The Pagan Path

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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Body Politic

'Slavish education creates slavish voters!'

When you really ponder it, voting seems about as fruitful as taking medications; you're pretty much treating symptoms, and not really getting to the root of the problem! ( in a sense, just staving it off till a later point in time ) While politics are necessary for good & gracious government, politics of late has become an exercise in futility! The lack of good people who are willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to do any sort of politicking is so great anyway, but if a good does happen to make it to the primaries, he is either voted over because he wasn't able to spend the time or money needed in today's sham elections to get elected! Even if a good one happens to get elected, nothing much is really accomplished because an elected official is only as good as those who elected him, when it comes right down to it!

A good politician is one who represents his constituents well! Like it or not, Obama is actually a 'good' politician, and that's part of the problem! Undoubtedly, he does have his own agenda, and has disappointed many of those who voted for him ( twice ) and angered those who are opposed, however actively or inactively, to his socialist agenda! Whatever the case may be, whether his supporter are still behind him or not, he is still there, pushing that socialist agenda, and thumbing his nose in the face of many hard-working people in this country, as well as making a mockery of our Constitution!

The problem we have before us then, is not so much that we have bad leaders, although that is without question; the root of our problem is that the people themselves are bad, and therefore choose bad representatives! This is not necessarily to say that every single person who voted for Obama ( to say nothing of the Bushes ) is a bad person, and everyone who didn't is a good person. Sometimes 'good' people make 'bad' choices, whether out of pure ignorance or just sheer stupidity! There are those, on the other hand, though, who make 'bad' choices because they are genuinely evil, and selfishly wish to see their will done ( and their pockets lined ) no matter how many may die!

Much of the problem, it seems, can be laid at the feet of the government school system! Now, again, I'm sure there are some government schools that are better than others, but none would claim to be, as they are often called ( by those who should know ), 'centers for brain-washing children'! In these institutions, children are taught to sit down, shut up & listen; they are taught to stand, and march in line, and never to think 'outside the box', and to precisely & obediently follow a regimen & curriculum prescribed by, imagine that, the very government that we love to bitch & moan about, that has got this nation in the deplorable shape she's in!

The Church as well, or maybe to an even greater extent, shares the blame for much of what has gone wrong in this nation! If 'We the People' are the root of the problem, then the Church, who is to bring All God's Children into that blessed Reconciliation & Communion with Him, bear the blame as much as anyone! The President, with all of his Socialist Policies & Liberal Agenda, 99.9% of the politicians in Washington, D.C., and etc. & etc. ( anybody to blame but ourselves ) may indeed be at fault, but they are only the symptoms of a more insidiousness disease, one that has ravaged this nation since its inception, but has really reared its ugly head in the last century or less!

Because we have fallen so far, and because the slope ( cliff, really ) is so slippery, it will take at least as long, if not longer, to return to the place we once occupied in the table of nations! This can be done, whether, as some believe, by using the same form ( of politics ) that got us where we are in the first place, or as others are convinced, armed rebellion & revolution is inevitable, even imminent! In the case of a political solution, which holds the hope of the least bloodshed, only if those currently in office, as well as the nation as a whole, submit to our True Leader, and the Only Good for this nation, then, and only then, will a political solution begin to remedy the evils that we currently observe!

On the other Hand, and at last resort, it's looking more & more like an armed rebellion & revolution may be where we are actually headed! 'We the People', having been brought up, to a large extent, in those 'centers for brain-washing children' have, for most of their lives, played right into the hands of the government that schooled them! Of late ( most recently & notably, the Bundys of Nevada ), many of these have come to see the fallacies in our system of government, and have rebelled against it, even resorting to arms!

There are no easy answers, no quick & simple solutions to our problems! 'We the People' have become so screwed up that it's actually pretty amazing that we still enjoy some of the freedoms we do! As the old Virginia Slims cigarette advertisement claimed, 'You've come a long way, baby' ( wrong context, I know )!

It may seem hopeless; it does seem almost, that we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers, and resort to bloodshed, to fight another useless and horrifying Civil War within our own borders! Even if a political solution can be found, it's going to take a long time to even make a noticeable difference, especially considering our current status. It, however, can be done! It must be done, and by the Grace of God, it will be done!

For our system of politics to get better, we must see people making better choices! If people cannot be trusted for that small task, then maybe the only logical ( in reasoning, anyway ) solution is to 'kill'em all; let God sortem' out'; at least then, 'We the People' could just elect better representative, and..............wait, that's what got us into this mess in the first place!

Whether we look for our salvation in politics or armed resistance & revolution; it will come from neither as long as 'We the People' have the same mind! If we would see Better Politics, or even a last Revolution, we must first see Better People, a people that have submitted themselves to the Rule of Heaven, and will not bow to the wicked ordinances of man!

Then, and only then, will this Body Politic have any Good & Lasting Effect on the affairs of this Nation under God!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Touching Life

'Of all the..............'

'I just didn't need this today!' Sometimes, it seems like the old adage, 'shit happens' is too true! Although things happen to us, and situations are often not exactly what we would prefer,'shit' does NOT just 'happen'! EVERYTHING happens for a reason, and when we begin to realize & acknowledge that , then Life becomes all that much easier! Kingdom Life, especially, does not always include 'sugar and spice and everything nice', nor is it always what we might call 'smooth sailing'!

The haunting question before us, concerning this 'Kingdom Life', is, 'what does it look like; what all does it involve?' Can we live this Life by going about things the way we always have? Do individual hopes & dreams play a role in Kingdom Life? If we aspire to live Kingdom Life, does this mean giving up on individual concerns in order to seek the good of the Covenant Community? These questions, and more, must be considered; for instance, 'what IS the good of the Covenant Community?'

As we consider these questions, we have to realize that more of the same ( behavior ) will only get us what it's always gotten us; and in this day & age, that's not always a good thing! It's not a totally bad thing either; certain people have been blessed with a lack of the brain-washing that is prevalent in the government schools & much of the Institutional Church. These people were brought up to think outside the box, so when the novel idea of Covenant Community & Kingdom Living is broached, it flows quite naturally through their minds, if not already germinated in their own lives!

Kingdom Life, because it involves individuals of every shape and size, with varying likes and dislikes, means that some sort of 'individualism' must necessarily be involved. Some will want to do things this way, while others will prefer to do it that way! Things can turn disharmonious pretty damn quick if you're not careful, but finding common ground within a framework of Covenant Community, we can easily turn that disharmony into harmony! Our individual concerns become less of a concern when blessed through the individual skills within the Community!

Everyone has a Gift, and while in a Congregation & Community you may be blessed with two or more with a similar Gift, usually you will find a Variety of Gifts, as simple as one who is just more social than most, or one who has the Gift of Preaching, or Pastoring. As the apostle Paul put it, 'And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ' ( Ephesians 4:11 & 12 )

( Just a note here; if you believe that Paul was speaking here of the Institutional Church, thus erecting the 'Sacred & Secular' distinction, you might be part of the problem! )

Our Heavenly Father rules over every situation; sometimes He rules that this or that is best, and sometimes He rules that the other is better! Whatever He has ruled, though, we can be sure that it's for our good! We may not like what He rules, but sooner or later, we realize that it was what needed to occur, and we glory in the situation, knowing that Everything Happens for a Reason, and that He works everything together for the good of His Covenant Community!

Is there an easy answer to Living Kingdom Life in Covenant Community? It seems Simple enough, but when it comes down to actually putting it into practice, it sure isn't an easy task! Stagnation has been the status quo for so long that it seems sometimes an impossible task to find our way out of this quagmire, this Slough of Despond, as a famous writer once put it. The Church has been infested by The Spirit of Individualism for so many centuries that it will probably take as long to cast it out! ( talk about despondence! )

Never fear, Jesus is here!

Where people live in Covenant Community, while there will still be individual hopes & dreams, these hopes & dreams must not cause an individualistic mindset, but must rather be melded together with the hopes & dreams of others, into the glorious liberty of the Sons of God! Kingdom Living doe not mean setting aside individual hopes & dreams for the common good; it means merging our individual hopes & dreams into One Glorious Reality!

Because we, as a Covenant Community, have become the Son of God, being indwelt by His Holy Spirit, we are always equipped for the job at hand! We can, through the Strength that is in us, come together as a Community for One Divine Purpose, all the while revealing the Many Facets of that Purpose!

Let us determine to Live With Purpose, as individuals, though not individualistically, merging our hopes & dreams with that of the Greater Covenant Community! Let us Live Kingdom Life in Communion with His Body, which includes different Members. Let us Touch Life, for in Touching a thing, we become accustomed to its Feel, and thus it flows more naturally as we practice it everyday!

Amen, let it be!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Boy Named Sue and a Different Point of View; I Lifted My Head

They say some days you're gonna win,
They say some days you're gonna lose.

I tell you I got news for you
Your losin' all the time you never win
If you believe that's how it's gonna be I'd better put you down
Get off your tightrope up there, come down on
the ground, you gotta save me now,
You better turn around.
When I looked around, I was heading down.
Won't somebody throw me down a line.

'The Lord works in mysterious ways'!

Our Heavenly Father does not live in a box ( or a book ) of man's own making, nor does He dwell in any of our construction; He is our Creator, He works in & through His Creation ( and that means ALL of it ) how He chooses! He does not do things the way we think He should, He does not work how we please; He draws straight with crooked lines!

Johnny Cash, say what you will about him, was a servant of the Lord! You could say much the same about any music group from ELO to Metallica, from Beethoven to Tchaikovsky ( even Yanni and Zamfir ): yes, there are musical choices out there that some would say are better than others. Most would say that there are some groups out there that shouldn't even be listened to, like AC/DC or Ozzy Osbourne. 'That crap isn't music!' There may be better music choices out there, even better TV shows or movies, and to a large degree, they're right, most TV IS crap, not worth filling our heads with that drivel, and the lyrics in some rock songs ( especially, or even worse, 'rap' ) that would make any but the most hardened sailor blush!

Most times we are tempted to look at our situation and think, 'O woe is me!' The thing to do, of course, in such a situation, is to look at ( or better yet, talk to ) someone who's in a tougher situation ( there's always someone ) or who has a bigger hurdle to overcome; then you will usually come away with a different point of view, thinking, 'yeah, I guess I'm really not that bad off'! Everyone has something to deal with, whether it's simply unruly kids ( children, or some disease that screws with your biological make-up! Some of us just can't seem to keep from making bad choices, and then complain about the same results!

We often like to look at the ways of the 'world' and say, 'no, God wouldn't work like that', or even, as some religious zealots say, 'God won't ( or even, 'can't' ) use you unless you are fully surrendered to Him'! In the latter case, sure, one will not reap the greatest blessings of the Covenant if they're not fully surrendered to Him, but if we believe that God is sovereign over all, cannot He use the worst sinner to accomplish His Purposes, for His will to be done? I mean, for God's sake, look at the apostle Paul! Take the apostate Jews of the first century, for example; if they had not clamored for the death of the Son of God, do you think His Blood would have been shed for the sins of His People? ( okay, eventually, probably )

If we truly believe that this IS our Father's World, can we really say that it's beyond the realm of possibility ( probability, even ) that He uses even the wickedness of the wicked for His Own Purposes ( Will )?! 'That doesn't make it right'; one will very correctly say! Damn right, it doesn't make it right! Just like Nebuchadnezzar & Darius, all the way up to Antiochus Epiphanhes & the Caesars of Rome, the wicked always will pay the piper; sow wickedness, reap wickedness! 

'Shit happens', right? Well, as far as we can tell, it sure as hell does! As Christians though, we believe, like the apostle Paul wrote, that 'all things work together for good to those who love God'; when it comes right down to it, we all believe that 'everything happens for a reason'! We may search for that reason till we're blue in the face, or we may just surrender ourselves and say 'que sera, sera', but we trust in our Heavenly Father to the point that we say, like His son before He suffered on the Cross, 'Your will be done'!

I want to look you straight in the eye,
I want to tell you how I really feel,
I can feel the wheels turnin' round,
Won't somebody throw me down a line
The city streets are full of people going nowhere making time,
The change from night to day is really only hours
It's just along the line, can't you see the sign
When I closed my eyes, I was so surprised
Somebody had thrown me down the line--stopped me drownin'!

When we come to the point ( and we must ) where we totally surrender to His Will for our lives, no matter how macabre' and 'just not right' we may think it is, life becomes a lot easier; we're not beating our head against a brick wall or kicking against the pricks of the world! If we will do what's right, no matter how crooked the results look to us, and love as we are loved, and letting those live that we think, in our haughtiness, deserve to die ( and doubtless, there ARE those who deserve to die ), then the world might, just might be a better place; peace, as far as it lies in us, would abound, and we would be blessed &  be a blessing!

Amen, may it be!
Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Peace Like a River

When this earthly life overwhelms us, and trials seem to win,
Our Heavenly Father succors us, for now He dwells within!
Though we are often troubled, and situations threat to rule,
We have this blest assurance, that God is over all!
He rules over every aspect, and uses all for good,
We trust in His Provender, and thank Him for our food!

For Peace like a River flows through us now,
We need not worry or fear,
Our Heavenly Father has promised,
To always keep us near!

Jesus said those loving Him will never die,
And we can trust His Promise, for He will never lie!
We can trust Him fully, all for us is done,
For He said on the cross that it was finished,
He revealed the New, for the Old had passed away,
Though we still have trials, the Victory is won!

For Peace like a River flows through us now,
We need not worry or fear,
Our Heavenly Father has promised,
To always keep us near!

We now live in His Presence, no need for worries or for fears,
He will never forsake us, nor leave us to our tears!
He always will comfort, through those He has redeemed,
To strengthen and encourage, to relieve us with these themes!
To remind of His love, that He so graciously brought from up above,
We now are Blessed on Earth as in Heaven, because He brought us Near!

For Peace like a River flows through us now,
We need not worry or fear,
Our Heavenly Father has promised,
To always keep us near!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Into the Mystic

Why is the Orthodox Church afraid to acknowledge that Christ ( God ) is actually 'in' Her, not just in a metaphorical ( mystical? ) way, but in Reality, and has cemented the Bond of Marriage with Her? Are we here simply to do the will of our Heavenly Father, or have we become One with Him that we might enjoy Him forever, like an old Married Couple? Are we here to simply reflect and symbolize His Glory, or are we here to be His Glory and shine it forth into every dark place?

Our lives should show forth His Glory, as the Psalmist wrote in his 19th Psalm, 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork'; yes, arguably, our clothing, demeanor, and even architecture should reflect this Divine Purpose, but just like the practice of Circumcision, Passover & the keeping of the Feasts ( and Sabbaths ) under that first ( covenant ), and Baptism & The Lord's Supper in the New Covenant, if these symbols simply reflect a dutiful observance, while inside, the observers are 'full of dead men's bones' ( 'Whitened Sepulchres'-Matthew 23:27 )!

Symbols are helpful; there is nothing intrinsically wrong with symbols! They help us to understand why a certain set of actions is required, or suggested. For instance, a school crossing sign tells us that school children often occupy a certain place at times, and the sign is painted yellow to make us understand that we should use extreme caution in proceeding into that space! Signs are very helpful in other areas as well, and can even save lives! Imagine that you are in a large unfamiliar city ( even  a small one ), and you suddenly find yourself in a life or death situation, and need to find an ER or hospital quickly; following the blue hospital signs, one can usually be found fairly easily! Of less importance, but still very helpful, if one needs to find the airport in any given city, or even just to find the way back to the interstate, by following the signs, one can eventually find the way to their desired destination.

The Architecture of the Church, especially in centuries past, symbolizes very well the Beauty of Zion! David wrote again, in his 48th Psalm, 'Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, [ is ] Mount Zion [ on ] the sides of the north, the city of the great King'. The City that John described in Revelation 21 as, 'descending out of heaven from God' and 'having the glory of God' was/is beautiful indeed! This Beauty, though symbolized in John's use of metaphor, and evident still today in the actions of God's People, was never meant to remain as such, but always & only pointed to the Reality, which was 'Christ in you, the hope of glory', as the apostle Paul told the Church in Colosse.

Does one form of architecture better symbolize more clearly to a watching world, the Beauty of the Reality of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth? Does a certain type of clothing, as opposed to another, better represent or reflect the Reality of Christ in Us? It might seem so, and in fact there is nothing wrong with building or dressing symbolically, but is not this Reality better represented by a Life Lived in Communion with that Blessed Presence? Are we, as the People of God, not the Reality of which John wrote? The Author of Hebrews said as much when He wrote, 'But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than [ that of ] Abel'.

If we are focused on the Symbol rather than the Reality,  we will, as did the pharasaical Jews, be found to have turned the Temple of the Living God into an idol, saying with them 'The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord [ are ] these'. Even His own disciples said, 'Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings [ are here! ]' ( Mark 13:1 )

This is much of the problem in today's Church; with futurism so rampant, the belief that Jesus did not return when & how He promised, and thus that the Marriage of Heaven & Earth has not yet taken place, the People of God, for the most part, are still living as though the Glorious Presence of God is only in some building, some structure that man has devised, rather than accepting the act that He did return when & how He promised, and now dwells as One with ( in ) His People, who are now 'leaves of the tree......for the healing of the nations' ( Revelation 22:2 ). As the True Temple of the Lord, we can much better present the Truth of the Reality to the 'world' around us by Living in the Blessedness of the Presence before them, than could ever be represented by some building, no matter how beautiful or glorious!

Let us determine to live such a Life before a watching 'world' that men & women everywhere will 'see' our good works and glorify our Heavenly Father; let us not rely on mere symbols to shine forth His Glory, but let our Love & Communion be the Evidence of the Reality!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Transparency of the Christian Life

A friend was just telling me about a sermon that she had heard this past Sunday. Her pastor preached on transparency, which, I believe you will agree, is a good thing, either way! Whether a person is transparently good or transparently bad, transparency is always a good thing!

Is it better for a person to be totally honest about their wickedness upfront, or for a person to look good on the outside, yet to be full of dead men's bones on the inside? Would you rather wait for a person to prove their wickedness at some point down the road, in which case pain will most like occur, or see their wickedness right off, and save yourself that pain?

On the other hand, wouldn't it be awesome if we could see right away if a person was who he or she said they were? If people could be trusted to act exactly as they claimed to believe, or practice what they preach, imagine the kind of life we would have! The world would be a better place, methinks, if people acted transparently: then we would know more precisely who we could and couldn't trust with our most precious possessions!

Covenant life should be transparent, not to the point that we have no privacy, but so that it is readily evident to those with whom we come in contact that we are who we say we are, and that we are good & trustworthy! Anyone with whom we have to do, should immediately be able to sense that there is undeniably something different about you, something which is good to the very core! If we make a claim to be something we're not, and later someone ( or everyone ) finds out who we really are, then how much harm have we done to the Reputation of the One that we claim to be?!

One might say that non-transparency is the spice of life, and in some instances they could be right! Sometimes it is a good thing to be pleasantly surprised, to not judge a book by its cover, and to find a diamond or a pearl of great price underneath a rough but sturdy exterior, like a rose that's almost hidden by the thorns! A person may be quite unpresentable on the outside, but the most genuinely loving & caring individual on the inside, and this is sometimes the case, but most often, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck; it is a duck!

On the other hand, though, the surprise is not so pleasant when the pleasantly refined & beautiful exterior reveals the monster inside! When the one that we trusted with our most precious possessions turns out to be truly unworthy of our trust, then depending on who & what all is involved, a veritable flood of pain comes crashing down, most often leaving behind an almost irreparable wreck!

Whether the person in question, then, turns out to be good or bad, pleasant or evil, it is a good thing to be able to tell right away if they are worth the investment. Sometimes, one whom we thought was a diamond turns out to be a mere lump of coal, or a rose turns out to be nothing but a thorn-bush. But then there are those who, though rough around the edges, and not much to look at, turn out to be the best friend or lover that we could ever wish!

Surprise is very often the spice of life, but sometimes it's more like bitter herbs to those who live by it! Better to live transparently as the People of God than to live dishonestly, knowing that you may inadvertently be causing a world of pain to those you claim to love best! If you truly love as you are loved, let the object of that love, as it were, see right through you, and if they still love you, do your utmost to keep that love!

To myself more than anyone,
Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Present Reality

Are you an IBD? Do you hold the CBV or the IBV? Respectively, these terms stand for 'Immortal Body at Death ( can't forget IBN-Immortal Body Now ), Corporate Body View, and Individual Body View; but what do they really mean? There are probably more interpretations of these phrases than there are fingers on your hand or toes on your feet!

Let's start with the last one first ( 'the first shall be last', etc., right? )! The Individual Body View, especially as opposed to the Corporate Body View, should be fairly self-explanatory, right? Wrong! To understand what the hell this person is talking about, one must first be at least somewhat familiar with the Story. In particular, it is best to have a firm grasp on the Resurrection! ( I know; that's asking a lot, nowadays )

'The Resurrection', you say, 'isn't that where, at the end of time, everyone will be raised back to biological life, and the good people of the world will rise to Heaven, and the bad ones will descend into Hell?' That's likely, to one degree or another, what you grew up believing if you were brought up in a traditional church congregation ( I mean, even the movies teach you that! )!

Sorry to disappoint all you escapists out there, but that just isn't the Resurrection; NO, far from it!

The Resurrection, embodied in Jesus the Christ ( John 11:25 ), did not involve individual bodies being reanimated and rising up through the atmosphere. Yes, like the Gospel of Matthew records ( 27:51-53 ), individual bodies were raised from their tombs/graves after the biological reanimation of Jesus' physical body, but that may be a story for another day!

The Body of Israel had died! We see this throughout the Prophets, and Ezekiel 37 shows us the clearest picture of what the Resurrection looked like. It was not an individual, biological body being reanimated, although individual bodies were involved, as they are simply a part of the whole; it was a Corporate Body ( if you are wondering what 'corporate' means, find a dictionary! ), that of Israel who had died! The resurrection of Lazarus, as of those who appeared in the Holy City after Jesus' Resurrection, along with others as well, was simply a physical picture of a spiritual Reality!

Well, we've already discussed the Corporate Body View, but it could still bear some more clarification, no?

Corporately, or as a whole, a conglomeration, you might say, the Body of Israel who had died ( metaphorically ) needed New Life breathed into Her! We see this most clearly happen in Ezekiel 37, as was mentioned above. To get the clearest picture though, you should go back to Genesis 2:7!

The Individual Bodies within Israel were resurrected only as a part of the whole, the body politic, you might say! Although, as we read in Matthew 27:52, 'the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised', these bodies were raised for the same reason that Jesus' biological Body was raised, to show those weak in faith & slow in understanding that the death had indeed been defeated!

There are those even today, who still speculate that a Corporate Body Resurrection is in progress! Indeed, it is! Because both the Corporate Body of Christ & the Resurrection Himself exist for Eternity, this will always be the case! There IS a slight difference, however ( okay, maybe a little greater than 'slight' ); we today, are living IN the Resurrection, whereas those of Jesus' Day were looking forward to gaining entrance!

Is there a Resurrection to be looked forward to, after our biological bodies stop functioning and assume room temperature? It's a good thought, but as we've explored elsewhere, it is just that, a good thought, a pleasant speculation, if you will! This is where we come to the Immortal Body Now view!

The Immortal Body Now view is a bit harder to explain, and A LOT harder to believe!

Individualistic thinking has gotten the Church into a lot of trouble over the long ages, and especially since the second and third centuries AD! Understood correctly, from a corporate or covenantal view-point, this is the more correct of the various views at hand, but if not understood correctly, and from a non-covenantal and individualist viewpoint, it sounds like its proponents are saying that our individual biological bodies will never perish!

Jesus did say, as recorded in the Gospel according to John ( 11:26 ), that 'whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'. Most, if not all Christian accept that Jesus was not speaking here of biological death, but others stubbornly hold on to the notion that Jesus was speaking of some future resurrection, because a more literal translation reads, 'and every one who is living and believing in me shall not die -- to the age' ( YLT ), or 'And every one that liveth, and believeth in me, shall not die for ever' ( Douay-Rheims 1899 ). However, in context, especially with what Jesus told Martha just prior to this, 'I am the resurrection and the life', that theory is quickly dissipated ( or should be )!

The Immortal Body that is now, is none other than the Body of Christ, the Church! The individuals within that Body, while their biological clocks will eventually run down ( happens to the best of us ), in this sense, because they are part of the Body, DO have the Immortal Body Now! Though we have been blessed with biology, in order that we might be God's Hands & God's Feet, we are, in Reality, One with our Heavenly Father, and One Spirit, as He is! Because we believe in Him & keep His Word, and are the Offspring of the Heavenly Marriage, we will never die; when our biological bodies cease to function and perish, then our spirits separate from our biology, but we remain in Close Communion with our Heavenly Father!

Though held by those ( primarily ) who hold to the principles of Fulfilled Eschatology, the Immortal Body at Death view is probably the most futuristic, and likely the most damaging of these proposals! I should point out that, in one form or another, this false belief is also the 'darling' of any self-respecting Futurist! 

Immortal Body at Death, or IBD, is about as individualistic as it gets! This belief assumes, first of all, that the Body, or even individual that Jesus spoke of in John 11:25, as living forever, or at least not dying forever, was a biological one. It could not be more wrong! Jesus promised this Eternal Life in other Gospel passages, most famously John 3:16. The Promise of Eternal Life NEVER referred to individual, biological bodies; it ALWAYS referred to the Corporate Body of Israel, She who had died!

Throughout the pages of History, we can read how those who had died, as Adam did in the Garden ( 'in the day you  shall surely die' -Genesis 2:17 ), would one Day, in THEIR future, have New Life breathed into them. This was Israel, not according to the flesh, but 'the Israel of God' ( Galatians 6:16 ), not as individuals, but as a Corporate whole, who would be raised to New Life ( in Christ ) and would inherit the Promised Resurrection!

We too, as part of that Body, the Body of Christ/Israel, and Sons of God, are inheritors of the Resurrection, though we are born into it. There is a sense in which, even now, Individual Resurrections occur on a daily basis, as non-believers accept their position within God's Temple and exercise their responsibility to maintain a healthy Communion with His Body! Since we though, as believers in the 21st century, never belonged to that Dead Body know as Israel according to the Flesh, being 'sons of the resurrection' ( Luke 20:36 ), we 'merely' live in that Present Reality!

Another view, which has recently came to my attention, is the Energetic Body View, or EBV. Not having done any research into this view, and because this post is already in danger of becoming too lengthy, we will suffice to say that this Energetic Body may be summed up in the words of a famous Spaniard,

 'I do not think it means what you think it means'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, May 12, 2014

Jesus, Mary & Joseph! ( A Mother's Day Sermon )

The birth of our Lord was doubtless one of the greatest miracles recorded in Scripture! For a young woman like Mary, who had never known a man, to be found with child was not only miraculous, it was also rather dangerous in her day and age! Her peers, not to mention the Jewish Sanhedrin, or leaders of the day, might not have understood that she was impregnated through what today might be call artificial insemination. Scripture tells us in Matthew 1:18 that 'before they came together ( speaking here of Joseph & Mary ), she was found with child of the Holy Spirit'. Now, without going into the intricacies of how a normal child is conceived in the womb, it would suffice to say that what was begotten of this Blessed Union was Immaculate indeed!

The Birth of Jesus was the Reality of the Promise which was introduced back in Genesis 3:15 ( quote ), the Seed of the Woman who would crush the head of the serpent! As the Son of Man, He lived a Life for us to follow, and as the Son of God, He gave us Life!

The Prophecy of Zechariah came in the midst of the Babylonian Captivity, and spoke of the Coming Glory of Yahweh's Temple. We see this, in verse 12 of chapter 1; 'Then the Angel of the    Lord    answered and said, “O Lord of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?”' Reading through Zechariah's prophecy, we find several mentions of a Coming 'BRANCH'. Of 'My Servant', says Yahweh, 'From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the  Lord; Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord.  He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.' Again, in chapter 8, verse 3, we read, 'Thus says the Lord:  I will return to Zion, and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the    Lord  of hosts, the Holy Mountain.' Yet again, and finally, in verses 7 through 10 of the same chapter, 'Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west;    I will bring them back, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.  They shall be My people and I will be their God, in truth and righteousness’, and so,  'Let your hands be strong, you who have been hearing in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, who spoke in the day the foundation was laid for the house of the  Lord of hosts, that the temple might be built.    For before these days there were no wages for man nor any hire for beast; no peace from the enemy for whoever went out or came in; for I set all men, everyone, against his neighbor'!

The Promise of the Presence was a Hope that Israel had clung to since Her conception! She had struggled with Her innate desires for millennia and had finally come to birth; the Time of the Promised Messiah had finally come, when She would be freed from Her bondage and would finally, once and for all, play Host to the Spirit of Yahweh! She would be the Temple 'made without hands' ( Daniel 2:45, John 2:19 )! 

As we come to the time when all things would be fulfilled, we find a young woman of the House of Israel, promised in a betrothal contract, to a just man, one of the House of David. That Mary was a virgin is clear, for Scripture tells us that she had not yet been intimate with a man ( verse 34 of Luke 1 ). The question of why Mary had to be a maiden is still a matter of some controversy in the modern Church. Much of the misunderstanding and disharmony comes from an individualistic, non-covenantal viewpoint, one which has plagued the Church for centuries, and maybe even millenia!

Individualism removes Jesus from the context of History & relegates Him to the realm of the individual, rather than seeing Him as He truly was, the Savior of His Covenant People!

Our Lord had prophesied, through Isaiah ( chapter 7, verse 14 ) that 'the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son'. The mother of our Lord, as the representative Virgin of Israel, must be immaculate, or undefiled, because Israel according to the flesh had become metaphorically defiled, having 'gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot' ( Jeremiah 2:20, 3:6 ),

God chose Mary, because as a virtuous young woman, and who had not known a man, she was therefore metaphorically representative of the Israel of God, as opposed to Israel according to the flesh, who had been committing spiritual adultery & harlotry against the Lord their God.

When Jesus was born of first conceived in Mary’s womb, Heaven Itself entered into Earth, or metaphorically, the Land! This Intersection brought to Reality the Promise of the Presence that can be seen throughout the Scriptures. Jesus, as Man on the Land, was also He who dwelt in the Heavens, so when these two were brought together, the New Temple that Jesus spoke of in John 2:19-21, was formed! 

In our Call to Worship, David, as King of Israel. prayed not just for himself, but for Israel as a whole. As a prophet and the representative Head of Israel, David knew that his own sin, and thus his own need for redemption & renewal, although very real for him as an individual, was merely a picture of the greater need for the Redemption & Renewal of his people. As with many of the prophets, his own life events and personal grievances were significant of a greater spiritual reality: Israel had committed spiritual adultery against Yahweh, and thus, David's own sin signified the greater and more deep-seated sin of his people!

David was a type of Christ, and perhaps the greatest, being, as we read in Acts 13:22, a Man after God's own heart! As Jesus would later take upon Himself the Sin of His People Israel, bearing 'our sins in His own body on the tree' ( I Peter 2:24 ), so David himself, in his adulterous relations with Bathsheba, pictured for his people the spiritual adultery for which they themselves would be in danger of being cut off from the Presence of Yahweh and from the House ( or Temple ) of Israel!

Just prior to His promise of a New Covenant ( 31:31-34 ), the prophet Jeremiah recorded this Promise from Yahweh ( 30:8 & 9 ), 'For it shall come to pass in that day,’ says the  Lord  of hosts,  ‘That I will break his yoke from your neck, and will burst your bonds; foreigners shall no more enslave them.  But they shall serve the Lord  their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.' It is common knowledge & understanding ( among most, anyway ) that this David ( which, BTW, means 'Beloved' ) is none other than He who would later be born of the Virgin, as Isaiah had prophesied some time previously.

Joseph, whose name means 'God will increase’, was of the direct lineage of David, and therefore, Jesus could legitimately take His seat as the True King of Israel! Mary, as we read in Luke 3:23-38, traced her line of descent through another of David's sons, not through his firstborn, Solomon, whose name means 'Peace'. Nathan, this other son, whose name means ‘Gift’, together with his brother’s name, revealed beforehand that the Promised Messiah would be ‘The Gift of Peace’!

The Revelation of Jesus as the Christ was not only THE defining Event in History, one which turned the world upside down ( or actually, restored it to rights ): it was not simply the Greatest Miracle, or Story Ever Told, it was in fact the Intersection of Heaven & Earth, the entrance, finally & fully, of the Presence of our Heavenly Father into His Creation!

The Marriage of Heaven & Earth was the End from the Beginning! From the Creation in Genesis to the New Creation in Revelation; The History of Israel was one of Creation, De-Creation, and Re-Creation, or, in other words, as we read in the Song of Solomon, ‘boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl again and marries her’!

As the Offspring of this Holy Marriage, let us live our Lives with the Grace we have been given, in His Presence, and facing each obstacle with His Strength; let us be the Over-comers that we are!

Let us honor our mothers, not this Day only, but every day, knowing that it is through them that we have been blessed with Life!

What a Conception!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Breath of Life

Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
Ezekiel 37:9 & 10

With the advent of the Covenant Creation model ( not a new concept ), especially, there is some dissension within the Christian community at large about whether 'the breath of life' refers to the physical or spiritual life-force of humanity. 'Was Adam truly the first human being to walk planet earth, or was he simply the first to Commune, through Covenant, with his Creator?' This question, among other related questions, could and has  released a firestorm & veritable flood of controversy!

If Adam was merely the first man to walk with God, think what that would do toward repairing the rift between Science & Religion in the minds of many Christians; the possibilities are nearly endless!The universe, to say nothing of the earth itself, might indeed be millions, even billions of years old, like Science tells us! How far away, according to Science, is the furthest visible star? Depending on whether you are using a telescope or viewing the night sky with the naked eye, the answer to this question may vary anywhere from 100,000 to millions and even billions of light-years; that's astronomical, however you look at it!

In other words, we're looking at these stars today just as they appeared then! Either that, or they were created with the appearance of age by an infinitely devious Creator, just to screw with us! If you believe that our Heavenly Father would do that to His People, you might be part of the problem within modern Christianity! ( of course, Scripture DOES say; 'He who sits in the heavens shall laugh'! )

So anyway, getting back to the subject at hand, if this 'breath of life' is referring to something more than mere physical existence, many of the problems within modern Christianity would be rendered moot,, such as the supposed rift between Science & Religion, and even the nature of man & the Nature of God could safely be re-examined! The nature of man and his resulting fallen condition, as opposed to what Scripture tells us in II Corinthians 5:17, 'behold, all things have become new', would be reconciled without having to become a cowboy, just by the realization that The Sin of Adam had primarily spiritual, not physical consequences, and thus saw Spiritual Fulfillment in Jesus the Christ!

The Nature of God, on the other hand, although an infinitely greater Subject, might be brought closer by the realization that, as the Creator of the Universe, and the Great & Holy Spirit, our Heavenly Father has condescended to make His Dwelling with ( in ) His Creation, through His People! Who & What God is would become clearer to many Christians with the acceptance of the Blessed Reality of 'Christ in Us'!

Those who believe that this 'breath of life' refers to mere human existence are consistent then, when they come, for example, to the Story of the Flood of Noah's day! If the physical life-force of mere humanity is the referent here, then we might well conclude that the scope of the Flood was universal, and that every living being on planet earth, except for those ( relatively ) few, perished! However, we have then, not just a rift between Science ( in general ) & Religion, we have a rift between Biology & Religion!

In some sort of Evolutionary Development, one of the sons of Noah must have eaten his Wheaties, because he sired some real 'giants' among men! Genesis 6:4 tells us, 'There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore [ children ] to them. Those [ were ] the mighty men who [ were ] of old, men of renown'. Now we're back to the Nature of God & the Sons of God! Were these in fact angelic spirit-beings ( whether good or evil ) that somehow physically impregnated human women ( oh, wait, the Holy Spirit did that with Mary, right? ), or were they simply those descendants of Noah that married outside the bounds of the Covenant?

 And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.
Genesis 6:17

For centuries, modern Christianity has accepted the plain 'fact' that not only was the scope of the flood universal, the destruction of 'all flesh in which is the breath of life' was universal as well! This leads to a host of problems, one of which is that 'as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive'. Although many Christians have accepted some form of universalism, this has become a real problem & cause for dissension among those who are the Body of Christ! This belief in some sort of 'Universal Salvation' has come about, in large part, because of a non-covenantal understanding & a misunderstanding of the Nature of God!

Historically, the Orthodox Christian Church has decried the universal aspect and scope of salvation, and even though there have been several who may have entertained the notion, it was widely accepted that most would end up in Hell, while only a select few would make it to Heaven! Not only does the belief that the 'breath of life' referred to spiritual and not physical life speak to the Nature of God, it also challenges the traditional & orthodox notion of Heaven & Hell! If all people will eventually be saved, why is there a Hell at all? IS there a Hell?! If there IS no Hell beneath. is there a Heaven above?!

The Breath of Life is not only THE most important question, theologically speaking; it could have infinitely far-reaching implications ( and applications ) regarding our understanding of the Nature of God & the Universe! All of this, however, is a moot point, if we do not put this understanding into practice, or, in other words, if we are not religious about it!

Since, as I believe, along with a growing number of Christians, 'the breath of life' is the Spiritual Reality of 'Christ in us', we should live in that Reality, not expecting that Jesus will return someday ( 'soon'? ) and whisk us away to Heaven, destroy this Earth, and then build a 'new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells' ( II Peter 3:12 )! We should live freely, in the knowledge that, while biological death is a natural occurrence, we, as the Body of Christ, have been eternally united to our Heavenly Father! We ARE Kings & Priests on the Land that our Heavenly Father has bequeathed to us!

The Breath of Life was/is the Spirit of God becoming One with His New Creation in Christ, in Essence, the Marriage of Heaven & Earth! If it is merely the life-force of human existence, then when our biology expires, we must become less than what our Heavenly Father created us to be! 

No wonder that modern Christianity is in the shape it's in!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Beasts of the Field

Imagine that!

In certain circles today, there is a progressive sort of talk going around, concerning, of all things, the Story of Noah and the Ark! The historicity of the Story and the scope of the Flood are not so much an issue anymore, but whether the animals on the Ark, the ones that entered two by two, were simply representations ( not uncommon throughout Scripture ) of human beings! If this is so, such a revelation would go a long way in turning upside down the traditional & orthodox understanding of the true Story behind Noah's Ark, and would represent a huge paradigm shift in the way we view Salvation & Redemption!

If the scope of the flood was not world-wide, covering all terra firma under the heavens ( sky ) and it was human beings of every sort who were saved through the vessel of the Ark, then maybe the Story of the Flood of Noah's Day was not about the future redemption of the entire creation ( natural, animal, and human ) at all! Maybe it was simply an allegorical Story, witnessing to the future Redemption & Salvation of God's People, from both the Jews & the Gentiles!

Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance  and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.  In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.
Acts 10:10-13

Though application might be made here to a change of the Jewish dietary laws, Peter, as a traditional Jew, understood soon enough what Yahweh was telling him through the vision. As we see by reading further in the text, the animals in the sheet were representative of the Gentiles with whom Peter would share the Gospel the next day. He was not being told that Jews were now allowed to eat just any kind of meat, but that he 'should not call any man common or unclean'. Peter learned that day, as a representative of the Jewish nation, that it was to all men everywhere, not just the Jew, that the Gospel, or Good News had come!

They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, 
and gives it to whomever He chooses.
Daniel 4:25

Interestingly enough, in Nebuchadnezzar's Second Dream, recorded earlier in this passage, we see that the king was likened to a mighty tree 'whose leaves [ were ] lovely and its fruit abundant, in which [ was ] food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and in whose branches the birds of the heaven had their home'. As the king of a mighty empire, Nebuchadnezzar might easily have understood that the mighty tree which was chopped down in the vision was representative of himself. He would doubtless have understood this representation and even been proud of what he had accomplished, but it was the second part which he would have had trouble, not being a Jew, or Hebrew, in understanding. He would be changed into a beast?! Imagine that!

The representation of men as beasts was not a new thing, either! In John's Revelation, the Beast was revealed, to those with the capacity to learn it, as a mere man ( Ezekiel 28:9 ).The Beast of Revelation was simply a literary tool used to represent men who were in opposition to the reign of Yahweh. There are many references to beasts in this manner throughout Scripture; for example, David wrote, in Psalm 49 ( 20 ), 'A man [ who is ] in honor, yet does not understand, is like the beasts [ that ] perish'. Another way to put this, I believe, would be that without The Breath of Life, or the infusion of the Spirit of God, man is simply a beast, and perishes like all beasts!

The prophet Isaiah refers in such a way to the Egyptians to whom Israel had turned for the hope of salvation. Using the parallel form of literature that those familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures should be very familiar with ( Jeremiah 4:23, Isaiah 65:17-19 ), he referred to the Egyptians as mere dumb beasts through whom no real help or salvation could come!

Throughout The Prophets, Yahweh continually invites 'the beasts of the field' to His Great Feast. This Great Feast saw fulfillment in John's vision ( Revelation 19:9-18 ) of The Marriage Supper of the Lamb. Their feasting on the flesh & blood of Israel was significant of the Gentiles participation in the Body & Blood of our Lord ( John 6:53 ).

Even today, we tend to represent men with beasts, or even as beasts! In our terminology, people will often say, of a man ( or woman ) exhibiting great brute strength or prowess of any sort, 'what a beast!' Although not in use so much anymore, in old books, you may read phrases such as 'how perfectly beastly that man was', or 'what a beastly proposition', in reference to unwanted attentions or events which should not have happened.

Comic strips are probably the most common & familiar way in which we make this comparison in today's culture! You could not count, with all you digits, the comic characters out there who are representative of human society. I mean, do you think that Mickey & Minnie Mouse are actually supposed to bring to our minds thoughts of cute little fuzzy creatures with pea-brains, scurrying all over?! Of all the comic strips, old & new, that we look forward to laughing at in the daily newspaper, how many are dominated by animals that think talk and act, JUST LIKE HUMANS?!

When we begin to understand the Hebrew mindset, and their literary style of writing, the pages of Scripture are opened to us in a way that had been dark to us before! Understanding that a man without understanding, or illumination by the Holy Spirit is 'like the beasts that perish' helps us to make real sense of the Story and of the Reality of The Breath of Life! It is not this physical existence which is in view in the pages of Scripture, although in a very real sense, application must be made to our physical existence, but rather it is the Reality of the Presence, the Spirit within us, which is the Subject & Object of the Story of Israel; it is how the Son of Man, as Well as the Beasts of the Field, became the Son of God!

Charles Haddon Shank