The Pagan Path

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Covenant; The Air That We Breathe

Really, when you think about it; life is very covenantal; in fact, without covenant, there would be no life!

Biologically speaking, and trust me, I am no authority here, just think of all of God's good creation and how it only functions within the confines of covenant. If a plant does not receive the proper nutrients, sunlight ( just the right amount ), and etc. what happens to it? It goes the way of all plant matter, and is absorbed back into the earth to provide the proper nutrients for some other 'plucky' plant. Same with human beings, except even more complex and mysterious! If a baby does not receive the proper nutrients, etc., from day one, he will not grow correctly in his ( or her ) mother's womb, and if life perseveres ( likely, anymore, except in cases of fetal murder ), then the child-adult will most likely have a constant reminder of this for the rest of his ( or her ) life!

Some people may have a problem with the use of the term 'covenant' here. The term 'relational' might do just as well to describe the affinity between the plant and all its necessary nutrients, and the biological body ( this includes irrational animals, as well ), and its constituent elements. Life is relational, no one will argue this! There are certain necessary things without which nothing would survive. Even rocks, any good geologist could tell you, is not simply 'there', but is held together, and molded together by many different processes, depending on the rock. There is nothing in all of creation that does not rely on another part of God's good creation for its very existence. Take human beings, for example, and much the same could be said for animals, plants, etc.; how long would any of these examples last without at least a part of their God-given constituency? To be sure, we are all familiar, more or less, with extraordinary cases, in which one or more of the above-named examples has survived, persevering, seemingly against all odds. We cannot deny that, under certain amazing, even almost supernatural circumstances; certain men, animals, and plants have all seemingly defied the odds and continued their existence, for some time, anyway, without what we deem the necessary circumstances to sustain life! I daresay though, that in every one of these cases, and please correct me if I'm wrong; certain nutrients were found and employed, regardless of the fact that they were not what we would normally think of as the correct, or even healthful nutrients.

Covenant, or relationship, truly is a matter of life or death!

Without some sort of relationship, even within the biological animal body, life will not persevere. For our biological clock to keep on ticking, so to speak, it must have communion, or relationship with many intricate parts. King David wrote, in Psalm 139:14, that we are 'fearfully [ and ] wonderfully made'. This statement, which may vary somewhat, according to translation, has become a modern catch-phrase, especially among Christians, and while I believe that this statement goes a bit further than simply referring to our biological make-up, even the most cursory examination of the human/animal body will reveal just how intricate it is, and how marvelously everything works together for the good of the body..

Anyone who has ever experienced the slightest bodily discomfort can tell you; even a hang-nail can mess up your equilibrium! A headache, especially a migraine, can mess up your whole day, and a mere case of the sniffles can change your whole attitude in facing the day. Most of these problems can be overcome, of course, through various and varied means, but even this just goes to show how much we rely on communion within the body!

'There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body'

Paul's statement above is most often thought to refer to the physical, biological body as opposed to some non-physical, glorified, and incorruptible body that we will ( supposedly ) receive after this biological body perishes.  Although this is not the point that Paul was making; I believe that, as I alluded to in quoting that famous passage from David's Psalm, we can, to some extent, make this connection, for our spiritual bodies, or 'souls', you might say, are just as 'fearfully [ and ] wonderfully made', and as much or more, reliant upon this communion!

The spiritual body, in the sense that we saw earlier, of the slightest ailment affecting the whole physical body, has much the same function when it comes to communion. If any certain part of our spiritual life, as opposed to mere biological life, is functionally unresponsive, our whole spiritual life becomes a playground for all kinds of disease; as Paul also wrote, in Ephesians 4:14, we are 'carried about by every wind of doctrine'. Spiritual sickness, as many can attest to, affects not only your relationship with our Creator, it can affect, and most often does, to one degree or another, our biological life as well.

Stress kills the Body!

I have often seen, and so can attest to personally, that stress is a killer! Stress affects not only our physical, biological bodies, but it has a most devastating effect on our emotional and spiritual state as well. You probably don't need me to tell you how much the slightest inconvenience, the merest shaving thrown into the gears of our daily life, can cause it all to come crashing down, especially if we don't have recourse, for whatever reason, to that much-needed communion, whether it be with our Father alone, or with the Body of His Son. When we allow stress to dictate our lives, it affects every part of our lives, and most importantly, our communion, or relationship, with our Creator!

Stress, as may be said, is unavoidable! Anything, from the smallest grain of sand between our toes, to an explosion, whether metaphorical or real, can cause us to 'stress out'. I don't think anyone alive today can honestly say that they lead a stress-free life!

With a right relationship with our Father in 'Heaven', though, and that much-needed, and necessary communion with the Body of His Son; although the stress-factors, which are an ever-present part of life, may seem to threaten our very existence, they need not control our life. When faced with any problem, or stress-factor, in life, no matter how small and seemingly minute, or large and seemingly life-threatening; we have recourse, we can turn for that life-giving communion to both our Heavenly Father, and to the Body of His Son, our neighbor!

As much to myself as anybody else,  
but still enjoying 'The Communion of the Body',
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, April 07, 2012

A Living Image ( bearer-'the power of the Highest will overshadow you' )

'Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”[c] But when she saw him,[d] she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.' ( Luke 1:26-35 )

You might be thinking, 'isn't it a bit late for a 'Christmas message'; isn't this the time of year that we usually celebrate Jesus' resurrection?

Well, first of all; this isn't a Christmas message' ( or is it? ), and it is the season where we usually celebrate Jesus' resurrection, but, without going to far down this rabbit-trail' ( or 'down the rabbit-hole', so to speak ); the birth of Jesus the Christ, the once and future King of Israel, and His entrance into His creation, was only the beginning of the story, or rather the 'new' beginning to a story that had begun long ago, and was just coming to fruition with the birth of Jesus!

Secondly; yes, this is the time of year when the Church, the Wife of God, or the Bride of Christ, has traditionally celebrated the resurrection of the Christ, but is His resurrection, which signaled the re-birth of the Israel of God, not something that we should be celebrating all year round, with our heart, mind, soul ( body ) and strength?

This article was not engendered by either Christ's birth or ours, not even so much by His resurrection or ours, though all of these are integral to our story; this article was written mainly in response to some of the aftermath from a 'bomb' that was recently dropped in the vicinity!

'If the Holy Spirit came upon us as He came upon Mary; does that mean that we are married to God, or does it mean that God is guilty of fornication, or even adultery?'

That IS a 'bomb' which might seem pretty divisive at first, even blasphemous, but really, isn't that just what Scripture teaches?! I John 3:9 says that we cannot sin because 'His Seed remains in us'. Paul wrote this to the ( baby ) Church in Galatia, 'My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you'  ( 4:19 )! 'Yes', you might say, 'but that was metaphorical; the Holy Spirit of God actually impregnated the virgin Mary, and very literally formed the body of Jesus inside her womb!' That is correct, but can you not see how Jesus being formed in Mary was a picture of Christ being formed in us, in 'the virgin of Israel' ( Jeremiah 31:4 )? 

Most Christians have no problem with the phrase 'Christ in you', but when it comes to the question of exactly how He came to be there, here is where most Christians begin to exhibit their discomfort with where the phrase is leading ( 'down the rabbit-hole', so to speak )! Some might complain about the graphic nature of such a line of thought, and I agree; if we venture very far down this 'hole', things could become very 'sticky', making many turn their backs on the whole matter, and possibly even Christianity itself!

If one really gets into, and does a very deep study of Scripture, especially the Hebrew Scriptures in the original language; one will quickly find out just how graphic the language of Scripture is! Taking an example from the Greek Scriptures ( and remember, this is only a translation, and not the original ); Paul, speaking of the intimacy of a married couple, says, 'This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church' ( Ephesians 5:32 ): how graphic does this conversation get, when you enter that 'hole'?!

Not to offend overmuch, the more puritanical among us; let us move on to less graphic images, shall we?

As we saw in the last article, and can ascertain throughout Scripture without a terribly in-depth study; we are 'the image of God' ( through Christ )! We bear that image before the 'world', those with whom we come in contact on a daily basis, and even, through the power of the internet, the wider community of Christ, His Body around the world, those who are His children, not necessarily through any covenant made with Him, but by virtue of their very birth, or creation!

We have also explored, to some depth, what it means that we are 'the image of God', and how we should display that image. Some might question the wisdom and effectiveness of exploring, or 'plumbing' the depths, as we saw earlier, but the reason for this ( 'plumbing the depths' ) can be explained severally: 

The Knowledge of God

'For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings' ( Hosea 6:6 ).

Paul, echoing Isaiah ( 55:9 ), in Romans11:33, exulted, 'Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!' Can we know His ways; can we search out the depths of His wisdom? Well, not perfectly, maybe, because we are finite, in the human weakness of our minds, and He is the infinite Creator and Upholder of all things! Referring to the ability that we have been given; Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, and again quoting Isaiah ( 40:13 ), 'For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?”[e] But we have the mind of Christ.' ( I Corinthians 2:16 ) Through 'the mind of Christ', or 'Christ in us', I believe that we may, and should, 'plumb these depths', getting to know our Creator on a more intimate basis! Once we realize what it truly means that we bear the image of God, and that Christ has invested Himself in us, we may begin to enjoy a more intimate relationship with Him, as Paul alluded to, and as the prophets of old graphically foretold!

'Let Them Have Dominion'

In the previous article, we saw also how man, as the 'image of God', was to spread that image, or the dominion of God, throughout His creation. It might be argued that man has propagated, at least, to some extent, the knowledge of God and His dominion throughout the known world, but let me place a proposition before you, as an example.  Take a politician, for instance, who is vying for elected office; he may hire certain parties, or certain other parties may volunteer to campaign for him. If those certain parties don't know as much as they can about the personality and platform of the man they are promoting, how effective can their campaign be? Sure, they might have a basic knowledge of this man, enough maybe, to convince voters to elect this man, but after he is in office, and because only a basic knowledge of this man's ideals was known, he begins to order affairs in a way contrary to, or to a wider extent than, what was expected, then what do you think are his chances of being re-elected? How do you think his term in office will go? 

Don't get me wrong; I'm not likening God to a 'politician'!

There's nothing inherently wrong with having, and being satisfied with, to some extent, a basic knowledge of God ( 'you gotta start somewhere' ), but if we stop there, and continue to be satisfied, being comfortable with just a basic knowledge of 'our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ', and thus fail to 'plumb' 'the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God'; what kind of image will we be showing to the world?

How can we properly spread His knowledge throughout His creation if we only have a rudimentary knowledge of our Creator ourselves?

'Plumbing the depths',
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, April 05, 2012

A Living Image

'Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all[b] the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' ( Genesis 1:26 )

In the past, we have heard many different explanations for what is meant by the phrase 'in His image'. You might hear, as is traditional, I believe, that the image of God in man is man's ability to reason, his sentience, in other words. You might hear that man's 'free-will' is the 'image of God' that he has been blessed with, or you might even hear, as I have reasoned in a past article, that the 'image of God' in which He created Adam, or man; was the ability to have dominion', and while I still believe that, I'm as sure that only covers part of it, though perhaps integrally related. 

Covenant Creation ( AKA- CC ) is the concept that the creation account in Genesis 1-2 is about the creation of a covenant relationship with His people, rather than an account of the creation of the physical universe, as has been traditionally thought, and taught. I believe, as many others are starting to see, that this is fact, and not just some fanciful notion, or idea that someone concocted. One problem that some have found with this 'model' of creation is that some may take it to the wrong conclusion, that covenant creationists seem to be implying that God did not create the universe at all, but this is not at all what we are saying. We believe that, while Genesis 1-2 is not referring to the actual creation of the universe, that God did create the universe, and everything in it. The account in Genesis 1-2  refers to the covenant that God made with His creation when He deemed to make man 'in His image', or in other words, to form man as His image, to place His image in man.

Much is made of the last part of verse 6 of Genesis 9, wherein God told Noah and his sons that, 'Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.' This much, then, is clear; man is made 'in the image of God', but what exactly is this 'image', and how was it transferred, or imputed?

In the verse quoted at the beginning of this article; we see that God said 'Let Us make man in Our image'. It should be pretty clear that this is how man came to be 'made in the image of God', right, but is that all there is to it? That doesn't even begin to explain what this image involves. Does all man-kind bear this image, or do only certain men, those who have entered into covenant with their Creator bear His image? This is another important question that covenant creationists must deal with! If Adam was simply the first man with whom God covenanted, did those who existed before the image of God was formed in him not have the image of God? Do there still exist those today that are without the image of God, or did all men after Adam bear the image of God? A literal reading of Genesis 9:6 would seem to imply this, and rather strongly at that!

The idea of individuality, for instance, in reference to the resurrection of the body, has been very prevalent over the ages, but 'from the beginning, it was not so'!

'So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'

Repeating what was quoted at the beginning of this article; God made it abundantly clear that He was not speaking just of individual image-bearers, for the image-bearer that He 'formed' was made up ( corporately ) of both 'male and female': as Paul put it 'whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free'. The image of God in man, yes, was their ability to have dominion; yes, it was the sentience of man, and yes, it was even their 'free-will', the ability to reason, to make decisions, and to act on them, but more than all these, I believe, came the ability to have and maintain a right relationship with their Creator, to live covenantally!

Some will likely argue at this point, and they may have a valid argument, that what we call 'cavemen', or pre-Adamite humans, those who existed prior to Adam's story in the creation account, must have enjoyed a relationship of some sort with their Creator. Some might even point out that certain animals seem to have a sort of sentience about them. 

Life is covenantal at its most basic. For certain things to exist, they must rely on certain other things to happen, or exist, in order to maintain a proper existence, if not directly, then indirectly. The extent and nature of that relationship, however, may go far in determining what sort of existence that creature enjoys.

Let's take the original inhabitants of the biblical land of Canaan, for instance. Much like another group of 'aborigines' that we could refer to, the Canaanites had a relationship with their Creator, whether they acknowledged it or not, and the extent to which they did not acknowledge, or even maintain that relationship, determined their judgment, which was to lose their land and lives, in most cases. When the children of Israel had become comfortable in the land they had 'inherited', they too, ran into much the same problem; they failed to maintain a proper relationship with the One who had brought them out of bondage and given them a land 'flowing with milk and honey', and got into many a 'sticky' situation, until they finally apostatized to the point that they too were removed from the land. Rather than worshiping the One, True God, their Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer, the One who had brought them out of bondage, they became poly-theistic and began to worship and serve 'the creature rather than the Creator' ( Romans 1:25 ) and even 'the works of their own hands' ( Jeremiah 1:16 ). They had become 'like the other nations', in having a relationship with the created things that they could see, rather than putting their faith in the One that could not be seen, yet upheld them by their every breath!

Getting back to our subject, the main gist of this article; the image of God is the sentient ability, in other words, to recognize that relationship of the creature to the Creator, and to maintain that relationship to the point of eternal enjoyment of the blessings of the Covenant that He gave us. As in the examples that we read about above; when men, who are in relation, or covenant with their Creator, deny that relationship, or are ignorant of that relationship, rather than reaping the blessings of a right relationship, they are cursed for their idolatry.

Israel was given, through Adam, the privilege of bearing God's image to the 'world', which we have done, to varying degrees of success, but the children of Israel under the first covenant, because they failed ( except for the 'remnant' ) to acknowledge their Creator, and worship Him as they should, and instead worshiped and  served His creation, they were removed from the Tree of Life and cast aside.

The question of whether there are still those who do not bear the image of God is really a moot one then, because, as we have seen, all men, by virtue of their creation, and whether they acknowledge it or not, bear that image of God. It IS, in that sense then, by virtue of human descent that men are bearers of the image of God, but from the beginning, as we have seen, it was by virtue of the creation of the covenant wherein God said, 'Let Us make man....'; it was through His promise, or Covenant, that God made man His image-bearer, in order to propagate the knowledge of Him, and right relationship with Him, throughout His creation.

Creation itself, is Covenant; nothing that exists could have come into being, and especially maintain that existence, without Covenant ( John 1:1-3 )! This is not only true of biological life, as we saw earlier, and can attest to every day, not least, by all the covenantal relationships that we see in the natural beauty around us; the most beautiful and intricate part of God's creation relies on a multitude of different factors working together, for its very existence; it is especially, and most importantly true of spiritual, or true life: unless we acknowledge the covenant that we are in with our Creator, by very virtue of our creation, our life, breath, fearfully and wonderfully made body, and act accordingly, keeping His Law, His Covenant, then, as the Scriptures say, we have no true life in us ( John 6:53 )!

A good friend of mine recently asked me the question, 'why, if God made His covenant with all of man-kind at the time of Adam's creation, why then did God bother making a special covenant with Israel?' ( that was the gist of it, anyway ) Well; although, in the sense that we have seen, all of man-kind was born into covenant with God, by virtue of their creation, but up until Adam was 'formed' ( 'in the image of God' ), they had not enjoyed a relationship with Him, but had led a very basic animal life. As He had not revealed Himself to them, and only revealed Himself to Adam and his progeny 'in the beginning'; all men had not been awakened to the knowledge of their covenant relationship with their Creator. As time wore on, and as Israel was 'formed' ( Isaiah 43:1-21 ), she was to spread that knowledge from the east to the west, from the north to the south, but she proved to not be ready for the task, and holding her own at times, but more often failing miserably, she was finally removed from the blessings that she had enjoyed as God's special creation, and God's True Son, the Israel of God, was revealed in the 'form' of Jesus the Messiah, or Christ!

'He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.' ( Colossians 1:15-17 )

In his letter to the Church in Colossae; Paul had much to say about the revelation of the True Image of God, the great Anti-type to which all those types shown under the first covenant had pointed. At the greatest and widest crux, then, the 'image of God' is Jesus the Christ, God who came down from His throne, and took upon Himself a human Body so that He could have a personal relationship with His people, His creation!

It is through this Image, that we His people are to shine His light into the darkest places, to spread the knowledge of Him throughout our 'world', 'as the waters cover the sea' ( Habakkuk 2:14, Isaiah 11:9 )! We have not been left alone; we have the Strength of His Presence, and until we realize the full extent of what that means, to be the Living Image of God, we will continue to slumber through our existence, not fully enjoying that Presence, or our work here on earth, which has been married to heaven!

In His Image,
Charles Haddon Shank