The Pagan Path

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Glass Tabernacle, the Circle of the Earth & the Dark Side of the Moon

Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which [ were ] under the firmament from the waters which [ were ] above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
Genesis 1:6-8

Was Christopher Columbus right in the first place, or is the earthly actually flat like was the prevailing notion in his day? Even today, though modern science has proven the flat earth theory to be wrong & shown us that we are living on a sphere, some among us are convinced that we are living on a flat earth, or even further, a concave earth! This belief/theory goes something like this; the globe, as we are used to seeing it, is actually inside out, or, too be precise, outside in! The 'outer heavens' that we are viewing ( Sun, Moon ( ? ), planets, stars, etc. ) are the sphere! From the model I saw, this 'concave earth' is separated from the heavenly sphere by two different 'glass tabernacles', one for the sun & one for the moon. In the case of events like that recorded in Joshua 10, this would actually almost seem to make more sense than what we have traditionally been taught over the years!

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.
Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
[There is ] no speech nor language [ where ] their voice is not heard.
Their line[a] has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which [ is] like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
[And ] rejoices like a strong man to run its race. 
 Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Psalm 19:1-6

This theory, that of a 'concave earth', almost seems to make sense, especially if you are naturally inclined to believe that everything the government has told us ( been telling us for hundreds of years )to the contrary is a lie! Scripture does seem to describe the courses of the sun, moon & stars ( funny, no planets are mentioned ) in such a way as to make this theory more or less believable, but the question is, 'does it really matter to how we live our life?' If we live inside the crust of the earth rather than outside, as has been traditionally taught, what effect does that have on how we treat our neighbor? Must this of necessity have any effect on how we love our Creator God, our Abba Father?? If the Sun, moon & stars in their course above are really inside the circle of the earth, how should we then live?

Much of the idiosyncratic language of Scripture has, of course, been explained, so that we westerners can understand it, by Covenant Creation! Scripture, as we have noted, is a Book of Covenant, a book of metaphorical language describing aspects, both of the natural ( material ) creation & that which is spiritual ( immaterial ). The History of Israel, as given in the Scriptures, is a record of the Covenant that the Creator established with His Creation. He instituted & ordered it that He might be known to it & bless it through relationship, through Communion!

Is it so hard to believe that the Creator of the Universe ( or Multiverse, for that matter ) might have, rather than hanging the Sun, Moon, Stars & Planets in some sort of Eternal Axis around each other ( not to mention orbits within orbits ), established a nice, neat & tidy little model like this 'concave earth' that are hearing about? On the other hand, does it make a difference, theologically speaking if our Heavenly Father has hung the aforementioned rocks ( or balls of gas ) on nothing, spun them on orbits around each other & thus instituted the Natural Law of Gravity ( among others )? Can we still treat others as we would like to be treated if we are really all living inside this concave earth ( universe, really )?? Really, in a certain manner of speaking, one might think that this would bring us closer together, so to speak, as a people!

So then, while it is interesting to discuss these possibilities, it really has mo bearing on how we live our lives! History has proven that governments come & governments go! One thing that has always been the same, though, especially in the past 6,000 years or so, is how people treat each other! Whether you believe the Story laid out for us in Scripture or not, the past many thousands of years have shown us that man ( kind ) is not naturally very kind to those who disagree with him ( or her )! Religion has been much of that problem; religion has been at the root of every war that has ever been fought, religion has been the culprit in pretty much every disagreement between creatures of all sizes, colors & shapes! Now, before you tune me out, I'm not saying that religion, which is simply what one believes, is necessarily a bad thing! If one believes wrongly & thus acts wrongly, it is a very bad thing but it is good to know what is right & to act rightly! Our natural inclination, when someone disagrees with us ( some have stronger inclinations than others ) is to distance ourselves from them & fellowship with those who agree with us. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if one's inclination is to punch the one who disagrees with them in the throat, but it kinda puts a damper on their relationship & hinders their fellowship ( communion )!

If one believes, therefore, that the earth is flat, as used to be taught as gospel, or that, as science has now proven, we inhabit a Living Planet, precariously spinning on an Eternal Axis in the middle of an Infinite Universe ( or Multiverse ), even that it's all been a pack of lies force-fed to us over the centuries & that all this time & that we're really looking at all of this beauty from the inside, looking............................further in; it should really have no impact on how we treat each other! When we allow our beliefs ( religion ) to dictate how we treat others, in essence, if we use our religion as an excuse to treat others badly, then we should examine the religion that Jesus taught His followers to pursue! It is important that one believes rightly, but we should never use our right beliefs as an excuse to act wrongly!

In conclusion & to reiterate the point, while it is profitable, to whatever extent, to explore all the fascinating possibilities, if this exploration takes or keeps us away from the Table, from that necessary Communion with our Creator & His Creation, then it has become unprofitable & should be abandoned! To the point where we can discuss these issues without interrupting Communion, it is a somewhat worthy & entertaining endeavor, but when that boundary is crossed, then we must seek Communion rather than Disunion; we cannot really live without it!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Last Leg of the Journey

As I sit here in my sister's living room in South Bend, Indiana, it's really starting to hit home that I've been away from my beloved Montana ( and Montana family ) for almost two months! This weary world traveler ran out of steam a little over halfway through his journey, but I have no regrets; I'm glad I stepped outside my front door & went where our Father was leading!

Although the past few weeks haven't been quite as interesting, geographically speaking, as the first three or so, it has been quite the adventure! Meeting friends, old & new; I have also renewed some family ties that were in need of maintenance & repair. I have learned a few things, not only about the world, but about myself. To borrow a phrase, the world really is a BIG place & after all, I AM just a little fellow! I've learned, that while TSA is NOT happy when you try to travel with no photo-ID, it can be done; I've learned that, even for an old cripple like yours truly, even an obstacle like leaving your cane ( just ask ) at home is not insurmountable. My nephews made a walking stick for me while I was on St. Thomas & my brother-in-law lent me his 'swagger stick' while I was in Florida & Virginia!

Biggest lesson learned so far? Two months is a bit long to be away from the people & land I love! Most important lesson? No matter where Life takes you, the people are what make it worth living & it's all beautiful! Sure, Florida, Virginia & Indiana don't have the majestic scenery like Montana & they're a bit too crowded for my liking, but my family seems happy there, so I'm happy being with them there ( for a time )!

As I prepare to exit stage left ( west ) & head back to my beloved mountains, I look forward to the trip with some trepidation; although I'm eager to see what else our Father has in store for me ( for us ) before we get there, I really just want to be there: I'm tired, I'm ready to sleep in my own bed, I'm ready to relax in my recliner, I'm ready to pedal my ass around town again ( though Dave Bonko keeps telling me it's illegal ), but I seriously wonder sometimes if that's what our Father has planned! That's what I want, but I'm trying to keep an open mind about it, trying not to worry & be at peace about what dreams may come!

I'm going to need at least a week to fully recuperate from my journey ( HA, like that's gonna happen! ), so Im going to end this little report for now, but stay tuned; there's more to come!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, April 27, 2015

Reforming Marriage

Well, it's happened: state-sanctioned Christian ministers/pastors in Idaho are being forced to marry homosexual couples, or face jail-time & a hefty fine! Of late, big news in the Christian Right ( it's been all over FB ), is that 'Christian bakeries ( what IS a 'Christian bakery', anyway? ) are facing persecution for refusing their services to homosexual couples, in essence, refusing to bake wedding cakes for same-sex nuptials.No matter what one believes concerning the Sanctity of Marriage or homosexual love/union in particular, one can't help wondering; 'what the hell is the world coming to?'! When the government, whether state or Federal, can force 'we the people' ( their boss ) to do things against their will, much less decide that 'they' can change the definition of marriage, then we have a problem; we are no longer free, we are living under tyranny!

Although, as Christians, we may not support every plank of the Libertarian Party platform ( it IS, after all, just another 'party' ); it is difficult, as a Christian, not to acknowledge the glaring similarities between many libertarian ideals & Scriptural principles! The problem most Christians have is that without the influence of Scriptural morals, libertarianism looks libertine! Although it is true, as the apostle Paul saw in his day & is manifest in our day as well, freedom can be abused ( usually is without being held in check ), the ideals of what is called libertarianism must be upheld, for without them, we naturally devolve into tyranny!

Not to sound hard-hearted, but any pastor/minister who entreats the permission of the government to perform marriages, even to minister, should expect opposition! He, or she, should expect to be required to follow the laws of that government, right or wrong, or face the consequences. Along the same lines, any business, Christian or not, who seeks license from the government to operate, should expect persecution when they refuse to obey certain rules set down by said government. Is it right for the government, whether it be State or Federal, to force obedience to their rules, or persecute those who don't follow them? It depends on the circumstance, of course, but it certainly is NOT right for any government to persecute a Christian, or anyone for that matter, for not wishing to violate their conscience!

Marriage, especially for the Christian, is defined by our Creator as the union of a man & a woman wherein they become one in order to propagate the race & fill the earth with the fruit of their union! Not all people believe this way, so naturally, we are faced with the question, 'is it right to force someone to honor these guidelines?'  Should we force that Scriptural definition upon everyone, whether they like it or not, just because we know what's best for them ( what's best for them being revealed in Scripture )? Wouldn't that be kind of like what Constantine did, in forcing all his subjects ( depending on which story you believe ) to accept Christ or die! It even sounds a bit too much like what radical Islam ( ISIS? ) has been doing!

Marriage is defined by the Creator as the union of one man & one woman, period; it is what it is! Just because some unbelievers who believe they have the authority to change that definition doesn't mean they do! A man cannot marry another man, nor a woman a woman; physically speaking, it just doesn't work & as many homosexuals, if they're honest, will tell you, there are many other ways that it just doesn't work. Though there are doubtless countless homosexual couples out there who have co-habituated & otherwise remained in a relationship for a time, the divorce rate, if you want to call it that, is probably even higher than among heterosexual couples, most likely due to inherent problems in that sort of perverted relationship!

In the day & age in which we live, unfortunately, most people, including many Christians, are 'sheeple'! Thankfully, mostly because of governmental abuse of power, we are seeing a reversal in this trend, but for far too long, 'we the people' in general & Christians in particular, have bowed before the idol that is the Federal or State Government, taking every bitter pill that has been thrust at it, drinking every sour cup of wine handed to them, for whatever reason, just so they can enjoy the limited freedoms that prison allows! If the Federal or State Government will allow us a little leash in one area, even though it may mean tightening the noose in another ( or on another-hey, it's all politics, right? ), then by all means, take it! Wait, who's the boss?!

Though by no means perfect, libertarian ideals, if not libertarianism itself may be the closest thing to it in this imperfect world! Because America has pursued this downward spiral of democracy & republicanism ( nationalism ) for so long, it may be some time before we notice much of a change for the better, but as any Christian that honest with himself or herself & with Scripture must admit, it's hard to tell a huge difference between how Jesus said we are to treat each other & the supporting planks of the libertarian platform! Again, is this to say that if we all became libertarians, that all of a sudden, overnight, the world would become a better place?! By no means; the world has been in this state of disrepair for so long, that just like America, it'll take some time to put it to rights again! However, we could argue, it's never to late to do right!

Marriage, as it was instituted by our Creator, will survive! Good Christian men & women, not to mention countless others, will continue to 'tie the knot', so to speak! Homosexuals will continue to pursue their perverted life-styles & some may even, especially when ired, continue to persecute Christians & those who choose to live rightly! The best Christians can do is not to carelessly cause persecution by disobeying the government to whom they have pledged their allegiance or to raise the hackles of every homosexual who just wants to be loved, by their hateful attitude! The best Christians can do is to present, before a watching world, the best that marriage has to offer, one that glorifies their Creator & fulfills His Divine Purpose for Marriage! If more Christians would do this rather than spending their precious time & energies trying to convince the Federal & State Governments that we need them to enact laws to protect that which already has the Protection of an Almighty Creator, then we might see the decline, slow as it may be, of the perversions of this hallowed institution! Till then, we might as well sit back & enjoy the ride!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Political Theology: the Church & the Birthing of America

Of late, I have begun to understand that, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, what we do has more impact than what we ( say we ) believe! However, as with most judgments, this statement comes with a caveat; if one acts religiously, according to what one says they believe, then belief must take the drivers seat, because if one believes rightly, they will do rightly, but on the other hand, if they believe wrongly, they will do wrongly, most of the time, irregardless of the law! The political State of the Union attests to this disturbingly manifest fact!

In this great nation of ours, the Rule of Law has, for a long time, been the prevalent theory behind our political machinations! For the most part & to a great extent, maybe, one could say that this is what has made our nation great! However, we as Christians know that it is our Heavenly Father who has allowed this nation to become great through that Rule of Law ( one might rather say, 'in spite of it' ). One question that should be asked here is, 'how is our nation great; what do we mean when we say that?' Is greatness dictated by Adherence to Law or is it revealed according to the Spirit of Love?

Comparison is often made, quite justly, I would add, between these United States & Israel of old, the children of Abraham according to the flesh, under that first covenant! Israel was given a set of Laws that were good & righteous; for awhile, through adherence to that Law, things went well, but eventually, because of inherent corruption, the Law brought condemnation to Israel! The situation in these United States today is very notably similar; our founding fathers, not unlike Moses, gave us a set of rules ( law ) to follow, in the form of the Constitution! For a time & even to some point it is true still today, adherence to this Law of the Land kept evil at bay, but of late in the last 150 years or so, because of corruption, this Law has brought death to life, yet again & quite literally!

This is not to say that the Constitution is itself evil or that it is unnecessary! As the Law was itself good, so the Constitution, when applied rightly, according to law, had a good effect & brought blessing, but when misapplied, it brought a curse & through corruption, death! One might say that through the Constitution, as through the Law, what was to life brought death! Because of corruptible man, the Constitution of these United States became a hindrance to itself, one might say, for it was written to guide a righteous people & when you try to apply a righteous law to an unrighteous people, though you may bear witness, for a time, to their outward obedience, eventually their inner corruption will erupt into chaos!

Through the politics of this nation, particularly our Foreign Policy, we have enjoyed the status of one of the greatest & most powerful nations on the face of the earth! Our greatness has come with a terrible price, though & for the past 150 years or so, it has slowly been taking its toll; we are one of the most hated, though feared ( with good reasons ) nations on earth, as well! Our Foreign Policy, with its seemingly insatiable appetite for destruction & desolation ( war ) has driven us to the brink of disaster! Now, I'm not saying that was is an unnecessary evil, for their is evil out there & it must be treated with, but, as a nation, we have embroiled ourselves, for whatever reason, in affairs not our own & made ourselves a stench in the nostrils of many nations!

Politics, as we have noted before, is a necessary tool for the survival of this nation, but in order for politics ( Constitutional L:aw ) to have any good & lasting effect, we must first witness a major & thorough revival, first, in the Church & through the Church, in the hearts of the American people! Much of the problem with the Church itself is that, institutionally speaking, the Church in America, anyway, has been living as under Law! Though the Law has come & made His home with us, we still look to a written revelation ( Law ) for guidance!

Law is good, and doubtless is necessary still for the containment of evil! Much evil, though, that we have seen in this nation's gloried & storied history could have been averted or avoided entirely by simply following the Law written on our hearts! By 'the Law written on our hearts', we refer simply to the willingness to do what is right, just because it is right, not out of fear of punishment or retribution.

The conclusion of the matter; politics will not save us, no matter how good, right & just they are! In order for politics to serve their purpose, for they do have a purpose to serve, there must first be a wholesale turning to Righteousness of the people of this great nation! We must repent of our wrongdoing & adopt a policy based on the Law of Love & the Scriptural injunction to treat others as we want others to treat us. We must decide, once for all, whether we will exist in fear, or whether we will live in love! Must we, like those under that first covenant, remain in a perpetual state of birthing, or will we acknowledge the Law written on our hearts, rather than tablets of stone & do righteously because we have been made righteous, not because we have a Law ( Constitution ) telling us to do rightly?

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Judgment of God in the Condemnation of Israel According to the Flesh

In this day & age, as we've seen previously, judgment gets 'a bad rap'! Put simply & in everyday terms, judgment, or a judgment, is a decision, or even a preference, in some cases, a choice of one option over another, wherein one decides what is right & wrong, whether morally or relatively, and makes a choice dependent on that decision! When most people think of the Judgment of God, however, the tendency is to think of this judgment as ending in destruction for those who experience His Judgment! We must remember, though, that as they received a guilty verdict, the Body of Christ, the Israel of God, was judged as well & judged Righteous, without condemnation!

In some ways, the Judgment of God is similar to ours, although in reality, it's the other way around; our Heavenly Father passes Judgment in any given situation, according to His Righteous Will, according to His Moral Preferences! Many Christians in this day & age are wondering, 'if judgment is fulfilled ( as in Fulfilled Eschatology ), then what happens to us upon the demise of our physical body?' There are two problems inherent with this question; the first is that it assumes, as above, that judgment means condemnation & two, that fulfilled means cessation!

Fulfilled, as we have discussed elsewhere, in terms of a contract, necessarily means cessation, or an end, but we are speaking of a Covenant, which is never-ending! In everyday terms ( legal & mundane ), there are contracts & there are covenants. Both contracts & covenants may stand alone, or a contract may evolve into a covenant! In the case of an agreement between two parties for mutual benefit, one may contract with another for a certain job to be performed. Once the job has been performed to the contractor's satisfaction, the contract may be closed, having been fulfilled. In the case of land covenants, for instance, two ( or more ) parties also agree to adhere to certain guidelines & as long as the land remains in the possession of the ones involved in that covenant, it is fulfilled in perpetuity. A Marriage Covenant, such as that between our Heavenly Father & His People, between Christ & His Bride, the Church, is much the same; the Marriage, though fulfilled at the Time of Consummation, is forever being fulfilled as well!

Israel according to the flesh was condemned by their final rejection & murder of the Son of God! Because of this Judgement, their execution came in the form of destruction at the hands of Rome in AD70! At the same time, however ( at the Cross ), the True Israel of God was judged Righteous & received Salvation ( physically speaking ) in the Destruction of Jerusalem. Though they had fled Jerusalem as they were commanded, after the Jewish Temple was destroyed, ending forever that first covenant economy, they were saved from the hands of their enemies!

Judgment, therefore, has two faces; it is a two-edged sword, so to speak! It means a division between what is right & what is wrong, between good & evil; it means salvation for some & destruction for others, good for some, evil for others! It can also be as simple & seemingly inconsequential as, 'I'm going to wear my blues socks today, instead of my purple ones', or 'I think I'll have eggs & toast instead of cereal for breakfast'. However, it can also have a more serious connotation to it, as 'I think I will show love to that person & not that one today', or I will save that person from drowning & let that one go'!

Yes, Judgment IS fulfilled, but it is also being fulfilled! As the Son of God, Israel according to Promise, we are Judges of the Earth & so make judgments everyday, not only seemingly inconsequential ones, but ones that could have very serious consequences & often do! Because we are in the midst of a Covenant, we continually fulfill the requirements of that Covenant, not necessarily because we must, but because we love to! Just as in a Marriage, both parties involved work together ( make judgments ) to keep the ship afloat, so we must decide to take up our cross daily & follow Him to whom we are joined in Blessed Union!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jerusalem & the Temple; the Lake of Fire

This is not a comfortable subject in most circles! If the destruction of Jerusalem & the Jewish Temple in particular in AD70 was the Lake of Fire, or what is commonly known as Final Judgment, then what happens to the doctrine of hell? Basically, it destroys it! When John saw the Beast & False Prophet, as well as Death itself thrown into the Lake of Fire in the Revelation, we understand that while this Lake of Fire was/is not an actual literal place ( a lake full of fire, rather than water ), John witnessed the Final ( Second ) Death of Death & the End of that first covenant economy with its bestial influence & false prophets! Not all, however, understand John's vision this way, but rather project this Final Judgment into our future ( 2,000+ years later ) instead of John's own generation, as the text leads us to believe!

Just as Jesus' words to His disciples in the Olivet Discourse & places like Matthew 10:23 & Matthew 16:28, His final words to them in John's vision ( the Revelation ) clearly state that the things that John witnessed to were about to take place! Jesus stated that what He revealed to His servant John were 'things which must shortly take place' & 'the time is near'. Many Christians today feel the need, for this & various reasons, to place a gap within the Revelation, as well as other places in Scripture, a gap that allows for a yet future fulfillment of certain prophecies. Although there may seem to be good reason to place these gaps in various places ( Daniel's 69th week, for instance ) the very fact that this is a vision reveals that what John saw was not the actual event, or events that were to take place, but simply signified, metaphorically, what was about to happen!

The destruction of the Jewish Temple in the Fall of AD70, as so vividly portrayed in Josephus' account of 'The Wars of the Jews', could easily be seen as a very literal Lake of Fire! The conflagration that he describes sounds very close to the hellish nightmare that most Christians envision when they read John's account. Though John does not necessarily mention it by name, the garbage dump in the valley situated nearby also lends credence to this literal Lake of Fire notion!

As we have seen, many or most Christians have been blinded to the fact that all Scripture has been fulfilled! The reasons for this are manifold, but the distinctions are fairly clear; if one purports Fulfillment & takes these beliefs to their logical conclusion, that one often will find vilification & even ostracization! Much of this comes in spite of a common belief in the salvific character of  Jesus the Christ & this is unfortunate because this common belief is what holds us together as a Body! As splintered as it is, what is often called the Visible Church does bear this one Mark in common; the belief in Jesus as the Messiah of Israel & Savior of the World, of all who will accept Him as such, is held in the highest regard, indeed as a necessity!

Near the close of John's account ( Revelation ), Jesus stated again, in very similar words as in the beginning of John's vision, 'Surely I am coming quickly'! This short statement has been interpreted in various different ways, most popularly in keeping with a yet future ( to us ) fulfillment of these words. Many Christians, those willing to study the book at all, envision  Jesus as stating that when He comes, He will come quickly! There can be no doubt, though, with an honest reading of the text, and especially the context, that Jesus, as Judge, did quickly visit His Judgement, for good & evil, upon His covenant children, separating the good from the bad, the sheep from the goats!

The Conflagration that spelled disaster for the Jewish Temple, according to the account of Josephus was actually started by the Jews themselves! Although the Romans in general were more than favorable to this certain destruction, certain of the Jews, for whatever reason, decided to take its imminent destruction upon themselves rather than give that satisfaction wholly over to the Roman armies! In further fulfillment of prophecy ( Deuteronomy 32:22 ), a fire was set in their midst, not just an actual literal fire but one that metaphorically burnt the city & kingdom to the ground!

John reported, toward the end of his vision, that 'Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire'! 'Hades', in Greek mythology, is where we get our modern 'hell'. If 'hell' itself, or 'Hades' was destroyed in the conflagration of Jerusalem & the Temple, then that would mean that 'hell', if it ever existed as anything more than 'the grave', or 'exile', has ceased to exist as anything but a memory!

One final note; doubtless one reason for the perpetuation of the doctrine of hell is the fact that, if 'hell' indeed no longer is a threat to the unbeliever, then what incentive is there for the unbeliever to turn & repent? If the unbeliever, upon the demise of their biology, merely ceases to exist, why would that one choose to turn over a new leaf & start living for Jesus?

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Beautiful Storms of Life

Oh, the ignominy of it; why must we go through these trials? Oh, sure, 'it builds character', but really, is all this necessary?! Why does life hafta be so hard?

Well, for one thing; yes, it does build character! If life was all fun & games, if it was all smooth sailing, with no opposition, we'd most like get fat & lazy; we'd start to feel so comfortable & confident in our own strength, thinking that we had it all covered & loose sight of our need for our Heavenly Father's Providence! If we had it all made, how quickly, do you think, would we forget our basic human need for Daily Communion with our Lord & His Body! What Comfort we receive from His Covenant would soon lack luster in our eyes as we become more & more satisfied with our own provender, our own righteousness!

Divorce, separation, heart attacks, leukemia, all manner of illness, family troubles, you name it; if it might happen to you, it most likely will: it seems that no one is immune, not even the best of us! It's only natural; when things like this begin to happen to us or those we love, to turn our gaze inwardly & ask ourselves, 'what did I do?' Sometimes it IS our own stupidity or just plain bad choices, that brings whatever sort of trial upon us, but as often it is simply glorious, messy & beautiful Kingdom Life! Not that things happen for no reason, for it's usually the bad choices of SOMEBODY that causes SOMETHING to not work the way that it should & voila; SOMEBODY else ( usually ) has a trial to suffer through!

Some might object that there's nothing wrong with smooth sailing & that having it all made is not a bad thing! Just because we have all our ducks in a row doesn't mean that we're going to automatically loose sight of the blessings of communion, nor does it mean that we would immediately lose sight of our Covenant & trust in our own several abilities! It is true that we, in Christ, possess the Strength within ourselves to persevere through any trial that comes our way, but just as with biology; if you don't use it, you lose it! Well, we'll NEVER lose the Strength of Christ, but what happens when we don't exercise? We lose tone; the strength may be there still, but because we have become fat & lazy ( confident & complacent ) through lack of exercise of that strength, our biology may atrophy, forgetting how to employ that strength in various ways!

Life in this Glorious ( but dangerous ) Kingdom of our God & Father is much the same way; we may obediently follow His Word & Way, our eyes may not lose sight of the Strength within us & our exercise of the Freedom that we have in Christ will grant us the Peace that passes all understanding! Even though we experience smooth sailing through the turmoil of life, there will always be those around us, however far or near, who do not have that Peace! Unavoidably, we come in contact with those who do not have that Strength, who trust in their own pitiful weakness to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, so to speak!

When we involve ourselves in the affairs of this life, it is impossible not to be touched or affected by the bad choices that others make, not to mention the ones that we make daily! The way that we face or treat these trials, though, determine how those trials affect us! Divorce happens; it's ugly, but it happens: it's an evil, but sometimes the separation of a husband & wife is the best thing for all involved! Heart attacks, leukemia & other assorted illnesses are another matter, one which is loathsome & indicative of one of our greatest problems, physically speaking, in our nation today!

As we live this adventure we call Life, as we stroll through this world in the Grandest Journey; let us always remember the Strength that we have at our command! We can overcome the effects of the bad choices others have made & we can ourselves learn from the mistakes that we have made, as well as those of others & use the trials to build not only our own character but the character of those within our sphere of influence!

To this End, let us welcome those beautiful storms of life! Let's use them to build the Kingdom of our Father & as we build, those storms will begin to have less & less of the devastating effect that we're so used to seeing & hearing all around us! May we ever persevere in the Beautiful Storms of Life!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Practicing Church ( the praxis of ecclesiology )

How often have you been to church in the past 6 months? Year? How often is the answer, 'not as often as I should', or 'at least a dozen times; I try to make it at least once a month'? What's wrong with this scenario?! Some might have a problem with the fact that this person is not attending church every Sunday, while others may have a problem with this person for another reason! 'He/she just needs to get his/her priorities straight; if they really wanted to get there more often, they would'! Well, yes; both excuses are faulty, but then, so are the condemnations!

Scripturally speaking, the Church that God built was not one built with inanimate wood, hay or stubble! It was not built by human hands, as were the Temples & Tabernacle that had been erected in the land over the years. This Temple, the Body of Christ, was built by the same Architect who founded the heavens & the earth of old! The Church was built with Living Stones, ones with hearts of flesh that could be fashioned according to the Creator's Will! These Living Stones would not just sit there like bumps on a log, but had arms & legs with which to do their Father's Will!

The problem, which you may already be aware of, or are now starting to see, is that we, as the Body of Christ, do not go to Church/church! In today's vernacular, yes, there may be placed a distinction between Church & church, the large 'C' & the small 'c', the Invisible Church & the visible church.  This distinction is not Scriptural, nor should it be countenanced by Christians! 'Why not', you might ask, 'what harm can it do?'

Well, much in every way! That this distinction is not Scriptural is easy enough to prove; just 'go to the Scriptures!' On the other hand though, 'why should it not be countenanced by Christians?' That one may not be as easy to answer, so bear with me for a bit! Think of it this way, if we make the claim that there are truly two different bodies, then have we not effectively split the Body of Christ in two?! If there is a Visible Church & an Invisible One, whereas those who belong to the Visible Church may not necessarily belong to the Invisible One ( & vice-versa ) , then what we have on our hands is a man-made creation, one that cannot stand the test of time!

Then we have some proponents of the Visible Church theory that seem to think that they & only they represent the True or Invisible Church! It might be thought that the Visible Church serves as sort of a basic training ground for the Invisible Church, or Church Triumphant. These though are those who believe in a future ( physical ) bodily return of Jesus! It not being my purpose at this time to refute this misplaced hope, I will say no more on the subject than that if Christ must yet return bodily, then what does the apostle Paul mean by calling us the Body of Christ?!

The Church of Jesus the Christ is an Organism! It is not an organized Institution & though we are no doubt called to be an organized body rather than a chaotic mass, or mess, the Church, or Body of Christ was formed around the Divine Essence; She is not an institution, such as marriage, which was given to the sons & daughters of men! As such, the Church is what we are, not what we practice, much less the doctrines we hold, whether they're Scriptural or not!

So what of doctrine; is what a particular congregation holds as orthodox important? It surely is, as long as it is held religiously! Too often, members of what is called the visible church fail to religiously uphold the orthodox doctrines that they profess, not that they don't practice the doctrines they profess within their particular congregation or even their particular denomination, but the Institutional Church of today & today's America seems to have forgotten that true doctrine is expressed in love practiced within the Body of Christ, not any certain denomination or congregation!

Doctrine, the doctrine of Scripture, anyway, must be practiced to be of any good; the apostle James makes this pretty clear! If it is not proven though our practice, he says, it is dead & useless! Any given congregation may have all their doctrinal ducks in a row, yet if they show love only to those who hold the same doctrine as they, is it, on one hand, true doctrine & on the other, is it truly loving? It may sound true & orthodox, but if is not practiced in Truth, based on the teachings of Jesus, then it is not true & orthodox, but only doctrines of demons & lies of the enemy!

To believe the Truth is to believe Jesus & to believe Jesus is to believe the Truth! There are certain things that Scripture relates about Jesus that are pretty clear: that He was the Son of God Incarnate is very clearly stated, multiple times! What is not clearly stated, for instance, is that He inhabits the selfsame biological Body in some 'Heaven' out there somewhere. It IS clearly stated though, that WE, His People, are His Body! Obviously, the apostle Paul did not mean this in a literal sense, as in, that man is His big toe, that woman is His index finger, etc, but it is very clearly stated that we do constitute the Body of Christ! Different people may interpret this phrase differently, but the Truth remains; we ARE the the Body of Christ! Also Truth, is the fact that, however one chooses to receive it, Jesus, the historical person, was, according to the clear teaching of Scripture, the very Son of God!

If one believes this Truth, not only about Jesus but that is Jesus, that one will join the ranks of the Saved! Scripture never tells us, or told them that one must believe that Jesus currently inhabits His biological Body ( wait..............???? ) in Heaven in order to inherit salvation, or enter His Kingdom; it simply states, to all who would enter, that to inherit His Kingdom, one must simply love God & their neighbor as themselves! That is how one must practice being the Church of God in Christ Jesus; love God & love your neighbor as yourself!

When the scribe asked Jesus, 'who is my neighbor?', Jesus made very clear to him who his neighbor was; it was the one who had need of him! The Good Samaritan did not first check to see if the needy man along-side the road was his actual neighbor ( lived nearby him ), nor did he ask if he was a member of a given congregation or local church body; he did not even ask whether he was baptized! He simply showed the love of Christ ( whether he meant to or not ) by meeting the man's needs with the means at his disposal!

Is this not what we are called to do as the Body of Christ? You can be assured that we were NOT called to fight & bicker among ourselves as to whether Jesus remains in a biological body in some far off ( though spiritually accessible ) 'Heaven'! It IS important to believe what is True, but with the emphasis that Jesus placed on doing what He commanded, it is clear that we are to prove our belief, our love for Him, by loving our neighbor as our self. If we show this love only to those who hold the correct doctrine or believe the same way we do, how is that showing the love of Christ; do not even the heathen do thusly?

Once we get past the notion that we only go to church & begin to realize the gravity of the fact that we ARE the Church, once we begin, as many Christians already do, to whatever extent, to practice our faith outside the four walls of their church building & to truly show our love for God BY loving our neighbor, then we will witness a Kingdom Explosion such as has not been witnessed since the first century ( AD )! Realizing that we do not practice Church ( simply ) by meeting with other believers in a special building on a certain day or days should have a profound impact on us! Not only will it affect our own lives, it will have a much greater effect on those around us than we have heretofore noted!

Corporate worship is important; it is good to commune together as One Body to offer praise & thanksgiving to our Creator, to strengthen & build each other up through our fellowship & sharing of mutual faith! It is as important though, to remember that this ( alone ) does not constitute Church, nor is this the only way that we show forth our worship & praise; this is shown forth in our everyday vocation, our everyday lives, in loving one another, even those that we would not ordinarily deem our neighbor! True worship is to follow the commands of Jesus, not merely to believe certain doctrines, be they Scriptural or not!

'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved'; there is no lack of clarity there! As far as salvation goes, that is what is of utmost necessity, but what is it to believe on Him? Is it to believe every doctrine about Him that man has formed, that the Institutional Church has formulated over the past almost 2,000 years, or is it simply to accept Him as Lord & Messiah, He who came to save His People from there sins!

Clearly, one must believe ( rightly ) in order to act ( rightly ), but unless one does act on their belief, their belief, their faith, is mere words! In order to truly shine forth the Light & Life of Christ in this world that seems to be beset with Death & Darkness, we need to be the Church outside the four walls of the local church ( building ) letting our Light so shine before them that they may KNOW our Father in Heaven!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Spirit, the Water & the Blood

Most assuredly, I say to you,
 unless one is born of water and the Spirit, 
he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
John‬ ‭3‬:‭5

There is some disagreement on what exactly Jesus meant by these words! Was He telling Nicodemus the obvious, that one had to be born naturally, through the birth canal ( uterus ) as well as being ( re ) born of the Spirit, or was He speaking of the baptism of water which had, throughout that first ( covenant ) age, symbolized & signified this baptism from above, this entrance into the ministry ( priesthood )? In some sense it doesn't matter which is true, for either interpretation speaks of the same blatant truth; one must have been, under that first covenant, either literally, by his initiation into the priesthood, or metaphorically, by parting the waters of his mother's womb in natural birth, born naturally as well as being born spiritually.

However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. 
I Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭46

It is fairly well accepted that when the apostle wrote these words, he was referring to the covenants, or in essence, the ages, the first ( covenant ) being that wherein inheritance was by natural lineage & the last ( Covenant ) by spiritual birth! The promised Baptism of the Spirit was showered upon the descendants of Abraham, whereas the baptism of water simply signified this promised Baptism; it was never a guarantee of the Baptism from Above! The baptism ( by water ) of the priesthood of Israel testifies of this startling fact; some were good priests & some were bad!

For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. 
1 John‬ ‭5‬:‭7-8 ‬( ESV  )

Traditionally speaking, the trinitarian doctrine relies most heavily, textually speaking, on these two verses, which in other versions, including the NKJV, read 'For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth:[b] the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one'. Whether or not these words ( about Father, Son & Holy Spirit ) were part of the original text, or were a later addition is somewhat beside the point right now, the point being, again, what does the apostle mean by the phrase, 'the Spirit, the water and the blood'? Is he agreeing with Jesus, using His words to say that it is the spiritual, together with the natural, that produce the new birth? The context, in particular the previous statement, seems to indicate that he is 'simply' speaking of Jesus natural birth!

The Blood of Jesus was without doubt, according to the sacrificial system instituted under the first covenant, an acceptable atonement for the sins of His people! Since a Spirit does not have Blood, our Creator invested Himself in His Creation in order that He might shed His Blood for His Creation. Natural birth, of course, involves a kind of 'water', which is more technically called 'amniotic fluid'. Water, on the other hand, Scripturally speaking, is indicative as well of the ( work of ) the Spirit, especially in connection with sprinkling ( baptism ), rivers, streams, springs, etc. These three agree, as Jesus also seemed to indicate to Nicodemus, for in order to receive the New Birth, to become a New Creation, the Body of Israel/Christ was in need of all three!

As we have noted many times before, the Scriptures are a Book of Covenant; they are a record of our Heavenly Father's dealings with His Covenant People! As such, we should take note that they reveal to us how the Grace of God, which had been hidden under the darkness of that first covenant finally came to light in the New, in Jesus who was the Christ! The Story of Israel is about the Creator of all singling out a certain people, according to the flesh, in order that through the flesh, He might enter into Blessed Relationship with His Creation!

In conclusion, then, when Jesus told Nicodemus that they, the Body of Israel, 'must be born again', He was simply reminding him ( though Nicodemus should have known ) that it was not enough for them to be born according to the natural way of things, in essence, through their mother's birth canal; they must also receive the 'new heart' ( Ezekiel 36:26 ) in order to inherit the Kingdom of God, or in Essence, Heaven Itself, the very Blessed Presence of God, the Creator! Though the term 'born again' referred to that Body of Israel under the first covenant, we may also apply that term to those today as well who awake from their own sleep of death to that Blessed Reality of Communion with their Creator. Through Water & Blood, we were born naturally; by the Spirit,we entered into Blessed Communion with the immutable Creator!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Life Without End, Amen!

The question posed is this; 'what is Eternal Life?'  'When does it begin?' Does it HAVE a beginning, or is it, like its Giver & the One who personifies it, without Beginning or End; in other words, Eternal?! Scripture tells us that to know Him who is the Life itself is Eternal Life; if we know Him, we have Eternal Life, but does Eternal Life begin when we come to know Him who is Life, or do we simply enter that Who Is, Was & Will Always Be?!

The Creator, although eschatologically the Alpha & Omega, the Beginning & the End, is without beginning or end; the Creator of all that is always was & always will be! Most Christians seem to have swallowed, hook, line & sinker, the notion that eternity, for the believer especially, begins at physical death, that when their biological clock runs down & their individual body ceases to function, they have entered the Eternal State! In some sense, when the spirit is separated from the body, with those distractions, for lack of a better term, gone & forgotten, there will be what might be a closed or deeper communion with those that have already shed their flesh. However, though our individual bodies do not, in that sense, ever enter Eternity ( just as the apostle Paul said that flesh & blood would not inherit the Kingdom of God ), our spirits have become One with Him who is Eternal, who in fact is Eternity!

For the individual believer, their entrance into Eternal Life does, in that same sense, come at their conversion, with their acceptance of their blessed condition within the Family of God & their surrender to their Father's will for their lives! However since the Body in question, according to Scripture, though it included individual human bodies, was & is the Body of Israel, or more to the point, the Body of Christ; we should note that our entrance into Eternal Life began, not at the moment of our individual conversion, but when the Body of Israel became One with the Body of Christ!

Our biological bodies will perish, there should be no question there, but our spirits return to Him who gave it, to Him who is both Eternal & Eternity! When we, that is, our spirit, enters that Eternity, that Eternal Life which is our Creator, through His Son, Jesus the Christ, we enter that which has always been! Eternal Life is just that, eternal; the Life that comes through blessed relationship with our Creator will never cease & though this biology will cease, just as Lazarus undoubtedly died again, our spirit will persevere!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mr. Roger's Neighborhood

He had been warned before; that neighborhood was a dangerous place to venture & the people he had chosen to travel with were not the choicest individuals! He was determined, though, to reach his destination by a certain time & with the amount of time had been given, it seemed he had little choice in the matter; he must take the shortest route he could find & even though the unsavory lot he had been thrown in with would not have been his first choice for travel companions; the decision had been made & off he went on what should have been a quick trip to the grocery store!

A certain man, one who would most certainly not have certainly not enjoyed top honors among many of our heroes kinfolk, was in the process of getting a lube job at the local Honda shop, otherwise known as a seedy motel in the seediest part of town. Oblivious to the fact that this other man was getting ready to make a venture into this same part of town, he was enjoying the ride of his life as he tripped the light fandango with his little Honda! 

Being the middle of the week, Wednesday evening services were just winding down at one of the local congregational meeting houses. The leader of this congregation, a fairly well-to-do man for the part of town in which he pursued his ministry, was going about his duties, making sure his congregation were safely ensconced in the particular doctrine that he had been entrusted with. After he had fulfilled his duties there & every last parishioner had left the building, this minister of the gospel of feel-goodism made his way around, making sure all the windows & doors were properly closed & locked, lights turned out & the security system armed!

As the first man began to enter that certain part of town, the vehicle he was traveling in took a turn for the worse! As the the car came to a halt in that dark alley, the warnings he had been given came flooding in on our hero! He had a certain amount of money in his pocket, just enough to cover the object he sought to purchase, but now, the animals he had chosen to ride with began to forcibly remove him from the relative safety of the vehicle & beat him, with obvious intent of robbing him of his precious hard-earned money!

Not being one to give up easily, our hero made a valiant effort, but at the last, faced with two burly men armed with a tire iron & a baseball bat, he finally succumbed as they proceeded to beat the pulp out of him! Although these animals had only intended to rob our hero, because he had put up such a fight, he had unwittingly raised their ire & they had, in the heat of the moment, beaten him half to death! Not only this, but they had compounded their guilt & his ignominy by stripping him, not only of his hard-earned cash, but of his clothing, leaving him naked & dying in that dark alley!

As the pastor was leaving the vicinity, he was nearly struck by a speeding vehicle as it backed out of a dark alley he was approaching! Praising his lucky stars for his narrow escape, the pastor happened to noticed, as the other vehicle continued it's rearward flight, that there lay a crumpled & bloody mass near the mouth of the alley. After the vehicle had cleared the alley, the pastor, for a moment, turned his own vehicle into the alley, observed the crumpled bloody, almost unrecognizable mass as our hero lay gasping & moaning! Sure that the poor man was not a member of his own congregation, he backed out of the alley & pulled his cellphone from his pocket, dutifully preparing to alert the police of the situation!

While the pastor was on hold & speeding away from the scene of the crime, the man of questionable honor was leaving the seedy motel, which just happened to back up to the dark alley in question! As he left the Honda shop, he turned into the alley & soon enough noticed the bloody & mangled heap which was obviously knocking on death's door! Quickly bringing his vehicle to a stop, he approached the bloody, naked mass & after seeing that there was still life in it, covered the quivering heap with his own jacket & gently loaded the man into the back seat of his car & headed for the nearest hospital!

Arriving at the hospital, our Good Samaritan made sure the hero of our story was taken care of & learning that the man had no ID, money or insurance, left a fairly hefty deposit to ensure the man would receive the proper care! When the receiving nurse asked our Good Samaritan for his name, he replied that his name was Mr. Rogers & that he would drop in on the other man later to check up on him!

Although the above is a fictional story, it is based upon a sobering truth! This truth is that too many Christians act like our fictional pastor & seem to, rather than dirty their own hands, particularly when there is an element of danger involved, leave this dirty work up to the police, or other government officials & tend merely to the flock entrusted to their care!

Thanks & praise be to our Heavenly Father, this alarming trend has seen somewhat of a reversal in the past decade or so among certain congregations of varied denominational affiliation! Lord willing, this reversal will continue & more & more congregations will continue to cross party lines & even the threshold of the sacred & secular distinction! When Christians begin to follow the path of true religion & do what needs to be done, just because it needs to be done, irregardless of whether the needy person is of a certain race or creed, belongs to an acceptable social class or club & whether they are lovable or unloving, then we may see such a revival among those who belong to the Body of Christ, as well as a Great Influx into the Kingdom of Heaven!

May we see this Growth in our day & may we be the first-fruits of this Great Reversal!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Eighth Day

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”
John 20:26

The Eighth Day is a fairly common theme in scripture; it is the day that Hebrew boys, for instance, were to receive the sign of circumcision ( Genesis 17:12 )! It was also a day for offering sacrifice ( Exodus 2:40, Leviticus 14:10 ). The Eighth Day marked the beginning of the official ministry of Moses & Aaron as well! I would be willing to bet, almost, that Jesus began His official ministry on this most significant of days!

Many scholars have noted this Day as pointing to, or being significant of the Fulfillment of Rest that Jesus brought us that Day when He finally uttered these famous but heart-rending words, 'It is finished'! As such, this Day can be compared with its predecessor, The Seventh Day, wherein it is said that 'God rested'. This rest, of course, pointed to the Rest that we presently enjoy, our Rest in the Finished Work of the Christ!

Any good Hebrew scholar who reads these lines may find correction necessary here, but as I understand it, the Hebrew reckoning of days was a bit different from ours! The Sabbath Day, was always held on the eighth day from the previous Sabbath. In our manner of reckoning, then, the Sabbath always fell on the seventh day of the week, the day on which 'God rested'. In the Hebrew reckoning, however & please correct me if I'm wrong, the days were counted, not so much in weeks months & years as we do, though similarly, but in weeks of weeks, leading up to that Great Sabbath, the Jubilee of Jubilees!

The Book of Daniel prophesies most famously of this Eighth Day, though by a different & better name! His prophecy reads, 'Seventy weeks[a] are determined, for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of[b] sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.' Daniel's prophecy pointed to Jesus the Messiah, the Christ as the Fulfillment, or the End of those 'weeks of weeks', the Great Jubilee!

Jesus IS the Eighth Day, He Is the Fulfillment of the seventh-day rest that God took! He is also the Circumcision of the Heart that was spoken of in Deuteronomy 10:16, Jeremiah 4:4 & promised in Ezekiel 36:26! The Sabbath is fulfilled in Jesus, the week of New Creation has come to its End; we are in that Eternal Eighth Day, so let us LIVE in Him, for He IS our Life!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Journey Continues

TSA does NOT like it when you try to fly without a photo-ID!

It was easy enough ( relatively ) to leave St. Thomas ( USVI ), even through Customs, with just a government-issued birth certificate, but they were a bit more stringent & careful when it came to flying out of Orlando, Florida! I lost my photo-ID somewhere between Boxeman, Montana & St. Thomas, USVI, but I wasn't planning to at any of my half-dozen or so stops for much more than a couple weeks at a time, so I figured I'd wait till I got home to get it replaced, plus, I DID have my birth certificate!

So, I got to Florida, safely leaving de islands behind ( jah, mon ) & stayed with my baby sister & her family in Winter Garden ( just outside Orlando ) for a couple weeks! While there, I did some much needed relaxing, but we took a day trip to visit the oldest city in these United States, St. Augustine  ( circa 1656 ) & wondered around, mostly on St. George Street, taking pictures & spending quality time with my sister, her husband, three children & inlaws. That weekend then, which just happened to be Easter weekend, I took a bus down to Ft. Myers to visit a new congregation ( very upLIFTing ) where I mt several FB friends whom I had never met face to face, so that was pretty awesome!

After I got back to my sister's little bungalow in Winter Garden & had a beer with Julio, down by the schoolyard ( just kidding, it was a new place in downtown Winter Garden ), I packed my bags & prepared to leave Los Angeles, I mean Orlando! After waiting through three or four cycles to get through a single stoplight, we arrived at the airport & then's when the REAL fun began! As I found out anew, TSA does NOT like it when you try to fly without a photo-ID ( apparently, even if you DO have a government issued birth certificate ), but I guess one can't be too careful nowadays, what with all the terrorists & camel-jockeys hanging around & blowing shit up!

So, I barely got out of Florida with my sanity intact ( oh, wait......) & after a fairly short flight, landed at Washington, DC's Dulles airport, met with another friend, this time an old family friend, with libertarian leanings like me & a lot of my other friends! We talked for a bit about the weather & the ( regrettable ) State of the Union & came to the mutual conclusion that there a too many damn laws/regulations & that it all just needs to go away!

Now I'm sitting at an automotive shop where my one older brother ( I've got six more brothers besides him ) works, waiting for my parents to pick me up so I can spend spend some quality time with them before I continue on to the next stage of my journey! I spent the night at my brother' house in Fredericksburg ( a short jaunt up the road ) & spent some quality time with him & his family last night, something I had been wanting to do for some time!

Did I mention that 'TSA does NOT like it when you try to fly without a photo-ID!'?

More to come.....

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

The Inescapable Conclusion of Christ in Us

The Problem of Individualism has plagued the Church for centuries! There is, doubtless, a sort of individualism with the writings of the apostles, in particular, Paul, but unlike our modern individualism, his focus was not to the ignorance or even denial of the corporate nature of the salvation which Christ brought! It was the the Body of Israel, who had died with Adam in the Garden, that needed to be resurrected, to be saved from their sins, not to the exclusion of those outside the Body of Israel ( Gentiles ) necessarily, but it was primarily for the Corporate Sin of Adam, that of Communal, or Relational Separation from God!

Much of the apostle's language in his letters can fairly easily be shown, either by the original language or by the context to be plural in usage! There are, however, several, numerous places where it is hard not to come to the conclusion, even where the context of Scripture demands a plural tense, that Paul was speaking of the individual.In Paul's letter to the Church at Galatia, for instance, Paul wrote, 'I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [ life ] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.' ( Galatians 2:20 ) It would be fairly easy to substitute plural pronouns for the singular here & preach a similar message ( one, in fact, more in line, maybe, with the greater context of Scripture ), but it is impossible to deny what the apostle was plainly teaching here, that individual Christians needed to experience a change of life, a change in their manner of living!

That the Christ died for individuals is inescapable! Individuals make a body; just as the apostle compared the many members of our individual body to the many ( different ) human members of the Body of Christ! Just as we cannot speak of the salvation of individual bodies without acknowledging the redemption of the corporate Body of Israel, neither can we attest to the corporate salvation of that same Body with admitting the individuals within that Body! To admit that individual sense which the apostle doubtless used, as in 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit [ who is ] in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?' ( I Corinthians 6:19 ). Paul actually, in context as we can see, as well as the tense, wrote of the Body of Christ as that which is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, but as individuals within that Temple, we can see that each of us is the dwelling of the Holy Spirit!

Jesus, as well, in some of His most comforting last words to His disciples, said that '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' ( John 14:23 ) Using the indefinite tense here, we can see that although Jesus meant these words in the same sense as His words to Nicodemus, 'You must be born again' ( John 3:7 ); one cannot deny that just as the individual ( Jew or Gentile ) had to metaphorically be 'born again', so the Divine Essence would make their Home with ( in ) the individual believer! Though in the greater ( corporate ) sense, we the Church, are the Body of Christ, we, as individual stones & rooms in our Father's House, also in that ( individual ) sense, give place to the Divine Essence!

The writer to the Hebrews wrote that we, the Body of Christ, both corporately & individually, have been 'perfected forever' ( Hebrews 10:14 ); this is not to say that we, individually or corporately, never fail to live up to what we perceive as the Glory of God, but that because we are ( part of ) the Body of Christ, we, together with Him, our Head, with whom the apostle also said we were 'crucified', have been 'glorified' together with Him! As Paul wrote to the Galatians, 'it is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, April 03, 2015

Jesus & the Resurrection of the Body

A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
 Matthew‬ ‭16‬:‭4‬ 

It has been said many times that 'it's all about Jesus'; it might just as well be said ( speaking of Scripture, or the Bible ); 'it's all about Israel'! Truly, it is all about Israel, for Israel is called the Son of God ( Hoseah 11:1 ) for indeed, Matthew equates the two in his record of the Gospel! The Resurrection of Jesus, then, in fact, the Resurrection that Jesus was ( John 11:26 ), signaled the Resurrection of Israel, She who was dead in her trespasses & sins, according to Scripture ( Isaiah 59:2 )!

This is the Season in which we, as Orthodox Christians, have traditionally celebrated the events surround the crucifixion, death, burial & resurrection of Israel's Messiah! Some call it Holy Week, in which they observe Lenten practices like fastidiously observing the days of the Holy Week such as Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, on which a special 'Lord's Supper' is observed & Good Friday, wrapping up with Easter Sunday, called Resurrection Day by others in an attempt to get away from the Eastern roots & etymology of Easter! Those who simply call it Resurrection Day often forgo all the Holy Week rigamarole & simply celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, not as the Messiah of Isrsael necessarily, but as the Messiah of the World!

Without the understanding that Jesus was, first & foremost the Messiah of Israel, the Story that Scripture reveals makes less sense than it should & tends to lead many to a mistaken view of the universal purposes of salvation! This misunderstanding leads many to believe that Jesus was simply the Sacrifice for those who chose to accept Him, rather than fulfilling a definite purpose, as described by the prophet Isaiah when he quoted God as saying, 'So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.' ( Isaiah 55:9 )

The purpose for which Jesus was revealed as the Son of God & the Messiah of Israel was to redeem that which the Story of Israel described as having been lost, fellowship & communion with the Divine! Israel, from the beginning ( Ezekiel 16 ) had enjoyed the privilege of being the object of the Creator's affection & the recipient of the blessings of the Covenant! Through Her adultery & idolatry, She had become separated from the Divine & was as good as dead, sleeping in the grave of Her Exile! Her Redemption was the object of the Desire of All Nations ( Genesis 12:1-3 ) & that Desire was realized in the Messiah of Israel, Jesus the True & Only Begotten Son of God!

Many who celebrate this Season of Resurrection are ignorant of the Story of Israel, whether willfully or otherwise & longingly look forward to the resurrection of their individual bodies! They believe that Jesus' resurrection, bodily in nature as it was, signals their own ( biological ) resurrection! This could not be further from the truth, however, for the Resurrection of the Messiah of Israel simply signaled the Resurrection of The Body of Israel, which indeed had a universal ring to it, although not a biological one!

It is indeed all about Jesus! As the Messiah of Israel & the One who would redeem Her from the death of Her Exile, Jesus was revealed as the Promised One who would awaken Her from the sleep of death, the same death that Jonah had prophetically suffered during his own period of exile in the belly of the fish ( Jonah 2:1-9 )! It was never about individual, biological bodies being raised, although such resurrections did occur from time to time as signs for those who had been blinded by the God of that age; it was always & only about the Resurrection of the Body of Israel, the Apple of God's Eye! 

During, not just this Season, but all year long, let us live our lives in the realization & celebration of this Glorious Truth, the Truth of the Resurrection of Israel! With that realization, we understand that the Resurrection is fulfilled in us who are, as the apostle Paul wrote, 'the Israel of God' ( Galatians 6:16 ) & 'the Body of Christ' ( I Corinthians 12:27 ). We, the Church, are ( in ) the Resurrection of Israel, not the sense of replacement, but in Fulfillment of the Promise made to Her in the Beginning!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Importance of Evil

'Is that really necessary?!'

I mean, do we really have to appreciate all the bad things that happen to good people? How CAN we, for God's sake, even accept evil as something good, even in the long run, the big picture?! If we had a good, loving Father, much less one who wasn't a 'dead-beat dad'; don't you think that evil would at least be a lot less rampant, more under control?! Would a good God allow millions of babies to be hacked to pieces or allow the number one destroyer of marriages, porn, to run rampant through His Creation?!

Why, God, why?!

Well; we might go back to very near the beginning of the Scriptural record & read the account of the Fall of Adam & Eve! actually, a bit further even, with God laying the foundations of His Garden, wherein it is written ( Genesis 2:9 ) was 'the tree of the knowledge of good and evil'! That the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree that Adam & Eve were forbidden, was one of the previously-mentioned trees planted by the Lord is pretty clear; what may not be so clear is why He planted such a tree in the first place! He knew how immature ( naked ) His children were, He knew, as any earthly father does, that to tell a child 'don't touch' is to waken the curiosity that killed the cat!

As we have explored previously, evil isn't always a bad thing! Relatively speaking, of course, we see it as a bad thing because we don't like when it happens to us, although you must admit, you secretly enjoy watching it happen to someone you particularly dislike! For the one who trusts in the Providence of our Heavenly Father, though, evil always turns out to be a good thing; not that the evil itself is good ( 'woe to those who call evil good and good evil' ), but that the evil committed always turns out to have been for the good!

The importance of evil, then, is that it is always for our good; it shows us either that we have strayed from the path or it sets us on an entirely new path! Take a life-changing evil such as the bane of our existence, at least that of our mortality, cancer; cancer, which is one of the greatest evils of our time, is growing greater by the day, it seem! Growing right alongside it, thanks to an ever increasing awareness, is the knowledge of what cause cancer. There are certain foods that we have been ingesting for years that are toxic to our biology! These toxins have slowly, over the years, been poisoning us to the point that they have become almost a natural thing; 'some people, we might as well face it, are born with bad genes!'

Another reason for the necessity of evil is that without it, many people would not see the great need for redemption that is existent in the world! Speaking again of cancer, in all its many hideous forms, whether it strikes the loved or the unloved ( it truly is 'no discerner of persons' ) tends to draw those helpers out of the woodwork who would not normally have seen that certain need, or been inclined to love that certain person! The evil that men do, on the other hand, while reprehensible ( 'they stand before the judgment seat of Christ' ), has somewhat the same effect; the one one the receiving end of the evil by no means deserved it & the perpetrator will certainly pay, but the evil most often has a two-edged effect; the one who perpetrated the evil is often effected for good, just as the obedient Child!

The fruit which the tree of the knowledge of good and evil offered was not, in & of itself, a bad thing; the ability to discern between what is good & what is evil is a good thing! Adam & Eve, however, being mere infants, so to speak, were not ready for such knowledge; they had not yet reached the Age of Discernment or gained the necessary maturity to make such a judgment! In the Fulness of Time, however, our Heavenly Father Himself appeared to once for all bring maturity to His Covenant Creation & make them Judges of the Earth!

Why then does evil exist & what importance does it have; what Purpose does it serve?! Evil serves the same Purpose that we do! Just as we, as earthly fathers, will often purposely leave stumbling-blocks in the path of our children to teach them how to deal with them, so our Heavenly Father allows evil to exist in order that His children may learn how to deal with it & through that interaction, become the stronger for it!

Charles Hadden Shank