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