The Pagan Path

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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Lost in Translation

Having just watched the television series 'Lost' on DVD ( usually at least 2 episodes at a time ), I must say that, although I would have to disagree theologically with several of the main assumptions made in the series, not only did I enjoy it immensely; I found myself agreeing with much of the theology behind it! I will not claim to have fully understood all the manifold intricacies of the plot-line, but I believe that I understood it well enough to appreciate those same intricacies.

The series itself, though not so the story, begins with an airliner enroute from Australia to Los Angeles breaking apart above a certain Island in the midst of the South Pacific. Mysteriously, a number of people survive the crash & from the beginning of their ( and our ) introduction to this mysterious Island, they are almost continually plagued by the dangerous guardian of the Island called 'the black smoke' & by certain previous inhabitants of the Island that they call 'the Others'. As the series progresses, we find out, through flashbacks that there were a certain amount of individuals that seem to have been chosen to bear the brunt of hardship & persecution!

The Roman Catholic concept of Purgatory looms rather large in the background of this series! Although never stated as such, the writer's point throughout the story seems to be that we all undergo a sort of Purgatory while yet living. This may not have been the intention, but as the main characters are revealed, it is made abundantly clear that they're each going through a sort of personal hell on earth as they reap what they've sown in the past! While most are just a bit questionable, some of the characters are downright seedy, at least once we begin to learn more of their past.

In many ways, this series is an example of how the Church, for the most part, has become Lost in Translation! For whatever reason, whether because of the difficulty of trying to translate Ancient Near Eastern literature into Western thought pattern, or because of bias & prejudice, the Church seems to have developed much of their doctrine through false assumption & just plain ignorance. For these & other reasons, Greek myths have been married with our Western understanding of Eastern literature with the resulting doctrines of Hell, Purgatory, etc.

Much of what the Church has taught for the past couple millenia, though tainted of course by these misconceptions, has been on point with the Gospel! However, much of even this has suffered violence at the hands of those chosen to spread the Good News. The Gospel of Jesus the Christ has spread from sea to shining sea & across continents, till every living person for the most part has had opportunity to either accept or reject it! There are doubtless certain areas of the world that are ignorant of it, most by choice, but this is largely due to history & the manner in which it has been presented in the past!

The Island in this Story, though fraught with Danger, is full of beautiful scenery & even, interestingly enough, also holds a life-giving quality! Especially as the Story unfolds, we begin to understand why several of the characters seem to have been healed of various afflictions upon being thrown upon its shores. On the other hand, some of the other characters are killed off in relative quickness, succession & manner! In many aspects, the Island seems to have a Life of its own. Particularly as the Story unfolds in its manifold intricacies, one character in particular begins to understand this & believes that the Island has chosen him for a specific task. Though this task is not clear to him, John acts in faith, believing he is simply following his destiny!

In the end, everyone ends up in.................well, I don't want to spoil everything for you, but you can probably guess where!  The greatest theme in the developing story is that of sacrifice; in fact, throughout the series, it is mentioned quite a few times by one of the characters that 'the Island demanded a sacrifice'. Scripture tells us 'greater love has no man, than to lay down his life for his friends' ( John 15:13 )There are a number of very moving examples of this throughout, but especially as we move into & past the midway point in the series. Another point that is made throughout the Story by several of the older, previous inhabitants of the Island is that they are all indeed dead, that the Island is not real & that they are in fact in Hell! While certain occurrences seem to point to the truth of this 'fact', one has to take into account an awful number of variables in order to establish the veracity of this statement. For instance, how are they all sharing the same experience, the same reality? If they are truly in Hell, how are they traveling to & fro; or are they?

'Lost' certainly brings to mind some interesting questions & proposes some astounding theories, but in the end, it IS just make-believe! It makes for some riveting television ( I could hardly tear myself away ) & is very entertaining, but it is significant, not just of the picture that Hollywood has of the Church & Christianity, but of how lost the Church Herself has become through faulty translation & misunderstanding.The only way the Church will find Herself again is to return to an understanding of Ancient Near Eastern literature & Audience Relevance!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Angry God

How much has a very strictly literal reading of the Hebrew Scriptures ( in particular ) influenced, not just the Foreign Policy, but the entire history to date of these United States of America?! The American Indian, that Noble Savage, could relate to us a very violent & horrific tale of how terribly they were treated from day one of their dealings with the 'civilized' White Man. Going even further back, Black South Africans could regale us with tales of like horror & terror from their history! The main question to be treated here is, 'did Almighty God actually commission His People Israel to commit ( almost ) complete genocide against the inhabitants of Canaan?

Many people today have rebelled against Christianity for this very reason: 'how could a loving God command His People to kill all the inhabitants of the Land?' Even some Christians, more & more, have rejected the Hebrew Scriptures ( except the Psalms & Proverbs ) for this reason. Some have reasoned that when Jesus the Son came along, He calmed His Father down, ie. 'tamed Him', while others reject these Scriptures outright, claiming as above, that a good & loving God would not countenance such behavior!

If, as someone has recently suggested, the Exodus & Canaanite Conquest, of which there is no real archeological evidence, was simply an example of Eastern Literature & Poetic License, then a much different light might be shed on this objectionable portion of Hebrew History! The Exodus itself, as described throughout the book, was doubtless a picture of the True Exodus. The Children of Israel being delivered from the ravages of slavery in Egypt was itself significant of Israel's Salvation from the sin & the death of Adam. This is not to say that the Story related in Exodus has no factual basis, or even that our Heavenly Father would not be just or loving if He ordered the wholesale extermination of a culture, just that these Stories are simply pictures, forerunners if you will, leading up to the Revelation of the Son of God!

Cleanliness, in its many facets, was maybe the biggest issue that Israel faced! Though most Christians have traditionally understood almighty God's sentence on the Canaanites as one of adverse judgement, if one were to closely examine the text, in context, it's not difficult to ascertain that the issue of cleanliness & purity were at the basis of these laws! The command forbidding the mixing of fabrics in a garment, for instance, while there was no doubt a good material reason for it, was aimed more at the purity of His People, who were not to allow themselves to be mixed with the Leaven of Egypt or Canaan, as the case may be.

The Story of the Exodus is full of metaphor; although clearly based in actuality, later writers, such as the apostle Paul saw an allegory in these tales, a greater spiritual truth that pointed Israel to Her Messiah, who was in reality Her God, the Creator of Heaven & Earth! Our Heavenly Father's command to Pharaoh to 'let My people go' was, as we can see from a further reading of the context, was not just so that they could worship Him in the wilderness! He wanted to remove His people from the influence of the Egyptians, just as He instructed them, for the period of time surrounding the Feast of Passover, to remove any leaven from their houses.

Did our Heavenly Father, the supremely just & loving Creator of Heaven & Earth, command His congregation ( Church ) in the wilderness to exterminate the Canaanite masses with extreme prejudice, or is that simply the way Israel understood His words? There is Scriptural evidence that certain criteria would allow certain Canaanites to persevere, to continue living & breathing; if they were willing to fully align themselves with the People of God, then their lives might be spared! On the other hand, there is as much evidence that many were destroyed for refusing to enter that communion!

The Foreign Policy of these United States, though not so much anymore, was based on the Scriptural notion that the Kingdom of God was based in the geo-political nation of Israel! The whole idea that one part of God's Creation was better or more special than another is a Scriptural one. However, it is an idea whose time is past; the Eschatology of Israel determined that! Our Heavenly Father, the Creator of Humanity, came to dwell in the midst of His Creation because He desires relationship with them. He does not desire that any should perish & He most certainly do not love one more than the other!

Many of our traditional & biblical notions need to be re-examined, this not least! The concept of an Angry God, though a biblical one, is longer a viable. As any father, our Heavenly Father is no doubt disappointed, even angered by some of the choices His children make, but He is not partial, nor is He petty, as some suppose! Through the Body of His Son, He seeks to live in blessed relationship with His Creation & it is largely dependent on how we present this Good News as to when & in some cases if His children choose to accept this relationship!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Potter's Kiln

I'd be willing to bet that pretty much every single person reading these words knows what it's like to undergo a 'baptism by fire'; they might now understand or realize that's what it is, but nonetheless, that's what it is! At this present time, I can almost feel the flames, but I'm pretty sure I'm not experience even half the hardship that many do. As Christians, or those that walk in the footsteps of Jesus, metaphorically speaking, we know that whatever happens to us is for our good, even if it's only in the long run, but while we're going through whatever, it sure burns sometimes!

If you understand anything about kilns, you know that a kiln is made to harden lumps of clay, to make vessels usable for the purpose for which they were formed. Kilns are also used to make certain things more beautiful! Though kilns don't always involve direct flames; whether the purpose is to make a vessel usable, to purify, or to make something more beautiful, fire usually has its intended effect!

At this time, Montana & much of the West is in the midst of its almost annual fire season; while these are, in many cases, horrifying to hear about or witness, but especially to be in the path of, these wildfires do have their purpose! There are certain individuals out there who, whether out of pure meanness or plain ignorance start fires, many acres have been torched by lightening bolts from heaven. Wildfires do have a cleansing effect, burning off old, dead timber and clearing away the underbrush, allowing for new growth. One might call this Nature's way of cleaning house, but I call it the Creator's way of clearing His landscape; it is awful when people, animals or structures ( in that order ) get in the way, but this cleansing MUST occur!

Metaphorically speaking, though sometimes literally, the flames that we often endure in the course of this glorious adventure we call life serve the same purpose! They show us sometimes what we can & can't do without. They have a purifying effect in that, allowed to reach their goal, the fires of hell consume the dross in our lives ( either that or they consume us )! Although sometimes these fires serve as a punishment of sorts, brought on by our own stupidity, they still serve the purpose of showing us that we're on the wrong path; in this way, even though ( especially ) brought on ourselves, reaping what we've sown tends to have a cleansing, purifying effect!

Our Heavenly Father uses such a process with His Creation, with His Children! Although scripturally speaking, hardening of the heart, for instance, had the effect of rebellion, of turning in willful disobedience to one's own wicked or ignorant ways, but in this New Age with the Fiery Presence in our midst, the effect, more often than not, is to purify the one going through the fire, to prove his or her mettle & always, to accomplish our Heavenly Father's Purpose!

We are all more than familiar, in most cases, with the feeling that we are going through a 'baptism by fire'!  Even though ( more often than not ) this fire seems to rage because of something stupid we did, this is not always the case; sometimes it occurs to us because of someone else's stupidity & we just end up paying the price! Whatever the case may be, we may be sure that when it does occur, the effect will always be beneficial to us ( usually ) & well as to those around us. As always, we have a choice as to how we endure the fire; will we allow it to take its course & be the better for it, or will we acknowledge or Heavenly Father's cleansing, purifying work & be the better for it?!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Depth of Feeling

Feelings are funny things; not only can they change on a whim, they can be worn on the sleeve, so to speak, or they can 'run silent, run deep', in ( sub ) marine terms!

The 'way of the world', it would seem today, is to wear your feelings on your sleeve, or on your t-shirt, Facebook, etc; to let everyone know just how unhappy, sad, depressed, or tired you are! It is by no means wrong to have these feelings & although it is not always the best idea to let everyone & their brother or sister know, it is unavoidable when it comes to having these feelings; it's in our make-up, it's how we were engineered! As always though, we have a choice as to whether those feelings will rule over us, or whether we will keep our feelings under control, or even determine what feelings we will let show!

There is much in this life to make us unhappy, sad, depressed & tired! Whatever the reason, it just seems that some of us are simply doomed to 'wash, rinse, repeat' all of our life & never to dry. Sometimes it may seem to just happen to us, as a persecution we must endure as our lot in life; other times, we may even realize that we are simply reaping what we've sown, but yet see no way out. Feelings are addictive, both physically & emotionally speaking; when we are used to feeling a certain way, although it IS unhappy, sad, depressed & tired, even though we may hate those feelings, we find almost a comfort in them & are afraid to leave that zone!

Everybody has feelings; there's no denying that & there's no use in trying to hide that fact, however disturbing it might be! Besides the physical senses, we also have our immaterial senses, what we feel in our spirit & emotions. For centuries, certain religion has certified that much of the physical senses are taboo, except in certain context! In some sense, these senses, particularly that of touch, must be carefully regulated in order to avoid what is called drama in this day & age. This is not to imply any outside governmental regulations, but some restraint must be exercised by the person wielding the feelings so that matters don't get out of hand; although sometimes, it may seem best for matters to get out of hand!

Speaking from experience & I'm sure everyone reading this can attest to this disturbing fact, feelings are unavoidable when it comes to living in the real world! When people treat us in any way that makes us uncomfortable, it is difficult ( more for some, less for others ) to keep our feelings from surfacing. Here's where one must exercise good judgement; sometimes it's best to keep those feelings reined in, but often,  it might more advisable to let those feelings fly & to let that person know that for them to continue to pursue their present course of action might be dangerous to their health!

Feelings are often unexplainable too! Sometimes we can't quite put a finger, so to speak, on why a certain person or a certain course of action just hits us wrong, just doesn't settle right with us! Too often we put the entire blame for our own feelings on these people & while some of the blame must certainly rest with them, we must realize that we always have a choice as to how we respond to their actions, whether we allow our feelings to determine our response, or whether we will choose, not to ignore those feelings necessarily, but to simply do what's right, in spite of feelings that may run to the contrary!

While there is much in this world in which we live to make us unhappy, sad, depressed & tired ( of living? ), there is also much to be happy & joyous about! Though we often get tired of holding back those negative feelings & of focusing on the positive, this world, which IS our Heavenly Father's, our Creator's, is gloriously full of things to find joy in! It can be as simple as laying in fields of gold with birds chirping all around you & a gentle breeze moving slightly over you, or it could be as complex as facing the hardships of life with the right person by your side!

When faced with what might seem insurmountable ( even unjust ) circumstances, we all have a tendency to give in, to treat those circumstances in concordance with our feelings & allowing them to rush over our heads, drowning us with our sorrows! As mentioned earlier though, we always have a choice, we can let those feelings determine our course of action ( or inaction ) or we can rise above the waves & chart a new course, riding those waves to a place of safety!

Feelings can be a dangerous thing, but when brought under control, they can be gloriously dangerous!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Badge of Faith

And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.  
And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
James 5:15 

Many, if not most Christians faithfully use this passage to uphold The Power of Prayer, but it's not quite as simple as that! How many people reading this have fervently, even feverishly prayed for a brother, sister, father, or mother to be healed of their particular affliction & the afflicted one just got worse or somehow passed away? This could engender questions ranging from 'why God' to thinking that there is no God! The one who prayed that prayer in faith may end up anywhere from being angry with their Heavenly Father to believing that everything they had been taught was 'total bullshit, man!'

As with all such passages of Scripture, these words must be read in the context in which they were written! James, the brother of our Lord was writing to his afflicted brethren in the Jerusalem Church as well as those scattered abroad, comforting them to the fact that though the Jews had almost wholly rejected their Messiah & the Day of the Lord was near ( James 5:9 ), it was not too late; if they actively prayed for the conviction & conversion of their fellow Jew, these would be saved from damnation if & when they repented from that sin. This is not to say that these words are not at all applicable in this day & age, but it's not quite as simple as most Christians seem to think; we cannot offer just any prayer to our Heavenly Father & recieve the answer we want!

Jesus told His disciples, 'whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive' ( Matthew 21:22-this was the incident involving the fig tree that withered & the possibility of mountains moving )! You might think, 'well, if we can't believe the word of Jesus, what can we believe?' Good question, but again, one must take into account the immediate context of Jesus' words! Jesus was not telling His disciples that anything was possible if they just believed, as many parents tell their children in this day & age; He was not telling them that if only they had faith, they could move literal physical mountains! He was signifying to them, as His brother did later, that those adversaries they were up against were nothing to be afraid of; against the awesome Power & Majesty of Almighty God, their enemies were like dead fig trees!

As one who is afflicted daily & I know I am not the only one or the worst, I'm pretty familiar with the notion that 'if you just had enough faith, you'd be healed of your affliction'! if we're not careful, we might be tempted to murmur & complain, even to begin to think thoughts such as those above! However, when we recognize & realize the context & meaning of these words, we can see that they were aimed at those first century Christians, those who were enduring the transition between the Old & New Covenants, or Ages!

Many Christians like to wear their ( individual ) faith like a badge, 'on their sleeve', so to speak! This can range anywhere from sporting the Christian 'fish' or Christian bumper stickers on your car to wearing t-shirts with a 'Christian' message on them ( even special Sunday go-to-meeting clothes are suspect ). In most cases, the wearer& bearer of these messages is sincere about their faith, their belief, but most also fail to realize that it is not these signs that prove their faith to others, but what they do with that faith. 

The faith that the disciples of Jesus exercised in the first century was enough to metaphorically & really move mountains & wither fig trees! As Lord of Creation, Creator God Himself, caused the fig tree to wither, just as He healed many of similar afflictions & even raised the dead, all seemingly against the laws of nature. He did this, not to show His disciples what they ( individually ) could do 'if they just had enough faith', but to prove to them & others the True Power that He wielded; with a word, as with those He had healed & raised from the dead, He could simply say the word & their adversaries would be destroyed, or removed!

Faith is not simply believing; faith is active, believing that something is & then acting on that belief! It is not enough to simply believe, for James also said 'Even the demons believe-and tremble' ( James 2:19 ); one can claim to believe whatever they want, but if their actions tell us otherwise, we are within our rights to call 'bullshit!' The Badge of Faith is not claiming ( confessing & professing to be a Christian ); the Badge of Faith is being a Christian, following in the footsteps of Jesus & doing what He did ( John 14:12 ), not by focusing on the correct doctrines so we can go to Heaven when we die, but by doing what is right, by giving what help we can, wherever & whatever!

The Prayer of Faith is not some magical mantra that is at our disposal;it is not some formula that we may use to solve our every problem or overcome every difficulty ( although it often has that effect )! The apostle John wrote to his brethren, 'Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us'; again, this is not just some magical mantra, if we can only discern the Will of God, we can pray for whatever we want & it will be done for us. It's not quite as simple as, 'whatever happens, it was God's will', but yet again, it's not formula that we can follow to 'git'er done'! When we actively pray according to what we know to be God's will, we will be blessed with, not everything we might want, or lust after, but with everything we need!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Intimacy of Being

Is it possible to love more than one person? Experience tells us 'yes'; it is possible, indeed recommended to love more than one person, but it is when we try to define love, we often hit a speed-bump! To many people, 'love' is almost synonymous with 'intimacy', to most others, love is a warm feeling, no more, no less. Love, as we have found though, is an action, a choice that we make, a course that we actively pursue! To be sure, love, true love involves those warm feelings; we are human beings, or at least spiritual beings having a human experience, so feelings are unavoidable: even the most hardened criminal has feelings! The trick is not to let your feelings control you, but to control your feelings!

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the secondary definition of 'intimacy' is, 'something of a personal or private nature'. Again, it is possible to share things with more than one person, but how can it be possible to share your most personal matters with more than one person & yet still have that privacy which most of us value so highly? Is it possible to be intimate with more than one person? Some might say 'yes' & others might say 'no', but really, most of these are those who equate intimacy with love! To love multiple persons at the same time is fairly simple & easy: just make the choice to do what is right in whatever case & you will have acted in love toward them; the difficult part here is determining what IS right! Even to feel love toward multiple persons at the same time is possible & even natural; our human affections, often called feelings, can be directed toward any number of people at once & even be genuine: the 'rub' here though, is that because they ARE simply feelings & therefore subject to change at a moments notice, when the feelings change, so does the love!

Intimacy, on the other hand, being of a more personal & private nature, is best shared with one other person! It is entirely possible to be open about everything, to forgo any privacy, sharing every intimate detail, but people are just not built that way! This, as well, is where feelings shift the balance! If one person has shared their intimacy with more than one other, the green-eyed monster often rears its ugly head! Feelings of jealousy come fairly natural to most if not all people; we as human beings, naturally follow the Creator's Design when we expect the person that we are intimate with to share their intimacy with us alone! Whether officially a marriage or just a simple relationship ( most popular nowadays ), intimacy is best shared between only two people, otherwise, one is simply asking for trouble ( a monogamous relationship brings enough trouble )!

We're not just talk about sexual intercourse ( usually simply termed 'sex' ) either; intimacy involves so much more than the simple sex act, in fact, it need not involve sex at all! Baring one's soul to another individual, revealing their most personal & private thoughts to another is just one instance. Though intimacy most often involves sexual intercourse, one's intercourse with another need not be of a sexual nature to be classified as 'intimate'! Using Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary yet again, 'intercourse' is defined as 'connection or dealings between persons or groups ' & secondarily as 'exchange especially of thoughts or feelings :  communion'! When it comes to intimacy, sexual intercourse needn't even be on the table; simply sharing one's most personal & private thoughts with another is often more than intimate enough; as in 'sharing an intimate secret'!

Sexual Intimacy is something which is very rare in today's world scene of open relationships & 'free' sex ( thanks in large part to things like the condom )! While most people who enter into a relationship, especially one of a sexual nature, are looking for intimacy, too often what is found there ( at best ) is a love based on feelings, an intimacy of sorts which is limited to the personal or private feelings of one or the other individual. To love, truly love another in an intimate way is to be willing to bare one's soul, so to speak, to that one individual! Again, to be intimate, especially sexually, with multiple persons, while it IS possible, is not advisable, nor does it come naturally; we just weren't built that way!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Signs of the Times ( 'the times they are a' changin' )

When it is evening you say, '[ It will be ] fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, '[ It will be ] foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites![a] You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot [ discern ] the signs of the times.
Matthew 16:2 & 3 

September 11, 2001 is a day that will be remembered in infamy! This day will forever be seared in the hearts & minds of many Americans, because, as reports have it, almost 3,000 human beings lost their lives when terrorists orchestrated what might constitute one of the greatest such attacks on American soil in almost 60 years. Why did the terrorists choose those particular targets over all others? Maybe it was because they were two of the greatest monuments constructed in recent history to honor one of the greatest American idols!

Since that fateful day, the U.S. Economy has been embroiled in what is surely the greatest Recession since the 20s & 30s, probably even worse! The Housing Bubble collapsed in 2008 & has never fully recovered. Although one might say that our economy has gained back much of its former strength ( ?), it has only been bolstered by things like Government Bailouts & Government Incentives made possible by large loans from foreign nations such as China. The Mining Industry, which has traditionally provided much of the backing for the U.S. Economy in the past, has suffered over the past few years, especially, with inflation, among other things, driving the value of precious metals down!

Overall, even though the facade that the Federal Government has carefully erected is wearing rather thin, the U.S. Economy is falsely being touted as well on the way back to recovery! Things almost seem to be looking up until one remembers the $16 trillion dollar debt ( or whatever it is now ) that's hanging over our head. We now almost matter-of-factly pay upwards of $4 a gallon for gas & are almost ecstatic when it drops below $3 ( especially when it hits close to $2 )! Food prices are rising as well, not just because of shipping costs, though that is probably the greatest factor, but unecessary regulations on growers & producers are making it more difficult to put food on the table for the average American family!

Much like Israel of Old, most Americans have failed to rightly discern these signs! Although there are some out there who have woken up to this disturbing fact, most have failed or downright refused to acknowledge that the actions of the U.S. Inc., or The American Empire have brought this disaster upon us. Like an overwhelming flood, this cataclysm threatens to engulf us for many reasons, not least of which is that we are now reaping what we have sown!

American Christianity, almost as a whole, has viewed signs such as these ( if they even note them ) in an eschatological sense! Because American Christianity has taught for centuries that we will be raptured ( whatever that means ) out of the mess we have made, next to nothing has been done about it: most American Christians are more than willing to let the world go to hell in a handbasket because 'Jesus is coming soon'! The belief that all of our problems will soon dissolve into ashes has kept much of American Christianity from having a saving effect on the Culture & has instead allowed the Culture to have a damning effect on American Christianity!

Many Americans, even non-Christian Americans, are more-or-less correctly discerning these signs & realizing that 'the end is near'! No, not 'the end' that most Bible students look forward to, eschatologically speaking, but 'the end' of an era is definitely upon us! Whether it's the end of The American Empire, the end of America as we know it, or just the end of the lifestyle to which most Americans have become accustomed, something big is most definitely coming & it's not going to be pleasant! Gas prices continue to fluctuate, but it's pretty much a given that they'll never again drop to what they were even 20-30 years ago: food prices, on the other hand are almost spiraling out of control! One barely coughs anymore at having to pay $4-$5 for a loaf of bread ( depending where you are, even more ), milk is ridiculous, beef is getting harder to find at a decent price & we're even paying more for water & the bear necessities of life!

There is hope, however! No, unlike most American Christians believe, Jesus is not going to return & clean up our mess for us; this world is not going to be burnt up by fire so that we can begin anew, but it is being cleansed by fire, in a metaphorical sense, undergoing the adverse judgement of an infinitely just Creator God! What will our future look like, the future of America? We can be fairly certain that, when all is said & done, America will still be here! America as most have become accustomed to may have undergone an almost unrecognizable change ( or not ); she may no longer be the world-power ( empire ) she once was & it's possible we may even join the ranks of what we now call 'third-world' nations, but America will still be here!

Our greatest Stronghold, even though most American Christians do not realize it, is that this world, even though it be filled with devils, is the Kingdom of the Creator God! As Christians especially, we serve no mere earthly empire or political figurehead; the whole earth is full of His Glory & even though evil still exists & frustrates our endeavors: His Empire will never suffer loss, but as Christians begin to realize more & more His Rule & therefore ours; His Kingdom will expand ( infinitely ) beyond any borders we could ever hope to maintain!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Fulfilling the Work of the Christ

Jesus told His disciples, 'I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater [ works ] than these he will do' ( John 14:12 ) The question has been presented here before, 'how will we do works greater than Jesus Himself did?' How could we, mere human beings, do greater works than the Son of the Living God, the Creator of Heaven & Earth?! It's almost unthinkable ( when you think about it ) but there it is, in black & white! Jesus said it, I believe it & that settles it, right!? Well, it's not quite that simple!

In this day & age, there is an alarming tendency to think of 'termination' when someone mentions 'fulfillment'! Although in a contractual sense & only in a contractual sense, when something is fulfilled, it usually does mean the termination or completion of a project or job. However, when a covenant is fulfilled, the work continues! In a marriage, for instance, when the vows are fulfilled, the marriage is not over, but every day, those wedding vows are filled up, renewed. In a good, covenantal marriage, anyway, both husband & wife will remember each one of the sacred vows they made to their spouse on that wonderful day & will perform ( fulfill ) accordingly!

How can any one man or woman ever hope to do these greater works that Jesus talked about?! Now, in context, we must remember that He spoke these words to His disciples in the first-century. It was for the Purpose of the Eschaton that He spoke these words! One might object; 'well, are we not His disciples today?' Yes, we are His disciples today & we do continue His work; in a certain sense, as well, it IS greater than He did: in the sense that it is a fulfillment of His work of reconciliation. This is not something that happens all by itself either; although a person must him or herself make the decision to reconcile with his or her Heavenly Father, it is most often the result of manifold experiences!

To further clarify, it is corporately, as the Body of the Christ that we continue, or fulfill His work! Individually speaking, yes, we each bear our part, but 'here a little, there a little'; it is as the Whole that the job gets done. Many Christians, in particular evangelicals, feel that unless one devotes their time expressly to the work of evangelism that one is not doing their job. However ( thank our Heavenly Father ), it is not up to just one ( individually ) to 'save souls', it is a group effort ( corporate ) & when each does their part, then the work that Jesus started in the first century is fulfilled!

On the Cross, as well as in the Revelation, Jesus said, 'it is finished'! The work, however one qualifies or quantifies that work, was done, completed; does that mean, however, that Jesus stopped working, that He was now done? Did He, as in the beginning, rest on the seventh day, or did He take us into a New Day, one in which we are at Rest & having become, as was intended from the beginning, the Dwelling ( place ) of God in the Spirit? Yes, we are in that New Day & have reached the Promised Rest, but there is still work to do; though He finished His work on the Cross ( reconciled the world to Himself ), we must continually fulfill that work, first by reconciling ourselves to that Blessedness, then by reconciling those around us!

In a way, the words that Jesus spoke, as recorded in John 14:12 are true today; we do greater things than Jesus! Doctors have gained much knowledge over the past several hundred years; the sick are healed, those who were blind see again, the lame walk, the deaf hear again & yes, the dead are brought back to life! Although it is through the advances in modern medicine & technology that these modern miracles are taking place, they are miraculous nonetheless! Even 'demons' are being cast out, not so much like we read about in the pages of Scripture, although occurrences like this happen ( most often in third-world countries, strangely enough ), but, again due in large part to advanced medical technologies, people are being freed from manifold addiction ( cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, etc. ). We understand that these 'demons' that Jesus was casting out were metaphorical for the most part, of certain addictions or idols that people had erected in their lives, either directly or indirectly! However, though they were not necessarily quite the picture that most theologians draw for us today, these were demons nonetheless & Jesus cast them out!

Can we do the same & greater today, casting out the demons that surround us? Certainly, in our own lives, we can dismiss them with the wave of a hand ( or a finger ), but can we do the same with others who suffer the same afflictions & worse? You better believe it! By ourselves, the task often seems insurmountable, but then we must realize, WE are not alone! Not only are we eternally in the Blessed Presence of our Creator, but we are members of the Body of His Only Begotten Son: HOW COOL IS THAT?!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, August 03, 2015

A Giant's Tale

There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore [ children ] to them. 
Those [ were ] the mighty men who [ were ] of old, men of renown.
Genesis 6:4 

Having long been the stuff of myths & legends, the creatures often called 'Nephilim' by bible students have been generating more interest than they had for some time. The book series 'Chronicles of the Nephilim', by Brian Godowa, is one of the more recent products of this almost morbid interest! Based on the unscriptural notion that these ' sons of God' were pure spirit-beings who had sexual relations with the ( human ) 'daughters of men' the whole ideology spirals out of control, introducing characters like 'Satan' ( who supposedly animated the serpent of Genesis 3 ) & the 'Watchers'. Is it possible that heavenly ( spirit ) beings could come to earth, have sexual relations with human females & impregnate them? Sure, Scripture gives us a clear example of that in Matthew 1:18-25!

The Internet is full of information about giants, Nephilim & Watchers; in fact, there have been TV series & movies based on these ideas for decades! Recently though, with a renewed focus on ancient archeological finds, they have come back to haunt us with slightly disturbing images of enlarged skulls, skeletons & literature of the period ( almost leading to our present day ) that hints at the existence of these gargantuan humanoids. Scripture even seems to pint to the veracity of these tales, with King Og of Bashan in numerous references from Numbers to Nehemiah! This 'Og' that we read about in Joshua 12:4, for instance, was 'of the remnant of the giants'. In Deuteronomy 3:11, we read of this giant king, 'Indeed his bedstead [ was ] an iron bedstead. ( [ Is ] it not in Rabbah of the people of Ammon?) Nine cubits [ is ] its length and four cubits its width, according to the standard cubit.' We also read of men like Goliath & his brothers, whom David & other mighty men of renown slew! No doubt these giants existed, but were they hybrids of male spirit-beings ( ?? ) & female human beings, as many would have us believe, or were they simply inheritors of a certain gene that caused unusual growth?

There is a phrase used of such famous men as Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison & Howard Hughes that they were 'giants among men'! This is not a claim that they had a gargantuan stature ( Einstein was relatively short, I believe ), but that their spirit, their creative nature, was far above that of most men. We use the same ideology to describe certain ideas, plans & even structures. Although some of these structures are built to 'giant' ( x-large ) proportions, this is not always the case & in the case of a giant plan or idea, it is not so much the quantity of what the thought produces, but the infinite quality!

Neil Armstrong's famous 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' is yet another example! The giant leap for mankind that Armstrong was no doubt thinking about was that, if man could walk on the surface of the moon, many millions of miles from earth, what else might be possible; the possibilities that this momentous occasion generated were indeed gargantuan!

One could find all sorts of useless ( but interesting, nonetheless ) information on the Internet about the giants, Nephilim & Watchers. One movie that has recently made their presence known is 'Noah'.
This movie portrayed them as earthy creatures, creatures of rock & stone, something very different from the Scriptural images we are presented with & certainly not the 'giants' of the most recent century ( some are still among us )! Today's 'giants are simply those who have an extra growth hormone ( usually not very healthy ) or simply those who have grandiose abilities or dreams!

The whole idea that these Nephilim existed at one point, or even that they still exist is very attractive, though morbidly so! Like the whole notion of 'Satan' as a fallen spirit-being ( according to the book of Job, one of 'the sons of God'), it gives us a sort of morbid relief; there is someone ( or something ) else to blame all OUR problems on! When we do wrong, 'the devil made me do it', when we  see something unusual, like a very large person, or hear about 'The Abominable Snowman' or 'Sasquatch', it helps us to believe the myths that we have been brought up with!

The is no doubt that these gargantuan humans existed & still exist; there is manifold evidence for that! Archeological 'finds' may not always be all they're cracked up to be, but it's pretty hard to argue with all the evidence; for whatever reason, these human beings grew to gargantuan proportions! Some are still among us ( all over the world ) & all the 'giants among men' of the past, or most of them anyway, are still impacting our everyday lives with their colossal ideas! The notion that the giants, or Nephilim were the products of a union between fallen spirit-beings & female human beings is almost absurd! Goliath was simply a very large man & as David found out, 'the bigger they are, the harder they fall'! King Og of Bashan is never described, per se', in Scripture; it is simply stated that his bed was extra large ( it DOES say that he was 'of the remnant of the giants'-Deuteronomy 12:4 ).

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Begotten of the Father

Blessed [ be ]  the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
I Peter 1:3-5 

According to Thayer's Lexicon, the Greek word 'gennaō', rendered 'begotten' in our English translations simply refers to fathers begetting or fathering children. In a metaphorical sense, this could be understood as the apostle Paul's 'adoption' of Timothy ( I Corinthians 4:17 ) ! However the context determines the specific meaning of the word, it is used most often as the fathering, or producing of a child, or protoge', if you will. In the passage above, the Greek 'anagennaō' simply means 'to produce again, beget again, beget anew'. The phrase 'only begotten', transliterated from the Greek 'monogenēs' refers to a 'single of its kind, only'. The author of Hebrews uses this same Greek word to refer to Isaac, son of Abraham as John uses to describe Jesus in several different passages ( John 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18 ), including in His Letters ( I John 4:9 )! 

In Genesis 22, where it is recorded that the God of Heaven & Earth told Abraham, 'Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you', the Author used the Hebrew 'yachiyd', meaning 'only, especially only begotten, only child'! Again, depending on the context, this may have a literal meaning, as in Judges 11:34 where Jepthah truly only had one daughter, tor a metaphorical meaning as the passage above where it refers to the fact that Abraham had only one son by promise, whereas Ishmael had been born according to the will of the flesh. All this is to say that the context determines the conveyed meaning; though we ( corporately, as the Body of Christ ) are never referred to as 'the only begotten' of The Father, we are 'begotten' of the Father, especially in a spiritual or metaphorical sense, by the Resurrection from the Dead!

The key, one might say, to differentiating between the Body of Christ & the Creator ( Father ) Himself is that little but oh, so important word 'only'! Jesus, traditionally called 'the God-Man', was in essence the Creator Himself. There are numerous instances in the Greek Scripture where Jesus angered the Pharisees by claiming that He was One with the Father! John in fact says that without Him 'nothing was made that was made' ( John 1:3 ).  Being of one Essence with the Father, as the creeds rightly say, Jesus was sent from the Father's Side ( much as Eve was from Adam's ) to put things to rights & to institute the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, in effect, to make the Dwelling of God with Man, once again, as in the Beginning!

Promised by the Creator of Heaven & Earth, as was Isaac before, Jesus was sacrificed on a mountain ( hill, really )! He was, as Isaac was, the 'only' Son of the Father. In the greatest sense, we too, as the Body of Christ, might be called the 'only begotten' of the Father, for we too are the Promised Seed! Jesus WAS the Promised One, but as His Body, metaphorically speaking, we were promised as well; David wrote of 'a people yet to be created' ( Psalm 102:18 ). Through the prophet Isaiah, the Living God spoke these words of this people, 'You shall be called by a new name'! This New Name was not Jesus, or even Christian, though we ARE called that; this New Name was a metaphor for our True Identity, the Son of the Creator God, our Heavenly Father!

Charles Haddon Shank