The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

But why?

Yes; I'm harping again!:)

I love to harp!

Being in the Kingdom; I tend to harp a lot, especially lately, because most people, even Christians, seem to have fallen into the rut of celebrating the most wonderful Gift we, as the people ( family ) of God, have ever received, only, or especially at this certain time of year! So, 'why', I ask again. Why is it that we usually wait for this time of year to sing carols, gather together as families, friends, for these celebratory feasts, giving and receiving of gifts, all; yes, to honor the birth and revelation of the Savior of the World ( I apologize if I seem to be repeating myself; actually 'no', I don't! :).

As I have written before ( I reminisce ); I think that much of our reason for this 'oversight' ( shouldn't that be 'undersight'? ) is that the everyday busyness of our lives often tends to help us pass up the opportunities that God places in our path, if only we would feel free to step out of our comfort zone, defy tradition, and try something 'new'. Especially in the past number of years; the economic 'crunch' has made it even more difficult, with those of us who live at any distance from our covenant community, to gather together for these purposes.

As we near the Christmas holyday 'of most importance', Christmas Day itself, December 25th; the excitement, which has been building, depending on the viewer, at least since the Thanksgiving holyday, will reach it's climax, the gifts will be opened across the country, wrapping will be spread around the room, then discarded, Christmas feasts will be rejoiced over and consumed, games will be played, old acquaintances will be renewed, and familial bonds will be strengthened and enjoyed; but after this season is over, the tree will be undecorated, taken down, and if it was a live ( real ) tree, in most cases, discarded, the Christmas carols, which sing most joyfully of the ( present ) reign of Christ, will cease to be sung ( till next season, anyway ), family gatherings for celebratory feasts will be looked forward to ( next year ), and in many cases, the greatest Gift the World has ever known will be largely forgotten amidst all tthe busyness and cares of the world around us!

I must admit that I get caught up in this 'spirit', as well, and every time this season comes around; I break out the traditional Christmas CDs, look forward to family gatherings, celebratory feasts, and yes, even the gift ( especially the handmade ( or baked ) ones! As much, in the past few years ( as I've matured ), as I 'bah humbug this time of year, like some old Scrooge; I love this holyday season, I love the special music that is usually associated with it, and I love the 'spirit' that fills 'heaven and earth' at this time of year: I really can't say there's anything I DON'T love about this time of year! ( Sights, Sounds, AND Smells! )

As we gather this year ( can you hear the 'harp'? ); let us remember, not only the giving of this Gift, but the fact that this Gift matured into the Revelation of the Presence of God Himself, who once again dwells with and in His people, who presently reigns on this earth ( again, in and through His people ), and who, as the Preacher has repeated numerous times, 'draws straight with crooked lines'!

Maybe this is why most of His people want to remember Him as a baby?!

Rejoicing in the Reason for the Season,
          ( and for all seasons )
         Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I Wish Every Day Could be Like Christmas

'I wish every day could be like Christmas!'

I awoke this morning, as I usually do, and turned on the local radio station, which just happened to be playing this tune by Jon bon Jovi. Around this time of year; I'm sure that most children, and many adults too, would echo his sentiment, if not in so many words, and likely for different reasons.

With the commercialization ( notice, I didn't say over-commercialization ) of Christmas; children, especially, have looked forward, for centuries, to this time of year, because of what they'll find under the Christmas tree, or even in their stockings. I must admit that I tend to get caught up in this sometimes too, but I believe I'm getting better! Don't get me wrong; the giving and receiving of gifts around this time of year is patterned after the gifts that the maji from the East brought to the Christ-child, and most importantly, the Gift that God Himself gave to 'the world', and that His people received, so many long years ago ( two millenia, to be more exact ), and still receive, as His kingdom continues to expand throughout the whole earth!

I believe that most adults ( and artists like the one mentioned above; Bono of 'U2' comes to mind as well ), and even some children, will sing this theme, longing for a time when families traditionally come together in a central location, for, yes, gift-giving ( and receiving ), but more importantly, especially for those who are separated by any great distance, a time of fellowship and communion, a time to renew and strengthen familial bonds, to eat wonderful meals together around the table, and to just enjoy each others company for a season!

This season is also traditionally a time to share our blessings with those in close community to us, and I believe that this is what artists like Jon bon Jovi, Bono, and others have in mind when they voice such sentiments with their artistry. Many even share the love of God abroad at this season ( though they may not recognize it as such ), doing what they can to make the world a better place! Thankfully; it is not only in this season ( time of year ) that this kind of thing goes on, and I believe that we all, as time and finances will allow, wish that 'every day could be like Christmas'!

May we, in this Christmas season, and all year 'round, echo this sentiment, not only in our words, but in our actions, as well, and always share the love that God showed us when He blessed us with His Presence; the Presence which we now enjoy for eternity! Let us continually celebrate this greatest Gift by always enjoying it and through our bettered lives, blessing those around us, as far as our sphere of influence extends!

Many blessings, in Gods Presence,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Peace, Heavenly Peace

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods,
Rocks, hills and plains,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, Repeat, the sounding joy!

The carol, of which this is but one glorious verse, is probably one of the best-loved and most familiar hymns of praise that we sing during the Christmas season. When the Christmas season passes, however, this song, more often than not, seemingly passes out of the thoughts of even most Christians, only to be resurrected the following Christmas season, where they readily and easily ( thoughtlessly, ignorantly? ) sing verses like those above; 'why is this?'

Most Christians will quickly acknowledge the rule of King Jesus; up there, somewhere, reigning in 'Heaven', seated at the Father's right hand, holding sway over 'the hearts and minds' of those who acknowledge Him as their King. Isaac Watts, though, realized that Jesus had been sent to this earth ( world ) to reign and rule, on this earth! He was not alone in this assertion, i.e., it was nothing new!

First published in 1719; these words were based by Isaac Watts, on the 98th Psalm. Scriptural reference to the earthly reign of Jesus does not stop with this Psalm, though; in Psalm 2; David wrote these immortal words, 'Thou dost rule them with a sceptre of iron, As a vessel of a potter Thou dost crush them' ( Psalm 2:9-YLT ( Revelation 2:27 ). He wrote, in Psalm 22:28, 'the kingdom [ is ] the LORD’s, and He rules over the nations'. Throughout the Scriptures, but maybe especially, and most clearly in the Psalms; we see God ruling in the affairs of men, and reigning over the nations. John saw, in his vision recorded in Revelation 12:5, the Offspring which was promised in Genesis 3:15; he wrote, 'She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron'.

Those beloved brother and sisters who see Jesus as 'King of our hearts' acknowledge and long for a future fulfillment of this earthly reign, but do not see Him reigning on this earth as of yet, because, for one thing, 'if He is reigning now, why is there so much evil in the world?', why hasn't the wolf lain down with the lamb, and the lion with the calf?'

Why is there no peace in our generation?

We all know that true peace comes from God alone! Men have gotten the silly notion that peace comes only through bloodshed, but it is only through 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' ( Philippians 4:7 ) that we can experience any true and lasting peace! This peace, the peace that we, as the people of God can experience every day, in even the worst of situations, is the peace brought about by the full realization of the apostle  Paul's famous and most-loved words in Romans 8:28; 'we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to [ His ] purpose'. These words should bring us the greatest comfort and peace, because, whatever happens to us, we know that it is for our good, and for His glory!

For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity. ( Psalm 98:9 )

Jesus came, according to Matthew 1:21, to 'save His people from their sins', but also, as we have seen in several Psalms, and in-directly, but usually directly, throughout Scripture, that He came to rule! It is through the salvation and redemption of His people, His 'purchased possession' ( Ephesians 1:14 ) that He rules and reigns on this earth. It is through the Peace that has shone in our hearts that peace can come to this beleaguered, embittered and embattled world. Through our peaceful ( though subversive ) actions, peace, true and lasting peace, will reflect from our peaceful hearts into the chaos and turmoil of the world around us, until truly, 'Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess' ( Romans 14:11 ( Isaiah 45:23 )!

'He rules the world with truth and grace!'

As I wrote above, 'Most Christians will quickly acknowledge the rule of King Jesus', especially during this Christmas season, but when  the season has passed; how often do we hear from the pulpit the idea, much less the words, 'Jesus is ruling now!'?

Isaac Watts may not have had the full picture, not that we do, even yet, but he at least realized the impact of fulfilled prophecy; he realized that these prophecies throughout, in particular, the Hebrew Scriptures, had been ( past tense ) fulfilled in Jesus the Christ!

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, in 1864, during the height of the American Civil War, wrote a poem, now yet another well-loved Christmas carol, 'I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day'. In the words of this famous poet, 'in despair I bowed my head; "There is no peace on earth,” I said'. After all though; Henry realized, as did Maltbie Babock, nearly a generation later, that though 'hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men', 'God is the ruler yet'. 'This is Our Father's World', and though we sometimes forgot this all-encompassing fact, and it is because of this comforting fact that we should realize peace in ur hearts, and through the Peace in our hearts, spread that Amazing Peace to the weary, war-torn world around us, so that they too, may experience that Peace!

The rule of King Jesus, though a reality to most Christians, as I described earlier, will not, to the reckoning, become a reality on this earth, this 'terra firma', until He returns 'in the glory of His Father with His angels' ( Matthew 16:27 ). The purpose of this article not being to argue the point, but merely to present the fact; the fact that Jesus is now ruling, in and through His people, is an in-disputable fact!

As a friend of mine once said; 'God is in your life, get used to it!'

Friday, December 02, 2011

Turning the Tables ( The Resurrection of Israel )

Now the Philistines fought against Israel; and the men of Israel fled from before the Philistines, and fell slain on Mount Gilboa. Then the Philistines followed hard after Saul and his sons. And the Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, Saul’s sons. The battle became fierce against Saul. The archers hit him, and he was severely wounded by the archers. ( I Samuel 31:1-3 )

Most Christians, I believe, have tended to look at the story of Saul & Jonathan's fall on Mt. Gilboa ( 'swollen heap' ) in one one of several ways. We might focus either on the tragedy of their death at the hands of the Philistines, or we might think primarily of the fact that God's will was done, and that the sin of Saul, the federal head of Israel had finally caught up to him, and he had died, thus enabling his crown to pass to God's anointed and holy one, David.

The focus that many have noted in this story, and I believe it's a good one, is that David was not willing, even though he was providentially given the chance at least twice, to kill Saul, and rid himself of this adversary. He was not willing to be guilty of the blood of God's anointed, even though it would have been a clear case of self defense. I mean; Saul was trying to kill him, right?!

The question that most have not thought of ( to my knowledge ), though, is why was David not willing to kill God's anointed? Besides the fact that Saul had been appointed by God as the king that Israel had asked for, and deserved, do you think that David had any special affinity for Saul, particularly after Saul had attempted, numerous times, to end his life? One can imagine that David did feel some sort of love for this man who had been to him somewhat of a father-figure, and this affinity not totally snuffed out when Saul tried to kill him, but I don't think that this would explain satisfactorily, why David was not willing to take vengeance. So we are back to the first reason, with which I totally agree, but this, I believe, is not the strongest reason, by far!

Fast forward now, to the time of Saul's more modern ( not quite 2,000 years ago ) name-sake.

And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus,[b] who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit'. Immediately there fell from his eyes [ something ] like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. ( Acts 9:17 & 18 )

Among other things, one might note here, that the scales fell from from Saul's eyes before he received baptism. This passage does not clearly state, as many such passage do not, that this was a water baptism, but it most likely was, since this was a sign that Saul had received new life, and would now be a minister of the Lord of Life, rather than a minister of death.

In Luke's record of this event, we read, in verses 3 and 4 of the same chapter ( Acts 9 ), that 'as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' Saul, in essence, was killed, stopped dead in his tracks, both figuratively and quite literally! Later on we read that 'Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one', and that 'he was three days without sight'. This explains what we read earlier, about the 'scales' that fell from his eyes, and many ( most, if not all, really ) have speculated, quite reasonably, I believe, that when Saul was faced with the full ( Shekinnah ) Glory of Jesus, the Son of God, his eyes were seared, and most likely, even his retinas were damaged!

Why, though, does Luke see fit to mention, even accentuate, that Saul was 'three days without sight'? This almost sounds familiar, does it not? Remember that Jonah, when he would have fled from the Presence of the Lord, was 'three days and three nights' in the belly of the 'great fish' that God had prepared for just this purpose. Remember too, that when asked for a sign ( Luke 11:29 ), Jesus told the crowds ( Matthew ( 12 ) records that it was 'the scribes and Pharisees' ), 'This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet'. Matthew goes on to say that, 'as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth'. Jonah's ordeal, according to Jesus, was to serve as a picture of what was soon to happen to him, at their hands, even. We know, from the rest of the story, though, that just as Jonah was returned ( restored? ) to dry 'land', once more to stand up and walk in the land of the living, so Jesus Himself was raised from the dead; the grave, or death, could not hold Him; after 'three days'; He arose!

As we have seen throughout Scripture, the number 'three', and thus, even the phrase 'three days', is very significant; but significant of what, you might ask? I would venture to say that it is significant of resurrection; a resurrection to life, or a resurrection to damnation, but a raising up for judgment! One needs only to look at the story of Joseph in prison to see this.

Returning, once again, to the earlier story of Saul: as the king of Israel, Saul was anointed by God, to be the federal, or covenant head his people. The 'children' of Israel had asked for a king like those of the nations around them, a king that didn't scare them quite so much, so even though God, who was their True King, still had his remnant, interspersed among them, He acquiesced and appointed an earthly king for them, but one who was to be a representative of their heavenly King. Saul, as we can read from history, did an okay, if mediocre job. He was not a great king, though God did accomplish His purpose through him. At the appointed time, God set Saul a test, and just as Adam & Eve had failed their test, so Saul failed his, and eventually fell further and further, until at last, as we read above, God slew him. Though Israel was literally defeated at that time, they rose again to stand, fight, and defeat those same enemies under King David, whom God said was 'a man after My own heart'. At this time, though; Israel, because their king was dead, had died with him!

 Once again, and finally, we return to the Saul that we know so well, he who became the writer of much of what we know as the Greek New Testament; the apostle Paul. Saul, as most can ascertain for themselves, was, in his own words, 'a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee' ( Acts 23:6 ). As a Pharisee, he was 'brought up in this city ( Jerusalem ) at the feet of Gamaliel' ( Acts 22:3 ), Gamaliel being 'a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people' ( Acts 5:34 ). Because this Saul was a Pharisee, and 'zealous for the law' ( Acts 21:20 ), and 'zealous toward God' ( Acts 22:3 ), 'persecuted the church of God beyond measure and [ tried to ] destroy it' ( Galatians 1:13 ( I Corinthians 15:9 ). After Saul was brought to his knees upon meeting his Maker on the road to Damascus, he made a complete turn-about from his former life. He was called by 'a new name' ( Isaiah 62:2 ), Paul, and became as zealous for the cause of Jesus, as he had been against him. When Saul was prostrated before the Christ, being judged in the Presence of God's own Glory, he in essence died, but was raise to a new life, to true Life, with a new name, as had been prophesied in Scripture, the Scripture that he knew well!

With the resurrection of Paul, a representative of national physical Israel, he who once had persecuted the Church of God, the Body of Christ, was now to be ( and was, most horribly ) persecuted for the sake of  God''s people!

The 'tables had been turned'!

For the Glory of God,
And for His people,
Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, November 25, 2011

Empire-builders versus Kingdom-builders ( the city of man versus the City of God )

Where do wars and fights [ come \ from among you? Do [ they ] not [ come ] from your [ desires for ] pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet[a] you do not have because you do not ask. "( James 4:1 & 2 )

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, [ saying ], Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us. ( Psalm 2:1-3 )

Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. ( Psalm 127:1 )

'Death and destruction around the world': so said a good friend of mine in referring to the havoc that has been created and foisted upon the world, through wars unconstitutionally perpetrated in the name of freedom and democracy! I believe that most of us, if we're honestly seeking the truth, would have to admit that, at the basis of these 'wars', is not, as we've been led to believe, in our willful ignorance, a concern for freedom and democracy, but rather, a self-seeking and self-serving lust for power, and an undeniable greed for 'all the oil under the sand'!

From the American Heritage dictionary; we get this definition of the word 'empire', 'A political unit having an extensive territory or comprising a number of territories or nations and ruled by a single supreme authority'. From a very basic study of history, both ancient, and recent; we can note the rise and fall of many empires that have been established, and maintained, for awhile, the the strength, power and authority ( ? ) and most often, cruelty, of man. As we see in the quote from the book of James, above, wars occur because men 'lust and do not have', they 'murder and covet and cannot obtain', yet, James says 'you do not have because you do not ask'. There have been wars for centuries, particularly in the Middle East, needless wars, simply because certain men lust for what they do not have, but other men do. Peace is sought, a truce, at least, from the fighting, but it cannot be obtained, because the only way it can be gained, they seem to think, is by more war, or threat of war.

Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33, 'seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you', but men, it seems, would rather seek their own kingdom, or empire, empires which have been proven to fail, than the unfailing, everlasting Kingdom which has been established by God, and whose rule and dominion will never cease! Why is this, do you think? Was David right when he wrote that 'the nations rage', and 'the people plot a vain thing', because they want to 'break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us'? I believe that a more careful study of the above-mentioned history will show that this is the case, and even though many of these 'wars' ( the Crusades, for instance ) have been waged, and atrocities committed, in the name of God; you will find much the same reason has been the instigation, and the true impetus behind these wars was that men 'lust and do not have'.

Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man: these words are famously recorded in Genesis 9:6, and are clearly a command for the punishment of murderers, As we have seen ( noted ) throughout history, with its many wars; 'bloodshed begets bloodshed'. Lawful bloodshed, or execution, as punishment for the crime of murder, then, is warranted, but although the bloodshed that we have only read of may seem to be warranted, it is simply the lawless murder of other lawless murderers!

The unlawful, and unconstitutional resolution of war, as, for instance, the resolution that embroiled us in an endless 'War on Terror', has, at its very core, a selfish and rebellious spirit that wishes to 'break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us'. The natural man cannot abide the rule of law, much less God's Law, because it requires him to at unselfishly, in the interest of others, rather than himself. As we realize this annoying fact; let us also remember, that, as the people of God, and rulers with Him, of this Kingdom He has bequeathed to us, it is our divine right, nay, responsibility, to call these 'empire-builders' to task for their many crimes, and to remind them, and ourselves of what Jesus tills us;

'Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you'.

In His Kingdom and love,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How Many Resurrections? ( Revelation 20 )

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and scrolls were opened, and another scroll was opened, which is that of the life, and the dead were judged out of the things written in the scrolls - according to their works. Revelation 20:12-YLT

Wonder not at this, because there doth come an hour in which all those in the tombs shall hear his voice, and they shall come forth; those who did the good things to a rising again of life, and those who practiced the evil things to a rising again of judgment. John 5:28 & 29-YLT

These passages seem to indicate that there are two ( different and separate ) resurrections, what Scripture calls 'the first resurrection', and what others have termed the second, or more popularly, the general resurrection. The 'first resurrection', one would think, would be what Jesus told the Pharisees ( Jews ), 'the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.' ( John 5:25 ). The second, or so-called 'general' resurrection, then, would be that to which Jesus referred above, in John 5:28 & 29, quoting Daniel 12:2. Daniel's prophecy ( actually, Gabriel's ), though, gives no hint of a separate, and later, resurrection; so, why not?

The resurrection that Jesus spoke of in John 5:25, as happening at the present time of His speaking, I think most will agree, was primarily a spiritual resurrection, the resurrection that Ezekiel witnessed in his vision, recorded in Ezekiel 37. Remembering that Jesus had told His disciples that, 'in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel' ( Matthew 19:28 ); would it not be safe to assume that this is the 'first resurrection' of which John wrote? Now, some might object here, and for two seemingly very good reasons; first, Jesus used a different word in Matthew's Gospel, than what He most definitely terms a 'resurrection' in John's Revelation, and two, those who 'sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel', or, as was revealed to John, 'they did live and reign with Christ the thousand years', were, according to the latter, 'the souls of those who have been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus', or those who had suffered martyrdom for Jesus' sake. Interestingly enough, though; Luke does not record in his account that Jesus mentioned this 'regeneration', or restoration ( rebirth ), as being the occasion of His disciples sitting 'on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel', but rather, He told them, this would occur in the Kingdom that 'I bestow upon you' ( Luke 22:29 & 30 ). Without going into a lengthy exegesis, or explanation of the particular context of Jesus' words here ( different in Matthew's account ), suffice it to say that it is those who who were counted worthy to enter the Kingdom that would 'live and reign' with Christ!

Yes, I know; I haven't answered either objection......or have I?

Jesus assured His disciples that 'there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom' ( Matthew 16:28 ); He obviously knew that, although some of them would not end in a martyr's death, at least not till the Kingdom was fully present, some, or most of them, would die before this came to pass. Much of the problem, I believe, in understanding the resurrection is the idea of individual, biological bodies being raised ( anastasis ) from the dead ( grave ). The corporate body of Israel, as we saw in Ezekiel 37 is what the whole Scriptural concept of the raising of the dead referred to, and what the several examples that we have noted before in both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures pointed to and signified. As we have noted before too; inasmuch as the corporate was, and is, made up of individuals, individuals do take part in the resurrection. Primarily, though, the resurrection that Scripture signified was never about individual bodies being raised, although this took place, but about a corporate body, as 'in Adam all die', and, 'in Christ all shall be made alive'; it was under the federal headship of Adam that covenant man lost communion with God, and it was through, or in Christ, that he regained Paradise!

The question of why John saw the martyred saints raised to reign with the Christ for the thousand years ( a highly typological and significant figure, as we have seen ), although maybe a difficult one on the surface, really loses it's difficulty when viewed from a covenantal aspect. It was the corporate body of saints, both biological living and dead, who would reign with Christ. Whether they were physically alive or dead had no bearing on whether they were alive to God. Paul wrote, in his first letter to the Church at Thessalonica, that 'we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep'; earlier, in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, he wrote 'We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed'. He wrote, a little later, that 'the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed'. The dead, as we have seen in previous studies, referred, not ( necessarily ) to the biologically dead, but to those who had engendered covenantal separation from the blessings of God's Presence.

We have noted that, in the Gospel account that Matthew recorded, that it was 'in the regeneration' that His disciples would rule and reign with Him, whereas John, in the Revelation, uses the Greek 'anastasis' to portray the truth of the resurrection, the raising to life of the dead ones of Israel. Although somewhat differently worded, both of these words connote much the same truth, especially when taking into account the true, spiritual and covenantal nature of the resurrection. Regeneration is what Jesus talked with Nicodemus about, as we read in John 3. Nicodemus thought, strangely, that Jesus was giving him a biology lesson, but Jesus was really imparting a greater spiritual truth to him. So with the physical resurrections that we see in Scripture; they simply pointed to the greater spiritual truth of the resurrection to true life, life in covenant communion with God, life without which one is truly and really dead, though his physical heart may continue beating.

Are/were there two separate and different resurrections portrayed in John's vision in Revelation 20, one spiritual, and the other physical, as Jesus supposedly declares in John 5?  It would almost seem so, wouldn't it? When you think of Jesus words though, to Martha, in John 11:26 ( yes, I'm harping on John 11:26 again! ), 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live'; it  becomes clear ( it should, anyway ) that there is but One Resurrection, over a period of 'the thousand years', maybe, but ONE resurrection, several glorious iterations, maybe, but the same glorious Truth!

Rejoicing in this gloriously fulfilled Truth.
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 05, 2011

In God We Trust?

How can we say we trust in God, and yet rely on the state for our salvation?

There are many Christians out there who seem to want it both ways. We want to keep God and Government in separate realms. Over here; we want to have our faith, and live our lives according to that faith ( as long as we don't offend anyone ), but over there, we want to let the civil government have their way, whether it's right or wrong. In spite of this; we often complain when the civil government steps on our God-given liberties. Some of us don't seem to care, having seemingly given themselves over to an attitude of 'que sera, sera'; like the realm of civil government doesn't have anything to do with our Christian faith. Speaking of attitude, we often take the same stance towards wicked civil government ( often not very 'civil' ) as we sometimes have toward young men; 'boys will be boys': you might well say, 'bad government will be bad government', so we might as well vote for the lesser of two evils, right? Wrong! Many Christians seem to have forgotten the fact that God has called us to bring every thought ( word and deed ) into subjection to Him, and when we try to separate these realms into religious and secular ( 'and never the twain shall meet' ); we tend to forget, as well, that there is no such thing as two separate realms; Jesus removed the separation, and if we would still posit that the separation is firmly in place, then maybe we need to rethink our own position!

Words have meaning, and religion, or religious, put simply, means to live according to what we believe. Everyone, if they're honest with themselves, is religious! Politics is another area that has been abused thusly. Politics, put simply, is the unified decision of a certain group of people, to do one thing, or another.

A question that needs to be addressed is, 'in what God ( or god ) do we trust? Americans, many of them, like to keep God in their back pocket, in the pages of a book, so to speak, but if this is the 'God' you serve, if this 'God' allows you to throw your allegiance to other gods ( the state, etc. ) as well; is this truly the jealous God ( Who does not change ), the Almighty Creator of the universe, the Sovereign Lord of all? If your religion is 'behind the eyes and between the ears' where it won't offend anyone, even other Christians; is it a true religion? If your 'God' is content to rest his laurels between the covers of a book, or within the safe confines of four walls, behind prison bars, so to speak, and your active Gospel is not offending someone, then perhaps you are truly not religious, and your 'Gospel', your 'God' is not the true one!

True religious faith is an active faith, and if we are actively supporting, through varied means, whether by omission or commission, the wicked and apostate government of this nation, or this state, rather than being the watchmen we are commanded to be, if we are not actively speaking out and engaging the enemy; how will our fellow servants know how to fight them ( even who )? More importantly, though; if we do not religiously enter into the body politic, and make decisions for the good of the Body, and not selfishly for the individual, the Body is going to suffer; indeed, history has shown us many examples of how the Body has suffered, and lost her political freedoms; her freedom to make the right choice, the choice to follow God's Law, rather than man's!

It is not too late! What we need to do is to repent of our lackadaisical ( dead', as James put it so well ) faith, our 'faith' that resides 'behind our eyes and between our ears'! If we repent of a faith that agrees with those politicians that say 'I have a deep personal faith in Jesus Christ, but I will in no way allow this to affect my policy-making decisions', and adopt a true religious faith. a faith that involves us in the politics of governance, a governance that begins with ourselves, works its way out through our families into the Church, and from there into the civil realm (  city, state, and nation ); then our Creator God with whom we are in Covenant will bless those efforts, and this nation will yet again be the Christian nation that our fore-fathers set out to found!

Waking up, by His good grace,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Who is this 'Satan', anyway, and why do we blame everything on him?

I've thought about this quite a lot in the past, and even written more than a few lines on the subject. I really searched my conscience and prayed about whether or not I should even broach the subject again. I realize that many of my brethren have seen 'Satan' for who he is ( 'we have met the enemy, and he is us' ), but I know that as many, or most likely, even more, still believe ( almost dogmatically ) that 'Satan' exists as the personification of evil, a spirit being that 'fell from grace' as one of God's angels, even an arch-angel, to become the 'adversary' of God's people, and is now, depending on your doctrinal stance, anything from a fallen spiritual being who rebelled against his Creator and became His arch-enemy, and in some cases, well-nigh equal in power, to one who was defeated at the Cross and has no more power over the Christian, but is still at work in 'the sons of disobedience' ( Ephesians 2:2, 5:6, Colossians 3:6-in context, those first-century Jews who yet denied Christ ), and will continue to wreak in the world ( 'among the nations' ), until the physical return of Christ in glory. Although this saddens me greatly, and even 'peeves' me to no end sometimes; I do count these all beloved brethren! I hope that through what I have written in the past, and even by what I write tonight, to set people's minds at ease, and even to realize that as evil does not exist, but only happens, so this personification ( of evil ) cannot exist, but that it happens when certain people make a choice to do something that is not right, as we often do.

As a child, especially in my early teens, I was often hit, especially when left alone in the dark, with an almost uncontrollable fear, which at the time, I thought was caused by the presence of 'demons', but now know to have been adrenalin 'surges' brought on by my own fearful mind. In my mid to late teens; I got into, and actually enjoyed reading Frank Peretti's 'This Present Darkness', and 'Piercing the Darkness', which only served to strengthen my resolve that 'Satan' was out to get me!

Before I began my descent into things fulfilled; I gradually realized that 'Satan' was no longer able to exercise his power over men as he used to, and eventually I came to the 'doctrinal stance' ( the latter one ) that I outlined above, though I did not necessarily attribute this to any eschatology, not having been indoctrinated much on that subject. As I continued my descent, however ( and I can't blame it all on my eschatological beliefs ); I, through the study of Scriptures, and other men's arguments from those Scriptures, became convinced that 'Satan' was, in a sense, the figment of our imagination, and biblically the love-child of Greek mythology and superstitious Christianity! The term/name 'Satan' comes directly from the Hebrew shaw-tan, and means simply 'adversary'. The people of God throughout the Scriptures have had many 'satans', in fact, as I explained in one of my articles several years ago; God Himself, as the Angel ( messenger ) of the Lord, became an adversary ( 'satan' ) to Balaam ( Numbers 22:22 ) when he was trying to go against God's will. Although, to my knowledge, never expressly said; God became an adversary to the Old Covenant ( physical ) seed of Abraham, and as I reminded a brother not too long ago; Jesus called Peter 'Satan' ( 'adversary' ) when Peter misunderstandingly opposed himself to God's will. ( Matthew 16:23 )

The point of what I have been saying here is that, although it is only natural for us to want to blame anyone but ourselves for our problems, and the modern-day translations ( at least as far back as 1611 ) have only served to strengthen that notion, so that men ( as far back as..........?? ) have conjured up this super-natural spirit-being, who was once an ( arch ) angel of God, and is now, as I said earlier, anything from THE ( arch ) enemy of God, to just a trouble-maker, as I even postulated once, 'a mob boss in prison' with his cronies on the outside doing his dirty work. James wrote that 'each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed' ( James 1:14 ). He further says in the first several verses of chapter four, 'wars and fights come from......your ( desires for ) your lust and do not have, you murder and covet, but cannot fight and war......that you may spend ( it-have ) your pleasures.' In the context of James' writing; he was speaking to his brethren, the natural 'children' of Israel, and yes, our situation as believers under the New Covenant ( in Christ ) is much 'changed' ( I Corinthians 15:52 ), but we still have problems with this today; we are still sometimes 'our own worst enemy', but in the world at large ( of unbelievers ), there are still many who set themselves as adversaries to the cause of Christ, so I guess, in the words of a noted author, 'Satan is alive and well on planet earth'!

It may be thought that a subject like this is not all that important, and 'what does it hurt that some brethren believe in a powerful spirit-being who opposes all things Godly?' so 'why write on such a divisive ( heretical ) topic, and risk alienating even more of your brethren?' Good question; 'why?'

I remember hearing the question from an elderly lady, during a bible-study that I attended once, 'but isn't Satan everywhere and all-powerful, just like God?' ( It was something along those lines, anyway ) The reason that this incident has stood out to me oer the years, and one of my reasons for writing, is because I believe that it is this kind of thinking ( 'Satan' as a super-powerful spirit being who opposes God...........hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....... ), that naturally leads to a morbid interest in demonology, the study of the occult, and the selfish desires that we all have to want to blame our problems on a creature who's existence is questionable at best!

Here are several quotations on the subject that I have written in the past'

'Right off, some more conservative and traditional people would most likely object, saying something like, "The Bible says that there were two different trees", or "God is not the Author of evil, therefore since the tree of life typifies, or typified, Christ, all throughout Scripture; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must typify, or have typified an opposite, or the fallen spiritual being, known ( traditionally ) as Satan".'

from 'The Tree ( s ) of the Garden'

'Even with the traditional understanding of 'Satan' taking over the body of the serpent, and speaking through a creature ordinarily incapable of human speech; it must be a supernatural occurrence, which, I will admit, is quite possible, or else this is an example of 'prophetic license', an allegory, a story told in such a way as to portray a certain hidden meaning.'

from 'The Righteousness of Christ'

'One might argue, as tradition is, I believe, that the Day-star, or this 'Lucifer' was once 'an angel of light' ( II Corinthians 11:14 ) before he got jealous of God's position and tried to exalt himself above God's throne, and was 'kicked out' of Heaven; but I believe that it can be proven from Scripture that this is not necessarily the case.'

'My purpose in this little study is, first of all, to bring glory to His holy name by reminding my readers that it is His purposes that will be accomplished, not ours, not 'Satans', and second, to edify and strengthen my readers by relieving them through the fact that , although Paul warned his readers, in Ephesians 6:12, 'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.', it is not the tradition 'demons' and 'devils', per se, which we strive against, but that we fight against the desires and purposes of wicked and selfish people, as we ourselves once were, and sometimes, still are!'

from 'The Anointed Cherub'

'And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘ Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.

'God seems here ( Isaiah 6:9 ), to be telling Isaiah to intentionally deceive His people! Who then is this 'devil' that would come, in verse 11 of Luke chapter 8, and take away the word of God? Assuming that this 'devil' is the same 'Satan' that we know from the Old Covenant Scriptures; we can easily see that Isaiah was acting the part of a 'Satan' to his people. In Matthew 16:23 and Mark 8:33; it it recorded that Jesus once called Peter Satan! Whether Jesus meant to rebuke Peter by comparing him with the fallen spiritual being known as Satan, or whether He was saying that Peter was being adversarial; this was a pretty harsh statement!'

from 'He Who Has Ears....'

'This 'great star..........................burning like a torch', whether speaking, as is traditional, of 'Satan' being cast out of Heaven to the earth, or simply symbolical of God 'loosing' His judgment upon covenant-breaking and apostate Old Covenant Israel; it should be fairly clear that God, by whichever means, did reveal, 'in flaming fire' ( II Thessalonians 1:8 ), judgment upon His enemies, the adversaries of His people, in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, in AD70!

from 'Studies in the Book of Revelation' ( Pt 5 )

'You may have heard, pretty convincingly, I might add, that when Job chapter one records that 'Satan' ( literally 'adversary' ) came before the throne of God to accuse Job, it simply showed that the accuser of the brethren' stands before His throne yet, accusing us ( Christians even ) of our failures, trying to fault us in God's presence. As I implied previously; this is, in a sense, a correct assumption, were it not for several glaringly obvious facts, for example, where Paul, in Romans 16:20, promises the Roman believers that 'the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.' Peter also wrote, concerning this 'adversary', that he 'walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour' ( I Peter 5:8 ( Luke 20:47 ).'

'When Jesus died on the cross, an earthquake, along with the other above-mentioned signs, signified that He had indeed defeated the powers of darkness, which, in effect , swallowed up the 'flood' of evil that Old Covenant Israel ( after the flesh ) had unleashed by their rebellion, and eventually, apostasy, against the Righteousness of God, seeking their own instead. Jesus condemningly told the Pharisees, in Matthew 23:13, that they had 'shut up the kingdom of heaven against men', because of their traditional 'laws', which Paul said, were 'contrary to' them ( Colossians 2:14 ), were attempting to carry away from the True Path those on whom the seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had fallen ( Matthew 13:9 ). When the 'dragon' attempted to imitate the power of God, as in Daniel 2:35; God defeated his purpose by sending His Son in the form of a man ( earthy ), in essence, 'swallowing' the 'flood' of evil, which had been unleashed by the Old Covenant. ( Romans 7:7-12 )'

from 'Studies in the Book of Revelation'' ( Pt 9 )

These quotes are not definitive or even authoritative statements on this subject, and should not be viewed as such; my purpose in quoting them, and in writing this study, as in all my studies, is to help people to think for themselves, and most importantly, to study Scripture for themselves to see if these things are so; they we may realize, as I quoted a famous politician once, 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself', that do not 'battle' against some certain fallen angel, or spirit-being, who is intent on our demise, but within ourselves, and against the evil desires of those around us!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Original Sin? ( Re-thinking the doctrine of 'Limited Atonement' )

Would it be correct to use the word 'limited' in pertaining to any characteristic of God? I think that most of us, when it comes right down to it, would answer that question with a resounding 'No'! Why then, do some of us ( I was one ) choose to limit God's power of atonement, the extent to which His Son's blood covers sin? I believe Jesus shed His blood to cover the sins of His people, but that begs the question, 'who are His people?' We can say, for Scripture says that we will know them by their 'fruits' ( Matthew 7:16 ), that since certain people do, while others do not, exhibit that 'fruit' in a life of loving, trusting obedience, and communion with God and His people, that the former group is His family, and the latter group is not. Most Christians, I believe, feel fairly comfortable in, if not precisely saying this, at least living this way.

In the sense then, that Jesus died for the sins of His people; you could say ( almost ) that this atonement was limited, but can we really, with our finite knowledge and understanding, limit Jesus' atoning power by applying it only to a certain group, and even defining that group?

A good friend called me late last night with a question that apparently had been bothering him for quite some time. That question was, in other words, maybe, 'why does God choose some for faith ( to believe ), and not others?' That is a good question, as I told him, but is it really that simple? Man has the ability to choose for himself, whether to obey God or to disobey God, to serve his own selfish lusts ( wants, desires ), or to serve God and His Kingdom; as Jesus put it in Matthew 6:33, to 'seek first the Kingdom of God'. The language of Scripture, especially as we read it in our own language, and with our particular Western understanding, seems to say that God has appointed certain individuals to believe, and certain others not to believe, and, as Paul put it, in Romans 9:22, to be 'vessels of wrath, prepared for destruction'. We have been taught for years, especially as Calvinists ( which I used to be ) just that, that God has chosen some for 'heaven' and others for 'hell'. Without going into a long explanation here of the realities, or should I say, the truths, about each of these; I will suffice to say that, for many Christians, these words have a different meaning than I believe they do!

I hold the position, as I told my friend, that God is Sovereign, over all, but that man is also responsible, and not only responsible; he is able to respond to God's Covenant. He is entirely responsible for the choice that he makes, and bears the consequences, for there are consequences, either way, of the choice he makes. If, through the wisdom and understanding given him by God ( Genesis 2:7 ), he chooses to obey God, and keep His Covenant, His Word; he will reap the blessings of that Covenant ( Deuteronomy 28:1-14 ), but if he chooses, through his own wisdom and understanding, to disobey God, and to disregard His Covenant, he will reap the curses involved ( Deuteronomy 28:15-68 ). Many believe that this covenant is not confining unless one verbally agrees to, and enters into it, but I believe that Scripture teaches, and this may be a subject for a different article, that all created beings, into whom God 'breathed.........the breath of life' ( it is not recorded that God did this to any other animal ) are in Covenant with their Creator, whether they want to admit it or not, whether they realize it or not!

Of the many doctrines that have been called 'orthodox' for the past few millenia, or maybe just centuries, the doctrine of 'Original Sin' has been possibly one of the most basic, most taken for granted, and largely misunderstood. For this reason alone; it is also one of the most needful doctrines for re-examination, especially in light of the ( re ) emerging truths of Fulfilled Eschatology and Covenant Creation. Covenant Creation is based, quite simply, upon the idea that Adam and Eve were not the first humans ever to inhabit planet earth, but were merely the first human beings with whom God chose to establish His Covenant. If this is true; it should be to us a worthy cause for re-examination of this troublesome, and much questioned, doctrine. Admittedly, Scripture does seem to say, in more than one place that Adam's progeny did inherit the penalty of his sin, which Paul, again, says is 'death' ( Romans 6:23 ), but, besides the fact that it ( 'Original Sin' ) is a man-made doctrine, and should be therefore considered questionable, this is also where Fulfilled Eschatology comes in. Since Jesus returned how and when He promised His disciples He would, and referring again to Paul's statements, such as, 'For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive' ( I Corinthians 15:22 ), it is clear that, as the progeny of God in Christ, rather than the children of Adam; we are not born under the curse that Adam incurred upon himself and his spiritual descendants, but are born into the spiritual blessing of relationship with God. It is now, as always, up to us how we respond to those blessings and cursings!

When Adam sinned, in the Garden, according to orthodoxy, he unwittingly unleashed a curse upon his entire progeny, a curse, which according to most, has not yet been lifted because, according to many Christians, Jesus did not return when He said He would. Much of the fault here lies in physicality, the idea that the primary focus of the curse was a physical one. 'Yes', they will say, 'the spiritual effects of the curse have been reversed, but that physically speaking, the creation itself has not yet been redeemed. This is gnostic to the core, and is itself, a reversal of how it should be understood! Ephesians 1:3, 'Blessed [ be ] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [ places ] in Christ', cannot be refuted, and to my knowledge, has never been tried. This is the reversal of the curse; when Christ paid the penalty for the sin of His people ( Matthew 1:21 ) through His death on the cross, and subsequent resurrection; He reversed the spiritual effects of the curse upon Adam and his progeny, redeeming them from the death of Adam, which most will, however grudgingly admit, was not of a physical nature. Sadly, many of these will still tell you, or at least act as if physical death was a part of the curse. Again; it is gnostic to purport this, as any biology major, even common sense, will tell you that biological death is merely a part of biological life. Man was not made to live ( biologically ) forever; man was born to die!

( I am not a biology major, nor even really a student! )

Was the sinful, rebellious nature an effect of the curse, that everyone is now born with, until such time as one accepts Christ? Having already, in essence, partially answered this question; suffice to say that our sinful, rebellious nature was not an effect of the curse! 'But', you might argue, 'Paul wrote that 'through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned'! Yes, he did, but he also wrote that 'death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam'. Paul made a parenthetical statement between these two statements, reminding them, and us, that 'until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law'. If their sin was not imputed to them, why were they still consigned to death? Obviously, the penalty for Adam's sin had nothing to do with physical death! The sin of Adam, which God promised would bring death 'in the day that you eat', unarguably did not bring physical death in that day, but in that very day, Adam, who was used to 'walking in the garden' with His Creator, was ousted from the Garden, and cut off from access to the Tree of Life, or the Presence of God. This was a symbolic separation from the blessings of the covenant, and so was, in essence, covenant death.

Does this whole idea of 'Original Sin', that has been passed down from father to son ever since Adam passed it on to Cain ( how did Abel escape? ), have any merit, then? I believe if we look at it honestly; we must answer that question with a resounding 'NO'! When Cain's sacrifice was refused, back in Genesis 4, and he became angry; God's response ( note well, that God, even though they had sinned, was still with them ) was, 'Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 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'. Several things to note here; God expected Cain to do right, because He knew that Cain could make the right choice if he wanted to. God knew very well why Cain was angry, and it was not because he had inherited his father's sin nature! ( Okay, in a sense he had, but it was more like he had inherited his father's fiery temper, if anything ) He did not offer the wrong sacrifice, or offer a right sacrifice wrongly ( with a wrong attitude ) because of some sin nature that he had inherited from Adam. His sacrifice was not accepted because he chose not to offer the acceptable sacrifice, as did his brother. Abel was obviously able to make the right choice, so why him and not Cain?

The whole idea that Adam was created perfect, and that he was perfect until the day he sinned is ridiculous! If Adam was created perfect; how could he sin? Why did he make the wrong choice, if he was perfect? 'Well' you might say, 'Satan tempted him, and he fell'? That's what the Bible says, right? Well, sorta, but James told his readers that 'each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed'. Eve did not eat the fruit because Satan told her to; Eve bit into the fruit because she chose to, because 'she saw that the tree [ was ] good for food, that it [ was ] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make [ one ] wise'. It is true that we can be influenced ( tempted? ) by outside influence ( 'here, try this' ), but if we do not actively make the choice to do whatever we are tempted to do, we will not do it; it's that simple!

 Going back into the history of Israel ( I AM speaking primarily of Israel according to the flesh, although as typical of, and related to the Israel of God, this may affect us as well ), it can easily be seen how the choice of Adam, and the subsequent bad choices of his progeny, steered their course, going through many trials and tribulations, and eventually ending with their total and complete destruction. There are numerous different passages, Romans 9:22 among them, that seem to point plainly to the fact that those who disobeyed God, under the old covenant were 'fated' to do so, even predestined by God. ( don't get me wrong, here: I am not denying the fact of predestination ) I do believe that the wicked were and are predestined by God to suffer the eternal consequences of their thoughts and actions, and that the righteous are predestined to enjoy the fruits of theirs, but is it right, or fair, to say that God has individually chosen certain people to be disobedient to the heavenly vision, while others have been chosen to receive the Gift of eternal Life? Taking into account what we've studied so far, would it not be more correct to say that God has chosen to eternally bless those who have chosen to live in covenant with Him, while those who continually refuse to do so are damned to a lifetime of suffering and pain ( again; please don't get me wrong, I'm not speaking of physical pain and suffering here ), after which, if they continue in their hard-hearted rebelliousness, they are finally and forever separated from God?

Adam had a choice, Cain had a choice, Ishmael had a choice, Esau had a choice, etc., etc., and we can go on and on! Aside from Cain, who I'm sure was obedient at some point in his life; all those listed above were blessed by God at some point in their lives: when they were obedient! Is it not the same for us today? Although maybe not to the same extent, for there is no doubt that Christ fulfilled the requirements of the law written in stone ( the letter ):  if we are obedient to the Covenant, and remain in fellowship with Him; we reap what we sow, the blessings He has ordained for those who love Him, but those who continually blaspheme, and refuse the sacrifice He made, will reap what they sow as well, the curses that He has stored up for  those who hate Him! Even as followers of Jesus, we often fail in our high calling, and we usually suffer the consequences when we do ( physically speaking ), but like Paul told Timothy, 'If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.' ( II Timothy 2:13 ) If we do not continue in our unfaithfulness, and repent of our misdeeds, our transgression, we know that He has been 'faithful and just to forgive us [ our ] sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'.

Obviously, a certain group of people were predestined for either the blessing or cursings of God's Covenant, but I believe that it is as clear ( obvious ) that individuals were not predestined in this way. Yes, God knew from the beginning, for He IS omniscient, that certain individuals would choose their separate ways, but was it because of this foreknowledge that He predestined them? Did God not rather predestine the corporate Body of believers, those who kept His Covenant, to receive the blessings of that Covenant, and the corporate Body of Adam, or Moses, those who did not keep His Covenant, who in fact refused it, and sentenced themselves to death ( 'Let His blood be upon ourselves and our children' ), to inherit the curses of that Covenant?!

The atonement that Christ made almost 2,000 years ago, is, in the corporate sense then, limited to those who do make the choice to follow Christ, but in the individualistic sense in which the adherents of the doctrine of 'Limited Atonement' look at it; we cannot say, I believe, that God's atoning work through Jesus our Savior was limited.

With the admonishment to be a Berean, and to prayerfully study these things for yourself, I am;

Your's in the love of God,
and in the Kingdom of Christ,
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Everlasting Kingdom

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. ( Daniel 2:44 )

David wrote, in Psalm 104 ( 5 ), of our great God and Creator who 'laid the foundations of the earth, so [ that ] it should not be moved forever'. Whether you believe. as some, that he was writing of the physical globe, or along with Daniel, of God's Covenant Creation; it is clearly stated that it will stand, or be lively forever. David also wrote earlier, in his 78th Psalm ( verse 69 ), 'He built His sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which He has established forever.' David's son, Solomon, wrote that 'the earth abides forever' ( Ecclesiastes 1:4b ). Why then do we hear, from these fear-mongering end-times prognosticators, that the world is going to end tomorrow? Well, the Scriptures do speak, most famously in Isaiah 65:17, of a 'new heavens and a new earth'. Actually, probably better known is Peter's reference to it, in II Peter 3:13!

In both these references, but probably more clearly in Isaiah 65:17, we can see, or at least we should be able to, that the referent here is not the physical globe, nor even the inhabitants of that globe, but rather to the covenant people of God! The writer of Hebrews says as much when he old his readers ( Hebrews 12:24-28 ) 'you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels', and then, in a form of literary parallelism ( which they would have been very familiar with ), that this was 'to the general assembly and church of the firstborn [ who are ] registered in heaven'. The writer here made the direct connection that this 'new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells', was the Church, the Body of Christ, or God's covenant people!

Will the physical globe, that we know as 'terra firma', actually, literally abide forever'? That is a question that may be up for discussion, although the verses that I've quoted above certainly seem to indicate that it will! The Scriptures are very clear though, that, as in Daniel 2:44, His Kingdom will stand forever.

When men like Harold Camping continually make predictions about things that never happen, and that  we are told over and over in Scripture will not happen; you have to wonder at the reasoning behind these false 'men of God'. A look at Camping's bank records would likely shout the loudest! I'm not saying that this man's intentions are entirely material; in his own way, I'm sure he does want to see people come to Christ, and for the name of Christ and God to be exalted, but you can bet that Camping is not in it solely for the glory of God! I'm quite sure that he is, along with others like him, 'sure' that what he has prophesied will, at some point, come true, but you can be sure that the almighty dollar looms largest on his horizon. I do not know the man, and so cannot personally attest to his delusional truthfulness ( although I did hear that he had a stroke back in June ), but enough is enough! If you'll remember; back in May, he made his original prediction that 'the rapture' would occur on May 21st, followed by 5 months of 'fire, brimstone and plagues', followed by the actual end of the globe, probably the physical universe too, on October 21st. Although much chagrined that, on May 2nd, like his followers, he was still here, he tried to cover himself by saying that a spiritual judgment and rapture had taken place, and that the actual physical 'rapture' would take place, right before the earth is consumed, on October 21st, which is tomorrow. You can be sure that, not only will this not happen, but it will be even more cause for ridicule of the name Christian, and more blasphemy in the Face of God!

Maybe once America's Christians see this charlatan for the blackguard he is, and that people like him are only after their money, they will cease funding fear-mongers like this and turn toward a right and true relationship with their almighty Creator, who made this earth, His earth to endure!

In the love and fear of the true God,
Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dismemberment or spiritual purity? ( the circumcision of the heart )

'If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched'. ( Mark 9:43 )

I believe that it is rather clear that Jesus is not advocating bodily disfigurement here ( indeed; I believe that He forbids it, in another place ). The covenantal context, which I've spoken of previously, tells us, as in the case of circumcision, that it was for an external sign of what had been done internally. We have seen that, even though God commanded His son, Israel, to circumcise the foreskins of his progeny, this was only an outward sign of obedience to the spirit of His command, which, as we see in Deuteronomy 10:16, was 'circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer', while, a bit later, in Deuteronomy 30:6, Moses also told them, 'the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live'.

Many Christians have gotten the Gnostic notion that God's commands to His people were based in physicality, that human flesh had become so corrupt that God must needs destroy this humanity and form a whole new body, one more in conformity to His glorious Body, and in His image. Circumcision, to this manner of reasoning, was a sign that God had stripped away, or would strip away this dead humanity, separating the old man from the new.................wait.........................

The verse above, Mark 9:43 ( and I'm sure someone will notice right away that I didn't quote verse 44, as well ) seems to state that we should cut off a hand or gouge out an eye if they cause us to sin. First of all; I believe that we all, if we're honest with ourselves and Scripture, know that our disobedience, or sin, does not come from our biological members, but rather from our perverted 'heart', our inmost desires, from our own naturally rebellious will! Secondly, even if one were to argue that our wrongful desires do come from a certain part ( such as the 'hand', or 'eye' ), which is clearly not what Jesus is saying, then even if we do gouge out an eye or cut off a hand; what about the other hand? What about the other eye? ( what about the penis? ) We would end up killing ourselves because of all the body parts that we were cutting off, and we would most likely still have those wrong desires: we may not be able to actually carry out those desires, but is that what Jesus taught?

Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth that, 'the weapons of our warfare [ are ] not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.' ( II Corinthians 10:4-6 ). They were not to, just as we are not to, wage war against our foe, whether it be inside or outside influence, using the same weapons that created the problem in the first place. We read, in Romans 8:3, that 'what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God [ did ] by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh'. First, mote that God did not condemn 'flesh'; He 'condemned sin in the flesh': He did not even condemn the weakness of the flesh that He had made good, just the sin, or disobedience that comes through the wrongful desires made possible by selfishly seeking our own wants and desires, rather than His Kingdom!

Now; to be fair; I have heard that separating oneself from a certain body part ( and I think we all know what body part that is! ) will remove the physical desire to use that body part wrongfully. I am not a scientist, and I will not claim to know the 'ins and outs' of the biological make-up of the human body, to say nothing of it's natural chemistry. I can say with certainty though, that our physical chemistry is not the problem; it is our will, our free choice to obey or disobey God's commands!

Are we really to think, though, that by cutting of a hand or gouging out an eye ( or removing some other perturbing body part ), that we will thus enter the Kingdom of Heaven, or rather, that they would? We know, in the covenantal and historical context of Scripture, that things like circumcision were merely foreshadowing the reality that came to Light in the Christ. 'Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God [ is what matters ]'. Paul wrote these words, also to the Corinthian Church ( I Corinthians 7:19 ) to combat this very idea. It was not whether one had removed his foreskin or not, whether he was a Jew or a Gentile, but whether or not he had 'circumcised' his rebellious 'heart', deciding to live according to God's Law, rather than his own!

You may note, that in the passage from which the earlier quote comes, Mark 9:43-48, that Jesus uses a form of 'biblical parallelism', in which He relays the same idea three different times, in three different ways: now, without going into a lengthy exegesis of this passage, and why he mentions first the hand, then the foot ( or feet ), and finally the eye, suffice it to say that He was not advocating dismemberment, but rather making a point. As we progress in this short study; we may note what that point was!

'It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched-where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.[d]'

It is interesting to note here, several things about this whole passage. In the more ancient manuscripts, upon which the NU-text ( Nestle'/Aland/United Bible Society ) is largely based, verses 44, the latter part of verse 45, and all of verse 46 do not appear. In verse 48, we can see that Jesus is quoting, as He so often did, from the Hebrew Scriptures, in this case, the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 66, verse 24. As this passage is descriptive of the New Heavens and New Earth, or the New Jerusalem, it should be plain to see, that Isaiah was prophesying that those outside the city, and perishing in the hellish fires of the valley of Hinnom, or Gehenna would be an unpleasant reminder to the daily worshipers of God, of what had happened to those who refused to give God His due!

It should be fairly clear, I believe, that when Jesus referenced Isaiah's prophecy; he was referring, not to the place of fire and brimstone that we have traditionally known as 'hell', but was speaking of the grave, 'where their worm does not die'( because the worms feed on the dead flesh ), and combining that with a reference to the ever-burning fires of Jerusalem's garbage-dump, the Valley of Hinnom. probably better known to us as 'Gehenna'. His was a warning to those present that if they continued in the old traditional ways, circumcising their flesh, but not their 'hearts', they would safer the same fate as those bodies that were placed in the grave, or consigned to the fires of Gehenna!

I was reminded this weekend, that the Old English word 'hell' means basically 'to cover' Jesus was not referring to the Greek vision that we have come to know and fear as 'Hell'; He was simply using very familiar and hyperbolic language to warn them of their fate, if they continued on the course they were presently on, not just the grave, but, using Gehenna as a metaphor, of the torment they would receive in the coming conflagration!

Another place we should look for clues to the meaning of this enigmatic ( though traditionally plain ) passage, besides, of course, the historical context of Jesus' words, is the immediate context. Remembering that the chapter divisions were not there in the beginning, let's take a look at several of the event that happened immediately before and after. After the vision of the Transfiguration that Mark recorded, the first thing that Jesus did was to heal a young boy of epilepsy. This physical malady was seen to be an outward representation of what was really wrong with the boy: he had a demon, which Jesus immediately cast out! Just prior to the passage in question; Jesus, when He perceived that His disciples were arguing among themselves about who would be greatest, or first, uttered these famous words, 'If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all', and then, 'Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me'. His point, I think we can all agree, especially in the latter statement, is not that we must necessarily shelter little children ( though this includes little children ) in order to receive Him, but that we must be willing to be a servant to all, if we would enter His Kingdom: it is not your status before men that God honors, but rather your status in His Son!

Again, remembering the chapter divisions; Mark next records the episode where the Pharisees questioned Jesus about divorce. They were hoping, somehow, to trap the Son of God, but Jesus, perceiving their wicked intent, reminded them that it was because of the hardness of their 'hearts' that Moses had made this concession for them. They were concerned only with the outward appearance, as with circumcision; if their wives did not do exactly what they required, they were allowed to divorce them. Jesus reminded them, 'from the beginning of the creation, God ‘made them male and female.’[a] ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’;[b] so then they are no longer two, but one flesh'. As Matthew recorded it, 'He said to them, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.' ( Matthew 19:8 ).

'What do marriage and divorce have to do with circumcision or 'hell'?', you might ask. Well, since the Pharisees were so focused on the physical aspects of life; I believe that Jesus was giving them another example, showing them that the physical aspects, as the 'letter of the law', were not as important as the spiritual truth behind it, like Jesus told them, 'because of the hardness of your hearts' they were permitted to divorce their wives, and not just for any reason, but only for sexual impurity ( an outward sign of an inward problem ) or for adultery ( also an outward manifestation of an inner desire ). 'Hell' and marriage? I'm just not gonna go there, except to say that, like Jesus said above, it is instituted by God, and when entered into with 'both eyes open', can be a most blissful and glorious state!

Confident in Him,
Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The Resurrection of the Body; Corporate Versus Individual, Spiritual Versus Natural

The first thing that many Christians think of when someone brings up the topic of the resurrection, is biological bodies being re-animated and rising out of the dust of the earth. Some will even go so far as to say that, even if one is cremated ( which is frowned upon in most circles ) God is still able to take every particle of ash, from as far as it may have been scattered, and reassemble, re-animate that biological body that once was!

I have written on this subject before, so I might just refer you there, but the subject of the resurrection has become very prevalent of late, so we'll just give it another go-round!:) The gist of the subject at hand, as we saw above, is whether or not individual, biological bodies will be raised ( 'anastasis' ), or whether the biblical resurrection was a metaphor for the corporate redemption of the Body of Israel, which occurred in the first century, with the advent of Jesus, who was the Christ. Even though this event did occur in the first century ( Jesus said 'the hour is coming, and now is' ( John 5:25 ), it is an on-going reality, in a sense, because, as the people of God ( 'The Israel of God' ( Galatians 6:16 ) are awakened to His eternal Presence, a resurrection takes place. I remarked previously that, 'as the corporate Body of Israel, or Christ, is made up of individual human beings, a resurrection of the body ( individual ) was expected'. We are individuals, and as such, our individual bodies have been, in a sense, resurrected. 'How', you say? Well, as we have also explored previously, our physical bodies have been metaphorically awakened; we have had our eyes opened, which has stirred us, in many cases, to take action, action which may be contrary to previous actions, or even inaction!

In my latest article on the resurrection, we saw that the resurrection prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures and looked forward to by faithful Israel, was not that of individual bodies, and not even of biologically dead bodies, for that matter, but was, as Simeon exulted, at the advent of the Son of God, 'Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to [ bring ] revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel' ( Luke 2:29-32 ( Isaiah 42:6, 49:6 ). Zacharias, the father of the fore-runner of Jesus, 'Elijah who is to come' ( Matthew 11:14 ), prophesied in these words, concerning the Christ, 'Blessed [ is ] the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David' ( Luke 1:68 & 69 ) No wonder Nicodemus was confused when Jesus told him 'You must be born again' ( John 3:7 )! He must have thought, as was the tendency by then, with the physically-minded Pharisees, mixing with the Greek thinking of the day, that Jesus was speaking of biological bodies being birthed again after they were already mature. His question said as much! As Jesus assured him, though, He was not speaking of physical bodies being born ( again ) of water ( amniotic fluid ), or naturally, but of the corporate Body of Israel being re-birthed, or resurrected, to the standing of the communion with God which they had previously, of the birth, or anastasis, from above!

We are individuals, there can be no denying that fact, and as such, we have been raised with Christ; we have, in that sense, individually taken part in His death, burial and resurrection. As Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, who were obviously having somewhat the same problem as Nicodemus, even though they were 'individually members', they were all part of 'one body in Christ'. It is not just 'me and Jesus', or even between 'me and God'! Whether you like to use the term 'metaphorical' or not; we are all one Body! Though we are individuals, each with our own different gifts and talents ( indeed; thank God for diversity in the Body of Christ! ); we are not alone: we are to be concerned with the welfare of our brothers and sisters in Christ, to raise them up before the throne of God, in loving prayer, to raise them up from the dung-heap if they have fallen, and to hold them accountable when they stray from communion, the communion of the saints!

Getting back to the subject; it is is recorded in Matthew 1:21 that 'He will save His people from their sins', speaking, of course, of Jesus. Note well that Joseph was not told that 'He will save you from your sins', or even that He will save Mary from her sins'. Nope, not John the Baptist or Nicodemus either. No mention even, of the apostles there, not even His own family! Gabriel told Joseph that Jesus would save His people, all of them, from their sins; as a whole, not just as individuals. All of the above mentioned individuals, or at least, most of them can be included in 'His people', but as His people, as His Body; it is not just us; we are all part of One Body!

So; resurrection, anastasis. We have explored, though not fully, the fact that Israel after the flesh, those who had apostatized from the covenant, had become a dead body. We saw, in Ezekiel 37, that the prophet was given a vision of the future, where God showed him that the dead, or useless, body of Israel would be raised up, and given new life; reborn, you might say. In this vision, we see that it was not body by body that was re-covered ( with sinew, flesh ); it was not individual bodies that received 'the breath of life', but that the prophet was instructed to call 'to the breath', and to say 'Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live'; not each individual body, not some, and not others, but 'these slain'; all of them, together!

One last note to consider; we saw that, besides referring to 'a raising up'; anastasis also indicates 'removal' ( Hebrews 12:27 ). This removal was, as we have seen, the taking away of our sins, the sins of the people of God, and of the curtain, or veil that separated them from His holy and enduring Presence. This removal was begun in the first century, with, among other things, the ripping of the veil of the Temple, upon the words of Jesus, 'It is finished', and was decisively accomplished in AD70, with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, removing the last vestiges of that Old Covenant economy, or system of worship; now the people of God were free, free to worship 'in spirit and truth'!

In the Spirit of anastasis,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Anastasis-The Resurrection of the Dead ( Ones )

Let me first say that, to the 1st century Jewish mind, the resurrection of the dead was not a new concept. The first place, probably, that one would have thought of, when referencing the resurrection of the dead ( and this is the Jewish mindset ), is Ezekiel's prophecy of 'the dry bones' in Ezekiel 37. In verse 11 of this passage; it is recorded that the house of Israel complained that 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!' This was not a situation speaking of physical death, as is the notion of many when thinking of the term 'resurrection', but, as the house of Israel complained; 'we............are cut off', in essence, looking back at the historical context of Ezekiel's vision, they felt that they had been cut off from the Presence of God, and the blessings of His Covenant. By being sent out of the land, and away from His Temple, much as Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden, they had symbolically been cut off, as had been promised before, for covenant unfaithfulness ( Genesis 17:14, Exodus 12:15, 31:14, Leviticus 7:27, 20:5, 22:3, Numbers 9:13, 15:31, etc. )

The Greek word transliterated 'anastasis' simply means, 'a raising up, removal.', or, 'to stand up', from my understanding. In the passage above; we read that, after God had covered these bones with flesh and sinew again, in essence, recreating, or re-forming them, and symbolically breathed into them 'the breath of life' ( Genesis 2:7 ); 'they lived, and stood upon their feet'.

Many Christians, and this, I believe, is the accepted orthodox position, believe that because Christ's biological Body was physically brought back to life, this necessarily means that ours, as individual believers, will too. Besides the fact that this 'individualism' is one of the problems that plagues the modern Church, this idea of  physical, individual bodies being raised from the dead was almost unknown to the Jewish mind. Sure; as the corporate Body of Israel, or Christ, is made up of individual human beings, a resurrection of the body ( individual ) was expected, hoped for, but the main hope of Israel in the first century was a hope of, a looking forward to, the corporate resurrection of Israel, from the dead body of Moses ( old covenant ), into the living Body of Christ ( the New Covenant ).

I believe that Christ's physical, bodily resurrection was, first of all, a sign for those who sought after a sign, the unbelieving Jews, that He had actually defeated death, that the grave itself could not hold, or keep Him. Secondly, but even more importantly, His was a physical, bodily rising again, to show that we, as His Body, have been raised to New Life. As I have been saying; while this includes individual Christians, even in the 21st century, and beyond; it is primarily the corporate Body of Christ that has experienced a resurrection 'from dead works to serve the living God' ( Hebrews 9:14 ), and, as Ezekiel saw, the whole house of Israel, the covenant people of God, who were given a new hope, and symbolically brought back into the Land of covenant blessing, and the Presence of God!

Ezekiel's is not the only passage in the Hebrew Scriptures where the promise of a resurrection of the dead is given. There are several pictures given of this 'anastasis', rising again. There is the example of the widow's son, in I Kings 17, where this child was brought back to life, through the ministrations of Elijah. An example in the Greek Scriptures, of course, and one which is probably most familiar to us, is the resurrection of Lazarus, as recorded in John 11. These examples all came about before the bodily resurrection of Jesus, yet Jesus is referred to by Paul as 'the firstborn from the dead' ( Colossians 1:18 ( Revelation 1:5 ): why do you suppose this could be? Could it be that the resurrection of Jesus was not merely a physical return from biological death, as most have viewed it? That Jesus' resurrection was truly the first, a restoring of covenant Life ( John 11:26 ), of enjoying the Presence of God ( John 14:23 )? Remember that, as the Body of Christ; we do enjoy the blessings of the Presence of God, because of the renewed Covenant!

The prophet Amos, lamenting over the coming desolation of the Northern Kingdom, spoke these words, 'The virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; [ there is ] no one to raise her up'. Note that this is prior to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, indeed, at the height of their physical prowess, and financial prosperity, but, as Homer Hailey once wrote, their 'religious decay and apostasy', as well. This was how they had fallen, to rise no more. There would be no resurrection for them! This was served as as a picture, as well, of the continuing apostasy and subsequent destruction of the typical old covenant people of God, in AD70!

Although it can be easily argued, and has been proven; that much of the language, and even the events that we have witnessed in Scripture do indeed seem to point to the physicality of the resurrection of biologically dead bodies; an honest and in-depth study ( which this is not; in-depth, I tried to be as honest as I could:) will show that this resurrection of the dead was not a rising of individual bodies, merely to biological life, but a return of the corporate body of Israel, God's people, to the blessings of Covenant Life, to communion with our Creator!

In Scriptural usage, as we have seen, the Greek 'anastasis' means resurrection, or rising again ( from the dead ). As we have also seen; it need not ( necessarily ) refer to biological bodies returning to physical life, but most often  referred, especially in the Hebrew Scriptures, but in the Greek as well, to a return to covenant faithfulness, and a return to the blessings of the Covenant, including the Presence of God!

As those who now benefit from the resurrection of the dead, and indeed we do partake of it in a limited sense; we have the advantage, through covenant faithfulness, of having been born into that Life, never having experienced the death of Adam, never having lived under the old covenant ( 'ministration of death' ), so in that sense, the resurrection that Scripture prophesied of is in the past, though, in a limited sense, it continues today, as God's people are freed from bondage ( I'll let my readers ruminate on what form that bondage might take, or by whom it may be administered )!

Short, though it may be; I pray that this study will be a blessing to those who read it, and may it cause its readers to be Bereans, to see for themselves if these things are so!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stand Up, Christian Soldiers!

Christians are cowards!

This may seem like a pretty strong, and for the most part, untrue statement, but American Christianity, for the most part, has become so lackadaisical, that it's about time to 'warm up the paddles'! For one thing, it usually takes some pretty strong medicine to cure such a terrible sickness. Many Christians out there, whether individually ( usually ) or as a whole, have bowed to the demands of their government, and seemingly forgetting who the Ruler of this world is; have said, 'we have no king but Caesar'!

Christians today, many of them, anyway, are like politicians, those who take the Name of God in vain, anyway, and will say things like, 'I have a very deep and personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but I will in no way allow that to influence my policy-making decisions'! A friend of mine remarked that 'at least he didn't really perjure himself and something like 'Jesus is Lord'! The Federal Government ( FG ) likes these kinds of people; well, they'd rather you didn't even acknowledge the Name, but if you keep your 'faith' 'behind your eyes and between your ears', you can believe anything you want, just don't be religious about it: don't act on it! It is when God's people act on their faith, that the words of Thomas Jefferson are proven true: 'When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.' This is where much of so-called 'American Christianity' has relegated itself. By bowing to, by fearing the federal ( even state ) government that vaunts itself against God, and His Law; we as Christians, have proven ourselves to be the worst kind of cowards. We have freely given up some of our most important liberties, and have, wittingly or unwittingly, ushered in something that is dangerously close to being out and out tyranny! ( Many would take issue with this statement, saying, 'we're already there!' )

'What the hell kind of Christianity is that?'

That's a good question. When most Christians read what Paul wrote, 'Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free' ( Galatians 5:1 ); they seem to forget the whole lesson that Paul was teaching, and that he next said 'and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage'. Sure; in context, Paul was referring to the ordinances of man as opposed to God's Law.........wait........................that sounds  like what we're facing today in America! This country, as a whole, still, praises be to God, has more freedoms than many other nations, to be sure, but as a famous singer once said 'we're losing control by the hour' ( maybe that should be 'loosing' ); that's the 'problem' in a nut-shell; American Christians, for whatever reason, and long ago ( way before our time ) began either to lose or loose control, and have given over to a bunch of unbelieving reprobates, and worse yet, 'Christian' reprobates, control of this great nation of ours!

I believe that much of this 'problem' can be laid at the feet of one lone enemy: this enemy can be called by several different names, 'apathy' being one of them, but probably the worst enemy that American Christianity faces, is pure, unadulterated ( or maybe that should be 'adulterous' ) laziness.We, as a culture, have become so lazy, that we have made it 'easy pickins' for politicians to swoop in and 'take care of all our problems for us', and then we complain when they foist another whole set of different but related problems on us. When will we learn to look to God, and not the Federal Government, for our salvation! When the government begins to fear the people, when Christians begin to grow a backbone, and stand up for their God-given rights, and say, 'Jesus is my Lord; you are not'; then true freedom will reign, but until then, until Christians begin to resurrect, to take a stand for their true Lord, all we have to look forward to is tyranny! How bad do things have to get before this happens?

When American Christians begin to live what they believe, not hiding behind their faith, but acting upon it; we can begin to take this country back. We seem to forget, often, that 'This is Our Father's World': He made it, and He rules it, but He has given us the dominion of it! We just need to stand up and redeem what we have lost, with the knowledge that He has willed His Truth to triumph through us, that the battle is already won: we just need to step up to the plate, and with the strength the God has given us, to fight the good fight!

When we begin to realize that true faith is a lived out faith, not just something between 'me and Jesus', then things will begin to turn around in this country, and God will honor our faith, just as He honored 'the faith of our fathers'!

Charles Haddon Shank