The Pagan Path

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

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Breaking Tradition; Eating With Unwashed Hands

'Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated?  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are [ the things ] which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.'
Matthew 15:17-20

During Jesus earthly ministry, one of His most famous actions ( and probably favorite thing to do ) involved challenging & over-turning many of the established religious traditions of the day! Everywhere He went, He challenged the notion that the outward things we do are what matter! Jesus got to the heart of the issue, reminding those who had ears to hear, that it was a heart issue, and if the heart was evil, so would the actions be, but it always starts with the heart, then is usually worked out in our actions!

In our day, we who believe a fulfilled eschatology are in much the same boat ( so to speak ) as Jesus was! As we continue to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our Heavenly Father, and realize the presence of His Kingdom, making application of those implications; we find ourselves fighting much the same battle; almost at every step, challenging the traditions of men, and undergoing persecution because of it!

Sometimes, especially in this day & age, it is wise to wash your hands before you eat, and usually even, to wash the fruit or vegetable you are about to eat ( 'you don't know where that's been' )! This, however, was not what Jesus had in mind when He said 'to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.' Physically speaking, we can all attest to the fact that eating, with your hands especially, without 'washing up' first, can cause any number of illnesses, from something as minor as stomach cramps to something major, like death! In Jesus day, this was probably not as much of a problem because they did not have all the chemicals & pesticides that we have now. Even though, I'm sure they had their own problems dealing with 'unwashed hands' besides tradition!

Though the hypocritical scribes & Pharisees were more concerned with their outward traditions, Jesus over-turned this notion by saying  it was not that which entered the body that defiled the body, but that the defilement came from within, from their own wicked hearts and minds, which, more often than not, did come out through their actions!

While there are many good & right traditions of men today ( even the Pharisees had some good traditions ), even these must, to whatever extent, be re-examined, re-thought, so that we might learn not to rely on our traditions, but remain open to God's Plan for Us ( the People of God )! If we do not keep an open Heart & Mind to the Spirit Within, we may end up, just as those Pharisees of Jesus day, rejecting the Word of God in favor of our own traditions!

Let us trust Our Father's Wise Bestowment, and determine to remain open to His Plan for His People, for we know that is A Good Plan, and will always turn out for our good, despite our tradition!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, August 29, 2014

A City Under Siege?

Jesus said once that, 'the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force' ( Matthew 11:12b ). He was speaking of the ministry of John the Baptizer of which His own ministry was the continuation, or fulfillment. In today's day & age, it seems sometimes like this is still the case, but we may be assured that Jesus was not speaking of this present age, but rather of the current age in which He first uttered these words!

'How can we be assured?', you may well ask! Well, when Jesus said this, He was currently dealing with the problem of the troublesome Pharisees who thought that the Promises & the Inheritance belonged to them, simply because they were made to Israel. The only thing is, these Promises WERE made to Israel, and Israel alone, but the Promised Inheritance was for Israel according to the Spirit, and not Israel according to the flesh!

Just prior to His statement above, Jesus said, 'from the days of John the Baptist until now'; in other words, He was telling His audience that the Pharisees were trying to enter the Kingdom by force ( of Law ) because they thought that it was their by Divine Right, and if anyone threatened to wrest it from them...............well, you know the rest of the Story!

Jesus signaled the very Presence of the Kingdom of Heaven! He told the Pharisees ( Luke 17:21b ), 'the kingdom of God is within you' ( not that the kingdom was within THEM personally )! Other translations might say, rather than 'within you', 'among you', or 'in your midst'. In context then, Jesus was saying that the Coming of the Kingdom of God & Heaven was not an observable phenomenon, but was rather something that was a matter of the heart. With the change of heart would come an observable change of actions, yes, but Jesus made a point of saying, as He did elsewhere, that it all begins with the heart!

Many in Christendom, most in fact, still have a view of the Kingdom as if it is still under siege! There are doubtless still enemies of the cross, so to speak, but since the Death of Death ( the ministration of death ), the Victorious Cross of Christ has seen all enemies placed beneath His feet! No more does sin & iniquity separate the Covenant People of God from the Blessings of His Presence; those who were once far off have been brought near as well!

The Kingdom of God today is being daily expanded, not by force & violence, but by the gentle wooing of the Spirit! The People of God often take part in this gentle wooing, although, in the past ( remember the crusades, the Inquisition, etc.? ) our 'wooing' has not been very gentle; in fact, the History of Christianity has been pretty violent! Much of this violence can be blamed on a false eschatology, as well, because the Crusaders thought their City was under attack!

We may be assured that the Kingdom of God is present today by the very fact alone that our Heavenly Father has made His dwelling with us ( John 14:23 )! We are His Kingdom! It is evidenced in our lives when we keep His commands & live according to His Word! Those who do not live according to His Word ( follow Jesus ) do not enjoy the Blessedness of His Presence, but they are still within His Kingdom, in His Presence!

As we, His People, live our lives thus in His Kingdom, let us, as much as lies within us, determin to live at peace with all men ( and women ), to love them as ourselves, and so gently ( not by force & violence ) to work together with the Spirit in Courting them for His Kingdom!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Divine Authority; the Forgiveness of Sins

'Now, when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God,
 who had given such power to men.'
Matthew 9:8
'The question', as a good friend of mine once said, 'is that of authority!' Who has it and who doesn't?

Where does Authority come from? If you're a believer in God as the Creator & Sustainer of all, you must acknowledge that, ultimately, authority belongs to Him, and He delegates it to whomever He will! Jesus told His disciples that 'all authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth' ( Matthew 28:18 ). He earlier told His disciples, 'you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel' ( Matthew 19:28a ) If He gave His disciples in the first century this kind of power & authority, would it not follow that He has given us, in the 21st century, that same kind of power & authority?

Jesus also told His disciples, 'if you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven, but if you retain [ them ], they are retained' ( John 20:23 ), again, to those in the first century! We are told to forgive our brother ( or sister ) when he ( or she ) sins against us. Through the Power within us, we have the Authority to forgive sins, as well as the Authority to do many other things!

In this present day & age, there are many who would try to either wrest our God-given Authority from us, or deny that we have it in the first place! Don't believe them or let them; we are the ones with the Real Authority, any authority that anyone but you exercises over your own things is what you have granted to them! You've heard it said, 'use it or lose it!' True, to a great extent; because we have not exercised our God-given Authority, 'they' have taken it upon themselves to 'exercise' it for us, and it usually isn't very pretty, or to our liking! 

We have the power to forgive sins, this much is clear, sins against ourselves ( I say this with some trepidation ), and sins against God! 'We have the Authority to forgive sin, even against God?!, most would no doubt protest: 'isn't that a Roman Catholic doctrine?' 'How could we presume to have the Authority to forgive sins against God?', you might ask; Jesus told Peter, one of the 'pillars' of His Church in the first century, 'whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven' ( Matthew 16:19 ). Now, understand that this was said of His first-century Church, and the Marriage of Heaven & Earth has since occurred, but even now, we, the Body of Christ, His Church & His Temple have this Authority! 

Since we have this Authority, over what else do we possess this Power? We most certainly have the freedom to do what we will with what God has given us, but is that the extent of our Power & Authority? Since Jesus promised those first-century disciples that they would judge their own brothers & sisters, are we not called to do the same? Many Christians like to take Matthew 7:1 ( 'Judge not, lest you be judged' ) out of context and say that we should never judge another, but that is not what Jesus was saying. He was speaking directly to those ( Pharisees ) who were condemning others for sins that they themselves were committing! We are to judge, and because of the Spirit within us, we judge righteously!

We are the judges of the earth, and those to whom we delegate that Authority, whether we mean to or not & whether we like it or not, will exercise that Authority as 'they' see fit! If we don't like it, all we have to do is resume that authority, with righteous indignation, and begin to exercise it once more, first, within the realm of our own person, then our own family, then eventually into every sphere of our influence!

This is, after all, 'Our Father's World'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, August 25, 2014

'Where Have All the Good Men Gone?'

Has anyone noticed the alarming amount of single mothers out there, most with multiple children ( over two )?! ?Ever wonder why this might be? At the same time, interestingly enough, homosexuality, or at least bi-sexuality, seems to be becoming ever more popular! This is almost as alarming as the first, and more alarming to most Christians. Now, to be fair, not all homosexuals/lesbians have turned to that type of relationship because of the lack of good men, but I believe that common sense & experience would show that many have!

At the same time, rather than marriage ( even if there is a commitment, of sorts ) young women & men are proving it to be more popular to 'shack up'; to live together ( even to have children together ) without making a covenant of marriage together! Although, among non-Christians, this commitment would not be called a covenant, it's probably as close as they're ever going to get to true marriage before they meet Jesus! On the other hand, some Christians have opted to go the route of covenant marriage, which often includes the women retaining her maiden name, for whatever reason.

We, as men, have dropped the ball!

Either we let our spouse carry them around for us or we have no balls at all! ( Or maybe the problem is that they just haven't 'dropped' yet ) 'Where have all the good men gone?' Who the hell knows! There are good men to be found, for sure ( just ask some of the women I know )  but they are few and far between these days, it would seem! There is definitely a shortage of good men in this day & age, but to tell you the truth, many of the women aren't much better!

The prominence of 'shacking up', and living together ( 'in a relationship' ) is not all on the men; some women seem more then happy to follow this growing trend! One of the reasons for this, I believe, is that it make things simpler when problems arise and the commitment on either or both parts is not strong enough to survive it. This happens too quickly between properly married couples as well, but things get a bit more difficult when you're married. It's harder, especially for the women, to say goodbye, even to an abusive spouse ( women are, for the most part, more emotional )!

We at Covenant Community Church, have been listening to some great sermons recently, particularly from our one teaching elder ( preacher ), that have reminded us how the modern Church ( and when I say 'modern', that's a relative term ) has lost Her focus on The Story ( of God's People ) and thus have defaulted much of their position in this world & their responsibility as the Wife of Yahweh! We can actually see much parallel between this situation and that mentioned & discussed previously! Is it too much of a stretch to see that men have lost their goodness because they have lost touch with their own Father; that because of a lack of a right relationship with God, and their own kinship with His People ( past & present ), men & women have forgotten who they are & where they belong ( more importantly, to Whom they belong )?!

Women, no matter how much they may deny it, want & need our protection! This is because, for the most, women are quicker to form emotional bonds ( being, for the most part ) more emotional than men ( This is not always the case, with either all women or all men ). When we, as men, do not protect our women, as is too often the case, she will often seek that protection ( call it 'security if you like ) elsewhere, usually, from some other man! One of the main reasons that some women become known as 'easy' or loose' is because they are desperately seeking the protection & security that they are sure is out there somewhere! Some never find it, and give up on men entirely, while others , always seeking, never find it, and die from a broken heart!

There is a Balm in Gilead! There is Hope for the Hopeless! When one turns to the One who will never, no never leave us, nor forsake us; that one will find in Him, will find in true men of God the protection & security that she longs for! If men have lost their goodness because they've lost their God, women have lost hope because they've lost their One & Only hope!  Our God & Father is our only True Provider; He is the only One that will never fail us & the only One that will never leave us or forsake us! Men fail, women fail; they do not always like each other & they are not always there for each other; indeed, they cannot, by their very nature, be!

This is our Hope, our only Hope; a return to The Story & to its Author! Only a relationship with our Creator & with His Creation will do! Marriages that do not acknowledge this relationship have survived the test of time, seemingly, but at what cost? Can they really be called marriages? Though both parties may have fulfilled their contract ( on paper, anyway ); I believe it would be safe to say they are not really married, but simply going through the motions!

Let us take a stand and show that we are men, once more ( I speak for myself & those whose balls have yet to drop ); let us show our women that we can protect them & offer them security, and let us keep on doing this & never stop!

May it be,
Charles Haddon Shank

Everybody's Doing It!

Okay, not everybody, but it seems that the ALS 'Ice Bucket Challenge' has taken the world ( and Whitehall, Montana ) by storm! Some have noted the senseless & even selfish nature of the 'challenge'! Others accuse ALS of supporting abortion through their stem cell research! Whatever the case may be, the 'challenge' seems to have raised a lot of consciousness & awareness world-wide, as well as providing a fun, if somewhat dangerous past-time for some people!

Don't get me wrong, I get that having ice-water dumped over one's head is supposed to give people an idea of what it can be like for one who suffers from ALS, with the struggle, especially in the latter stages, for every breath! It is easy to empathize, especially after experiencing the 'challenge', with those who do have to struggle for every breath ( I struggle with this myself, sometimes ), and in a way, this is a show of support ( taking the 'challenge' ) for those who struggle thus, but would it not be a better show of support to simply donate?

From what I've heard & read, the 'challenge' was to donate money to the cause or be doused with a bucket of ice-water. Another was to donate a lesser amount and be doused anyway! To donate or not to donate is a personal choice, so whether you take 'the challenge' or not, the choice is up to you!

Is it a waste of water, as some have been heard ( and seen ) to complain? Sure it is, but much less than we Americans wast everyday on washing our vehicles, doing our dishes, taking long, hot showers, etc.! How many of us think, when we carelessly do any one of these things, of those less fortunate, even in our own country, who cannot afford to waste water in those ways? Many in certain African nations don't even have the available water necessary for the mundane tasks of everyday life!

The ALS Foundation even has this notation on their website;

If someone wants to pour a bucket of ice-water over their head and challenge their friends to do the same; I'm not going to condemn them for it, but neither will I participate! I'm very comfortable, especially as we rocket forward, especially here in Montana, into the Fall season, with taking nice hot ( or warm ) showers indoors! If someone else wants to dump ice water all over their head & body when it could be used for better purposes, that's up to them, but you won't find me doing that, especially not in this weather ( I wouldn't even do that on a hot Summer day! )!

Peace Out, all you 'wet-backs'; go soak your heads!

Charles Haddon Shank

P.S. We seem to have forgotten, as Christians, the biblical injunction found in Matthew chapter 6;

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

Friday, August 22, 2014

'Happy' Christians in the Age of Grace

It seems that the latest trend nowadays, especially within the realm of Christianity, is to 'come 'out'! To ( come out', of course, is to admit that one has been living in denial, and is now ready to acknowledge before the world that they are homosexual, or that they prefer sexual partners of the same sex, whether for just flings ( multiple ) or for life. While it is admirable to buckle down and make a commitment to someone, the question before us today is whether a person can make a homosexual commitment and remain a Christian!

British ( Christian ) rock star Vicky Beeching stunned the world recently with her announcement that 'I'm gay, and God loves me just the way I am'! One thing we may note here is that Ms. Beeching, whether she meant to or not, is acknowledging that her homosexuality is wrong, or according to the Bible, a sin! Is it as sin? I myself have struggled with the issue in the past, and continue to struggle with it! It is one thing to go to Scripture and stone those who prefer partners of the same sex, with the use of certain proof-texts, but can we go to the same Scriptures and say that it is wrong for to people of the same sex to love each other to the point where they are ready to commit their lives to each other?

As we have seen previously, there are some ( Christians ) that believe, since 'we are not under Law but under Grace'; there is no such thing as sin anymore, and therefore it is no longer a sin to force a union with one of the same sex. This brings up an interesting question; 'is it possible for there to be union between two members of the same sex?' If so, how? If not, why not? Must 'union' necessarily involve procreation? Is it possible that two people of the same sex could make a spiritual union, and therefore spiritually procreate, by simply passing the knowledge of God on to the next generation, not necessarily their own natural progeny, but to a sort of spiritual progeny?

The Law, as most Christians will tell you, condemns the act of faux copulation between two people of the same sex! Many would even tell you that this is wrong even for a single person to engage in, by him or herself! Since, as most Christians labor to point out, we are not under Law, but under Grace, that Law no longer condemns us, for the Grace of God covers us! While this is true, that the Law does not condemn us ( those who are in Christ ) & that the Grace of God does cover us, this does not give us license to do what God has previously said was wrong, or sin!

So, we are back to the haunting question, 'is homosexuality a sin?' The Bible most certainly seems to condemn it as such, but does it not do the same for heterosexual unions outside the covenant of marriage?Does not Scripture speak more harshly, or at least as harshly against this latter group, those who unlawfully engage in sexual relations?

'If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination'. 
Leviticus 20:13a

'For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions.
 For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.'
Romans 126

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

Here is irrefutable proof that our Heavenly Father condemns such activity, right?! The latter half of verse 13 of Leviticus 20 reads, 'they shall surely be put to death, their blood upon them'. Has that changed? Has our Heavenly Father, now that we are in the Age of Grace, changed His modus operandi, having become gentler ( feeble ) in His old age? Was He the harsh and angry God that we are used to hearing about in the Old Testament, but now, with the Advent of His Son, has He become a kinder, gentler Lion; has He been tamed?

Here's the final question; 'can a homosexual be a Christian?' Most would immediately & vehemently say 'NO', but is it really that simple? There is an operational theory that there is a homosexual gene, but then there are those who say that it is rebellion against Almighty God which causes certain men & women to prefer the same sex, because, 'God gave them up to uncleanness'! If it simply IS a gene which naturally attracts them to the same sex, is this not simply the way God made them, so therefore may we say that our Heavenly Father DOES love them, as all of His children? On the other hand, if they are just rebelling against His natural order, should we not condemn, not only those who do such things, as with all those who rebel against this order?

Most telling, maybe, is the fact that people like Vicky Beeching, who have unveiled their homosexuality while still claiming the name of Christ are saying things like, 'God loves me anyway', are not so much using the 'I was born with it' card as the 'Grace' card anymore! If we have understood the Scriptural condemnation of same-sex 'union' correctly, can we conscientiously not put these people to death? If we have not understood the Scriptures correctly in this matter, what then?

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Making Love in the Age of Grace

Seriously, how many years has it been since 'making love' simply meant showing affection? For a man to make love to a woman could be anything from paying attention to her ( specifically ) or respectfully holding her hand at a party ( ball )! How have we come so far, or progressed to the point that to 'make love' to a woman ( including, but not limited to your spouse ) means doing much more than it ever did 100 years ago?

Although the word ( love ) means basically the same thing that it did then, much has changed over that century! Probably most infamous was the Era of Free Love, from sometime in the 60s to...................well,it's never really ended, has it? Even before that, and some might blame it on The Beatles or Elvis, when the Era of Rock 'N Roll with that devilish African beat, loomed large on the horizon, wars, in particular World War II had a great effect on confusing what many at the time saw as the separate roles of men & women!

What is love, though? We have explored this important subject previously, but we might do well here to look at it again! Is love merely the act of sexual intercourse or is it something more, and different from that? Certainly, in making love to your spouse, sexual intercourse might be involved ( likely ), but making love to your spouse could mean anything from just cuddling with her to having a sort of 'spiritual intercourse'! It could be just showing your love for her by deferring to her, by doing something for or with her ( or him ) that usually isn't really your 'cup of tea'! Love is active, and although it often involves having sexual intercourse with your spouse, it doesn't have to; we can make love ( show love ) for our spouse in many different ways!

In this Age of Grace, as it is often called, those who believe that since 'we are under Grace, not Law' seem to think that it's okay to have sexual relations outside of marriage. 'Making Love', especially since the 60s, involves having sexual intercourse with just about anyone we feel like, when we feel like it, even if they're not our spouse ( especially if they aren't, maybe ). According to Scripture, this is all wrong, and whether we agree or not, whether we judge those outside or not, our Heavenly Father condemns it as sin, and so, therefore, should we! 'Just sayin'!'

'Making Love', when defined as the act of sexual intercourse, should be reserved for one's spouse, according to Scripture, but in the original sense of the phrase, and in the truer sense, to 'make love' to another person does not necessarily involve this act! One can show love for a person of the opposite sex ( not one's spouse ) without fornicating or having sexual intercourse with them! We must admit though, in this day & age, especially with the influence of the Entertainment Industry ( music, movies, TV, etc ) it can be very hard not to lapse into the emotions of the moment!

Is it possible to show love for someone ( or a number of someones ) of the opposite ( or even the same ) sex, with reverting to your basic animal feelings? There may be differing opinions on whether or not this is possible, or even 'the right thing to do', but just because different people have differing opinions does not mean that all are right!

Sexual Intercourse, while it is an act of love between spouses, is not so between two unmarried people! Scripture defines it as 'The Marriage Bed', and so, unless the participants are not married ( to each other ), it is not an 'act of love', but is merely the natural course when our feelings ( animal instincts ) take over! While it is not necessarily wrong for these feelings to overcome those who are married to each other, it is wrong for those who have not been covenantally joined together!

Let us show our love for each other, not by falling prey to our animal instincts & fornicating, but by acting within the boundaries which God has prescribed for us in His Book of the Covenant! We can love each other without lawlessly jumping into bed with just anyone, and letting our feelings & animal lusts have free rein! By the Grace of God, we can follow His Law concerning this matter, and love one another as He first loved us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Institutional Servitude

From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?
Matthew 17:25b

Jesus asked Peter this question in anticipation of a query from Peter regarding whether He should pay a certain tax or not. While Jesus dealt with this situation in a very unique and miraculous way, the question does arise as to whether we owe everything we are required to hand over to the! If our true King is Jesus ( God ), and we owe our allegiance to Him, how can we give our allegiance ( or anything else ) to some shadow government who is murdering babies and committing God-only-knows what other abominations?!

In this day & age, there are many, even Christians, who seem to think that we owe this 'shadow government' everything, including our allegiance! 'They fought for our & won our freedoms', you might hear, 'the freedoms we enjoy today exist because they were instituted in the Constitution & other founding documents!' You may agree with this statement, but a Christian should immediately see its flaws; it is our Heavenly Father who has granted us our freedoms, and whether they are bolstered by documents like the Constitution, or denied by some 'faux government', those freedoms exist because they were given by God!

This 'faux government' has instituted many regulations which should never have become law, or what is known as 'the law of the land'! Many Christians, because of a faulty theology or a wrong eschatology, have returned to a sort of slavery, because they believe that God requires them to obey every law of man ( government: we are required to follow God's Law, PERIOD! If, in following God's Law, we inadvertently obey the laws of men, then so be it, but the only Law we are required to keep is that of our Heavenly Father!

Sometimes, subservience to this false governmental authority is motivated by fear, an almost consuming fear of what this 'shadow government' might do to us & our loved ones if we do not conform! This is most definitely a valid concern in this day & age, but if we trust the power & authority of our Heavenly Father to override that false power & authority exhibited by our Federal Government, then we should have no fear of what men can do!

As we deal with this 'shadow government' on a daily basis, which we must do, we should remember where the Power & Authority lie, where our Freedom comes from & why it exists, and how we, as the Sons of our Father in Heaven, the Great Judge & King of all are act! We, as the subjects of the Great King, and the Sons & Daughters of our Heavenly Father, have no need to fear what these mere men may do, but, trusting in the One who truly upholds our Freedom, we may serve without fear, not as slaves, but as Kings of the Earth ourselves!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Spirit is Moving!

Turmoil, to say the least, in the Middle-East, as well as other areas in that general region. And Africa; Africa: about the only news-worthy item, of late, to come out of the Dark Continent is those doctors that contracted Ebola and were quarantined and brought within our borders, but you can be sure that's the least of their/our problems when it comes down to it! There are numerous hotspots all over the world where needless violence & murder occur on what seems to be a daily basis. The Michael Brown incident in Fergeson, Missouri is simply the latest in a long rap-sheet of similar incidences!

We can argue & vilify the unjustness, or justness of his killing ( call it 'murder' or 'self-defense' ), but either way, it didn't have to turn out ( end ) the way it did! Michael Brown did not have to die, but neither did he have to do what he did, whether it was stealing a couple cigars or running from the cops ( resisting arrest ). Likewise, the cop who shot him did not have to kill him, he could have just wounded him so he could stand trial for his crime. Both of these men made choices which have had far-reaching repercussions! Right or wrong, this and other such incidents are having a much-needed effect on the populace at large!

We have seen an abundance of examples recently ( and that's just from the mainstream media ) of the almost boundless evil that human beings are capable of when their selfish nature goes unchecked! For a biblical example, just read the story of Cain & Abel in Genesis 4. Gold told Cain, 'If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.' If Cain had checked his anger at the door, Abel would not have died!

There is much evil that occurs daily in this wide world in which we live, and it is all because of the choices that human beings make! Cain chose to let his anger & hatred rule his actions and so murdered his brother. Some people choose, for whatever reason, to commit similar atrocities on a daily basis. It is because of the choices that we, as human beings make, that evil exists, or happen. If people chose, unselfishly, to always act for the good of others, evil would not be a problem!

Though evil occurs on a daily, hourly & minute-by-minute basis throughout our Heavenly Father's glorious Creation, there is also much good, largely because of the evil! The apostle Paul wrote, in his letter to the Romans ( 7:13 ), 'Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.' So that good may be revealed in all it's goodness, evil is permitted to occur!

When bad ( evil ) things  happen to good people, we can often ( usually ) see, at some point, that this evil happened to give other good people the opportunity to exercise their goodness! Does this, however, make the bad things any less evil? Well, yes & no! All things, as we believe, happen for good to those who love God! With the Peace of God ruling in our hearts, then, and with this knowledge & comfort, can we truly say that bad things happen to good people?

Evil only exist because people make bad choices, and yes, some people may have become so habituated to making bad choices that they seem to become evil thems! Nonetheless, whatever evil may come, we may be assured, through our Heavenly Father's wise bestowment, that is for our goo & the good of His People! Does this justify wrong-doing?! By no means! Those who do wrong bear the responsibility for their bad choices! All we can do is better!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Fall

The weather of late, here in South-West Montana has reminded us all of the nearness of our Fall, or Autumn season, and the relative shortness of our Summer season. Although the weather is still pretty warm, even blistering hot during the day, the nights are showing how close we are to Fall by their comfortable chilliness!

The title above could evoke many different images, as well as many memories! There are memories of falls that have come and gone; both the seasons & our own failures. We look back on days gone by with both fondness & regret, regret for the times when we know, with all our worldly wisdom, that we should have run the other way, for the times we should have said no, yet at the same time, fondness for those very seasons & reasons! It is too common for us to look back in time, and remember with regret the Falls of Life, because it is only through the Falls, that we come to our Season of Rest ( Winter ), our Season of Renewal ( Spring ), & our Season of Recreation ( Summer )!

Many Christians recall with regret ( some rehearse it ) the Fall, or failure of our 'first parents', Adam & Eve! You may hear anything from, 'if I had been there, I would never have eaten' to 'there, but for the Grace of God, go I'. We may or may not have acted differently when faced with that temptation, but it is certain that Jesus would never have come if they hadn't! It is also doubtless that we would not be where we need to be if we had not 'fallen' when & where we did!

'How can he say that with any certainty?', you might be thinking! Well, there are two certainties in Life, that God is, and that somewhere along the line, somebody, somehow, is going to have to 'pay the piper'. Our 'piper' was paid a long time ago, and now we take comfort in the fact that 'all things work together for good to those who love God'. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and so whether you believe that or not, even whether you are a Christian or not, our Heavenly Father uses everything & everyone for His own Purpose & Plan!

Take for instance, the latest Fall of Man from his exalted position: there has been a veritable blizzard of activity across the World Wide Web of late concerning the apparently evident suicide of Robin Williams. One may wonder at God's Purpose in all this, while others have taken a slightly different tact, and used this opportunity to lay bare before the world the gross selfishness of this sort of action, while at the same time recognizing that depression is a very real fact of life, whether it is merely chemical imbalance or a deeper emotional & spiritual problem.

Did his depression so overwhelm his mental state that he could see no other way out? Did he choose, in his selfishness, to commit one last act to make the world take notice that he, Robin Williams, was someone to consider? Was his decision to take his own life his last act of defiance against a Creator that he had to know was there, yet spurned? We'll never know! For all intents and purposes; does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things? Well, one thing is for damn sure, this lamentable occurrence has spurned much debate & some much needed activity in the area of depression, its causes & cures!

When men fall to that point, as Robin Williams found out, there is no turning back! Once the knot is tied and the chair kicked out from under us; without Divine Intervention, there's not much we can do but flail hopelessly & uselessly against the inevitable; the final curtain has fallen, and there's nothing any human effort can do to restore that life!

Life, however, must go on, and with God as our Strength & Righteousness, the Seasons of Regret, Rest, Renewal & Recreation will continue! Depression is a fact of life; we all, even the best of us, have our ( secret ) moments of despair, where we think that 'I just can't take it anymore' ( if you have not experienced this, you might be floundering in that famous River over in Egypt )! 'Life', as one songstress put it, 'has a funny way of helping you out'; 'isn't it ironic?', or so it seems!

While we move through these seasons, theses times of despair & peace, hardship & joy, we are made to realize that it's all good; no matter the torturous route that we take, no matter the speed-bumps & pot-holes that we encounter on our Journey: One thing is Certain, we have a Heavenly Father who sees us through every season, and gives us Strength for the Journey!

Robin Williams was not the first to succumb to the Season of Regret, and he won't be the last, but with God as our Reliable Strength, we will always move past every season, Resting, Renewing & Recreating in Him!

May we ever rely upon that Strengh, take comfort in our Rest & Recreate Anew in our Living & Loving!

In His Grace, Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

War is Hell, but Heaven is in Our Dreams

The past couple days ( on FB, anyway ) have been rife with the saddening news that our favorite Martian, or Orkian rather, passed from this life at the ( relatively ) young age of 63. Although it is alleged that suicide was the cause of death, and it is known that the actor suffered from severe bouts of depression, we will not jump to any conclusions, here! Of late ( late 902-early 2,000s ), Williams was known for his foray into not-so-nice-guy roles, and for movies like 'What Dreams May Come' This movie was a fantastic foray into a rather large subject of late; 'Heaven'! Is our utopian, other-worldly vision, and especially William's vision of this dream-like place real? Will we really see our loved ones again? Will we walk with them, talk with them, laugh with them, love with them? It's a beautiful dream, no doubt, and those in particular who suffer from debilitating diseases or from any one of the many cancers out there love to hope for this reality; can we or should we conscientiously take away or deflate their hope?

Another big story of late ( related ) is the genocide going on over in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq! Certain of the groups being singled out over there are Christians, but it is not just Christians, it is any that do not follow Islam! I understand that even certain sects within Islam are being targeted, as well as select ethic groups. This is a horrible tragedy, and although certain groups in our own country may try to link it with the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, it was bound to happen. On remark I heard, concerning our presence over there, was along the lines of, 'what do you expect in a democratic Islamic State?' Democracy is, simply put, 'rule by the people', but really, it is 'rule by the Elite'! Those who have the power make the rules! There is no doubt where the power resides over there, and judging even from our showy presence over there for the past ten years or so, it wasn't US!

War, in any circumstance, and however justified, put very simply, is 'hell'! Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to experience it! The genocide/war going on over in the Middle-East, whether it be Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan or Israel is an ancient evil; it has been fomenting & troubling those regions of the world for millenia, and will likely continue to do so for millenia! We may pray for Peace in the Middle East, and that may come, but first, the things that make for peace must first occur. Whether we agree or not, the Christians & other religious or ethnic groups that are being targeted over there are probably not as innocent as we'd like to think! There are many over here in this country that stand with Israel ( Israelis ) in their war with Palestinians, and if you do not take that stand with them, you may not be a Christian! The thing is that many of those Palestinians are Christians as well but even there, we can be sure that war is not one-sided, and neither side is as righteous as some may think!

Getting back to 'Heaven', and the 'untimely' death of Robin Williams, whether by apparent suicide or not; we may hold on to our hope, or not, of 'a utopian dream-state' ( or however we envision it ), but on thing is for sure, Mr. Williams knows for sure now.........................or not!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Without Sin

I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day' ( II Timothy 1:3 )

In certain theological circles today, in particular, those who call themselves 'preterists', there is a Great Denial going on! Because, according to their logic, the Law passed away at the cross ( AD30? ). And if the Law no longer exists, there can be no more sin, because 'sin is the transgression of the law' ( Romans 4:15 ). However, if the Law no longer exists, what about the Immutable One who gave the Law?

There may be a quibble here about some difference, or distinction, between the Law of God and the Law of Moses. Let us quickly dispel such a notion! The Law indeed was given through Moses and it was given, yes, to Israel under that first covenant, but it always was ( and is ) God's Law! Did His requirements change?

The apostle Paul wrote ( and antinomians LOVE to misquote it ), 'we are not under law, but under grace', thereby pitting, as most see it, Law against Grace! However, what most fail to take into account here ( some are just ignorant ) is that when Paul wrote these words, he was speaking to those who were being told by the Judaizers that they must keep the Law ( individually ) in order to enter the Kingdom. He was reminding them that it was by Grace that they were inheriting the Kingdom, and not by the Works of the Law!

Law, as we have seen previously, is not opposed to Grace, it is a necessary part of it; it is how our Heavenly Father shows His Grace! Take an earthly father for instance; he may show Grace to a disobedient child, for instance, by not stoning him, as the Law required, but unless there is a law telling the child to do what his father tells him, how can he be disobedient? Concurrently, if a father tells his child not to run into the road in front of a speeding truck, only by grace, because he loves his child, will the child be saved. So our Heavenly Father saved His People by His Grace, in spite of their failure to keep His Law!

If there is no more sin, then there is no Grace! Grace is an integral component of Law ( else we would be Muslim ) and Law is integral to Grace. If there is no Law, there can be no Grace!

We read in I John 1:8,  'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.' This statement was meant primarily for the ears of those Jews in John's day, who relied on their Works of the Law ( which were as filthy rags ), but it holds true for some people today, especially those who say that there is no more sin!

Paul was not without sin, but through Grace, he served with a clear conscience! He never told his readers that there was no longer any Law, he was simply reminding them that they were under Grace, and not Law. Law, like Death, could not keep them! So why do we have such a problem with sinning? If we are truly a follower of Christ, a Christian, we would not be sinning like we do, right?

Well, to a point, in a sense, if we are a Christian, we will not practice sinning, but even though, we do fail to keep His Law, even the Law of Love! We know, however, that our Heavenly Father, full of Grace as He is, does not condemn us for our sin, or transgression of the Law ( our Works/Fruits do that ). If we continue in or practice our sin of choice, we will continue to condemn ourselves by our works, but our Father will never condemn us, for as the apostle wrote, 'there is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ' ( Romans 8:1 )!

'There is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ'; that is the Key: if we are in Christ, we are not condemned! It is not because of individual righteousness, as the Judaizers thought they must prove, that we have inherited the Kingdom, but because we are in Christ that we are blameless and without sin! He took the sin of His People ( corporately, not individually ) upon Himself, and transferred upon us His Righteousness, at the same time transferring us into His Kingdom!

Individually, it is wise to not practice our sin of choice, or even better to actively stop sinning, because, though our Father does not condemn us ( if we are in Christ ), our Works, or Fruits bring their own sort of condemnation! Are we more Righteous in His eyes when we succeed in keeping His Law? Obviously not, but when we fail to keep His Law, it tends to adversely affect our relationship with His Body, His People, on top of the Natural Consequences we will no doubt have to pay!

As we Live our Lives in Love, let us take great comfort in the Fact that it is as a Body, the Perfect Body of Christ, that we are Without Sin & Blameless in His Sight! Individually, to think that we as Mere Humans could ever hope to be perfect is so absurd, it's almost laughable; if it were not so serious, it would seem hilarious! But as Members of His Perfect & Sinless Body, we can serve Him with A Pure Conscience!

Amen & Amen!
Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, August 08, 2014

For the Love of God!

I know; 'we've been here before', but the issue seems to be coming up an awful lot lately, so 'here we go, again'!

What is Love?

Is it a nice warm ( often 'hot' and rather uncomfortable ) feeling that we sometimes get when we see any certain member of the fairer sex? We often say, when we see a rather good looking example ( I do it too ), 'I'm in love', but is it truly Love, or are we simply saying, 'I WANT that'?!

We all know that 'God is Love', but what does that really mean? My translation of Romans 8:28 says that 'God works all things for good, to those who love Him and keep His Word'; the apostle Paul wrote, 'love is the fulfillment of the law' ( Romans 13:10 ). So, if we fulfill the Law of Love toward any given person, we have shown Love to that person, right? If God is Love, then if we have God, we can be certain ( fo' sho' ) that we have Love! Conversely, one cannot truly Love if one does not have God, right?

There are those out there who do not necessarily claim to 'have' ( a relationship with ) God, yet show many of the fruits of a true & lasting Love! The orthodox ( institutional ) church, especially, would likely say that, unless one proclaims their relationship with their Heavenly Father & and congregate with them ( the institutional church ) that relationship does not exist and the love they have cannot truly be Love! However, it is abundantly evident that, just as one can be a part of the institutional church without being part of the Body of Christ, so one can be a member of the Body of Christ without being a member of the institutional church!

So, again, 'what is love?'

Well, I believe we've established that Love is NOT a feeling! Although feelings, even warm & fuzzy ones are often involved, they come, not because they ARE Love, but because when one shows Love, they often accompany that Love! To Love is to Live, so if you've never Lived, you've never Loved! Loving means Living & Living means Loving!

The apostle John wrote that 'God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son.....' ( John 3:16a ); let's stop right there for now, because that tells us what Love is, or rather, does; Love is an action! Love is an object, because we know that God IS Love, but Love is also active, because He sent His only begotten Son!

How then do we show that Love in return? Can we simply have warm & fuzzy feelings ( like during a praise-service in one of those huge mega-churches ) towards Him, getting all emotions & ecstatic ( even 'rapturous' ), or do we show that Love by acknowledging & accepting our relationship with Him, and by keeping ( obeying ) His Word? The answer is obvious; if we truly Love God, we follow His commands & Live!

We've established how we are to Love God, but how then are we to Love our neighbor? We are to Love our neighbor in the same manner; actively! By fulfilling the Law ( of Love ) towards our neighbor, by treating him or her as we would treat ourselves, by actively seeking their best interests & by unselfishly placing their needs above our own wants & desires ( 'the Lord is my Shepherd' )!

May we ever show our Love for God & our neighbor by following His Word, by doing what Jesus did, as the apostle Paul also wrote, 'Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for Her'!

If we truly Love someone, we should be willing to give our Life for theirs, to sacrifice our own wants & desires that they might Live!

For the Love of God,
Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Death & Resurrection of Joy

From a human standpoint, the world can be a very ugly place! With all that's gone wrong in God's good creation, with so much that has been turned to wicked purposes & and so many that seem to have become almost the personification of evil itself, it is tempting for the Christian to discard any sort of hope at all for this world. It seems that the best & only option is for Jesus to come back, make a way of escape for us and to destroy all that is evil, right!?

There is much in this glorious inheritance of ours that IS downright ugly, and yes, sadly, pure evil, or so it would seem, but there is much, as well, that is almost indescribably beautiful! If only we could learn to focus on what is beautiful rather than what is ugly, then we would enjoy this physical existence so much more! If only we could see the Forest for the Trees!

The way things often go in this crazy, mixed-up world, it is easy to see why even Christians tend to almost despair & pray furiously for the end of this cruel world, for an escape from the rigors of everyday life! It is, however, in these glorious rigors that we most often see the Glory of God come shining through; take such 'evils' as cancer and such. In the Christian & non-Christian realm alike; when one of our own is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness of some sort or other, it's not usually long before all kinds of support for that loved one comes pouring in, 'out of the wood-work', so to speak!

While some sort of separation usually occurs through these illnesses, even to the point of the cessation of biological existence ( death  ), and brings much pain to all involved, for those who realize the Work of God & His Salvation, it is also a Time of Joy, knowing that this one has finished his ( or her ) course, and that the Glory of God is exalted through us!

Too often; we regard the 'evil' events happening around the world with an unhealthy apprehension, observing them as anywhere from the fulfillment of biblical prophecy to signalling the end of civilization as we know it! Actually, this second scenario may not be far off, but that's a subject for another time, maybe.

Fear is the greatest Joy-killer! If you want to dampen someone's spirits, simply tell them of wars & rumors of wars, of all the 'evil' occurring over in the Middle-East right now & how it might affect us, to say little of the 'evil' transpiring within the borders of our own nation under God! We often wonder where our Joy has disappeared to, and the answer is right before our eyes, brazenly staring us in the face; it is Fear; fear that with all the goings on over there ( ME ), it's going to somehow have an adverse effect on us. The latest cause for fear is from Africa, where several doctors that had been working over there have contracted the deadly ebola virus and one has just recently been flown to this country.

We fear that we will not be able to protect those we love from these 'evils', including anywhere from an 'accidental' outbreak of the diseases that are rampant in this nation, to the insidious 'evils' that threaten our very way of life! ( then again, maybe our way of life deserves to be or needs to be threatened ) All of these concerns tend to make us focus on what's wrong rather than on what's right! In our individualistic way of thinking, we tend to look at a problem and worry about how it affects us! We not only fail to look at the bigger picture; we seem to forget, sometimes, Who is running this show!

Who IS running this Show! Many are prone to look at all that we deem wrong in this world and proclaim that Satan or the devil is running this world as 'he' sees fit, but when people do that, they often seem to overlook all that is right in this world, that the apostle Paul wrote that, 'if anyone be in Christ, that person is a new creation', and that Jesus said ( past tense ), 'Behold, I make all things new'! God's Creation has been renewed & is being renewed, in Christ alone! It is only through the continued Ministry of Christ, in and through His People, that we see & will continue to see, ALL things Renewed & Reconciled!

With the Reconciliation & Renewal of ALL things, our Joy is renewed day by day & moment by moment! Not only as physical restoration occurs through Divine Intervention, but as Reconciliation continues to occur in the Spirit through the Ministry of Reconciliation, which has been entrusted to us, the Body of Christ!

Joy comes in the Morning; the Night of Darkness & Death has passed! As we look at the evidences of A Clear and Present Danger around our Father's World, it is sometimes hard to believe this, but it is True! We have found our Joy, and now we must, in the Strength of that Joy, go forth sharing that Strength & Joy with all in our sphere of influence; though there is truly much that seems to be incurably 'evil' in our world, as much of that 'evil' only seeks a place of Rest & Repose! We are that place, in Christ, of Rest & Repose, and when we refuse them that Rest, for whatever reason, they will seek it elsewhere, even if it seems 'evil' to them!

Let us hold on to our Joy, and determine to kill, in our own lives that which threatens it! Let this be for us the Year of No Fear; the Time is Now; let us Share the Joy, Let us Love & Live in the Day, for the Night is over; we are NOW Love & Light through the Strength, both within & without, that has made His Dwelling in us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Rest of the Story

When will it end?

There are days ( believe me, I've been there ) when we just want to cry out, 'Calgon, take me away!', or, 'please God, put me out of my misery!' Depending on your situation in life, these times may come upon to a greater or lesser extent, but trust me, everyone that has a life has been there; it 'happens' to the best of us!

When we have days or moments like this, as Christians, we are reminded ( in my own words ) that all things happen for the good of those who love God ( based on Romans 8:28 ). Things may 'happen' in our lives ( 'it occurred to me' ), for whatever reason, that aren't quite 'right', but we are comforted, knowing, as the apostle Paul later wrote, 'nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord' ( Romans 8:38 ). When we come upon such hard times, we can look such trials in the face and laugh at them, knowing that through the Strength within us, and Communion with the Body of Christ, we can never fail!

The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away! Because they do not have the Comfort or Rest that the Holy Spirit alone brings, it is easy to let the rigors of everyday life take their toll and they are tempted to give up; they sometimes ( but not always ) do! Being the children of our Almighty & Heavenly Father, though estranged, maybe, these are surrounded, though they do not realize it, by a 'heavenly host', sent from the Father for such a Time as this, when they are brought to their knees in desperation & anguish.

Christians, as well, have their moments; though we realize that we have that Comfort & Rest, we often, again, for whatever reason, fail to take full advantage of the Communion that we now have with our Heavenly Father & with the Body of His Son! We let the physical trials & hardships of this existence get us down. We too often feel like our Heavenly Father HAS given us more than we can handle, and we are sorely tempted to seek for an escape!

Whether one acknowledges the Comforting Presence of the Holy Spirit & our Heavenly Father in their lives or not, He is there, and at some point in Time, He WILL make His Presence known! For some it may seem to be too late ( Hitler, Pol Pot, etc. ), but for others, that realization will Spring up in them, and they will see that, not only have they finally come upon what they have been missing their whole lives, but they will be excited to share this Good News with others who are seeking it, though they may not be able to 'nail it down'!

As the Body of Christ, we not only have the duty, but the glorious privilege of sharing this Good News with those who are most in need of it! Our own immediate families, of course, with which our Heavenly Father has most graciously blessed us, must take priority, but, as much as lies in us, we must live at peace with all men & women! We have been bequeathed with the Story, and it is one which stretches to infinity!

We are ALL an integral part of a Greater Story, on painted on An Infinite Canvas! Certain parts may seem to be more presentable than others, but the fact remains, that ALL of these parts are necessary; we ALL have a Purpose, and though that Purpose is not always evident to our finite eyes, we can be sure that it WILL be revealed in Time, our Heavenly Father's Good Time, not ours!

As the Children of our Heavenly Father, let us purpose within ourselves ( individually ) to remain in or seek the Communion of the Body of Christ, for it in Communion alone that we receive the Strength that we need to face the hard facts of everyday life in this crazy mixed-up world! Sure, people find a sort of strength every day to fight their battles, but unless they/we embrace that Strength that dwells within the Body of Christ, their strength will fail!

Until we realize that we belong to that Greater Story, and that we have a part in The Rest of the Story, we will never truly find that Strength! The realization that we ARE, in Him, the Rest of the Story that was begun & is chronicled in the pages of Scripture should give us much pause for reflection & praise! We have been counted worthy to continue the good work that He began; The Ministry of Reconciliation!

Amen & Hallelujah!

Charles Haddon Shank