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

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

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dis-Ease & the Breakdown of Society

Right now, in this nation of ours, arguably the biggest news story is one coming from my home-state of Virginia. Very near to the heart of Virginia, Charlottesville has been rocked of late by the proposed removal of a statue or statures commemorating the venerable but horrifying history of these United States, but the South in particular. I will freely acknowledge that I have not done my research. I do not know the extent of the damage that has been done ( maybe still going on ), nor do I know any particulars. Nor do I really care to know! This is not to say that the deaths ( on either side ) does not concern me, or that the wanton violence does not disturb me in the least. As far as I'm concerned & I will say no more ( about Charlottesville ), it only goes to prove that violence, no matter how 'righteous' the cause, only breeds more violence!

In any society where human beings are involved, 'we're gonna have a problem'; it's inescapable! this one wants that & the other wants this. Recent events bare ample witness to this fact, but it's not only in recent history that we have noted this. Ever since the inception of our beloved nation, there have been battles waged, whether actually or metaphorically, in the bedrooms, boardrooms & on the battlefields of this great country. Some will say that all this fighting & warring was necessary, 'for the greater good', one might say, but was it really? If, rather than armed rebellion against England, the men & women who birthed this nation had decided to peacefully protest, even though they lost their livelihoods, even their lives, in the process, maybe we would not be experiencing the levels of violence we are currently bearing witness to & have witnessed in the past 200+ years!

Fear Factor is the biggest business in this nation of ours! Whether it's politics or religion, it just makes sense; if you want to control a populace, Fear is your greatest weapon. How do you think Hitler was able to trample all over those touted six million Jews with only a ( relatively ) few soldiers? Fear is the root cause of much hatred, anxiety & indecision. In our minds, we might, when faced with a decision, a judgment call, in other words, immediately rehearse all the possible scenarios our decision might engender & so we may end up doing the wrong thing or nothing at all, simply out of fear of the unknown.

Fear controls the masses! Medically speaking, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the biggest in the world. Much dis-ease is caused by this industry; for example, when the doctor says that one has a certain disease/problem, most people, especially when the so-called 'cure' costs more than they have or can afford, will immediately begin stressing about their situation, which only makes it worse ( 'stress is a killer') & their dis-ease actually becomes worse than it was before.

Along with this problem is the food that we eat. It's almost impossible to truly eat healthy anymore, or at least that's what 'they' want you to think! Either ( again ) there's not enough money to eat healthy all the time, or because 'we just don't have the time or resources'. Because many people don't eat as healthily as they should, this problem intermingles with that of the medical industry, which ultimately rests in the lap of the federal government. The federal government, which is in bed with the pharmaceutical industry, through the USDA & related agencies has, by law ( 'fear', again ) dictated what foods are & aren't healthy, or safe, for the general population to consume.

The government of this nation, which is supposed to be 'of the people, by the people, for the people', seems to have become 'of the weak ( poor ), by the strong ( rich ), for the few ( elite )'! Fear of what might happen if we don't follow the letter of the law has caused much dis-ease as well, among the general populace. This dis-ease, on top of what has already been mentioned, makes this a truly dis-ease-ridden society!

One might wonder at this point, whether there is any way out from under this burden: well, as they say, 'there is a balm in Gilead'! Depending on ones background, maybe, this iconic statement might be taken literally, as in the golden oil produced by the pineal & pituatary glands, or metaphorically, as speaking of the help that comes from Above, from the Christian God, from Enlightenment through Buddha or some other Spiritual Guide.

'Know thyself', a Delphic maxim from ancient times, speaks well to this situation. If more people truly knew themselves, we would not be in the predicament in which we find ourselves! However, because people are taught to fear ( death, taxes, 'fear itself' ) from birth, most have not come to the realization of who they truly are. Our dis-eases largely result, first, from the fact that most are ignorant of what is & is not good for their biological body. The second reason there is so much dis-ease in the world is that many have not yet awakened to the fact that we are not our biology, but merely residents of it. Dis-ease ultimately comes from, is manifested by, our innermost being, our True Self, our Spirit. It is almost incomprehensible to think that simply by healing our innermost being, we could manifest a perfectly healthy biological body, but did not Jesus tell many of His patients, 'your faith has made you well' & 'whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive'?

Fear of the unknown ( ourselves ) causes much unnecessary distress. If more men & women truly knew themselves & thus others, there would be much less war & oppression throughout the world! We can only complete this process within ourselves, for, as another well-known maxim states, 'you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him ( or her ) drink'. Self-awareness is something we can only do for ourselves; as Morpheus said in the late 90s movie 'The Matrix', 'I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it'. All we can do is be ourselves, educate as we can & BE the Change we wish to see in this world!

Charles Haddon Shank


Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Fall as the Story of Israel

And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 2:9

This is not, or at least, should not be, unfamiliar territory. The Story of the Fall of Adam, repeated throughout Scripture, in one way or another, is very recognizable as one of the themes of the Story of Israel. The History of Israel is plagued with spots, like leprosy, that became a blot, rather than a blessing to the nations. A blot, I say, though it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for through it, through Israel's several captivities ( Exile ) the Gospel, the Good News of the Creator's Love for His Creation, was spread throughout the known world. 

Why did the Creator God even plant the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the midst of the Garden, when He should have known, in His omniscience, that Adam & Eve wouldn't be able to keep their hands off of it?' Questions like this have engendered Calvinist & Hyper-Calvinist notions that the Creator God was testing His Creation by placing such a temptation before them. 'Knowing they would disobey Him, the argument might be presented, 'He did this so that He could send His Son to save them from their sin'. This might engender other questions though; questions like, 'why go through all that? Why not just make them perfect in the first place so Jesus didn't have to die? In fact, why not just send Jesus in the first place?'

The fact is, the idea of a talking snake has never set quite right. Sure, there are other stories of animals becoming verbose in Scripture ( well, one other, anyway-Balaam's donkey-Numbers 22 ), but this is not something that is easy for us, especially with our Western mindset, to visualize. With the advent of the Saturday morning cartoon, animals talking with human voices has become a more or less familiar concept, though & so the notion of a snake or donkey talking does not seem so much of a stretch, especially when combined with the constructs that they were, for that time, possessed by a different spirit, whether good or evil. 

The Nature of the Story of Israel, especially when approached from its Ancient Near Eastern context, should be noted as that of literature; a literal history, maybe, relating actual events, but in a way that reveals a deeper spiritual meaning. Take, for instance, the notion that many Christians still cling to; that of a global flood: was the Great Flood of Noah's Day one that covered every square inch of planet earth as a casual reading of certain Scriptures seems to indicate, or was the Author telling the Story in such a way, along with the unbelievable Story of the Ark, to cast forth a Revelation of the Son of God, He who would save the world ( John 3:16 ) from their sin ( ignorance ). The internal & external evidence, when approached with a ready mind, point rather to a localized flood ( if indeed it happened at all, at least as we understand it ), though, at that time, global in its scope!

'If the Great Flood never occurred, to say nothing of Adam's Fall ( complete with the talking snake ), then how can we be sure that the Story of Jesus' Humble Birth was an actual event?' The Virgin Birth might well be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny, for even though we can imagine the mere possibility of a Spirit Being impregnating a human being ( Genesis 6 ), we also know that it usually takes sperm to fertilize an egg. This is not to say that the Story, as we understand it, is complete bunk, but it is safe to say that it is, at least, indicative of something greater.

The Fall of Adam, when viewed with the vision that hindsight affords, is an obvious metaphor for the larger Story of Israel! Though rife with dissonance, the arguments against Adam as the first Israelite have convinced many of their validity. As with the Great Flood & other Scriptural accounts, the notion that these events were anything but literal occurrences seems ridiculous to most Christians. Covenant Creation, along with its forbear, Covenant Eschatology, has been gaining ascendancy in the past few years. The relatively new idea has surfaced within the past decade or so that Adam was not the first human being to inhabit planet earth, but that he was simply the first covenant man, the first Son of God, representative of Israel.

Whether or not the mythical serpent that tempted our first 'parents' in the Garden was possessed by 'Satan',another mythical creature, or whether the Story of the Fall was imagined to put the greater Story of Israel in terms they could better understand, it should be obvious that its not as simple as a talking snake & a forbidden fruit! We may simply understand it as an apocalypse, a revelation if you will, of the Story of Israel. Is it only that? Is it simply a metaphorical re-telling ( or is that 'pre-telling'? ) of a much greater spiritual truth? To focus overmuch on such questions is to miss the point & sadly, wars, both real & metaphorical, have been fought over less!

If only the Creator God had not planted that damn tree ( the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil ) alongside the Tree of Life! What was He thinking?! If Adam had not sinned, Jesus wouldn't have had to die, right!? The idea of our Heavenly Father as a vindictive, petty sort of God is most likely due in part to ancient pagan myths & thus are the Hebrew Scriptures so colored, but the notion of the Creator God sacrificing His Son, like Abraham almost did-Genesis 22:1-19, has always rankled. 

Like the metaphor of the Shepherd & the Sheep, though, the Ancient Near Eastern Culture with which Scripture is interwoven was a culture ( still is ) of bloodshed. We are all familiar with the apostle's words in Hebrews 9:22, 'without shedding of blood there is no remission': why cannot sin be forgiven WITHOUT taking life? In our culture, especially the modern Western mindset, this may seem strange, but in the culture from which the Scriptures came, there was nothing strange about it; it was a way of life! Long before Israel came on the scene, in fact, sacrificing human beings even, not just animals, was not unheard of, as a way in which to appease the gods.

Israel was the Creator God's Son, His Lamb, who was fattened ( in the beginning ) to serve as a sacrificial offering, for a pleasing aroma ( Genesis 8:21 ). This was a metaphorical sacrifice, but it had & has real-world consequences: look at the apostle's words recorded in Romans 12:1; 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, [ which is ] your reasonable service'. The Greater Spiritual Truth to which all the blood-sacrifices of that first covenant pointed was the metaphorical sacrifice of our lives to the Cause of the Christ!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The Garden as Metaphor

 The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.
Genesis 2:8


I will plant them in their land,
And no longer shall they be pulled up
From the land I have given them,”
Says the Lord your God.

 Amos 9:15 

It is well-known, or should be, anyway, that from Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells the Story of Israel, along with the downfall of many as well as the exaltation of a few, but what if the creation stories, including the Beginning of what is known as the Garden of Eden, were not so much literal as literary? In other words, they weren't actually places or occurrences, but were simply literary devices, common to that place & time, to convey a certain Story, the Story of Israel!

You may have heard that a better interpretation of the Hebrew phrase 'בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָֽרֶץ׃', or, 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth', goes something like this, 'in the summit, Elohim fattened the heavens and the earth'. Why the translators didn't use this translation rather than saying 'created', probably has something to do with historical & or religious bias, but really, the answer is neither here nor there. The Hebrew word translated 'created', according to Gesenius' Hebrew Lexicon, means literally 'to cut, to carve out, to form by cutting'. This fact, in itself, would be enough to point to these words as more of the creation of a covenant rather than the formation of material things.

'If we can't read the Garden Story as actual, literal history, then who's to say that the rest of the Bible Stories are?' Among others, this is one question that might be offered up when someone puts forth the idea that maybe we're not looking at the text from the right angle. Maybe if we read this Ancient Near Eastern text from the point of view of the Ancient Near Eastern culture instead of from our Western point of view & Western culture, we would gain a better understanding of this text & others like it.

The Story of the Great Flood is another narrative that plays tricks with our Western minds! When we read the Story of Noah's Ark from a purely Western perspective, we tend to see the Flood as literally having covered the tallest mountains on earth-a good 30,000 feet-which doesn't really match up with the biblical narrative. One could get into some major disagreements ( arguments ) here, but that's not what this is all about; what it's all about is, as the apostle Peter made clear ( I Peter 3:18-22, II Peter 2:5 ), that the Ark of Noah's day was a picture of the Salvation that the Christ brought.

Geologists & historians, for centuries, have toyed with the notion of an actual, literal place, the location of the fabled Garden of Eden.  The Garden has been placed anywhere from the Tigris-Euphrates River Valley to the Persian Gulf Delta. Answers in Genesis, among others in the same boat, seem to have settled the issue by claiming that we might never know because of Flood Geology, which posits a global flood that changed the course of history. All this is quite interesting, but again, beside the point! Whether the Flood was global or local, it pictured the destruction of the enemies of God & through the Ark, the Salvation of the Israel of God.

Since the Story of Scripture is the Story of Israel, it only makes sense that all the stories in the Scriptures are ultimately about Israel, both their salvation & destruction. Even the Story of Daniel in the Lion's Den is about Israel & their salvation from the enemies of God. The same could be said of Sampson's interesting encounter with a lion-obvious metaphor there. The Flood Account is simply a metaphor for the destruction of the enemies of God & through the Ark, the salvation of the Israel of God.

The apostle Peter again makes clear in his second letter ( II Peter 3:5-7 ) that the same creation ( 'heavens and earth' ) which perished by a flood in Noah's Day would again be decimated in the New Noah's Day, this time by fire! By 'the New Noah', I of course mean Jesus, who was the Great Antitype of all those Old Covenant types. Jesus, in His Olivet Discourse ( Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13 ) makes some obvious allusions as well, to the Flood. In verse 37 of Matthew 24, we read 'But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be'. Luke 21:35 records Jesus as saying that, like the Flood, 'it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth'. These words of Jesus, when read from our Western point of view, seem to point to both a global flood as well as a global destruction by fire, but it should be noted that, just as the first Moses wrote of the Creation & Weeding-out of Israel in the first book of the Bible, so the New Moses ( the Last Moses ) referred to the Recreation & Final Weeding-out of Israel in His Final Revelation.

The Story of the Fall is echoed numerous times throughout the sordid history of Israel, leading up to the Assyrian Captivity & the final one, under the Romans, the one Jesus was born into. Exile from the Garden, for Adam & Eve, was simply a foreboding of the Exile that Israel found herself in throughout her history. Is this to say that there never was a Garden of God, a Great Flood, that Daniel never spent the night in a lion's den & that Sampson never had that fabled encounter with a lion? No; the Garden, the Flood & these incidents with lions could have all taken place, but it is just as likely that they are literary devices used to tell the tale of Israel in pictures, so to speak!

The location of the Garden of Eden is really a moot point then, as it merely points to the Story of Israel who, from four camps in the wilderness, then into the Promised Land ( also metaphorical, though literal as well ), were to become a River of Living Water to liven all of God's Creation. The Garden of Eden is a metaphor for what the Israel of God would become in the Latter Days, as witnessed by John in the Revelation ( 21:1 & 2 ).

Much time & money has been spent in trying to prove that the Garden actually existed, money that could better have been spent elsewhere, such as doing what Jesus did, in caring for the poor & needy! If they had spent all that time & money in spreading/sharing the True Gospel of Jesus the Christ, maybe we would be living in a more Edenic world! However, since they thought better to 'prove' themselves right, we have warring factions among those who claim to be followers of the Christ! If only people would take note that it IS all about the Christ & not about some fabled Garden with a talking snake; it's not about whether the Cataclysm of Noah's day was local or global & it sure isn't about lions who had just eaten.

What if all those Bible Stories that we loved to hear in Sunday School never really happened ( at least, not like our Western ears hear them )? Would that necessarily make a difference when it comes to the Christ? If the Garden of Eden never really existed, per se, does that mean that Jesus Himself was simply a metaphor? Since it all pointed to Jesus & ultimately, to the Christ Within, we can safely say that Jesus was not 'simply' a metaphor!

If indeed the word 'bara'' might just as well, or better, be translated 'fattened', the picture of Israel as the Christ makes good sense, for was not Jesus 'an offering and a sacrifice' ( Ephesians 5:2 )? As followers of the Christ, in fact, as little Christs ourselves, did not the apostle Paul say we should offer our bodies as a 'living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God' ( Romans 12:1 ). We are, whether one follows the biblical Story or not, on this good earth, not to pursue the American Dream, nor to make as much money for our children's inheritance before this biology fails, even; we are here to live in symbiosis, not as an island unto ourselves, but in covenant, in community with each other, sharing the Life & Love that we have been given, that we in fact ARE!

Again, does it really matter all that much if the Garden really existed, especially as the biblical witness attests to? No, not really! The fact that it's merely metaphor does not detract at all from the Story of Scripture & in actuality, strengthens it, if anything. The Garden is really a metaphor for the human heart, the innermost being, with the choice between two trees. Will we continue to eat of the Tree of Life & live forever, or will we partake of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil & die? It's your choice; choose wisely!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Across the Universe; Intelligent Design


“Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion.” 


It does not take much to realize that though the creation account in Genesis speaks of a Creator & a Creation ( as opposed to Darwinian evolution ), the Biblical account is not a record, per se, of the creation of the universe, but of the genesis of the melding of the Creator with the Creation. As a side note, there might question arise at this juncture whether the Universe had a beginning at all, or whether, like the Creator, It always has existed & will always exist! The whole notion of Time as linear indeed comes from our study of Scripture, which tells us there was a Beginning & there will be an End.

According to WikiQuotes, 'Intelligent design is the pseudoscientific view that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.' The fact that there is a Creator, in the mind of this blogger, cannot be denied! The very existence of the Creation, call it Mother Nature, if you will, or whatever floats your boat, is manifold evidence of this. Whether, as some have posited, the Creator wound up the Universe like a clock, then stepped back to watch it run down, or whether indeed It, like the Creator is Eternal, free of the boundaries of Time & Space; it is obvious that there is an Intelligence of some sort, not only in the design of the Universe & all It contains, but in its day to day operation as well.

Without doubt, we, as creators ourselves, have an influence, however great or small, on our environment! Through our choices, we determine how our lives will be shaped. We may choose to have a perpetual smile on our face throughout the day, or we might wander through the valley of despair. Either choice will have a great effect, not only on ourselves, but on everyone with whom we come in contact. We may choose to do this or that with the same effect. The same has been proven of the heavenly bodies: astrology, or the study of heavenly bodies, tells us that we are affected by their movements; for example, what position the stars were in when we were born, or rather, when our biological bodies were manifested to this world ( ie, exited the birth canal ). For the female of our species, there is a certain time of the month that is often not so very pleasant to them or those around them. Naturally, we have simply attributed this phenomena to the fact that our bodies are 'fearfully & wonderfully made' & while this is verifiably true, we might also look to the heavens, for it is in the heavens that we have learned to measure Time itself, days, months & years!

The Universe may be likened, in some sense, maybe in the greatest sense, to the human brain: it has been studied & mapped, to whatever extent & while scientists seem to be learning ever more & more about it, there are still some things they don't quite understand. According to many scientists, the Universe is expanding: though this is simply a theory, one might pause to wonder whether the Universe is finite, supposedly like the rest of this Biology we inhabit, indeed, are a part of, or whether it is infinite, like the Creator! In another side note, one might then ask the disturbing question 'have we not made the Creator finite through our religious studies?'

Is the Universe expanding, or is it our knowledge, our perception of It that is growing? Just like with the human brain, Science is learning more about It every day! Will there come a time when Science will know everything there is to know about both the Universe & the human brain? Or are both infinite? Science would like to think, no doubt, that it has discovered many things about the human brain, enough to say unequivocally that the average person only uses 10% of their brain capacity, for instance. While this may or may not be accurate, much the same could be said of the Universe. With the advent of the telescope & even space travel, we have been able to see farther & to go farther than ever, even, it seems, to the very edge of our galaxy, of which there are now understood to be millions, even billions.

From what ( relatively ) little we know of both the human brain & the Universe, it is clear that there was intelligence involved in their design. In both cases, it is evident that, within a micro-millimeter or -second, if things are not perfectly in line, everything is affected! 'If we were any closer to the Sun', as the saying goes, 'we would burn up & if we were any further away, we'd freeze', for example. It doesn't take much imagination to realize that if our brain is not balanced correctly or firing right on all hemispheres, our biology is going to react accordingly. Across the board, or Universe as the case may be, it is abundantly clear that all that is did not just happen, 'out of the blue', so to speak; while it may not be clear yet whether or not the Universe had a beginning or will have an end, we know that It is what It is, what will be will be & while what will be is largely dependent on our choices, all our studying & determination cannot change what It is!

'God', 'the Creator', 'the Great Spirit', 'Divine Principle', 'Source', even the Universe Itself; however one wants to name It; clearly, we are not alone! The manifestation of Nature, of which we a part, does not allow for us to have made ourselves & all that surrounds us. Sure, as creators ourselves, we may truly claim the creation of certain aspects of biology, but we cannot breathe life into it, or can we? It is evident that the bodies we inhabit today had a beginning & will have an end, but that is not to say that the Energy that motivates our human bodies did. The Universe exists from the same Source that we do, so it's not too far of a stretch to imagine that we, like our Parent, are Infinite as well, not in this biology maybe, but we, ourselves, our True Selves!

Time had a Beginning & Time will have an End; as we know it anyway; this biology does run like clockwork, so to speak! The multitude of theories floating around out there, concerning the origins of the Universe, its nature & its operation are, in the greatest sense, neither here nor there, not in Space or Time. The One who so intelligently designed it all to run like clockwork is Infinite, so it should not be a great wonder too us that, outside this biology, or rather aside from it, we too are infinite beings!?

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, July 17, 2017

From the Ashes Of Orthodoxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, July 13, 2017

I AM; the Divine Principle

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Masters of Destiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________________________________________________________________________

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

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, June 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Christ as Inner Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Love Without Judgement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Future Destiny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lucifer; Bringer of Light ( A Companion to 'Who is this 'Satan'? )

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:14

Okay; so in the past few days I have found myself being assaulted by 'Satan'!

No, seriously, 'Lucifer' himself has me under attack, but I know why! Better yet, I know who he is, I can control 'him'! ( Sorry for all the personal pronouns, but just insert 'we' where applicable. ) The 'lower' mind, our basest chakra, if you will, likes to control our emotions & therefore our actions, but we must overcome 'him'; just as the Lord told Cain, 'If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire [ is ] for you, but you should rule over it' ( Genesis 4:7 ). We have a choice, we can choose to act the part of 'Lucifer', or we can choose to act the part of 'Satan'!

'Satan', as my readers might remember, is simply Hebrew for 'adversary.'. Though this, in itself, does not rule out the possibility that there might, after all, be something to the relatively modern rendition of the old goat with a pitchfork, the biblical evidence is too overwhelming to the contrary for this blogger to understand the concept of 'Satan' as anything other than an adversarial spirit. When people blame their problems on 'Satan' or 'Lucifer', then, though the notion still rankles me somewhat, I find that I must agree!

'How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer,[b] son of the morning!' Speaking through the prophet Isaiah ( Isaiah 14:12 ), YHWH began what most perceive as a judgement on this 'Satan' character. 'Lucifer', as further study will show, means 'Day Star'. A Google search may even reveal that 'Lucifer' is another name for 'Venus', or what we often call 'the morning star'. This planet is often mistakenly called both the 'morning' & 'evening star' because it is the first one visible to the naked eye before dawn & after dusk. Usually uttered with a bad connotation & used interchangeably with 'Satan', 'Lucifer' is anything but & so, one might recall these words from the apostle Paul in his second letter to the Church at Corinth ( 11:14 ), 'And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light'!

As 'the light of the world', it is we who often place ourselves under a certain condemnation when we fail to live up to our 'name' In Paul's day, it was the Judaizers, the apostate Jews, those who denied that Jesus was the Christ, who, as those who were ( supposed to be ) 'the light of the world', failed to recognize the True 'Light of the World' when He appeared. These, who were sent as angels ( messengers ) of light, had taken the position of adversary ( 'satan' ) against the cause of the Christ!
  
Jesus was sent, as the Christ, the Son of the Creator God, being of the same Essence. So too, being of the same Essence with both Jesus & our Heavenly Father, we are Sent Ones. We are the Light of the World in the exact same sense as Jesus was the Light of that world! Though we often fail to shine that Light as we should, or think we should, we are still the Light of this world & it is when we fail to acknowledge or recognize this glorious fact that our Light is dimmed.

Getting into the more esoteric & astrological studies, even into what many would term 'New Age' or 'eastern mysticism' , one may ascertain that, 'as above, so below': our human bodies are fashioned in much the same manner as the heavens above & when we fail to realize this, not acting according to this knowledge, we find ourselves prone to all sorts of 'disease', even when it comes to functioning as the 'Light of the World'. On the other hand & to a far greater degree, when we realize our true position in the Universe, our Light so shines before men & women that they cannot help but praise our Father in Heaven, even though they may not acknowledge Him!

Addressing the king of Babylon, YHWH reminded him that, while his purpose was to preserve the People of the Light in their exile, he had, in his own pride, striven to gain the ascendancy. In much the same manner, it is our pride which causes us to fall. However, when we fall, for we always do, we can choose to rise to the occasion, like the bright & morning-star ( Revelation 22:16 ) that we are, or we can choose to settle in the dust!

The greatest adversary in our lives is usually us, our pride, our ego! This is what Cain fought against & what a multitude after him, both in biblical history & otherwise, fought. We continue, to this day, to fight against this 'demon'. Again, though, it is up to us; it is our choice as to whether we give in to our baser instinct, like mere animals, or whether, as the New Creation, we rise above our meaner nature & shine forth as the 'Light of the World'.

Some may say that we're dreamers, but we're not the only ones! As the Children of the Highest, it is in us to shine! Because of a failure to understand what that truly means, we do not shine as brightly as we could, maybe, but even though as through a glass dimly, we still shine. As we continue to realize & acknowledge our place among the stars, we will shine ever bright in the Perfect Day!

The conclusion of the matter, then: BE a 'Lucifer', not a 'Satan'!

Charles Haddon Shank