The Pagan Path

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

Beautiful Creatures

Have you ever heard the saying, 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' ( or, if one happens to frequent bars, 'beauty is in the eye of the beer holder' )? While this statement is somewhat true, it tends to do two things ( no, objectifying women is NOT ( necessarily ) one of them ); it tends to make beauty a mere outward observance, and it turns beauty a relative emotion!

It is true, in a sense, that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder ( or beer holder )'! As beauty can apply to either sex, it is, in that sense, dependent on the observer as to whether a certain human being ( or animal, for that matter ) holds any beauty! In the case of the beer holder, the more one drinks ( this too can apply to either individual ), the better the person or object of their desire ( lust ) looks! On the other hand, the beauty of any given individual can also decrease ( exponentially ) the more they drink!

Beauty, in the sense outlined above, then, is a relative emotion; one person may find another very attractive, very beautiful, so to speak, while a different person might find that other person, the object of that other's admiration to be quite hideous, quite distasteful! Then, on the other hand, one person may look merely on the outward appearance, while the other admires inner beauty ( remember, this applies to both sexes )! While a person may have the appearance of being beautiful ( here's where relativity comes into play ), he or she may be 'as ugly as sin', so to speak, inwardly! On the other hand, an individual may lack that outward appearance ( relativity, again), but they might have the kindest, gentlest, most loving ( beautiful ) demeanor, thus being more truly attractive than the one who is merely beautiful on the outside. Again, in this sense, beauty is relative, but is it really?!

God created all things beautiful! Most people would not say that the mosquito is beautiful, that it is part of the curse, but if you looked at its wondrous workings under a microscope or muse about God's wondrous purpose for even this lowly creature, you might change your mind! Relativity makes its appearance here, once again, because most if not all human beings would rather swat them out of existence than study them and see what makes them tick!

Speaking of human beings, the central concern of this blogpost, it could rightly be said that all human beings, in the above context, are beautiful creatures! Whether in the outward appearance, the inward demeanor, both or neither; God created every human being on this planet beautiful! And really, when you think about it, everyone is attractive or attracted to someone; the ugliest person, in either way and of either sex will always attract others! That's just the way it is!

Being the emotional creatures that we are ( yes, that's the way God made us ), we naturally find members of the opposite sex attractive! Men tend to bristle when a women with the appearance of beauty enter their field of vision. The same often happens to a woman when they see a 'cute butt', on a guy, or 'wowzers, look at those gorgeous......eyes'! More often than not, that's as far as it goes, the object of their affection passes out of their line of sight and that 'beauty' is all but forgotten!

Beauty, although in a sense relative, is more, much more than a passing fancy, though; it is inherent ( some just keep it under a bushel basket while others set it on a candle stick )! Our emotional response to beauty is too often mistaken for beauty itself! Relativity makes a person beautiful to one, but hideous to another, depending on any number of things, but this is about the appearance of beauty and not beauty itself!

God created all things beautiful! God created human beings to be attracted to the opposite sex as well! The appearance of beauty is most often what any given person will notice about another. Upon closer examination, that person might decide that the object of his or her affection ( emotional attraction ) is not so beautiful as first thought, that the attraction was merely to their ( outward ) appearance of beauty, yet that person will most likely still be attractive to someone, and most definitely beautiful to their Heavenly Father, their Creator!

When we ( men and women ) appreciate the beauty that God has bestowed on His Creation, usually on the opposite sex, although it may be based on general appearance, it sometimes kindles a spark within that make us want to get to know the true beauty that is that person! Other times we just turn on our heel, so to speak, thinking, 'oh, that person is probably only beautiful on the outside'!

Charles Haddon Shank

The Shifting of Barriers & Paradigms

'Houston, we have a problem!'

Besides the normal everyday changes that we all go through, there is much going on, particularly in the Church of the 21st century that is going to require some major adjustments! More & more Christians are recognizing this need, while many have realized the need in their own personal ministry & have made or are making the necessary adjustments! If nothing else, at least they're on the right track! This is not to say that we have all the answers here in blog land or even in Fulfilled Escgatology, or even Covenant Theology, including Protology & Eschatology, but this view-point, I believe, is the most honest & complete treatment of the Story of Scripture that is available to date!

To get to the point where some of us are ( I realize that even now, we are not all at the same point ), some major shifts are going to need to take place & some daunting barriers are going to have to come down! The hierarchical structure that now exists within most if not all Instititutional Churches ( congregations ) is one good example. Even many congregations that have freed themselves of the chains that bind the Institutional Church have patterned themselves, either intentionally or unintentionally, after this hierarchical structure! There is a hierarchy of sorts, no doubt, within the Church & this is as it should be: Christ is the Head & we are the Body! We are all ministers & in that sense, we are all priests!

The priesthood of all believers in the New Covenant is a doctrine most widely accepted in all of Christendom, at least nominally! We say 'nominally' because most Christian congregations today do not really reflect this doctrine. The existence of seminaries & the professional minister, or preacher/pastor is probably the most glaring example of this lack of true belief! This, again, is not to say that those in the ministry & especially those who share their spiritual gifts of preaching or pastoring, should not share in the material blessings of those they pastor ( shepherd ) or to whom they preach; this is very Scriptural, but it seems that the professional clergy of today is a far cry from the first century Church & the priesthood of all ( man & woman? ) believers!

To be fair, not all believers have the same gifts; not all have the gift of oration ( though everyone, no doubt, has something to say )' not all have the same leadership qualities or inclinations ( though doubtless, everyone is called to lead at some point in their life ) & not all have the same level of love & care for others ( though all draw on & reflect the same Source )! Though we do not all readily exhibit the same Gifts, we all have the same Calling, being Gifted by the same Giver. That Giver of Gifts, of course, is the same One who comforted the Church in Her Infancy!

'So', you might ask, 'what is the best way to expedite this process?' ( we humans tend to be rather impatient ) Well; the best way to share a Revealed Truth, of course, is to live it! A wise man once said, 'preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words'. Most people need to see something before they can believe it & so we come to the root of our problem! Too often, those within the Institutional Church, whether purposefully or carelessly, have emphasized the preaching of the Revelation of God's Word more so than the practice of said Word, especially in days of future past!

This is not to say, of course, that all who subscribe to the Institutional Church commit the same error, not practicing what they preach, but for too long & far too many, this has been the practice, not only within the Institutional Church, but within the Church at large, She who claims no ties & even repudiates association with the Institutional Church! As such, the Paradigm Shift which has been looming ( though unnoticed by some ) over the Church at large has begun to wash over Her, crumbling erstwhile barriers & unleashing a flood of revelation which threatens, once more, to turn the world upside down!

While this shift may not happen overnight & doubtless will not for many within the Institutional Church, the breaking down of barriers ( to fellowship & ministry ) is occurring as we speak; it is no longer just knocking at our door, but it is pervading our House! We have a job to do, no doubt & much of the responsibility for this needful shift rests squarely on our capable ( thank you, Father! ) shoulders, but we cannot & do not discount the infinitely more valuable work of the Holy Spirit!

As we labor tirelessly toward this end, let us remember to work, rest & recreate, knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord! We may not witness this shift in what we might call a timely fashion or even in our biological lifetime, but, as surely as the Kingdom came which was inaugurated inJesus' day, so surely & indomitably will this shift come! Even so, our Lord Jesus came for this Purpose!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Presence Within; the Community of Divinity

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22 & 23

As much talk as there is these days about how so many doctrines are in need of a fresh look & possibly revision, in light of concepts like Covenant Protology & Eschatology, one subject that has come under scrutiny lately is that of 'pneumatology', or the Study of the Holy Spirit! Although related by necessity to the doctrine of the Trinity, or the three-in-one, this post will focus, not so much on whether the Holy Spirit exists as a separate Person from the Father & Son, but whether the Holy Spirit continues to work in this day & age since His Purpose was fulfilled in the first century!

To really fulfill our purpose here, however, we must decide whether our eschatology, or rather our view of the Eschatology of Israel necessitates a cessation of the specific position of the Holy Spirit & whether the Holy Spirit ever existed ( as a separate Person )! In other words, is the construct of three separate persons, Father, Son & Holy Spirit, first, a Scriptural one post-AD70 & second, must He remain as He was ( Scripturally ) in order to be the Holy Spirit! If our Heavenly Father IS the Holy Spirit, as we've discussed previously, then He obviously has not left us alone, but still supplies our every need!

In order to get down to the 'nitty gritty' ( so to speak ) , then, one must first establish in their own mind & heart whether this conception ( of the Trinity ) is true, righteous & good altogether, then that one can ascertain how that doctrine affects how they live their lives! How do we treat others who, though they may not believe in any sort of traditional ( orthodox ) concept or doctrine of the Trinity, believe that the Spirit of Almighty God dwells within them & directs their every step? If we are are condemning those who don't believe according to our orthodox doctrine, though they are living obvious Spirit-filled lives;; are we ourselves living Spirit-filled lives?

Human beings are, as we have seen & witness daily, divers creatures! You may have heard the expression, 'opinions are like assholes; everybody's got one'! We all have different opinions on a limitless host of subjects; it's very rare to find two people who believe exactly the same about much more than a half-dozen subjects! When/if you find that person, you better latch on to him or her with all your heart, mind & strength ( or not; two such people would likely end up killing each other )! As diverse humanity, then, we all may have differing opinions about, in this case, the Nature of God, but if our view or understanding of His nature causes us to remain at odds ( to the point of separation ) with our brethren who hold to a different view & have a different understanding, then of what real use is that understanding?!

'Doctrine divides'; nowhere is this more true than the doctrine in question, the focus behind this post! Doctrine is good, doctrine is even necessary, in a sense, because if a person believes the wrong thing & acts according to that belief, we are faced with wrong actions, but if one acts according to right beliefs, then one can only act rightly! Unity is not uniformity, however; although, as diverse human beings, though we are never uniform in our beliefs, we can yet practice unity in community! Uniformity is not necessarily a bad thing, but let's face it; if it means a lack of unity, it should be shunned! if we can't all get along because we believe differently, we might as well put our hopes in the future return of Christ!

Back to our discussion now, 'what is a spirit?' Is a spirit the ethereal presence that we have become all too familiar with in the movies & TV shows of recent decades? Are spirits simply the remaining essence of those who have 'crossed over', but are still stuck here in the visible realm, for whatever reason? Most everyone you ask has differing opinions of what a spirit is, but simply put, a spirit is the essence of what a person is! Some people are accused of having a 'mean spirit', therefore they are usually rightly judged as being a mean person; some people, on the other hand, have 'a forgiving spirit', therefore, they are usually well-known & loved as a forgiving person! The spirit of any being, including a divine one, defines that person! There is no getting away from that; a person, for instance, claims to be a follower of Jesus & may have all their doctrinal 'ducks in a row', but if they don't love their neighbor as themselves, what good is their doctrine? Again, on the other hand, one may claim not to believe anything, yet loves their neighbor as themselves.  Which of these two, do you think, would make a better neighbor?

A spirit, then, is the Essence of Being; it defines the person! If the Person is Divine, or Holy, then that Spirit, or person is, by definition, a Holy Spirit! In that sense then, one might say that those who are part of the Body of Christ are holy spirits/Holy Spirits! Since we are IN Christ, or rather, He is IN us ( John 14:23 ), we are the dwelling of the Holy Spirit!

So, with that explanation ( I know, it's just an opinion ) of what a spirit is, we can now determine whether our Heavenly Father, as THE Holy Spirit, still works today, spreading His Good News through sowing His Divine Essence through us! Simply put, 'YES'; of course He does! there will always be those that choose to let doctrine divide them, just as there will always be those who choose unity over uniformity, who choose to live out the Good News rather than to wait for that which is already Present with us! 

Another question to ponder ( although you shouldn't ponder it too long ) is, 'is the Holy Spirit of today the same one who comforted the oppressed & persecuted Saints in the 1st century?' Again the answer must be a resounding 'YES': the same Spirit now comforts us in our tribulation & even though any trials & tribulations that we may suffer in this day & age ( which is 'the age to come' of Scripture ) pale in comparison to what those in the first century faced, we may say with certainty that the Holy Spirit still does His work in the 21st century!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Essence of Divinity

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will[e] believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, [ are ] in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.
John 17:20-23 

What IS God made of? Jesus told the woman at the well in Samaria, 'God [ is ] Spirit' John 4:24, but then, you might well ask, 'what is a spirit ( or Spirit, as the case may be )?' Is a spirit what traditional pneumatology has taught us? Is the Creator of all things Himself an intangible? In a sense, one might say that our Heavenly Father is Pure ( the Purest ) Energy! Of Himself, He created all that we witness ( collectively speaking ); He is THE Source of Energy, the Sun itself, the brightest star in our Solar System, but by FAR not the brightest star in the universe, pales in comparison to Him! In fact, it is way beyond unfair ( to infinity ) to even dare to compare the two! God IS & that is more than enough!

As long as man ( kind ) has been in existence, we have reached out in a search for the Divine! Some have merely sought to live in Communion with the Divine, while others have sought after divinity themselves! Ezekiel's diatribe against the king of Tyre ( Ezekiel 28 ) is an example of this, while in Genesis 11:1-9, we read the account of the Tower of Babel, which tells the Story of a group of people who, for manifold reasons, determined to build a tall ( water-resistant ) tower that reached for the heavens!

Like any child who naturally reaches for his father, it is inherent for us to seek Communion with our Heavenly Father! Though most of us seek Communion in different ways, some quite unorthodox, it is Communion nonetheless, for no one can live without it! Just as in days of old, some are blessed, while others are cursed; those who seek after this Communion in a way that their Father has forbidden most often do not enjoy the Communion that they find, while those who follow His House Rules enjoy Blessed Communion with their Heavenly Father & His Holy Family!

He has made from one blood[c] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, 
and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  
so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, 
though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being.
Acts 17:26-28 

We are One with our Creator! No, not in the sense that we are all IN Christ, wherein we have reconciled ourselves to Him & become part of His ( spiritual ) family, but in the sense that without the most basic Communion, our biology will perish! Human beings are built for Communion; without the most basic of their needs being met, they cannot exist!

All human beings then, are in this sense, divine! Life is Sacred, both spiritually & physically speaking! In order to continue to exist, or live, human beings will naturally seek what is necessary to that existence!It is because of that innate desire to stay alive that we seek this Communion, however we can get it! Our Divine Nature seeks Communion with Divinity! Too often, for whatever reason, human beings do not find that Communion, so are forced to either settle for what poor substitute they can find, or continue a lifelong & fruitless search!

Some might question whether the 'Imago Dei', or Image of God, is stamped on the face of every human being. In the beginning, God said 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness'. A cursory reading, especially in our English Bibles, of the History of the Genesis of Creation would seem to clearly tell us that thus began the History of Mankind, but a closer look at the words in their original language tells a different story! The Story that we gather from the original language tells us of a Covenant Creation,one where God deemed to breathe His Spirit into a select few, for the Purpose of making Himself known to His entire Creation!

If it is true that all human beings bear the Image of God, as Genesis 9:6 seems to indicate, then man indeed has that Spark of Divinity that many people speak of, but if Genesis 1 & 2 record a Covenant Creation, wherein the Creator stamped His Image onto the Face of Man ( adam ), then we begin to see a quite different Story, one which invites the reader to 'Come' & partake in Covenant Blessings!

The Spirit of God, as the spirit of man, is the Essence of Divinity; it is what make Him what He is! We ourselves, are spiritual beings & although we have a biological body, it is not that body, but our spirit that defines us; it is who we are! The apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, 'For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God'. This is a Universal Truth! Only those who have the Spirit of God truly bear His Image!

This Divine Essence, while existent to a lesser degree in all human beings, is found in its Fulness in the Body of Christ alone! Life is sacred & as human beings, in a variety of different ways, seek the Blessings of Communion with the Divine, we are all on a wondrous journey to discover that connection! Not all will find & enjoy the Blessings of that Connection, but all, in one sense or another, share it!

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Softly & Tenderly; the Apprehension of Condescension

Jesus is calling; will you answer? Jesus tells His children, 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me' ( Revelation 3:20 )! Okay, so He originally said that to the Church in Laodicea in the first century, AD, but really, does it not hold true today? When God's children decide that they're hungry, as the prodigal son did in Luke 15 & they turn to the only Source of the Bread of Life, will He not give them that bread? Yes, Jesus was knocking at the door, so to speak, of His children's hearts, back in the first century, but is He not still open to dining with His children should they wish to receive Him?

As we visited St. Thomas Reformed Church on St. Thomas in the U.S.V.I., the familiar, but long unheard refrain of 'Softly and Tenderly' was heard wafting through the airy structure that houses the Church! Yes, in the greatest sense, this is an invitational hymn, one structured to speak to the hearts of poor sinners, but is that not, in the greatest sense, what we, as the Church & Body of Christ are about? Through living our lives in the Present Kingdom of God & Heaven, are we not living invitational lives? Sometimes I wonder if many of those who claim fulfilled eschatology have not forgotten that! Now, I'm not necessarily advocating going door-to-door, or even bring-a friend-to-church Sunday, but I believe that, along with the message of fulfillment that we preach, we often forget that there are those yet to whom 'the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!'

Fulfillment, in most or much of today's preterist theology & to many preterists, means that what is fulfilled has necessarily ended! In a sense, that's true, what began in Genesis came to its conclusion in Revelation; the covenant that God made with Adam, all the way up through Abraham & David, whether one believes it was a betrothal covenant or a marriage covenant, came to an end in AD70 with the destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple! In the greatest sense though, it is still being fulfilled ( filled up ) in us! Whether or not one believes that we are the Bride still, or simply the offspring of that marriage, that marriage is still in force; in fact, it is an Eternal Union: it will never end!

Thus, our responsibility never ends! As the Body of Christ, we are responsible for the rest of God's children & so still, as before, whether through our actions or our voices, say, 'Come'! In the past, most, if not all theology associated with evangelism has been weak at best & false at worst; this is very likely what most preterists are reacting against when they preach the message of fulfillment! This is also, most likely why the message of fulfillment has not been well-received or accepted in traditional circles! The message that most evangelists have preached & yet preach is a weak & falsified Gospel, really, barely even recognizable sometimes as the Good News, but once the Message preached begins to reverberate with the True Gospel, that of Fulfillment ( in its greatest sense ), then we may truly say, with the Spirit, 'Come Home'!

As we approach the Holy Day that most Christians call Easter, we once again turn our thoughts to the cross where our Savior spent His precious blood for the salvation of His people! The cross played an important part, no doubt, in the Plan of Salvation, but it was only a part. Of utmost importance is the glorious fact of what was fulfilled ( accomplished ) through the events of those days of ignominy & pain! Jesus' death on the cross & subsequent resurrection signaled that He had overcome that which threatened to separate God & man forever! Of Greater Import, though, was the fact that through His Birth, the Creator, as promised throughout the Scriptures, had come to rest in the midst of His Creation!

As a Good Father, our Creator deemed to place His Seed within us, in essence, becoming One with us ( in a corporate, not individual sense ) & He still calls all His children, softly & tender, to come, take their seat at His Table of Blessing & to Commune with Him! We, as the Fruit of His Loins, so to speak, are to be about His business! That business is redeeming His Creation; we have that ministry, the same ministry which the first Adam was given & the last Adam fulfilled; now, what will we do with it?

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Snakes in the Garden?

Why did God allow the serpent ( Genesis 3 ) in His Garden? Could not He have kept that dirty, low-down, lying bastard from even talking to Eve? Wouldn't it have made sense not to create that damn snake in the first place, instead of allowing it ( him? ) to ruin Adam's day? For that matter, why put a certain deadly tree in the midst of all the other trees ( of the Garden ), knowing full well that man would knowingly partake of it? There are many questions surrounding the Genesis account of the Fall of Adam, questions to which there can be no pat or easy answers!

In the Beginning, the Creator of Heaven & Earth visited His Creation in order to stir things up a bit! He introduced the Element of Danger into His Creation & at the same time, began to reveal His Covenant. The Danger was that if man, a mere Child at the Time, got impatient & tried to do it his way & in his own time, he would reap what he sowed! The Child did what most normal children will do & opted to live dangerously, disobeying his Father's healthy instruction & henceforth bearing the consequences of his own willfulness!

This Element of Danger included, but was not limited to the serpent that we meet in the Story that we read in Genesis 3. Without this Element of Danger, there would have been no need for an Antidote for the Poison engendered by it! The Creator introduced this Element of Danger that His Child might realize his precarious situation, receive the Antidote & enjoy the Blessings of the Covenant & Communion with Him!

We have the immutable & immeasureable privilege of living in the midst of this gloriously wonderful & intensely dangerous Creation! Danger is & always will be with us! There will always be trees to climb, bridges to jump off of & high mountains to scale! Any time that Children see a hot stove, not to mention any one of the above, it must needs be explored; that's just the curious nature of Children!

Danger is a funny thing; it can spell Disaster or it can mean Ultimate Blessing, it can be a Curse, or it can bring Joy! Much or most of what determines how the Danger presents itself is how we face the Danger! With maturity, a tall tree, inviting bridge or towering mountain peak may simply represent Joy; to scale the highest mountain, ford the widest sea or climb the tallest tree may afford us the greatest yet simplest joy we have ever known! However, without the maturity that comes with knowledge & experience ( neither alone will suffice ), Danger is just that, something to be avoided, almost at all costs! When presented with Danger, we will either succumb to it & Fall ( to our destruction ) or we will flee from it & miss out on the Blessing that rests there!

Embrace the Danger; be careful & learn from it, treat it with a healthy dose of respect, but do not fear it, for fear chokes, fear disables! If we do not give it the respect it deserves, it can kill, true, but if we face it with the resolve that only comes from maturity, we may reap untold blessing from it! Because we Fear the Danger, too often we fail to face it & so miss the Blessing that it represents; as one wiseman so famously put it; 'Aslan is not a tame Lion!'

When the Fulness of Time had come, the Creator of Heaven & Earth invested Himself in His Creation, Revealing the Antidote to the Poison that His Children had ingested due to their fear of the Danger! Those that accepted that Antidote received a full dose; they would still reap what they sowed, in a temporal & physical ( biological ) sense, but because of their immunization, the Children were no longer susceptible to the Eternal Consequence of the Poison! For all intents & purposes, as far as those Matured Children were concerned, the Poison had lost its Power, the snake its fangs!

The Danger was still present & gloriously so! Our Heavenly Father, the Creator of Heaven & Earth, built that dangerous aspect into His Creation! Without a certain level of Danger, there would be no Challenge to Life! If no Challenge to overcome, Life would not be worth living! If there were no mountains to conquer, bridges to jump, or trees to climb, Life would be boring indeed; as another wiser Man once put it,

' if the salt has lost its savor, it good for nothing but to be thrown out and trample underfoot'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Exaltation & Exultation; the Organic Church Versus the Organized Church

There's nothing wrong in rejoicing in our exalted position as the New Temple of the Holy Spirit; I want to make that abundantly clear from the get-go! We should be full of exultation every day because we are in His Eternal Presence, having become One with the Divine Essence! This is not to say that we become omnipotent or omniscient, for there can be only One, but we have, in a sense, become gods, or 'elohim', ourselves! The problem results from exalting ourselves more highly than we aught, rather than exulting in the One who made us what we are, the One who breathed into us the Breath of Life!

Let us first clarify as well, that when we speak of 'us', or 'we', even 'the New Temple of the Holy Spirit', we are speaking in a corporate, rather than individual sense! It is the ( whole ) Body of Christ, that our Heavenly Father now calls Home & although that Body is made up of many ( individual ) members & each member, in that sense, is a Temple, it is in corporation that we best represent Him!

The Institutional Church of today has, for the most part, departed from 'the way it outta be'! The pastor, which is a fairly modern invention, usually receives a weekly paycheck ( or monthly ) from the corporation known as the 'church' ( not to be confused with, 'the Church' ). There is nothing wrong with this, in & of itself, for Scripture instructs us in several different places that we should share our physical ( material ) blessings with one who blesses us in a spiritual way. The problem is that there are quite a few pastors out there who are fleecing their flock rather than feeding it! The pastorate has become a livelihood to many & depending on the area, the membership & message, more & more pastors have become professional entertainers who lead Sunday morning 'worship' services like ringleaders at a circus!

The Organic Church, on the other hand, was pagan at its roots! It emerged from a people much like any other & became a nation of priests to God! The Church from its infancy was never a financial giant, One to bolster any certain denomination or provide a way for some poor schlub to get a job when he can't get one elsewhere! The Church is a living, breathing organism, One that, yes, takes care of its own, but One, more importantly that exists to further the Kingdom of God! We are here to spread the Good News of the Kingdom, not to make any certain group of people rich while others starve!

How many pastors out there have you come in contact with that rule over their individual congregation like a king? Do not ask too many hard questions, much less challenge their authority, or you may find yourself cast into outer darkness! There is a certain order ( not that there's anything inherently wrong with order ) to things & if that order is disrupted at all, watch out! When a congregation functions this way, you know that something's not right; this is not what our Heavenly Father pictured, we can be assured, when He birthed the Church!

Organization, generally speaking, is a good thing! When we have some semblance, to whatever degree, of organization, things tend to run more smoothly. However, we as human beings, when we start to organize, tend often to over-organize, to try to make things run even more smoothly, but more often than not, our over-organization becomes detrimental to the individual & thus to the corporate organism!

As above, there's nothing wrong, in & of itself, with any given congregation supporting, as they can, one who feeds their spirit, but when that becomes the pastor's focus, or even that of the individual congregation, then we have a problem! This is not to say that all congregations are wrong in supporting a pastor, or that one is wrong to be supported by a particular congregation, but when a pastor or congregation focuses on exalting a particular doctrine of man, rather than the Kingdom of Heaven, then that pastor & congregation has left their First Love & has a bigger problem than a mere financial one!

We, as the Body of Christ, are in this sense, our Heavenly Father's 'Mini-Me'; we are creators in our own right, fashioning ( 'forming' ) our world according to His Will! If we remember always to exalt His Purpose & His Kingdom rather than our own, individually or corporately, then our problems disappear & the organism to which we belong is free to operate in an organized way without the shackles of institutionalization! To this End we work, eat, rest & recreate!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Other Side of Judgment

Judgment, in this day & age, has been given a bad rap! Not only are we reminded, on a daily basis almost, that we shouldn't judge, when we speak of someone as being 'judged by God', this judgment always carries a bad connotation ( for them, anyway )! However, as we've seen, neither is judgment necessarily a bad thing & we ourselves are commanded to judge ( for ourselves )!

The judgment that was passed on Israel according to the flesh in the 1st century was a righteous judgment! Although it didn't turn out so well for them, the effect it had on True Israel, 'the Israel of God' was that they were forever blessed with the Promised Presence! Israel according to the flesh, those who had trusted in the righteousness which is through the Law were cursed through this judgment. Those who sought after the Righteousness which came through the Christ alone came out on the other side of judgment at the End of the Rainbow, so to speak, having become the New Temple of the Holy Spirit!

Being One with the Body of Christ, we too are on the other side of that judgment! The Judgment of which Scripture speaks was passed in the 1st century; we do not have that judgment to look forward to anymore. We, as the Body of Christ, 'the Israel of God', were judged concurrently & righteous; not only that, we were judged to be Righteous, in Him! This is not to say that we will not be judged, for we are judged, each & every day by those with whom we have to deal & ultimately by our Heavenly Father, through the law of reaping what we've sown!

Certain Christians, in fact most, like to point the writer's words in Hebrews 9:27, 'it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment' & the apostle Paul's in Romans 14:10, 'we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ', saying that there is ( yet ) some future day of judgment where all people will be gathered before the Throne of God & judged for their deeds, either being cursed for their evil deeds or blessed for their righteous ones! This, of course, is based on a future return of our Lord from Heaven, which argument is rendered moot by the Revelation of Fulfilled Eschatology!

The belief in some Final Judgment, then, while it is based in Scripture, is no longer a concern for us! Just as with a subject which we have recently discussed, the afterlife, there is much speculation involved with this doctrine. According to a non-covenantal & individualistic reading of Hebrews 9:27, once our biological body ceases to function & we experience the separation of body & spirit, then we, individually, will stand before the Judgment Seat to be judged according to our works, 'by the things which were written in the books' ( Revelation 20:12 ). One question that should be asked here of those Christians is, 'if the Body of Christ was judged Righteous, wouldn't that include us?' How then, are we to be judged for our works? If we are in Christ, is it not by HIS works that we are now judged? As we saw above, we are judged daily for our works by those who are affected by them & by those around us!

A question that may occur to some, since there is no final judgment for those in Christ is, 'what about those who are not in Christ; will they have to appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ?' Well, besides the fact that they are being judged daily, experiencing the Presence of God, in a negative way, we can speculate that those who continually reject the blessedness of relationship with their Heaavenly Father, will receive some sort of final judgement, after their spirit leaves their body. This speculation though, is not based upon a covenantal reading of Scripture & so is rather questionable!

For us, though, as we have seen, those in Christ 'shall not come into [ the ] judgment' for we have 'passed from death into life' ( John 5:24 )! There is no future & final judgment for us, since, for one thing, we are always in the Presence of God! We have been judged Righteous, as the Body of Christ, not individually, necessarily, but corporately. Individual judgment, for the most part, comes from those around us & through the law of reaping what we sow!

Charles Haddon Shank

The End of Judgment

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved 
in the day of the Lord Jesus.
I Corinthians 5:4 & 5 

The Judgement of Sin & Death was fulfilled ( accomplished ) at the Cross ( 'It is finished' )! At least, Judgement was passed at that point & the sentence was carried out when the Ministry of Death was ended in AD70. Although Judaism retains its stranglehold over certain people, it no longer has the Power of Death as it once did!

One problem that many ( Christians ) see concerning the end of judgement is that if judgement is ended, it is no more ( according to popular reasoning )! Therefore, if there is no more judgement, there can be no more sin & no more consequences. Some have embraced this theory & made it their own, loudly proclaiming that sin is no more sin, that all are equally filled with the Spirit, no matter how loudly their actions say otherwise!

One solution that is often overlooked is to realize that Judgement has a Goal! When Judgement was passed, or is passed ( for it continues today ), it is never passed as a simple reaction or consequence; it was always made in the hopes of reaching a certain goal! Israel was judged often & for the most part, that judgement had the desired effect, repentance!

The End of Judgement, of course, is primarily speaking of Jesus who was the Messiah! Just as the Son of the Creator God was the End of Eschatology, so His Presence brought an End to the Sin & the Death of Adam. The Revelation of the Son of the Creator God was the Solution to the Problem of Evil that Israel had sought for many years! Even though the majority of His people rejected their Messiah, those that did receive Him saw the End of the reign of the Ministry of Death & him who had the power of death!

Judgement is a funny thing ( not funny 'ha-ha' ); it cuts both ways! When we make a choice, we have in essence made a judgement. We may have decided that we will wear brown socks rather than green or it may have more consequence to it as in we decide for ourselves whether or not that person is acting rightly! Our judgement, of course, does not have the infinite consequences that our Heavenly Father's does or did, but still, our judgement does have consequences; it should also have an end!

When we judge, whether it's a simple as socks or breakfast cereal or as consequential as that of another creature, we should always do so with an end in view, that end ( goal ) being repentance & reconciliation! Though the Eschatology of Israel & the Judgement of the Creator God reached its End ( in some sense, Conclusion ), judgement still of necessity exists & it exists for a purpose; judgement tells us 'this is right & that is wrong': otherwise we have relativity! If we cannot judge between good & evil, then everyone has the right to determine what is right or wrong for themselves; utter chaos!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Look at the After-Life

I know, I know, we've been here before! So why go there again, one might ask? If we've been there, done that, why bring up that deathly subject again? Well, if there is life, of whatever sort, after biological death, the Scriptures do not tel us of it! That much should be clear if one has studied the Scriptures much in their true, covenantal context! What we mean by covenantal context, of course, is the fact that the Scriptures are a Book of Covenant concerning the History of Israel. They only concern the world outside Israel & the surrounding nations because the ministry of Israel as a nation of priests was to the world & affected/affects the world for the Glory of God!

We know that Scripture tells us that, 'the dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it' ( Ecclesiastes 12:7 ); other than this passage, which really is within that covenantal context as well, Scripture really has nothing to say about what life is like after this biology perishes! Job seems to speak hopefully of this after-life when he said, 'after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh, I shall see God' ( Job 19:26 ), yet, even here, we must understand the covenant context. Also, the fact that our English translations are fairly poor & ambiguous should not be ignored!

Scripturally speaking, as we've explored at some length in the past, we are in the afterlife! Jesus plainly said, in several places & several different ways, 'whoever hears My words and believes Him who sent me has eternal life, and will not come into [ the ] judgment, but has crossed over from death to life' ( John 5:24 )! Those of national physical Israel that believed in Jesus as the Messiah & true King of  Israel had already passed from the death of Adam to the Life of Jesus, the last Adam!

This answer doesn't satisfy those, however, who want to know what happens to us as human beings after we expire biologically! Well, we've established that Scripture doesn't really treat the subject, so it would seem that we're forced into speculation now! It's a very attractive notion, especially to those with chronic aches & pains or disabilities of whatever sort, to wildly speculate that while we will still have biology to deal with, it will be a biology without the normal hurdles we are given to deal with & to overcome! Most Christians believe that the normal aches & pains of this life are the result of the Fall of Adam & that the current situation will be remedied once Jesus returns to Reverse the Curse! However, since we have established elsewhere that Jesus returned in the first century ( AD ) & reversed the curse of Adam, this argument is rendered moot!

Now, for some more speculation! Some speak wistfully & hopefully of a spiritual realm where God dwells, a realm apart from this biological plane of existence! It is to this plane, this Hidden Realm, they believe, that our spirits will retire to after our biological bodies expire. Besides the fact that this denies the plain teaching of Jesus, that 'if anyone keeps my word, My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him' ( John 14:23 ), it also gives us no real comfort in this world!

Personally, I speculate that when our biological clock runs down, we become pure spirit, like our Heavenly Father & thus may enjoy a deeper sort of Communion with Him! We have Communion with Him & the saints who have already become pure spirit currently, but it bears speculating I believe, that this biology somehow & in some way hinders that fellowship. At this time, though, as the apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, our Heavenly Father has blessed us with ever spiritual blessing in the heavenly realm, in Christ ( Ephesians 1:3 ) & seated us with Him in those same heavenly realms ( Ephesians 2:8 )! We are there, but yes, I believe sometimes our biology keeps us from seeing clearly!

So, after all that, many will likely still ask, 'what happens to us when we die?' 'What can we look forward to after this biology is separated from our spirit?' Well, my pat answer is, 'WE will never die!' Though our spirits are currently housed in this most useful biology, we are not our biology, though this in a way, defines us, to the naked eye at least! once people really get to know us, though, it is by our spirit that we are known! We are, as you may have heard, 'spirits having a bodily ( human ) experience'!

Hopefully this will put to rest some concerns about the so-called 'afterlife', but chances are, it will not! Though this belief can be somewhat of a comfort to those who cling to it, it can be detrimental as well! The human tendency is to throw so much of a focus on this hope of physical life after physical death, that we forget to live in the here & now, or as my momma always said, 'he's so heavenly-minded that he's of no earthly good'!

Once the realization comes home to roost that we are in the afterlife, that we NOW dwell in the Presence of God, in the Heavenly Realm & in His Kingdom, then maybe we can throw all our energies into living our lives right now, rather than worrying about preparing for some sort of life after death! To this End & with that prayer, as much as for me as anyone else, I write these words!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Purpose of the Eschaton; the Divine Essence

Not having written on this subject for some time, I thought maybe we should give it another look! A question was recently presented to me & I'm sure this is not the first or only person this question has occurred to, but, if the doctrine of the trinity is based on what might be called an eschatological phenomenon, or in other words, if the construct of Father, Son & Holy Spirit was erected merely for the purpose of the finalization of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, then what other doctrines, that of salvation by grace through faith, for instance, that we find in Scripture no longer apply?

What would an idea like this do to the doctrine of the trinity, as well as to certain other doctrines that the Body of Christ has held to vociferously over the ages, namely that of salvation by grace through faith? Another doctrine, related very closely to this is the doctrine of election! Yes, the doctrine of election applies, in some sense, to the People of God of all ages, but it applied primarily to that remnant of which the prophets spoke, those chosen few from the numbers of physical, national Israel! It was those of Israel that looked for the Messiah of Israel &; did not trust to their own righteousness through the Law to whom the election actually & primarily applied!

In the sense that we, as Christians, are members of that same Body of Christ, we could still come under that umbrella of 'the elect', though obviously not as they were. Those chosen by God out of national physical Israel to be His Bride, were separated from those who trusted to their own righteousness ( through the Law ) to save them, in order that He might have a pure ( Virgin ) Bride, one that was not stained with idolatry!

Salvation, the salvation that Jesus brought to His People, was by grace through faith! 'For God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son ( Grace ) that whoever believes in Him ( faith ) should not perish, but should have everlasting life'; that's abundantly clear! Though, in some sense, this salvation is still available to those who believe in the 21st century, can it rightly be called salvation? Although salvation exists for unbelievers today as well, the modern-day tradition of walking the aisle & saying the sinner's prayer ain't it! Salvation, in today's day & age, looks more like it did back then, with a changed life, a freedom from the righteousness which is by the Law!

That there is Communion within the Godhead,  simply 'divinity', is without doubt! We have explored this together previously & noted that, beginning with the Divine statement, 'Let Us make man in Our image', this image is perpetuated throughout Scripture. As to a trinity, or the traditional notion of the three-one, it is becoming more & more difficult for this author to see that in Scripture, particularly in this present age, which is 'the age to come' of which Jesus spoke. The reason for this, as I've outlined briefly above, is that it has become clear to me that, though there was a separation within the Divine Essence, if you will, and though there is a definite Community within the Unity, there is no more separation, as the purpose for the separation has been fulfilled!

Besides this, there is the Promise of the Son, as recorded 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'. That was the Purpose of the Eschaton, that the Divine Essence might indwell the Body of Christ in fulfillment of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth!

The Marriage, like the human institution, is in continuity, it was built to last! As with the Marriage, so with its benefits; salvation, or the bringing of His Children into the fold, so to speak, is still by Grace through Faith. Although the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, Scripturally speaking, was consummated in the first century, it is still be fulfilled ( filled up ) by those who are continually entering in!

The Eschaton of which we read in Scripture is fulfilled & completed, the Marriage has only ( relatively speaking ) begun!

Charles Haddon Shank

'Who Wants To Live Forever?'

When most people think of resurrection, the concept is of physical, material, tangible bodies rising from graves! The Rapture Doctrine, especially among Evangelical Christians, is largely responsible for the spread of this false & dangerous doctrine. Israel, She who was most directly affected by the Resurrection, on the other hand, was not taught to expect such a resurrection! To be fair, there were many in Israel, under that first covenant, that were expecting a physical resurrection, as witnessed numerous times throughout their history, but these were the same ones, Pharisees, that rejected Jesus as Messiah because He heralded, in fact embodied the Kingdom of Righteousness & Peace rather than the political kingdom of violence & intrigue for which they longed!

Jesus promised, in what is doubtless the most famous passage of Scripture, John 3:16, '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': most Christians would probably look at this promise as one of those 'already, not yet' promises! There is no doubt, one might say, that we have this 'everlasting life' in a spiritual sense, as we have the Holy Spirit as a Guarantee of the Presence of God, but we do not yet have it in the fullest sense, for as the apostle Paul wrote, 'flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God' ( I Corinthians 15:50 ). By this logic though, these would seem to be saying that these physical bodies will not inhabit the Kingdom of Heaven, so it would seem that we must shed them ( die ) before we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

Really, when you think about it, who would want to live forever in this corruptible body? Actually, is it our bodies that cause us to do bad ( evil ) things, or is it, as Jesus taught ( Matthew 5:21-30 ), a matter of the heart? Most Christians would have to agree that it is the choices we make that determine whether our actions or good or evil, wrong or right, but many still blame it on our corruptible flesh, which, they say, will remain in this fallen state till Jesus returns!

The corporate nature of the Body of Christ guarantees that it will live forever! Will individual human bodies, with the amazing biology, last forever? There will always be individual human & biological bodies inhabiting earth, but the best science, even history itself, tells us that our biology was not made to last forever! Not to discount what Scripture has to say about it ( 'The days of our lives [ are ] seventy years; and if by reason of strength [ they are ] eighty years, yet their boast [ is ] only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away' Psalm 90:10 ), but it has been proven that it's possible for people, under certain conditions, to live well beyond this barrier! Scripture tells us of some very old people, at least, if you read it from a literalistically wooden perspective. Adam, according to our western understanding, lived 930 years before God fulfilled His promise that , 'in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'. A descendant of his, Methuselah, purportedly lived 969 years before he died! All this after the Fall recorded in Genesis 3!

David, king of Israel prophesied of the Christ when he wrote, 'For You will not leave my soul in Sheol,
nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption
' ( Psalm 16:10 ) While most Christians read this, 'You will not allow My Body to be corrupted ( decay )', which is not a bad interpretation, depending on the point of view, the truest sense, apart from going into a treatise on the nature of the Body of Christ, is that God, His Father would not allow HIM to be corrupted by His physical bodies death & burial in the grave! We might hear objections here as well, such as the example of Lazarus. He was in the tomb four days & should have begun to stink, but he did not. Therefore, God is able to keep the human biology from decaying even after it shuts down ( dies )!

If our individual biological bodies are indeed to be raised incorruptible, never to die again, with what form will they come, will we be forever 120, if our biology died at that ripe old age, will we be forever 20, or even younger forever, if, God forbid, our clocks were broken before the time? Will we age gracefully till we reach a certain, golden age, then just stop aging forever? Many haunting questions could be raised when it comes to the question of a future bodily resurrection, some almost ridiculous!

The Resurrection of Israel, as embodied in Jesus the Christ, as witnessed most famously & readily by Ezekiel 37, was most certainly of a corporate nature, though to be fair, it was made up of individual, biological bodies! As a whole though, the story told in Ezekiel 37 is a metaphorical one, witnessing to the spiritual nature of the Resurrection! Jesus Himself, if one remembers, told Martha, the sister of Lazarus, in John 11:26, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life'! It was through Him that the dead ( corporate ) body of Israel would rise again!

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, March 15, 2015

'The End is Near; Island Time

With a bit more than a week to go here on St. Thomas, I sit here at the least obtrusive patriot of the bar at Hull Bay Hideaw, sipping on a cold one! It has been quite a time for this old ( relatively speaking ) cripple; several new experiences have occurred to me so far & while being driven around on the wrong side of the road is one that I thought I'd never get used to, I've actually become almost acclimated to it! Driving myself that way, on the other hand.......

The water IS great; come on in! ( or down, rather ) going to the beaches down here is an adventure, especially for me! I've been to three different beaches so far & 2 bars! So far, I like the beach at Lindbergh Bay best, but the bar at Hull Bay is my favorite ( down here- Tona's is still the best ). This morning, I attended services at St. Thomas Reformed Church. The sermon was based on the text from Matthew 6 on what we call the Lord's Prayer. To be exact, the fourth request, 'give us this day our daily bread'! The minister did a good job of presenting the material & made some good points about how our presentation of the good news is what ministers the Bread of Life to others. Going over the bulletin that I was handed, as well as in the service itself, there were several times that I noted, 'so close, yet so far away'!

One thing I have enjoyed during my stay here in the islands ( it ain't over yet, mon ), is the laxity! There have been days when I barely even wear sandals & when I do, I usually shed them as soon as I'm back at the apartment! It's been nice not to worry about having to budle up against the weather & even though it's been getting down to the low seventies at night ( BRR ), I still enjoy the cool breezes through what little I have on!

Though I have not necessarily been on what you'd call a sight-seeing tour of the island yet, I have enjoyed the sights I have seen! I hope to get over to neighboring St. John sometime before for next leg of my big adventure, but I have been studying them ( the ones that I can see ) through the lens of my camera & plying my brother-in-law with questions about them!  Although it may be for me, though, I must realize & acknowledge that such is not the case for my brother-law & sister! Living the island life, in all its glory, is not cheap; though we've had our share of fun, my sister, besides working part-time at 3 different places, still home schools & finds the time to cook & clean. My brother-in-law works mostly double-shifts ( every day but Friday ) at his place of employment!

When I do leave this Paradise, I know I will take a piece of it with me! Though I have not done a lot of things out of the ordinary ( for me ), if nothing else, I will take memories back with me to the Paradise I now call home, Whitehall, Montana. Things have occurred to me here that will stick with me the rest of my life, hopefully for the better!

We all have that hope, no doubt, the hope for the betterment of, if not our individual situation, then of our individual person. The closest & best hope we have is of improving ourselves individually, but even then & especially then, we can affect a change in our situation! My hope, individually, is that through my own life experiences, both at home & abroad; I will be able to affect, for the better, the world in which I live, move & have my being!

The End IS near, but 'the End of what?', one might ask! Well, the End of Everything IS near & not only that, He's HERE! Once we truly realize that, it is impossible to live a life that disregards His Living Presence! Then we know, because of that nagging little voice we call a conscience, that whatever we do is either wrong or right. No longer must we be afraid to do what we want because we're told that our Heavenly Father wouldn't approve!

Speaking of the End..........

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, March 12, 2015

All in One

There is one True & Living God, that much is clear! Scripture makes this manifestly clear & the Spirit within tells us undoubtedly that this is so! Whether one holds a trinitarian or unitarian view of our Creator, one thing is attested to by all believers, our God is One!

The phrase 'all in all' has been bandied around for years, with believers deciding that it means anything from, 'when Jesus returns again to defeat the last enemy ( death ), He will hand the kingdom over to His Father ( I Corinthians 15 )' to, 'all in all' means that once Jesus made us a new creation, God is at home in everyone'! As it is not my purpose here to make a case either for or against this brand ( common ) of universalism, we will not delve into the latter right now. However, the first statement ( most of it, anyway ) IS biblically sound! Paul did write, 'Then [ comes ] the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power' ( I Corinthians 15:24 ). After this, Paul wrote, then  God would be 'all in all'!

Though biblically sound & accepted by the majority ( 'majority rules?' ) for thousands of years, perhaps, that Jesus did not defeat the last enemy ( death ) is an idea whose time has come to fall & never rise again! The fallical notion that Jesus did not fulfill His purpose in coming as the Messiah of the Jews is so absurd that if it weren't so serious a matter, it would be almost laughable!

There is no question, however, that God IS 'all in all'! He has taken up residence with ( in ) His People, whether you believe this to be a spiritual or physical reality. There are those who believe that this is merely a spiritual reality, with only the third person ( ? ) of the Godhead actually indwelling the believer currently ( the Father & Son to come later, apparently? ), while there are others who believe that the Godhead ( bad translation ) currently resides ( fully ) with ( in the midst of ) the People of God ( John 14:23 )! This, I believe, I believe is the only truly viable position & the only one that really does justice to both Scripture ) what we know of the Nature of God!

Much of the dilemma or conundrum we are faced with can be solved by realizing that, as Israel's Messiah & He who raised Israel ( spiritually ) from the dead, Jesus DID defeat the last enemy ( death ) for Israel & through Israel, those were are incorporated into the Son of God ( Hosea 11:1 )! There is now & has been for the last few decades ( at least ), much discussion ( usually rather heated ) about whether Adam was the head ( progenitor ) of mankind, or whether he was simply the first of God's Covenant Creation. If he was mankind's progenitor, then we may well understand that his death, which according to certain people, did not come till 969 years later ( even though God told him, 'in the day you eat.............' ) did not symbolize that of national physical Israel & was the death that is 'the last enemy' that Paul speaks of!

However, if Adam was simply the beginning of God's Covenant Creation & did indeed die the day he ate, as God promised, if he was indeed, Israel's covenant head, as Paul seems to suggest ( Romans 5:12 ), then the Purpose for which Jesus came was truly & actually fulfilled! Jesus actually defeated the last enemy, handed the Kingdom over to God the Father, Who is now 'all in all', according to Paul! Now; what about that fascinating little 'all in all'??

If the death of Adam for which Jesus shed His precious blood was truly physical death, he ( the first Adam ) being the one through whom death entered the world, then 'all in all' could easily ( in fact, one might say 'must' ) be understood universally, as 'all in Adam died, so all in Christ shall be made alive'! With Adam taking his rightful place as the head, or first 'king' of Israel, we see that the death which the Christ defeated on the cross was the spiritual death that Adam died the day he ate. Adam's removal from the blessings of the Garden of God was, in this sense, the death that Jesus came to save His People from!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Inspired ( Breathed ) Word of God

And the Lord God formed man [ of ] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7

 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and [ is ] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
II Timothy 3:16 & 17 

We should, first of all, establish that when we use the term 'Word of God', we are not referring to the Bible or even in that sense, the Scriptures themselves! The Pharisees made the fatal mistake of thinking that their Holy Writings constituted the Word of Life, but Jesus corrected them by saying, 'these are they which testify of Me' ( John 5:39 )! Earlier in his Gospel, John wrote concerning Jesus, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' ( John 1:1 ) The English translations of Scripture that we call The Bible ( in its many forms ) does contain what we believe to be a more or less historical account of the Life of Jesus & maybe even more importantly, the History of Israel, but these words ( the Scriptures ) are simply they which tell of the Word of God, or the Word of Life!

We may trust the translations of man for the most part, although there are some very questionable translations & interpretations that have made their way down through the centuries & millenia since the original words were penned! The way it was explained by one theologian was, 'you can read the Gospel in most any version of the Bible'; in other words, the translators, most of them anyway, though they may use different terminology or omit & add certain words or accounts, have been more or less faithful to the Story as revealed in the Scriptures!

The Greek phrase that Timothy used to describe the Scriptures ( which, for his day, was what we call the Old Testament ) is transliterated 'theopneustos', a conglomerate, the middle of which has the same basic meaning as the Hebrew 'naphach', 'to breathe'. One might say therefore, that, just as the Creator breathed into the first Adam the Breathe of Life, so He breathed into certain men the Spirit of Inspiration in order that they might be able to pen, according to His Word!

The question was asked most recently, 'how do you decide which Scriptures pertain to us today, and which are merely historical reference?' Working from the belief that all of these Scriptures ( 'Old Testament', remember ) were fulfilled in the ministry of the Christ, while these Scriptures, as Jesus said, 'testify of Me', they still speak to us today for 'instruction in righteousness', for 'reproof' & for 'doctrine'. We have determined that the totality of what we read in the Hebrew Scriptures ( 'The Law & The Prophets' ) was brought to fulfillment in Jesus, while that pertaining to Israel under that first covenant simply passed away. The Greek Scriptures, in particular the Epistles of Paul, Peter, James & John, are instructive as well, though these too must be understood as having been fulfilled in & through the Body of Christ!

As these words were translated into our English Bibles, then, we can gain a greater understanding of the Nature of God. One might call this ( the Scriptures ) an Introduction of sorts! Just like a good book, though, we cannot get the whole Story by simply reading the Introduction; one must read the whole Story, from the first to the last chapter if one wishes to 'get' the whole Story!

Since our Creator has made His Home with us ( John 14:23 ), we now have the opportunity to nurture a more intimate Relationship with Him! The Bible, or Scripture, as it has been translated & handed down to us over many, many generations contains a more or less accurate representation of the Word of God, Jesus who was the Christ, but these Scriptures merely gave us a preview of our Heavenly Father & of His Only Begotten Son; they are not the Word Himself! As we read these words ( Scripture ), we may gain a deeper understanding of the nature & meaning of the History of Israel; through our study, we see how this history pointed to the Christ, was fulfilled in Him & is fulfilled in us today!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, March 09, 2015

The Exhaustion of Evil

The Problem of Evil is an ancient one! Ever since the Dawn of Mankind, it has, in one form or another, existed & pervaded our lives. As such, Evil happens when one human being does something that another does not like, or even something that is unlawful. Thus, when a person is accustomed to doing things his or her neighbor does not like, or persists in doing unlawful things, that person may be called Evil! However, the 'fact' that this person is Evil may be relative, depending on what he or she is doing that his or her neighbor does not like or what law they are breaking!

The Law of God, as we have seen, is absolute! Our Creator has given us One Law to live by, and that Law, in summary, as Jesus put it,is, 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength..........and your neighbor as yourself'. The question of 'who is my neighbor?' is one that has been debated since ancient times as well! Put simply, your neighbor is one who is in need; if you can help that person, they are your neighbor!

Israel, under that first covenant, had broken God's Law! By failing to love the Lord their God & their neighbor, they had fallen from Grace & had become an Evil! Our Heavenly Father solved that problem by sending His Son to rid the world of that Evil! By sacrificing Himself on the Cross, Jesus definitively defeated Evil & when He came, through the power of Rome, to destroy Jerusalem & the Temple, He decisively exhausted that Evil, bringing it to its knees!

'But, Evil still persists', one might object! It certainly does; there is no denying that fact! As long as human beings continue to deny the relationship, both to God & each other, Evil will always exist! There will always be somebody out there who dislikes what another does, and there will always be some law forbidding a given action. One cannot get away from Evil, but one can lessen the effects of Evil in their own lives!

A certain movie recently showed in our local threater, a movie based on a true story of a young man who was captured by the Japanese & interned in a Prisoner-of-War camp for the duration of the war. Called 'Unbroken', this movie focused on the stamina & endurance of an Olympic athlete who was drafted into WWII, captured behind enemy lines & tortured beyond measure in a Japanese war camp! The scene, near the end, that brought most of the audience to tears, was one where, under duress, the persecuted stared his persecutor down & brought him to his knees; he had exhausted Evil!

Evil DOES persist! As long as human beings walk the earth, we will continue to see its devastating effects! As we have seen, though Evil may persist, it can also be defeated & exhausted! By following the words of Jesus to 'love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you' & 'whatever you want men to do to you, do also unto them', we can defeat the evil purposes of men & women! By refusing to partake in their unlawful actions, one may turn aside much Evil, either by persuading the other to repent of their wickedness, or by exhausting that person so that he or she tires of perpetrating the Evil!

Jesus came to save His people from the effects of Evil, that is, their own ( through the first Adam ) unlawful deeds! By His sacrifice on the Cross, He exhausted the Evil that His People had perpetrated; they did their worst & when they could do no more, they were brought to their knees, trembling in the weakness & humiliation! Jesus accomplished His Father's Purpose, He brought Evil to its knees, totally exhausting it; it could do no more against Him!

Evil can be defeated, its purposes exhausted! Even though Evil is bound up in the hearts of men & women everywhere, it can be driven from its stronghold! Some may feel that the best & only way to eradicate evil is to rid the land of those who commit it, but this sort of action only tends to spawn more Evil! By executing an evil person, which no doubt is just, one only causes their mother, father, brother or sister ( neighbor ) to raise up in their place, continuing the cycle of Evil, ensuring its perpetuity!

When we, as the People of God, decide that Evil will no longer affect their lives, but that they instead will affect Evil, then we may see a world with less & less Evil! As we thus influence men & women around the world to treat their neighbor with the same love & respect that they themselves long for, the Kingdom of Heaven will see such an expansion as it has never witnessed, not since the days of Jesus! May we, as the People of God & the Body of Christ, determine within ourselves to exhaust Evil to the point where it gives up & dies, to rise no more!

Charles Haddon Shank

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Tithes & Offerings; Robbing God to Pay Peter & Paul

Yes, the tithe is Scriptural; we've established that! Manifold proof that a tithe, or tithes were required of Israel under the Old Covenant is evident, just look it up! It also becomes necessary, where a pastor & building are involved, for a certain amount of funds to be deposited into the offering box, or congregational coffers at least once a month! If not for tithes, how are this coffers to be filled to the necessary level; how are pastors & bills ( rent ) to be paid if not through an obligatory tithe?!

Most Christians, pastors & elders in particular, are familiar with the passage in Malachi to which the title of this post alludes. This remonstrance was aimed at Israel under that first covenant because they failed, not so much to pay the obligatory ( under that first covenant-Leviticus 27, Numbers 18 ), but to render justice & mercy ( Matthew 23:23, Zechariah 7:9, Psalm 89:14 )! At the cost of the care of widows & orphans, which James said is true religion, the pharisaical Jews were paying tithes into the Temple treasury, but it wasn't doing anything except beautifying the Temple for the praise of men!

Now, don't take this the wrong way; by saying this we're not putting forth the idea that Christians should NOT tithe, or support a pastor, or even help out with monthly bills for a specialized building! By all means, if & when any Christian can afford to meet any needs, they most certainly should, but on the other hand, it is most definitely NOT a requirement ( across the board-even for those who really cannot afford it ) in order to be considered a good Christian! One of the marks of a good Christian, indeed, IS to love his neighbor ( brother, especially ) when & however he can!

The tithe was established, under that first covenant, as an obligatory tax, if you will, in order to provide for those who were not provided for otherwise, whether they were specialized Temple servants, or just weren't able to provide for themselves! Our Creator must have known that human beings, by nature, were selfish creatures who needed a bit of incentive ( Law ) in order to care for others in need! There are those today who operate under similar conditions ( 'there ought to be a law' ) & seem to need that same incentive. There are others, a greater number, I believe, that fulfill the Law of Love with the normal incentive, yet many of these too, still hold themselves under that old covenant law of the tithe!

Ministers of the Gospel do deserve to have their needs met & to receive a certain amount of respect, moreso than those who stifle the their gifts & thus their ministry of the Gospel! Though this most often, particularly in this day & age, involves monetary ( financial ) expression, it need not necessarily involve financial contribution or remunerations! As all of God's People are ministers, this concept, a novel one indeed, could have interesting implications & applications when it comes to the matter of the tithe! The priesthood of believers has been established for centuries, but this is at least one of the implications of that doctrine that has not been fairly applied!

Our Heavenly Father has blessed us all in different way! The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Ephesus, 'He Himself gave [ some to be ] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers' ( Ephesians 4:11 ); we all cannot orate well, some have a readier, less selfish attitude when it comes to giving, some are naturally more hospitable than others, and some are natural leaders! If no one leads, no one ( else ) can follow, right?

The question is, 'who do we follow?'

Do we not follow Jesus the Christ? Are we not supposed to follow His lead & His lead alone? What would Jesus do?  If every Christian truly followed Jesus & not his or her concept of who He should be, an obligatory tithe would not be necessary to support a pastor & praise team ( even a Director of Communications ), or to pay overhead ( bills & rent ) on a specific building! Such a concept is not a new one; this is how the Church in its infancy operated, each giving according to his ability & meeting individual needs within the Church as they presented!

Jesus is our Head, Jesus is our Leader; we are to emulate Jesus! By following Jesus & acting as He acted ( remembering too, how He overturned the Temple ), we can be sure that we are on the right Path; if we follow any given pastor, preacher or elder, how can we be sure that we are doing what Jesus did? The simple answer is that we cannot be sure; in fact, in some congregations today, the exact opposite would seem to be true!

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier [ matters ] of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.
Matthew 23:23

Keeping in mind the historical context of Jesus' words above, we can see that Jesus condemned the Pharisees in spite of their tithing! They, under that first covenant, had been commanded to give 10% of their income to the building & upkeep of God's Temple. This pointed forward to the time of the Christ & the building & upkeep of the True Temple, His Body ( John 2:21 )! Now, with the Advent of that True Temple, which Temple we are, the only tithe we are required to uphold is that of loving God & our neighbor as ourselves!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Through the Wormhole; the Inner Sanctum

Have you ever thought about what we might be capable of?! Since the Designer & Creator of this awesome universe has made His Home with us ( John 14:23 ), is there anything we can't do, truly? This physical, biological body does present limitations to what we can accomplish, in actuality, but spiritually speaking & metaphorically as well, the sky's the limit!

Think about it; seriously, have we not ascended where angels fear to tread? Do we not enjoy Daily Communion with our Creator & walk with Him as did the first Adam?! Jesus also said, earlier in John 14 ( 12 ), 'he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father'! We have explored these exalted realms before, but how, in heavens name, are we supposed to do as Jesus did, much more, do even greater things than
He did?! Nevertheless, Jesus plainly said it, it cannot be but true!

The Mind, as we have also explored, to some extent, is still a mystery to most scientists! There seems to be a pretty direct correlation between the Brain & the Mind, but beyond that, the mind is virtually unmappable! While the brain has been mapped to a greater or lesser extent & science it to the degree that we know our biology cannot function without it! Our brain controls literally every member of physical body! However, it seems that the Mind can overcome the Brain!

The Brain, as in the case of this author & others that may come to mind, seems to have lost the capacity to function normally, especially when it comes to normal, everyday activitities like running & walking, sometimes even talking! With practice, these things may, to whatever extent, be overcome & if you believe certain studies, totally rectified! This is entirely possible, one might decide, though in this crazy, mixed-up world in which we live, not very probable!

The Brain is a tangible; it can be mapped, to whatever extent & it can be visibly seen with the naked eye! Though it is full of intricacies, man has figured out the sections of the brain that control certain parts of the body. Surgeons, despite all its intricacies, are able to repair certai portions of the brain to varying degrees of success! More exploration is being done everyday & leaps are being made in the makeup of the Brain & what it might be capable of!

The Mind, on the hand, is an intangible; it cannot be mapped, and though it can be explored to some extent, through its effect on the Brain, it remains a mystery to most scientists! The Mind, then, must be more closely related to the Spirit, that intangible part of our physiology without which our biology would soon shut down & cease to function!

It is said that 'In the beginning............the Lord God.........formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life'. This is usually accepted as the manner in which the spirit of man ( kind ) come to be! However, the study of Covenant Creation, or Covenant Protology & Covenant Eschatology, has made great leaps of its own! Through this study, it has been found that the words above refer, not to Original Creation of Man, as has been traditionally thought, but rather of Covent Creation, the introduction of the Creator into His Creation!

The Spirit of Man, or the intangible mind which seems to hold such sway over the brain, though given to a greater extent, maybe, in the Creation Account of Genesis 1 & 2, was the Gift of Life to the first Adam & through Covenant, to every man, women & child who seeks the Knowledge of their Creator through that Covenant!

As we continue to explore this Inner Sanctum, may we ever keep at the fore-front of our minds the glorious fact that our biological bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made? Not only that, but our Minds are reflections of our Creator's Intelligence; even those who seem to have lost their minds, or at least its ability to function normally, glorify their Creator through regular use! With God, all things are possible, they say, and so it is; Amen & Amen!

Charles Haddon Shank

And the Beat Goes On; Island Time

Sitting here at the Hull Bay Hideaway on St. Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, listening to reggae music, it's difficult not to think heaven-on-earth'! Considering that the temperature is a balmy 80 degrees with gentle breeze & it's partly cloudy, it is truly paradise for an old cripple that has head in the clouds! One might say I'm a fool for not wanting to relocate here, but truly, although I could probably survive the island life, I'm pretty sure I just want to visit for a time & go home!

I had a bit of an adventure getting here! I was supposed to connect into New York's JFK before I flew to the islands, but with the snowstorm they were having, the fight was cancelled! I was rerouted through Miami, Florida. After I caught connecting flight to St. Thomas & arrived on the island, I found out that my luggage had gone on to New York & so would be a couple days late! Thankfully, my brother-in-law as able to supply me with an extra pair of swim trunks that he had, so my needs were met!

On the way to the islands, I met a great couple who were in the business of delivering boats to people whoa lived in the islands! This couple was on their way down to the British Virgin Island of Tortola. When I mentioned to the gentleman that I was a bit of a photo bug, he switched seats with me & so I was able to snap snap some great pictures on the way down!

Yesterday was one of my first days really just hanging out at the beach! We, my brother-in-law's family & I, went to a beautiful beach on Lindbergh Bay called Emerald Beach Resort. It was a beautiful day & I got my first sunburn for quite some time!

I have several weeks yet to enjoy the Island Life, on Island Time! During that time, I hope to see more of the island, maybe even neighboring islands, enjoy the cool island breezes & being woken by cocks crowing! In a sense, I believe, this Island Life could be called The Simple Life, although, when you think about it, The Simple Life can be enjoyed wherever one lives; the choice is up to you!

In the greatest sense, then, Paradise as well is up to you! If you can enjoy Life wherever you live, then not only is it much simpler, but one can truly enjoy 'heaven-on-earth'! I'm looking forward to the remainder of my time on this island we call Paradise, but on this Earth, in this world that I call Paradise, wherever my Father takes me!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Kingdom Of Righteousness

Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
II Peter 3:13

The Kingdom of Heaven, as envisioned by the apostles & Jesus Himself would not be a normal flesh & blood kingdom, at least, not one as the world had been used to seeing! To quote a line from the fairly recent movie, 'Kingdom of Heaven', this was 'a kingdom of the conscience'!

Imagine, if you will for a moment, that people could live together as one, disagreeing, maybe, in theory, but agreeing to live together, side by side, facing the glorious hardships of life! With an arrangement like this, how could anything go wrong! We should all live in such a way that we could love & honor our Creator by loving our neighbor as our self, by treating each other as we would have others treat us!

Our Heavenly Father envisioned such a Kingdom! The Marriage of Heaven & Earth, prophesied from Genesis to Revelation, was not One that would be won through force of arms, nor by swords loud clashing! No political contrivances of mere men would rule this Kingdom, but Love, Pure Love would rule the day! The Ruler of this Kingdom would be the Creator Himself, One who embodied Pure Love & was Himself embodied in His People, His Only Begotten Son!

Jesus told the Pharisees of His day that this Kingdom was in their midst! The Pharisees, of course, had no real idea why Jesus would say that, since they themselves were looking for political salvation, deliverance from this Roman beast who was holding a sword over their heads like the fabled Damocles! The salvation that Jesus brought, as we have seen, was not merely of the soul ( so that you could go to heaven when you die ); this salvation was one of the body as well, one that would bring back from the dead those that had died! That Body was the Body of Israel, the Body that had been betrothed to Her Creator & given the task of sharing His Love & Knowledge to the nations!
As a nation of priests, Israel had forgotten Her First Love! She enamored Herself of those who were not Her, began to whore after them & broke the Covenant! She forgot what it meant to be a priest & rather than healing the nations, made of them eternal enemies who would eventually destroy her! Rather than spreading Peace, Love & Joy, chaos, hatred & murder! Though Israel had been unfaithful, Her Intended was Faithful still ( II Timothy 2:13 ); through His unfaithful & often unwilling Wife, the Creator of all spread His Love & Knowledge throughout the entire world!

The Pharisees, much like most American Christians today ( Religious Right? ), though claiming to be righteous, did not practice righteousness! They wanted the glory that men gave & were more than willing to take it by force! Righteous cannot be forced, as we have seen. Righteous actions, can in a sense, be persuaded, but it is not true righteousness unless it comes from a sincere heart! Even though the Pharisees practiced righteousness before the world of men, at heart, as Jesus said, they were full of 'dead men's bones'; they appeared to be clean on the outside, but on the inside they were filthy rags, good only for stopping the flow of blood!

The apostle Paul proclaimed, 'the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit' ( Romans 14:17 ). Though this Kingdom, being made up of those whose physically need to eat & drink, is not about eating & drinking, but is about fulfilling the Creator's Purpose for Israel from the beginning, to be Co-regent with Him, to rule over His Creation, not by force, as it were, but by deeds of love & mercy!

The Covenant of Marriage was instituted from the beginning for this Purpose; to share the Love of God with His Creation! The Righteousness which the Creator bequeathed to His Covenant Creation through the sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son was the only violence that this Kingdom would ever see! Through the unrighteousness of His detractors, the Kingdom of Righteousness was inaugurated!

Let us ever remember that our strength is not in numbers, nor is it in the political machinations of man! Our Strength is the Creator of Heaven & Earth; it is in Him alone that we stand, never to fall! Since we have become 'the Righteousness of God in Christ Jesus' ( II Corinthians 5:21 ), let us, as His Mate, share the Love & knowledge we have been given, not in force of arms, but in righteousness, peace & joy, to show that the Heavenly Kingdom's come!

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You
With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
Psalm 45:6 & 7 

Charles Haddon Shank