The Pagan Path

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014; The Year Without Fear

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, 
and We will come to him and make Our home with him.

Jesus-John 14:23

For me especially, 2013 was a tough year, emotionally, financially, and physically speaking, and it doesn't look to be getting any easier anytime soon, but I am SO blessed I could almost burst ( in fact, sometimes I do! )! This past year, in particular has been one of turmoil and hardship for many of us here at Covenant Community Church! In spite of all these trials & tribulations, or more precisely, probably, because of them, I believe we are the stronger together for it!

It is together that we must face our difficulties, for that is where our Strength lies! Yes, we may be strong individually, and here some are stronger than others, for our Heavenly Father is a personal God, and relates to each of His children individually, but His people ( corporately ) are His Temple, so it is within this Temple that He dwells and blesses His People with His Loving & most Comforting Presence!

When we dwell within His Temple then, we may face any trial or tribulation without fear, knowing, as the apostle Paul wrote, 'all things work together for good, to those who love Him, who are the called, according to His Purpose' ( Romans 8:28 )!

With the shape of events in recent years, and even in just this last year, and now in the coming year, with the very real threat of Obamacare, heightened government involvement in almost every aspect of our lives,, not to mention interference, and just the uncertainty of life in these united ( though dysfunctional ) states; it is only natural to worry about all these and more, but because of the Promises that our Father has bequeathed to us, those that we have inherited, we can face any difficulty we are presented with!

Because of the Rest that we now have, we are free to live our Lives according to His Word and without fear, because we know that His promises are fulfilled in His Son, whose Body we are!

May we truly Live this year in the knowledge that He kept His Promise to make His Dwelling with His People! May we continually fulfill and preserve, through our actions, the Promise to His People today, to spread His Love & Knowledge throughout His Kingdom on earth!

May we eternally live in community with each other, strengthening each other in this coming new year, as we serve Him & our neighbor without fear!


Charlom Haddon Shank

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Creator of Heaven & Earth

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak;
And hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
Deuteronomy 32:1

For thus says the Lord,

Who created the heavens,
Who is God,
Who formed the earth and made it,
Who has established it,
Who did not create it in vain,
Who formed it to be inhabited:
“I [ am ] the Lord, and [ there is ] no other.

Isaiah 45:18

Having recently had a conversation with a brother, concerning the pitfalls of Full Preterism, and in particular, the 'damnable heresy' of Covenant Creation, I figured it was high time to offer yet another apology for the 'doctrine'!

This particular brother argued that 'by claiming that Genesis 1 is only talking about a spiritual creation, they wind up denying that the physical world was ever created' ( apparently, this is the logical conclusion of this view )!

Admittedly, one could reach this conclusion based on the fact that Genesis 1 DOES only speak of a spiritual, or covenant creation, but as we have discovered recently, no matter what theological path one takes, they will reach whatever 'logical conclusion' they want! ( this is not to discount the working of the Holy Spirit )

As far as we can tell, a belief in Covenant Creation has not logically led anyone to conclude that the physical world was not created, or even to debate whether God created it! The Scriptures alone are clear enough in places other than Genesis 1 that Yahweh is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, even the physical universe, but aside from that Revelation, there is the natural revelation of our Creator to show us that 'these things didn't and don't just happen'!

Most, if not all Scriptures which contain the term 'heaven and earth' refer to this covenant creation! There are, however, some Scriptures that are a bit clearer than others, for example; in Deuteronomy 4:26, 30:19, and 31:28, Moses calls for 'heaven and earth' to witness the covenant that has been established. Other examples, where the phrase is separated, are Deuteronomy 32:1, Job 20:27, Isaiah 13:13, 49:13, 51:6 & 16, Jeremiah 4:23, 51:48, and Lamentations 2:1. These are but a few of the references to the 'heavens and earth' that are pretty obviously referring to something other than what we, in our Western mind-set, are used to thinking of when we hear the phrase.

To be honest, ANY or most of these Scriptures could be explained away; for example, one could say 'I beheld the earth, and indeed [ it was ] without form, and void; and the heavens, they [ had ] no light.' ( Jeremiah 4:23 ) is a reference to the original creation. You might hear that 'Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and all its fullness' ( Psalm 96:11 ) is actually eliciting an almost human response from inanimate objects!

There are plenty of references that say very plainly that God DID create, or make the heavens and the earth. 'Our help [ is ] in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.' ( Psalm 124:8 ) the Psalms, especially toward the end of the Book, are full of references to this fact! It is mentioned as well throughout the Scriptures, that He is the One who formed them for His abode!

Most if not all of these references though, take on a whole new meaning when one realizes that the language of creation in Genesis 1 and subsequently Jeremiah 4:23 is pointing primarily to a covenant creation, the introduction of God to His Creation, where He began to 'step in' and interact with His people!

This, plus the fact that the Ancient Near Eastern writers were wont to use a very poetic and often flowery sort of prose, very often using a chiastic structure in their descriptions of things, and in the statements they made!

The Hebrew word translated 'created' in Genesis 1, et al, literally means 'to cut' ( as in a covenant ). According to Genesius' Hebrew/Chaldee Lexicon, the Hebrew 'bä·rä'' means 'to cut, to carve out, to form by cutting', giving us the picture of the cutting of a covenant, such as in Exodus 34:10 and Jeremiah 31:22. This explains why, for instance, in Genesis 1, the Light is revealed on Day One, though the Sun is not formed until Day Four!

That the physical heavens ( literally, 'sky' ) and earth ('terra firma' ), 'and all that in them is', were designed and are upheld by some Intelligence infinitely far beyond ours is without doubt! As Christians, we believe faithfully that this Intelligence is better known as Yahweh, the Only Living God, the God of Israel!

We know that the Scriptures are a Book of Covenant; it is full of direct and indirect references to covenant throughout, so it only makes sense that, as Israel, or the people with whom God first cut His Covenant are about the only peoples ( as well as those in the vicinity ) mentioned in Scripture, that the account of the beginning of Creation would have reference to their beginning.

The Covenant Creation model does indeed assign a 'spiritual meaning' to the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2, but does not deny, whether logically or illogically that our Heavenly Father is the Creator of the physical heavens, earth, sea, and all they contain!

To imply ( or outright say ) that the logical conclusion of Covenant Creation it a denial of the creative work of our Heavenly Father is not only ignorant; it is to deny the plain teachings of Scripture!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Necessarily Evil?

'For good to exist, evil must of necessity exist as well.'

In some form or another many of you are probably at least somewhat familiar with this phrase. The idea that evil exists to show the blessedness of good is even a notion that we can see in the pages of Scripture itself! The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Rome ( 7:13 ), 'Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful'. In context, maybe, a bit off-topic, but the principle seems to fit. Evil occurs, or happens, that good might be shown to be good! Another way to put it is that, you cannot see the light, unless you are surrounded by darkness!

Yes & No!

One could well argue that light can exist without the darkness, good can exist ( or does ) without evil, and so forth, and this is true in the greatest sense. For example, God does not need an Adversary in order to exist; light does not need darkness in order to exist, but in order for us to appreciate the goodness of our good Father, we must experience the bad, and in order for us to appreciate the blessing of light, we must first experience the lack of it, or darkness.

While it is undeniably true that, for instance, God does not need an Adversary in order to exist, the way that He has set the world in motion is on the principle most famously popularized by Yin & Yang. We read in Jeremiah 32:23, for example, that God, because His people would not obey His Word, 'caused all this calamity to come upon them'. In the discipline of His errant children, Isaiah 45:7 records that our Heavenly Father said 'I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these'. In traditional poetic for, the prophet Amos ( 3:6 ) wrote 'I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these'

Our Heavenly Father uses evil ( the absence of good ) in order to show us, His children the right, good, and acceptable way! If we did wrongly, and yet received good for it, how would we know that it was wrong? On the other side of the coin, one might argue, if we do right, and yet receive evil for it ( Why do bad things happen to good people?' ), how then do we know that what we do is good, right, and just?

Thhe Scriptures tell us that 'He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you,but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?' I we do these, we can be assured that what we do is right, good and acceptable; if we do not do this things with all our heart, mind soul and strength, you may be assured that evil, in whatever form, will come of it!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Real Christmas Story

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light.
For those who lived in a land of deep shadows—
    light! sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
    you expanded its joy.
Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy!
The joy of a great celebration,
    sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants—
    all their whips and cudgels and curses—
Is gone, done away with, a deliverance
    as surprising and sudden as Gideon’s old victory over Midian.
The boots of all those invading troops,
    along with their shirts soaked with innocent blood,
Will be piled in a heap and burned,
    a fire that will burn for days!
For a child has been born—for us!
    the gift of a son—for us!
He’ll take over the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
    Strong God, Eternal Father,
    Prince of Wholeness.
His ruling authority will grow,
    and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He’ll rule from the historic David throne
    over that promised kingdom.
He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
    and keep it going with fair dealing and right living,
    beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
    will do all this.
Isaiah 9:2-7 ( Message )

The above, of course, has already transpired, been fulfilled, and we can now take comfort from passages such as this, knowing that God now rules over all!

During this time of year, it is traditional to celebrate the birth of Jesus who was the Christ, and to present each other with gifts in His Name, as He gave us the greatest Gift ever; Freedom from sin and death!

While we remember the birth of our Savior this year, we would do well to remember that this Advent merely heralded His Judgment of Sin & Death; it was not His first appearance that brought Salvation to His people, it was His final Parousia, or Presence! 

According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, insurrection is simply 'an act or instance of revolting against civil authority or an established government'. Not only was Mary's questionable pregnancy in defiance of age-old tradition of the day, the Son that she birthed set the established political and religious world on it's ear! Not only did Jesus, the Very Image of God in Man free His people from the chains of their ancient adversaries; He changed the course of world events from that Day forward!

John's vision in Revelation 12 recounts what might be called 'the not-so-nice Christmas Story', the Story that Reveals the covenant context and gory details of how Salvation was won for the People of God!

The Insurrection that was engendered through Mary had the outcome of providing a Resurrection for Israel! 

Resurrection for Israel meant Resurrection for all the People of God, for we became One in Him ( Ephesians 1:10, 2:15 ). As Jesus' earthly mother boldly took a stand against the traditions of her day, so that birth enabled the People of God to stand again in defiance of the sin & the death which had held them in bondage for so long!

As we celebrate the birth of our Resurrection ( John 11:26 ) this year, let us ponder the question 'how shall we then live?' Should we not live our lives in honor and praise of what He did, not hoping for another outcome more appropriate to our vain imaginations, but reveling, living our lives in that blessed assurance that He HAS defeated death, that He IS ruling NOW, and that His Kingdom will have no end!

The answer to our question is, 'triumphantly'!

Having disarmed principalities and powers, 
He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.
Colossians 2:15

Thusly, we should live triumphantly, knowing that through Him we have been given the power to triumph over all our adversaries, and having done all, to stand!

Standing in Him,
Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Day With the Lord

When the apostle Peter comforted his readers, saying, 'one day with the Lord is as a thousand years', is it possible that he was not giving them a statement about the length of time that it could be until their Lord's return on the clouds?

We have seen previously that the term 'thousand', whether it be 'a thousand', 'one thousand', or 'the thousand', is a very significant term indeed! Throughout Scripture, it can be seen that, even when it is a physically literal number, it most often has a greater spiritual significance, or referent. Although there are various ideas about what Peter actually meant by this statement, it is widely accepted as a time statement by people on both sides of the 'aisle'. Some might use this to say something like, 'see, in God's timing, it hasn't even been two years', or, on the other side, one might ask the question ( jokingly, of course ), 'does that mean that Jesus' millenial reign only lasted one day?'

What if Peter wasn't giving his readers a time statement, as much as he was comforting them with the fact that they soon would be with their Lord?

Near the end of his first letter to the Thessalonian Church, in I Thessalonians 4:17, the apostle Paul comforted his readers with similar words, telling the that they would thus be 'always with the Lord'! Might Peter have simply been echoing his brother's words of comfort, reminding his readers that they would be 'with the Lord', no matter how different from their selfish yearnings God's own timing was? As we've noted in several like passages before, most notably I Corinthians 15:33 & 34, sometimes there is a short passage ( a verse or two ) which almost totally changes the perspective of the larger passage ( usually a chapter ), and even the context, smack dab in the middle ( or thereabouts )! Maybe verse 8 of II Peter 3 is such a passage!

Now, in context, II Peter 3:8 is undoubtedly a 'time statement', but really, it is so much more than that! Sure, on the face of it, interpreted in a woodenly literalistic way, and without the context of Scripture, this 'text' can be used ( and IS used ) to 'prove' that just because Jesus hasn't shown His face for 2,000 years, it doesn't mean He's not coming; obversely, it can also be used to prove that 'the thousand year reign' in Revelation 20 could have occurred ( or will occur ) in a single day; both concepts are rather ridiculous and quite beside the point!

The whole of prophetic Scripture points to a day when God dwells once more with His people, 'walking and talking' with them as He did with Adam in the Garden! The apostle Peter, as did the apostle Paul, is simply reminding his readers of this amazing fact, and comforting them with the thought that the Day is very near, 'even at the doors!'

The words 'one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day' is more likely a reference to the fact that, as they follow the pattern of patience that God set for them, the reward would be eternal; whether it was a day or a thousand years, they would be with their Lord!

Isn't that a wonderful relief? To understand that Peter was comforting his readers with the fact that they would soon be 'with the Lord', rather than telling them that the Parousia Jesus had promised 'that generation' might not occur for thousands of years! What an understanding and a relief that must have been; 'God is not a slackard or a liar!' 'Those men of God who have been telling us that the Day is near were right; we will be 'with the Lord' in His good and most excellent timing!'

Rejoicing in His Presence,
Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

The Abdication of Stewardship, Revisited

The fact that the parents are responsible for the education of their own children may be questioned by some, but it really only makes good sense that any good parent, especially a Christian, would want to educate and train their own children!

If you, as a Christian parent, ship your child off on the prison bus to a government, or public school for 8 to 10 hours of every weekday, how much time of the day do you have them yourself to teach them in 'the way they ought to go'? How much of that time do you have to spend in countering the indoctrination they are receiving in the public schools?

Most, if not all Christian parents would object to the idea that by sending their children to public school, they are 'giving' their children to the government. You would probably hear a host of reasons for this objection, anything from 'they are acting as missionaries', to 'what indoctrination?' For those who ask the latter question, or something like it, have we got news for you! There is a video available now, put out by a former public school teacher, called 'IndoctriNation'; in this video, John Taylor Gatto reveals the insidious nature of the public schooling curriculum and institution itself. If you believe that your children, Christian or not, are not being harmed by their exposure to this dangerous creature, then you need to watch this video!

The issue of self-government plays a big part in any discussion! We want to be able to choose our own healthcare, etc, but when it comes to taking the responsibility to spiritually nourish and educate our own children, most of us will lazily and willingly give them over to whatever form of government is willing and eager to snatch them from our cold, dead grasp! Sometimes, unfortunately, it turns out that they do physically remove them ( our children ) from our custody, because we figure out, too late, that we have given our children over to them, whether it be the State or Federal government!

It's true; if you give the government an inch, they'll take a mile!

You really shouldn't complain about government-controlled healthcare, or really, any other form of control, when you willingly give them control of your children for 8-10 hours a day! When you don't take the responsibility for your own life choices, whether it be the children God has entrusted to our stewardship, or the brand of cereal you eat for breakfast ( or whether you have bacon or eggs ), someone else will gladly make that choice for you, and you'll have to live with it, or pay the consequences!

The consequences for the abdication of our stewardship are rampant in this nation, evidenced in anything from high crime rates in the inner cities ( even outer cities ), abortion and pornography! The 'evils' that most Christians complain about on a daily basis can be directly linked to this failure, but the sad part is that those who have abdicate their throne do not even realize it, or at least or willingly ignorant of this horrifying fact!

This seems like an almost hopeless situation, like many Christians believe, that Jesus must return soon to 'rapture' us out of this mess we've made! When you sit back and thing about the gravity of the situation, how long it's been going on and how far it has progressed ( or regressed, actually ), things look very grim indeed!

We must take great care, though, lest we digress here, for the very hope that these same Christians have is largely what got us to this point in the first place! This is the hope, the notion that someone else will rescue us from ourselves, from the mess that we have created!

God, through the Revelation of His Son, and the salvation of His people from their sin, has renewed within His people both the ability and responsibility, not only to remedy ( redeem ) their own messes, but to skip those messes entirely, to not even make them in the first place!

The Key to solving every problem is Within us ( the People of God ), and it begins with good self-government: if we can learn to govern ourselves well, we will govern our families well, and from there, this good governance will have an effect, no matter how small it may seem at first, on all other forms of government!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Modern Love, Pt 2

Words have meaning!

Did you know that 'nice', according to some older dictionaries, means, 'foolish'? Makes sense, really, with all the nice people out there these days! Look even at the modern definition of a nice person; a nice person today is usually one that doesn't cause trouble, likes everybody, doesn't judge anyone, and more or less is happy with the status quo, 'a nice guy' ( or 'girl' ), one of the sheeple!

There is much verbiage out there that has lost its original meaning, and the blame can only be laid out our own feet ( collectively )! Actually, Christians ( corporately ), I believe, must bear the brunt, because, not have we been influenced overmuch by a puritanical, even pharisaical legalism, we have gone so far as to allow an unbelieving world to define such terms as 'love', and 'truth'!

We've covered this territory numerous times, and it's probably getting kinda annoying by now, but 'love is an action, not a feeling'!

Yes, feelings are nothing to sneeze at, we all have them; it's only natural, God gave them to us! Our feelings are simply one of the senses that enables us to interact with our neighbor ( or not ). There is nothing wrong with feelings, but the Scriptures really say nothing much about them in connection with the act of love! ( okay, The Song of Solomon, et al. may be an exception ) Parts of Paul's sermonette to the Corinthian Church, in I Corinthians 13, seem to connect the two, but even in his terms, the feelings are contrary to ordinary human nature. As Jesus said, 'it is hard to kick against the goads'!

When someone tells you that they 'love you', the natural response is to return in kind ( I'm guilty of this, though I doubt I'm the only one ). Most people will, and do love those that 'love' them, but and I'm not saying that this love based on feelings is not real, but that kind of love is subject to change! When the other person, whether it's simply an acquaintance, or that 'special someone', doesn't 'love you' anymore, it's not only very difficult, but when it's based in feelings, well-nigh impossible to love that person, or persons any longer! It's easy ( believe me, I know ) to have those warm feelings that we call 'love' toward someone that has those same, or similar, warm feelings toward us!

Feelings, as we all know well, can change like the seasons! We may have those warm feelings toward our spouse, or 'significant other' for years, and then all of a sudden, either one or both of those involved doesn't 'love' the other one anymore, and the relationship falls apart! How many marriages, even Christian marriages, have you noted, where the couple lives happily together for years, seemingly anyway, and then, the 'love' just isn't there anymore, and there is a divorce, sometimes fairly amicable, but often with hard feelings left behind?

‘This Modern Love is Not Enough’

‘They send me love songs, with store-bought words’
‘They make promises, like politicians’
‘We stumble and disconnect’
‘Over and over again’
‘This modern love is not enough’

Again, ‘words have meaning’, but in the truest sense, if they’re not followed by action, they are rendered meaningless! We’ve been here before, as well, but one person can tell the other ‘I love you’ till they’re blue in the face ( I’m sure this happens more than we’d like to admit ), but if we do nothing to prove that love, it is worse than meaningless, it sows the seeds of doubt as to whether they can trust anything else that person says!

‘Whatever shall we do?’, you might ask, ‘wherever shall we go?’ Well, frankly my dear, we DO give a damn! 

There is One to Whom we may turn to remedy, not only ‘this modern love’, but the false, pharisaical ‘love’ that has plagued us for thousands of years; that One is Love Himself! Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God embodied that love when He divested Himself of His Glory and took upon Himself human nature, living in inglorious hovels all His Life and finally stripped of even that divesture and cruelly tortured and crucified upon a Roman cross with all His ingloriousness on display for all the world to see!

This is Love, says the apostle John ( 15:13 ) ‘that He lay down His Life for His friends’! This is perhaps, other than the genesis of Creation, and the forming of Covenant with His people, the greatest act of Love ever witnessed!

‘This modern love’, as Matt Nathanson sings, ‘is not enough’; it’s mere words! Scriptural love is not mere words, and it’s not based on feelings! The apostle Paul wrote, ‘husbands, love your wives’ ( Ephesians 5:25 ). He did not give us an ‘out’, whereas if our spouse does not love us anymore, we are within our rights to divorce her, or anything similar. In fact, the reason he gave for this imperative was, ‘just as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for Her’!

We, as the Body of Christ, now embody that Love! Sadly, we have not shown that very well to a watching and hurting world; we have spread hatred in the name of Love instead, and have sown the seeds of bigotry, so that now the Body of Christ is seen as a laughing-stock, purveyors of mere thoughts, words, and ideas.

It is only by returning to the One who defines and embodies Love that this world will ever know True and Lasting Love! We must show the world that we are Love, as sons and daughters of the King of Love, not by accepting every belief system out there as equal and true, but in showing Love to every individual creature of God, for we are all His Creation, and we are ALL worthy of His Love!

As His Love,
Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Natural Use of Women; Au Naturel

 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 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 1:26 & 27

It's doubtful that there are many women, and even some men, today, who would not shudder inwardly if a statement like that were made! 'The natural use of the woman'?!What a sexist statement! The nerve; like women are there just to be used by men! Sadly, this is the notion that many men in our society have, and was prevalent even in the Hebrew culture that the apostle Paul came from and lived in!

The Bible, however, does seem to plainly state, especially in the passage above, that there is a certain specific use for women in a Godly society! For years, and by tradition, this 'use' seems to have been a merely physical one, the act of sexual intercourse in copulation for the purpose of producing heirs and offspring. ( this is probably one reason that the subject of masturbation is taboo, both for men and women, in Christian circles )

As we've discussed before, and this should be obvious; it is not biologically possible for two men to copulate together, or for two women to do the same! We all, probably, are at least somewhat familiar with the biblical story of Sodom & Gomorrah in Genesis 19. This is where the act gets its name wherein men masturbate with each other, and sometimes even with women.

As with all biblical principles, though, I believe that this condemnation of the physical act of sodomy is not so much a prohibition of the physical act, as it is a reference to the greater spiritual sin of adultery towards Yahweh!

Is it wrong for a man to commit sodomy, whether with men or women? We as heterosexuals, for the most part look with disdain, if not outright abhorrence at this act, which is called 'unnatural' by the apostle, and this is the reason, we are told, that Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed by fire. Is that the extent of it, though; is that why those cities were destroyed? Going back to the previous chapter, in verse 20, 'Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave', therefore Yahweh Himself went down and destroyed it for that wickedness, which is not here named.

In reading these Scriptures, we must remember to take them in the greater context of the depraved history of Israel. Though Israel, per se, was never accused of the same depravity for which Sodom is infamous, though it was known to happen ( Judges 19:22 ), they were compared numerous times to these wicked cities throughout the prophets ( Deuteronomy 32:32, Isaiah 1:10, Jeremiah 23:14, Amos 4:11 ). We read in places like II Peter 2:6 and Jude 7, that these cities were destroyed, not for any certain and specific sexual immorality, but simply for sexual immorality, and what Jude calls going 'after strange flesh'!

What is this 'strange flesh'?

Young's Literal Translation ( YLT ) uses the words 'other flesh', rather than 'strange flesh'. This is not only probably a truer translation; it makes more sense, given the adulterous history of the Israelites! Although they no doubt were guilty of physical adultery with and without the borders of the Land, they were, more importantly, guilty of spiritual adultery against Yahweh, if not only for the condemningly singular fact that they looked to other nations for help and aid, rather than to Yahweh!

So, getting back to 'the natural use of the woman', while still keeping in mind this adulterous history ( Genesis 6:2, et all ), it's fairly plain to see that it is not simply an issue of 'using' their women incorrectly; it was an issue of rebellion against Yahweh, the one who had made them and instituted His Covenant with them. 

By lusting after flesh other than what Yahweh had blessed them with through His Covenant, they committed spiritual adultery and sexual immorality against Him!

The Most Wise God ( along with the wisest man ever ) said that '[ It is ] not good that man should be alone' ( Genesis 2:18 ( Ecclesiastes 4:8 ). Women were made to physically complement men, women do not complement women, nor men men; this is a biological fact, they do not mesh, physically ( sexually ) speaking!

As we have seen though, it is not merely about biology; the biology is merely a symptom of a greater spiritual problem, that of rebellion against Yahweh and His created order!

Can a man 'mesh' spiritually with another man, or a woman with a woman? This seems to increasingly be the case; however, I will allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Six Days of Creation

'The six days of creation', theologically speaking, has been a matter of some controversy for centuries! The question of whether the days were strict 24 hour periods or whether they referred to epochs, to long periods of time ( ages ) is still heartily and often heatedly debated as a matter of utmost importance! One might very well ask the question, though, 'is it really all that important?' 'Yes', some will say, 'it IS all that important; the Bible says that God created the heavens and earth in six days, and rested the seventh, thereby setting the pattern whereby we work six days and rest on the seventh!' Well, okay, but there are several problems with this statement, especially for traditional orthodoxy; most blatantly, if the creation week set the pattern for our work week, why aren't we resting on Saturday, the seventh day? 'The Sabbath was changed to the first day of the week', these will say, citing Acts 20:7, as well as other assorted passages as proof that it was switched to Sunday. 'Because the Resurrection of Jesus occurred on the first day of the week', you might also hear . All the 'evidence' aside, though, it is really only speculation that our Heavenly Father intended for us to gather for corporate worship on Sunday rather than Saturday ( by the way, I am not advocating a return to Saturday worship! )!

Whether you trust in 'Creation Science' or have moved 'Beyond Creation Science', it should be obvious to even the most casual reader that  the account is not about the creation of the known universe ( no mention of planets, for one thing )! By 'moving Beyond Creation Science' I am not only shamelessly 'plugging' a book written by a good friend of mine a few years ago, but to the fact that the creation account in Genesis 1, instead of referring to a creation ( out of nothing ), instead refers to a forming, fattening, and the cutting of a covenant; to see why we say this, look up the Hebrew word for 'created' in Genesis 1:1!

'So, why does it not really matter', you ask, ' whether the 'days of creation' were literal 24 hour periods or ages ( hundreds, even thousands of years ) for each recorded day?' Well, besides the facts that the day-age theory is really rather ridiculous, even to our western ears, and that the Books of Moses were written by an Ancient Near Eastern writer to a group of Ancient Near Eastern people, it really doesn't matter because the account is written in such a way as to foreshadow a greater spiritual Truth! The account tells us that on the first 'day', Light was revealed, although the Sun is not mentioned as being formed for three more days! The point here was that the Sun, our closest star, and giver of light, is not the True Giver of Light, but only physically foreshadowed Him Who Was To Come!

The 'pattern' set by our Heavenly Father, that we should work six days, and rest the seventh, whether we start with our labors on Sunday or Monday, physiologically speaking, has been proven over and over to be a good idea! The human body can only work 24/7 for so long; we need, not only that 6-8 hours every night ( although some 'skate' by on much less ), but our body needs that period of rest, at least one day of the week, or at least, that's the theory! Psychically speaking, we need that period of time where our mind can rest from our normal day-to-day activities as well. Traditionally speaking, we have set aside one day of the week to gather together, as The Body of Christ for corporate worship and fellowship in order to 'recharge' spiritually. Spiritually speaking, we are in that Rest, or that Sabbath, that our Heavenly Father commanded in Exodus 20:8!

One might argue, even after or in spite of all this, that interpreting our Heavenly Father's 'clear commands' in this way naturally leads to a false and heretical interpretation of other patterns that have been laid out for us in the hallowed pages of Scripture; this is true, it could! Maybe it needs to!

This calls for a thoughtful and prayerful examination of numerous key passages in Scripture, some of which are clearly culture-based, some which are not so clearly based on that Ancient Near Eastern culture, and others which are based, not upon any certain biological culture, but are truly patterns by which God's people, of all ages and cultures, are to lead their lives!

As the people of God, the Body of His Son, we should live according to the basic pattern that Jesus the Christ, God Himself, set for His people in Matthew 22:37-40, 'Love God and your neighbor'; we can do no less, we need do nothing more!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Modern Love, Pt. 1

'Here we go again!'

'A divorced man is gonna tell us what love is?!'

Well, yes and no. I've written a number of times before that love is not a feeling, but an action, and still, we are bombarded by the notion, from all sides, that love is just an 'ooey-gooey' feeling. I'm divorced because my ex-wife thought it was this sort of feeling, and she 'just didn't love me anymore'! ( well, that's part of the reason, anyway ) Acting in love toward someone can certainly lead to those 'ooey-gooey' feelings, and in fact, in some haphazard way are sometimes a result of them, don't get me wrong!

However, as we've discussed previously, feelings can change, so when your love is based upon those warm and changeable feelings, guess what happens to the love? It dries up and blows away!

Love in action, based upon God's Word ( and here I'm speaking of God's Incarnate Word, not the Bible, or even Scripture ) will last through the changing of the seasons, and usually even prevents the seasons from changing, because, as we mentioned, active love usually leads to that warm feeling that is more commonly and popularly known as love!

Sometimes love, even active love, seems to have a breaking point. In the case of divorce, especially, we'd like to believe that we tried to love our ex-spouse, but that we could only love so far before we reached the breaking point, and stopped loving that person. One might question though, if the professed love in action was genuine, or if it too, was based on feelings.

Our English Bible tells us that 'love suffers long, and is kind; love does not envy.....................does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil.............' ( I Corinthians 13:4 & 5 ) Further on in this same chapter, we read that 'love is the fulfillment of the Law' The same author, in his letter to the Galatians ( 5:14 ) wrote, 'all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even this, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself'.

To learn what this means, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself', we must go back to the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament of our English Bible. It is here where Jesus drew His famous summation of the Law in Matthew 22:37-40. When the Pharisees asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus responded that the first was to love God 'with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind ( Mark adds here, 'and with all your strength' )', and that a second was like it, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself'. These words are further expanded in the famous 'Ten Commandments', found in Exodus 20. The first half of these 'Ten Words' are about how to properly show our love for God, and the second half is about showing love to our neighbor. As Jesus said at the end of the parallel passage in Mark's Gospel ( 12:29-31 ), 'there is no other commandment greater than these'!

With these words hidden in our heart, we should see that love needs to be active or it is not love at all!  'Is it enough, though to hide these words in our heart'? How many men like me and women out there have lost their love toward their spouse because, for whatever reason, their feelings changed, they 'just don't love him/her anymore', and a divorce occurs?

As we have sat under the ministrations of the two teaching elders in our congregation over the past number of years, 'The Abiding Love of God' has ever been impressed upon our minds! God set the pattern for us as spouses. In the prophecy of Hosea, we read abut the wife that the prophet was commanded to take, and then how she left him for a time, after which he eventually reconciled with her, even though she had defiled herself with other men. It's really quite an inspiring story!

We often feel  very warmly towards those we love, and sometimes we're downright passionate about it! I'm not saying that we shouldn't admit these feelings, or that we should stifle them in any way! All I'm saying, as I've said before, is that these feelings shouldn't rule our love for that person, because there are times that we would rather not even be around the one we love.

Feelings are kind of funny that way, they seem to change like the weather!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Hand of God

When you're faced with a wicked man like Barack Hussein Obama, and are dealing with his unlawful and un-constitutional policies, it's hard to se why you should be thankful, even as a Christian! Why should we be thankful when his ungodliness is forcing us to either shape up ( according to his policies ) or ship out, to pay up or pay the penalty.

The thing that most or many Christians have not considered, is that we are being chastised for bowing to other gods!

The writer to the Hebrews, quoting Proverbs 3:12, wrote to his brethren, 'For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son He receives'. We see in Job 5:17 that a man should count himself blessed when he is chastened by the Lord. Just as any good father, our Heavenly Father has need to discipline His errant children at times, and more often than not.

At this point, some Christians may object, saying anything from, 'Well, I sure didn't vote for him', to 'he's gotta be THE anti-Christ: Jesus is coming soon!'

You may well object yourself, but when you sit down and really think about it, isn't Obama and his ilk just what this country has been asking for?  Obama is the people's choice, and he is by no means the peoples's worst choice, he is simply the latest. We have but only to wait for the next presidential election to see the next contender for 'worst president ever'; the people's choice just keeps getting worse and worse!

Why would I say that Obama is just what this country has been asking fo? Well, not only is Obama the people's choice ( however he got them to vote for him ), there are many evils that have been perpetrated in this country for the past century or so, that it's almost a wonder that we've made the progress we have, and enjoyed so many blessings on top of it!

Maybe the most blatant and dastartedly crime that this country is guilty of is 'the murder of the innocents'! Some 55,000,000 innocent and helpless babies have been mudered in this country since the Supreme Court handed down its infamous decision in 1973, opening the floodgates for all kinds of evil! Sure, there are many churches that have picketed abortion clinic, and there have even been organizations like 'Operation Rescue' that have taken steps in the past to do a bit more than simply protest. For the most part though, most pulpits are silent on the issue ( for whatever reason ), except to 'poo-poo' it or even to preach that it's 'the woman's choice'. So many pulpits out there are silenced by their 501 (c) 3 status, that pretty much all they'll preach anymore is relativity and 'feel-goodism'!

This is barely scratching the surface of the evils that America is being judged for, and the reason why evil men like Obama ( remember, he's just the latest ) are and have been in power for the past century. If America's Church would hearken unto these chastening prophets that God is sending, and repent of their harlotry, then we may see once more the blessings of God on this great nation! The way things are going in this country ( 'hell in a handbasket' comes to mind ), if some drastic change doesn't occur soon ( likely it's already too late ), this country may not make it to the next recession!

There is hope, however; this is God's Kingdom, God's Empire, and He rules it with an 'iron fist'! Just as He used the Assyrians and the Babylonians ( to name a few ) to bring His people back to Him, so He is using the wicked rulers of this 'world' to bring His people to their knees, to make them realize that it is harlotry to bow before any other god, or the Husband to Whom they are covenanted!

This being the Season of Thanksgiving, we should thank our Heavenly Father for all the blessings He has bestowed on us, especially the chastenings!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Bibliolatry; the Law and the Temple

‘He removed the high places and broke the [sacred ] pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days, 
the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan. 
II Kings 18:4

‘Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery [serpent], and set it on a pole; 
and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks on it shall live.’ 
Numbers 21:8

As we can see from the example above, it is quite possible for people to take something that God had anointed for a certain purpose and make an idol out of it!! Under the Old Covenant, which was mediated by the man, Moses, maybe the most noted example was that of Israel’s idolatry of the Law and later, the Temple. In the New Covenant, which is mediated by God Himself, many still have a tendency to ascribe too much glory and honor to something which simply gives the account of the Law and the History of God’s Covenant people. Too many Christians today revere the pages of Scripture almost as highly as they do God Himself, almost as if they were God Incarnate, or the Very Word of God!

The Scriptures as we have in our Bibles today are undoubtedly the written record of the Revelation of the Word of God; we can read this in places like II Timothy 3:16, and we have faith that what the Bible, or Scripture says about itself is true. Though it is the Revelation of God’s Word ( His Son ); it is not that Word itself; that Word dwells in His People! The Scriptures, as given up to the first century, were what we call the Old Testament Scriptures. These were the available Scriptures of that time, being written on scrolls and handed down from generation to generation. As Jesus’ ministry expanded and the apostles began to plant His Seed, writing their letters to the various established congregations throughout the Empire, these letters came to be on par with the Scriptures, as they taught nothing new or different from what had been given in the Law & the Prophets!

What we call the New Testament, though, really only covers ‘the terminal generation’, the generation that witnessed the Advent of the long-promised, and long-awaited Messiah! As we see in these storied pages, it was ‘this generation’ as well that killed their Messiah! Though Jesus Himself taught nothing but what the Law & Prophets had foreshadowed, these Jews, or the majority of them, could not see this ‘Living Law’ as the True Law, and missed the blessing of God’s Presence because the Law written in stone cast too great a shadow on their stubborn hearts!

Like many Christians today, they could not, or would not believe that God would ever stoop so low as to make His people His Temple. They revered Him so highly, in fact, that they destroyed His Temple, even though, as He claimed, He raised it again in three days! ‘Yahweh must only dwell in a beautiful structure, built perfectly straight, with no flaw’, they might have said. Today, you might hear something like, ‘until humanity is sufficiently beautiful and incorruptible, without sin, we will never be fit to be the Temple of God ( the Holy Spirit, maybe, but not God )’!

The fact of the matter is, that according to the record of Scripture, the People of God have been presented to Himself as a glorious new Temple, perfect and faultless!

As there are many different versions of the Bible, there are many Christians out there who claim to say ‘thus saith the Lord’. Some are right! Although there are many different versions of the Bible out there, as someone once said, in most of them you can read the Gospel. Slightly different wording, perhaps, more words in some than others, but the same basic Gospel! By comparing what these say, whether about God, or how to live Godly, with what Scripture has to say about God and how to live Godly, we can establish in our own minds whether they speak truth or whether they prophesy falsely

We, as the Temple of God, have His Word etched on our hearts, and while Scripture is useful as a tool or measuring line to gauge our lives upon, I believe that many of us too often forget that we are His Dwelling, and trust, as the Jews of Old did, in the word or Law written in stone!

Are we trying to pour Old Wine into New Wineskins?

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary [ principles ] of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,  of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.  And this we will[a] do if God permits.
Hebrews 6:1-3

The Church today, even those who have moved past those elementary principles that the writer to the Hebrews spoke of, is still enamored, for the most part, with discussing those doctrines of baptisms, the resurrection, and the final judgment. 'Should we or shouldn't we, will we be or are we now ( not to mention, the nature of the resurrection- 'How will we come?' ), is it in the past, or do we look for one to come?' Are these things important to affirm? Yes and no. We should be clear on whether or not we believe that these occurred in the past, even the nature of them, but more importantly, we should be affirming them in our lives, living out the effects of our baptism and resurrection, and living without fear, knowing that judgment has been passed!

Our English Bibles today are man's translation of the Scriptures, which were originally given to the people of God in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. As such, they can, for the most part, I believe, be trusted to convey the history of God's dealings with His Covenant People in the past, and we can and should glean instructions from them on how we should live as His People today. We should not, however, view them as the inerrant Word of God! Are they the words of which Peter & Paul spoke ( I Peter 1:21, II Timothy 3:16 )? Not necessarily, although as I intimated earlier, most of the versions out there agree on the main points, and contain the most necessary truths!

God said, through His prophet Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 31:31-34 ) that the New Covenant which He would establish with His people would not be like that first [ covenant ]; this time, since they would not, could not circumcise their hearts, He Himself would inscribe His Law on their hearts, in their Spirit. Rather than a Law that was written in stone or on paper, this would be an incorruptible Record, inscribed indelibly on their ( our ) hearts!

For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law,
 these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves.
Romans 2:14

The people of God, like those Gentiles, have the Law written on their hearts, and so, in that sense, are a Law unto themselves, as we do not need a written Law to tell us that this is wrong, and that is right! As Partakers of the Divine Nature, we are assured by our own cleansed conscience that we are right with our Creator, even though we are still pricked by its goad when we would do what is contrary to that Nature. 

Again, this is not to say that everyone out there who bears the Name of Christ can do whatever is right in his own eyes ( we are not moral relativists ), for comparing Scripture with Scripture, we can ascertain whether or not their words, and more importantly actions are true.

As a People who represent an immutably unchanging and Living God, we know that as God was in the Old Testament Scriptures, so He was in the New, and so He remains now! It is His People who have changed, for we are His Creation. We can change, corrupt or destroy what we have written, whether on stone ( new tablets? ) or on paper, but we cannot do any harm to what God has etched in our inmost Being!

This is where the Word of God resides, not in Temples made with hands, or printed on paper!

May we realize this Truth, and see Scripture for what it is, not something to be overly revered, but respected as a record of the Revelation of the Word of God.

WE are the Revelation of the Son of God!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Gentile Baptism, Part One

By my writing here today, I aim to destroy once and for all the dangerous heretical and pharisaically Gnostic notion that one MUST be baptized in water in order to be saved, or gain entrance into the Body of Christ!

I will not do this!

The main reason I will not do this is because I cannot! I may be able to prove beyond 'a shadow of a doubt' that baptism in water, beginning in the Old Testament priestly and sacrificial washings, was only ever a symbolic and ritual sign pointing toward the Priestly washing and Sacrificial Purification of the Body of Christ, True Adam and True Israel! I may even be able to prove to anyone with the sense to see it, that the baptism of which Jesus often spoke was not water baptism! ( Yes, the baptism of which Peter spoke WAS water baptism, but we may get to that later ) Paul spoke of 'one baptism' ( Ephesians 4:5 ). Whether this 'one baptism' was the baptism of the Holy Spirit of God, or whether it was/is baptism by immersion ( being whelmed ) in water has been in question of late, although it should not be! The very notion that any action of ours, whether done in faith or not, could ever save anybody is dangerous at best, and gnostically heretical and damnable, at worst!

Some may say that water baptism is a beautiful picture of one's entrance into communion with the Body of Christ; it surely is that, but is this baptism necessary for one to enter in to the Body of Christ? Is it necessary to go through the motion of symbolically washing in water in order for the Holy Spirit to baptize ( whelm ) one's heart? Some would say that it is, and worse yet, would wreak havoc with Scripture to prove it!

One might ask at this juncture, 'is it really all that important, whether or not one believes it is necessary to administer the sign of water baptism, and the other doesn't?' Well, yes, of course it is! To believe that one must still receive the sign of water baptism is to call God a liar! 'Whoah', you might say, 'isn't that a bit extreme?' No, it is not, and here's why! To argue for the necessity of water baptism is to say that the Spiritual ( internal ) Reality to which this Natural ( external ) Sign pointed has not yet appeared! Either that, or man really does order his Creator around like a dog!

Why do some find it necessary to lay loads like this on other men's backs? 'We are willing to bear this burden', they say, and indeed they are, but is it a burden that MUST be borne? Is it not just a leftover, continued tradition of men, one that reeks of legalism, and hearkens back to the Pharisees of Jesus' day? Did Jesus ever give a plain indication that one ( individually ) needed to be baptized in water in order to enter the Kingdom ( be saved )? Some would say yes, but it is far from plain!

Peter's 'discourse' on baptism, found in and around I Peter 3:21, has been the subject of some controversy, and remains so, I believe, to this day. Is Peter actually saying that water baptism ( itself ) saves, and even if so, was he speaking of it saving individuals? Noah was saved, with his family, through water, although not actually BY the water; they were safe and dry, INSIDE the ark! Touching on an example that I remember hearing from my childhood, Moses led the children of Israel through the Sea on dry land; they were saved THROUGH water, but not BY it, however the Egyptians WERE destroyed BY it; Moses ( a type of Christ ) parted the waters for the children of Israel, and thus saved them! Paul recounts this event in I Corinthians 10:1 & 2.

Did Paul advocate water baptism? It is likely that he did, for Paul was a good Jew, even 'a Pharisee of the Pharisees'! We must understand several things though, about his ministry; Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, not that he abandoned his own people, but his ministry was primarily to the Gentiles. Can you blame him after his own people tried to kill him so many times and rejected his message? He understood though, how that first ( covenant ) was set up; he understood that the sign of baptism was necessary to show the Gentile believers that they too had entered the Promised Land, just like those 'children' we just spoke of.

We see in the book of Acts ( 9:26-39 ) that Philip baptized ( in water ) an officer from an Ethiopian court, a Gentile believer. From this account, it is not clear why the officer thought he should be baptized upon believing, but I think it is safe to say that Philip did not suggest it. There is no indication that he did, and this would make sense, as he himself was most likely a Gentile convert.

Now, in Peter's case, as evidenced in the conversion and baptism of Cornelius, and in Peter's instructions to the assembly in Acts 2:38, water baptism was most definitely what was in mind. Again, we see here more evidence of Gentile believers being baptized, not because doing so would save them, but to show externally that they too, as Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit. Note that Peter's question was very like the question that the Ethiopian officer asked in Acts 9, as well.

Did not Jesus tell His disciples to 'go into all the world..............baptizing them................'? Well, He most certainly did, and while this 'Great Commission' was carried out in the first century ( 'you will not have gone through all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes'-Matthew 10:23 ), it is not as clear that Jesus meant for His disciples to go around baptizing in water. His words could well simply mean, 'go and overwhelm them with the Good News, of which I am the Vessel'! The Greek 'baptizo', as translated by James Strong, simply means 'to whelm'. This can be done through means of water, but just as well, and better, through 'the washing of water by the Word' ( Ephesians 5:26 )!

John indeed baptized, pretty clearly, with water! Why did John do this though? That is the question that we must ask ourselves! Why did he find it necessary to travel that far outside the city? Why that location in particular; do you think maybe he could have found a body of water closer to the city that would have done just as well? Look at the spot that he chose; the Jordan River, barrier between Jew and Gentile, if I'm not mistaken. Eastern border, anyway, of the Promised Land; John was bringing them through the Sea again, into the Promised Land, a re-baptism of sorts, urging them to 'be saved from this wicked generation'! Even so, John told them that he baptized them with water to show their repentance, but Jesus Himself, of Whom he was but the herald, would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire!

There is more that could be written here, but in fact I do not wish to bore my readers, and I have already written on the subject; you may refer to these other articles if you wish. It is my wish, indeed our wish, that you would go over this material, prayerfully, and see for yourself that this baptism by water was simply for those who lived during the transition period between the 'ages', between the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of the Son of God and His Return in Judgment on His Covenant people.

There are those who would say that when the sign of water baptism is administered, it is not just a 'sign' of the inward Reality, it is that Reality itself! This is so wrong that we can only begin to discover or relate why it is so wrong! Can we actually move the Hand of God, guaranteeing an inward change ( on His part ) by an outward action ( on our part )?

We will investigate further in our next study!

Charles Haddon Shank