The Pagan Path

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Inner Sanctum

We have just celebrated the birth of Emmanuel, or 'God with us'; as Christians, of course, this is something we celebrate year 'round (let that sink in ), but how often do we really think about what that means; in other words, 'what does it mean to us that God is with us ( John 14:23 )?' As discussed in a previous post, 'sure, we have the Spirit indwelling us', but why are most Christians waiting for more, in other words, why do they continue to look for salvation outside themselves? The concept of looking within oneself for salvation will most likely sound heretical, even blasphemous to most, but given the twin facts that Israel was the receptor of the salvation we read of in the Scriptures & that the so-called Godhead, or Trinity now dwells with us, in our hearts, so to speak, it should really not be shocking to realize that it is within ourselves that we should look for the Strength to work ( out ) our own salvation!

The subject of 'Heaven' is quite a controversial one: whether it is an actual 'place' out there somewhere, in the heavens or whether it is a separate realm or dimension, one thing is clear; it is the Dwelling ( place ) of the Creator God, also known as our Heavenly Father! Jesus told the Pharisees, who were a bit confused about the Nature of the coming Kingdom, 'the kingdom of God is within you' ( Luke 17:21 ). Coupled with Jesus' words in John 14 ( 23 ), 'if anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him', it should not be hard to understand that 'Heaven' is in our hearts. By saying 'in our hearts', of course I do not refer to the physical organ, nor to biology at all, but to our inmost being, our spirit. As the Kingdom of Heaven & the Kingdom of God seem to be interchangeable in Scripture, we may safely conjecture that they are the same & refer to the Realm of the Creator God!

The Creator, or 'God', if you will, though He has made His ( Her, Its ) Home with man, is not however confined to mankind: He ( She, It ) is still the Creator! One issue I have encountered when bringing up John 14:23 in conversation is the supposed omnipresence of the Creator God. I do not mean to say, along with the Deists, perhaps, that after everything had been finished, the Creator God stepped out of the picture & let it all go to hell, nor do I mean to imply that it is only with ( in ) His human Creation that He abides, or dwells. I mean simply to say that our Heavenly Father has awakened us, opened our eyes, so to speak, to the Reality that we can exist on two different planes, in two dimensions at once!

The fact that we are spirit beings having a physical experience is one that I have tried to make clear in my writings, as it has become more impressed upon my own mind of late. Along with this realization has come its own difficulties, leading to further study & consideration. The issue of gender, for instance, has been a rather hot topic lately! If, as I posited in a certain conversation recently, the body, not the spirit, determines gender, then may we rightly say that there are male & female spirits? Could this be one thing that the apostle Paul  referred to when he wrote, 'there is neither male nor female' ( Galatians 3:28 )? Another question that might arise is, 'do spirits dwell in the physical ( biological ) realm, or do they exist in the another dimension altogether, although right alongside the visible realm?' Is this not what the prophet's servant saw, as recorded in II Kings 6:17? Could this be the real import of what Jesus said in Luke 20:34-36?

Jesus, as recorded in John 6:63, said, 'It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and [ they ] are life'. A bit out of context maybe, but couple this with the fact that in the beginning, the Creator God breathed into Adam 'the breath of life' ( Genesis 2:7 ) Along these same lines, the prophet's vision in Ezekiel 37 showed that it was not the physical, or biological body of Israel that needed to be resurrected, it was the spiritual body which was about to be raised to life once more.At the end of his famous diatribe on 'faith without works', in James 2:14-26, the apostle wrote 'the body without the spirit is dead' & in the same breath that 'faith without works is dead also'.

Believing in a Covenant Creation, as I & many others do, one might note a seeming inconsistency with this viewpoint, in that the body of Adam, as the Body of Israel in Ezekiel 37, had no life until 'the breath of life' entered the picture, because that would mean that Adam, or mankind, had no life in them previously. Well, that might pose a difficulty if it were not for the fact that Ezekiel 37 at least, is metaphorical of the fact that the body of Israel had become entangled in the lies of Sin & Death! With that aside, one might well note that it is the spirit, with or without the blessing of the Spirit of Life, that animates the body!

The spiritual dimension, though known & experienced by many since the dawn of time, has recently been opened to the eyes of even more. Some religions, but the Christian religion in particular, has traditionally taught that it is not until the spirit leaves the body that one enters this realm, also known as 'Eternity'. This could lead to another discussion entirely, but I believe that, since the Resurrection occurred in the first century, we inhabit that Realm! As human beings, yes, our biological 'self' is confined to this earthly ( physical ) realm, but as spiritual beings, we have ascended, or at least are ascending, in a manner of speaking, to the spiritual, or heavenly realm. Is this not what the writer to the Hebrews meant when he wrote 'you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn [ who are ] registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect' ( Hebrews 12:22 & 23 )?

The Creator God, we can truly attest to, operates without the confines of Time, which all human beings, biologically speaking, are liable to! Since the Kingdom of Heaven has been brought to earth, we, though not our 'flesh and blood' ( I Corinthians 15:50 ) have entered this Hidden Realm. One might wonder if the spirit had not always existed in that other dimension, but that might be another matter for another post. While in this body, we often feel as if we're in 'Hell', so to speak; it is with our spirit & strengthened by the Spirit, that we can choose to transcend this mere biological experience & make a home in 'Heaven'!

'Somewhere, out there.............' is a cry of hope that a host of dreamers have uttered for millenia! The traditional Christian hope of 'Heaven' is not a false hope ( 'Yes, Virginia, there IS a Heaven!' ); it is simply a misplaced one! Heaven is not some place that we will inhabit only in the after-life ( ? ), 'Heaven' is another dimension, another plane of existence, if you will, in which our spirituality leads our biological bodies to live in a way that's heavenly!

As we prepare to enter upon a New Year, in a timely manner, let us determine within ourselves to live beyond the mean, to realize that we are spiritually with our Lord, the Creator God, our Heavenly Father! Though these biological bodies will never enter this Realm, we may, through the Strength of the Spirit Within, transform our World into a recognizable 'Heaven', as the Spirit causes Life to flow through our fingertips, from one Realm into another!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Pattern of Prophecy & the Exodus Theme

The Story of Scripture, from Adam to Jesus, is the Story of Israel! If you follow my meanderings at all, this is not an unfamiliar notion to you. The concept that our first parents, Adam & Eve, were not the first human beings to traverse the planet is not a new one, though among most Christians, it is a fairly radical notion. Scientists, especially those who cling to the theory of evolution, have purported for ages that mankind has roamed the earth for tens of thousands of years. The notion that Adam & Eve were not the first humans to inhabit the region we know as the Near East is an idea whose time has come; the fact that they were simply the first ones through whom the Creator God deemed to enter into His Creation, is a radical one indeed, so radical, in fact, that it may just end up transforming our theological landscape!

The question has come before this blogger recently, of why we are reading the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures, rather than learning about the life of the Buddha, or other Ancient Near Eastern 'gods' ( or their servants ). Why are we, here in America, studying the Bible rather than the Q'ran? As I discussed in one of my recent posts, it is because of 'The Resonance of the Story'! As I discussed, the Story of Israel is really the story of humanity. The Story of Scripture, though it tells about how the God of Creation chose to make His Purpose known through a special people, the children of Israel, or Jacob, actually mirrors humanity very well, as it records the rise & fall of many an individual, corporate body & empire!

Following the Story of Israel, from Adam's Fall in the Garden to the Fall of the Corporate Body of Israel, from the murder of Abel to the murder of Zechariah, we may note a pattern throughout that resonates within us, even here in America, so far removed from the original subject matter. From the first prophecy of a messiah ( Genesis 3:15 ), to when that longed-for Messiah came 'in the fullness of time', as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, we see a pattern throughout, prophecies which pointed to & were indicative of a time to come when the Creator God would dwell with His People, as pictured in the tabernacle & the Temple. We've covered this ground before, but as He walked with Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden ( the original Temple ), so He would again, through Jesus, walk among His People &; indeed, fashion them into His New Temple!

As we have been blessed, at Covenant Community Church, by the ministrations of our two teaching elders, we have become fairly familiar with the Exodus Theme that runs throughout Scripture. The Captivity of Israel, in its many iterations, was typical of the bondage that the human race has been embroiled in since its inception! The Fall of Adam & Eve in the Garden, especially when read with the understanding that it is apocalyptic literature & Ancient Near Eastern at that, should resonate with anyone who reads the account in Genesis 3. The following accounts of the murder of Abel, the Falls of Noah & Abraham, the wilderness wanderings of the children of Israel & their fleshly struggles throughout those wanderings, the times of the Judges & Kings, all leading up to the Final Exodus of the Israel of God & the Birth of the Promised One in the midst of captivity & His ministry remind us all of our own struggles & search for salvation!

The Exodus, from Egypt, of the children of Israel, although traditionally understood as historical narrative, has come under critical fire in the past few decades, as there seems to be no evidence, aside from Scripture, that it ever occurred exactly as we read it in the biblical narrative! There can be found, with some speculation, records of similar events that happened around the same time, but the main weight, which we can ascertain from a cursory reading of the Greek Scriptures, is that the events of the first Exodus ( from Egypt ) served as a picture of the Final Exodus that Jesus ( who was the Great Anti-type ) led His People in, an Exodus from the Bondage of Sin & Death!

The Creator God not only walks with His People once again, He has made us His Temple, His Dwelling on Earth! The Pattern of Prophecy, as we have noted previously, pointed to this Reality & still today, as the Scriptures are carefully read, resonates within the hearts of true believers, reminding us of this Chief End of Man ( kind ). As the Israel of God, the True Temple where He now resides in His fullness & having been made aware of our true, spiritual nature, we serve as the purveyors of His Love. It is when we fail to share that Love that we notice problems such as are recorded in the pages of Scripture!

The Hebrew Scriptures, standing alone, would indeed paint a far different theological landscape than that which we admire today! Though much of our orthodox doctrines are still based on the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures, it is widely accepted that most of what was prophesied in them was fulfilled in the Christ. We, here in America follow the Scriptures rather than the Q'ran because of what I'll call 'The Fulfillment Factor'! 'The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed'. This is a true & noteworthy statement; Jesus, or the Messiah of Israel, being prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures, was truly & finally revealed in the Greek Scriptures. In the Q'ran, we see no such thing: like many Christians, we may note that the Blessed Hope of Islam lies primarily in the 'afterlife'. Unlike most Jews, these Christians believe that though the Messiah came as prophesied, He must come again to finish His work of Redemption. The Realization that He came as promised & prepared us as His Dwelling ( place ), His New Temple, helps us to understand that His work, to Redeem Israel, WAS finished; now we simply fulfill ( continue ) that work!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Out of the Bag

'Mom.....Dad.....Y'all might wanna sit down for this.....'

Lynn should have known better; every parent dreads what comes next-okay, so sometimes it's not nearly as bad a their child thinks it is-but especially Lynn's folks; both were good upstanding members of a local congregation & her dad was even a deacon! Lynn Gaylord had always felt...............well, special; never quite fitting in with all the others-boys or girls-but somewhat of an affinity for both. She had, up to this point, led a fairly normal childhood, but now that she had hit puberty, full-force, so to speak, Lynn was beginning to hear 'The Call of the Wild' even more!

As her parent's blood began to warm their faces again, Lynn continued her confession; 'I always had this nagging feeling that I wasn't quite like all the rest-I'm sure you had your suspicions too-but as I've bee doing a lot of growing in the past several years, I've discovered that I prefer...................'Boyz II Men'. As soon as the words had left her mouth, both of Lynn's parents jumped to their feet, words rushing out of their mouth like water from a freshly un-kinked hose!

'Oh, honey, we're so relieved; we had noticed as you were growing up that you were a bit.....different, but this is such a load off our minds!

'But,', Lynn replied, as she picked her mouth up off the carpet, 'I said I like 'Boyz II Men', not boys in general; I'm both cissexual & cisgender, if that's what you were worried about!'

Well, of course, being old 'fuddie-duddies', Lynn's poor parents had never even heard the term ( s ) before, so back up went the blood pressure, almost immediately reaching the boiling point-for her dad, anyway!

'What the hell..........' her dad began to protest, as her mother quickly tried to calm the storm that was brewing. 'we love you anyway, dear, no matter what you choose to be..............' Lynn's mom had heard terms like 'transgender' & transsexual' before, so she knew enough about those kinds of things to know that they just weren't quite right. Lynn's dad, on the other hand, knew enough about these 'things' to know that no child of his was gonna have anything to do with such 'things'!

'I forbid..............', he tried again-more weakly this time-as Mom turned the full force of her 'death stare' on him! 'Dear', her mom asked, 'what exactly do you mean by 'cisgender' & 'cissexual'?' 'We've heard other similar terms, but these are new to us.' To tell you the truth, Lynn's mom was actually more worried about the 'sexual' part more than ''gender-her little baby daughter was only 15, for God's sake!

With a petulant, almost perturbed look on her face, Lynn gave her parents the definition of both cisgender & cissexual. 'Cissexual' , she replied as her eyes tried to roll up like some old window blinds, 'simply means, 'noting or relating to a person who is comfortable with having the physical characteristics of that person’s biological sex'; in other words, one who is not transsexual!'

Both Lynn's parents felt quick & obvious relief at this, though, now that her father had gotten past the first stages, he too felt a twinge at the word 'sexual'-both parents had grown up in a puritannical environment, so this was to be expected! Their daughter was simpy pulling one on them, they quickly realized, assuring them she was straight, while 'getting their goat' by using unfamiliar words like 'cissexual' & 'cisgender'!

Lynn was relieved; 'you're not mad about the 'Boyz II Men' thing?', she asked, somewhat incredulously! 'Oh, dear,' her mother replied-her father hadn't found his voice yet-he'd talk to HER later, 'we're just so relieved that you haven't made any..............strange, choices, we really didn't even pay much attention to the 'II Men' part; of course it's okay that you like them, but be careful who you tell though, those boy-groups ARE a bit....strange!'

This has just been a parable of sorts, but also a warning, a warning that one day your own son or daughter might face you-the parent-with such a confession! When he or she does, the best thing to do is.......'SHUT UP & LET ME FINISH!' They might be trying to tell you, in their own weird way that they're pretty normal, or, they might actually like 'boy-groups': then, my friends, you might have REAL cause for concern!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, December 19, 2016

Emmanuel-'God With Us'

Yes, it's that time of year again, the Season in which we traditionally celebrate the Birth of the Savior of the World! We know that Jesus was most likely born in a very different Season, but, as the story goes, religious leaders borrowed from pagan tradition & settled the day that we celebrate Jesus' Birth to coincide with the Winter Solstice, or the time when the days begin ( slowly ) to get longer: some call this 'the coming, or appearing of the light'. No matter its origins, the Christmas season has been one in which we lay aside our worries for a season & gather together as friends & family, whether to celebrate the Birth of Jesus, or just to have a jolly good time!

Seasonal Affectations aside, the Winter Season is harder on us then any other Season; especially living in any of the northern states, where it usually dumps a lot of snow & the temperatures often drop ( way ) below most people's comfort level, the Winter Season can be one of the hardest to survive while maintaining any degree of sanity. While there are many who work year-round, there are quite a few, particularly in the more rural areas, who work seasonally, in other words, as the conditions allow; hence, for those whose work is primarily done outdoors, the Winter season IS a time of Rest, but if not careful, it can be a time of hardship as well!

What does it mean to you that God, or the Creator is with us? Ask anybody, including most Christians & you'll probably receive a fairly 'pat' answer, something like 'His Spirit dwells in us!' True enough; His Spirit DOES indeed indwell His people, but, Scripturally speaking, nowhere does the Bible record those words; sure, a general misreading & misunderstanding of certain texts ( John 8 & 14 ) seem to IMPLY that He does ( or will ), but only one portion actually says ( outright ) that ANY part of the so-called 'God-head' will indwell us & the Spirit is not even mentioned ( by Name? ) there: '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'. These are the words of Jesus, as recorded in John 14:23.

The Creator God, as far as we know, is a Spirit! It is universally accepted that this is so, yet still, we have most Christians saying that within the so-called 'God-head', we have the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit. I've asked this question before & it sounds almost so profoundly simple as to be somewhat ignorant, but 'does a Spirit have a spirit?' Such a concept might lead to other seemingly ignorant questions like, 'IS the Creator God a Spirit Being?' One might be lead to ask, 'is the Creator God human, like us?' 'Is that what it means when it says we were made in His Image?' Believe it or not, I've actually heard reasoning akin to this!

Whatever the case may be, when Jesus was born of the Virgin ( young woman ), He fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel' ( Isaiah 7:14 ) A natural objection might be, 'but Jesus was NEVER called Immanuel ( Hebrew? ), or Emmanuel ( Greek? )!' In Matthew's record of the Gospel, though, the Birth of Jesus IS recorded as fulfilling this hopeful prophecy & it is universally accepted that this Jesus was, as the hymn-writer put it, 'Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing'!

The Indwelling of the Spirit HAS made a world of difference! No more do we strive with 'the flesh', though at times it sure seems like it; no more must we wait for a time when our Messiah will come (unless we, like the Jews of Jesus' Day look for a political Savior )! Whether one trusts the biblical record or not, Jesus came as 'God in the flesh-God with us' & so brought to an end the reign of terror that the children of God had labored under since Adam fell!

With this Season of Rest comes hardship as well; for those who do not carefully prepare during the previous times ( seasons ), Winter can be the worst season, especially for those who can only work 6-8 months ( if that ) out of the year. You've no doubt heard the saying, 'make hay while the sun is shining'; those who make their living doing mostly seasonal work ( Spring through Fall ) know the meaning of this well-used phrase best! In order to make it through the Winter months, these must often scrimp & save to put aside during the months when certain kinds of work can be done.

The Celebration of Christmas, or the Mass of Christ, is a long-standing tradition, one that will probably never die! Though most who celebrate it realize that it is most likely the wrong season, not many realize, or acknowledge it's pagan roots. Like a good friend of mine recently said, though,'we have co-opted it'; in other words, we have made it our own! We do dot celebrate the birth of the Sun ( god ), we celebrate the Birth of the Son. We do not honor the false deity of the Roman god Saturn, we honor the Living God, who in the form of His Son, Jesus who was the Christ, came to dwell with us forever!

As 'God with us', Jesus brought to fruition the Promise of the Ages! He did not come simply to set His People free & then return to some far off 'Heaven' where He bides His time waiting to return & finish His Work; He came to indwell them so that they could continue His Work! The Dominion Mandate given to Adam so long ago is at the heart of this Season; through the Spirit Within, we have the Strength, not only to continue His Work, but to Rest, like He did, in an Eternal Seventh Day!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Lust of the Flesh, the Hope of the Resurrection & the True Nature of the Human Being

So, the question might rightly be asked, 'why do most people, maybe Christians especially, focus so much on this physicality, this biology?'

Well, not surprisingly, the Bible seems to tell us so! For whatever reason, most, Christians in particular, though this is not limited to Christianity, seem to cling, almost voraciously, to the fact that we were created in God's image. There has been some disagreement, among Christians, even, on what exactly this means, for instance, 'if man ( kind ) was created in God's image, does that mean that the Creator God is a human being?' One might well ask, on the other hand, 'does that mean we are spirit beings, as He/She/It is?' This may come as a shock to some; it may even seem heretical & blasphemous, but if man ( kind) was indeed, as a whole, created in the Image of the Creator God, then we must indeed be like Him/Her/It!

The Time of year when we ( Christians ) traditionally celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord is near! The Easter Season has already begun, starting with the Season of Lent, wherein many Christians traditionally give up something, meat, for example, in preparation for the Easter Season & the Hope of the Resurrection ( ours, not Jesus' ). The fact that the Resurrection of Jesus recorded in Scripture was primarily indicative of the Resurrection of Israel seems to have been 'lost in the translation' for many Christians; although we speak, somewhat wistfully of what most call 'the effects of the Fall' not affecting this biology anymore, in other words, having a 'perfect resurrection body'; the great hope of orthodox Christianity is that, like our Lord Jesus, we will one day be a able to walk through walls, so to speak ( Luke 24:36 ). This, of course, is loosely based on Scripture, but what most Christians seem to forget is that the post-resurrection body of Jesus was nothing but a sign for the first century Jews that He had triumphed over ( overcome ) Death!

What has been traditionally called 'the lust of the flesh' by modern Christianity is most often viewed as the result of 'the Fall' & although this paradigm is biblically defensible, the question might well be asked, 'is our definition of 'the lust of the flesh', in essence, our tendency to satisfy our fleshly desires, what the Bible is really talking about, or were the writers of Scripture referring to something else? Rather than referring to something which is innate in the human being, were they speaking of something pertaining to national physical Israel? The Story of Israel, as we have seen, is a kind of metaphor for the history of humanity & so 'the Fall' of Israel ( Adam & Eve ) is itself indicative, not so much of the fallen nature of humanity, but of their child-like propensity to do what they're told not to. The Fall of our first parents, as it is traditionally read in Genesis 3 is a metaphor, then, for those, even in this day & age, who separate themselves from the Creator God, through whatever means, because they consciously do what is wrong, or because they are told that what they're doing is wrong, even though it isn't!

In this day & age, especially among Christians, we are taught about the evils of lusting, or, to be more precise, longing for something that is forbidden. Longing for our neighbor's wife or indeed any of his possessions would definitely fall into the category 'the lusts of the flesh'! According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, the primary definition for 'lust' is 'pleasure, delight, personal inclination or wish'. Secondarily, it is defined as 'usually intense or unbridled sexual desire'; neither of these definitions necessarily bespeak a wrong, or evil desire!  Given the wrong object of that desire, lust does indeed become an evil emotion, especially when acted upon, but under the right circumstances, lust need not be viewed as wrong!

A husband & wife, according to the given definition, then, are most certainly doing no wrong, when in the throes of sexual ecstasy, they let loose their lusty flesh upon each other! Within certain parameters ( this is right, that is wrong ), lust is a good & healthy thing! Under the right circumstances, one might well lust for anything from a good steak for dinner, to the one preparing the steak. Lusting for flesh, as the children of Israel did in the wilderness ( Numbers 11 ( Psalm 106:14 ), was a punishable offense because they complained against Yahweh's provision. Lusting, in Scripture, is decried because of the reason for their lusting & for the object of their lust, not for the emotion of lusting!

The hope of & desire for a biological resurrection is one that has remained extant in the orthodox church for ages! Though the Scriptures, or more specifically the Bible, has been translated & understood, whether with or without bias, to teach a bodily ( biological ) resurrection, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus is most often seen as proof that, as He was physically raised, so will we. This has been a matter of contention, even division ( heresy ), throughout the Church for ages. Even in Jesus' own day, the Pharisees were reprimanded ( Matthew 22:29 ) when they questioned Him about the Resurrection, thinking that it pertained to biology. Though Jesus' biological body was raised to life ( re-animated ), when digested within the context of the Story of Israel, it is clear that the Resurrection Story did not pertain to biology, but to spirituality, 'to the spirits of just men made perfect' ( Hebrews 12:23b )!

Humanity, as we have begun to realize, is comprised of 'spirits having a bodily experience'! This is not to say, as we are often accused of, with the Gnostics, that 'the body is a prison-house for the soul'; we are not imprisoned within this biology: we ARE, however, given these biological wonders to house our spirits, in order that we might serve as the Hands & Feet of the Creator God! Our true, spiritual nature is one that many have realized over the ages, but for whatever reason, seems to have been pushed to the back burner, so to speak, or relegated to the after-life, though many believe that, even in this so-called 'after-life', we will inhabit this biology!

Since we are indeed, of the same Essence as the Creator God, we are, in ourselves, creators! It has been shown, on a much smaller scale, of course, that mankind has shown this creativity in manifold ways. There is nothing in nature that mankind has not recreated, usually to a much lesser degree & the miracle of birth may be seen as the culmination of one of the greatest act of creation that humanity can achieve. Though we, through the aid of Science & Technology have yet to achieve many great things in the manner of creation, those achievements will never come close to that of the Creator God, the One who is the Origin of the Universe!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Nibiru, the Annunaki & the Broken Planet

'Is this Earth our home?'

Well, not if you ask most Christians, but if you ask pretty much anybody else, the answer is pretty obvious: we are born here & we die here, right? Taking into account, of course, the fact that we are spirit beings having a biological experience, it's not really that simple! Humanly speaking, since we ARE born here & we DO die here, this is without doubt our home. Exploration has been made & is still being advanced in search of other habitable planets, in the likely case that the Earth will again become uninhabitable as it once was, according to the Bible, 'without form and void'!

The ancient Sumerians, the forerunners of the Babylonians, so to speak, left behind a wealth of information for us to decipher (  if one believes that sort of thing ), telling us, among other things, that the human race was 'created', not by the Almighty, as the Scriptures tell us, but by an alien race of gods called the Annunaki. The Annunaki, according to these tales, were scientists who fashioned ( 'formed'? ) human beings in their own image to serve their own purposes on Earth; sound familiar? The planet that they called 'Home' is '
Nibiru', lately called 'Planet X'. Planet X is not native to our own solar system, but, as the story goes, invades it every 3600 years in a clock-wise ( apparently, everything else rotates in a counter-clockwise pattern ), elliptical orbit.

NASA, among other researchers, has noted seeming 'evidence' of claims that at one point, many millions of years ago, this 'Planet X', on one of its intrusions, struck one of the planets in our solar system, a planet called 'Tiamat'. Now, 'Tiamat' no longer exists, as such, anyway; now, she is known as 'Earth'! According to this tale, when 'Nibiru' struck, 'Tiamat' was cloven, forming what we now know as the asteroid belt ( between Mars & Jupiter ) and the planet that human beings now call 'home'. Looking at Earth from space ( ? ), one can see that most of her land mass is gathered on one side of the planet, in & around the Atlantic basin. Much of the landmass in the Pacific region is evidence of volcanic activity. Not only was this planet cloven in two, so to speak, but the impact moved it into a different course, somewhat closer to our Sun, a relatively small star as stars go!

If one believes this sort of thing, there was a time long ago that the landmass which is contained in the Atlantic basin was gathered together into one large 'super-continent' named 'Pangaea'. At some point, over a hundred million years ago, as the story goes, this 'super-continent' began to drift apart, forming the continents as we now know them.Again, looking at the relative shapes of the continents, both in the Atlantic basin as well as those few in the Pacific region, one can see that the various shapes do fit together, almost like a simple jig-saw puzzle. Though much of this information makes some sense, it goes against the grain of most Christians, as it seems to be in contradiction to the biblical Story of Creation!

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness [ was[a] ] on the face of the deep. 
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
 Genesis 1:1 & 2 

Okay' there's 'proof' that everything you just read above is based on a bunch of hogwash! Right? Well, not necessarily, for a couple reasons. The most obvious, maybe, to those who know me & have read my 'blather', it should be clear that I, along with a relative host of others, believe that these words, including the rest of the Genesis Creation Account, speak, not of the Creation of the material universe, but of a more complex Covenant Creation. We do not deny that this same Creator God did call the Universe into existence, but as the Scriptures are the Story of Israel, it begins & ends, not with the physical creation, but with the institution & final revelation of the Israel of God!

Secondly & maybe not quite so clearly, the Creator uses means to accomplish His Purpose! This is not to say that He could not or did not speak the worlds into existence or create the material universe & everything it contains ( including human beings ) with the appearance of age ( as many Christians will tell you ), but who is to say that He/She/It did not use these lesser gods ( angels? ) to accomplish His Purposes? A famous writer of almost a century ago, J.R.R. Tolkien, in his 'Silmarilllian', advances much the same notion! If the Creator God did indeed use these Annunaki to engineer the human race, it would explain a lot, would it not? 

There is some question, in recent times, though it IS based on an ancient notion, whether Earth actually IS a globe! A flat Earth might destroy much of what I've written about here, rendering much of it moot, but if indeed, as the story goes, a planet from outside our solar system, with a contrary rotation, divided Tiamat & birthed the asteroid belt, Earth & her Moon, then much of what Science has revealed to us about, not only our origins ( human beings ) but the origins of Biology itself would make a lot of sense; as well, we might better understand the apparent retreat of Life from other planets, Mars, for instance!

One might should take these 'ancient' accounts with the proverbial grain of salt! As ancient writings go, there is a likelihood, even a probability that they were, to whatever extent, embellished & relayed in such a way as to conform to a certain type of literature; as we all know, even myths have a basis, however strong, in truth! 

Truth be told, however, does it really matter whether human beings were spoken into existence, along with the rest of Creation, with age or not, or whether the supremely wise Creator God divided His forces, so to speak, much as Moses did in the Wilderness, at the behest of his father-in-law & delegated responsibility to other beings? If Scripture does not tell the Story of Creation, but simply that of Israel, then what is so unbelievable or reprehensible about the notion that humans may have been formed in test-tubes by scientists that were set to the task by an Almighty but Wise Creator? The term 'alien' is used many times in the Hebrew Scriptures & simply refers to foreigners, whether those from other nations or to the Israelites themselves, so who is to say that the Annunaki were from another planet? Maybe they were from another realm, or dimension entirely!

While most Christians would immediately discredit such a notion, even vehemently deny such an explanation, in the grand scheme of things, one might note, it doesn't really amount to a hill of beans! 'What the hell......?', some might exclaim! How dare I suggest that what one purports to believe about the Origin of Life doesn't really matter all that much! But, don't get me wrong; I'm not saying it doesn't matter where we came from, or who we are, but when it comes down to brass tacks, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, what really matters is how we live in this human experience: we may claim, even if it borders on nonsense, to believe everything that orthodoxy tells us, blindly accepting it as truth, but if we do not love our ( human ) neighbor as ourselves & treat them as we want to be treated, then our profession is suspect, to say the least!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Resonance of the Story

'The Holy Bible, or Scripture, is the Story of Israel!'

These words, in one form or another, have been swirling around lately, not leastly in my own head! So, one might ask, 'why then are we reading it as applicable to our time & place?' 'Good question', another might reply. One response could be & should be, is that, in what we call the Greek Scriptures, or the New Testament, the teachings of Jesus, Paul & the apostles are more or less universal, that is, they transcend time & place, being applicable to our Heavenly Father's children at all times & in all places. One must be careful here, of course, to discern between something like, 'this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place' & 'just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise' ( Matthew 24:34 & Luke 6:31 ) Even 'God so loved the world.....' must fall under this heading!`

The Hebrew Scriptures, or what we usually call 'The Old Testament', although based largely upon what some call 'the Mosaic Law' ( including the Ten Commandments ), are given for our learning & instruction as well! Much of what we read in the Law & Prophets was fulfilled in the Christ, or Messiah of Israel & so no longer bears the sword for us, but even though these prophecies came to their fulfillment in 'Immanuel', or 'God with us', in the truest sense of the word, it is being fulfilled through us, who might be termed 'little Christs', or Christians!

The earliest Scriptures should resonate with us as well, because we can therein read the history of humankind! This blogger believes, as do certain others, that, beginning with Adam ( who was NOT the first human to walk to & fro upon the earth ) the Story of Israel flows, meanders, really, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures & into the Greek Scriptures, where it finally reaches its End, or the ultimate Goal, that which had been prophesied. We, humans in all times & places, can herein relate to Israel's Story, because, in reality, it is our Story as well! The ups & downs that Israel experienced throughout her sordid history speak to us as well; this is one reason that most Christians today are still enamored with saying, along with the prophet Jeremiah, 'The heart [ is ] deceitful above all [  things ] and desperately wicked; w ho can know it?' ( Jeremiah 17:9 ) We can all relate, at one time or another & some more than others maybe, to the apostle Paul's words to the Church at Rome; 'For the good that I will [ to do ], I do not do; but the evil I will not [ to do ], that I practice' ( Romans 7:19 ).

However one reads the words of Scripture, we must understand first of all, that they were written, as Paul wrote to Timothy, 'for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness' ( II Timothy 3:16 ): they were, in that sense, written 'for' us, though not 'to' us! Another thing we must take into account is the wickedness, or wilfulness of humankind, in that, down through the ages, who is to say that what most Christians call 'The Word of God' has not become somewhat garbled, with certain meanings having been 'lost in translation'?! This is not to say that the words we read therein are ALL suspect, for certain of its teaching flow smoother than others & of course, we also have the Spirit Within that discerns which are veritable & which are not. Here again, because we can relate so well with the history of Israel, humanly speaking, much of what we read in its pages strikes a chord with each of us & otherwise bares a nerve which has been covered over!

Jesus WAS the Messiah of Israel & even though that famous passage quoted, John 3:16, did indeed refer primarily to the Roman 'world' of Paul's day, I believe that we can read it today as inclusive of the Creator's entire Creation! As Christians, or 'little Christs', we are faced with the very same prospect that Jesus, as the Christ, or Messiah of Israel faced, that of redeeming the Creation! Just as the prophets of old held Jesus up before the eyes of Israel under that first covenant, or Israel according to the flesh, so many Christians today feel that old familiar 'twinge' when they are called to stand up for what they believe in the midst of an almost 'hellish' world.

At this present time, we live in a New Era, in a New Covenant, so to speak, one in which the Fulfillment of 'God with us' 'is met in us' ( which we celebrate in the upcoming Christmas Season )! No longer does Israel look for & long for its Messiah; He came in the flesh on that Blessed Day so very long ago & far away, but in some sense, you might say, the world still looks for & longs for its Messiah! Sadly, many Christians think they are still waiting for their Messiah, not realizing that the Messiah of Israel, through the ages, HAS redeemed them to be the Messiah to the World!

The Story of Israel then, is OUR Story! We have overcome, through the Power of the Spirit Within, 'God with us' the sins that plagued Israel! Though, in our humanity, it often seems we must still utter the words of Paul & Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 17:9 & Romans 7:19 ), realizing our Spiritual Nature, which was the End the Creator had in mind for us, helps us ( daily ) to overcome our 'worldly desires' & the inherent 'evils' which seem to beset us all around Understanding the Story of Israel resonates with us because we can all relate to their struggles, we can feel their pain!

In the letter to the Hebrews, we read 'we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all [ points ] tempted as [ we are, yet ] without sin' ( Hebrews 4:15): if THAT does not resonate with us, it should!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Blessed Union of Souls

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I Thessalonians 5:23

'I just want to be held!' Well, no; that's not quite true, is it? As members of the Body of Christ, or Christians ( little Christs ), we have no 'wants' ( Psalm 23:1 ). As pneumataphoric human beings, though, even though we know that we ARE held ( John 10:28 & 29 ), we still have that inexorable & often inexpressible need for human companionship, that human touch! To be human is to feel: emotions are built into this biological structure; our brains, which might be called our Link with Divinity, are pre-programmed, you might say, to respond to certain sensations with appropriate reactions. For whatever reason & to whatever extent, we have re-programmed ourselves to stifle these emotions, particularly when it comes to those of a sensual or even sexual nature. Scripture DOES remind us that there IS a time & place for everything ( good ) under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 3 ), so, without doubt, there ARE times & places where we should let these emotions flow, but there is also a time & place when we should check them, or rein them in!

When the apostle Paul penned, or dictated rather, his first letter to the Church at Thessolonika, his concern was not the Church in the 21st century, although that was most definitely in the Mind of the One who Inspired him; no, Paul's benediction was aimed at the Church in the 1st century, the one Who was enduring persecution at the hands of the Judaizers. We, however, may understand Paul as viewing, as all or most good Hebrews did, our biological composition as three distinct parts, 'spirit, soul, and body'. This, by the way, is one of the 'strong' points of Trinitarian doctrine. Covenant Creation, or the notion that the creation account in Genesis 1 & 2 was not that of the material universe, but simply a record of the Creator's introduction of Covenant to the Creation, clearly shows us that we are comprised of at least two parts, our biological bodies & the 'breathe of life' ( Genesis 2:7 ), or that Divine Essence which gave us Life!

According to Scripture, marriage was ordained by the Creator as that mysterious union by which a man & woman become 'one flesh' ( Genesis 2:18-25 ); indeed, echoing this account, Solomon, king of Israel wrote, 'Two [ are ] better than one' ( Ecclesiastes 4:9-11 ). Whatever 'one flesh' might be construed as meaning, it is obviously metaphorical; those joined in union are STILL two separate & distinct human beings! A marriage is not only the joining of two human beings toward one purpose, one goal; it is, more importantly the blessed union of two souls, the merging of two distinct spiritual beings into one!

It might well be said that Moses was imbued with the same Spirit as Jesus; indeed, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, we read examples of those prophets of old that were inspired by the Divine & thus accomplished things that no mere mortal could have! In other words even, it could as truly be said that these prophets of old possessed the 'spirit' of their predecessors ( II Kings 2:15 ( Luke 1:17 ), having the same strength of will & purpose. In much the same way, metaphorically speaking, it is said that husband & wife become 'one flesh'; they come together in their separate biologies in order to accomplish one purpose, to meet one ultimate goal.

The Spirit of Life, that which empowers us all to live in Blessed Communion with the Divine ( though sadly, not all do ), was given that day in the Scriptural Garden of Eden, not as a token of biological life ( that already existed ), but of spiritual life, awareness, if you will, of the Creator & the blessedness of right relationship with Him. The apostle Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia that the marriage of a man & woman was simply a picture of the Blessed Union of Christ ( the Creator God ) & His Church; as such, any biological union should mirror what has come to be called 'The Marriage of Heaven & Earth'. The sensual aspects of biological marriage should most definitely be preserved as they were ordained, but of utmost importance is the spiritual nature of marriage!

Human emotion is an important, integral & inseparable part of our makeup! Even though we are spiritual beings having a human, or biological experience, it is not just from our biology that these feelings come. Our brains, our Link to the Divine, if you will, are so integrated with our biology that we can motivate our several members to do things that are out of the ordinary, even 'supernatural'. We are told from early on that we should not let our emotions reign over us & while this is very true, the reaction by many Christians is to stifle them altogether, an overreaction, one might say. The wisdom of reining in one's emotions is without doubt; in order to enjoy the full blessings of marriage, we must exercise good judgment in the flow of our emotions & their immediate results, the actions which they stir up!

The need for the sensual is more evident in some than it is in others! For whatever reason, some have re-programmed themselves to such a point that they are able to exist without its comforts, others are able ( publicly, anyway ) to so completely stifle these emotions in order ( as they claim ) to better serve their God. Bad experience or 'spiritual' flagellation has caused or enabled many people to almost bypass their emotions, especially when it comes to the sensual, but from the Beginning, it was not so; when the Creator breathed into His Creation the Breath of Life, he endowed us with emotions & called His Creation 'good'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, November 14, 2016

'An Acceptable Time', Politically Speaking

'It's Time For a Change!'

Now where have we heard THAT before?!

But seriously, for the past 8 years, we have been experiencing a lot of 'change'! The 'winds of change' have been blowing for some time now & the defeat that the mainstream media just experienced is just one indication that much-needed change is on the horizon. The mainstream media has tried from the get-go & is still trying to cast Donald Trump, the new president-elect of the USA, Inc., in a bad light. Cries of 'racist', 'bigot' & 'womanizer' ( 'where have we heard THAT before?' ) are rife across the news media today! To some extent, these cries may be fairly well-founded, but like it or not, ready or not, here comes 'the Donald' & if he is able to keep his promises, some of that much-needed change!

'Let's make America great again': anyone with an ounce of sense should jump right on that! It was Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman, who after observing the inner & outer workings of this fledgling nation for a time, said, 'America is great because she is good; if she ceases to be good, then she will cease being great'. A truer statement was never made, yet it seems like, in today's political landscape, to be 'great' means to be stronger than everyone else, not necessarily to be 'good', or 'right'! To be 'good', or 'great', again, one might argue, America, or more correctly, the USA, Inc., needs to stop embroiling the young men & women of this nation in needless, even useless foreign wars, protect our own borders & stop trying to build an empire, focusing rather on the sanctity of life, taking personal responsibility for its own actions!

Change will not be easy: yes, it IS much-needed, but the biggest change needed in this nation, one which it would seem we are seeing the fruits of, is a change in the hearts & minds of her people! The very fact that enough people saw past the obvious bias of the mainstream media & cast their vote for 'a racist bigot' anyway, tells this blogger that people are waking up to the fact that the wool has been pulled over their eyes for quite some time. While some are using the recent events as an excuse to loot & riot, destroying private property & persecuting those who dared to vote in opposition to the status quo, the mainstream media are still reeling from the defeat they experienced at the hands of 'we the people'!

This year's election will probably be remembered as the most momentous in recent history ( give or take, at least a hundred years )! It remains to be seen if the changes 'the Donald' has promised will ever see the light of day, but if half of them do, the next four years should be a very interesting time indeed! In order for this to happen, the American people, those who decided to ignore the media hype & vote against the status quo, must continue along the path which they have begun to tread. ''We will not go willingly into the night' must be their cry; 'enough is enough'! The day may come when Donald Trump will be on the receiving end of the fight against tyranny, maybe sooner rather than later, but for now, the American people, the majority anyway, have made clear their choice!

America may become great again, hopefully in the 'de Tocquevillian sense', but it will not without a great change in the tides! Arguably, America is still a 'great' nation, though mostly, if not wholly, in the sense that she is, simply put, 'a democratic bully'. Wars, for the past century or more, have been fought on foreign soil to 'make the world safe for democracy'! Seems a bit presumptuous, does it not? As a relatively fledgling nation, America, or the corporate entity known as the USA, Inc., has been forcing other nations & peoples to acknowledge that 'our way is best', treading on the fact that these cultures, for better or worse, have existed, without our help ( ? ) for hundreds, even thousands of years! This is not to say that our interference does not have its 'good' aspects, or intentions, but much of what this entity has accomplished over there is anything but 'good'!

The question must be as, as well, 'can a nation that has legalized child-murder ( AKA, abortion ) truly be called 'good', or 'great'? The answer to this question, not to mention questions concerning other similar atrocities, should be a resounding 'No!, even 'Hell no!'

After 50-60 million legalized deaths of the innocent over the 40-odd years since that famous decision handed down by the Supreme Court, still nothing has been done by the U.S. Government to stem the tide! There is much blood on the hands of, not only many of the people of this nations, but of the Corporation that most of them belong to!

In the next four to eight years, there lies before 'us' maybe the greatest opportunity we have witnessed for some time to implement a great change in the tides of this nation! If, as above, Donald Trump stays true to his stated convictions, or better yet, along with many others in this nation of fools, experiences a change of heart, for the good, then we will see America become great again.

Donald Trump, though maybe not the perfect choice to lead this nation out of the morass, cesspool really, that 'she' has become engulfed in & enamored of, has set out on a path that may end up pulling this once-great country, or nation, 'up by her own bootstraps', so to speak. As a leader of men & called 'the most powerful man in the word, the President of this Corporation has the ability, the responsibility, even, to lead this nation back to the right path, a Path in which child-murder will no longer be allowed & a host of other atrocities will no longer be countenamced!

May we, as a nation, turn our hearts, minds & actions back to loving our neighbor as ourselves & treating others as we would have them treat us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Exaltation of Women

And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on [ My ] menservants and on [ My ] maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
Joel 2:28 & 29 

Ask any good Bible-believing Fundamentalist Christian & they will most likely, maybe even fiercely tell you that 'women do not belong in the pulpit; much less in the guise of pastor or preacher!'  Even many Christians who aren't so 'conservative' are quick to rely on the apostle Paul's words in I Timothy 2:12, 'And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence' My purpose here is not to render a discourse on what the apostle meant by these seemingly plain, but mus-understood instructions, but simply to remind my readers that his words were directed at a certain individual, during a certain period of time & in a certain place. In other letters, Paul also said things like, 'The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband [ does ]'& 'likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife [ does]'.

In certain cultures around the world, particularly those of Eastern descent, but even, to some extent, those living in the West, women are still relegated to a slightly less elevated stature than men of the male persuasion! The Hebrew Scriptures are somewhat to blame for this, but mostly, I believe, because of a misinterpretation of them. I have written previously on the 'evils' of 'A Focus on the Physical': this problem, I believe, falls under that umbrella as well, because of the focus on women as child-bearers. Really, men shoulder as much responsibility because they not only share in the act of procreation, they share much of the pain in child-bearing & birth; after the birth, the REAL struggle then begins, although fraught with blessing; that of rearing the child. In Matthew's record of the Gospel, he names five notable, though questionable, women in the lineage of Jesus; Sarah, for instance, though traditionally one of the first mothers of Israel, indeed one might say, the Queen Mother of Israel, bears not even a mention!

In one of his famous 'Jew & Gentile' statements, the apostle Paul also wrote, '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 ) I do not believe that Paul meant that there was no longer any distinction between men & women; he simply meant that it did not matter if you were not an Israelite by birth. or a man or a woman by birth. One was accepted by faith & according to Promise. 'Why, according to that famous promise in Genesis 3:15, was it 'the Seed of the woman' that would crush the serpent's head; was not Jesus called 'the Son of Man' as well?' This point, about the siring of Jesus, has been one of contention among modern scholars for probably hundreds of years, so whether Jesus meant by saying 'Son of Man' in a metaphorical sense, or whether His fathering had a more natural explanation, women have really always, at least in word, enjoyed a rather exalted position!

In the greatest sense, one might say, women have been set free by the New Covenant; hell, we have ALL been set free, right? This is not to say that, at one time, men WERE better than women, although they DID enjoy a higher status; women have ALWAYS been on equal footing before the Living God, but since the Exultation of Mary, women have enjoyed a higher status than they had previously known. Even in this nation, as well as most Western nations, women DO enjoy a more elevated position than in many Eastern ones. The distinctions, biologically speaking, between men & women are obvious; both are very well-fitted, in most cases, for the duties they were assigned, but when it comes to their exalted position in the King of the Living God, they are equals!

In Mary's exultation & subsequent exaltation, she became one of the most famous women ever! Though not a great figure, like Sampson or David, Mary is known world-wide as being the mother of Jesus, who in reality, was the Creator Himself ( ? ). Western culture, though it holds women in higher esteem, maybe, than some Eastern cultures, yet, for whatever reason, tends to place men more than women in positions of authority. While it is true that most men, or at least some men more naturally assume & fulfill this role, there are many women who are no less capable, even compatible for such positions. In ancient times, even in Near Eastern culture, the Roman/Greek world, to be exact, most women enjoyed a status slightly lower than, possibly equal to that of a slave; in the modern Near East, some might argue, it's not much better, but in the West, where the Gospel has had a more evident impact, women enjoy a status almost equal to that of men, though they still must traditionally turn to men as their 'head'!

In his letter to the Church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul wrote mot famously, 'Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord' ( Ephesians 5:22 ), but previously, he told them to submit to one another ( 21 )! In the same vein, the apostle Peter told his readers to submit to each other ( I Peter 5:5 ). Women ARE to submit to their husbands, but husbands are to submit to their wives as well! Yes, Scripture says that, as the Christ ( Jesus ) is the Head of the Church, so men are the head of their wife, of their family. Traditionally, men have enjoyed 'the final say', husbandly prerogative', the 'head' of the table & so on & so forth: yes, it's Scriptural, but is it right? With our continually evolving understanding of the Story of Israel, especially in the Light of the New Covenant, can/should we continue to hold with such reverence these views of women that we have practiced for ages?

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, October 31, 2016

A Jolly Old Soul

Nathaniel Cole was a king!

No, maybe he didn't have the rule of any certain country, or even a people, but he sure felt like a king, at least most of the time! You see, Nat's father had blessed him with a great inheritance & though this great inheritance did not necessarily entail what might be called tangibles, he had found Eternity in his soul, or spirit. While this Gift is, by itself of immeasureable worth, it also made itself manifest in his daily life, where the rubber meets the road, so to speak, as actions worthy of a king in the service of another, Greater King!

There was a time when men & women had been used to treating one another as mere petty thieves & murderers: it was common at this time for one to use another to vault him or herself into a relatively loftier position. Into this scene entered One through whose very Presence caused these petty thieves & murderers to make a complete turnaround, to repent of their former ways & to begin to see each other, not as launchpads or rugs, but as fellow souls, spiritual beings who, although maybe not on the same stage of the Journey, were nevertheless striving to walk the same Path, that towards a Oneness with the Creation, with Life itself!

The world to which this Savior was revealed was an ancient one; in fact, this world was so foreign to that in which Nat grew up, that many or most of his peers did not really understand the depth of what this One had truly accomplished! Though the Story of what He had done for this ancient world had been told & retold many times & in many different ways over the years since His Appearance, the import of what this One had rendered for that ancient, foreign world had not been fully realized, even in our hero's day. Although the Salvation this One had wrought was full & final in this world as well as that ancient one, there were many in this current world that did not yet understand the full significance & glorious implications of that Salvation for this world!

Such was the world in which Nathaniel lived! In the not-so-distant past, his world had suffered much sorrow at the hands of petty thieves & murderers, those who had failed to see, or had not yet come to the realization that all life was sacred, that men & women were not here to be used & abused for their own selfish purposes, but were rather to be symbiotically loved through the Spirit that inhabited them. The world to which the Savior first appeared, as told in this peculiar Story was not really all that dissimilar to this one; both worlds had those ( this one still does ) those who like to use & abuse their fellow men & women to advance their own careers, but both generated those enlightened ones who had that still, small voice inside them, the beginnings of Awareness that whispered to their spirit that Peace that is Beyond!

Men & women still use & abuse each other for personal aggrandizement, this is evident, but as more & more people, like Nathaniel, awake to their True Nature, to their True Potential, the Journeys of so many that had been once thought so different will be revealed as different steps in the same Path! Although there will always be those who will mistreat their fellows, because they have been so hardened to any good spiritual influence, many even that were previously thought to be too hard will, through the ministrations of men & women like Nathaniel & his wife, be softened to the point where they cannot but realize the glorious fact of their relationship with all living things!

Nat WAS a King! Though he would probably never experience many of what are called 'the finer things' of life, he had everything that mattered. His wife loved him & treated him like a king; he fathered a quiver-full of children who, like himself, were fully aware of their exalted position. The world in which they lived was fraught with danger, largely due to the fact that so many had not yet awakened & some others who would likely never awake, but it also offered a glorious world of opportunity, a wonderful world in which the Spirit of Life was revered, as it should be!

Nathaniel Cole, as many of us have been, had been blessed mightily by his gracious father! He was not recognized as a king by most of his peers, because for one thing, he surely didn't act like any in their experience. You see, like his Father, Nathaniel was not a King over many Subjects, but rather a King among Kings, a King of Kings, if you will. He did not Lord it over his fellows as many kings do & have done. He not only realized the sanctity of life & help it in His Healing Hands, He was that very Spirit of Life!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

'This Land is Our Land'

Okay, so I've made political posts on this blog before, but they've all been fairly general in nature, without targeting any specific individual! This post is a bit different, directly aimed at one of the current presidential candidates, who is not technically a politician & thus is somewhat free from the corruption normally attributed to most politicians. 'The Donald', as he is 'affectionately' called, is, according to what may be called 'The American Dream', a good businessman: although I prefer the term 'shrewd', he would doubtless make a 'better' CEO of the USA, Inc.!

Donald Trump's campaign slogan, whether officially or unofficially, is his promise to 'make America great again'! First of all, 'what does he mean by that phrase?' If he means to make her 'great' again in the sense that she has always been, ( till lately ) 'great', by world conquests, meaning 'endless war' propagated by the American Empire, then 'NO THANKS!' If however, he means to 'make America great again' in the de Tocquevillian sense, then 'kudos' to him, 'BRAVO!' Unfortunately, we can be almost certain that he leans more toward the first definition ( of 'great' ).

Most Americans who will be voting for Donald Trump, including many Christians, although the latter especially are somewhat peeved by his use of the English language & certain of his 'eccentric' mannerisms, are nonetheless enamored by his promise, as outlined above. These all want to 'make America great again', but how many of them, do you suppose, have stopped to wonder if America SHOULD be made great again! Do we really want to endure the endless wars, along with death & destruction around the world, that it would cost to make America great again, in the sense of the American Empire?

Our coinage in this nation, though under fire for the last decade or so, is 'One Nation Under God': take that for what it's worth, but it at least signifies that she was formed under Christian principles, at least in word, if not in deed! The 'god' that America serves at present may be another matter, for as we all can attest to, 'god' can signify anything from money to innumerable other idols. You may have heard that the 'pledge of allegiance' is part of a socialist plot & one might wonder if the phrase in question doesn't fall under the same shadow! He who was instrumental in developing 'the pledge' although without the addition 'under God', was a Baptist minister & 'no surprise', a Socialist as well. This leads us back to the question, 'what does Trump mean by his promise to 'make America great again'?'

Alexis de Tocqueville once observed, 'America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.' To whatever extent, this nation WAS founded on Christian principles & although many of those principles, again, 'to whatever extent', are still at work in today's America. To a great extent, though, even certain of these principles have become 'skewed', while others seem to be in direct opposition. The events surrounding the founding of this nation might begin to shed light on the nature of the founding fathers. Without doubt, these men did what they did with the best of intentions, but one might wonder if a better solution than armed revolution might have been pursued. The wars that this country has been embroiled in since that terrible chain of events only bears witness to the fact that the American Empire is not a recent invention!

Without doubt, according to de Tocquevillle's observation, America WAS once a great nation! However, as the name 'America' is no longer synonymous with 'good' ( especially if you ask most Middle Easterners ), can America any longer be termed 'great', except in the sense of prowess, or physical strength. America has shown it's true colors all over the world, bullying lesser nations into accepting it's terms of 'democracy'! In some sense, one could be lead to wonder if what we now bear witness to in America & around the world is actually all that much departed from her founding 'principles'!

Is it merely nationalistic fervor that prompted 'the Donald' to utter those now famous words, or were they based upon a genuine wish to return to the 'Christian' principles this nation was founded upon? My readers must judge for themselves which is more likely, but I believe it's pretty clear where his allegiance lies! As you may have noticed, I have not even mentioned the other party's candidate ( she's really not even worth mentioning ) because, of the two choices, he IS the better; but again, my readers must decide for themselves if they can conscientiously vote for either one!

By focusing on just one candidate, I am by no means showing allegiance to either party, the donkeys OR the elephants! Salvation for this country, this 'One Nation Under God', will come in no form other than a complete turn-around of the practices of those in power, as well as those who follow them. Donald Trump wants to 'make America great again'; whatever he means by that rather ambiguous statement, we can be pretty certain that he did not refer to de Tocqueville's comment. I believe that it is possible that he could be startled by the Holy Spirit & set on the 'right' path, but that's just a little more likely than winning the lottery without buying a ticket!

Maybe I'm just losing my faith, though................

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Eschatology of Marriage

 Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
Luke 20:34-36

Traditionally speaking, the institution of marriage by the Creator of Heaven & Earth has never been questioned, at least in Christian circles! Even among the avowedly non-Christians & Pagans, though its importance is often viewed as lesser, most recognize the usefulness of following the pattern established in Scripture of one man & one woman coming together for the purpose of procreation. In this day & age, we see examples, though, ranging anywhere from two people of the opposite sex marrying merely for mutual comfort & pleasure, to two people of the same sex coming together with seemingly no regard for the origins of the institution. This is not to say that the institution of marriage should only be for the purpose of biological procreation, just that the institution is almost universally accepted as one for mutual benefit!

There has always been question in the minds of theologians & students of Scripture as to what Jesus meant when He said ' those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage'. Some who believe in a fulfilled eschatology have gone so far as to say that marriage is no longer relevant in this New Age, while others, those who believe that eschatology has yet to be fulfilled, teach that in the coming New Age, people will 'neither marry nor ( be ) given in marriage'. Both of these groups are in error, clinging to a merely physical biological representation, or interpretation of Jesus' words. Clearly, as we are presently in 'the age to come', of which He spoke, this concept has persevered into the New Age!

What then, did Jesus mean when He said that 'The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage', but that in the New Age, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; did He mean to say that the institution itself would be done away with? God forbid! There are several ways this controversial saying could be interpreted: one is that those of who Jesus was speaking, 'the sons of this age' would not make into that New Age, or 'the age to come' & thus would never marry or be given in marriage, as their predecessors were. Yet another consideration is that the concept is eschatological & thus that its import is as well!

Now, before you lump me in with those who say that, since eschatology is fulfilled, the institution of marriage has outlived its usefulness, let me assure that this is not the case; again, God forbid! Eschatology was fulfilled in the Christ, this true enough; the End came as prophesied, but that does not mean that History itself came to and end, at least not as we think of 'the end', cessation. Covenant History, which the Story of Scripture chronicles, came to its End in the first century, when the Creator divested Himself of His glory to invest Himself into His Creation. Thus the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, for which the whole Creation groaned & labored with birth pangs, was fulfilled!

In this day & age, as the world bears witness to every day, the institution of marriage, though often diverted from its original purpose & form, is alive & well on Planet Earth! Eschatologically speaking, as the apostle Paul bears witness to his letter to the Church at Ephesus ( chapter 5 ), the institution of marriage serves as a picture of Christ & the Church, or the Marriage of Heaven & Earth ( I Corinthians 15:47 ). This is not to say that Marriage, like Eschatology, is Fulfilled, though in some sense it is & really, in the same sense!

As we have seen & bear witness to every day, the institution of marriage continues! A little play on words, there, but serious, although Marriage, like Eschatology, is Fulfilled, it endures as a picture of the Marriage of Heaven & Earth! Just as a physical, biological union does not end, or cease to exist, once the marriage has been cemented, so the Scriptural institution, though it was fulfilled by the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, or Christ & the Church, did not end in the first century!

The very fact that Scripture refers to the 'sons of this age', 'sons of God' & 'sons of the resurrection' should tell us, not that those who penned the Bible were sexist, though this may have been somewhat the case, but that Scripture referred to a certain person, that being the Son of God! The one to which Scripture refers is Israel, the Covenant People, or Son of God. Today, we are the 'sons of God' & 'sons of the resurrection' & thus, one might say, the on of God, corporately speaking, being the Offspring of that Marriage, which is fulfilled & being fulfilled every day, as more & more enter the Kingdom!

Marriage is not something to be taken lightly; it was given to men & women as a picture of something greater, something spiritual! As such, it is not something to 'enter into unawares', so to speak, but always with this in mind. The union of two bodies as one is not merely a physical manifestation, though it IS that, it is a blessed union of souls, or spirits, like the union we now enjoy with our Creator. The End of Eschatology came in the first century & with it, the End of Marriage; both were fulfilled in the first century & one might say, both are still being fulfilled, but to a greater extent!

Charles Haddon hank

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More Than Words

'Words have meaning!'; this is true enough, but without actions to back them up, they are, as Scripture says about faith, 'dead', useless! We can all attest to this fact; it's easy to say something, to make promises, but when it comes to following through on those promises, to fulfilling those words, it's often difficult or impossible. Nowhere is this more evident than in the current political landscape. Much of what we have heard from The Hill in the past years has been proven to be just that, 'words'; about as worthless and un-backed as the currency we carry!

In life, we all say things that we almost immediately regret; as soon as they leave our mouth, we wish we could suck them back in or delete them from the other person's memory!  The saying goes, 'sticks & stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me', but the truth is, 'words DO hurt us'; whether we would like to admit it or not, we DO feel pain in our spirit, which often translates to physical pain, when someone lashes out at us with words. Ego has much to do with this, both theirs & ours, but whatever the case may be, words can cause pain & are a wieldy instrument of torture!

On the other hand, words can bring much pleasure; a simple phrase, which takes all of a second or two to say, can shine a bright light into an otherwise dark & dreary day! When backed up with action, these three words can mean the difference between life & death. It has been said, 'the pen is mightier than the sword'; history attests to the veracity of these words, for many a revolution has been fomented by words like 'give me liberty or give me death'. Of course, if these words had not been backed by action, the world might look a bit different than it does today!

Words have consequences; when we, with our ego, answer another's ego, we often end up regretting those words, but as long as we do not act on these words, no real harm is done, though the words themselves, usually because of the fore-mentioned egos, may force a rift, to whatever extent, between the two parties. Words mean something; though we often regret using certain words, the very fact that those words came out of our mouths mean that they come from some deep-seated emotion! We quickly say, 'Oh, I didn't really mean that!', but as I heard a lot growing, 'you didn't NOT mean it either!' If we hadn't been ruminating, even in the recesses of our mind, on those very thoughts, the words would never have come out!

Ego is a big problem, in fact, one might say it is the very root of all evil! Ego causes us to think we are better than everybody else, ego can make us jealous of others because we see that we aren't as good as somebody else & ego can make us fight with others who don't believe the way we do; sometimes ego even leads to murder! For example, it was Cain's ego that caused him to kill his brother Abel. When we conquer our ego, which is a constant battle for most of us & begin to use words that heal, rather than words that hurt, especially when we back them up with action, the harm that we might have caused becomes even greater when pointed in the other direction!

A simple phrase such as, 'I love you' can brighten anyone's day! Love is a powerful emotion; it is deep-seated & when truly expressed, can bring almost unspeakable joy to the recipient. When a person feels loved, truly loved, it helps, as the saying goes, to 'tame the savage beast', the ego. On the other hand, when one doesn't feel the calming effects of love, that one's ego tends to take up the slack, so to speak, by boosting itself even higher, to the pint of bursting, even.  It has been said, in various ways, that 'all we need is love'; this is true, but then we come to the point where the rubber meets the road: 'what IS love?'

'God is Love', according to Scripture! Okay, so the Living God, the Creator, the Energy of which we all partake is Love; sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is & it isn't; first, we must understand the Nature of the Creator God, the Energy that makes up the universe & all it contains, then we must understand our own nature, our true nature. We ARE human beings, but primarily, we are spiritual beings, partakers of the Divine Image. Once we understand that & recognize the divinity around us, we won't be so eager to battle, to the death sometimes, those who may reflect that Image in a different way or to a different extent than we do!

For the simple fact that words DO have meaning, we must learn the self control, the reining in of our ego, to use the right words, ultimately, to think the right thoughts! Realizing our spiritual nature helps us to learn that control, to beat our ego into submission, so to speak & thus to turn our body into an instrument of love, rather than hate, or fear, from which hate comes. Actions have consequences & when we act upon the right words, the consequences will be healing waters that flow from our inmost being, the Energy that makes us who we are!

( as usual, I speak to myself here, as much as to anybody else )

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

A Positive Influence

“Tolerance of evil is not a virtue but is an evil that has permeated the very fiber of Christianity”
 John R.W. Stott

'Houston, we have a problem!' Those who will drop everything to say the 'Pledge of Allegiance, salute the flag, or otherwise show reverence to the symbols of an empire, a nation which has become almost anything but honorable, have become the status quo! Most Christians, the ones who should be leading the charge AGAINST such idolatry, have not only joined the ranks of those who do such things, but they are often leaders & avid supporters of this evil. To be sure, most of these Christians will say they are only supporting the good that comes out of this nation, but when one almost unequivocally throws their support behind those who propagate such evil, is that not an evil itself?  One may claim to uphold God's Law over man's, but to vote for the lesser of two evils, as many Christians are almost proud of doing, is to support the propagation of evil!

Many supporters of this ignominy that we call 'a democracy' like to justify the evils that the government of this nation commits by using phrases like 'the greater good', or 'preemptive strike'; These are phrases simply meant to pacify the people, basically saying, 'we have no choice'! In some sense, this is true, but only because evil itself has been allowed to prosper for so long that it seems that the only way to combat it is with more evil, killing in the name of Christ ( or Democracy, as the case may be ), spreading death & destruction across the globe, all while proclaiming their abhorrence of things like abortion, which claims far more lives than foreign wars. It's all well & good to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, but when one throws their support behind the empire of men, it should lead us to wonder if that ones allegiance is misplaced!

By this point, one might be asking him or herself, 'where's the positivity in this?' I'm glad you asked: there IS a solution to the problem & it's so simple as to be profound! Jesus, He upon whom Christianity was originally based, encapsulated the Law by saying, 'Love God' & 'love your neighbor as yourself', later adding this affirmative, 'do unto others as you would have them to unto you'. We can see, from all the death & destruction that goes on around the world, even the evil which has touched our own shores of late, that, although unintentionally & unwittingly maybe, this government, along with its constituents, IS now reaping what they've sown, with the nations of the world, the Middle East in particular, returning upon our own heads the coals that we've heaped on theirs!

In no way can we say, however, that the government of this nation does not exert ANY positive influence over its neighbors around the world: some of the things accomplished through the empire-building of these officials HAS had a positive effect, though somewhat naively, but one would be hard-pressed to prove that the evils, necessary as they might seem, perpetrated by the USA, Incorporated, are examples of loving ones neighbor. Really, to be perfectly honest, it's about as far as one can get from 'love your neighbor as yourself'!

So, what IS the Solution: with our history of violence, can we make a difference at this point in the game, simply by throwing down our arms & then throwing them up in the air, even offering them to our enemies? ( little play on words there; I'm not advocating giving our weapons to our enemies ) Yes, the Solution I'm offering here is quite simple & it applies to all of life; if we would live at peace with our neighbors, then we should live at peace with our neighbors; it's THAT simple! A wise man once said, 'if you wanna be free, be free', in other words, 'ACT LIKE IT!' It's a choice; if you wanna live at peace with your neighbor, just do it. This is not to say that we should tolerate their evil actions, but by our love & acceptance of THEM, though not their actions, we may exert such a positive influence over them that they would cease & desist from all their evil!

Evil cannot be justified by claiming 'the greater good'; evil is evil, no matter the supposed outcome: Christians especially know better than to say 'let us do evil that good may come'! No good will ever come from propagating evil, no matter how small or seemingly inconsequential; it always has come back to bite America in the ass & it always will, unless she repents of her evil, idolatrous ways. Only by removing our allegiance from such an evil empire & giving it wholly & only to the One who gives us breath, can we ever hope to leave behind the morass that we've created!

We can never vote evil out; for one thing, it's too ensconced, it's held onto the seat of power for far too long & it must be destroyed! I'm becoming more & more convinced, along with others, that the only way to get rid of this evil is to nip it in the bud & start over. Politics as usual is not going to do anything for this nation except more of the same: one might hope for salvation though one of our current choices, but this, besides being almost laughable, were it not so sad, will never happen. Salvation for the people of this nation, as for that of our neighbors, will only come through adherence to the Laws of Nature & Nature's God!

Charles Haddon Shank