The Pagan Path

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

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Wine ( 'old wine-skins'? )

What did Jesus mean, when He said 'Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved' ( Matthew 9:17 ). Common sense tells us, especially if you know anything about the power of yeast, that if you put un-fermented wine into an old, used wine-skin, you might have problems when the 'fresh' wine starts to ferment! Aside from the elemental and physical connotations of this statement; the immediate context of Jesus' words, above, immediately following a parallel simile, seem almost to be a random statement, and somewhat out of place, but when understood in terms of the covenantal and historical contexts of the change that was about to be fully and finally revealed ( within that generation-Mathew 24:34, I Corinthians 15:51 & 52 ), the 'old garment' and 'old wine-skin' that were about to be replaced was the old, or 'first' covenant ( Hebrews 8:7 & 8 ).

Paul, in Galatians 3:3, wrote, 'Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?' Apparently the Church in Galatia was having trouble with the Judaizers at that time and were being told that they must keep the whole law ( of Moses? ) in order to please God. Paul had laboriously made the point, though, that since they had received the Spirit of Christ, who was the end of the law; they must not seek to return to the useless ( dead ) works of the flesh.

In today's Christian 'world', we seem to be facing much the same problem. Though everyone out there who claims the name of Christ, unlike those first-century Jews, but like the Judaizers of Paul's experience, acknowledges Jesus as the Christ, they do not, for whatever reason, believe that the Purpose for which He died has been accomplished or fulfilled. Apparently, the Purpose for which He died was only to make salvation available to His people! Wait a minute; Scripture ( Matthew 1:21 ) says that 'He will save His people from their sins'! Something isn't right here!

Old wine, new wineskins?

Paul wrote that 'Therefore, if anyone [ is ] in Christ, [ he is ] a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new'. Most Christians know this passage by heart, but is it truly realized in their lives? Sure, if you ask them what it means to be a new creation, they will probably give you a more or less accurate biblical definition, at least, according to their interpretation, but are they really acting like a new creation? Are they acting as if the creation HAS been made new, as if the death ( of Adam ) HAS been defeated? No; until Christ returns, they say, the creation will continue as it has since the beginning ( II Peter 3:4 ), and will only then be actually new, since the old will be burned up in a great conflagration!

Clearly, something is wrong in this picture! If Jesus did not return as He said He would, in the first century, making 'all things new' ( Revelation 21:5 ), then what else did He promise that hasn't come true?

Can we truly say, with any conviction or veracity, that this earth has been renewed? Well, to be honest, 'NO'! This world, the terra firma that we inhabit is the same old earth it's always been and always will be! It may be in God's Master Plan for this planet we call earth to one day wind down, and in its relation to the Sun, possibly even burn up, but is this what Scripture prophesies? Far from it! As a covenant book about a covenant people, Scripture speaks of a Day to come when God would renew His Covenant with His people, working a change within them, 'burning the hell out of'em', so to speak, and making them ( us ) a fit vessel for His dwelling-place, the New Temple!

Because, as some say, Jesus has not yet made all things new, we must wait until He returns to
experience the fullness of this newness!  As we have discussed before, the correct covenantal,
historical and grammatical understanding of the 'world' of which Scripture speaks is not ( necessarily ) the world with which we are familiar. When most Christians, for instance, read that 'God so loved the world' ( John 3:16 ); they tend to think globally ( not necessarily wrong ), rather than covenantally, as was universally understood at the time of writing.

In many ways, the problems that we face in this Life come to a head when we try to place new wine into old wineskins! When we understand that Our Heavenly Father placed Himself ( Wine-John 15 ) into ( made ) New Wineskins, how can we think of trying to use old wineskins for a New Purpose?!

Charles Haddon Shank

The Fulfilled Gospel, Articulated

Is the Gospel of Jesus the Christ still relevant in this day & age? If it's all fulfilled, do passages like John 3:16 hold any meaning for those of us living in the 21st century? Must we be 'born again' today, in order to enter the Kingdom, or have we inherited the blessings of the Resurrection? These questions & more may be answered in this short article, but many more like them may be engendered!

Lately, we have explored, to some degree, the notion that we, as followers of the Christ & in fact, Christ-bearers, are the Son of God! As the first Adam was given dominion over the 'beasts of the field', and Israel, under that first covenant was made to be 'a nation of priests', so we, as the Body of Christ, are to continue to spread & share the Good News of the Presence of our Heavenly Father & His Kingdom! To be sure, we are simply The Temple of the Holy Spirit, and His Power overshadows us still, but the influence that is brought to bear in us is well-nigh infinite!

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
John 3:16

The context of Jesus' words here demands that we understand that Jesus had come to die in place of His people Israel & that whoever from that world accepted Him as Messiah would have The Eternal & Supernal Gift He offered! This Promise, however, though fulfilled to the Remnant of Israel, is translated to those who would afterwards believe on Him ( John 17:20 )! According to a Fulfilled Gospel, even those who believe in Him today as the Savior & King of His People can enjoy that Promised & Eternal Rest!

Our Heavenly Father, yes, loved that 'world' so that He gave His only Begotten Son, but He loved His entire Creation so much ( as any good father ) that He sent His Son to be the propitiation for His entire Creation ( I John 2:2 )! In this sense, then, we may witness to the universal facet of the Gospel! Although the original Good News was revealed, in the first century A.D., to those living in a certain region or area in the Ancient Near East, the Gospel is to & for all men & women everywhere ( Luke 2:14 )! The angel, or messenger, told Joseph that Mary's Blessed Child would 'save His people from their sins' ( Matthew 1:21 )! This Gospel, in its first century context, was given first of all to the Jew ( Hebrew ) & then, as the apostle Paul revealed, or rather reminded his Jewish contemporaries of, to the Gentiles as well & from there to the uttermost parts of the earth!

Jesus told Nicodemus, not that he ( singular ) must be 'born again', but that this new ( spiritual ) birth must occur before his people could inherit the Promised Kingdom! As a true representative of his people ( Jews ), Nicodemas understood Jesus to be speaking in a physical sense, but Jesus never meant to convey a physical truth! The apostle later wrote hard sayings such as 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God' ( I Corinthians 15:50 ); how else are we to understand this statement if not spiritually?

We have noted previously that these truths are 'spiritually discerned' ( I Corinthians 2:14 ); it is only by understanding them thusly that we can glean any hope at all from such a statement! For instance, if 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God'  ( in a biological & individual sense ) because if this is understood in a physical biological sense, we will never enter, or see, the Kingdom of God! From a futurist perspective, where we will be resurrected to physically perfect biological bodies, we ( individually ) will never see His Kingdom, even after we die! 

The Gospel of Jesus the Christ is the Good News ( for ALL men & women ) that Heaven came to Earth, that our Heavenly Father now dwells with ( in ) His People & that we His People HAVE inherited His Kingdom! Covenantally speaking, only those who are obedient to the terms of that Covenant will enjoy the blessings of this Marriage, but ALL live within the confines of that Covenat, whether they realize it or not & whether they like it or not! 

May we ever live this Truth, prayerfully & humbly realizing that, as Christ-bearers, Christophers, if you will, we represent the Fulfilled Good News of Jesus the Christ before the entire world! Let us hope that in this coming New Year, we can all do a better job of bearing ( witness to ) the Gospel of the Kingdom! Let us be the 'thousand points of light' that we were made to be ( Daniel 12:3 )' as we ever witness to this Fulfilled Gospel! Let it be fulfilled in us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Lord of Creation

Most Christians believe that Jesus is ruling now, but only in our hearts; Jesus, according to this belief system, has yet to return and set up His earthly Kingdom, which according to Scripture, will never end! While waiting for Jesus to set up His earthly Kingdom, most accept the earthly rule of those who are not in agreement with Him, and some even that are in direct & flagrant opposition to His rule!

It is difficult, no doubt, for many people to believe that Jesus is ruling on the earth at this time, what with all the wars, violence, sickness & all manner of evil that seem to persevere! What we must remember though is that He rules through His People! We are His Hands & Feet, so when we neglect our duties, it is no wonder that Christians & non-Christians alike witness all the present evil in this glorious world He has given to the sons of men, and decide that Jesus has not returned yet & that He is not yet reigning over His creation!

The prophets, in Scripture, told of a time to come when the Creator God would bring His Kingdom from Heaven to Earth so that the whole Earth would be filled with His Glory & the Knowledge of God would cover the Earth as the Waters cover the Sea! Daniel, in particular, prophesied, 'in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.' ( Daniel 2:44 ), but even David, king of Israel, proclaimed this Good News; 'I will declare the decree: the Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.' Most Christians, of course, because they see evil so rampant throughout the earth, do not believe that this has occurred yet!

You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
Exodus 20:5 & 6 

Many idols have been erected in this nation of fools & some of these are worshiped even by well-meaning Christians! Since Christians have bowed before these idols & served them ( though unwittingly or unwillingly ), rather than bowing before their Heavenly Father alone & serving His Will, this Kingdom, from a human standpoint, anyway, has been tainted! We see the selfishness & vain-glory of man ruling the day, even among many so-called followers of Christ!

The Church is in confused disarray, believing, in a variety of ways & to different degrees, that Jesus will return one day, in Power & Glory, visiting destruction on His ( disobedient ) Creation & rescuing His Good Creation from the powers of Sin & Death! We ferociously & vociferously debate each other over whether Jesus' Return will usher in a veritable utopia or whether the Promise of His Return was a spiritual one;  whether Time will be no more, or if we will inhabit this cleansed earth in spiritual, yet somehow physically perfect bodies! All the while, many of these same Christions are bowing before & serving the same idols that the rest of the ( unbelieving ) nation is worshipping!

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
Isaiah 9:6 & 7 

The Promise of a Messiah was made specifically to Israel as a nation, but from there, as Daniel prophesied, He 'became a great mountain and filled the whole earth'! Israel, like the first Adam before him, was to be a priest to the nations around him, to spread the Good News of the Kingdom of Grace & Love to all of God's Creation! In the Fulness of Time, the Messiah of Israel did come & the Kingdom was transferred over to His Hands!

In this Season, we celebrate the Coming of our King, but do we yet fully understand or realize the Nature & Extent of His Rule? We sing songs during this Season which exalt His Reign, but do we truly believe that He is Reigning & Ruling currently, or do we act like He must come again and perform another rescue operation? Why can we not see see that He has given us dominion ( Genesis 1:28 ) & that must simply exercise that dominion in order to see its fruits?

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Party's Over

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

After almost two centuries of the 'party system' here in America, what do we have to show for it? Our country's getting older & deeper in debt by the day! No doubt, we should not blame it all on this system, but much of the problem with where our great nation has fallen to can be blamed on this system! While it's true that there are all sorts of people in this country, all with different beliefs & political leanings, the Rule of Law is not subject to a party system! Sure, different people interpret the Law in a variety of ways, bu when it comes right down to it, the Law ( Common Law ) upon which this once-great nation was founded is pretty clear; there is a right way & a wrong way, and neither of the two main parties, not to mention all the stragglers ( Tea Party, etc. ) have everything right! ( On the other hand, they aren't doing everything wrong either! )

As we've discussed before, and it's as plain as the nose on your face, the people of this nation are the root of the problem! If certain people in this country didn't want Obama, for instance, in office, he wouldn't be there (  you could say the same for Bush II, Clinton, Bush Sr, and on down the line )! There again, you can see that there are puppet-masters behind the scenes, pulling the strings according to their own hidden ( not very well ) agendas, but if we hadn't adopted a party system, but had stuck with the plain interpretation of the Common Law, we most likely wouldn't have the problem ( with these puppet-masters ) that we do!

This may sound shocking, but Obama & his reign of terror ( remember, we can't blame it all on one man ) may be the latest, best thing to happen to this nation! He has sure woken a lot of people in this nation from the slumber; gun dealers love him! It may have slowed down by now ( kinda doubt it ), but people are buying guns and ammunition in drove since the Obama Administration initiated some of it's less then gun-owner policies. Not that the Tea Party, or any other Freedom Party will ever make a huge difference in the politics of this country, but the Occupy groups that grew out of the loss of personal liberties in this nation are a good indicator that many of the people of this nation are sick & tired of the bullshit  that is starting to hit the proverbial fan!

How much more will we take?

In Tennessee Ernie Ford's famous '16 Tons', we see a man who has become so encumbered by debt, so weighed down by his own allegiance to 'the company story', that he feels like he'll never get out of it! Much of the problem in this nation is due to the fact that we have been false educated into believing that we 'must' work for 'the company store', that we 'cannot' govern ourselves & that we 'must' vote for the lesser of two evils ( it's our civic duty )! None of the above is true & if every American were to begin to think for themselves, they would soon realize that they don't 'have to' work for someone else to make a living, they 'can' govern themselves ( according to Common Law ) & that to vote for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil!

It is true that most Americans, much like Israel of Old, if given free reign ( governance ) would be doing what was right in their own eyes! Though many of these would be guilty of almost total anarchy if given the chance to govern themselves, probably as many more would obey ( however loosely ) the Common Law that is the foundation of our society!

As more & more people are woken by the crashing down-fall of this once-great nation, we will find that Americans will not take it forever! The Loss of Liberty which this nation is undergoing at this time will have the greatest effect in this concern. Many or most Americans have become so complacent in their chains that they don't even realize they are in chains!  Much of this can be blamed on the education they received, mostly in the government schools, but in private schools, Christian even! The government schools, for so long, have indoctrinated America's children, teaching them to sit down, shut up & 'obey your master' ( Metallica, anyone? )! Christian schools. for the most part, have taught much the same thing, telling the children that we must obey the current regime, because we are 'in the world but not of the world'. We should leave 'them' to their own devices because 'Heaven' is our home, & we'll get there by & by ( Jesus is coming soon )!

Education may eventually bring us back to the desired State! If enough people begin to realize ( by being shown ) how easily we can slip out from under this yoke, we may be able, either through quiet or noisy revolution, to turn this ship around; America may be saved! Don't hold your breath though, as to this happening, especially anytime soon! Our liberties have been eked away ( most insidiously ) for so long that it may take an armed revolution to get us back to the garden. America, as we know it, will never be the same, one way or the other, you can count on that!

It is for damned sure, though, that no certain 'party' will save us! History has shown us that politics as usual ( this includes the Tea Party & any other political party ) is just that, a 'party'! 'If you don't follow the agenda of any certain 'party', you are the enemy'! Sad to say, but any 'party' can be corrupted by its leaders. We will never solve our problems by joining any certain party, or by giving our allegiance to any leader but One!

By giving our allegiance to our Heavenly Father alone & to no mere man, we may learn to govern ourselves, to work for ourselves & to rely upon His leadership alone! This may not happen overnight, in fact it most likely won't, but Our God is Sovereign; it could well happen just as it happened to Saul on the road to Damascus! This nation has been in a downward spiral for so long that it will probably take at least as long ( short of armed (and Godly ) revolution ) to recover from her long history of idol worship!

All we can do, as the Watchmen we are ( Ezekiel 30 ) is to warn the leaders of this nation of impending judgment & doom, live our own lives under the protection care & governance of our Heavenly Father & by thus doing, show people a better way!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

To the End of the Age

What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples He would be with them 'to the end the age' ( Matthew 28:20 )? Was Jesus telling them that once the end of that ( current-I Corinthians 10:11 ) age had come, that He would no longer be with them?! Was He speaking of the 'age to come' and revealing the end of this ( so-called ) Christian Age?! Maybe the clue to deciphering Jesus' words here lies in discovering the 'end' of which He spoke!

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. 
( ‭I Peter‬ ‭4‬:‭7‬ )

Why would Peter tell his readers this? If he told an American Christian this today, either one of two likely scenarios would happen; either he would be laughed out of town ( on a rail ) or the listener ( reader ) would take note of his warning & then do one of two things! He would begin to prepare himself for the coming of Christ & the utter destruction of the world ( wait.... ), or he would tell himself 'eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die'! But Peter did not write these words to American Christians living in the 21st century; he wrote them to Hebrews living in the 1st century A.D.! When we hear someone talk about 'the end' of something, we usually think 'cessation'; the beginning of something 'new' maybe, but the cessation of what is 'old'. To a good Hebrew though, one well-acquainted with the Story, 'the end' would have more of a connotation of the goal or end result!

In His model for prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to pray that His Father's will would be done &
that His Kingdom would come 'on earth as it is in heaven'; this was the end result that Jesus taught His followers to seek! He did not teach us, nor did the apostles later, to long for the cessation of life as we know it, but instead, He taught those first century disciples, as did the apostles as well, to expect to witness the end result, or goal of the ages, the Eschaton, the Marriage of Heaven & Earth!

Jesus was in fact, the End of which He spoke! Yes, the cessation of the ministry of death, or Israel under that first ( covenant ) was drawing near. The time of their judgment was 'at the door' ( James 5:9 ), but more importantly, the promise of God Himself was about to be fulfilled, 'And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.' ( Genesis 3:15 )! As the Promised Seed, Jesus was about to crush the head of 'the serpent' ( Romans 16:20 ( John 19:30 ) & usher in 'the age to come' of which the prophets had spoken, the Kingdom of which Daniel had prophesied as lasting forever ( Daniel 2 )!

The Goal of the Eschaton, as we have noted, was that God's will would ( once again ) be done 'on earth as it is in heaven' & that the Everlasting Kingdom of which Daniel had prophesied would finally come to bear! This 'end' was reached in the 1st century, beginning with the ministry of Jesus & the Apostles, finding it's culmination in the events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem & the Jewish Temple in 70A.D. & is now being fulfilled ( filled up ) through The Ministry of Life, in & through His People, the Anointed Ones, the Church! As the True Israel of God, we are to bring the Light of this Good News to the darkest corners, to expand the Gospel of the Kingdom to the farthest reaches & to be what the original Adam & Israel were supposed to be, Heavenly Ministers of Grace & Truth!

Could the end be near in our day; could this globe which we all inhabit come to a sudden halt & be burnt to a crisp by an angry sun? Sure, it could happen! Things could heat up and transpire just the way some scientists & fear-mongers are prophesying, but we know that this is not the 'end' prophesied in Scripture! That 'End' ( goal ) was realized in the 1st century ( though most have yet to realize this glorious fact ) & consummated the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, with the end result that the Holy Spirit has taken up permanent Residence within His People ( John 14:23 )!

Could it be that Jesus was speaking of the Comforter ( John 8 & 14 ) when He spoke these words to His disciples? Was He simply comforting them with the knowledge that He would not leave them or forsake them, even though the world seemed to come crashing down around them? 'The end of all things' ( that they had previously known ) was most assuredly upon them & the world in which they had grown up was about to come crashing down around them, but they 'had light in their dwellings'!

With the Knowledge that the End of the Eschaton not only came, but stayed, 'let us eat drink and be merry', for we never die, having entered our Eternal Rest! They reached the End ( Goal ) of the Age in the 1st century & we now live in that Completion, as the result of that Divine Marriage!

Charles Haddn Sgank

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Healthy Sexuality

It is fairly well accepted that, within the bonds of the marriage covenant, sexuality is a good & right thing to explore! It is outside these bonds that it is usually frowned upon & even forbidden. Sensuality, on the other hand, is barely mentionable, especially among many Christians, causing such a sensation in most circles, that it is even more taboo than sexuality! Even within the bonds of the marriage covenant, according to most Christians, sexuality & sensuality should be kept under lock & key, behind closed doors, so to speak!

Human beings of both genders, or sexes are, by their very nature, both sexual & sensual creatures; to deny this is to deny our Heavenly Father's creative ability! Woman was created to complement the man, no matter how you look at it; they fit together like hand in glove! Man was created with a certain instrument that is designed precisely & perfectly for sperm delivery! At the same time, this instrument is designed in such a way as to give both parties a considerable amount of pleasure during this process! The woman too, is not without an arsenal! Though purposely & perfectly inverted from the man's, her instrumentation is also designed to give a large amount of pleasure during a certain activity!

There is nothing wrong, in itself, with exploring one's sexuality! Sensuality, though stifled among many, is only natural and a necessary part of God's good creation! Why then are both of these completely healthy & natural feelings ( for lack of a better word ), condemned? Why is the practice of one's sexuality almost a taboo subject, whereas sensuality is not even a mentionable subject? Since we were made that way, what is wrong with a healthy bit of exploration & even ( gasp ) enjoyment? Well, as with most things & as the wisest man that ever lived once said 'there is a time for every purpose under the sun' ( Ecclesiastes 3:1 ) 'the way of a man with his virgin' is conceived by this same wise king as something which is too wonderful for even his full comprehension! There is a time & a place for everything, although anyone with the least bit of intelligence could tell you, especially in this day & age, that a park bench in the middle of a busy park, on a bright, sunshiny day, is probably not the wisest choice to explore either your sensuality or sexuality! Would there be anything intrinsically wrong with doing so? Not necessarily, but it sure could turn into an embarrassing & potentially dangerous situation ( ever get a sliver in your.......ahem; gives all new meaning to the phrase, 'shiver me timbers'! )!

So, if not the above scenario ( ouch ), where then & most importantly, when then? If not just anywhere & anytime, what would be the best scenario for a healthy & consensual time for exploration? Well, obviously, wisdom must play a part! Good sound, Scriptural wisdom tells us that the parties must be man & wife! When the parties are not man & wife, not only do they put themselves under condemnation, both God's & man's, they open themselves up for a world of unnecessary hurt! Seriously, there is plenty of room for hurt, even if they are man & wife! ( plenty of good, sexual healing, as well, too )

When both man & maiden ( virgin ) determine within themselves to wait for the right moment to go exploring, both the sexuality & sensuality are heightened dramatically! 'Timing is everything', they say & 'they' are right; when one waits upon their Father's wise bestowment, both the sensuality & sexuality can be so much more enjoyable, knowing, for one, that our Heavenly Father views such wisdom in a kinder light! The communion of the saints can be so much better too, as we are not hindered by feelings of guilt, even if we are able to keep our illicit activities under wraps!

As men & women of God then, both young & old, let us determine within ourselves to leave the exploration of both sexuality & sensuality to those in the marriage covenant! If certain parties can not keep it together & in their pants, then, as the apostle Paul wrote, 'it is better to marry than to burn'; if we cannot keep it ( them ) together & ( it ) in our pants, then rather than stifling our God-given & blessed creativity, both ( consensual ) parties should consider covenanting together before they do something stupid!

Charles Haddon Shank

The New ( Relative ) Morality

'If it feels good, do it!'

How often have you heard this statement from those who are acting according to their own lusts and not according to what our Heavenly Father, in Scripture says is right & good? To those who's consciences have been seared, what feels good to them seems right! ( It feels so right, it can't be wrong' ) Conversely, if something doesn't feel right to them, then it must be wrong! This should sound strangely familiar to us, and akin to the notion that truth itself is relative, that while something may be true for one person, it is not true for another!

Before someone notes that this statement is true, in a sense, that what is true for one may not be true for another, let me just say this; it is true! In the sense that it is is true that one may have finished his or her race, it may not be true that the other person has finished his or hers. In the same line of thought, it may be true that one person is wearing blue, for another, it may not be true, for they might be wearing red or green! ( It is true that some will take the blue pill, while it is also true that others will take the red ) No, the Truth we are talking about here is that the Sun is a giant ball of gas, & molten rock ( we think ), the earth is a big rock, covered with dirt ( grass ) & water, 2 plus 2 equals 4 & our God is a Living God! This is called Absolute Truth!

Many people today, including some 'Christians', seem to be of the opinion, for varying reasons, that morality, like truth, is relative! What is wrong for one person & what is right for one may not be right for another; it all depends on how you feel about that. For instance, most will agree that abortion is murder, but in the case of rape & incest, those feelings carry the day, and murder in those cases is perfectly acceptable! While it may seem a hard thing to tell the victim of a rape or incest that she is murdering her child by aborting it, this is one of those absolute truths! There are always other options for those victims & murder is not a viable one!

Scripture is very clear; there is a right & there is a wrong! If something is wrong for one person, it is wrong for all people. Most Christians will tell you, in other words, maybe, that we are only to judge those inside ( the City? ), but not those outside; is not the same thing true for those outside as those inside? Can we not judge, if we see someone outside doing what is wrong, as well as we judge those inside? Wrong is wrong & right is right!

In today's society, many or most have been desensitized, through various means, to the clear distinction that Scripture dictates! We have men joining men in unscriptural unions and calling them marriages; many Christians are accepting & even embracing this fallacy! On the other hand, women are doing the same in direct violation of the established order! This new morality dictates that as long as they love each other & commit to living together within the bonds of holy matrimony, they may even call themselves Christian!

Who are we to say that they are not followers of Christ if they have truly sacrificial love for each other & for the brethren?! One might well say, on good authority, that Christ, though He surely loved His own, men & women, He was not a homosexual, He followed the natural order which His Father instituted when He brought Eve to Adam! Although we do not have the authority to say whether or not Jesus Himself ever married, it is safe to say that He agreed with His Father's model for marriage!

More could be said here & might well be at some point, but for now, this should give you something to think about! Is it right to do what Scripture condemns as wrong, even though maybe not expressly? There are some today who try to justify themselves by saying, 'that's old testament; we're under Grace, not Law'! This could be another whole subject, and in fact this blog contains a few posts on that subject, but the fact remains, right is right & wrong is wrong; like our Heavenly Father, these Truths do not change!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, December 08, 2014

Marrying & Giving in Marriage

For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:38 & 39

The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.

Luke 20:34-36

As a believer in Fulfilled Eschatology, you most likely have come in contact with someone who asks, if the resurrection is in the past, then why do we still have people marrying and being given in marriage?' Some might even go so far as to say that since we are 'sons of the resurrection', all bets are off; there is no need to be married any longer, there is no longer anything such as sin or fornication, since there is no marriage anymore! Those who propose the former, though most wouldn't touch the latter with a ten foot pole, have missed the Story!

Besides the fact that they cannot connect the 'world' of Noah's Day & its ultimate judgment with the 'world' of Jesus' Day & its ultimate ( and final ) judgement, those who would say that the resurrection cannot have occurred yet seem to have needlessly & carelessly attached a biological & individualistic meaning to the words of Jesus. When the God of Israel charged His covenant people with adultery & issued a warrant of divorce, it was not because the Body of Moses had committed the physical act of adultery with the surrounding nations & their gods, though, no doubt many of them, individually were guilty of this crime; it was because they had forsaken their covenant with Him & had prostrated themselves before these false gods!

The Scriptural concept of marriage has a physical & individual aspect to it, no doubt; in the Institution of this Sacrament, Yahweh, our Heavenly Father, brought Eve to Adam & they became 'one flesh' ( Genesis 2:24 ), Isaac 'took Rebekah and she became his wife' ( Genesis 24:67 ) & so on, but more importantly, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Ephesus, marriage is a picture of 'Christ and the church' ( Ephesians 5:32 ). The ( human ) Institution is itself simply a picture of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth!

Eschatologically speaking, this Marriage has occurred! This is why Jesus said that the 'sons of the resurrection' 'neither marry nor are given in marriage', because they are already married! Individually, of course, men & women still marry as a picture of this Greater Spiritual Truth, but corporately, as the Body of Christ, we have been married to the One who came from Heaven to take up residence in our midst! For us, there is no more 'marrying and giving in marriage', for we, the Body of Christ, have been married since the 1st century!

Charles Haddon Shank

Someone to Hold

Let's face it; the human touch, physically speaking, has no equal! Yes, being the Temple of the Holy Spirit, we are in daily communion with our Heavenly Father, but without that sensation that only another human being can bring, it's hard sometimes to feel even that Love! We know that we have His Love, for more than any good biological father, our Heavenly Father's Love is truly limitless & truly unconditional,but humans all have that basic need, some more than others, to feel the emotional charge when two bodies touch, or come together!

As the Body of Christ, though, we must be careful with whom we come in contact, for the human touch, if not kept in check, can cause a world of hurt! Most of us, in one way or another, have experienced the hurt that comes from unlawful or unwise ( careless ) contact. It is difficult, often ( usually ), to keep our feelings in check when those feelings pop up, and harder still to reign in those emotions that long so severely for that release!

This is not to say, puritanically, that all human contact outside the covenant of marriage is unwise or unlawful! You may have heard that a 20 second hug everyday is good for the human biology ( or something to that effect ); it can be a good thing, in many cases, but there are also certain ways in which such prolonged contact can lead to unwise & even unlawful actions! It is not too difficult to imagine, when things begin to heat up, an emotional discharge of pent-up energy working it's way to the surface! More often than not, pain is involved, to whatever extent, whenever emotions are allowed to rule!

Scriptural principles, stemming from the first recorded murder ( Genesis 4 ), tell us that our desires tend to rule over us, naturally, but that we should instead rule over them! This again is not to say that all desires, or even emotions are an evil, for to desire a good thing is good & right, and sometimes an emotional release is just what the Doctor ordered! On the other hand, if we allow those emotions & desires to rule us, to dictate what our actions, or rather, reactions will be, then is when the hurt comes flooding in! Feelings change & emotions can be very volatile ( unstable ), so when they are given free rein, the amount of pain that can result is almost infinite & and as anyone who has ever experienced this can tell you, the effects can seem never-ending!

At this point, you may be wondering if it is ever wise or lawful to express our emotions, or let our feelings show! Should we always keep that need for human contact in check at all times? Can we never allow an emotional discharge to escape?

As with all things, there is a right way & wrong way to do things! There is a right time & a wrong time to let our feelings show, to express our emotions in action! We must judge according to the Revelation of God's Word & Holy Spirit within us as to whether it is the right or wrong time, the right or wrong way to act or react!

'There is a Balm in Gilead!'

There is a healing for all the hurt that is caused by a premature release of emotion, by an untimely expression of feelings! The scarred memory of this hurt will often remain with the bearer forever, but the Hurt will be Healed & the pain will subside! Our Heavenly Father has so ordered the Body that one member cannot help but feel the pain of another & thus to do his or her part to heal that hurt member!

We all need that special someone to hold, but when we allow our feelings & emotions to dictate the one ( or ones ) that we cling to, then we have just opened ourselves to a world of hurt! It is only by trusting to our Father's wise bestowment that we can hope to avoid all that hurt & pain, to wait on His timing to release those emotions & to show those feelings to that special 'Someone to Hold'!

May God grant us His Grace in this matter, as in all of life!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Exploring the Problem of Evil ( The Nature of Evil )

Evil is a funny thing; it's all around us, yet actually, it doesn't really exist!

Some may beg to differ, and in fact, history itself seems to teach us to the contrary! Though our own experience seems to tell us that evil exists, as we have seen previously, evil is not a tangible thing, per se; it simply happens! For ages, there has been talk of evil personified, and truly, it is rather useless to deny the fact that some people are, well, just plain evil, and then there are those that are more insidious ( 'Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light'-II Corinthians 11:14 ). There can be no question, especially in light of yesterday's & today's headlines, that there is plenty of evil happening all around the world; even here in our own country!

Can evil BE personified? Does it have a nature ( of its own )? Sure, we can look at many Scriptures that seem to prove the existence of a malevolent spirit-being named 'Satan', yet these same Scriptures, in most if not all cases, prove this 'Satan' ( adversary' ) to be a mere man ( Ezekiel 28:2 )! In this sense, then, evil exists in the form of any person who exalts himself above God! In actuality, though, evil is something that happens, because an 'evil' person can repent, 'evil' can be redeemed, 'evil' can be rectified!

Traditionally, for instance, 'Satan', as a fallen spirit-being, can never be redeemed! Even the angels in Heaven itself will never experience the joys of salvation! There is much useless ( and rather idiotic ) speculation associated with many of these traditions, even though there are doubtless numerous proof-texts to support this tradition.

Evil is most definitely a big problem in this day & age, as in ages past, and it most certainly has a definable nature to it! The apostle John, when he wrote his letters to the Church in Jerusalem ( I John 4:3 ), warned them that 'the spirit of the now already in the world'. According to John then, who walked with our Lord, this was not simply a person, but one 'that does not confess that[a] Jesus Christ has come in the flesh'! There was a certain spirit of men in Jesus' time that did not believe He was the Son of God & there was an opposing spirit that believed He was Who He said He was; it was the former 'spirit' that was cast into the Lake of Fire at the end of that age ( Revelation 20:10-15 )!

Let us explore a few of the more familiar texts that 'prove' the existence of this fallen spirit-being!

Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.
Job 1:6

Although traditionally speaking, this is fairly strong evidence that 'Satan' exists, we know, both from further contextual study of the phrase, 'sons of God' ( Genesis 6:2 & 4, Galatians 3:26 ), that these referenced were simply men with a spirit in communion with their Heavenly Father! There is further speculation among some traditions, that posit that those 'sons of God' in Genesis 6 were spirit-beings themselves, but this has been shown to be absurd, almost to the point of hilarity, if not for the fact that many still believe this!

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Matthew 4:1

This event is used by many to 'prove' the existence of 'Satan' as a fallen spirit-being! Questions like, 'was Jesus simply battling with His own inner demons?', might be aimed at those who deny the existence of this 'evil' being. 'How could the Jewish High Priest have taken Jesus up to the pinnacle of the Temple?'  'How could he have taken Jesus up to a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world & offered them to Jesus if only He would fall down & worship him?' Besides the fact that there is no literal mountain on this globe for any man, even Jesus, to be able to see every kingdom on earth, this can be shown, in the context of the Story, to be simply a glimpse of Jesus's Temptation by 'the lust of the eyes' ( I John 2:16 )

And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.
Luke 10:18

There you go, irrefutable proof that 'Satan' exists, or used to, anyway; Jesus Himself witnessed this 'Fall'! This however, itself brings up interesting, though quite useless speculation about 'when': was Jesus speaking of seeing Satan cast to earth at some earlier point in history ( Lamentations 2:1, Ezekiel 28:16, Isaiah 14:12 ), or was He speaking, as is traditional & orthodox, of the fact that He had granted His followers 'authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy'? Was Isaiah 14 simply a preview, if you will, of coming attractions? Was the fall of the king of Babylon really just a type, in metaphor, for the future fall of Satan?

There are many more & maybe better 'proof-texts' for the existence of 'Satan', or of evil personified, but these will suffice to show that this spirit was simply one in opposition to the Spirit of God! Men who possessed this spirit, who opposed God's Purpose of Redemption for the whole world * not just Israel according to the flesh, were the Adversary, or adversaries of which Scripture speaks: I mean, for God's sake, Jesus called Peter himself 'Satan' ( Matthew 16:23 )! And why? Because Peter, at that point, stood in opposition to the Purpose of Jesus!

Again, there can be no question that evil exists in the form of anyone that exalts himself or herself against the purposes of God, who denies that 'Jesus Christ has come in the flesh'! There is much evil in the world, but it comes simply from those who nurture & spread this spirit of malcontent & hatred, their hatred of God & denial of His loving Natures causes them to perpetrate such acts that are worthy only to be called 'evil'! Our only respite from this 'evil', through the Power of the Spirit within us, is to work, both to rectify the existent evil & and to stay our own hand from doing evil!

May we ever work to this end, always bearing this Spirit Within us & presenting the Love of God to His World, opposing 'evil' in whatever form it may take, in the knowledge that the Spirit Within Us is greater far than the spirit of malcontent & hatred ( 'evil' ) that possesses many in this world!

Let us go forth, conquering & to conquer!!!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Agents of Reconciliation & Redemption

It's that time of year again; time to give thanks for all that we've been given in the past year ( yeah, it's almost over ) & time to look forward with joy to what we'll find under the Christmas Tree ( or parked in the garage, tied up to the dock, etc. )! As one of our local radio stations has been airing recently, 'it's the return of 'A Season for Giving'! ( Don't get me wrong; what with the colder weather ( higher heating bills, need for warmer clothes, etc. ) & the already weak economy and such, 'A Season for Giving' is a great idea! )

It is good always to give thanks! Not only is this a biblical concept, it is a very good idea as well to always persevere with an attitude of gratitude! In today's society at large, it is often very difficult to keep such an attitude, but studies have shown that if this sort of demeanor is ever-present, things seem to go a lot smoother! The introduction of 'A Season for Giving', therefore, though a great idea for our times, is only a temporary fix for what is merely a symptom of one of society's greatest dilemmas!

As Christians ( and even many non-Christians ) in the midst of a largely un-Godly society, we often despair of ever fixing this society; our best hope is for God to reveal His wrath from Heaven, cleanse this world of unrighteousness & usher in a utopian society, one free of any vestiges of sin, or evil! The thing that many Christians have neglected to take into account though, is that our Heavenly Father already accomplished the redemption of His People; it's all there, in black & white for anyone to see, provided they have eyes to see & ears to hear what the Spirit is saying! ( okay, so the 'utopian society' might be a stretch )! Sin & Death were defeated at the cross & finally & forever destroyed with the cessation of the Ministry of Death! We tend to gloss over the fact that the Virgin Mary wasn't a Roman Catholic, John wasn't a Baptist & Jesus Himself wasn't a Christian!

The Story that is revealed in Scripture, though it has relevance for us, is not about us; it's about a bunch of Hebrews ( Jews ) in the Ancient Near East! We, as the Body of Christ today, benefit from the Accomplished Redemption of that Jewish Society, they having been reconciled to their God & Father! Having been redeemed & reconciled to that same God & Father, we, as the Body of Christ, have been given the task of tending His Garden! In His Strength, we are to go forth, redeeming & reconciling His creation ( society ) to Him!

We are 'a redemptive society', but how well do we, as the Body of Christ, understand this; how well do we live it? Are we here to wait for the Son of God to return, when He is already here? Must we wait for 'A Season for Giving' before we realize the needs of those less fortunate? Why else are we here, but to forgive those who wrong us, and not returning evil for evil, to effect a positive change in this world in which we live?

As we work & play in the midst of this holiday season, let us remember that this is not the only season for giving, or for remembering the poor & needy among us! We, as the Body of Christ, should always be ready to redeem the time we have been given & to spread the Gospel of Reconciliation through a life of forgiveness! May we ever follow Christ in this & and may the blessing of our Heavenly Father be upon us, as we endeavor for His Glory & our good!

Charles Haddon Shank