The Pagan Path

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Fire & Water; God's Cleansing Agents

This is our Father's world, and to our listening ears,
All nature sings, and 'round us rings the music of the spheres.
This is our Father's world: we rest us in the thought ,
of rocks and trees, of skies and seas-His hand the wonders wrought!

Until natural disasters such as wildfires ravage, tornadoes destroy, and hurricanes blow, we often tend to forget this glorious fact! It is tremendously horrible, even horrifying when houses, animal, and especially people wander into their destructive paths, but we must remember that these are simply God's way of clearing, cleansing, and recycling His landscape!

At this moment, the 7th anniversary of the havoc that Hurricane Katrina wreaked on the cities up and down the Gulf Coast, but especially on Sin City ( New Orleans ), Tropical Storm Isaac ( downgraded from 'Hurricane Isaac' ) is unleashing it's weakening ( but still strong ) powers in the same area of our Father's world.

Also at this time, the Rader Creek subdivision in south-western Montana is on fire, and quite a few homes have been burnt to the ground and many more are under dire threat! Reports have been leaking in throughout the day ( news crews are on the scene ), and while some report that several homes have almost miraculously escaped, others have not been so blessed. There are reports that winds are picking up and not only turning the fire back on areas that had previously escaped, but that the fire is picking up speed toward the North, and our state capitol, Helena!

Many prayers are ascending, and the town of Whitehall has 'battened down the hatches', so to speak, as more and more residents open up their hearts and even homes to help with the aftermath. When word got out that certain of the residents of Rader Ceek were evacuated from their homes; it was not long before offers for housing and whatever other help was needed began pouring in, like blessings from on High!

As these and other natural disasters occur, and the resultant love, care, and concern begin to flow from the communities around them, and even from far off places, we can begin to piece together the 'why?' of these seemingly inexplicable disasters, and take comfort in the fact that this is 'Our Father's World', that He is in full and total control, and that it is though situations like this ( house-cleaning ) that our Father brings His people together, sometimes out of the 'woodwork'!

Let us all endeavor to use times like these as an opportunity to show Christian love to our neighbor, to 'come together' as a community, and to help heal the hurt that is caused, often through our own neglect, by natural events such as this, and let us continue to actively pray that God will continue to be gracious and merciful to us all, His people!

Prayerfully and humbly,
Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, August 27, 2012

144,000; the Dimensions of the New Jerusalem

This is one of the 'gems' harvested from yesterday's sermon;

'And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred [ and ] forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel [ were ] sealed

'The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred [ and ] forty-four cubits, [ according ] to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.'

Too often, I believe, we ( Christians ) get 'caught up' ( enraptured ) in the details, like the dimensions of the tabernacle, Temple, and New Jerusalem, and almost lose sight of the fact that this is a description of the infinite glory of the dwelling of God with His people; as Paul wrote, in I Corinthians 3:16,  'you are the temple of God ', and again, in I Corinthians 6:19, 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit'.

I doubt if I'm the first one to make this connection, but listening to my brother's sermon yesterday brought to mind the glorious fact, the covenantally contextual fact that when John saw the 144,000, 12,000 from every tribe in Israel, he wasn't taking note that there was just a certain number from every tribe of Old Covenant Israel that would be saved; he was seeing us, the Israel of God throughout the ages: what a glorious vision!

Later, as he related the dimensions of the New Jerusalem, which, as my brother pointed out, are cubic, just like the Holiest in the tabernacle, and the innermost sanctuary in the Temple, he gave them as the square root of them which were saved from the tribes of Israel, 144,000.

Lost in the details

Details are important, don't get me wrong, else the Author of Scripture would not have been so careful to conceal, then to reveal them, but many times, we get so bogged down in these details, whether it's in trying to physically rebuild, or construct a mock-up of the Temple structure, that we forget to be the glorious Temple that He made us!

These are just a few thoughts that I had, and wanted to share: may God use them for His glory and for our good, as we seek to 'restore the glorious vision' to Hs Church!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

'Am I my brothers keeper?'

First of all, we might ask, 'who is our brother?' Jesus told His disciples ( Mark 3:35 ), 'whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother'! In this post-biblical era, then, we might ask, 'what is the will of God?' I'm not saying, by using the term 'post-biblical', that the Scriptures are passe'; by no means! The Scriptures, all of them, can and should be applied, to a greater or lesser extent to our lives, but as they were primarily relevant to the lives of Jesus' original audience, we must realize that Jesus' words were spoken to a specific audience, at a specific time in history, and for a specific reason. As to that specific reason, we may speculate, and by the end of this writing, a specific conclusion to this question, as well as others. might well be reached, but for now, we can assume that the people to whom Jesus spoke, and the time in which He spoke to them was in the first century anno domini.

The Scriptures, as we have noted, were written in a certain and specific context; that much is clear! As such then, we can certainly say that, though it is applicable, to whatever extent, to us today, its primary purpose was served in the first century!

Matthew's and Mark's Gospels are probably the two Gospel accounts that are the closest in literary relation to each other, in fact, you may have even heard, as I have, that Matthew patterned his after the existing Gospel of Mark, so Matthew's account of the words of Jesus are very nearly the same, and interestingly enough, but not surprisingly, this event only occurs in these two Gospels!

When reviewing these passages, it is very easy to apply these words to ourselves, and very aptly they should be so applied, but primarily, I believe, Jesus was speaking in a specific context when He uttered these words. As we have seen previously, the words of Scripture were written in a certain specific way, to a certain specific people, at a certain specific time, and for a certain specific purpose. Although we are undoubtedly a part of the family of God today, as well as they were back then ( for, as Jesus said, 'whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother' ); He said this to His contemporaries for a specific purpose, to remind them that it was not simply those who were born 'according to the flesh' that were His family, but that 'whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother'; it was those who were obedient to the heavenly command, to the Covenant, who were counted as family, and just because you had blood ties did not mean that you were His 'mother and brothers'.

So, from this we can ascertain that now, as then, our 'brother', if indeed the same as the 'brother and sister and mother' of Jesus, is he who does the will of God. This is true enough, but we may now ask, 'what is the will of God that Jesus was speaking of?' As important as it is to obey His Covenant, and to keep His Law; I'm not so sure that we can say with any certainty here, that Jesus was saying that in order to be part of the family of God, one must do these things, but that, as we saw above, the point of His words was that it was not those who claimed familial relation because of natural birth ( John 3 ) who were part of His family, but all those who did His will, whether related by blood or not.

The will of God here, had an eschatological aspect to it that we do not have today. This eschatological aspect was that 'He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him'. This was 'the will of My Father in heaven' of which Jesus spoke: it was their acceptance of Him as their Messiah that was the will of God! While some, that remnant who was truly waiting for their Messiah, received Him as their Messiah, and not just their brother 'according to the flesh', it was they who were counted as His true relations, and not those who just called Him 'brother'!

Is it the will of God that we, His people follow in His footsteps, obeying His Covenant, and calling Him 'abba, Father'? Doubtless! Does everyone of His children do this? Are we children of our heavenly Father only if we do this ( cry 'abba, Father' ), or are we His children because He fathered us, created us?

Many of the problems in the world today, and for the past millenia, really, ever since man came to be, are rooted in the development of the 'us versus them' mentality. Men are prone, by their very nature to think that they have all wisdom and knowledge, and if other men do not possess this same 'wisdom or knowledge', they are somehow 'children of a lesser God', and therefore below our station, and possibly only worthy of our negative attentions, if any at all!

Does this sound right to you?! To those who read the Hebrew Scriptures ( Old Testament ) without realizing the covenant context, and that these events, though undoubtedly historic, were simply a shadow of what was to come; as Paul put it, 'a tutor, to lead us to Christ' ( Galatians 3:24 ), it may seem that this God was a vengeful, hateful, and petty dictator, who ruled His people with an iron fist! The God of the Greek Scriptures ( New Testament ), on the other hand, through the Revelation of His Son, was a bit nicer; He was 'full of Grace', and only lost His temper a couple times, before finally dieing for the sins of His people, which sins  had estranged them from His Father! Reading through the Hebrew Scriptures, then, we can almost see the foundation for this kind of mentality, a sort of 'me against the world' mentality that says that we, in some cases, need to do almost the exact opposite of what the world does, for we are to live in opposition to the world!

NO! This is our Father's world, and rather than being opposed to this wonderful creation that He placed us in ( don't get me wrong; we ARE to oppose what is wrong, and stand for what is right! ), we are to be a light and even saviors ( on a smaller, but 'greater' ( John 14:12 ) scale ) to this world which is crossed with so many scars, and full of so many hurting, estranged 'children'!

ARE we our brother's keeper?!

What does it mean to be our brother's keeper? Does it mean to defend and befriend only those, who like us, have reconciled with our heavenly Father,  who keep the Covenant, and have found rest in Christ? Or does our 'brother' include even those who have been hurt, and for whatever reason, have been estranged from our heavenly Father? I would venture to say that, if we are not including the latter; we are not taking seriously our exalted position as the Body of Christ, and as 'healing leaves'.

Does this mean that we are to accept their works by which they have estranged themselves from the family of God? God forbid! We should not walk with them in their flood of dissipation, lest we partake of their consequences, but neither should we shun them, writing them off as 'a lost cause', abandoning them to their folly, and refusing to be Christ to them!

This will not be easy, but I believe that if we are to take seriously our part in this 'Kingdom Project', we must realize, and then act on that realization, that we ARE our brothers keeper, and that our 'brother' is inclusive of all with whom we come in contact, those whom God, for whatever reason, throws in our path!

Keeping in mind the fact that, through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, it is not all up to us; let us go forth in that Strength, loving our neighbor as ourself, and being our brother's keeper!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Resurrection of 'The Last Day'

'I am the resurrection and the life.'

Previously, we studied what Jesus meant by the phrase, 'I will raise him up on the last day'. We saw that Jesus' use of the phrase 'the last day' was no different than all the other uses of this phrase throughout the breadth of the prophetic Scriptures. The resurrection, as we have seen, is one of the most studied, most sought-after, and also, one of the most controversial subjects in Scripture: it is expected by the majority of Christians today to happen in our future, and thus, to individual, biological bodies, and though many, or most of these will readily admit that somewhat of a spiritual resurrection occurred, or occurs, when we receive Christ and are made alive and a new creature in Him, even those who claim to believe that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD70 was *a* ( but not THE ) coming of Christ, and that *a* resurrection of of some sort happened then ( the jury is still out on exactly what and how ), they will vociferously insist that there will *yet* be a resurrection of biological bodies, both of the just and the unjust!

Many other writers, better equipped, maybe, than I, have taken in hand to try to show the nature of this resurrection, how and when it happened, and some have even ventured back into the Hebrew Scriptures to prove that it was not a resurrection of individual, biological bodies that was promised in the Law & the Prophets. The Pharisees of Jesus' day looked at in this way, in the sense of individual bodies, but when they asked Jesus a hypothetical question concerning the resurrection, in Mark 12:18-23, Jesus told them, 'you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God'. He might well have said that they had mistaken the nature of God, for though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive, according to Jesus, they were undoubtedly, especially not at this point, in their physical bodies! These bodies had perished long before this, even millenia before, and had long since become worm-food and blended with the earth, or the land! 

The Lazarus Connection

Something that we must understand when approaching the subject of the resurrection is that, besides not being about individual, biological bodies being raised from the dead, but about the 'anastasis', or resurrection of the corporate, or covenant body of Israel, Jesus was, or is, as God, Himself THE Resurrection! In many of my previous articles, I have greatly emphasized this point, but as simple and over-emphasized as it may seem to be; it is very profound, and yes, it IS simple; simply profound! If only more people would see its simple profundity, much, if not all of the controversy regarding the resurrection would disappear! Oh, if only people would see the simple truth that Jesus embodies the resurrection, and that if one is 'in' Him, they 'also were raised with [ Him ] through faith in the working of God': as part of the Body of Christ, we are 'sons of the resurrection'!

I'm sure I'm not the first to note a connection between Jesus' parabolic story of 'the rich man and Lazarus' in Luke 16 and the death and subsequently typical, bodily resurrection of Jesus' friend, the brother of Mary and Martha, in John 11, but as many as have perused both of these accounts, no one, to my knowledge has put two and two together, and realized why this parabolic story, which tradition has testified as being the clearest picture and proof of the doctrine of 'Hell' in Scripture, is in the Gospel of Luke alone, and why the relation of the death and 'resurrection' of Lazarus is only recorded in the Gospel of John.

I believe that these two accounts are one and the same, but that Luke, in his Gospel, simply chose, for reasons that may surface later, or be further revealed, to relate this event in the form of a parable, an object lesson, if you will. We are told, first of all, in the Gospel according to Luke, that 'there was a certain beggar named Lazarus', who 'died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom'. A quick note here; 'The rich man also died and was buried', and though we have no record of his being transported anywhere, he was 'in torments in Hades'. Now isn't THAT interesting; he was simply buried, and the it is recorded that he was then in the torments of Hades, or 'Hell'?!

In John's Gospel, we read that 'a certain [ man ] was sick'. This cannot be a coincidence! The further fact that, when asked why He had waited for those several days before coming to Lazarus' aid, Jesus responded, 'that you may believe'. Jesus whole point in raising Lazarus from physical death was 'that they may believe' ( note the switch from 'you' to 'they' ). Jesus true intention is revealed here; it was not His main purpose to 'wake him ( Lazarus ) up', but rather, to rescue, to come to the aid of Israel, she who had died through her iniquitous idolatry!

'Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.' ( Luke 17:37

Jesus utters the same words in Matthew's Gospel in relation to the coming of the Son of God and subsequent destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. As can be seen throughout the prophetic Scriptures, it was not individual bodies 'in' Israel that had died and needed 'anastasis' ( 'warm up the paddles' ); it was the body ( corporate ) of Israel that had separated itself ( Isaiah 59:, et al. ) from God, and had, in that sense, ''fallen from grace',which needed to be lifted out of her slumber.

'Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light' ( Ephesians 5:14 )

Not to belabor the point, but it was not only certain individuals within the body of Israel who had fallen asleep, though many had doubtless perished biologically, nor was it the biological bodies of the Israelites, many of whom Jesus had spoken in much the same way to, who had physically died. Jesus used both the occurrence of the death of Lazarus, and His parabolic reference to that same death to make His point that, as He had physically raised Lazarus from the dead, so He would, as prophesied in places like Ezekiel 37, raise the body of Israel, not from their physical 'slumber', though this happened to an extent, as witnessed in Matthew 27:52, but in restoration to the blessings of the Covenant, so that they could enjoy God's Presence forever!

One more connection to note between Jesus' parabolic story in Luke 16 and the death of Lazarus in John 11 is found in the last part of his parable. 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' Jesus said this in reply to the rich man's plea for Him to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, and though many of the Jews present at the resurrection of Lazarus 'had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him', these words were spoken primarily of His own 'anastasis', and were the final condemnation for the old covenant body of Israel, those according to the flesh!

May this short, by no means in-depth study of 'the resurrection of the last day' clear up some questions in the mind of my readers, as it has in mine, and if it raises more questions, then I have done my job!

In the love of God and the service of His Kingdom,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wiithout Hands; the Circumcision of the Heart

'The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as [ it is ] this day. Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer.'

From the beginning, as we can see from this passage of Scripture; the outward act, whether it was circumcision ( the cutting off of an obstacle to sexual enjoyment ), water baptism, or some other outward sign always and only ever pointed to, or was significant of the inward reality. Moses instruction to 'circumcise the foreskin of your heart' was given after God had told Abraham to circumcise the flesh of the foreskin, as 'a sign of the covenant', and shows to anyone with an understanding 'heart' that God's intention was that the outward action was simply to be a sign of the inward ( spiritual ) reality, the removal of the obstacle to true worship ( enjoyment ) of God, childish rebellion of the 'heart', or from the inmost being. This is why it is commanded, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength'. As we have seen in previous articles on the subject (of 'love' ); it is not enough merely to say 'I love you', even if it is from the 'heart'; one must actually, with all their strength, do something to show, or prove that love! By squelching, or removing that rebellion, we are enabled thus to move past our naturally rebellious instincts and show our love for God by obeying His commands, like good, faithful and wise children!

Although we must keep in mind the eschatological context of this passage, and that of the change in the nature of God's people, it is plain that we are responsible to do what is right and good, and if necessary, to give up our own selfish desires for the sake of the Kingdom.

If [ any ] of you are driven out to the farthest  [ parts ] under heaven, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you. Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And 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.

The subject of water baptism, to me, has always been one of interest, not solely because I was brought up with a hearty appreciation for it, and its effects, whatever they might be. I remember at one point in my early adult-hood ( maybe more like early to mid-teens ), thinking, 'whose work is it, ours or God's?' You must understand that I was brought up in the Reformed Baptist Church for the earlier part of my life, and then in a Reformed congregation, in both of which a fairly hefty emphasis is placed on the importance, if not necessity, of water baptism, not so much, maybe, as a salvific issue, but as an ordinance, a command.

This is where the eschatological context of these words comes into play, especially concerning water baptism! It is fairly well-accepted, I believe, by most Reformed theologians, and maybe even non-Reformed theologians, that this form of baptism is the New Covenant 'replacement', if you will, for circumcision under the Old, or first covenant. This, although it almost sounds reasonable, is not quite true!

Circumcision ( cutting off of the foreskin ), as we saw in the first quoted passage, was a symbol, or a sign for the metaphorical 'circumcision of the heart'. Just as water baptism was simply a sign of a 'good conscience' ( I Peter 3:21 ), so the circumcision of the flesh was merely to be a sign of one's covenant faithfulness to God. 

With the 'passing away' ( I Corinthians 7:31, 3:7 ( Hebrews 8:13 ) I John 2:8 & 17 ) of the Old Covenant ( Mosaic ) and the transition, or re-birthing of the Church, as the Body of Christ, the true 'Israel of God', the signs which pointed to that greater spiritual reality in Christ ceased to be necessary. When one has reached the destination, the reality to which all signs have pointed; signs are no longer necessary, and can even be detrimental!

'I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.'

Baptism is necessary to one's 'salvation', there can be no doubt of that! If one has not been baptized with, or by, the Holy Spirit of God, then one still has that 'heart of stone' the prophet Ezekiel talked about ( Ezekiel 36:22-38 ), and will not be sensitive to the things of God, but having a hard ( immature, rebellious ) heart, will be unwilling to yield to any but their own selfish desires.

As with the sign of circumcision, which is no longer in general practice, save in some more barbaric societies, so water baptism, which was a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, was for the 1st-century Church, during the 'birth pangs' ( Romans 8:22 ( Micah 4:10 ), or the transition period between the final sacrifice of the Old Covenant ( Christ on the cross ), and the Final end of the Old Covenant economy, with the subsequent Revelation of the New Covenant in Jesus the Christ!

We have noted before, in a previous article ( a few years ago, actually ) that this baptism of John was simply a carry-over, or continuation, of the priestly baptism which was to be performed when one entered the ministry, so, for now, we won't rehash all that. We will, however, take a brief look back at certain of the references in the Hebrew Scriptures where God promised this 'baptism of the Holy Spirit'.

First of all, though not necessarily in chronological order; we have the above-mentioned passage in Ezekiel 36;

'Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.'

First, we must note that this 'sprinkling' ( literally, 'startling' ) occurs after the Israelites have been brought back from Exile and deposited back into the Land  As in the first Exodus ( a type of the True ), Grace was first shown, then the 'change' was instituted! First deliverance ( Grace ), then, through that deliverance, Law was revealed!

And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on [ My } menservants and on [ My } maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days

Peter quoted this passage to an assembly of Israel ( Acts 2 ), and told them that this prophecy was fulfilled in the tongues of fire that appeared over the heads of certain typical and representative individuals among them. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit which had been promised by the Prophets! 

 'Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you;I will make my words known to you.'

Though this promise, much the same as the one in Joel, is given by 'Wisdom'; we can see, looking through the  'eyes of wisdom', and the covenant context of Scripture, that 'Wisdom', as such, is personified in Jesus the Christ ( Exodus 31:3, Deuteronomy 3:9, I Kings 10:24, Psalm 104:24, Proverbs 2:10, etc. ) All this, which was prior to the Revelation of Jesus the Christ, was, in type, and even in actuality, a baptism of the Holy Spirit, though not the one prophesied, and promised by God, where 'We will come to him and make Our home with him.' ( John 14:23b ).

'As for Me,” says the Lord, “this is My covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your descendants, nor from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants,” says the Lord,                    'from this time and forevermore.'

This is God's work; this is the baptism of the holy spirit! As we shall see in the following conclusions of the matter, and as you can ascertain from a studied reading, with understanding of the context of these passage, this is not to say that we have no part to play in this story of redemption! We have a part to play, and though this part meshes perfectly with God's plan; we have a responsibility, nay, the privilege, to act upon this Grace that we have received! Because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which we have received as part of the Body of Israel, and through this baptism, we have a 'heart of flesh', one that is moldable, and receptive, sensitive to the 'things of the Lord', and to His people!

The Myth of Individualism

Much importance, as mentioned earlier, especially in certain parts of the Church, or Body of Christ, is placed in the sign of water baptism as a means of Grace. Also as mentioned earlier, this baptism was a transitory sign for the first-century Church, 'the Church in short-pants', as one brother of ours so humorously puts it.

Reading through the prophetic Scriptures, as has been hinted at, through the lens of covenant context; it should be clear that, though as part of the Body of Christ, and like the resurrection ( which I have written about previously ), individuals are undoubtedly involved, and have received baptism of the Holy Spirit, much as we partake in the resurrection ( these two are closely related, and are very nearly interchangeable ); this baptism, as the resurrection, was of the corporate Body of Israel, a baptism ( and thus resurrection ) into new life ( II Corinthians 5:17 ), a lie where, as we saw earlier, God once again dwells in the midst of His people!

Having received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and as His corporate Body, the circumcision of the heart; let us go forth with a renewed confidence and conscience, loving and serving God and His Kingdom, and our neighbor as ourself!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, August 09, 2012

The Kingdom Project ( A New 'Kind' of Christian )

There are plenty of examples already out there, both in history and in this blog, of how Christianity has been its own worst enemy throughout the ages, so I'm not going there again! And, please don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that, as 'a new kind of Christian', we should no longer be followers of Jesus the Christ, or lovers of God, just that, as fellow-workers with Him in this 'Kingdom Project', we should be ready to flout much of the orthodoxy that much of Christianity has stubbornly held to for these same 'ages'!

As partners in this building project, as has been intimated; we, as followers of the Christ, little Christs ourselves, must be prepared to think, say, and do things that much of what is known as 'Christianity' would balk at!  Although I say 'a new kind of Christian'; this is really nothing 'new': think of Martin Luther.......think of John Huss..........think of many in Foxe's Book of Martyrs, for instance.....Through the ages, so many good followers of Jesus have been horrifically and tragically murdered because they dared to challenge the established orthodoxy!

It is abundantly clear, through the inspiration of the Spirit of God in His people, that regardless of the harm that has inadvertently or stubbornly ( blindly ) been caused by the actions or in-actions of many 'Christians' throughout the ages; the Kingdom has been prospering, and as Daniel prophesied through this same Spirit, has become 'a great mountain and filled the whole earth' ( Daniel 2:35c )! This Kingdom is always expanding, as more and more, every day, through 'random' acts of kindness and the power of God, people are entering into the City, and into a right relationship with their Creator and Father!

So, as we begin to exercise our rights as 'a new kind of Christian' and as Kingdom-builders; we must remember that, while we will likely be frowned upon by the 'establishment', and likely even persecuted for our 'stand', everyone, and I mean EVERYONE with whom we come in contact is a child of our heavenly Father ( though not necessarily in a living relationship with Him ) and is thus a potential inhabitant of the City of God ( Hebrews 12:18-24, Revelation 21:1-4, ( 22:14 & 15 ). I am NOT saying that we must call homosexuals, lesbians, transvestites, and those others who live in direct contradiction to the Law of God as that which is laid out for us in Scripture, brothers and sisters, but we MUST treat them kindly, as for who they really are ( whether they like it or not ), as children of our heavenly Father, though estranged!

Beginning, in the past few decades, and really taking notice ( and action! ) in the past few years and months; I have come to the startling, though not shocking, realization that there is a lot of hurt out there in the world, and much, if not all of it can be traced back to its roots in 'Christianity'! This is not to say that Christianity is something that must be shied away from, or totally discarded, but we must be prepared, if we would partner with God in this 'building project', to get our hands 'dirty', to think, say, and do things that, in ages past, and even in much of today's 'Church', would be regarded as unconscionable, unthinkable!

I have written quite a few articles in the past several years on the subject of 'healing leaves', and in fact, if you'll notice at the top of my 'blog' here, this theme is based on a verse from the Revelation of Jesus Christ.As the passage implies, we as followers of this Jesus, and His Body on earth, His Bride, ARE ( whether we like it or not, whether we act like it or not ) the 'leaves of the tree' that ARE 'for the healing of the nations'! This is NOT an option! Yes, we each, as individuals, have the choice as to how we are going to live, what fruit we are going to bear for our Lord, but we must always remember that, as we make our decisions, and bear the consequences of those choices, for good or evil, pleasant or not-so-pleasant; we are ALL God's children, and as our Sovereign Lord and Father, the Creator and Sustainer of ALL; it is His will that is done, not ours!

May we ALL realize this, and as realization begins to set in, may we do what is right ( though not necessarily 'orthodox' ), loving our brethren as ourselves, and God and His Law ( personified ), most of all!

In the love of God,
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, August 02, 2012

The 'Last Day' of Jesus Christ ( John 6 )

Many have taken Jesus' usage of the phrase 'last day' ( John 6:40 & 54 ) as meaning something almost totally different than that of similar phrases used of the imminent expectation of 'the Day of the Lord', such as 'the last hour' ( I John 2:18 ), 'these last days' ( Hebrews 1:2  ( II Timothy 3:1 ), and 'the Judge is standing at the door' ( James 5:9 ). Clearly, though, and maybe more clearly to some than to others, Jesus is speaking in the same vein, and of the same 'Day' as elsewhere in the prophetic text. You may have heard that Jesus was speaking of individuals throughout the ages, telling them that if they believed on Him, and partook of His Body and Blood, though they died, He would raise them up to life everlasting, on 'the last day'. Even here though, there are variations; Jesus either meant, as Martha clearly thought, that He would raise her brother 'in the resurrection at the last day' ( John 11:24 ), or that He would raise their souls to 'Heaven ( spiritually ) on their 'last day', when their biological bodies quit functioning. Neither of these explanations is quite satisfactory! Why would Jesus leave His context and begin speaking of those far of in the future, when His main concern was that generation?

Looking at the wider context of Jesus' words in John 6, and reading further in John 11, Jesus also told Martha that 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'. He was obviously not telling Martha that if one were alive ( biologically ) at the time that he believed in Jesus that he would never lose his biological life! In that case, we could easily say that no one living at the time believed in Jesus because no one from that era is biologically living. Obviously, He was saying that those who put their trust in Him had eternal life, not physically or biologically speaking, but spiritually speaking, as in 'neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord' ( Romans 8:38 & 39 ).

Here the covenant context, and the fact that Jesus is not referring to individual bodies must be taken into consideration. The covenant context, as we have already discussed somewhat, requires that the meaning of Jesus' words of comfort here, must be sought in the wider context of His dealings with those covenant people, 'His people' ( Matthew 1:21 ) that He came to save from their sin. The sin that He delivered ( saved ) them from was the sin of their covenant head, Adam. In our Covenant Head, whom Paul calls 'the last Adam' ( I Corinthians 15:45 ), we never die, for unlike the first Adam, He kept His Father's command perfectly!

As we have discussed previously, although the corporate Body of Christ, or Israel is no doubt composed of individuals, as a symphony is composed of many notes but is one symphony, one piece of music, there is but One Body in view here, or rather, I should say, two. That is the Body of Adam, or Moses, those under his covenant headship, as were those up till the first century, and those who came under the Headship of the Son of God, the Body of Christ, the Church! Paul discusses at great length in Romans 12, then I Corinthians 10 & 12, how this individuality works in the one body; so we will go no further on that subject here.

Back now to the immediate context of John 6; in the surrounding passages ( remember, no chapters or verses in the original? ), Jesus was discussing the 'bread from heaven' which Moses, in a type, had given to the children of Israel ( covenant children of Adam ) in the wilderness, and how He was the true 'bread from heaven'. Again; Jesus' primary concern was with that generation, not one 2,000 plus years in the future!

More could be written here, but what has been written is presented so as to engender in its readers a Berean mind, who searched the Scriptures for themselves to see 'whether these things were so'. Let us all be as they, and search out the truth of these things for ourselves, not just being satisfied to take someone else's word for it. Once we have found the truth of these matters, and with the freedom that we have in Christ, our covenant Head, and in God our Father; let us put this freedom into action, knowing that we, as the Body of Christ, will never die! There is no 'last day' for us!

Charles Haddon Shank