. More and more though, a separate maintenance contract will be offered, and so the relationship, of whatever sort may continue ( that's what it's all about, 'relationship'! ) Somewhat the same may happen in the case of a prostitute and her 'John'. She may became his favorite ( and usual ) 'fling', and thus the relationship will continue, whether purely business or otherwise. In certain cases, the two parties involved may covenant to 'quit' any third party involvement, and the 'John' may end up rescuing her from her death-style!

Most contracts, though, are meant to be of a temporal nature, and although they can lead to a further relationship ( beyond the terms of the contract ), when the terms of that contract are fulfilled, it ceases to be, and there are no more obligations on either party.

Not so with covenants! 

Covenants, especially biblical covenants always involve a third party, usually a mediator, or Higher Power. In the case of the Marriage Covenant, two parties agree together, before God, to live together as man and wife, and to become one in word and deed. Some marriages have more of a contractual aspect, in that when either party feels that his or her purpose in the marriage has been fulfilled, the marriage is most often brought to an end, like any other contract! In fact, some so-called marriages are actually contracts, which may involve certain agreements having to do with money, or with certain requirements to be performed by either or both parties.

The Mayflower Compact, as I understand it, was formed more as a contractual agreement than a covenant. It was, as I understand it, made consensually and acknowledgedly before God, and could thus almost be considered more a covenant than a contract! In that this contract, or 'compact' was made to preserve the union of the parties, and to bolster a society, you may well say that they covenanted together!

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1 ( NIV )

What is the end of faith? 

First of all, maybe we need to clarify what we mean by 'the end'! By saying that it is fulfilled, do we mean that it has ended, that there is no more need of it? Or, speaking of 'the End' of Faith, are we referring to the Christ, Emmanuel, God with us ( John 11:26 )? If this is the End of which we speak, then yes, I agree, Faith is Fulfilled! Like I told a friend, 'it is filled up in us'. Because it is part of an everlasting ( age-during ) covenant made by an eternally infinite Being; it is forever. Although I ordinarily prefer the NKJV, I quoted the NIV in this circumstance because it uses the word 'confidence'. Is He not still our confidence? Do we not still exercise confidence in Him as the God and Master of the Universe?? The Faith that the Old Testament saints exercised was a confidence in the hope, the religious belief that one day a Messiah would be revealed, One who would lead them to True Freedom! Their faith was fulfilled! The Messiah that they looked for was revealed and did lead them to True Freedom! Eschatologically, the Hope that they had did come to an end; their hope in a Deliverer to come out of Zion was made evident, and so in that sense ended! The Object of that Faith, just like the Object of that Hope, and in fact Faith and Hope personified, are met in the person of Jesus the Christ, God Himself, Who is eternally infinite and existent!

But, one might argue, since that biblical faith in the hope of the Messiah was fulfilled, is it not true that faith is no longer necessary, and thus is no more? We've already seen that this cannot be so, for people must still exercise faith in Christ, in order to believe religiously, in other words to live out their beliefs. There must be a confidence in the word spoken if there is to be a belief, especially an active belief, in the Person. Thus, Faith, even though it be fulfilled eschatologically, is not ended, but as we saw earlier, is rather filled up in us!

 A covenant, like a contract, requires faith, faith in the fact that the other Party will do what He promised. If faith, being fulfilled, is no longer necessary, then we no longer need a covenant either. If we have just an agreement to live together, work together, etc., what we have is simply a contract, which when fulfilled, is brought to an end. Maybe this is why we have so many marriages within the realm of what is called Christianity, that have fallen apart, making a mockery of the bond between Christ and His Bride, between God and His people! Maybe if marriage, as well as other relationships were viewed as the covenants they are, or should be, the world would look more like the Kingdom of God and Heaven it is!

Maybe if we practiced our Faith, rather than discarding it as used up, and pertaining only to biblical figures, as those we read about in Hebrews 11, then maybe we would begin to see the Kingdom expand, as more real and lasting relationships are formed, and covenants, not just contracts, are formed and fulfilled!

I have Faith that this WILL happen!

Amen,
Charles Haddon Shank






Tuesday, August 06, 2013

No More Lines


Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 ( NIV )



In the modern evangelical, and even fundamentalist Church today, there is an attitude of watching and waiting! Thus, many such churches seem to be waning rather than waxing. Oh sure, the numbers game played by the corporate officers may seem to be bolstering the local economy, and the members may seem, on Sonday anyway, to be 'on fire for the Lord', but it doesn't take much seeking, usually, to find that's what it's all about; the numbers!

Obviously, and quite reasonably, just like a lie, the more it festers, the more it grows! If you are only after numbers, which too many congregations these days seem to be, the entertainment value that brings them in must continually grow in order to keep them coming. Entertainment only goes so far, and as the wisest king of Israel found, 'hope deferred makes the heart sick'. How often, do you think, do those who are entertained with the utopic return of Christ, the so-called 'second coming', have to be disappointed with a false hope and crushed with a 'no-show', before they will turn their backs on His so-called church and say, with the crowds, 'crucify Him, crucify Him'?!

These same 'Christians' acknowledge to an individual that Christ is in their hearts, that they are indwelt by the Spirit, but they lure some in with the unreasonable hope that He is going to return in the person of Jesus Christ, ushering in a utopian dream called 'the new heavens and new earth'. Many of these 'Christians' have missed, ignored, or otherwise 'glossed over' the gravitous fact of 'Christ in us, the hope of glory' ( Colossians 1:27 )! The fact that they are still waiting for their hope seems rather absurd, given their acknowledgement that Christ IS in us!

The Kingdom of God, or Heaven is a reality that Jesus said, in His day, was near, and that the apostles spoke of as 'about to be', 2,000 years ago! If Jesus has not returned yet, which, to be precise, is what the apostles prophesied, then neither has 'The Lord's Prayer' been answered. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, 'Thy Kingdom come.......on earth as it is in Heaven'. If this prayer has not been answered and Jesus has not come, then maybe they are right and this is not 'Our Father's World'!

The belief that Jesus has not come ( repeatedly ) when prophesied, and that we are not living in the Kingdom which He said was near almost 2,000 years ago must be very disheartening. To live your life as if everything for which you have labored and spent your life's blood, sweat and tears, could all be washed away tomorrow, burnt up along with the rest of the physical universe when Jesus returns, must take the wind out of your sails ( if ever wind there was ). The old saying, 'why polish brass on a sinking ship' has new meaning! If all our works will be reduced to a pile of ash anyway, why bother beautifying what God has so graciously bequeathed to us?

Seriously?

Thankfully, 'NO'! Many, in fact, more and more Christians who believe like this, live their lives rather inconsistently with their stated belief, building things that last, acting as if this is 'Our Father's World' and living as if there is no tomorrow! 

They live as we ought to live, being Jesus to a desperately seeking world, a Father's Creation, His children who, through whatever means, have been estranged from Him, and are seeking that necessary relational communion. Many seek that communion in the wrong places and find only a temporal relief and shelter ( at best ) from the storms of Life! They will never find the True and Lasting Communion till they seek solace in the Only True Source, in the Body of Christ! If the Body of Christ does not provide that necessary communion, they will continue to seek it elsewhere, and they will die! If we, as the Body of Christ, will share in the Communion, the relational blessing that we have been given, they will live, the Body of Christ will continue to grow, rather than stagnate, and the Kingdom of God will expand!

We must find our joy again!

The Body of Christ, or the Church as we know it, must realize their hope has been fulfilled ( filled up to the overflowing ). If Solomon was right, and he was rarely wrong, and 'hope deferred makes the heart sick', then it's no wonder that so many of our 'churches' have lost their touch. No wonder that so many seem to be sick & dying among us!

The realization that the Kingdom has come ( 'on earth as it is in heaven' ), that our Hope has been 'filled up', and that the 'new heavens and new earth' is not some utopian Paradise, must come as quite a shock to some Christians! We have labored all our lives, to a greater or lesser extent, under these false assumptions.

Believing that we are the Body of Christ, living in the Paradise ( remember the snake in the Garden? ) that has been Restored to us, gives us much Joy! Knowing that we live in Perfect Communion with our Creator and Father helps us to live our lives to the fullest, and encourages us to love as we are loved!

Charles Haddon Shank







Friday, August 02, 2013

Therefore Get Wisdom

Been there, done that!

The wisdom of the ages, especially as revealed through that wisest of Israel's kings, is the standard for wisdom! Of course, we know that the wisdom revealed in the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, all point toward and speak of that Greater and True Wisdom, personified in the Person of Jesus who was the Christ. We, as His Body, and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, are possessors of that Wisdom, in fact, you might say that we, the Body of Christ, now embody that Wisdom!

'So', you might well ask, 'why do so many Christians make so many unwise decisions, making a mockery ( among nonbelievers, especially ) of the Union between Christ and His Church?' Why, since we have the Presence of Wisdom personified, do some Christians act so foolishly sometimes? To a watching world, one that does not acknowledge the Covenant, the answer may come quickly, and in the form of, 'well, they're just hypocrites; they really don't practice what they preach or do what they say; why would I want any part of that, they're no different than us!' If we truly have The Wisdom of the Ages, don't you think we would be acting wisely?

No one of us is perfect, that much is clear! By saying that one should be acting wisely if one truly possessed The Wisdom of the Ages, I am not saying that one does not possess The Wisdom of the Ages, unless one acts wisely all the time. I'm simply saying that he will be known for his wisdom, his wise action. I can empathize with those who have acted unwisely, because my life has not exactly been a shining example or a perfect personification of wisdom. This is not to excuse my own foolishness, or the foolish actions of others, but sometimes life seems to make it almost impossible to choose the wiser path!

Like I said; 'no one of us is perfect', and we're only human, right?!

Wrong; we're not only human!

Because we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, indwelt by the Wisdom of the Ages, even, you might say, Wisdom Personified, we are no longer merely human! Yes, we still have all of our human sensibilities, the greatest of which may be what is known as our feelings, our emotions. When I say 'greatest', I don't necessarily mean 'best', just most pervasive! Feelings, for their own part, are not necessarily a bad thing; emotions play a leading role in how we act, and I'm not saying that they shouldn't either, it's just that when those feelings or emotions lead us to act unwisely, foolishly, then is when we must stifle those feelings and emotions, and begin to think ( unselfishly ), 'how does my action ( or lack thereof ) effect those around me; what should I do for the betterment of society around me, not just for my own selfish 'feelings'?

This is where Wisdom comes in!

Wisdom, especially as written and Revealed in Scripture, but now seared into our conscience as well, tells us, among other things, that we are to think, not only of ourselves, but others as well! ( Thinking only of ourselves usually has an adverse effect on others around us, and thus an adverse effect upon us as well ) Conversely, when we act in wisdom, unselfishly putting the needs of others before our own, this usually ( not always ) has a blessing effect, because as we bless others through our unselfish actions, we are most often blessed ourselves, by their returning those unselfish feelings and actions, heaping blessing upon blessing back on our own head!

Prayerfully considering my own selfishness,
Charles Haddon Shank