The Pagan Path

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Value of a Man

The heart [ is ] deceitful above all [ things ], and desperately wicked; who can know it?
Jeremiah 17:9

In certain ( Christian ) circles today, some rather heavy emphasis is placed on this and other such passages, which seem to point to the utter worthlessness & wickedness of man, apart from belief & trust in Christ! Even as Christians, our hearts are so desperately wicked, that unless we confess our sins every Lord's Day to receive absolution, we will doubtless fall away from the faith and be in danger of burning in hell for eternity!

This belief & emphasis is no doubt part of the reason for many evils; evils like suicide, severe depression which can lead to suicide and people, young & old alike, leaving the Communion of the Saints in droves! Jesus told His disciples, 'you are of more value than many sparrows' ( Luke 12:7 ), and while one might well remind us that Jesus was speaking to His disciples there, we might do well to remember too, that we are all His children/creatures/offspring ( Acts 17:28 ), and that He 'is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance' ( II Peter 3:9 ( although these words may be seen to be primarily eschatological in scope, they hold true today as well )!

Our Heavenly Father, contrary to certain popular opinion, is not a cruel Master of Puppets! Although the apostle Paul reasoned, in Romans 9:22, '[ What ] if God, wanting to show [ His ] wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction', this, as well, can be seen as a primarily, if not totally, an eschatological construct! We know that God does not change; the Scriptures tell us of His immutability ( Malachi 3:6 ); He has not changed His 'modus operandi', but if we are to believe the majority of Christians today, God's creatures have all been condemned to one of two places, 'Heaven' or 'Hell'; either they are 'vessels of wrath' or 'vessels of mercy'!

Is the above a viable scenario; does God create a certain number of people destined for 'Heaven' while the rest are destined for 'Hell'? Is it not rather, as Peter so succinctly put it above, that He is 'is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance'?! We, as believers in a Fulfilled Eschatology, know that when Jesus, God in the Flesh, came to earth over 2,000 years ago, He consummated the Marriage of Heaven & Earth through His Advent, and through the destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple, destroyed Death forever, casting 'Hell' ( Hades ) itself into the Lake of Fire ( Revelation 20:14 )!

Since we know that our Heavenly Father does not destine His children to either one of two places, can we question the traditional paradigm that Paul seems to outline in Romans 9:22? What if God, instead of creating one group for destruction and another for eternal life, gives men a choice ( 'choose this day whom you will serve'- Joshua 24:15 ) as to whether they will enjoy the blessings of His Presence, or whether they will labor under the oppression of those who live in disobedience to His immutable Glory!

There is no man without value in the estimation of our Heavenly Father, for we are all His Creation! Does a person lose this value just because he or she chooses to live outside the bounds, so to speak, of the Family of God? Does one retain this Value just because he or she chooses to live in obedience to the Royal Law ( Matthew 22:37-40 )? Each one of us has this choice, to live according to our Heavenly Father's prescription or to become sick & die, but our choice does not determine our value! It may determine how people around us value us, as a friend or enemy ( or inconsequential ), but it is our status as God's Creation that determines our Value!

Our failure to see this intrinsic value, and so to undermine rather than to bolster it, has been the cause of much suffering & pain in this world! Because we do not see that Value in all of God's Creation, many have perished in numerous wars & untold desolation; genocides & suicides have taken places for all the ages because this group is seen as of more value than that, or, more to the point, that other group, or person has no value at all! The life of a mother overvalues that of the unborn child, or more to the point, the mother's own selfish desires outweigh the worth of any fetus she may have unwittingly co-created!

It is true, as Jesus said, that 'No man can come to me, except the Father who has sent me draw him' ( John 6:44 ), but it is within the 'heart' of every man, woman and child to choose whether to accept the Rule of Heaven ( God ) in their life, or to choose to spurn His Grace & Mercy and live a cursed existence, apart from the blessings which obedience brings ( some call it 'karma' )!

May we ever note the value, not just of our own life, but that of every other creature ( except maybe those damned 'skeeters'), and recognizing that value, treat ourselves and each other with the respect we deserve as the Creation of our Heavenly Father, whether we esteem that one has worthy of our attention or not!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Raising Cain

In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? 
Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
I John 3:10-12

It is hard to deny, in this day & age, with all the apparent wickedness that surrounds us on every side, that we are in the midst of a, if not THE, terminal generation! Everywhere you look nowadays, it seems that the idolatries that we practice in this nation, not to mention the world at large, are growing greater every day, adultery & fornication are becoming more acceptable, even almost the norm, all the time, and murder, especially in certain larger cities, seems almost to have become a national past-time ( this is barely to mention the legal murder of 3,000+ unborn babies a day )! The 'wicked one' sure seems to be having a hey-day!

Reading the headlines in many of today's national newspaper is almost enough to make you believe that 'Satan is alive and well on planet earth', but I assure you, according to an honest & thoroughly contextual reading of Scripture, he is not; at least, not the 'Satan' of Scriptural infamy!

It is accepted, when spoken of at all, that the relation of Cain to 'the wicked one' was that of spiritual paternity, in essence, that Cain was obviously 'of the wicked one' because he was himself wicked, and murdered his brother. We must note here, that Jesus told the Pharisees that they were of their father the devil ( John 8:44 )! To think that Cain and the Pharisees were actually the physical offspring of a spirit-being named 'Satan' is not only absurd, it also lends much credence to the notion that the promises of God are of a physical nature, and thus, to the very nature of our Creator Himself!

As we read Scripture in the original languages ( which is possible today, thanks to Al Gore ), we can see that much has gotten lost in the translation, whether purposefully or not, we can only speculate! For instance, if you have an open mind, you can see Covenant Creation in the very first lines of Genesis! The Story of the Fall, and the ensuing History of Fallenness, when read in the original Hebrew, and with an ability to 'read between the lines', so to speak, reveals new possibilities which are enough to make you rethink everything that you thought you knew about the Bible!

If one is at all familiar with the Hebrew 'satan', it is plain to see that the word simply means 'adversary'! Now, is this to say that a spirit-being can't be an adversary? Although the traditional view of Scripture has posited for years that pure spirit-beings do exist, and that one of them is named 'Satan', I believe that in most, if not all cases, the 'Satan' of Scripture was none other than any man who was an 'adversary' to the purposes of God! ( in fact, Scripture records at least once ( Numbers 22:22 ), that our Lord Himself played the role in opposition to another ) Debates about whether or not there is such a thing as a spirit-being may be a matter for discussion in another time & place, though, not at present!

The apostle, or Elder, John, wrote to his 'children' that the spirit of the Antichrist 'is now already in the world' ( I John 4:3 ). In a sense, that spirit exists today, there are those who oppose the Kingdom of God! No doubt much of the opposition is to those who claim to follow His orders & to 'the doctrines of demons' that they perpetrate, rather than to the gracious and loving Creator of all, but as it stands, there is still that adversarial spirit present in many people today!

The spirit of Cain, who is the first murderer ( of a fellow human ) on record in Scripture, is obviously still at work, for not a day goes by where one does not hear ( if he wishes to listen ) of a murder that has occurred somewhere in the world! Cain was 'of the wicked one' indeed, for he too ( 'the wicked one' ), 'was a murderer from the beginning'. Whether you believe that this 'adversary' was some fallen spirit-being, or just some human being ( s ) in opposition to our Lord & His Christ, that 'wicked one' of which Scripture speaks is no longer in operation! Scripture tells us that he was 'was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone' ( Revelation 20:10 )!

So, where the hell does this 'spirit' come from today?! Was Hal Lindsey right' is 'Satan' alive and well on planet earth? If not from some outside influence, then where? James asked the question of his readers 'Where do wars and fights come from among you?'; little later, he answered his own question, condemning most of them: 'You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war.' Jesus told His disciples that 'out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies' ( Matthew 15:19 ). Earlier, He had told the multitudes that 'whoever is angry with his brother [ without a cause ] shall be in danger of the judgment'.

It is from the spirit of man that this evil comes; it is not from some outside influence, whether spiritual or not! Sure, it may well be argued that there are things like a persons environment & and his familial upbringing ( or not ) which cause one to act in a certain way & to become the person that they are, and those things most certainly do have an effect on any given person, but they need not! Everyone has a choice; one can take the environment in which they live or the circumstances in which they were born and choose to circumvent them, to overcome ones disabilities ( physical or spiritual ) and to persevere in spite of them!

Cain had a choice, God told him, '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' ( Genesis 4:7 ). We know from history what Cain chose to do! Adam, whether he was Cain's paternal father or not, chose, for whatever reason, chose to ignore the instruction of his Heavenly Father and so was estranged for a time! Whatever the case may be, he chose to raise Cain, and so, the world has known murder ever since!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Taxation of America

And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants.
I Samuel 8:15 & 16

When Israel asked for a king like all the nations around them had, God warned them what the consequences would be for having such a ruler! Sure, there would be noticeable benefits, like safety & security, even comfort in their servitude, but there would be servitude: not only would this servitude be coerced, but this king would require a tithe, equal to, and in most cases, above & beyond what God Himself required!

Though America does not have a king, per se, and she is no doubt, 'one nation under God', she does submit herself, in all reality, to the rule of one ( group )! The Constitution & Declaration of Independence on which this nation was founded and by which she is supposedly ruled, are more & more being subverted and we are, in all reality, under submission to the elite, to a shadow group who have assembled from the early days of this nation behind a mere puppet!

Much like Israel, America has elected for the relative safety & security, along with the velvet chains of servitude & oppression that Big Government can provide! Although there are some fairly significant differences between Israel of old & America of today, we may note quite a few similarities too. Like Israel, America has gradually turned away from the ways of God upon which they were founded, and rather than being a light to the nations, have begun to envelop themselves in darkness. Rather than being salt & light to the 'world' ( culture ) around us, American Christians, for the most part, have become a sort of 'lite salt'!

When Jesus asked Peter, 'From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?', Peter correctly answered, 'From strangers', and Jesus replied, 'Then the sons are free'. In this country, we seem to have this all backwards; in many cases, and yes, I'm going to use the illegal immigrants for example, Americans ( sons of the kingdom ) are the ones who pay the taxes, whereas the foreigners ( strangers ) are the ones who get off 'scot-free'! Does that sound right & just & good?!

The point may be made & made well that without the taxes that we, as Americans pay, much of what has been accomplished in this nation would not have happened. From something as lofty as a lunar landing & a mission to Mars to things as earthy as interstate highways & free public education ( indoctrination, really ), there is much in this nation, not necessarily a bad thing, that would not, & could not take place with tax-payer funding. Probably the greatest evil that occurs daily in this country, the murder of the pre-born, popularly known as abortion, would not be happening, at least to the extent that it is, unless it was being funded from the public coffins, I mean coffers!

Unjust taxation may be viewed as a necessary evil in today's day & age, it is an evil, no doubt, though some good may seem to come from it, but it is by no means necessary! Not only does this coerced servitude take away much of our freedom, it takes away much of our responsibility as well! If a highway or simple road road ( even a bridge, for that matter ) is needed, then the surrounding community should band together and build whatever is needed, and the same with education; that's the way it used to be before the federal government got too big for its britches!

Sad to say, Americans, for the most part, even American Christians, deserve what they have got! Things may be turning around in this nation ( not as quickly as most would like ), and more & more are beginning to realize & shrug off the yoke of servitude that we are under in this nation, but pretty much as a whole, America is still slumbering in her velvet chains, sluggishly trudging along maybe, but still very much alive!

What may be done, you might ask, to remedy this horrible situation? Well, for starters, we can stand on principle & stop our funding of the atrocities that are perpetuated in this nation, and yes, I AM advocating the non-payment of unjust taxes! I realize that in most cases, this would likely result in loss of property, including what little freedoms we still have, as well as land and possibly even life, so this must be an educated choice, but if we are to be free of this yoke of bondage, someone will have to make it!

This total freedom from taxation, it it ever happens, is most like, barring another revolution, many days in our future, but with God as our Refuge it will happen! May it be in our day, or at the very most, in the days of our children & grandchildren!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, September 22, 2014

Washing Dishes

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.[f] Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Matthew 23: 25 & 26

In this day & age, especially, it only makes good sense to wash our dishes, not only on the inside, but the outside as well! Why the outside? Because it is on the outside that may be found some of the worst germs. Especially if we don't wash our hands thoroughly before eating, or even the table before setting it with dishes; you never know what manner of germs may have landed on it between the last meal and this!

What then did Jesus mean by telling the scribes & Pharisees to first make sure the inside of the vessel was clean, and that then the outside would be clean as well? Why did Jesus tell them that 'there is nothing which enters a man from outside which defiles a man, but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man' ( Mark 7:15 ) Is there truly nothing we can eat which will harm us; can we even eat that which is poisonous and it will not defile us?

Obviously, we can see that He was not speaking of eating, or ingesting any physical matter! As Jesus late told His disciples, it was not what entered a man from outside, in essence what he ate, that defiled a man, but that it was that which was already there that defiled a man, and would bring him ultimate harm! This revelation also shed new light on the whole notion of demon-possession or even of the devil ( Satan ) possessing the body of say..........a snake ( serpent )!

The vessel that Jesus referred to in His parabolic teaching to the scribes and Pharisees was themselves! According to Isaiah's prophecy ( 29:13 ), 'these people draw near Me with their mouths, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and their fear toward me is taught by the commandment of men'; they tried to keep up a righteous facade, but inside they were 'full of dead men's bones'. In a physical example from today, they were like a dish that sparkled on the outside, but inside was crusted with last night's spoiled milk!

So while it is always best to make sure the outside of the dish is clean as well as the inside, it is best to make sure that our heart is pure, for if our heart is pure, then what we do will be pure! As Jesus said, nothing outside us can defile us ( make us impure ); it is what we do ( from our heart ( from within ), that defiles us!

We must understand though, that while there is truth for today in Jesus' words, His main point in the parable was to reveal to them that it was their unclean conscience, despite their outward ( ritual ) cleansings ( baptisms ), that was bringing the Judgment of God on them! Through His sacrifice for His Body, the Church, Jesus accomplished that cleansing of the inside of His Vessel of Glory; by giving us a pure heart through that cleansed conscience; He has given us the freedom to go through life knowing that we cannot be defiled by associating with 'the world'!

As we Live in Love, then, may what is pure and altogether good always emanate from within, affecting what we do with our hands, and having a positive effect on those with whom we associate, no matter how dirty! May we always exhibit that cleansed conscience, for it is through that exhibition that we will have the cleanest & most sparkling dishes around!

Charles ( Dirty Dishes ) Shank

The Nature of God; 'I AM WHO I AM'

'God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit & Truth'
John 4:24

'Mother Earth' is a popular term these days, for the womb that has born us, and sustains us throughout! It can also be a term of Deity, for pantheists especially, for those who believe that the Divine is in everything, with everything being Divine. One can almost make sense of this notion, with the idea that our Creator, whatever form He/She takes, is the basis for our existence, and therefore Father & Mother!

Keeping in mind that in Luke 1:35, we read, '[ the ] Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you' ( referring to Mary's impregnation with the Son of God ), it is abundantly clear, in our English translation anyway, that Scripture does give us ample reason to view the god-head, even God Himself, as of the male gender! The argument has been made in certain circles, that the female Divine may be represented in the 'person' of the ( trinitarian ) Holy Spirit, but this would seem to be contrary to Luke's aversion that the Holy Spirit was the One who impregnated the virgin Mary.

We read, as well, in Numbers 23:19, that 'God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent'! I may rightfully be accused of proof-texting at this juncture, but there it is, 'God is not a man'; by extension, He is not a woman either, neither male nor female, not human, so to speak! In context, the writer is alluding to the fact that God, unlike a human being, does not have a selfish nature like we are prone to exhibit, but possesses a totally different nature, One that is so far beyond our comprehension, that the closest we can get to defining it is to liken it to that of a father with his children!

The question, should you choose to accept it, then remains; 'is there gender in the God-head?' Can we rightfully say that our Creator is either male or female? If we take too literally the trinitarian teaching of Father, Son & Holy Spirit, we might almost be tempted to go there. to wonder if maybe the Son is the Offspring of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit ( 'Holy Sex, Batman!' ). We need not go this far, however, because to do so not only offends the sensibilities of some of the more sensitive ( puritannical? ) Christians out there, it could literally lead us down paths where angels shouldn't tread!

As we have seen, and there is so much more 'clear' proof, the Scriptures most certainly ascribe a maleness to our Creator! Though we are accustomed to using male pronouns in describing our Heavenly Father, it must be understood that our Creator proclaimed to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM'! ( Exodus 3:14 ) No matter what gender we may try to assign to our Creator, He/She is not, nor will ever be limited by it! Scripture tells us that He is our Father, but it could also be argued that She is our nurturing Mother! ( Not sure how far we want to go there, either )

The best explanation might be found in the Story of Israel, the Marriage of Heaven & Earth! In History, our Creator God came down from His heavenly abode and deemed to dwell among mere men ( humanity ). He became Man, in the form of Israel's Messiah, that He might make Israel His Bride & us His People!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, September 18, 2014

New Heavens & New Earth; Spiritual Paradise or Earthly Utopia ( or both )?

For behold, I create news heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come to mind, but be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold I create Jerusalem [ as ] a rejoicing and her people a joy.
Isaiah 65:17 & 18

When God gave this promise through the prophet Isaiah, He obviously meant that this new heavens & new earth were representative of the restoration of Israel to His good graces, so to speak! John obviously had this passage ( in greater context ) in mind when he wrote the Revelation, as it was given to him. Although Revelation 21:1-4, torn from its necessary context, that of the History of Israel, seems almost to point us to a utopian 'heaven on earth' ( ? ), upon closer examination, it is abundantly clear that the writer employed much the same construct as did Isaiah!

Now, I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also, there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:1 & 2

If you will notice, John, just as Isaiah, wrote in such a way as to reveal a greater spiritual truth, using a physical representation! In both cases, the writer/Author used a sort of parallelism to show that this new creation of which our Heavenly Father spoke was nothing other than that which the apostle Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:17. 'Therefore, if anyone [ is ] in Christ, [ he is ] a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new', which John seems to quote from in Revelation 21:4, is speaking of that New Jerusalem, those who accepted & believed in Jesus the Christ as their Messiah!

There has been much speculation, whether biblically based or not, as to whether there is yet to be a Final Judgement, which will usher in a physical ( and utopian ) new heavens & new earth! Will our Heavenly Father, at some point in time ( future ), destroy all vestiges of wickedness from this earth? Will our living conditions return to 'Life in the Garden', where God walked with Adam & Eve in the cool of the evening? Jesus, in His Revelation to John, promised that it would be so! This promise was made to those first-century ( representative ) 'seven churches in Asia', so can we trust that this, His Dwelling with us ) is A Present Reality, or do we wait for something more ( better )?!

As a New Creation, and as the apostle Paul also wrote, 'the temple of the Holy Spirit' ( I Corinthians 6:19 ), we are, in Christ, the New Jerusalem which John witnessed ( in the first century ) coming down out of Heaven from God, we are the new heavens & new earth that the prophet Isaiah wrote about!

Since all of this is A Present Reality ( New Creation, et al. ), it is sometimes difficult for us as finite human beings, to reconcile our current conditions ( physicality ) with these promises, but we must understand that, while these promises were made to Israel, we, through the New Covenant in the Christ, have been revealed as the Israel of God!

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

These first few lines of the Song of Moses which he spoke to the children of Israel show, as well, that these new heavens & new earth promised through Isaiah and revealed in their fullness by the Revelation of Jesus the Christ were simply the maturity of The Children of God!  Our Heavenly Father, through the 'change' spoken of by the apostle Paul ( I Corinthians 15:52 ), rendered both those 'elect' ( I Kings 19:18 ) from the children of Israel ( by birth ) & those from 'every nation'  ( Acts 17:26 ), a new heavens and new earth!

If we will only hear the words of our Heavenly Father in the Song of Moses, and take from them a lesson, maybe we can, as the People of God, the Body of Christ & His New Heavens & New Earth, expand our borders, revealing the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father which is in us ( Luke 17:21 )! Through our efforts, may we see this vision of a 'heaven on earth', which John saw, come to fruition as it spreads throughout the earth!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sittin' in a Bar

I just played the pool I ever played, and am so frustrated with myself that I can't see straight! Of course, being that mad at myself  didn't help my game either, so I only got more & more frustrated as I continually got worse & worse! So, here I am, sitting at a bar, drinking & blogging; I can only continue on and hope that something I do here tonight will be blessed & a blessing!

This year has been one of change for me ( I know that sounds selfish ); earlier this year, my brother & his family experienced a dramatic change in both their life-style and their situation; they will most likely continue to experience this change for years to come! In the past several months, my sister & her family' pretty much the last blood relatives that I had on this side of the Mississippi orchestrated a move to a place far, far away, and are experiencing a big & drastic change themselves!

All in all, it has been A Year of Tears, but faced with with No Fear & with God as our Witness, this will be a year of a Glorious Change! Change is good, especially if we are Temples of the Holy Spirit! If we embrace that change, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us, it better prepares us to accept the change in our lives, so no matter how drastic that change, we will find ourselves the better for it! If, however, we cannot face this change with the confidence that comes through blessed relationship with our Heavenly Father, this change will only weaken us & cause us to fall prey to our fears!

 A good friend of mine just reminded me that I was in the process of grieving, and the more I think about it, she's right; even though I do still have plenty of people around me who love me, I will miss my sister & family more than I probably even want to admit, or realize! There is much in my pitiful life that has changed over the last 3-4 years, and these last changes almost seem to be the straw that will break the camel's back!

I will remain strong, however, because I am full of it ( the Spirit, that is )! I have the Family of God to rely on, through whom I know that our Heavenly Father will meet my every need! I praise our Heavenly Father that He does work through His people & gives us the Strength we need! I thank all of my Family, both through Blood & Water, for the Strength & Comfort that they are, and I can only hope, through the Grace of God, to return the favor!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, September 15, 2014

Covenant; the End of Judgment & the End of the Law

Judgment is a funny thing; it can tear one down & raise another up! More often than not, judgment has been given a bad connotation; famous phrases like that uttered by the famous Scottish actor Sean Connery in 'First Knight', 'God will judge you!', and the ever-popular 'judge not, that you be not judged'. Judgment, though, as Scripture tells us, is a two-edged sword, it cuts both way; some it condemns & imprisons, while others it justifies & sets free!

There is a good judgement & a bad one, a just & unjust judgement! When our Heavenly Father came to judge His people all, He separated between the sheep & the goats, those who were truly His People & those who were not, who rejected His Covenant, and killed His Messenger! with the one fine sacrifice of Jesus the Christ, Israel's Messiah, judgment was passed, for good to those who accepted Him for who He was, and for condemnation ( damnation ) to those who refused to believe that God would become flesh and dwell among us!

Not only was judgement passed at that time ( first century ), but The Judgement is Past; the People of God were judged & judged righteously, every man receiving a reward according to his works! This is not to say that there is no more judgement for the People of God, or for those who do not enjoy the Blessedness of His Presence; judgments are handed down every day! The Law of Natural Consequences is in force, as ever it was; as soon as one does right or wrong, good or bad, a verdict is announced and sooner or later ( 'be sure your sin will find you out' ),blessing or cursing will descend like a ton of bricks, for good or evil, depending on what inspired the judgement, and who made it!

The Law of God, which is basically our Heavenly Father's 'House Rules' has often been given a bad connotation as well! More often than not, Law is set in opposition to Grace, and whereas the Law held sway under that first [ covenant/contract], so now under the New Covenant, Grace has been revealed through the Son of God. The apostle Paul wrote that 'the law was our tutor to [ bring us to ]  Christ'; though a case could be made here that he was referring more to the law given through Moses, rather than simply to the Law of God, the fact remains clear that the Law/law was meant to lead His people to lasting & blessed relationship with Himself, through the ministrations of Jesus the Christ!

As the End, or Goal of all that the Law had judged, both the Law & Judgement were met together in One Person, that being the Very Son of God, God Himself! Jesus fulfilled the Law when He passed Judgement on His Covenant People! Today, the People of God pass judgement in another way; we do not make judgment ourselves, but we do extend that Judgement that was handed down those many long years ago. Though, in a sense, we do judge for ourselves ( individually ), as we are called to do, the Judgement ( corporately ) has been made, and all we can do is agree or disagree with it, which brings us to Covenant!

Covenant, though somewhat contractual in nature ( you do this & I'll do that ), differs from a contract in that it does not end when it's obligations are fulfilled! When the obligations of a contract have been fulfilled, the contract is necessarily brought to and end; the deal was made, and now that both parties have held up their end to mutual satisfaction, the parties may go their own separate ways to make contracts with other parties. A covenant, on the other hand, is usually made for life! A marriage covenant, for instance, is made 'till death do us part' ( unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way, but that's the idea ). The history of David & Jonathan would be another good example; the covenant that they made together was for good & bad: they both purposed that whatever came, they would both do as the had agreed to do, no matter the consequences!

A covenant is relational, not simply an agreement made between two or more parties for mutual benefit, ( as a contract is ), but rather a promise, for good or evil, between two parties for the purpose of cementing a relationship, involving mutual love & affection! Though, as we have seen previously, a contract may develop into a covenant, whereas the contractees may decide to continue the relationship after the contract has ended, a covenant is never meant to end, or cease, but is biding upon the lives of both parties.

The Covenant that our Heavenly Father made with His People culminated in the Marriage of Heaven & Earth! Though its beginning was somewhat contractual in nature, the End thereof was that promised throughout the Scriptures, that God would dwell with His People once more, there would be no more crying for past sins, no more more pain of separation, for the old order of things had passed away, all things had become new!

'The End is near', to the Jew in the first century, meant not that history, or time itself, was drawing to a close; the fact that the End was at hand meant that the Eschaton had drawn nigh, that Israel's Messiah had appeared and was about to render the Judgement of God! This hopeful phrase meant, to those who awaited His Coming, that the End of the Law, that to which it had pointed, was about to be revealed! The Revelation of Jesus the Christ was both the End of the Law & the End of Judgement!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Idolatry of Self

Of great concern to many Christians today is the news of certain remarks made by the wife of mega-church pastor & preacher of 'feel-goodism', Joel Osteen. The video of Victoria Osteen's remarks, which, in a sense might have been taken a bit out of context, admittedly, has gone viral, especially among many of the more serious Christians. Obviously, there are Christians out there who have no problem with her remarks, because if there weren't, she most likely wouldn't have said what she did, at least when she did!

'When we obey God...........we're doing it for ourselves'! - Victoria Osteen

Sadly, this is a true statement, at least for a lot of Christians in America! Too many American Christians go to church, the denominational house of worship not so much to worship God, but to see & be seen, not unlike the Pharisees of old, who prayed standing on the street corners and in the synagogues, 'to be seen of men'!

As human beings we naturally have a selfish bent, and while some are better than others at overcoming their innate selfishness, some glory in it! As a nation, these United States have fostered an attitude of selfishness. Public ( government ) schools teach their inmates ( students ) that they are of utmost importance; 'take care of yourself first' ( there may seem to be some wisdom there, because if you don't take care of yourself, how will you take care of others?! This, of course, leaves our Heavenly Father out of the equation! )

Pride, as well, has much to do with our selfishness! We may be so proud of say, our individual accomplishments, or even those of our children, that we make that success of utmost importance. This is not to say that we should not glory in individual accomplishments, but those individual accomplishments should be done for the Glory of God & of His Kingdom, not for our individual & selfish glory!

Many Christians, whether they attend a certain denominational 'church' every week, or watch televangelists like the Osteens on television, do it for what they get out of it, even if it is inner peace that they seek, but often just so that they can feel better about themselves! It is not wrong to want to feel better about oneself ( unless that one is engaged in a wrong activity ), but when this becomes our primary focus, then we need to rethink our attitude!

In a sense, the context of Mrs. Osteen's statement, makes all of this an almost moot point! Our worship of God is a lively thing, not for Sundays & Wednesday nights alone, but for every day of the week, in everything we do & say! We gather, traditionally, on Sunday mornings for fellowship & worship, and while our worship of our Creator is of utmost importance, humanly speaking, our fellowship with the Body of Christ is of almost primary importance, as well!

Scripture tells us that 'iron sharpens iron' ( Proverbs 27:17 ); without that necessary fellowship & communion, we become dull & lifeless! Our worship of our Creator is to be a life-long endeavor for us, 24 hours a day & 7 days a week! Can we do this without that necessary fellowship & communion? Some would no doubt argue that point, but if we are selfish enough & prideful enough to keep it to ourselves, then our salt has lost its savor & has become good for nothing but to be trampled under foot!

Even to obey God for fear of some sort of retaliation is selfish; we often fear what God might do to us if we do not obey Him! Another form of peer pressure is to go along with other Christians for fear of what they might do to us if we do not do as they do!

When we worship God, we ascribe worth to our Heavenly Father, not just for what He has done for us, His People, but simply for Who He is, because He is the Creator! We do not worship Him because it makes Him or us happy, we ascribe worth to Him because He is worthy!

And that's just the way it is!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, September 08, 2014

A Diamond in the Rough

What is the most popular response to the claim that we inhabit the 'new heavens & new earth', or 'God forbid', even Heaven itself?! 'Look out your window, read the newspaper headlines, watch the evening news; how can you say THIS is Heaven?!', in other words, maybe, is the most popular response I've gotten lately! It cannot be denied that, according to the popular 'utopian' version of 'Heaven' that dispensational futurism, in particular, has sold to the general church-going public for years, we are not there!

At Covenant Community Church, of Whitehall, Montana, which I attend regularly, one of our teaching elders has recently begun leading us through a new series called 'Heaven 101'. In his most recent sermon, in treating the obvious response above, he reminded us that coal, as it is subjected to tremendous pressure, reveals the diamond that it is. The analogy is a good one; there is a reason why the Church in other parts of the world is growing better than the Church in America; more pressure is being exerted upon them ( in fact, one might note, there is hardly ANY pressure being exerted upon the Church in America ). If anything, the Church in America is probably losing ground as pastors steadily bow the knee to whatever governmental power claims to have authority over them, and as young people steadily grow disenchanted with her weakness & hypocrisy!

Although this is a great analogy, it could almost be viewed as somewhat 'utopian' itself! God's natural creation, here in South-Western Montana especially, can be quite spectacular! It is not difficult to indicate this natural beauty with a grand sweep of the arm, and say, 'how can you say THIS isn't 'Heaven?'! If we're feeling 'awesometastic', some might be tempted to say,'I'm in 'Heaven'! The truth of the matter is, just as 'home is where the heart is', so 'Heaven is where the heart is'; no matter where you are, if your heart is at home, you're at home, and so, if your heart is in 'Heaven', you are in 'Heaven', or rather, 'Heaven is in you! You can physically be in the darkest part of the dingiest city, and if you have ''Heaven in your heart', you are in 'heaven', and there's nothing that can take that away from you!

Certain nay-sayers will tell you that you can't be in God's Presence unless & until you're perfectly sinless! To these people I like to respond with Hebrews 10:14; 'for He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified'. Our modern definition of 'perfect' is pretty much a 'utopian dream'! As Adam & Eve were supposedly created in 'sinless perfection', so man & woman, if truly a ( made ) New Creation, is supposed to be able to achieve that same degree of 'sinless perfection'. However, what many seem to gloss over is the glaringly simple question, 'if A & E were without sin, how did they sin?' Oh right, the devil, or Satan..............( do we REALLY need to go there?! )

In the truest sense of the phrase, maybe, we, as the Family of God, ARE 'diamonds in the rough'! Though most of us look like lumps of coal, and it's often not till we are put through the wringer, so to speak, under tremendous pressure, that our real gem-quality shines through, we ARE a New Creation; as the apostle Paul wrote 'old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new' ( II Corinthians 5:17b )! This New Creation is obviously not speaking of our physicality, if it were, we would really be in 'Heaven' right?! I mean, think about it, no more brain-farts, no sickness, no sadness, no cancers eating away at our bodies, no cleft palates, no stiff necks, sore backs, in-grown toe-nails, etc.! 'Heaven'! It surely is a nice thought, yes, it surely is!

We are a Diamond in the Rough, not just as individual human beings, flawed, but flawless, broken, but unmarred; as the Body of Christ, corporately, we ARE sinless perfection! We ARE, in the midst of this rough world, a flawless diamond through which shines the Light of Christ! A wise man recently put it this way; 'the mission of the Church is to be to the world what Jesus was to the Jews'! We are His 'diamond in the rough' and while it is often not till we are put under tremendous pressure that the Light shines greatest in us, both individually & corporately, we shine as diamonds in this rough and coal-black world because He dwells in us; we are His Temple, we ARE where 'Heaven & Earth' intersect, now let's LIVE it!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tears in Heaven?

In Scriptural usage, 'tears' most often are associated with 'mourning'! It was David, king of Israel, who gave us this proverb, 'those who sow in tears shall reap in joy' ( Psalm 126:5 ) ! David's words here have reference, in the context of the History of Israel, to the fact that the work of the Christ, while He mourned over the People of the Covenant who were too blind to see, brought much joy to the Father & His company, for as Scripture also says, 'there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance' ( Luke 15:7-referring to those blind, Pharisaical Jews who thought they were made righteous by the works of the Law )!

He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
 the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 25:8

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, 
there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. 
There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.
Revelation 21:4

We know that it begins with the 'heart'! Jesus told the mixed multitudes in His 'Sermon on the Mount' ( Matthew 5:21-30 ) that evil begins in the heart, then eventually works out through the hands! As with evil, so with good; it begins in the heart, we purpose, first, within our heart, to do good, then our hands & feet carry out those actions!

The 'tears' of His People referred to their laboring under bondage! When God's children were suffering in Egypt, the Lord told Moses, 'I have surely seen the oppression of My people who [ are ] in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrow' ( Exodus 3:7 ). These are the tears that our Heavenly Father would wipe away, and wipe them away He did, in the Person of Jesus the Christ! As Moses led His People in the Exodus out of the sin & degradation of Egypt, so the Son of God led His People in a New Exodus out of the sin & degradation of Israel under that first [ covenant ], for they had become as Egypt in their idolatry & adultery!

The hope of many Christians today involves the notion that there will be 'No More Tears in Heaven'! Physically speaking, we imagine, there will be no more death, pain, sorrow or crying! We know, however that these things are not always 'evil'; metaphorically, as well as physically speaking, death is a necessity of life; without the death of one ( thing ), there can be no life for another! Without pain, of some sort, no matter how great or small, there can be no gain! If we do not feel sorrow, whether it be over something we have done amiss, or whether because we will miss one who has left this physical plane of existence, then we ourselves have lost our own life! Crying is itself not a bad thing; although it often involves sorrow & mourning, tears also appear at moments of great joy!

'Why are you crying?', one might ask; 'it's because I'm so happy', is the reply that you may hear! Tears are not a bad thing; whether they are in mourning for personal or corporate sin, they often lead to repentance; when they are in mourning the loss of a loved one, then 'joy comes in the morning' ( Psalm 30:5 )!

Whether you believe that we are in 'Heaven', or the Presence of God now, or not, tears are a blessed reality! As long as we are in this physical existence, there will always be tears; that is a biological fact! If we would escape physical tears, we must escape this physicality; no more pain & suffering yes, but no more joy either! There ARE 'Tears in Heaven'; tears of Joy, the Joy that only comes with Freedom, Freedom from Bondage, & Freedom to Be!

Let us always welcome those tears, whether of joy or sorrow, for they have become our salvation!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Prostration of American Christianity

In the eyes of many Christians today, the most newsworthy article in today's headlines is the massacre of Christian ( genocide, really ) in certain areas of the Middle East! While this is a most disturbing & unconscionable trend, we, as American Christians might ask ourselves several haunting questions; 'why are they being killed?' & 'if we were in the same situation, is our own witness enough to get us killed?' Have American Christians adopted a practical stance of 'country first, then God'? When it comes right down to it, are we willing to forsake our country rather than God? Sadly, we as American Christians are not!

Two of the most glaring examples of our blasphemous idolatry are the 501(c)3 status & most recently, the fact that we clamor for the U.S.Inc to defend the status of an ancient institution, that instituted by our Creator, marriage! We bow to the Government in order that our religious organizations & institutional churches so that we can have the benefits of comfortable servitude! We are afraid to preach against certain 'sacred cows' because we might loose our favored status ( that, and our congregations might yell, 'put the prison bare back )!

Abortion is probably the best & worst example of how Christians in this nation have 'bowed the knee to Caesar'! Do you think that abortion would be as rampant today, even among Christians, as it is, if back in 1973 ( really, much earlier than that ) we had taken a stand, for life or death ( probably what it would have come down to ), and said, 'we will not stand for this abomination, especially in our own country!'? Likely, child murder would still be a festering sore on the face of the world, but I can only imagine how much less of one, if it did exist!

Those Christians over in the Middle East could probably escape the knife by renouncing their Christianity & by accepting the barbarism of Islam, but they are being killed because they don not value their temporal life above their Eternal Life! Their comfort & security, such as it is in those heathen lands, is not so important that they would sell out their Savior & bow the knee to some foreign god!

Christians, in this day & age especially, are 'a dime a dozen'! Anyone can claim to be a Christian, and as long as they adhere to a certain set of regulative principles & attend one of any number of denominational ( institutional ) churches, then we usually take their word for it and as long as they keep it behind the eyes & between the ears,the Government of these United States usually will too!

One would almost think that American Christians, to a large extent, have been bought & paid for! While it is partly own own fault for clinging to a faulty theology & eschatology, the aforementioned government has taken advantage of this weakness, and bullied us into thinking that we must seek & receive their permission to worship our Creator as we are commanded! We don't need the permission of any government in order to do what our Heavenly Father gave us the natural right to do; Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness are the most basic of these rights!

The 501(c)3 status & the governmental intrusion into marriage are only symptoms of a greater problem, 'the tip of the iceberg', so to speak! 'If only we could get the government to keep homosexual 'marriage' illegal, we'd have it 'made in the shade', some Christians seem to be thinking; 'if only we can get these ( institutional ) 'churches' to get rid of, or stop applying for, the idolatrous 501(c)3 status.......'! What about the institutional servitude that we have place generations of our young in because 'they' said that we had to get an S.S. number? What about the fact that, to do anything of consequence, we must jump through governmental hoops just to get them to give us license?!

America has many problems & at the base of the larger part of them is weak-kneed, doe-eyed, touchy-feely Christianity! Christians around this nation need to cinch up their belts, retrieve their balls from wherever they've lost them, and decide whether they are going to continue to let the government of these united States regulate their principles, or whether they are going to follow the Word of God at all costs! If things keep going the way they are, it might not be too long before we, as American Christians are forced to choose between our God or the knife ( bullet, more likely ), Life or Death, so if & when the opportunity presents itself, will we take a stand, as those Middle Eastern Christians have, or will we continue to prostrate ourselves before a foreign god?

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

'The Winds of Change'

So far, 2014 has been quite a year! We have seen several new faces, lost several, witnessed new marriages begin & sadly seen the dissolution of several others. Earlier this year, my brother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, and to top that off, the house where he & his family had lived & invested much time & money in was condemned as unlivable! For health reasons as well, my only blood relations west of the Mississippi decided to move to the Virgin Islands!

On a happier note, I was able to travel earlier this summer to my folk's place back East in Ole Virginny for their 50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration! The beginning of August, I visited Glacier National Park in north-western Montana to witness one of the aforementioned weddings. The wedding itself was beautiful, but Lord willing, the marriage will prove even more so! I had never been in the Park before, and the small bit of its beautiful scenery that I got to see, along with the wedding itself, made this a truly blessed event for me!

'No pain, no gain'!

Change is not always pleasant, and more often than not, it is quite painful! How we face the change & how we deal with the pain makes a huge difference, though, in how the change affects us. If we acknowledge that change ( and pain ) is good, and a Gift from our Heavenly Father, then we can face whatever comes our way without fear, and through the Spirit within us, effect a good, healthy change in our lives!

If, on the other hand, we do not acknowledge the Hand of God in all the painful changes in our lives, we are tempted to complain & despair! The effect that these changes, along with the accompanying pain, will have on our lives will not be for the better, but for the worse! Although at first, we may welcome these changes, often for the sake of the change itself ( something different ), if we ourselves have not been changed for the better, then our situation will only get worse!

'No matter where you go, there you are'!

Many people, Christians even, tend to blame an outside force for their problems, but if we are honest with ourselves, we can blame no one but ourselves; it's all about choices! 'Okay', one might well retort, 'where was your brother's choice in his situation?' Who would make the choice to get any form of cancer? Although I'm sure my brother & his family would have preferred a less painful awakening, I believe they are truly grateful to our Heavenly Father for the experience! Did they have a choice in the matter? Yes & no, but the Reality is that they have chosen to use this experience to glorify their Savior!

In life, there are many choices that we are faced with on a daily, hourly, even minute-by-minute basis. Seconds count! Sometimes our choices are relatively easy & and fairly inconsequential, but more often then not, they are relatively hard & have far-reaching & long-lasting consequences! This is not to excuse our bad choices, but we can  rest assured that our Heavenly Father uses even these bad choices to effect in us the change that we need. However, as we saw earlier, if we do not acknowledge this 'necessary evil' and treat it or face it with the appropriate action, we will not benefit from it, but will reap what we have sown!

My own life has been filled with change! I have moved two-thirds of the way across the country, distanced myself from all but a few select members of my family, and now face life basically on my own in one of the most beautiful spots in the area! My choices have led me here, and though certain choices that I have made in my life have been somewhat regrettable, this is not one of them: I am happy to be here in this beautiful spot, with the beautiful people that our Heavenly Father has placed me in the midst of! I am not alone here, my Family has not deserted me & never will, for it is the Family of God ( through water & blood ) that really counts through all the changes in our lives!

As we face these changes, may we always choose to face them with the certainty that, no matter how they look at first, they are good & for our good, better & best! May we ever use these changes, painful though they may be, to effect in our lives the Glory of God & His Kingdom!''

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, September 01, 2014

The Means of Grace?

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h] that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Matthew 5:43-45

Such as is described above is often called 'common grace', but can the Grace of God ever really be called 'common'? More importantly, should it?! Sure, you could say that it is that grace which He shows, as above, to all, regardless of their position before Him, and that it is only His Sons & Daughters that receive His Special Grace ( whatever that is )! The Grace of God, though common to all men, is by no means common!

The Means by which we receive this Grace, whether it be the so-called 'common grace' ( common to all ) or that Special Grace, reserved for the Children of the King, is the same; the Free Gift from our Heavenly Father! So why do we claim that certain things which we observe ( and others do not-Lord's Supper, water baptism, etc. ) are a Means of Grace? If we can receive that Special Grace only through certain Means ( such as those named ), then is it truly a free gift, or must we earn it by our obedience to these questionable commands?

The commands to observe the Lord's Supper & Water Baptism are admittedly somewhat ambiguous! Given, for one, that we live in a Fulfilled Eschatology, the Lord's Supper, which was ( traditionally ) commanded to be observed 'till He comes' ( I Corinthians 11:26 ), is now no more, if ever it was, than a feast in His honor. While Scripture does make clear that Jesus was whelmed with water, History tells us that this form of baptism was merely a symbolic washing, used from ancient times to symbolize the cleansing of an object or person by the Holy Spirit, an anointing, if you will! Both of these signs, but water baptism in particular, were meant to serve till the Reality was Present, the Revelation of God with Men that theses signs pointed to! Though these ritualistic signs may have served up until that point, the Time of the End, as a sort of means through which God revealed His Grace to His People, they serve a such no longer!

The Grace of God is Grace, pure & simple; it is neither common nor does it come through any means but One, that is, through the Free Gift of our Heavenly Father! We do not earn it or merit somehow by observing certain ritualistic signs which simply pointed to the Reality. The rain, one of the many blessings of Communion with our Heavenly Father, does not fall commonly ( alike ) on the just & the unjust because they both did a rain-dance ( as some seem to believe ), nor does the sun rise on one group and not on another because the first group prayed for it to rise, and the other did not!

It might well be argued that there is a difference between the Grace ( Sun, rain, etc. ) that is common to all,  and the Special Grace which seems to be reserved for God's People! For instance, the sun & rain might be thought of as natural blessings, while that Special Grace might include Spiritual Blessings ( like belonging to the Family of God, Communion with our Heavenly Father, etc. ). Though His sun does rise on the just & the unjust, and His rain falls on the evil & the good, there is very often a harked difference too, not only how and when it falls, but in how those different groups receive it. A wicked or evil person may have an altogether different view of those blessings, the Grace, than a good & just person might; to the first group it may be more of a curse than a blessing, while the latter group receives it with joy!

The disciples of Jesus were told to do what is right & good, that they might be ( know as) sons of our Father in Heaven. We should do the same to show that we are Sons of our Heavenly Father, so that our Light may thus shine before men! Do we shine that light by observing ritualistic sign, or do we reveal Who We Are by doing what is just & right & good?! By doing, before men & women ( and to them ) what is right & just & good,, we thus show them that Grace which our Heavenly Father has shown us!

In a sense, then, one could say that WE are a Means of Grace!

Charles Haddon Shank