The Pagan Path

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A New Resolution

As I 'pen' these words, we find ourselves on the verge of a new year, new opportunities & a fresh set of resolutions! 'New Year's Resolutions' have become almost cliche', with many people clamoring for the chancre to begin anew, make a fresh start with a clean slate & hopefully do a better job of keeping those resolutions in the coming year than they have in the past. Some will resolve anything from 'tying the knot' to exercising more & eating less ( or differently ), while others resolve not to make any resolutions at all!

One resolution that we should all make, but which is easier said than done, is to do better than the previous year! Many will make this resolution, especially those who have chosen ( 'mea culpa' ) to learn life's lessons the hard way. It is apparent that changes need to be made, but again, this is easier said than done. When we have become fairly comfortable ( even though it may be very stressful ) with our current lifestyle, it is often very hard, both emotionally & physically speaking, to make those changes that we know deep down are necessary. Sometimes, it is easier for someone on the outside looking in, not only to see that something needs to change, but also to be able to elucidate what that change should look like. However our eyes are opened, it's still up to us to implement the change, to set in motion the wheels that ( hopefully ) will improve our lives on this earth!

Change is not always a good thing; sometimes people can make wrong or bad resolutions ( choices ), in the process making an even bigger mess of their lives than they were previously! Individuals always have a choice & the choices we make, while they may seem like a good idea at the time, are not always good ones. We might choose to 'listen to our heart', all the while forgetting where our 'heart' has led us in the past, or we might choose to listen to our head instead, though we should remember where that wisdom has gotten us in the past, as well!

'What to do, what to do?' Are we fated to simply 'run in place', so to speak, just flitting between flowers, hoping that the next one will provide us with what we need, or is there hope for us, that we can make a change in our own lives, to disrupt the seemingly endless cycle of failures? Though change is not always a good thing, with the right resolution, it IS a good thing! If we stick to our resolve to better ourselves & our situation, we can, no matter the extenuating circumstance or outside influences, make the necessary adjustments in our own lives. This is not to say, however, that we can make these adjustments ( changes ) on our own or by ourselves!

We all need help, once in awhile; someone or something to goad us, to move us onto & along a certain path that we otherwise would not have chosen! Whether it's a matter of comfort, a weak will or just plain & simple blindness, sometimes we just cannot bring ourselves to the point where we need to be. This is where our Heavenly Father makes His Blessed Presence known; either circumstances 'come our way' that force us to make the changes necessary, or certain people come into our lives, whether just for a season or to stay, that help us along the way to make those difficult choices that lead to a better life!

As we enter this New Year, whether with a clean slate or not, whether we follow the 'New Year's Resolution' crowd or not, let us all resolve to make the most of the opportunities we are given! Although we will no doubt be faced with many different kinds of opportunities, not all of these should be considered ( some aren't even worth considering ); some of these opportunities will probably have a familiar odor to them ( like, 'we've been here before!' ) while others still will offer us the chance to better our situation ( even if it seems like 'small beginnings' ). What we choose to do with this smorgasbord of opportunities is what will determine if we better our life, or if we damn our existence!

The Wisdom our Heavenly Father gives us is what makes the difference! Our own wisdom, the wisdom of our head & heart, that which tells us to do what feels good, or what we want ( not ALWAYS a bad thing ) is often what keeps us stumbling around in the dark, so to speak, always doing what we've always done, hoping that 'this time will be different'. People DO change, yes, but if they do not leave the path they were on, then this is evidence that they have NOT changed! In order for one to make the necessary changes in their life ( for good ) it is usually necessary to make it evident; one must make a complete turn-around ( even if it's gradual ) & leaving the path they were on, begin to walk a new path, even though it is uphill & strewn with carcasses!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, December 28, 2015

Marriage is for Life

But did He not make [ them ] one,
Having a remnant of the Spirit?
And why one?
He seeks godly offspring.
Therefore take heed to your spirit,
And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.
Malachi 2:15 

In this day & age, even among many Christians, it seems that 'easy divorce' has become 'the name of the game', so to speak! Whatever the reason, this situation is not without precedent; it is simply symptomatic of a much greater disease; the Pharisees of Jesus day faced Him with the same problem! As He told them, it seems Jesus must say to many Christians today, 'Have you not read that He who made[a] them at the beginning ‘made them male and female', and said, 'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh' ( Matthew 19:4 ( Genesis 1:27 & 2:24 )! 

Most Christians have realized for centuries that the Creator's plan for marriage was to produce a greater inheritance for His Kingdom & some have taken this to the extreme of saying that since the act of sexual intercourse is designed for this purpose, that is the ( only ) way in which it should be employed; others have gone to the almost opposite extreme & agreed with the culture around them which says that sex is mainly ( if not wholly ) for our enjoyment. Contraceptives have allowed us to, with almost no responsibility, engage in sexual intercourse with no fear of creating a new life! With this added security, such as it is, along with certain medical procedures, many marriages today have become a matter of 'easy come, easy go' because they are based upon the freedom that these contraceptives or medical procedures provide!

To many Christians, it seems that 'divorce is not an option'! In my own case, having recently been divorced, I was brought up to believe that 'marriage is forever', that once one says those vows 'before God & this company', you're in it for life; for this reason, there are doubtless many unhappy, even abusive situations out there! Although marriage should not make one unhappy or even countenance abuse, neither should these vows, 'to love, honor & cherish, till death do us part' be taken lightly! 

In western culture, not so much in eastern culture, it seems that both marriage & divorce have become a matter of convenience; in order to keep from breaking the law or to reap certain benefits, it seems that some people will 'tie the knot' with almost no consideration other than their own selfish ends, whether it be their happiness or simply a reward or goal. Again, I can tell you from experience that when a marriage is based on anything other than a purpose to raise up godly offspring, it will not last! A true marriage, from which there is no divorce, is based on a mutual decision, a Oneness of Purpose, to promote growth within the Kingdom of our God & Father!

Having established that true marriage is for life, why do we see in the culture around us & even within the hallowed walls of Christendom the trend of easy marriage & divorce? Is it because the Church has been influenced by the culture around us, or is it because the Church has failed to positively influence the culture around Her? Most Christians would immediately be tempted to throw blame ( 'mea culpa' ) at the debauched culture around us; this is what happened to Israel of old, except that her Intended knew what the case really was ( Ezekiel 16:33 ). The blame though, must ultimately fall, as it did on Israel of old, on the Church Herself, for She is the Creator's Agent of Reconciliation; She, like Israel of old, is to influence the culture ( 'world' ) around Her!

The apostle Paul wrote, in so many words, that true marriage is a picture of the union between the Christ & His Church. Since this is true, should not Christians especially have a greater urge to serve His Kingdom rather than their own selfish longings & desires? As Agents of Reconciliation, does it not behoove us to show the culture around us the blessedness of true marriage? Praise our Heavenly Father, there is a Remnant still that has determined to honor the Union of the Christ & His Church, a growing number who have refused to bow to the false gods of statehood or the debauchery of the surrounding culture & who are raising up a generation that, armed with this knowledge, are marching forth, expanding the Kingdom wherever they roam!

Much of the reason that the Church has allowed Herself to be influenced by the culture around Her rather than the other way around is that She has forgotten the true purpose in marriage! Although happiness is most definitely a concern, first & foremost should be a mutual decision to produce 'fruit' & expand our borders. Because we are Children of the King, this is our Kingdom as well; its growth should be of utmost concern to us & if we do not bear 'fruit' of any sort, but concern ourselves only with our own happiness, our own satisfaction, though the Kingdom will continue to expand & grow, it will advance without us, leaving us & our 'marriages' wallowing in the dyst!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dealing With the Problem of Evil

It's impossible to read the majority of newspaper headlines in this day & age and deny the glaring fact; there is evil out there & it MUST be dealt with! Not only can one simply turn on the 6 o'clock news & see/hear about the latest atrocities that ISIS has perpetrated, or any other manner of evil occurrence, a simple Internet search has convinced many 'believers' that 'Satan IS alive & well on Planet Earth'! This is not to deny the existence of evil, but one can't help but wonder, sometimes ( if one is at all empathetic ) if much of the problem might have been avoided if, one, those 'on the receiving end' had acted ( rightly ) rather than ( reacted ( whether rightly or wrongly ).

The Foreign Policy of these United States of America ( lately, U.S.Inc ) seems to be more of a reactive one! The Preemptive Strike, lately popularized by G.W. Bush has taken that policy to new levels, with our armies seeming to react before or enemies even act. Of course, this ( evil ) has been going on for so long that it's next to impossible to nail down where/when it all began! It's said that 'revenge is a dish best served cold'; before the events of '9-11' when the World Trade Center in NYC was attacked, there was a long forgotten ( by most ) battle fought near the end of the Ottoman ( Muslim ) Empire. Before the recent attacks in Paris, there was the murder of Knights Templar in France. This is barely mentioning the fact that we in the West & most lately ( infamously ) the U.S., have been carrying out acts of terrorism in Eastern lands for hundreds, even thousands of years!

Some will immediately object to this line of reasoning, avowing that the American forces have committed justifiable homicide because their enemies were so evil, there could be no reasoning with them! Ignorant sayings like 'there's no good Muslim but a dead Muslim' & statements such as a current presidential candidate has been spewing forth are likely much of the reason that Muslims ( even the peaceable ones ) hate 'us' & everything 'we the people' stand for'. One could easily prove from the Quran that Islam is not a peaceful religion, but then again, another could as easily argue, from the Hebrew Scriptures, that neither is Judaism ( you thought I was gonna say 'Christianity', didn't you? ); one has merely to review the history of Christianity, though, to see that we have  not proven ourselves to be a very peaceable religion either!

'So, other than the wars & desolations these past number of centuries have borne witness to', one might ask, 'how would you suggest we deal with the problem of evil?' Do you really think that if the Jews had shown love to Hitler, that whatever number is the latest ridiculous assertion might not have seen the inside of a gas chamber, or fallen bullet-riddled into mass graves? Are we to believe that if all those Cambodians had merely 'bowed the knee' to Pol Pot they would have been allowed a peaceful co-existence, or that if Christians simply convinced their captors that Jesus loves them, that ISIS would cease & desist their beheading of them?!

It's really no wonder that with the Foreign Policy of the U.S. Inc., that ISIS ( just the latest iteration of reactionaries from Eastern lands ) has reacted in such a manner; it's actually somewhat surprising that they haven't done more & worse! From some reports, ISIS is losing steam, but when they do finally reach the end of their rope, no doubt some other group will take up the reigns & continue to terrorize the 'panty-waisted cowards' here in the West. 'Why is that?' one might ask. Well, it's quite simple, actually!

The Problem of Evil stems from humanity, or as some might say, 'human religions'! When one person disagrees with another, they may simply, out of consideration for their relation to each other, agree to disagree, but when a group of people, no matter how they're related to another, religiously decides that they're right & everyone else is wrong, then is when wars & desolations start to make the evil felt; one can simply read a history of the Civil War to bear witness to this! This is not to say either that all Organized Religion is necessarily evil, there is one true religion, but all religions have those who adhere to this true religion & not so much to all the tenets of their chosen ( or forced ) religion!

For those who trust in newspaper headlines to fulfill prophecy rather than trusting the Works & Word who fulfilled all prophecy, it's easy to believe that as the evil ( seemingly ) continues to spread, we must meet fire with fire, we must nuke them before the nuke us ( so to speak )! Is there an alternative? It seems that there is no way out, that we can 'give peace a chance' till we're 'blue in the face', but don't hold your breath; things have going evil's way for so long that it's going to take at least that long for people to realize ( although it's been staring us in the face for all of history ) that there is always a choice! We can choose we to act rightly, no matter how else everyone else acts, or we can choose to react ( usually wrongly ) to their wrong actions. It's easy to react rightly when one does rightly towards you, but it is difficult to react rightly when someone treats you wrongly; what will you choose?

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Web of Life

'Why don't you move if you don't want to be an American?' There are some people today ( you know who you are ) who are pretty damn sure they don't want to be labeled 'American' & seemingly for good reason; there is much about America herself & the epitome of what is termed 'American' that is reprehensible at best! Those who voice such concerns are not necessarily being un-American or even anti-American, they are simply stating that what passes for an American today is, one, not what it used to be & two, being an American doesn't necessarily mean that you stand for or back everything America herself ( as a nation ) stand for or does; it simply means we live here & pledge our allegiance to what is right, not what is clearly wrong!

In this life, we often feel that we are caught in a web, that we can't get away from doing a certain thing or even a certain way of doing things; I mean, if you don't salute the flag or hold your hand over your heart during the singing of the national anthem, at the very least you may be thought unpatriotic: God forbid you don't say the pledge ( of allegiance )! On the other side of the coin, one might find much the same with modern Christianity; if you don't revere the Bible appropriately, or confess certain creeds or hold to certain 'orthodox' doctrines, you may not be a Christ at all, but simply a wolf in sheep's clothing!

Spiders are interesting creatures, bloodthirsty maybe, but interesting nonetheless! When spiders spin their webs, it is not only to trap flies & other insects for food, the web also serves as their home, their network of communication & a very real line of defense. If a spider feels the minutest vibration from anywhere on the web, they know that something requires their immediate attention & they hurry to meet the disturbance with their hackles up & their senses intact.

Life in our human world is very similar, if only we would realize it & accept it! There is a thread ( however fine ) that connects us all as human beings. The apostle Paul told us that when one part of the body suffers, the whole body is affected, to whatever extent; in context he was speaking, not of biology, but of the spiritual Body of Christ, but is this not so in biology as well? Even in plant-life, we can observe that what affects the leaf usually stems from the root. Often, if the leaf is disturbed, the disease travels through the whole plant till at last the root itself becomes diseased!

As human beings, we have a similar way of communicating with each other; we use our network, not only to trap what is needful for our consumption, but also to secure our borders, to provide a home for ourselves & our loved ones: we also use the same network for a line of defense, much like the spider! When our lines of communication are providing their optimum capability, we are in tune, not only with each other but with Nature itself, with the human suffering around us & even with plants & animals when we witness their abuse. Our human biology, much like plant & animal biology, is fearfully & wonderfully made; we are so intricately woven together that I dare any biologist to so that we are not products of Intelligent Design!

To say that someone is un-American or even anti-American because they don't adhere to every doctrine or ideology that is called 'American' is not only the height of ignorance, it is destructive to the thread, the network that links us all! The same goes for those who would label certain people non-Christian because they don't subscribe to certain creeds or believe certain doctrines; it only serves to sever those all important lines of communication, theose same lines which feed us, serve as our homes & natural line of defense!

To be an American does not mean that you agree with everything America stands for, has done in the past, is doing nor, or means to do in the future; it simply means that this is your place of origin! As American Christians, or more correctly, Christians Americans, we are Children of the King! Yes, I realize that there has been a separation between what is spiritual & what is physical, but maybe this is part of our problem; we have all but severed ( or at least attempted to ) those lines of communication between what we deem as 'up there' & what is 'down here'. Some have recognized this connection for decades & centuries but have often ( usually ) suffered the fate of 'heretics'!

One must not support wrongdoing, whether the perpetrator is America or ISIS! Those who are not sure if they want to be called Americans ( for the most part ) are not saying they don't want to live in America or even support & defend her, they are simply saying, 'what America is doing, as a nation is not right & I will not support or defend what is not right'; they also, along with many who do not yet realize it ( call them 'sheeple' ), suffer under an oppressive regime. There is right & there is wrong; when America as a nation embodies what is wrong, we should do our level best to withdraw our support from her, but when she does what is right, we should support & defend that right!

In judging for ourselves, however, we should be very careful not to disturb the web, the thread that connects us all, for without that necessary connection, we will wither & die! It is only by pulling together & realizing that we are all entangled in this Web of Life that we will ever come to the realization that the spiritual & physical are two sides of the same coin. The Marriage of Heaven & Earth ensured that it is only through our spiritual connections that we communicate Life & Light, all else is Death & Darkness!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

In the Arms of Love

'You can never have too many friends!'

What a well-worn saying! It IS true however, if they're truly friends: many people have plenty of fair-weather friends, friends who will only be there for you when things are going good & some people are simply moochers or gold-diggers, out to mine for the precious metal ( or paper ) that you carry! These kinds of friends are a dime-a-dozen, but if you want to find out who your true friends are, throw a monkey wrench into the wheels of your smooth-running life & see who comes to your aid & who either throws you under the bus or walks by on the other side!

My life is good: it's been quite an adventure, especially the last few months, but it's all good! I got to see the West Coast, of which I'd heard that the part I visited, the Oregon Coast, was the most beautiful. I got to experience a road-trip with a woman I'd just met, which, in retrospect, may not have been the brightest idea I've ever had. I got to experience ( more or less ) how 'the other half' live, having spent a few days in a homeless shelter in Spokane, Washington. Over all, if had the chance or opportunity to do it again, although I'd doubtless do certain things differently, I'd probably do it all over again. But then again, I might just call a 'Danny Glover'!

'Friends are friends forever'; so sang Michael W. Smith in his 1983 hit 'Friends'! True friends, yes, are friends forever & in some cases, only time will tell. A true friend will not be as those mentioned earlier, there only for what they can get from you & then absent or otherwise unavailable ( or unable ) the minute you need something, No, a True Friend will be about the exact opposite; although he or she may be absent through much of the good times, when the bad times come calling or a metaphorical wrench is thrown into the works, they will be the ones who come running to see if they can lend a hand, even only if it's to slap you around till you come to your senses!

Some people come into your life for only a season & some set up house & settle in for the long haul, but everyone comes into your life for a reason! Those who pass through your life like a breeze ( or a hurricane ) are usually there to teach us something; either they are meant to be a lesson for us or we are meant to be a lesson for them: sometimes, it's both! Everything happens for a reason! If you don't believe that, you're living in a dream-world & have blinders on! Believing that whatever happens to us simply happens by chance is like playing Russian Roulette with a full cylinder; well, why not, right? There's always the chance that the round that the hammer falls on is a dud, right?! You go ahead & take your chances! Not me, no way, no how!

Reason also plays a part in how we choose those who will simply pass on through & those who remain! Everything happens for a reason, yes, but sometimes the reason is that we're stupid & make bad choices! A true friend is one who is there for you through thick & thin, one who is honest enough to tell you when you're on the wrong track & who is not afraid to get in your face about it. They won't kick you when you're down, although sometimes it might feel like it!

A friend who does kick you when you're down is no friend at all! Although it may seem like it, a true friend will never leave you hanging but will always give you a hand up after he or she slaps you down or gives you a much-needed old-fashioned butt-kicking! There ARE those out there, unfortunately, who act the part of a fair weather friend or even gold-digger & sometimes it's hard to tell the difference, for whatever reason, between these types of friends & those who are 'forever friends'!

When it comes to 'just friends', sometimes we can indeed have too many! If someone is 'just a friend'. there's a good chance that he or she is there just for the good times, to see what they can get from you & then vanish into the sunset like a blood-sucking cowboy ( or girl ). One must exercise great care in dealing with 'just friends', because while some may turn out to be actual friends ( again, 'time will tell' ), many of these 'friends' are there simply to get what they can & then 'get while the gettin's good', sucking the life out of you in the process!

So, you're probably thinking, 'what about love? He hasn't made one mention about love or what this article has to do with being 'In the Arms of Love'!' That's true, I haven't directly made one mention of 'love' till just now & I'm not going to anymore either; I'm going to let you the reader figure it out!

Choose your friends, but choose wisely; guard your heart ( thanks, sis )!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, December 07, 2015

The Temple of the Lord

'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.'
Jesus-John 14:23 

Yes, it's that time of year again, the time when all Christendom gathers to celebrate the birth of Christ! At this time of year, most Christians celebrate the birth of a Baby without taking into account the true import of what Jesus did when He grew into His Ministry. Aside from the fact that 'He was born to die', 'Jesus came to save us from our sins' & of course, 'God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son...........................', etc, etc, few Christians realize that the 'world' He loved so, in context, was 'the world' of His own day ( the 1st century Roman world of Jews & Gentiles ) & that the people He came to save was His own ( again, 1st century Jews-Matthew 15:24 )!

We all know the Story of how Jesus entered the Temple of the Jews once upon a time, became rather indignant & ended turning the tables, before driving those wicked Jews out, quoting from the prophecy of Jeremiah ( 7:11 ), telling them 'Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!' ( John 2:15 ( Matthew 21:12 & 13 ), but how often do we think about why He did this, what the real significance was? Sure, we all learned in Sunday School that Jesus was showing us how displeased He was that they were using the Lord's House to make their filthy lucre & that should be a lesson never to do business in a church building ( oh, wait...........), but is that really what Jesus was saying to them?

When Jesus told His disciples, 'Assuredly, I say to you, not [ one ] stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down' Matthew 24:3 ), we take Him at His word; not one stone ( literally ) would be left there ( on the Temple Mount? ) that would not be taken away! Two things that we should be reminded of here though, are ( 1 ), we are trying to understand Eastern Literature in our Western context & ( 2 ), not unrelated, Jesus was reaching back into Israel's own history ( which they probably realized ), quoting from their Law ( Leviticus 14:40 ) & telling them their House ( the Temple ) had been cursed! So, did Jesus simply cleanse the Temple by His actions, or was He telling them by His actions that their House was about to be desolated ( Matthew 23:38, Luke 13:35 )??

Paul's letters are full of references ( for those who care to see ) to the fact that Jesus' disciples ( into the 21st century & beyond ) are now His dwelling, His Church, His Temple! The Stones that Jesus said would be thrown down ( Leviticus 14:42 ) were, even in Peter & Paul's day, being replaced by 'living stones' & His disciples were 'being built up a spiritual house ( Temple? )'. The point Jesus was making to His disciples here was not that there would actually be no stones left, but that this 'house', the Jewish Temple had been condemned!

Yes, 'God so loved the world', so much so, in fact, that He condemned those unbelieving Jews who dared corrupt His Temple! When we take into account the fact of Audience Relevance & the poetry ( literature ) of the Ancient Near East, Stories such as these take on a whole new meaning & significance; did Jesus come to save His people from their sins ( Matthew 1:21 )? Yes indeed, He most assuredly did! Did He come to die? Again, yes, but He came to do so much more than simply open the passage for us; He came to dwell with ( in ) us, to set upon His Throne in us, His New Temple!

We might be reminded here of the Hebrew meaning ( in other words ) of 'Israel'; it means 'ruler with ( or 'Prince of' ) God!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, December 04, 2015

'Is My Name Written There?'

In regards to the modern evangelical landscape, the implications of Fulfilled Eschatology are not only potentially very dangerous ( damning? ). they're also almost endless! If the descriptions of 'Heaven' ( such as it is ) that we read in say, John's Revelation or in the Hebrew Prophets ( Isaiah, for instance ) is simply referring to the ( spiritual ) abode of our Heavenly Father's people in the here & now, then what does that do to their precious ( traditional ) doctrines of Heaven & Hell? Eternal Conscious Punishment? If the principles of preterism are true, then what about the afterlife? IS there an afterlife?!

Among most Christians today & even among many who would not be considered Christian by most Christians today, the afterlife is probably one of the hottest topics, theologically speaking! Especially when faced with the expiration of a friend or loved one, whether near or far, it is hard to believe that, once the biological body dies, that person is not enjoying some sort of afterlife, whether 'hangin' with Jesus & the apostles or sitting on a cloud playing a harp. The concept of your dear departed as your guardian angel is a by-product of this belief.

The notion that all is fulfilled & being fulfilled, although not a new one by any stretch of the imagination, is one whose time has com! Christians in general are become less & less enamored with 'Last Days Madness'; so many predictions have been made about the end of the world while everything goes on as it has since the beginning of the world ( except for ONE notable 'change' ), that all but the most fanatical believer has abandoned this theory & many have abandoned not only those who taught them, but the Institutional Church that harboured them!

We as a people, have entered upon a new 'Great Awakening'! Every day, more & more people are becoming increasingly aware of, not just their surroundings & of their symbiotically necessary union with all of Life, but that much of what the IC has taught for centuries as Gospel is a farce, nothing but religious fear & fairy-tales. If what the Scriptures reveal to us is simply a Revelation of the End of Israel's Story, the Book of the Covenant that the Creator revealed to Israel from the Beginning, then what does that mean for us? We are Americans living in the Western Hemisphere in a culture much different that that of Israel under that first covenant; on top of that, they were written about people living 2-6,000 years ago!

The question asked in that famous old hymn, 'Is My Name Written There?', is rendered somewhat passe' by Fulfilled Eschatology! If the Lamb's Book of Life referred to in the Revelation of Jesus the Christ was simply a record of those faithful Israelites who honored their Messiah & accepted Him as such when He came, then can we seriously ask that question? Should we even?! Sure, in some sense one could say that this could be applied to us today, for we are 'the Israel of God', but as Christians & believers in the Christ, we should be aware that Book had a Beginning & End, and Alpha & Omega!

As those who live in the New Age, as members of the New & Eternal Covenant, we will never die! These biological bodies will perish, as they were meant to, but our spirits will live on. We are with our God & Father right now & He with us, but when this biology passes away, we can really only speculate as to what our life will be like when we have become pure spirit! Gnostically, some might accuse us of saying that the biology that was created good has become evil & something to be escaped, but this is not what we're saying at all. We're simply saying that our biology wasn't built to last forever; it was made to serve a purpose & once that purpose is fulfilled, we've served our time! Once our spirit leaves our body & this biology returns to the dust from which it came, all we really know about the afterlife is that we are with our Heavenly Father in this luife as well as what may come after it!


Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The Consequences of the Philosophy of Man

'If it feels good, do it'!

'God made me this way; if He hadn't wanted us to.......................He wouldn't have...................!'

The Creator DID make us a certain way, with emotions, feelings & certain interlocking body-parts; not only that, He pronounced it all good! If He hadn't wanted 'this', then why did He do 'that? We can reason within ourselves, like philosophers have for years as to the whys & wherefores, but what it ultimately comes down to, especially for the Christian; 'is it right?' According to the written Revelation of His Word, who is Absolute, there is right & there is wrong, good & evil!

There are those, even within Christian circles, who have been telling us for years that the Scriptures are out-dated, that many of the principles within don't apply to this age! 'This is the Age of Grace', they say, 'not the Age of Law!' They try to tell us that what wrong for them ( in that culture in particular ) is not wrong for us, in this day & age. Some will not this as 'Relativism' right away, but even though this would be a liberal theology just decades ago, it is becoming more & more accepted, even among the more conservative!

Many who have adopted this theology, or the resulting life-style, have paid the price & are continuing to be plagued by their choices! Divorce rates among Christians are probably as high, if not higher than those who do not claim that belief system. The Institutional Church is continually plagued by many of the same problems that any 'secular' business or corporation would face. For the most part, except on certain days of the week, one might be hard-pressed to tell the difference between many Christians & 'unbelievers'; in fact, one might note that in some cases, the 'unbeliever' acts more Christ-like than those who claim to be Christians!

When faced with the uncertainties we encounter in this new age, one might wonder why we face these dilemmas; why is it so hard to discern between the True Believer, the true Christian & one who simply goes to church every Sunday, between those who actually follow in the footsteps of Jesus & those who simply espouse 'Sound Doctrine'? What kind of philosophy would tell us that it is more important to believe in Heaven & Hell ( Eternal Conscious Torment ) than it is to feed the starving & take care of the widow? It is not difficult to see from the pages of Scripture which of these doctrines Jesus & His disciples upheld!

'Philosophy is the study of the general and fundamental nature of reality, existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language ( from the Wikipedia article on the subject ).' While there is nothing inherently wrong with the study of any of these subjects, Western theology, or philosophy in general has been greatly, if not wholly been influenced by Hellenistic ( Greek ) philosophy. The famous Greek philosophers, while some may have accepted the truths of Christianity at some point in their lives, were yet, even in their 'conversion', influenced greatly by their pagan philosophies!

Though it is without doubt that we WERE created with certain varying emotions & differing feelings, though it is gloriously true that this was made for that & NOT the other, that all this WAS pronounced good, there were also rules laid down! This Law was not given simply to show people that they were, by themselves incapable of adhering to the commandment; it was written on our hearts & inscribed on our minds to play the part of common sense! To ANYONE with common sense, not JUST the Christian, it should be clear that this does not normally work with that, what is wrong ( evil ) for one is wrong for everyone. Some may seem to get away with it, but in the long run, the same price is usually paid; the piper always demands his pound of flesh!

So, what, you might well ask, are the consequences of the philosophy of man?

Just look around you; these are the consequences of the philosophy of man!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 28, 2015

M O O N, That Spells 'Moses'

The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it,[j] for the glory[k] of God illuminated it. The Lamb [ is ] its light.
 Revelation 21:23

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:14 

Ask most Christians today what John the Revelator meant when he said that there would be no need of the sun or moon in the New Jerusalem & you might get anything from a simple explanation about how the physical sun & moon would be out of business ( at least in those environs ) to a detailed explanation about how in the beginning ( 'Let there be Light' )  the Creator was Himself the Light of Day & that in the End of Time it will be the same once again! One might explain the phrase 'Let there be Light' ( on the first day, while the sun was not 'created' till several days later ) to be showing how the physical, or material sun was simply representative of that True Light. Thus, it would follow that the moon was representative of........................hmmmmmmmmmmmm.....

According to John 8:12, Jesus said, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.' So, if Jesus was 'the light of the world' & we, His followers are 'the light of the world', what does that say about us? Was it His intention to say that we are of the same purpose or function as He? It would probably be considered blasphemy in most circles to suggest that we are of the same Essence, so I won't go there!

Scripture is full, particularly the Hebrew ( Old Testament ) ones, of references to the fact that when the sun & moon are referred to, even in a physical context, sometimes, the true referent is most often the children of Israel & their religious heads or leaders, as in 'Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth' ( Deuteronomy 32:1 ( Isaiah 1 :2 ). The Story of Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:9-11 is probably the clearest example of this, but there are other references that can be seen to refer, not to the material universe, but to people.

A clear indication that Moses was himself representative of the 'moon' in question is that famous passage in Exodus 12 where 'the skin of his face shone' after he had been in the Presence of Yahweh, 'face-to-face', so to speak! If you're at all familiar with astronomy, in fact, you know that the moon is just a giant reflector & that any light we enjoy from it is not actually from the moon itself but simply glances of its hardened surface on its way to earth from the sun. Under that first covenant, Israel was simply to reflect the Glory of our Heavenly Father & shine His Light into every dark corner of His Creation; to a certain degree, whether directly or indirectly, they were successful!

In the New, or Heavenly Jerusalem, as we have seen & bear witness to, there is 'no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it': this is not to say that the physical universe is no longer 'peopled' by a material sun or moon, just that this particular City does not need those lights, being lit by the True Light! As we have seen previously in other articles by this author, we no longer simply reflect the Glory of our Heavenly Father; as per His promise found in John 14:23, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him' , He dwells with ( in ) His people: NOW, instead of reflecting His Glory, we ARE His Glory, we shine 'like the stars forever and ever', with His Glory, His Love radiating THROUGH us!

The 'moon' is no more; as the apostle Peter wrote to his readers in the first century A. D., 'so we have the prophetic word confirmed,[a] which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts' ( I Peter 1:19 ). His followers THEN received His Light! Again, as any basic astronomer will tell you, the stars that we can observe shining, to whatever extent, in the night sky are simply giant orbs of burning gas. Our sun is simply one of many stars ( a relatively small one, at that ), and in essence, like us, has the same source. Our Source though, rather than being simply one of many stars in this vast universe, is the Source of ALL Life & Light; we, being filled with His Life & Light, shine brilliantly, not as on our own, but as Conductors, mere reflectors no longer!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thanksliving Time is Here Again!

Yes, it's the time of year again when we all, from the lowest to the highest, humbly bow our heads & give thanks for all that we have been blessed with! This IS a special time of year; the harvest is all but past ( for most ) & it's a good time to just sit back, relax & enjoy the fruits of our labors. As with Christmas, Easter & a select few other holidays, it's also a pretty convenient time to gather together around a sumptuous feast & the company of family & friends, especially those that we haven't seen in awhile. Why do we find this time of rejoicing to be so convenient? Well, there are several reasons, but maybe one of the most convenient is; TRADITION!

Around this time of year, especially for those who primarily work out of doors for a living, travel is usually less of a luxury; much if not all of their jobs have been completed & though the travel is often more dangerous, it is often more conducive, both monetarily & time-wise! Traditionally as well, Thanksgiving Day ( AKA-Turkey Day ) has been one of the biggest travel holidays, with family & friends sometimes traveling anywhere from the cross-country to the next state over.

The question of 'why' is a rather easy one to answer; 'everybody's doing it'! This is the way it's been done since that 'fabled feast' celebrated by Pilgrim & Puritan in 1621 Plymouth, Massachusets. In actuality, according to a Wikipedia article on the subject, the first recorded Thanksgiving Day in the New World took place on February 21, 1621 when an Irish vessel ( ship ) landed at Plymouth Rock, bringing 'salvation' to a group of failing, starving Pilgrims!

The History of Thanksgiving Day is an interesting one; as a national holiday celebrated nation-wide on the last Thursday of November, we can actually thank Abraham Lincoln & the Civil War for it! However interesting a study it is, this is not why we gather together on this certain day; tradition has much to do with it & the fact that it is in special celebration of the harvest is an even better reason. The biggest & best reason for why we celebrate, though, is in the name itself, 'Thanksgiving Day'! It is a day of thanksgiving, a day set apart, not unlike Sunday for most Christians, for the purpose of giving thanks to our Creator, Provider & Heavenly Father!

However ( or even whether ) we choose to celebrate this most special of holidays ( second only to Christmas ), we should ask ourselves, 'why celebrate it only once a year?'! The answer to this question could be as simple as 'TRADITION', but it can also be as complex as conflicting scheduling to inclement weather or any variety of other difficulties. In order to gather any group of people, however far or near from around the country or even state for the purposes of celebration takes two main things, time & money, often plenty of both!

Being thankful, as we all know, but should consider especially at this time of year, in this 'Season of Thanksgiving', is something we can & should celebrate every day & with every fiber of our being! This is not to say that we should not set aside one particular day of the year ( or week ) for the purposes of thanking & praising the Creator for the Goodness of the Harvest, there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but in our human capacities, there is the tendency, as with Sunday, to relegate our thankfulness to this certain season & after to return to the drudgery of 'normal', everyday life! This again is not to say that everyone who upholds this holiday is like this either & is thankful for this season only ( okay, maybe the next one too ), but as we do celebrate our Thanksgiving Day here in a few days, let's all remember what we're thankful for & why; we need to celebrate, to whatever extent, our thanksgiving every day, in all we do & say!

This Thanksgiving Day, as we brave the weather of the season ( whatever that might be ) to gather with friends & family to lift a glass of cheer in celebration of the harvest, let us remember that thanksgiving is like life! Every day that we spend above ground is a reason to be thankful; each moment that we have been given to spend with loved ones is a reason to celebrate! Let's lift the glass of cheer, not only the day after tomorrow in celebration of our Thanksgiving, but everyday let us live our life in thanksliving for the joy we have found!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, November 23, 2015

'I Can Only Imagine!'

'Heaven' is a hot topic! Especially when a loved one has passed, it's difficult not to affirm that there is indeed an afterlife & that's where your loved one is. No doubt they're there, but where IS 'there'? WHAT is 'there'?! IS 'heaven' a place, like some have said ( a few have even reportedly been 'there' ) or is it all a pipe dream; ARE our psyches actually tied to these biological bodies? When our physical perishes, is that it, or IS there life after death; do our spirits indeed continue after this biology becomes worm food?!

The wisest man on earth, Solomon king of Israel, is recorded as saying, 'Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it' ( Ecclesiastes 12:7 ). Although it would be difficult to prove beyond all reasonable doubt aside from what Scripture says about it, it is pretty clear that there is a spirit inhabiting our mortal bodies! Even the modern vernacular of the ordinary person is used to talking about the 'spirit' of a thing, such as 'The Spirit of '76' or saying such things as 'show your team spirit', or 'that girl's definitely got spirit'. Most people, even those who don't claim to be Christian, are pretty sure that after the biological body of any given person ( or animal, for that matter ) dies, the spirit of that person ( or animal ) continues on & strangely enough, many believe that where that spirit spends eternity depends on how this spirit lived while it was housed in the flesh!

Whether you believe what Solomon said about our biology or not, even nature itself has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that it takes a relatively short time ( years ) for a human body to be assimilated into what ground it's buried in! The fact of the matter is, whether animal or human, unless somehow preserved ( naturally or unnaturally ), this biology will eventually become worm food & may even provide the beginning for new life!

The spirit, though an intangible, is clearly evident! If a given human being is able to push their body beyond what is normally evident in most other human beings ( this applies to animals too ), we take note that this one ( or ones ) has a strong spirit, even an 'indomitable' one. The spirit of a man or woman is what drives them; it's what makes them who they are! It is even common that when a relatively healthy person 'gives up the ghost' or just begins to lead a 'life-less' existence, it is reported that he or she lost their spirit, their reason for living.

So, is there life after death? Scripture seems to imply there is; depending on the interpreter, there are even descriptions of this 'after-life! Anything from the utopian fairy-tale of sitting on 'Cloud Nine', playing harps to enjoying a totally peaceful existence like the prophet Isaiah described in Isaiah 11:6. That, of course, is 'Heaven' ( according to most interpreters ); 'Hell', on the other hand, is a place of continual flame & burning torture derived from the pages of Greek mythology! Can you imagine you body forever being forever seared by flames ( though not like a good steak, to perfection ) but never consumed; constant, nervous pain that never ends ( with no hope of reprieve )? This is the option that all evangelists & most 'good' Christians teach you to fear; after a session with one of them, most end up hoping that, as 'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' they will have done more good than bad before the curtain falls & their number is called!

'Heaven' being the optimal 'place to go then, what might we expect when & if we get there? Well, for most Christians, 'Heaven' means the Blessed Presence of our Heavenly Father, where as one creed/catechism says, 'we will enjoy Him forever'! It seems to me there is a Scripture of very similar import, I Thessalonians 4:17b, 'And thus we shall always be with the Lord' Other writers besides this one have written numerous accounts of what it really means to be 'always be with the Lord', 'enjoying Him forever' & it should be very clear that one does not need to be separated from his or her biological body, to say nothing of the Body, in order for this to be a Reality!

The After-life makes for a fascinating study; so many thought-provoking & awe-inspiring questions! The possibilities seem almost Infinite! If indeed Heaven & Earth HAVE become One, then maybe We ARE Divine; maybe our spirits HAVE become so intertwined with the Creator's that We have become Creator's ourselves; the possibilities seem almost endless! Who's to say that each of us, after we have done away with these physical bodies, will not become 'Gods' ourselves & rule our own planet?! Maybe, when it's all said & done, we will inhabit a veritable utopia where Isaiah's vision ( Isaiah 11:6-9 ) of the wolf dwelling with the lamb & the toddler playing with snakes will come true, in a literal sense!

One thing is for sure, as most Christians ( however begrudgingly ) will admit; We ARE in the Presence of our God & Father NOW! Some may only acknowledge the Blessings of His Presence at certain times & in certain places, but most will readily admit His Presence, here & now. Most Christians look forward to a day when we will be free of this biology so that we may enjoy our Heavenly Father's Presence forever & I must say, this actually seems more enticing the older I get! Is this utopia something we can look forward to? Maybe, but as for me & my house, we will enjoy the Presence of our Heavenly Father NOW; we will live the lives we have been given in these bodies NOW & for His Honor & the Glory of His Eternal Kingdom!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Poitics & Religion; Likely Bedfellows

Fear is likely one of the 'best' motivators you'll ever meet! It is the motivation behind the wars that this nation has borne witness to for the past two hundred years or more & it is also the motivation for what passes as religion, these days. Religion, in that sense as well, bears the blame for most if not all of the wars that this country, in the past two centuries, has seen. All over the world, in fact, religion has fueled wars & divisions!

What passes for religion today is largely what drives the political engine of this nation! What people believe about a certain thing motivates them to, say vote for the lesser of two evils, follow a certain party line, or throw their support behind a certain candidate that promises change. In order to preserve their way of life ( as they see it ), people will attack with all their fervor anything that they view as a threat to that way of life!

The politics of these nation, dysfunctional as they are, are largely if not wholly driven by fear; fear that if we elect this man as president, he will just make matters worse & unleash the Muslim Horde, fear that if we elect that man ( or woman ), he ( or she ) will kill our already weak economy & turn this into a 'third-world' nation ( ? ). These fears are probably well-founded; in fat, to some extent, they seem to be coming true before our very eyes!

The recent attacks in Paris, not to mention strategic attacks elsewhere around the world at most opportune times have only served to bolster this fear, particularly of what is seen as 'The Muslim Horde'! To be a true American, it seems like it's almost obligatory to hate everything the Obama Administration has done ( not that there's much to like there ) & consequently, to bear a strong dislike ( that's putting it lightly ) for anything having to do with Islam. Some say that Islam is a religion of peace while others say that their 'Bible' ( Q'ran ) instructs them to 'kill the infidel' ( anyone who isn't a good ( radical? ) Muslim. This should sound familiar to most Christians, for their Bible ( the Old Testament, anyway ) instructed the Israelites to commit genocide against a certain people who were occupying their Promised Land!

We have witnessed how the politics, especially Foreign Policy, of this nation have been driven from its inception by religion; a religion based on fear, no less! On the one hand that if we don't subscribe to the right belief system & act accordingly, we will got to 'Hell' instead of  'Heaven', while on the other hand, there is the fear that if we don't strike first that we may not get the chance to strike at all. Fear drives both our religion & politics, it seems! What most people call religion today is really just an institution, one that has been formed by man in his finite wisdom in order, as one man put it, 'to control the masses' ( sounds familiar, right? ). Our political stance, although some would probably deny it ( most vociferously ), is defined by what we believe ( our religion ); if one doesn't believe in a certain person or cause, then that one will not support that person or cause & if one does believe, they will support what they believe!

Although greed ( 'all the oil under the sand' ) no doubt plays a major role, the foreign Policy of this nation seems to have been driven by the false conception that the land in the Middle East now occupied primarily by the Israelis is theirs ( Israelis ) by right ( divine ) & not by conquest ( war )! On the other side of the equation, the Palestinians avow that since they were there first, it is by ( natural ) right their land. This fight has been going on for millenia & but for our involvement, may never have reached our shores!

As matters currently stand, it would seem that our fears have a firm basis! The big one nowadays concerns the Syrian Refugees; it seems everyone is afraid that if we let those refugees in they will destroy us. That fear probably has some foundation, because there are probably some terrorists mixed in among the almost countless ones who are fleeing oppression & seeking peaceful asylum. A fear that many might not have thought about is that if we refuse them asylum, we may end up turning them into 'terrorists' because, well, you know, 'a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, right?

Both politics & religion bear the blame for the wars & devastations we have witnessed in the past millenia; both are based in fear, both are used to control the masses! Though the damage has been done, the trend is not irreversible, there IS an antidote! 'Make love, not war' may have been a 'hippy mantra born during the 'free love' era of the 60s & 70s, but if more people knew what true love was & practiced that instead of basing their religion in fear & practicing politics, the world would be the better for it! The only 'preemptive strike' that Love knows is to take affirmative action & do what is right, just & good! Fear breeds hatred & contempt; hatred for what it doesn't understands & contempt for what it thinks it does; sound familiar?!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Appeal of Apocalypticism

'There’s a major limitation of groups that embrace apocalypticism: They lose their appeal when their predictions fail to materialize.'

We are at war!

No, I'm not speaking of the War on Terror that many Americans are blindly fighting against an almost unassailable foe; I'm not even speaking of the War on Islam that seems to be fomenting in the hearts & minds of these & other Americans! I'm speaking rather of the War that the U. S. Inc. is waging, with the help of the Religious Right ( Moral Majority, etc. ) on the Hearts & Minds of all Americans!

A large part of the reason ( and anyone may correct me here ) that we are embroiled in the wars of our neighbors in the Middle-East, is based in apocolypticism, the belief that such cataclysmic events are leading up to the end of history & the world as we know it! We can enumerate numerous examples ( The Waco Incident ( David Koresh ), 'Don't Drink the Kool-aid' ( Jim Jones ), etc ) of where such beliefs have lead, not to the end of the world ( although it was definitely the end of their 'world' ) but simply to death & destruction for all or many of those involved.

An anachronistic reading of the Story of Scripture has lead to much unnecessary pain & suffering on several accounts, not least of which is a false understanding of eschatology, or apocalyptic literature. The belief that we are entering upon or living in the time of the end as described in the pages of Scripture ( particularly in the latter half ) has led many, if not most Americans & Christians in general to bear witness to many crimes against humanity, all in the name of 'freedom'!

Apocalypticism appeals to many different groups of people, but especially to those who view themselves as 'downtrodden'! It offers the hope of escape from the rigors of this life & an entrance into realms of pleasure. For Muslims, it means the sexual pleasures of '70 virgins' ( or so we hear ), while to many Christians it means anything from playing on the harp all day to never having to worry about doing taxes again! To hasten 'The End'; many people ( including, strangely enough, mostly Muslims & Christians ) have committed acts of barbarism that would almost make the Holocaust seem like a Sunday School Picnic!

Why has it been so easy for 'the powers that be' to manipulate & control the hearts & minds of so many of its constituents; can the average citizen of this country not see that they've been 'hood-winked' by these great deceivers? Especially after so many predictions of 'the end of time' have proven to be simply the end of an era ( or their credibility ), one would think that Americans would note this ( false ) 'apocalypticism' for what it is & address the issues at hand! To their credit, many Americans ( this is a growing number ) have realized the 'fear & fairy-tales' that have captivated them for so long; it is as if they are awaking from a long sleep, like Rip Van Winkle, if you will!

Because most Christians in particular & Americans in general have fallen prey to this false ideology, the world has born witness to much that is not very Christ-like; it is no wonder that Christianity in general & America in particular have become such a joke to so many! By reading ourselves into the Story of Scripture, we have not not only failed to understand the True Meaning of Jesus' Death, Burial & Resurrection, we have born witness to almost irreparable harm all over the world! It is only through a correct understanding of this Story that we will be able to rise up out of this morass that we have created!

When Americans throw off these chains of bondage & come blinking into the Light, we may see a gradual lessening of the wars ( of all sorts ) that we have seen over the past number of centuries! 'Apocalypticism', though it may have lost much of it relative appeal, is still very much alive, but it's steadily losing steam. The damage has been done & it's not over yet; 'apocalypticism' no doubt has much more havoc to wreak on our world!

If we want to win this war, we must determine not to be manipulated any longer by these ( false ) religious fears & fairy-tales! We can & must indeed learn from the trials & tribulations we read in the Story of Scripture, but we must realize too that these events took place in the past; though they hold many truths for us today, in our world, they were fulfilled in the first century. The biggest Truth, maybe, is the realization that the End did come; everything else will 'snowball' from there!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, November 16, 2015

Semper Reformanda; Fulfilled & Always Fulfilling

How many Protestant Christians do you know ( not to mention Roman Catholics ) that believe that theirs is the One, True Religion? How many of these Christians seem to be stuck in a theological rut; acting ( believing ) as if what they ( usually, their pastors ) found is the whole truth & nothing but the truth; that their special gospel is the end-all, that they are theologically at their destination?! These Christians, Reformed Christians in particular, seem to have forgotten the motto of the Reformation, which in effect, or theory anyway, is 'Reformed and always reforming'!

In the Institutional Church today, especially maybe in evangelical ( Protestant Churches, but in Reformed circles as well, there seems to be an alarming trend; a growing number of teens & young adults are leaving the IC in droves! This trend might be attributed to any number of issues, one of which is their eschatology of defeat ( in this life anyway ). In Reformed Churches, this eschatology may be a bit better in regards to the present, but it has much the same outcome; Jesus comes back at the end of Time to rescue us from our own 'misfortunes' and burn up everything bad!

As believers in Fulfilled  Eschatology, we say ( to different extents ) that all ( Scripture ) has been fulfilled!  In fact, Jesus Himself said, 'all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and [ the ] Prophets and [ the ] Psalms concerning Me'. Now, to be honest, most believes in Fulfilled Eschatology tend to look at at that word 'fulfilled' & see only or mostly that Jesus was Himself the End, the Goal or Fulfillment of all that was prophesied. This IS true, He was the Fulfillment of all that was written concerning the Messiah of Israel, but if that is all, then in truth, the Scriptures no longer apply except as a 'lesson plan' for our lives!

Most Christians look forward to the return of Jesus, whether at the End of Time or what, as the time when 'the lion will lay down with the lamb' ( correctly 'The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb'-Isaiah 11:6 ), when there will be world-wide peace & all will be set to rights. In some Christian circles, there is talk of a future utopia, a 'heaven on earth', but again, this will be brought about only through the Return of Jesus! There seems to be no hope for this world apart from the ( re ) Appearance of the Christ!

The full & glorious impact of the fact that we are the Body of Christ seems to have been lost on many Christians! Realizing that the apostle ( Paul ) was speaking metaphorically here ( ? ) doesn't change Our Purpose for being HERE ( on earth ); WE are here for the same purpose that the Christ came, to bring heaven to earth; the difference of course being that He was God Himself, though it could be well-argued that we have inherited His Divinity, being 'the temple of the Holy Spirit' ( I Corinthians 6:19 )! As the case may be, We are, in Effect the Christ ( the Anointed One to the World ); WE, the Body of Christ are to continue His Work ( John 14:12 ), effecting in our 'world' what He has already done!

In us is ( being ) fulfilled the purpose for which the Christ came! Although this was specifically to redeem His People from the bondage of that first ( Old ) covenant & it condemning Law, the effect that His once-for-all sacrifice had was universal in scope, effecting the salvation of all who would believe & trust in ( obey ) the Messiah of Israel. Over Time, as Scripture says, 'Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God' ( Romans 14:11 ( Isaiah 45:23 ); this was, in the Scriptural sense, fulfilled through the Christ in Reality, but in actually, it is being fulfilled through us, through our ministrations ( not discounting the important & necessary work of the Spirit ) every day!

Though these many Christians have not realized yet within themselves this glorious fact. maybe, the Purpose of our Heavenly Father IS being realized every blessed day! While droves are leaving the Institutional Church, most are not leaving the Faith ( of Christ ); many Christians are beginning to realize that the Institutional Church and the Body of Christ are not One & the same! Although doubtless many within the IC belong to the Body of Christ, there are probably as many or more that are the Body of Christ, although they do not belong to any Institutional Church!

We may look forward to the 'day', not a false hope of the Return of the Christ, but the 'day ( continuing & eternal ) when all men & women will realize that their Creator has made His Presence known to His Creation, that He wants to bless them with His Presence & that WE ARE His Hands & Feet through Whom He chooses to broadcast those blessings! As His Body, may we ever choose to fulfill His Purpose, bringing the blessings of His Presence to the 'world' around us, in whatever we say & do! This IS our prayer & our purpose!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The King's Highways

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
Colossians 1:16 & 17 

When you think about it, if you ever really think about it; how awesome is it that the One who set the universe in motion & upholds ALL things by His Almighty Hand is our Heavenly Father, we are His children & He owns all 'the cattle on a thousand hills'?! Not only that, He also gave all His children the brains & ability to create everything that man could contrive! 

Many Christians will readily acknowledge that our Father gave this world over to the devil, otherwise known as the mystical, mythical fallen angel called 'Satan'! As one who understands that the Scriptures that speak of this evil 'personage' were written, not only in a different language, but to an ancient people in a much different culture; I heartily disagree! When one reads in Scripture 'the god of this age' ( II Corinthians 4:4-KJV erroneously reads 'world' instead of 'age' ), they must also remember that Psalm 11:15b reads, 'the earth He has given to the children of men'!

Having recently returned from an adventure ( is it really over? ), I had the opportunity to travel some highways & biways I had never been on before & to tell you the truth, it can get interesting! Knowing that these roads are maintained by the tax monies of the residents of that particular state or by otherwise ill-gotten gains might give one pause to think, but when we realize that our Heavenly Father is King of Everything & that none of this would be here unless He had given life to those who built these roads, we may be comforted by the fact that wherever we go & whatever we do, it is not without His say-so or aid!

When we use anything that is fashioned by the mind of man, are we truly operating outside our Father's care? I acknowledge that we must use our best judgment, for as the apostle Paul himself wrote 'All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any'( I Corinthians 6:12 ); we have the freedom to use all things in creation as we choose, but not all those choices are the best; in fact, some are the worst possible!

There is right & there is wrong; I'm not saying, by any means, that our Father is pleased when we make wrong choices, but as any good father, though He may chastise us ( or allow us to be chastised ) when we do make bad or wrong choices, we are still His children, He still cares for us as our Heavenly Father!

Most recently, a friend of mine was murdered; he paid with his life for what may be a series of bad choices! Did he perish because he was not on the King's Highway? Some would doubtless say so, but was he not really? Even though he had made some wrong or bad choices, did he die because his Heavenly Father, His Creator no longer cared for him? Scripturally speaking maybe, one might say that his Heavenly Father lifted the 'hedge of protection' from him, allowing him to be shot in the head & killed, but as we saw earlier, these scriptures were written concerning a specific people & they were not Americans living in the 21st century ( this is not to say that Scripture holds nothing for us )!

Although, through that engine of 'choice', not all who traverse the King's Highways enjoy the same level of comfort, blessing & protection, we are all under the care of our Heavenly Father, our Creator God! If the Creator had not given His Creation the brains & ability to co-create ( or pro-create ) then much of what we bear witness to in this world would not exist. We have the freedom to make whatever choice we wish but not every choice we would make is good, right & just, so let us ever strive to make choices that ARE good, right & just that we might enjoy our journey on the King's Highways!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A Better Theology

I AM a Christian, a 'little' Christ, I strive to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, not believing everything the WCF ( Westminster Confession of Faith ) or the creeds say you need to believe in order to be a 'Christian', but DOING what He did ( trying to ), religiously living according to my beliefs ( everybody believes SOMETHING )!

More importantly, I AM a part of 'We', the Body of Christ! Even here, according to the WCF & most of the creeds, I cannot BE a part of the Body of Christ because most often that is equated ( as it should be, truly ) with being a Christian, plus, since my brethren do not interpret Scripture according to the WCF or the creed, we cannot be considered part of the Body because we do not believe all the things they say we should though we strive to do what is right!

As believers in Fulfilled Eschatology, we believe that we have a better understanding of, say, Jesus' words in Matthew 24:34, 'Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.' We believe that when Jesus told His disciples this, He said it in answer to ALL of their earlier ( 24:3 ) questions! This belief consistently has quite the 'domino effect', affecting most every doctrine in Scripture & felling most if not all man-made doctrines!

The question has been asked ( rightly so ); 'what effect does this 'better theology' have on our life?' Are we better Christians because of it? In this day & age, it seems like 'Christians' are a dime a dozen! One may believe according to the WCF & the creeds, yet be one of the worst Christians. Don't get me wrong,; I'm not saying that merely believing what the WCF or the creeds say makes you a bad Christian, much of what the WCF & the creeds say is Scriptural. No, what I'm saying is that, when the rubber meets the road, it is what one DOES, not what one BELIEVES that really matters!

Now, EVERYONE believes SOMETHING; if one doesn't believe ANYTHING, they won't do ANYTHING: belief IS important! However, as we can all bear witness to, not everyone who SAYS a thing DOES accordingly, but everyone that DOES ( or practices, more rightly ) a certain thing truly believes that way. It's easy to say ( 'talk is cheap' ) that one believes a certain thing but it is hard to do accordingly. I'm not saying that just because one does not always do according to what he or she believes that they do NOT believe what they purport, though this is often the case, but 'men are weak'; we all make mistakes, to a greater or lesser extent!

Back to the question of 'a better theology'; does what we believe affect what we do? Most assuredly it does! If we believe that Jesus came back ( in judgment ) when & how He said He would, along with all the 'domino effects' that belief carries, it should have an effect on the way we live our lives. For instance, that, like Jesus said 'salvation is of the Jews' ( John 4:22 ), we understand, not that one must be ( come ) a Jew in order to be save, but that salvation, in Scriptural terms, is something that happened in the first century, not just to the Jews, but to Gentiles as well. Because we believe that the Resurrection occurred in the first century, we live freely, not in expectation that all our works will be burned up, but knowing that, in our Father's Good Providence, they will endure the ravages of Time!

We DO believe, but more to the point, we act on that belief, we DO accordingly! One can say ( till they're blue in the face ) that they believe this or that, but unless &until they actually DO it, their words are useless & less than worthless. It is when we DO things ( for the most part ) that others know what we believe! If we say we believe a certain thing but do not do accordingly, our words can actually be harmful, especially in a religious context! As for me; I believe I'll go next door &have a cup of coffee!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, November 06, 2015

Rest In Peace, My Friend

Just the other night, the small town in which I reside was rocked by the sad news of the dastardly murder of one of our beloved though maybe infamous residents! The person in question was no saint, from most accounts, but then, 'what constitutes a saint'? Sure, he made some choices that were probably not the best, but at the time of decision, he probably didn't see any other option. On the other hand, he did much that blessed others & that is what he will be remembered for! Those who were on the receiving end of his bad choices will not doubt be forced to store these memories for future reference, but the good that he did & the blessing that he was will no doubt be forever foremost in their memory banks!

I personally did not have a relationship with this person apart from one of our local watering holes & to be honest, I wasn't sure that I wanted to; now I wish I had! Maybe I could have gotten to know & love the good instead of just seeing ( hearing about, really ) the bad; maybe I could have influenced his life in such a way that he would have made better decisions, but now we'll never know. 'It's no use crying over spilt milk', they say & there's been a lot of milk spilled; too much! What's done is done, we can't go back; all we can do is go forward, do better & thank our Father in Heaven for the time that we were given with him!

We can only hope & then act on that hope that this sad event will serve as a wake-up call to those involved, bring us closer together as a community & help us all to see & appreciate the good in our neighbors, not to condemn & ostracize them for the bad choices that they've made, just because they're different bad choices than the ones we made!

We can understand that choices have consequences, but even though our friend's bad choices may have finally caught up to him, two wrongs don't make a right & what happened to him most definitely wasn't right! On the other hand though, it might behoove us to try to understand where his murderer stood ( speaking of bad choices, that was a REALLY bad one ) & why he might have chosen to shoot & kill our friend, whether it was a cold-blooded murder or whether it happened 'in the heat of the moment'! What should happen to this murderer; should he face the same judgment he forced upon our friend? Most of those ( if not all ) involved would immediately & most definitely say 'YES'! Be that as it may, what should happen to this murderer?  Rightly, he should face the same fate; his life should no doubt be taken as he so selfishly took our friends, but then again, we must duly note that his family probably feels the same! Maybe his loved ones would feel the same way if his life was taken, though justice would be served!

By looking back on this saddening event, may we ever be reminded, not just of the good things that our friend accomplished in his life, but, taking note of the bad choices he made & the consequences he paid, strive to make better choices in our own lives. We need to love our neighbor & do unto them as we would have them do to us. Too often we do unto others AS they do unto us, reacting to their actions rather than taking a preemptive strike & doing the right thing, whether it is reciprocated or not!

We all make bad choices, to whatever extent & we all pay a price for our mistakes! We may not know & may never know the exact reason why our friend paid with his life, but one thing is for sure; his murderer will pay with his own! Call it 'karma', call it 'reaping what you sow', his sin will surely find him out! Whether he just spends a long time in prison or whether he meets a just & abrupt end like he gave our friend, he is in hell & justly so!

Finally & on the other hand, our friend is at rest; he is no longer bothered by the day-to-day burdens of the flesh! Right or wrong, this murderer''s actions freed his spirit from his body & now, Lord willing, he rests in the 'Arms' of the One who made him. May Joseph ever rest in peace!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

'Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'.........

'If I had it to do all over again, I would!'

Sure, I'd like to believe that I'd do some things differently, but as they say, 'it is what it is'; what happened happened & whether you believe it was meant to happen the way it did, the fact is, it did & there's no going back: it's irreversible! Whether we like it or not, however we choose to look at it, certain things occur to us ( in our lives ) that are just not 'in the plans'. When such events occur, we still have a choice, yes, as to how we address those events & that is what ( usually & largely ) determines the outcome of these occurrences.

'It all began in a bar'! Okay, you know this has GOT to be a good story, all the best ones do, right?! Well, as the case may be, this story has it's bumps, hurdles & jolts, but again, 'all the best ones do'. I met 'her' one evening at a local watering hole, where we barely spoke that first time, but as I got used to seeing her around town, we hit it off & became instant if not fast friends! About a week and a half ( or so ) into our friendship, 'she' asked me if I wanted to go to Oregon with her & after about 5-10 seconds of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict; we were headed for Oregon within about half an hour of the judgement!

Okay, by now, you may be thinking that this was a mistake, the decision came too quickly; I mean, shouldn't we wait at least 30 days before deciding we know someone well enough to go traipsing off across state lines with them?! Well, you might have something there, but I am not a normal person & these were not normal circumstances ( what IS 'normal', anyway? )! There is usually much more to ANY circumstance, not to mention any person, than meets the eye. Such was definitely the case here; though I had my own ideas & thoughts, my Heavenly Father knew EXACTLY what was going on & what needed to happen!

So, after traveling as far as Ritzville, Washington ( about halfway ) the first night, we stopped & got a motel. The next day, after a beautiful drive mostly alongside the Hood River, we pulled into Charleston/Coos Bay, Oregon where we holed up in another motel right on the bay, or very near it. Charleston, Oregon is an old fishing village that still sees a lot of traffic. Between Charleston & Coos Bay is where we spent most of our time, staying mostly in that one motel & then for the final few days, in a yurt at one of the Oregon Coast's many beautiful state parks.

After several failed attempts to get me back home, my friend finally succeeded in placing me on a bus headed for Portland where I boarded the train headed for Spokane, Washington! Some other friends were planning to attend a wedding in Spokane the next day, so I holed up at a homeless shelter until they could pick me up. This particular homeless shelter, Union Gospel Mission, turned out to be a real blessing to me! I never slept great there, but I was blessed with a safe, warm & dry place to live, three 'squares' a day & comfort & fellowship if I so desired. I was privileged as well, to serve by rolling silverware for mealtimes, which came regularly &  most evenings were open to the public ( ? )!

Overall, I was blessed to have had this experience ( from beginning to end ) & in our Father's Wise Bestowment, the story's not over! I plan to continue my relationship with 'her' & so look forward to many more opportunities to serve & to live Life to the fullest! For those who choose to take part, whether directly or indirectly in this adventure or to follow their own path, may our Father bless you with the Strength & Fortitude necessary to leap over the many hurdles we face!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Body of Christ in the 21st Century

'Where do you go to church?'

How often do we ask this question without really thinking about it? Sure, everybody knows what we mean; we mean to ask them where they meet with others of like faith for the purpose of fellowship & corporate worship, but it's just easier ( simpler ) to ask 'where do you go to church?'! Why then don't we ask where they meet for fellowship & worship rather than playing along with the popular but ignorant notion that Church is where we meet, not who we are are?

The apostle Paul, in numerous places throughout his letters, refers to the Church as 'the Body of Christ'; this is not to say that, individually, every one of us is the Son of God incarnate, but that corporately, we the Church, those who have joined with the Creator in Covenant, have become One with Him through that Covenant! As 'the Body of Christ', then, we are with Him wherever we are & whatever we're doing.

The Church is a group of people that often meet together for corporate worship & fellowship, so you could almost quite simply say that we go to ( meet with the ) Church, but then we have to combat the deadly notion that we are ONLY the Church when we do meet together ( in a specialized building )! Or, some might say that it is only when we gather together ( geographically speaking ) as a 'Body' that we truly worship in Spirit & Truth! Both of these notions are far below what we see in Scripture & definitely not what the Creator of Heaven & Earth intended!

So where does this notion come from, this notion that we 'go to church'? Not only does this feed the ignorance of the fact that we ARE the Church, it also leads to the falsehood that true worship can be given only in a certain specialized building & that only in concert are we 'the Body of Christ'! There are those who might say this is a false dilemma, claiming that 'going to church' is the same as saying 'to congregate together'; sounds pretty close, right? Well, no; not just 'no', but 'HELL NO'! We DO congregate together ( most Christians ) not JUST on Sunday ( though this is most popular ) but throughout the week & in a variety of places! To 'go to church' ( whether just on Sunday and maybe Wednesday evenings-even Saturday-like some ) is blatantly saying, as above, that we are NOT the Church, EXCEPT when we DO gather for corporate worship & fellowship ( most importantly corporate worship-or just plain worship )!

Worship is something else that feels the effect of the phrase! As we saw earlier, there is a tendency to think that our primary ( maybe only ) means or manner of worship is to sing Psalms or hymns, listen to a sermon for 45 minutes to an hour & give our tithes & offerings. The belief that we must do this on Sunday, Saturday or whenever, in a building set aside for that special purpose is not only archaic, it's Pharisaic! This a big part of the same issue that Jesus uprooted in His Day; the notion that worship must be done in a certain way, in or on a certain place! When the Woman at the Well in Samaria reminded Jesus that 'you [ Jews ] say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship' ( John 4:20 ), Jesus said 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father'. After setting her straight, He told her at that Time, 'true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth'!

The Time is NOW, the 'place' is wherever we are & whatever we're doing! Worship is what we, as the Children of our Heavenly Father do. When we gather together in an certain 'place' for the specialized purpose of corporate worship & fellowship, it is in that sense 'Church' ( although 'congregation' would be a more accurate description ), but ONLY in that sense, because WE are the Church! We may meet AS the Church, but we do not 'go to church' ( Church ) because wherever WE are, there we are!

Charles Haddon Shank