The Pagan Path

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Body of Christ in the 21st Century

'Where do you go to church?'

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Der Hersteller ( The Maker )

In the Beginning there was nothing but the Creator; this Intelligent Being decided that the Time had come to create something out of the nothing! First, the vast canvas of the universe was spread, then in the infinity of it all, the Creator formed the energy within that vastness into matters of substance. As the years went by & Time began to take its toll, this matter began to take the form of what we now know as planets. Other sorts of energy took shape in the form of large gaseous spheres. Millions of years went by as Time progressed in its Natural Revolutions & Life ( energy ) came into being by the Hand of the Creator: all sorts ( kinds ) of Life was represented by various beings, full to differing extents, of the same energy that made up the more heavenly bodies!

The Creation was beautiful, but as yet, it was not aware of its Creator! In the Fullness of Time then, the Creator invested Himself into the Creation that He had wrought. The Man that the Creator chose to reveal Himself through was a Man like, yet unlike, any other, but this Man was given the special task to introduce the Creation to the Creator. Heretofore, the Creation had lived in idolatry, whether it took the form of animism or spiritism. They were aware to the point that they knew that Something, or Someone was working behind the scenes, pulling the strings, so to speak, of all that transpired within & without the boundaries of Time, but as of yet, they still attributed these events to idols, to something they could grasp, or understand.

Time went by & the Man through whom the Creator had chosen to make Himself known to His Creation, though He sure seemed to have done a crooked job of it, had made the Way straight for the Creator to, at long last, reveal Himself in His Fullness to His Creation! This Man, through many eons of Time, had appeared in many different iterations ( but all in human form ) to direct His Way & prepare for His Final Revelation. Finally, all was made ready & the Creator Himself, in the form of this Man, His Beloved Son, descended from His abode in the heavenly or ethereal realm, that outside of the boundaries of Time & deemed to be born as a baby, becoming as One with His Creation in order to finalize in Eternity the Relationship of the Creation & the Creator!

Upon the Birth of this New Man, the Creator Himself, Time stood still for a moment! No more was the existence of the Creation confined within the boundaries of Time, for the Creator Himself had become One with His Creation! Though the Human Experience had quite a rough start & a sordid History, the Man chosen by the Creator fulfilled His Purpose & prepared the Creation for the Arrival of the Creator. Through many intervals & by many crooked paths, the Creator's Purpose was made known & the Creator finally & fully invested Himself into His Creation!

The Beauty of the Creation, although appreciated for its manifold nature, was not yet complete; the Creator, from the Beginning, had Purposed to become One with His Creation! In order to truly become One with the Creator, the Creation first had to be made aware of the existence & true nature of the Creator. To accomplish this, over the course of a relatively short period of Time, the Creator made Himself known through the ministries of the Man He had chosen. This man, in the form of a created being, made the Purpose of the Creator known to His Creation & while the Creation was often at odds with these ministers, the Purpose of the Creator was fulfilled; the Two became One!

From the humblest of beginnings came the Greatest of Ends! The Son of the Creator Himself, or the True Man, was born of the very Creation & having become One with that Creation, now lives within that Creation in Blessed Relationship. You may call this a marriage of sorts, and truly, that's what transpired; the Marriage of Heaven & Earth!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, October 09, 2015

Not Your Typical Christian

WWJD; it's been awhile since I've seen much of that one ( thank the Creator ); I'm speaking of the phrase 'What Would Jesus Do' popularized by well-meaning but ignorant Christians about a decade or so ago. Of late though, we have been witnesses to a growing trend of those who are more seriously asking the question & actually DOING what Jesus did! So what WOULD Jesus do, or more to the point, what DID Jesus do?!

In this day & age, how much importance is put on 'going to church' every Sunday ( or as often as humanly possible )? Traditionally speaking, if one doesn't make every effort to be in 'the Lord's House' every time a meeting is called, he or she just might not be a very good Christian! However, we should ask ourselves, 'is THIS what Jesus would do?'; maybe if the historical Jesus was here in our day & age, He would attend these services, but maybe not as much or in the way we would imagine! We DO know, from Scripture, what He DID do however; He healed the sick, lifted the lame & associated with the outcasts, the undesirables!

True followers of Jesus the Christ do not 'go to church', they ARE the Church! I know, I know, it has become most well-accepted to use this kind of terminology in describing how the Church meets for public, corporate worship ( at least here in America; the corporate worship of Chinese Christians probably isn't very public ), but maybe that's part of the problem with Christianity Today; most Christians have become so used to 'going to church' that in the hustle & bustle of everyday life ( between meetings ) they have forgotten they ARE the Church! For most intents & purposes, we as Christians ( I'm not speaking only of Bible-believing, Sunday-go-to-meeting types ) ARE Jesus, to a weary & wanting world!

Much emphasis ( maybe too much )  is put on following the Creeds ( to the letter ) & ascribing to the Great Confessions, like the Westminster Confession of Faith, the London Baptist Confession & so on & so forth! 'Are you a Calvinist or an Arminian; do you believe that faith is the work of God or the work of man?' Questions like this have been cannon ( or should that be 'canon' ) fodder for centuries of debates & even battles to the death. 'Is this what Jesus would do?' It is most definitely NOT what He DID! Oh sure, He often told the Pharisees & other religious leaders of His day where they could go & where they could stick it ( 'where the Sun don't shine' ), but when opportunity presented itself, He never told the repentant sinner that he or she must follow a certain Creed or Confession; rather, He told them what they should DO; for instance, telling the rich young ruler, 'Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me' ( Luke 18:22 ).

How many times have you heard the phrase, 'we'll pray for you' ( in its several iterations ) in response to a plea for help! 'The Lord will provide if you just have faith' might be just another way of saying, 'I'm not going to lift a finger to help you, but I'll remember you in my prayers'! However, the apostle James said, 'faith without works is dead';  not wanting to get our hands dirty is NOT following in the footsteps of Jesus, Jesus dealt, not with those who were good Christians & faithfully attended religious services every Sunday ( or Saturday, as the case may be-we KNOW how He treated THEM ), but Jesus dealt with the dregs of society, even giving place to a murderer when death was on the line!

If one does not religiously attend worship services every week, one is usually looked at askance, but especially if one does not ascribe to this or that Creed or Confession, one just might not be a Christian! However, as we have seen, this is NOT how Jesus operated! As Christians, we should put more emphasis on how we act toward the dregs of society ( our neighbors ) than on what Creed or Confession ( if any in particular ) we follow!

The importance of belief is without doubt & beyond question! However, more important even than that is what we DO with that belief! We may follow one Creed or another, or ascribe to a certain Confession, even be a good Bible-believing, Sunday-go-to-meeting kind of Christian, but if we do not practice the Way of Jesus & DO what He DID, then it is all worth nothing & less than useless, even harmful! Those who practice such a life-style, though they may not attend religious services weekly ( or at all ) or ascribe to any certain Creed or Confession, may find themselves the victims of ostracization & they will most definitely find themselves on the outside looking in, but is it better to be a Christian ( in today's sense ) or a Follower of Jesus the Christ, one who DOES what He DID?!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

It Just Ain't Proper!

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 
( ‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭9 )

Let's think about this for a minute; when most Christians address their Heavenly Father, how often do we speak as though addressing a father-figure? Most often, our prayers ( I plead guilty too ) go something like this, 'Dear God ( or Lord ), please bless....thank you for......we ask now Jesus name, Amen'! Is there anything wrong with such a prayer? No, of course not; not inherently anyway, as long as the prayer is sincere! But, is it proper; is that how our Heavenly Father wishes us to address Him?

'Jesus is Lord'! Amen; no argument there! At least to those under that first covenant, Jesus came as Lord. Remember though, that Sarah called Abraham 'lord': today, it is almost traditional in most if not all Christian circles for the husband ( men in general ) to 'lord' it over his wife ( women in general ); here again I must plead guilty! Are men the head of the house ( hold )? Scripture does make that pretty clear, doesn't it?! Well, maybe not so much; the apostle Paul wrote, 'But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.' ( ‭I Corinthians‬ ‭11‬:‭3‬ ) 'Well, but isn't that pretty clear?' 'Is it?' Paul said elsewhere that 'There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' (‭ Galatians‬ ‭3‬:‭28‬ ) The context may seem to call for a different interpretation, but it seems to me that our Heavenly Father is placing man & woman on the same level, giving them equal status as His Children. Then again, the apostle also says that the marriage between a man & woman is a picture of Christ & His Church, His Bride!

Paul wrote earlier, 'For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.' (‭ Romans‬ ‭10‬:‭12‬ ) The fact that Jesus is Lord is without dispute; He is/was of one essence with the Father, He being the Lord of all & over all! Is He still Lord of all? Without doubt, He is, but Jesus the Christ, the Jewish Messiah, told His followers, 'No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.' (‭ John‬ ‭15‬:‭15 ) Jesus did not say that He was NOT their Lord & Master, but He DID imply very strongly that He did not wish them to approach Him or His Father in that way!

To many Christians, the Creator of  Heaven & Earth is simply 'God' ( BIG 'G' as opposed to small 'g' )! Although this moniker may be noted to be somewhat ignorant, especially in this technical day & age, it again, is not inherently improper or incorrect, so long as the one who uses it is speaking sincerely of the Creator of Heaven & Earth. However, in modern usage, it can be somewhat ambiguous; for instance, take the phrase, 'In God we trust', printed on all or most of this nations monies; does that necessarily mean that the issuer of the note, to say nothing of the bearer, places his or her trust in the Creator of Heaven & Earth? Not very likely! They may claim that their trust is in the Creator, but their actions seem to prove a different god, a lesser god, if you will; there are many gods, Scripture tells us, but only one True & Living God, all the others are simply useless idols of wood & stone ( or paper, as the case may be )!!

To call the Creator of Heaven & Earth by the name 'God' is not wrong, nor is it insulting; it is simply using His title, His very nature ( biblically speaking ) to describe His Awesomeness! Properly, there are many names for the Creator scattered throughout the pages of Scripture, but I believe the one He prefers most is 'Father'! As our Father, we come to Him, not just with our supplications ( though there ARE plenty of those ), but for comfort, for assurance & for strength, just like any child his or her earthly father. He IS our Master, our Lord, but He does not 'lord' it over us as many masters do their servants. Rather, He treats each of us in such a way that allows us to approach Him in a familial way, not as a Lord & Master ( King ) who must extend His Scepter in order for us to enter His Presence!

Our God IS an Awesome God, but He is so much more than that; He is our Father! As His Children, we are instructed to address Him as 'Our Father'; we should always understand that though He is our Lord & Master ( King ), He wants us to come to Him as little children, not as servants to a dreadful master!

Charles Haddon Shank