The Pagan Path

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

Friday, February 28, 2014

On Earth as it is in Heaven

In modern-day America, or pretty much anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, this phrase means that we wish God's Will to be done throughout the entire physical globe, or terre firma. However, when Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, who a long time ago, in the Eastern Hemisphere, they knew exactly what He was talking about!

Coupled together with the fact that Jesus was an Ancient Near Easterner, the History of Israel told the disciples that they should seek for His will to be done through His People, whether they be religious leaders ( heaven ) or just an average citizen of Israel. You may have heard that the phrase 'heaven & earth' is most often, in Scriptural use, indicative, not of the physical earth & sky ( heaven ), but of the People of God.

You can read for yourself Scriptures like Deuteronomy 4:26 and Psalm 76:8 for examples of this. 'The Song of Moses' in Deuteronomy 32 begins with 'Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.'

In the previous phrase, 'Your will be Done' we saw how in the historical context of Jesus words, He reminded His disciples that Israel, under that first covenant, had failed to follow Yahweh's Dominion Mandate, Though His Will was done throughout their history, it was despite, not because of their obedience or disobedience to His commands.

The Law, as given on Sinai, and through Moses, was inscribed in the heavens but was not observed on earth. Jesus' model for prayer sought for the marriage of Heaven & Earth, bringing them together, inscribing His Law on the living hearts of His People ( Jeremiah 31:33 & Ezekiel 36:26 ), and not on dead tablets of stone.

'On Earth, as it is in Heaven', today communicates what should always be our prayer, that as we confess with our mouth, we would bring to action. As our cleansed conscience leads us in the way everlasting, our lives are transformed to His Will.

In Thankfulness, we praise the Maker of 'Heaven & Earth' and continually pray that we would, through the Strength He lends, always encourage our several members to fulfill His Will in our lives.

His Will is done, as we live our lives in Communion with Him & with the Body of His Son, 'On earth, as it is in heaven'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In the Air ( the rapture of the saints )

Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more;
 and he went on his way rejoicing.
Acts 8:39

I Thessalonians 4:17 is the clearest, yet foggiest proof-text used to witness 'the ( future ) Rapture of the saints of God'. There are even those who interpret this passage in a modern American way to explain the silent witness of the church in the latter part of the first century. Many of these also claim to believe in the spirituality versus physicality of the Kingdom of God, as fulfilled in Jesus the Christ, and perpetuated by His Body, the Church!

The same Greek word, 'harpazō', that Paul used to comfort the Thessalonians in his letter was used by Luke to describe Philip's 'journey' from the desert in between Jerusalem and Gaza to Caesarea. As you can see by searching the word @ 'The Blue-Letter Bible', 'harpazō' is used everywhere, from metaphorical to actually ( literally ), in Matthew 11:12, where Jesus talked about 'The Storming of Heaven' to Jude ( 23 ) where he talked about saving ( others ) from the coming destruction!

As many have broached this subject before, and even since I myself have written on it, one might wonder, 'why bring it up again?' Good question; 'why?!'

Well, the main reason for resurrecting this topic is that it is very important, if only for the reason that there are still those out there, even within the Fulfilled camp, that subscribe to this hogwash!

Though there are many passages in which the word 'harpazō' is used that seem to indicate fairly clearly that the subject was carried ( for a time ) into the Presence of God, there are as many that merely indicate the removal ( often by force ) of the subject ( or object ) to another place, as we see in Philip's case. 

Even in today's vernacular, we sloppily and carelessly use the term as 'he got caught up in the heat of the moment', or. 'she caught a cold'. ( if we were Greek, I'd imagine we'd use 'harpazō' in both cases )

Undoubtedly, when the apostle Paul recounts the journey of 'a man in Christ', in his second letter to the Church at Corinth ( 12 ), this man, 'whether in the body' or 'out of the body( he could not tell ) was ushered into the very Presence of God, into Heaven Itself!

In the passage in question, I Thessalonians 4:17, it is true that the saints were to be ushered into the Presence of our Lord; the 'end' of this verse 'brings home' to rest the comfort that Paul intended through his writing; 'And thus we shall always be with the Lord'!

As we live in the Fulfilled Truth of His Word, may we always be enraptured by His Presence, and may we share that joy with all those with who we come in contact; let us joy in the fact that we have been seized by His Spirit, and now enjoy Him forever!

Amen & Amen!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to Understand Who the People of God Are!

The Pharisees sent Saul ( soon to be known as 'the apostle Paul' ) to the synagogues of Damascus in order that he might weed out any who were of that heretical Jewish sect known as the Way. By doing so, they meant to make clear to their Messiah when He came, who were His people and who were not His people.

In today's ecclesiastical landscape, one finds much that much the same pattern has erupted! There are numerous denominations out there today who feel that, if you do not belong to their particular 'club' ( even 'congregation' ), and/or subscribe to a certain doctrine, you are no 'friend' of theirs. Unless you follow the same 'false messiah' as they do, and worship the same 'idols', you have most likely set your feet on the wide path that leads to destruction!

The question of who the People of God consists of is a question that has been on the minds of people for millenia; are the People of God only those who have acknowledged & accepted His Lordship in their lives? Is it only to those who love Him ( Romans 8:28 ) that He makes everything work for good? Is He Father to His entire Creation, or only to those who acknowledge Him as Father?

“Gather My saints together to Me, those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.”
Psalm 50:5

There are that that believe, as it has been taught in the orthodox Christian Church for a great many years, that the honor of being called the People, or Children of God, is only granted to those who have made a conscious decision to follow Him, and who live a life that honors Him. Passages such as that above seem to say that His 'saints' consist only of those who, confessing Him, live a life according to His revealed Word!

It is safe to say, biblically, even Scripturally speaking probably, that it is only those who keep His commandments who are His Children. I John 5:2 reads, 'By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments'. Earlier in this same letter ( I John 3:10 ), John wrote, 'In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.' There are numerous examples in both the Greek & Hebrew Scriptures which differentiate between 'the children of God and the children of the devil', but is this to say that these 'children of the devil' are not 'children of God', though errant and rebellious? Is He such a petty God that, like some earthly fathers, disowns His children when they refuse to obey Him?

I have long held ( several years, anyway ) that this notion, like certain doctrines the Church has held for many years, is primarily eschatological in its construct! There are many, and the number is growing, who have almost, if not totally, dismissed & discarded the notion that the 'Satan' ( devil, dragon, etc. ) of Biblical usage was representative of anything but that fleshly Jewish spirit that disdained and finally crucified their own Messiah. These were 'the children of the devil' that opposed and persecuted 'the children of God'!

Is this to say that there are no 'children of the devil' in this New Covenant or Kingdom Age? Are we to believe that there are no longer 'those who are outside' ( I Timothy 3:7 ( Revelation 22:15 )? Has everyone been granted entrance into the City of God? There are those who teach this without exception! These same ones are usually the ones who are called 'grace preachers'. They teach a Grace that is in opposition to Law, that since it was fulfilled by Christ in His Life & Death, the Law is no more, that now we just have Grace & Unconditional Love!

We know, however, or should anyway, that Grace is not in opposition to Law, that Law is in fact, an integral part of Grace! It was Grace that first revealed the Creator to His Creation and 'and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life'; it was Grace that first opened up the lines of communication & established relationship between Father & Son! As a good Father to His errant Children, our Heavenly Father instituted guidelines ( Law ) so that His Children might experience the blessing and not the cursings of that relationship!

As an example, from a human standpoint, a father will establish rules that the children of his household are to live by if they want to experience the blessedness of relationship. Children who do not follow these set rules will still be in relation to their father, but rather than experiencing the blessedness of that relationship, they will, more likely than not, feel the effects of his wrath, so long as they persist in willful disobedience!

Though they have his Unconditional Love, because they do not enjoy the blessedness of that Relationship, that Unconditional Love will usually be felt as stinging blows, whether metaphorically or really, which, if followed by repentance, serve to mend that broken relationship and bring the errant child back into Blessed Communion with his Father! 

In conclusion then, we might ask ourselves again, 'who are the People of God?' Are they, as most of us have been taught, only those who live their lives in such a way that they experience the blessedness of Communion with their Heavenly Father? Is it 'kosher' to call those His children who obviously do not enjoy Relationship with Him & with His Body ( the Church} )? There are many in today's Church who would hold that idea in disdain, if for the fact alone that they would not wish to be called 'brother' by those unruly and disobedient children!

If we live our lives as if we are not related to them and do not associate with them because tthey do not follow the same set of rules ( Law ) that we do, how are they supposed to witness the blessedness of our Relationship? How will they know the blessedness of Communion with the Body if we do not share it with them?

May we who enjoy the Presence & Unconditional Love of our Heavenly Father continue to bless those who do not, as we share that Presence & Unconditional Love with others! As we share the blessings that we enjoy, may others see that joy, long for it themselves, and then so order their lives that they would seek to reconcile with their Creator, and Commune with the Body of His Son!

with Joy in His Presence,
 Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, February 21, 2014

Return from Captivity

Did you ever think about the significance of the fact that, even though Israel returned to the Land of Promise under orders ( Ezra 1 ) of their more or less friendly captor, they were still in Captivity, both physically and spiritually ( Really & Actually )!  Even though they were back in their own Land, they still had to bow to an earthly king, and follow his leading, or pay the consequences!

National physical Israel ( 'according to the flesh' ) never, almost from the times of the Judges on, experienced true freedom!

In much the same way, those who fight against God's Headship today, both Christian and non-Christian, believer and unbeliever, are in Captivity! Until they accept His Love and Judgment, they will remain captive to idols, both real or imagined! The Captivity of which we speak is a Captivity of the heart, which has its natural outworking in physicality, or as some would call it, real life. Release from this Captivity can only come from an acknowledgement &a acceptance of the Sovereignty of God in their lives! Sure, some have found release of sorts, by distancing themselves from certain situations, people, or even one person in particular, but the adage rings true, sooner or later; 'you can't run away from yourself'!

In today's watered-down version of the Gospel, Grace is most often seen as in opposition to Law! Although Grace is prevalent in the Gospel Story, indeed, throughout the entire History of the People of God, we should see that it is not in opposition to Law, but that Law is an integral part of Grace! For a moment, consider this; in an earthly family, any good father would tell his child things like, 'don't run out into the street until the truck passes', or 'don't pick that 'stick' up', even such a simple command/warning as 'don't touch that'! Law did not come in opposition to Grace, but as an example of our Father's Love for His Children, to keep them from danger. As we know, and read throughout Scripture, this Law, though it had its intended effect in the fullness of time, was abused by His children, and even became an idol to them, one which held them in Captivity until our Heavenly Father sent His Only Begotten Son to release them and give them True Freedom!

The Israel of God, as personified by God Himself in the Perfect Man, Jesus Who was the Christ, was symbolically & corporately released from Captivity by that One final Sacrifice of the Perfect Lamb of God! The son of God had been held captive since his Genesis by the Fall of Adam, and its consequences,which were covenant death, and separation from the Full Presence of God. This Presence was restored in a fashion, first by the Tabernacle and finally by the successive Temples in Jerusalem, but His Presence with His People & the True Temple would not be Revealed until the fullness of Time had come!

Though God's People, as a Body, were released from Captivity, many of the several ( individual ) members of that Body, as well as those outside the Body, remain in an imagined, though very real captivity to this day! For whatever reason, certain Christians still see themselves as subject to 'this body of death' ( Romans 7:24b ) that Paul wrote about. Because they see themselves as still under the Curse, pretty much every aspect of their doctrine and even their lives is affected! This is not to say that those are not truly followers of Jesus, or even that those who believe thusly are adversely affected.

Captivity is a funny thing; like many other realities, it always, especially at first, seems like a bad thing! With our ability to view the past through the lens of Scripture, we can see that though Israel ( 'according to the flesh' ) often suffered severely under their Captivity, and saw it as a great evil, it was actually a good thing! Through their Captivity, the Gospel was spread to the nations around them! Daniel is probably the preeminent example of this that we have in Scripture, but other examples show forth the same Pattern. Through the foreign ministries of Joseph, for instance, a Seed was planted in Egypt, the Fruit of which was that it was said of them, 'Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance' ( Isaiah 19:25 )!

The Captivity that many people, even some Christians remain in today is much the same, in effect! Even though it often seems a bad thing, it is, in a sense, a necessary evil, for it is a Designed Captivity, one meant to bring that individual to their knees, to make them realize that the People of God have been released from their Captivity, and now enjoy the Freedom of Life in, through and with their Heavenly Father!

This Freedom no man can take away!

May We, as the Israel of God, ever Live in this Freedom we have been given, may We live our Lives as those who have been set free from our Captivity, and no matter what this world, which is our Father's, or men may throw at Us, may We always remember who We are and what We are to be about, our Father's business!

In service to His Kingdom,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Kingdom Life & Living

I am writing this to ( hopefully ) encourage a friend who is somewhat down-trodden; this is dedicated to him!

Sometimes, a teaching which is against the established, or orthodox position is presented, and opposition is encountered from all angles! This is not to say that this position should not be taught, just that we should expect opposition when we do teach it! The Truth must be revealed no matter the consequences, and whether we choose to take part in that revelation or not, and for whatever reason; it is God's Truth & His Kingdom; it WILL be advanced whether or not we take our part! However, we bear responsibility depending on our choice!

There is a stigma attached to the name 'preterism'; right or wrong, anyone who adopts the defining term 'preterist', in many circles, is immediately labeled a heretic; anything he or she says thereafter is immediately suspect! At the very least, people who either subscribe to or are open to this teaching are direly warned against it and even threatened with hell-fire!
The main principle behind 'preterism', the fact that all Scripture is fulfilled in the Parousia, or Presence of God in His Son, is correct, both Scripturally speaking and sensically! There is no doubt in my mind, and there should be no doubt in the minds of its proponents that this is undeniably so, but when we focus on the so-called 'Second Coming' of Christ rather than the more important fact of His Presence, we should expect more than a little opposition to this message!

What does the Parousia of God in Christ mean to our everyday Life?

Since God now dwells with ( in ) His People, how should we then live?

Well, first think about this; if we are always in God's Presence, as we are since His Parousia, what should be our daily manner of living? Should we, as those who do not acknowledge the Presence or enjoy its benefits, live according to our own selfish wants and desires, or should we, as Jesus told His disciples, 'seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness' ( Matthew 6:33 ) We should seek, not that our own will should be done, but that His would always have the preeminence! However, if we truly seek first His Kingdom & His Righteousness, ours will be His!

Too many 'preterists', in my experience ( and I was one, so I can say this without compunction ) are so focused on AD70, and  the 'coming on the clouds' judgment of Israel & Jerusalem, that they often seem to bypass, or neglect completely the application of the implication; if this, then that!

If Jesus came when and how He promised His disciples ( Matthew 24:34, Matthew 16:26, Matthew 10:23, etc. ), what does that mean to us today? Should we go on living as Christians have for centuries, even millenia, as if we were still looking for Jesus' Return, and even hoping against hope that He would appear in our lifetime, and deliver us from this God-awful mess that we have gotten ourselves into"? Should we live in misplaced hope, waiting on His Coming in Power, or should we live in the Realization of His Presence, striving, with the Strength He has given us ( Philippians 4:13 ), to expand His Kingdom?

The Good News for God's People today ( whether they realize it or not ) is that we DO live in His Presence NOW! There IS no more waiting for His Return, which prognosticators falsely say may or may not be in our lifetime! Everything that His Parousia, or Presence indicates has been accomplished; the sin of God's People, those He came to save ( Matthew 1:21 ) has been washed away & removed 'as far as east is from west' ( Psalm 103:12 )! The People of God, as Israel of old, has been raised from the dead,, and 'dies no more' ( Romans 6:9 ( John 11:26 )!

As we live out our Lives in His Presence then, and for His Glory & Kingdom, let us remember that, while His Parousia is the basis for our realized hope, it is all about His Presence & Relationship with our Heavenly Father! If we forget that, we forget what it's all about, and have relegated the Gospel to 'I'm right, you're wrong'!

May we remember that we ARE the Body of Christ and so acquit ourselves as the free men & women that we are, living our lives to the fullest and enjoying His Presence forever!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Freedom From Above

What is freedom?

Freedom is the ability to do as you please without the danger of outside interference. We in America prize this ability above all others, and even proclaim our God-given right to do so! However, this is not always a good thing, for if we are free to do good, by extension, we are also free to do evil as we so please!

For the past century or so, America's churches have been permeated by the doctrine that says salvation is simply going to 'heaven' when you die! If salvation merely means an escape from this crazy mixed up world, why would one try to make this crazy mixed up world any better; we're leaving it all behind anyway, right?

This train of thought has more to do with our dwindling freedoms in this country than most people might think! If we have nothing to live for in this world, and everything to die for, why should we even try ( because it's such a tough life ) to make the best of things? Scripturally speaking, our freedom is directly linked to our salvation! If we are free, as Scripture tells us we are, it is because of the salvation that God wrought through His Son, Jesus the Christ; 'Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.' ( John 8:36 )!

Conversely, if Americans are losing their freedoms, it is because they have lost their 'salvation'! American Christianity has taught its denizens for so long that, just as salvation is physical, so is freedom. Yes, both have their necessary physical attributes, but as is freedom, so salvation is a matter of the heart; if one is not free at heart, one is not truly free! That one may go through the motions, but just like salvation, if the Holy Spirit has not begun a good work in that person, then that person has neither been saved nor set free!

If salvation truly comes only when one dies, then it is no wonder that many America Christians are 'of all men most miserable'; they'll never be truly happy ( or free ) till they are free of this world ( or till Jesus comes back, whichever comes first )!

Freedom & Salvation are two very closely related intangibles, so even though, as we have seen, they both have their physical outworking, or attributes, they are both matters of the heart, or the Spirit, where it all must begin! Just as one may proclaim their 'salvation', unless they prove it by living out those principles in their life, so if one is truly free, and believes in the principles of freedom, they will live as free men & women! The state motto of New Hampshire, 'Live free or die', comes to mind here!

When America's pulpits begin to teach a true, rather than a false salvation, then we may begin to see the citizens of God's Kingdom begin to exercise the freedom that they have been given in Christ. If people are taught that they will not truly have salvation till they physically perish, but are only given the future promise of 'heaven', then is it any wonder that they are giving up their 'freedoms' almost without a fight?!

'Freedom is nothing if not exercised!'

If we do not exercise the freedom we have been given by God, we have seen what happens! Six million Jews lost their freedom because they thought they had no choice. Do you think if those six million Jews had exercised their God-given freedom and refused to obey a government that wished to take away that freedom, that so many would have perished? Because so many American Christians refused to take a stand against their evil government in the stead of the helpless unborn, we now have legalized abortion, and almost 60 million preborn children have been murdered; LEGALLY!

The Salvation of God's People was accomplished almost 2,000 years ago, when Jesus the Son of God was crucified on that cruel cross of Calvary. Almost exactly 40 years later, God's People were physically saved from the sack & ruin of Jerusalem because the implemented that most important principle regarding their freedom, 'when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her.'  ( Luke 21:20 & 21 ). If they had not exercised the freedom gained them by their Messiah, they would have perished with the rest!

If we, as Christians, and Citizens of the Kingdom of God, will not exercise the Freedom we have been given by God, then we will see the physical freedoms granted by our government continue to dwindle, and finally, disappear altogether! We must begin to prove our freedom if we are to remain free! We must 'Live Free, or Die', for our freedom will atrophy & die if we do not make use of it, and let it shine forth in our lives!

May we as 'One Nation, Under God', begin both to exercise both our completed salvation and thusly the freedom that we have been given; if we do not, this nation will die!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Nuts & Bolts of Kingdom Living ( Covenant )

'Make sure that your nut fits his bolt': this was a line from a recent radio commercial for a Valentine's Day special, that I heard recently!

There are several different ways that one could take a statement like this, anywhere from, 'make sure you're compatible', to, 'well, are you sure you want me to go there?' It is not a unique statement, though it could be an intriguingly deep one; 'are we a good match; do we complement each other well?' When you really think about it, even the area that most Christians are almost loathe to go ( publicly, anyway ), has some pretty important connotations! Maybe this is one of the reasons that Christianity is in the shape it's in today!

If your 'nut' doesn't fit his 'bolt', either metaphorically or biologically speaking, do you really have any good reason to be together? Now, I'm not advocating the old analogy of test-driving the car before you buy it, or the adage of 'why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, but there are other steps that can be taken to ensure a minimum of compatibility without going there!

First off, you want to make sure that your proposed spouse wants what you want, that her 'nut' fits your 'bolt', or vice-versa! Second, you want to make sure that even if your wants don't quite match up, and this is fairly common ( or rare, depending on context ), this person is open to 'new' ways of looking at the world ( make sure that you're open to this as well )! If neither one of you is willing, not to compromise, but to defer, then you might as well call the whole thing off!

Here's where Covenant comes in;; Covenant, you might say, is a game-changer! We've discussed before the difference between a mere contract and a covenant. A contract is merely a set of obligations and when those obligation are fulfilled, then the contract necessarily is brought to an end. If however, the contractees have built a relationship during that period which both would like to see continue, the contract could turn into a covenant, which normally includes a phrase like 'until death do us part'!

This being a much different culture than the biblically historical one, the engagement period  ( of varying lengths ) is our culture's version of the betrothal period. When two people, in our culture decide that they would like to be married, there is usually a period where they are engaged to be married, somewhat like the betrothal period of Scripture, but without quite the legal ramifications!

In this era of long engagements, loose living, and easy divorce, it seems that the engagement period in this nation is more of a 'waiting-period', a time, not only to test the limits, but to mollify parents, etc.! Engagement in our culture is more just a time of preparation for marriage, 'a training-period', you might say, but in biblically historical culture, the betrothal was more of a contract to be fulfilled, and if the contract was fulfilled to satisfaction, then it would be extended into a covenant, in which the two parties would be cemented together for life!

When a Covenant is consummated, then you can be sure that his 'bolt' fits your 'nut', or vice-versa; then, and only then, can the veil be parted, and that area where 'angels fear to tread' be entered!

Best just to wait and see!

So, you might be thinking, what does all this have to do with Kingdom Living, with Covenant Life? Well, as the saying goes, 'if you don't get it, you won't get it' ( or something like that )! If you disregard the Covenant aspect of Life, and try to go it on your own, your 'bolt' will never fit her 'nut', or vice-versa; nothing will ever fit quite right, and though the contract may or may not ever be fulfilled, that's all it will be; subject to 'early termination', with all the accompanying 'fees'!

Any good constructor can tell you how important it is for the nuts to fit the corresponding bolts; if they don't, depending on their position in the construction, the whole thing, sooner or later, will come crashing down! In more and more marriages in this day and age, the 'nuts & bolts' don't quite mach, and we have what we have in modern society!

Make sure that your 'nut' fits his 'bolt'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Would you give your life for the one you love?

The marriage of a man & woman is likened by the Apostle Paul to the relationship between Christ & His Church, between God and Israel. Jesus said that 'greater love has no one than this, to lay one's life for his friends'. He said this just before stretching out His arms in His great Love and dieing in the stead of His People on the cruel cross of Calvary. Paul wrote, near the end of his letter to the Church at Ephesus, that the marriage of a man & wife was analogous of Christ & His Church. Before he penned these famous, though somewhat enigmatic words, he also wrote that, as Jesus gave Himself for His Bride, so a man should be prepared to give his life for his bride! Earlier in this same letter, in the man-made division we call chapter five, Paul wrote that 'Christ has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma'!

Having spoken somewhat disparagingly of 'this modern love', this feeling part of love, in the past, I cannot deny its very real presence & even needful existence! Love, as I've written in the past, is 'A Many Splintered Thing'! It is also a very necessary thing; if the feelings aren't there, then we won't show those non-existent feelings through our actions. Again, we must understand that a love based on feelings is no love at all, for Scripture tells us that 'lover never fails'. If our love for a spouse, friend, etc, is based on feelings that are subject to change, then as go the feelings, so goes the love. A love, however, that is based upon the Love of God is a love that will last, for we know that God does not change!

Februation, which is inextricably linked to our month February, means 'purification by a religious ceremony', or 'sacrifice'! Interesting that the 14th day of this month, February, was chosen all those yeas ago as the month in which to celebrate undying love! Okay, so for the most part nowadays, it is given over to mushy-gushy feelings, along with having become just another commercial sales day ( probably one of the biggest of the year ), but it's still, in theory, all about the love!

Love means sacrifice! It doesn't necessarily involve the giving up of biological life for the continued existence of another, though this can and does happen, but it involves anything from simply handing her ( or him ) the remote, to deferring to the object of your love when it comes to where to live! Feelings are involved with every decision! Unless you let those feelings rule your life, rather than living by our Heavenly Father's Law of Love, those feelings are a good thing! Again, if the feelings aren't there, we won't practice Love; we're simply doing our duty! ( this is not to say that there's anything wrong with doing your duty, either )

Humans are creatures of emotion, and that means feelings! Some humans are more emotional than others, and some can stifle or even suppress their emotions to the point that they seem to have no emotions at all. Emotions can be a good thing ( women love an emotional man ), or it can be a bad thing ( if you're too emotional though, you may be discarded as a 'wet rag' ). Seriously though, our emotions, if not checked, will get us in trouble. If we feel too strongly about a certain matter, we could end up losing our shirt over it, in a manner of speaking, but on the other hand, if we don't stand for something, as 'they' say, 'you'll fall for anything'!

Getting back to the subject, that of sacrificial Love, if we do not feel the love of God in our lives, we will not share that Love with anyone, much less our spouse! Scripture says that 'we love [ Him ], because He first loved us'. Is it possible to practice love without knowing Love? Can we know Love without feeling Love? I've said it before, and I'll say it again, 'you can tell someone you love them till you're blue in the face, but if you don't show them you love them, how can they know?'

One of the most, in fact, probably the most famously quoted portion of Scripture, John 3:16, says that 'God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but should have everlasting life'. God showed His Love for His Creation by sending His only Beloved Son so that we, His Bride, might live. What Amazing Love, what Limitless Grace!

In this month of Purification & Sacrifice, let us determine to live our lives sacrificially, knowing that we, the people of God, have been cleansed & purified!

As we practice Sacrificial Living, let us always remember that 'Love knows no bounds'; Love is not metered out according to race, color or religion ( some would say 'sexual preference', as well ), but Love gives without asking or expecting, in hopes only of blessing, for it truly is 'more blessed to give than to receive'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Your Will be Done

Here again, we must go where angels fear to tread, and turn to the context of 'The Story' of Scripture!

'And I will sanctify My great Name, which you have profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I [ AM ] the Lord, says the Lord God, when I am hallowed in you before their eyes'. Ezekiel 36:23

Israel, rather than fulfilling God's Will, and blessing the nations, had profaned His name before the nations and had become a curse to the nations around them; this is why Jesus taught His disciples to pray 'Your will be done', because Israel had neglected the weightier matters of the Law, and refrained from loving and practicing Justice, Mercy & Faith!

The Will of our Creator is always done, yes, because He is infinite and we finite, but our guilt & responsibility is not lessened when we fail to do justly & have mercy! We should pray for His will to be done for two main reasons; one, because prayer is open communication with our Heavenly Father ( which ANY father loves ), and two, because need His strength strength to do His will, for men are weak!

Your will be done’ is the natural predecessor to the prayer of Jesus in the Garden, where He prayed, ‘Your will, not Mine be done’. It also echoes the events in the original Garden, wherein the will of the creature seemed to thwart the Will of the Creator. Though the Fall was part of the Plan so that in the fullness of time, the Son of God would be revealed in all His Glory, the will of the creature, not the revealed Will of God, led to the downfall of many in Israel; this is what the Story is about, it is a record of how God’s Will, in spite of the will of man, triumphs in judgment!

Human beings are, at the very core, selfish creatures: we would rather see our own wants and needs fulfilled before anyone else’s! This is where the trouble began in the original Garden, and this is why, when Jesus faced His Garden Temptation, He prayed, ‘Your will, not Mine, be done’. Jesus introduced the New Humanity, one that through the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit was able to squelch that natural human lust, and seek the Will of the Father rather than the selfish will of the Child!

Israel, as Adam & Eve in the Garden, had sought to do things their own way for countless years! Rather than wait for Gods perfect timing, they, throughout their history, had sought their own righteousness ( through the Law ) and so had failed to attain True Righteousness and to Accomplish The Will of their Creator!

When Jesus gave His disciples this Model for Prayer, He reminded them of this History, and set the mold for the Reformed People of God, a People that would seek His Will before their own, who would seek His Righteousness, love Justice & practice Mercy!

As we pray, then, knowing the History of this Model for Prayer, and that it was fulfilled in the first century with the marriage of Heaven & Earth, let us ever pray to our Father in Heaven, as Jesus did, ‘Your Will, not Mine, be done!

Let us, through His strength, ever fulfill His Righteousness as we Work, Pray, Eat & Rest!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Misty Mountain Morning

Morning has broken, and I wonder as I wander,
How blessed I am to live among such beauty!

The mountains high, the valleys deep,
The rivers that are so cold and clear!

The fawns that graze, majestic elk,
The great old bear that wrestles with her cubs!

On this beautiful wintry day, I watch the veil of steam,
As it rises from the vales, on this Misty Mountain Morning!

We praise our Father who dwells with us,
His Presence is seen in the beauty all around!

The Love of God is greater far, than all the beauty found on earth,
The Creation shines forth His praise, and sparkles in the Son-lit haze!

The beauty of the earth does not surpass His Grace,
Nor the ones who shout His praise!

We worship Him with all our deeds, in all we do and say,
For He is our only stay, on this Misty Mountain Morning!

Charles Haddon Shank

A Cause for Fear

With all that's been going on in the world, especially in the past 50-100 years, one might be thinking that, yes, there most certainly is a cause for fear! From a physical standpoint, anyway, worry & stress factor hugely in much of the danger, both real & perceived that is prevalent both in this country, and throughout all the nations that surround us! There is most definitely, physically speaking any, a veritable cause for fear in this crazy and mixed up world in which we live!

If you watch the world news as it is portrayed by the varied sources of media information ( or is that 'disinformation'? ) on a daily basis, or if you watch movies such as Harrison Ford's 'Clear and Present Danger', and television shows such as NCIS ( which, admittedly, I've been watching lately ), you might realize that there is much in this world that is not as it should be, and much else that should not be, as a result of the unnecessary evil, has become an almost necessary evil!

Even though we know that much of the information fed to us through these various sources for media outlets, including television & movies is probably not quite as insidious as 'they' would have us to believe, it is still probably fairly safe to say that much of this 'information' is based in reality! We know that there are evil people in this world, or at least people that have left their mark for evil on this world ( Hitler, Pol Pot, etc. come to mind ). There is no denying their legacy, and the ( false ) dynasty of evil that, thanks to them and those like them, is still prevalent in this crazy & mixed up world!

'This is Our Father's World'! This phrase, borrowed from the title of the slightly revised hymn, has a real Ring of Truth to it! Because of our skewed perception of Who and What God is, and how He Operates, most Christians, even, do not believe that this is our Father's world, and especially not that He Rules & Reigns, and makes His Power known through the evil that men do! The main reason for this mistake is a lack of Knowledge & Understanding of what is affectionately known, in a certain circles as 'The Story' ( also called 'the meta-narrative' ). Many Christians today believe that since the Life, Death & Resurrection of Jesus the Son of God, our Heavenly Father operates in a kinder, gentler manner than He did before. This is engendered by a summary reading and unnecessary separation of what we know as the Old & New Testaments!

Let me digress here a bit; many Christians & non-believers as well find it hard to reconcile what is seen as a petty, vindictive, even mean & horrible God in the Old Testament with the kinder gentler version that we read about in the New. Besides the fact that they, if they know the Scriptures at all, read them as separate Stories, rather than as one complete Story, many Christians seem to gloss over the fact that God destroyed those who were called by His Name ( excepting a Remnant ), turning over tables, and calling down the judgment of an Almighty & Vengeful God on the Evil that they had become ( I Thessalonians 1:8 ( Matthew 16:27, 26:64, etc. )! The significance of the Destruction of the Jewish Temple, and Final Dispersion of the Jewish people in 70AD is usually overlooked or downplayed by most Christians today, and because of this, the notion that God Himself was changed by the Revelation of His Son persists to this day!

There is no question, from a human standpoint, anyway, that all is not as it should be, at least according to the utopian worldview that has been held by most Christians & unbelievers for years! The Problem of Evil has been present with us since the beginning of time! Human beings of all shapes, sizes, and religions have the propensity for untold evil, and to varying degrees of success, they are able, either to staunch the flow, or unleash this untold evil on their neighbors!

Since we know, and most of us can personally attest to this fact, that there are untold evils happening everyday all around us, it is easy to lose our Focus on the unseen yet Evident Reality of Life in the Presence, and be held in the Prison of Fear by these Evils! Though the Evil that happens around us everyday is impossible to deny, by keeping our Focus stayed on the Presence of God, Ruling & Reigning through these Evils: we can work through this Fear, and through the Freedom we have in Christ, we, though concerned with the matters of Everyday Life ( as we should be ), can Live Without Fear, knowing that our Heavenly Father rules through, and in spite of, our Cause for Fear!

In conclusion; though for the unbeliever who does not enjoy the Blessedness of the Presence of God in their lives, there is much Cause for Fear; for the believer, though there is undoubtedly much cause for concern this Cause for Fear does not exist, because, as we've seen, 'This is Our Father's World' He Rules & Reigns according to His infinite Knowledge, Power, and Grace! Because His Knowledge, Power &; Grace is infinite, and ours only and ever finite ( limited ), we can only and ever trust to His Love & Purpose, 'for we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who are the Called, according to His Purpose'!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Us & Them

In a very real sense, it is easy to conceptualize the phrase, and in an even true sense, it is easy to see that there is a difference. There are some that do this, and there are those who do that. In fact, it's probably safe to say that 1 out of every 5 people on this planet does something differently than everybody or anybody else!

People often end up on the wrong end of this phrase, though, because they do some things differently than a certain group thinks they ought to. This may or may not be wrong, and it is not necessarily right, either; there IS such a thing as Absolute Truth! Our differences, yes, are the spice of life, without them, life would become very boring, very fast! To a certain point, our differences can be a good thing, but when our differences cause us to forget our common humanity, then is when we have a problem!

Some people believe that it is wrong to, say, have sexual relations before marriage, while others do not! According to the first group, it would be wrong, sinful even, to engage in the act we call sex unless one is married to that person, but the other group of people, that it is okay to engage in sexual intercourse as long as the other party is willing. Is one group wrong, and the other right, or are both groups rightly and religiously doing what is good and just for them? Both groups believe religiously that the way they are living their lives is good and just, but they can't both be right, can they?

Absolute Truth tells us that only one of these groups can be right! If one group is right, then the other is necessarily wrong! Many people, mostly of the latter group, hate this, because by insisting on Absolute Truth, we are pricking their conscience, making them feel the guilt of their immoral behavior! There is no question in the mind of the first group that the second group is doing wrong, and though they often have the biblical phrase, 'judge not' ( Matthew 7 ) thrown in their faces, they will often resort to hateful tirades against this second group, because they feel so strongly that they are better than the second group just because they 'do this and don't do that'!

It could well be argued that the first group, those that love God, and keep His Word ARE somehow better than those who don't, but are they really? They are more blessed, no doubt, and enjoy a deeper, better communion, both with their Heavenly Father and with the Body of His Son, but are they actually better people; is there really any good reasoning behind the use of the phrase, 'Us & Them'?

As we have seen, there is a very real sense in which the concept of 'Us & Them' is a very true one; there are two different groups, one of which believes that a certain action is wrong, while the other believes it to be right, or at least, relatively okay. The problem with 'Us & Them' is that both groups are human! Like most any sibling rivalry, the child that always does what pleases the father or mother tends to get puffed up, and even pridefully boastful against the sibling who does not always do what the parents like.

Often, when the one sibling notes this difference , 'Us & Them' becomes 'Us Versus Them'! The 'good' child may begin to 'harp' on the 'bad' child, telling them things like, 'I'm better than you', and reminding them of their 'worthlessness' in various different ways. This emotional abuse can turn into physical abuse very quickly! This is not to say that the 'bad' child is right, and that he ( or she ) should be rewarded with the same blessings as the 'good' child, no; there is right and there is wrong: I'm not saying that we shouldn't differentiate!

There is no doubt, for common sense will attest to this, that those who do right, though not always blessed by men, will be blessed by their Heavenly Father! It is also abundantly clear that those who do wrong, while often blessed by men, will not be blessed by God, though, 'His rain falls on the just and the unjust alike'! Doubtless too; it IS better to receive the blessings of God's Presence than to always be on the wrong end, so to speak, of that Presence, to live in Heaven rather than to suffer in Hell!

So, yes, it IS 'Us & Them', but the question we should ask ourselves is, 'is it Us Versus Them'?

If so then, WE might be the real problem!

Look where this mentality of 'Us Versus Them' has gotten us so far! Yes, the Kingdom of God ( it IS HIS Kingdom, after all ) has grown and expanded far beyond our hopes and dreams, and for that matter, is eternally and infinitely expanding, but at what  cost, through how much ( needless ) pain and suffering? Some would likely argue, and well, maybe, that this pain and suffering is well-deserved by its recipients and even point out that this is a necessary evil, being the discipline of a Loving Father, or else a Just Judge! 'They're only getting what they justly deserve', you might hear, and so they are, but they're human beings, and so deserve our respect and love, because, but for the Grace of God, 'There We Go'!

If the first group would remember their common humanity with the second group, or group, then maybe we would be that much closer to realizing a peaceful co-existence, and maybe, just maybe, through that Peace & Love shown & shared, that second group may be brought into a lasting and meaningful ( healthy ) relationship with both their Heavenly Father, and the Body of His Son!

May we realize & celebrate the differences in our humanity without resorting to wrongdoing!

Charles Haddon Shank