The Pagan Path

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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Shameless: Life in the New Covenant Age

'Who told you that you [ were ] naked?'
Genesis 3:11a

First of all; I would like to thank a friend of mine ( In Facebook-land ), Robert Rutherford by name, because this post stems from a status that he recently posted to Facebook, or Gracebook, as I like to call it!

Several years ago, I had begun to write a series of articles on 'The Gospel Typified in the Book of Beginnings'. In the third  article in this series, I wrote, 'Did Adam & Eve have any idea that they were naked, before they sinned? I dare say that they did; but before they 'acquired' the knowledge that they had been forbidden; they probably thought nothing of it ( Genesis 2:25 ). ( Let me again remind my readers; although it may seem like I am assuming a strict historical understanding of this chapter; I am simply showing you that, as I believe, this is not so much a literal, scientifically accurate account of what actually transpired in a geographical location called the 'Garden of Eden', as it is significant, or representative of the greater spiritual truth of our need for the true wisdom, the righteousness of Christ! ) We can speculate about such matters until we're 'blue in the face', but until we realize that this story, like so many others, is prophetic hyperbole, significant of, and typifying the fact that we cannot gain wisdom on our own, and that we are naked, and 'destitute of the truth', without Christ and His righteousness; I believe that we miss the point of many such passages!'

Since writing these words, I believe that I have progressed somewhat in my understanding, but the basic principle outlined here still holds true; I believe that the story in Genesis 3 was not about Adam & Eve's lack of clothing, but rather was a prior revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the righteousness that He has clothed us with.

Many or most of us, like myself, were probably brought up believing that when God asked the question quoted above, he was condemning Adam through this rhetorical question ( He well knew ) by saying that their nakedness was something that needed to be covered, especially after they fell, or disobeyed. Now most, if not all of us, have been brought up to believe that nakedness is shameful, that it is wrong to be naked, except in certain situations ( example-husband and wife ), but RoberTRUTHerford's recent post started me thinking. Is the Bible telling us that it IS shameful to be naked, or was God saying, with a slightly different emphasis, ( and slightly different words ), 'Do you think there's something wrong with the way I made you?' ( 'What up?' ) Now, Genesis 2:25 does say, 'they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed', but it was not that they saw nothing wrong with their 'nakedness', and were thus not ashamed of it; there WAS nothing wrong with their 'nakedness'! That was the way God had made them, and pronounced them good! The problem came when they disobeyed God's Law, and they became aware of their 'nakedness' before their Creator and were ashamed.

Much of the problem with viewing ( reading ) this passage out of its covenant context, and with a physically literal understanding of the words, is that now we're tempted to think that since Adam & Eve were created naked ( and pronounced good, by the way ), and that it was only after 'The Fall' ( Genesis 3 ) that God clothed them; now that the curse has been reversed, and we need no longer be ashamed of our nakedness, it is not only okay to be physically naked wherever and whenever ( or just in nudist colonies ), we can also flaunt it, and tempt the passions of others who may not enjoy the Righteousness of Christ!

Nakedness, though Adam & Eve were, traditionally speaking, created perfect, was not a reference, as most people seem to think, to their physical state, but was rather a reference to their covenantal status. As the true Tree of Life ( remember God's words in Genesis 3:22-'And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever' ), the Righteousness of Christ was the true ( and only ) clothing ( no fig leaves ) that would cover the shame of our 'nakedness' before a righteous God!

Nudity, or physical nakedness, can pose quite a problem! It has been much degraded among those who do not enjoy the Righteousness of Christ, and has seen much abuse in both camps, Christian and non-Christian alike. Physical nakedness, we are told, is for the marriage-bed only, and for good reason; it has certain effects on members of the opposite sex, and while these effects are not necessarily wrong, they are not all good and righteous either. The exploitation of human nakedness, physically speaking, has led to the downfall of many a marriage relationship as well, and thus Wisdom tells us that it should be reserved thusly, for the marriage-bed.

Although we should not be ashamed of our nakedness ( that IS the way God made us, after all ); Wisdom tells us that we should not share it with just anybody, but only with the wife of our youth, as the Scriptures say. This article, though, is not about physical nakedness, because I don't believe that Genesis 2 & 3 are about physical nakedness! Genesis 2 & 3 are about the fact that, before the Revelation of Jesus the Christ as the Son of God, and the clothing of covenant man with the Righteousness of Christ, covenant man was 'naked' before God, and thus his shame for the sin of disobedience was uncovered at every turn!

'If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself'
II Timothy 2:13

As we read in Genesis 3:7b, 'they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings', but the 'fig leaves' obviously could not do the job, for, as Adam admitted, 'I was afraid because I was naked' ( verse 10 ). Until our true Righteousness was revealed, in Christ, there was no covering available to cover the 'nakedness' of man, although the many different 'coverings' commanded in the Hebrew Scriptures were typical of this Righteousness.

It is because God Himself, as typified in the book of beginnings, clothed the nakedness of (covenant ) man that we need no longer be ashamed! It is through His Righteousness that there are 'No More Tears', and, as in the quote above, it is His clothing ( righteousness, faithfulness ) which covers our unfaithfulness, our 'nakedness'.

Let us live trusting in the true clothing, The Righteousness and Faithfulness of our God and Father; let us live unashamedly in this New Covenant age, not trying to cover our 'nakedness' with 'fig leaves', but resting in His Righteousness, His Covering!
Let us recognize that we are not naked and move past any vain attempts to clothe ourselves, and let us go and love our neighbor as ourselves, as we were given!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, November 16, 2012

All God's Children, Too; Vile Passions

If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood [ shall ] be upon them.
 Leviticus 20:

 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, 
and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
 Romans 1:27

There is a lot of talk in Christian circles today about how evil homosexuality is! If you were brought up in a traditional home, whether it was Christian or not, you most likely grew up believing that homosexuality was a sin. I was brought up in such a home, and in fact; I still live among that group, and am of the opinion that it is not only unnatural, it is not what God intended for wedded bliss: as I've quoted before, 'God brought Eve, not Steve to Adam'!

Yes; I believe homosexuality is wrong, but what do I know?! Can a man love another man, and live with him as with the traditional marriage partner? Is not a marriage more than sexual relations? I have somewhat painstakingly, in a previous article, shown how it is not even remotely possible for two men to have sexual relations as a man and woman would, much less produce offspring from such a 'union'. However, it IS possible for two men, as non-traditional as it may be ( and repulsive to many ), to live together as life-mates, if you will, to love each other with as much passion and fierce loyalty as a man could ever love a woman, and though they could never produce natural offspring, they can always adopt! I must say, though, that the same people ( not just Christians ) that bristle at the thought of two men living together in 'union' also shudder ( and usually say bad words ) at this notion too! 

Christianity, in general, condemns homosexuality, based on their understanding of the Scriptures, such as those above, which seem to reveal very clearly their abominable quality! I'm not saying that their understanding of these passages is wrong, but neither am I ready to condemn homosexuality without a clear understanding of it's 'ins & outs', so to speak!

Anyone can see very clearly that, contextually speaking, there is a lot more in the surrounding passages, particularly of the Leviticus one, that requires death ( by stoning ) and even more that is spoken of as 'an abomination to the Lord'! There is much of this that goes on, right under our noses, so to speak, but do we ever lift one stone to hurl at them? 'No'; I dare say that we do not ( well, maybe some of us do )! Much of the reason that such behavior is allowed to 'slide' ( and I'm not saying that it should be ), I believe, can be explained in several ways. First of all; we are not living under that 'first' covenant ( most Christians call this the Covenant of Works, or 'Law' ); we are no longer under stringent requirement to follow those laws 'written in stone', and secondly, related to the first, we are now constrained by the Law of Love, because that Law has taken up residence in our innermost being, our 'heart', if you will! We naturally know that, to love our neighbor as our self, we will not murder him, steal from him, bear false witness ( this can include, but is not limited to lying ), and if we love God with all our heart, mind and strength, we will worship no other beside Him!

I believe that another thing that must be understood when reading these passages is that they were given in the context, the Romans passage in particular, of the adverse judgment of adulterous and idolatrous old covenant Israel. Now, it could surely be argued that we are Israel, God's covenant people as well, and these laws are as applicable today as yesterday. Some actually try, I believe, to do this, at least with certain of the commands, but I digress; I'm starting to get off the subject, and am starting to climb onto another soapbox!

You will get no argument from me that there is much that goes on in society today ( even Christianity ) that should not be, but we have chosen to put aside, if not ignore completely, the question of adultery, idolatry, and many of the wrongs that are committed on a daily basis, and focus our scriptural hatred and misplaced abhorrence on ( the crime of? ) homosexuality! Is homosexuality wrong, or even condemned by the Scriptures? You may judge for yourself as to that matter, but I believe that if we are to voice our abhorrence of this sin, then we should as loudly, and vociferously, condemn all those other sins that take place right under our noses on a daily basis!

All God's Children?

I have previously written on the subject of the children of God, and toyed with the notion that now, in the New Covenant, all are the children, though some are estranged, of our Heavenly Father. I acknowledge that this term, 'children of God', has more of an adoptive connotation, and is used Scripturally only of those who keep the Covenant, but I am not yet convinced that this should be used as a wholly exclusive term!

I see a lot of argumentation everyday, and I'm sure this has an effect on my own reasoning, that a loving God would not create some human beings to enjoy His Presence forever, and others not to ( I'm sure you have heard arguments along this line, too ). Although this argumentation is likely based on the notion that we are now under Grace and not Law ( wait, that DOES sound familiar! ), and even that there is no more Law, but that the Grace of God now covers ALL transgression ( Wait............. )!

Yes, according to Scripture, I John especially, the children of God ( as opposed to the children of the 'devil'-John 8:44 ) are those who abide in Him ( I John 2:4-6 ), but, although these passages are fairly clear that it is those who follow His command ( to love ) and abide in Him who are known as His children, they are not as clear that these alone are children of God.

As one must take into account the whole of Scripture, the 'meta-narrative', if you will, it can also be ascertained that, the second natural son of Abraham, the one by Promise, was called 'your only [ son ] Isaac' by God Himself. As you can see, though, the word 'son' is bracketed, and thus, does not appear in the original Greek ( at least, in certain manuscripts ). This might cause one to wonder if God was just making clear to Abraham that it was Isaac, and not Ishmael that was to be sacrificed.

'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, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.'
Ephesians 1:3-6

This 'adoption as sons' is yet another argument that has been presented, and while it is clear, from the apostle Paul's writings in the 8th and 9th chapters of the book of Romans and in Galatians chapter 4, that the adoption of the Gentiles was most certainly the major aspect of their being united with Israel as God's covenant people, or children, it is also clear that this adoption was for a certain purpose, that of bringing all God's people together.

Can or should we go around telling the homosexual next door, or the pervert who is blatantly thumbing his nose at the Law of God, that they are God's children, just as we are? Is there, in this New Covenant, an all-inclusive, universal aspect to the Fatherhood of our Creator? You be the judge, but whatever your judgment, remember that they are, at the very least, creations of our heavenly Father, and under His Grace ( and Love ) as well as we!

Thoughtfully and prayerfully,
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fire & Water; Blizzards, Too!

For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, 
he will have whatever he says.
Mark 11:23

Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw [ it ] into the sea, saying, 
Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.
Revelation 18:21 

Although I'm sure that those most, or even least affected by the most recent natural disasters would say that these events were 'of biblical proportions' ( and import, no doubt ), while they do emanate from the same Creator, the writer of this article does not follow this notion!
Hurricane Sandy met up with a winter storm-front coming in from the west, which also collided with a cold-front coming down from the Arctic. This recipe for disaster resulted in one of the costliest natural disasters in United States history. It rivaled and possibly even took the honors away from 'The Perfect Storm' of 1991! Not only was north-eastern West Virginia devastated by a pretty decent blizzard around the same time, a blizzard spawned by the collision, most likely, of the three storms, to top it all off, the East Coast was hit by a follow-up ( 'one-two punch' ) nor'easter just over a week later, causing heartache on top of heartache, !

Earlier this fall, New Orleans was once again hit by the effects of a hurricane, this time named 'Isaac' ( interestingly, the name of one of my nephews ), and according to most accounts, suffered more severely than under Hurricane Katrina, back in 2005!

To say nothing of the worldwide natural disasters which have hit in the last decade, and continue to grow in frequency and fury, it seems, one might be tempted to say, on one hand, that the end is near, on the other that man has caused a global warming effect ( might be something there ), but somewhere in between these two horrifying propositions is the notion that God is using these disasters to cleanse His 'landscape', not only physically, but spiritually speaking!

One writer observed that 'Even before Sandy struck the East Coast Monday, an observation was gaining hurricane force: What if Sandy had struck a week later? What if, on Election Day, tens of millions were without power, with mass transit shut, roads flooded, polling stations shut or inaccessible? Would states or the federal government postpone the voting?' 

This writer went on to describe another storm that's brewing, and this is one that been brewing for a long time, a political fire-storm! Not only have these natural disasters brought a lot of discomfort to those who were in the midst of them, they also brought not a small disruption to the political machine! 

These 'disasters', both natural and political, real and imagined, may have a seemingly deadly impact in the world around us, but we know that all these things are happening for our good and God's glory! Many lose their lives during 'natural disasters' such as those few mentioned above, and, this is deplorable, especially to those closely related, but through it all, we can rest assured that a greater purpose is being served!

'If you don't want to be crushed by falling idols, don't bow down to them!

Many people, Christians included, tend to look at the political fire-storm that has been raging over the past decade especially, at least in this generation, and think that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket! If this  candidate rather than that one becomes the next 'leader' ( ruler ) of 'the free world' ( HA! ), then all our freedoms go down the drain, and the best thing to do is either hope Jesus comes back soon and raptures us out of this mess, or take up arms and lead our neighbors in a revolt! Okay, so the first will not happen ( He's already here, in us! ), and though the second may become necessary in the not-too-distant future, we must remember that the political process, while somewhat necessary, is not our savior. Although we are responsible, as a body politic, to follow certain guidelines and to obey certain rules, it is God's Law, the Law of Love that we are constrained to follow!

Before the elections were held several days ago, I remarked to several people that our current president may be the best thing this country has ever endured! After they were done choking on their own saliva, or pulling their eyebrows out of the ceiling, I went on to explain what I meant. Especially since the terrorist attacks ( ? ) of 9-11, the financial heart of this country has taken maybe the biggest, and most devastating hit of all! With these last few storms that have hit the East Coast; New York's financial districts have seen some major flooding. With this, and with the recent political storms, the stock market has been going crazy! The economic system in this country, while probably the biggest fiasco the world has ever seen, is also one of our biggest idols, and it is toppling fast!

We must do what we can and must to survive these 'storms', but we must realize, all the while we are preparing, that there is only One Master of Storms, and only He can save us!

Charles Haddon Shank 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

( We Have ) 'No King but King Jesus!'

And the Lord told him: 
Listen to all that the people are saying to you; 
it is not you they have rejected, 
but they have rejected Me as their king.

'The crisis of the ages demands that we renew the historic battle-cry of our Christian Forefathers: 'We Have No King But King Jesus!' 

The way things are going, that this is 'the crisis of the ages' could almost be said of the current situation in this nation, which IS and was founded under God! When our forefathers made this their battle-cry, we must understand that the context was freedom from the tyrannical rule of the despotic king of England. As the forefathers were, for the most part, at least heavily influenced by Christian principles, naturally this would be their revolutionary motto!

In the quoted passage, I Samuel 8, God, through the prophet Samuel, told the errant children of Israel what they should expect of the king they asked for. This was not because all men are necessarily evil, though the point could be argued, but because He knew that, humanly speaking, power corrupts! He knew, that because of their rejection of Him as their true King, any human king would eventually become corrupted by power and would fall into despotism. As we can read throughout the history of Israel, in fact, throughout the history of the world, this happened sooner with some than with others!

Arguably, it IS necessary for the people to have a leader, someone who's example they can follow, and understanding this, and the nature of man, our forefathers instituted a set of rules by which to set up such a government. This set of rules, known as The Constitution of the United States, was ordered and principled, again, for the most part, after God's Laws ( as they understood them ). Though this was the case, because it was a human document, it still allowed for the corruptibility of man, and as time went by, even though amendments were hastily made, it became almost passe', and subject to change, or at least disregard!

When this nation was awakened, almost 250 years ago, the president was a representative of the people; he bowed to the people's wishes ( so long as they accorded with our charter ) and was their servant! As things stand in America today, though we still have representatives in Washington, DC, our president has become more of a ruler than a representative ( though one must admit that he is representative of the people's wishes ! )!  Because the people of this nation have not been careful to follow the principles of, not only our founding fathers, but more importantly Scripture as well, those we have chosen to represent us have taken the reins themselves, and have driven us to the depths of tyranny ( though we have long been blind to this sad fact ) and, in some cases, despair!

In essence, our problem in this country is no different than the dilemma which Israel of Old faced; we want a king, a ruler that we can see, one that will guide our affairs, and lessen our own responsibilities. Although it would seem, now that we have a king like the other nations, our responsibilities have been lessened; we cannot afford to ignore those responsibilities much longer! With every responsibility that is ignored, or relegated to someone else, there also goes more and more of our freedom! Our responsibilities ARE our freedom, just like our freedoms are our responsibility; we cannot have one without the other!

Our current situation in this country, especially as regards the most recent elections, may seem to be cause for despair, and even for some, a call to arms! While there IS call for alarm, and though the call to arms may prove necessary, as Christians, who should have 'no king but King Jesus', we cannot despair, for 'This is Our Father's World', and 'though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet'!
'The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them'; 'I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill', He says in that most famously comforting Psalm 2! They have no power except it is given them: they are mere mortals like we! Why do we shudder and shake at their every whim, their every false command? Should we not acquit ourselves like the men ( and women ) of God that we are, and accept the responsibilities and thus freedoms that God has given us?!

Let us all forever say, like our fathers of old, 'No king but King Jesus!'

Let us rule our own lives according to the Revelation of His Word, and spread that rule of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all those around us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, November 02, 2012

'Send Me Somebody to Love'

 Can anybody find me somebody to love?
Each morning I get up I die a little
Can barely stand on my feet
Take a look in the mirror and cry
Lord what you're doing to me
I have spent all my years in believing you
But I just can't get no relief, Lord!
Somebody, somebody
Can anybody find me somebody to love? 

Maybe it's wrong, but I love to listen to those great 70s tunes! The popular group 'Queen' definitely had their problems ( like all music groups: ALL human beings, to be precise! ), but they were good musicians, and like many groups from that era, their lyrics were not all bad, and in fact, were pretty decent! Now; I'm not going to idolize them, or any other musical group, for that matter, but I DO appreciate that good old rock n' roll!

The problem with this, along with many other songs from this and other eras, is that they portray a wrong, or at least skewed idea of love, and what it really means to love. At least the writer of this song understood, somewhat, that love must be sent, 'from up above', so to speak, although, and this is mainly what the writer obviously missed; Love was 'sent from up above! Love, in the person of Jesus the Christ, in whom dwelt the fulness of the Godhead ( bodily ), now dwells in and through His people! Maybe this song was a cry for help from one who had not known the Love of God, and trusting, maybe ignorantly, that there was a Divine Being, a Sovereign Creator Who rules in the affairs of men, made his prayer before that Divine Being, asking Him to send him someone to show him that only True Love, the Love of God in Christ, whose Body we are!

We naturally, as 'Christians' ( and I must cry loudest here; 'mea culpa: may God forgive me! ) may hear or read lyrics such as this, and, taking into account the unbelieving 'bastard' who sang them, and think, 'well, he just wants someone to have sex with, because that's THEIR idea of love',and while this may be true, to a point, I now believe that many of those who have chosen to live such a lifestyle are actually searching for True Love, and for whatever reason, either turned away, or were turned away from Him.

As Christians, followers of Christ, we ARE the Body of Christ, and thus, in effect, Christ Himself! We are to spread the love of Christ abroad, as Jesus did, not condemningly, but with loving constraint, but we have failed, often because of a simply skewed theology, to do this in a very effective way, and have turned many away from the One True Love, and Light of the World! This is not to deny or belittle the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts, although sometimes I wonder if some such lyrics do not betray the work of the Spirit in their hearts, just that the Holy Spirit most often uses us, the Body of His Son, to confirm, in a physical sense, that work in their hearts! Too often, we have failed miserably, for whatever reason, to do this!

We may find ourselves saying this same phrase over and over to ourselves, especially when we're listening to some good old rock n' roll tune like this, but do we really need someone to 'find me somebody to love'? Don't we know ANYBODY on God's green earth who might, just might be looking for that True Love?!

I believe that we ALL know someone ( at least one someone ) who has been hurt by untrue love, and who is desperately searching for that One True Love that they are sure is out there! Yes, along the way, they may have taken many paths that we have assured them lead straight to 'Hell' ( and there is our failure as the Body of Christ ), and have proven themselves unwilling to fit themselves into the 'cookie-cutter' pattern that we have set for them. Maybe we, as Christians, need to re-examine the pattern that we use, that was set for us!

Maybe before we try to answer the question, 'What WOULD Jesus Do?', we need to honestly, and with all prayer and meditation, answer the question, 'What DID Jesus Do?'!

Honestly and prayerfully in Christ,
Charles Haddon Shank