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