The Pagan Path

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

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Sacred Space

What is a Temple used for? It's used for worship!

I'll admit it; growing up in my teens & early twenties, I loved 'The Highlander' movies & the resulting hit T.V. series of the same name. The sword-play always fascinated me & even though I now look back at many of those older 80s & 90s shows with some reminiscent fondness, I remember that one of the themes in the movie/show was that you were safe ( from having your head lopped off ) when you were on 'holy ground', whether it was a cathedral or an old Indian burial ground. Looking back on those days, I sometimes wonder why I was so fascinated with that show, but then I realize that I hadn't yet begun my foray into theology yet.

The apostle Paul told the disciples of Christ, the Church, 'your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit' ( I Corinthians 6:19 ), so, in the apostle's theology, we can see that he taught that WE, not some building or piece of ground, was 'holy ground'! Reading further on in this text & in the greater context of Scripture, we see this theology illuminated more & more by the writings of Paul & the apostles, even foreshadowed in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Many Christians seem to think that the 'Holy Land', or the ground occupied by the nation/state of Israel, is the 'Zion' promised to the People of God throughout these same Hebrew Scriptures, but most are ignorant of the fact that these promises simply pointed to the true Zion, that of Heaven on Earth, the Dwelling of God with His People. When the Creator God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, He wasn't telling him that he would literally be the progenitor of many countries, or plots of ground; the Creator God was saying that through Abraham, many people would become sons & daughters of His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, or Zion. As we can see throughout the ministry & teachings of Jesus, the physical blessings promised under that first covenant, as laid out in the Hebrew Scriptures, simply served to point to fulfillment in the Christ, a deeper spiritual Truth, the Promise of the Spirit!

The Blessings of the Spirit are manifested in the People of God; John saw, in 'the Revelation' ( 21 ), that in the New Jerusalem, which was revealed as the Church in the first century A.D., 'the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple'! Paul & the apostles, as we saw earlier, taught that we, the People of God are this temple, so we should understand that, as we are the New Dwelling-place, or Home of God in the Spirit ( John 14:23 ( I Corinthians 3:16, Ephesians 2:22, I Peter 2:5 ), WE are the 'sacred space', the Zion, that was pictured by those promises of physical blessings given under that first covenant, as read in the Hebrew Scriptures. Though with the Spiritual Fulfillment of the Promises often, or usually ( eventually ) comes a physical representation of the promised blessings, it is the spiritual nature of the promise which shines through!

We ARE the Temple of the Holy Spirit, just like Paul wrote; not only individually, though that in itself is very important, but more importantly, as a corporate Body! Paul wrote, 'we are............. individually members of one another' ( Romans 12:5, I Corinthians 12:27 ). but that we are One Body together, the Body of Christ. As such, the Creator God has decreed that He will Dwell, not in 'temples made with hands' ( Acts 7:48 ), as Stephen reminded the Sanhedrin, but with ( in ) His people ( John 14:23 ); as the apostle Peter told his contemporaries, 'you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.' This too, is a fulfillment of the promise in Exodus 19:6, 'you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation'!

The furtherance of my theological education has produced the realization that, while we may meet for corporate worship & fellowship in special buildings or certain specific location, there is nothing sacred about those buildings or locations, except for the fact that we are there! We are, in that sense, traveling 'sacred spaces'; our bodies, as Paul wrote, are temples of the Holy Spirit, so, when biological life ceases to exist for us ( whether it's because our head was removed or whatever ), then we may understand that we are no longer that Temple, but One Spirit with our Creator. This may bring up more interesting conversation or open a can of worms, but if our ( individual ) bodies are no longer temples when our biological life ceases, what implications DOES that carry for us, when we have become pure spirit, or Spirit?! One thing we know for sure is that the Body of Christ ( corporate ) has MANY members & just as Abraham is the Father of Many Nations, so the Creator God is the Father of Many Children; we are not alone in this Temple!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Risen: Life IN Christ

Tomorrow, the majority of Christian ( Orthodox ) congregations, both 'High' & 'low' around the world will gather to celebrate the Church Holiday known officially as 'Easter'; in many of these congregations, the familiar key-phrase will be, 'He is risen!' Some have begun to exchanged this hallowed greeting with the phrase, 'She is risen', or even 'We are risen'; the import being, of course, that with the Resurrection of Jesus, as the apostle Paul states ( Colossians 3:1 ), we, or the Church, the Body of Christ, also experienced the Resurrection!

The obviously Corporate Nature of the Body of Christ & thus of the Resurrection is something that has been ( 'AHEM' ) discussed to death! The concurrent & orthodox belief has always been that, because Jesus was raised from the grave in the selfsame Body, so must our biology ( individually ) be thus reanimated. Ezekiel 37 most famously shows this happening to the Body of Israel & though some would likely transfer this event upon the Church today ( not far wrong ), the event in question did NOT refer to individual bodies in the 21st century ( or later ) being raised, but to the corporate Body of Israel in the first-century A.D. ( in particular ) being raised to New Life!

Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4

Having discussed this passage & the immediate context previously, we will not go into great depth here, except to drive home the point once again, that in the apostle's mind, the Resurrection of Jesus pointed, not to individual bodies being raised from the dead, but rather to the Church ( corporately & individually ) being raised to New Life & a renewal ( repentance & redemption ) of our actions, from serving useless idols to serving the Kingdom of our Lord & God!

The Resurrection of Jesus, which the apostle Paul names the 'firstfruits' ( I Corinthians 15 ), was simply the precursor, the Guarantee, if you will, of our own, corporate Resurrection! The Body of Christ, the Church, was raised from the ashes of covenantally-dead Israel; they rose, in the first-century A.D. like the mythical phoenix, prepared over 'the thousand years' ( we call it 'the millenia' ) to fulfill the Work of our Lord. As the progeny of that first-century Church, we too have been & are being prepared to fulfill this same task, to be Ministers of Reconciliation, to continually expand, through the Power of the Resurrection, the Borders of the Kingdom that has been given to us! 

On the Cross, Jesus uttered these famous Words of Promise, 'It is finished'! Although there has been some debate as to exactly what He meant by this somewhat ambiguous statement; He clearly stated that the Purpose for which He gave up His Spirit on the cruel Cross of Calvary had been accomplished! That Purpose was the Redemption & Reconciliation of Israel ( II Corinthians 5:19 ), not just those of Israel according to the flesh, but those who made up the Israel of God, those who would Rule with Him in His Kingdom, the Kingdom of Righteousness!

While the Work of the Christ ( God ) was accomplished by His sacrifice, His Church has been given the continuous task of fulling that Word! Today, we see many who yet strive against this Word & do not realize this reconciliation: we, as the Body of Christ, have been entrusted with this ministry, having been filled with His Spirit & given One Mind, 'the mind of Christ', as the apostle Paul so gloriously put it ( I Corinthians 2:16 ); this One Mind fulfills the Purpose of God in Christ!

We, each of us, are 'members', ( individually ), as the apostle, once again, clearly states ( Romans 12:5, I Corinthians 12:27 ) of ONE Body, that being the Body of Christ, the Church; this One Body however, is corporately charged with Fulfilling the Truth of the Resurrection! Just as the apostle exhorted his first-century readers to 'walk in newness of life', so we, as the Resurrected Body of Christ should carry on that tradition, not falling back into the old ways ( unless they're better ), but ever searching for newer & better ways to serve the Kingdom of our God & Father!

Is She ( referring to the Church ) risen? Undoubtedly! In the same manner, then, WE are risen as well; we ( individually ) have been given New Life & WE ( corporately ) are called to minister the Reconciliation which Jesus accomplished to the world. Individually, we may not possess the strength necessary to carry this out ( I know I don't), but corporately we have the same Strength that moved a mountain back in Jesus' Day!

'We are Risen!'

Let us embrace this Truth, not just in this season, but every day & in the Unity of the Faith, Fulfill the Work of the Christ in this Expansion Project we call Life!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Resurrection of Easter

It's that time of year again, the time when we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord & thus our own resurrection, that of His Body, the Church! Next Sunday is Easter Sunday & while most Christians will be celebrating this holiday ( holy day ), to one extent or another, some, realizing its pagan roots, have sworn it off, protesting that it is actually an ancient celebration of fertility & sex, centered around the goddess Ishtar. While it doubtless true that the traditional orthodox Christian celebration of Easter has pagan roots ( as do many Christian holydays, doctrines & other practices ), Christendom celebrates the Resurrection of our Lord, not the goddess of sex & fertility, each year, at this time!

Bunnies & Eggs; what DO they have to do with the Resurrection of Jesus?! Well, one might say, 'nothing' & while in one sense they'd be correct, in another, they'd be almost dead wrong! Rabbits, or bunnies, as we affectionately call them, are one of the most famously prolific animals out there; they are at the center of one of the most famous ( or is that 'infamous' ) phrases associated with sexual intercourse. Eggs are but one symbol of new life that we may note in our biological world ( at least the promise, or possibility of it ). Both eggs & bunnies, then, may be seen to symbolize new life. The Resurrection of Jesus brought New Life, so there you have it!

It goes without saying ( but I'll say it anyway ) that the act of sexual intercourse, which normally involves the female's egg being fertilized by the male's sperm, is actually a fairly good representation of what happens spiritually when one is born from above! Just as our ( human ) institution of marriage, as the apostle Paul states quite firmly, is a picture of 'Christ and the church', so the act of sexual intercourse ( in its reproductive capacity ) pictures what takes place when the Holy Spirit, as in the example of Mary & the Virgin Birth, comes upon an individual to their reconciliation!

The question before us is, 'should we celebrate this Christianized pagan holiday?' Easter is not the only pagan holiday that has been Christianized for our consumption! One might ask why we should celebrate these holidays that obviously have pagan roots, but really, when you think about it, 'how old is Christianity?' If you count the birth of Christianity from the Time of Christ, it's about 2,000 years old or so. 'How long have pagans been around?' Well, take into account the fact that 'pagan' simply means 'one who dwells in the country', we may note that they have been around for a sight longer than Christianity; of course many of our practices ( including holidays ) are going to have pagan roots!

Pagan roots do not necessarily denote 'evil'! Though Ishtar, or the goddess of sex & fertility ( along with love & war ), is a false god, a mere idol, there is nothing wrong ( except 'war' ) with what she is said to represent! Love, sex & fertility are a very necessary part of life. Without them, there would be no new life! The puritanical notion that the 'sex act' is somehow impure or shameful is one that has plagued Christianity for years. Maybe this is a result of over-reacting to the perversion of this natural form of intercourse, but us the case may be, it has enjoyed a certain stigma for ages past.

So, rabbits are VERY prolific: I'm not by any means an authority on the subject, but I've heard that one must be VERY careful when raising rabbits, keeping them separate ( unless, of course, you want 'bunnies' ) & other concerns that I won't mention here. Just like any animal, or most anyway, rabbits are made, by their Creator, with certain body parts engineered specifically, though not solely, for the purpose of reproduction ( recreation? ). Although they might enjoy the title of being the most prolific; they are most certainly NOT the only animals that take full advantage of these members; the human animal has this capacity, as well as the natural longing to use them!

Eggs are naturally the result ( speaking of chicken eggs, in particular ) of sexual intercourse; whether we're speaking of humans, chickens or snakes, eggs are definitely part of the process! In fact, when you think about it, even humans are encased in a sort of 'egg' before they're born ( hatched ). What better object can you think of to represent new life than an egg?! For the purposes of our consumption, as well, the egg must ( if fertilized, anyway ) undergo a sort of 'death' ( like Jesus ) to bring life to us.

Easter Egg hunts might represent the search for new life! This may be somewhat of a stretch & a further attempt to baptize a purely pagan ritual ( though it's enjoyed by many or most Christian congregations ), but it might help to explain why it has become such an accepted ritual. Though we do not like the pagan roots of this holiday, just like other holidays & practices we have adopted, we should not refuse to celebrate them simply because they were enjoyed for other purposes before Christ was revealed.

Easter stands for Resurrection! Whether one wants to get down to the 'nitty-gritty' of life in the real world, or simply to baptize it in the 'waters' of Christendom, Easter, even Ishtar, represents new life & that's what resurrection is all about, right? One must determine within themselves, both whether it is right that they, along with the majority of Christians, should set aside one special day, or season, out of the year, to celebrate our New Life ( which doesn't come without 'bunnies & eggs' ), as well as whether we can legitimately 'borrow' & baptize an aspect of the celebration of life before the Christ!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Weak Christians in an Age of Guilt-Manipulators

Judge not, that you be not judged.
Matthew 7:1

For what [ have ] I [ to do ] with judging those also who are outside? 
Do you not judge those who are inside?
I Corinthians 5:12

 If you talk to anyone nowadays who makes the merest claim to be a Christian, ( though they're usually 'spiritual but not religious' ) about some inconsistency in their life ( usually some sort of encompassing & unrepentant sin ), you will likely have the verse from Matthew 7, above, thrown in your face! If you quickly back-pedal & stop condemning their ( wrong ) life choices, you might retain their friendship, but don't dare mention it again, because, 'only God can judge me!'

Like our Great Example, we are to have compassion on those we see around us who are beset with temptation & sin, but never to the point that we tolerate their sin & especially not that we compromise & begin to partake in it! When faced with 'the woman caught in adultery' & her accusers ( John 8:1-11 ), Jesus, after He had shamed her accusers, told the woman, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and[k] sin no more.' Though He did not condemn her for her lifestyle, He did condemn her ( reputed ) adultery. 

Jesus told His disciples, 'Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.' ( Matthew 19:28 ) Though this promise was fulfilled in its first-century context, it continues to be fulfilled today, in the sense that we, as Christians, the modern--day disciples of Christ, are called to judge! Not only are we to judge for ourselves whether this is right & that is wrong ( Luke 12:57 ) I Corinthians 6:2-4, 10:15, 11:31 ), we are to judge those who live inconsistently with their proclaimed faith!

Condemnation is not what we are called to! Many Christians seem to believe that we are called to condemn 'the world', but condemnation has already been passed; the judgment was rendered ( executed ) throughout the history of Israel as recorded in the pages of Scripture.We are called to the ministry of reconciliation & though we may condemn their unrighteous actions, we should rather call them to repentance, reconciling them to righteousness & leading them on the good path. When we see a brother or sister struggling, we need to show them a better way by being to them the example that Jesus is to us; judging but not condemning!

Compassion is in itself a judgment; it is a decision we make, whether or not to condemn one for their particular sin, or to consider that we ourselves, when put to the test in a similar situation might not fare any better! We are all human & though we, as followers of Jesus, have been cleansed of all unrighteousness, we are still surrounded & yes, beset by the hordes of unrighteousness. 'There, but for the Grace of God, go I', is a very fitting statement. We should realize that, except for the Grace of God on our lives ( you might say, 'His Hedge of Protection' ), we might be on the wrong end of the stick that we poke at others with!

The apostle Paul wrote, 'he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is [ rightly ] judged by no one'; this is not to differentiate between those who are spiritual & those who are religious! A truly spiritual person IS religious; their spirit, knowing the difference between right & wrong & holding to that which IS right, will work its way out through their fingertips, manifesting itself in what James calls 'pure and undefiled religion' ( James 1:27 ).

By not compromising with unadulterated sin, but yet having compassion on those weighed down by it, we show them the example Jesus set for us & fulfill the ministry of reconciliation we are called to!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Creation of Evil: Glass Houses

'Revenge is a dish best served cold'!

I just saw the new movie, 'London Has Fallen'; if you like non-stop action, thrills-a-minute & good old-fashioned cop shows where the good guys get beaten up but win in the end, you'll wanna see this movie! Though this post will touch on the basic theme of the movie, this is in no way to be regarded as a review, favorable or otherwise, of this movie. I did enjoy this movie immensely, but I can tell you; not everyone will.

One of the themes of this movie ( as I saw it, anyway ) was that 'what goes around, comes around', in a never-ending, vicious cycle! Jesus, one of the most revered teachers ever, told His disciples 'whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them' ( Matthew 7:12b ): in today's vernacular, this might be rendered 'do unto others as you would like them to do unto you', but in this day & age ( especially ), it seems to be rather, 'do unto others as they do unto you', or 'do unto others before they  ( have a chance to  ) do unto you' ( this last one assumes, of course, evil intent ). The basic idea we're striving against here is that, since certain people wish us evil, we should hit them with a preemptive strike to prevent them from doing us or our loved ones harm. This action only serves to exacerbate the problem though, unless we are prepared to launch an all-out war & totally decimate every living being that might ever wish us harm!

There can be no doubt there are those out there who wish us harm just because we are who we are: I'm not saying we should compromise our beliefs & principles, just to keep out of harm's way! We should always stand for what's right; loving our neighbor does not mean standing by & letting him kill or be killed, if we can prevent it, but neither does it mean butting in & sticking our nose where it doesn't belong, like in the middle of a three or four millenia old feud/war! Loving our neighbor means following our Lord's instructions & treating others ( including our enemies ) as we wish to be treated. Unfortunately, the 'powers that be', in their finite wisdom, have seemingly discarded this notion & adopted the latter policy, that of striking our neighbor, though he be an enemy, before he can ( possibly ) strike us!

Some would argue, at this juncture, that this notion of a 'preemptive strike', or even just plain old revenge ( retaliation ) is necessary to our freedom: this is obviously not the case, because even though we have 'ramped up' hostilities against this often unseen enemy, our freedoms have suffered along with them! Others might refer to 'the problem of evil', saying that we must, at all costs, exterminate it wherever & whenever we find it: this much is true & while there ARE extreme cases in which some have become so used to doing evil that it has become their very nature, many who do what we would term 'evil' ( or are themselves 'evil' ) are simply reacting, though wrongly, maybe, against actions THEY perceive ( not always wrongly ) as 'evil'!

The main plot of 'London Has Fallen' is that terrorists are now executing a carefully planned & highly orchestrated ruse to capture the U.S. president & publicly execute him over nationally televised media! This plan was hatched & brooded over for years in retaliation for, not just the recent deaths of some 'innocent' family members, but also because of certain foreign policies that had long been practiced by the Office. The elderly father who had lost so much at the hands of the West was no doubt wrong in his own heartless reaction to the actions of the U.S. Inc. ( which were, in themselves wrong ), but his own actions were in a sense, justifiable, though evil!

Evil begets evil! Though evil can be eradicated, it is not by returning evil for evil that this can be accomplished: it is only by combating evil with good, or love, that evil can ever be overcome. Evil, like love, is active; it only exists as it is perpetrated & perpetuated. Once one refuses to continue the evil by returning it in kind ( 'do unto others AS they do unto you' ), that evil is stopped in its tracks. This is not to say that the one who perpetrated the 'evil' in the first place won't try to foist it on someone else, but then, imagine what might happen if THAT person refuses as well to perpetuate the 'evil'. & then the next..............the next.....................

'The Creation of Evil' is a problem that mankind has been stymied by from the beginning! What is its origin? Is the Creator God the Author of Evil? Though many have accused our Heavenly Father ( others call it 'Fate' ) of perpetrating 'evil', really, when you think about it, 'evil' is the opposite of love & we know, from Scripture, that the Creator God embodies Love. Therefore, whatever does NOT stem from Love is 'evil'; this is why, when one simply reacts or retaliates against what they perceive as 'evil', they only serve to perpetuate that 'evil' & cause it to exist by feeding it, adding fuel to the fire so to speak & in some cases, creating it!

Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Reaching the Finish Line

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing [ I do ], forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13 & 14 

The apostle Paul, when he penned the words above in the mid-1st century, was looking forward to the End of his race. Not only was he referring to the completion, or fulfillment of the Heavenly Vision, I believe that at the same time, he was looking forward to the time when his own personal ministry would cease & he would finally be able to put his earthly struggles to rest!

We each ( individually ) have a race to finish, but the 'the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus' is already won; it was finished in the first century A. D. ( John 19:30, Revelation 21:6 )! The Finish Line that Paul prophesied of was the End that was soon to come in the first century, about 10-15 years after he wrote & though he was looking forward to the time when he would have completed his own personal race, he knew that it was not his winning that would win the prize, but that it was the Revelation of Jesus a the Christ, as the veritable Son of God, that would present, not just him, but humanity in the Messiah, or Christ, with the Prize!

Everyone, to whatever extent, looks forward to the time when their personal journey, their individual ministry, if you will, is completed & they are free to leave the trials & tribulations of this life behind! Many or most Christians, however seem to believe, based on the apostle's yearnings, that the Prize for which he waited expectantly is One that comes only after we pass onto the spiritual realm, or in other words, after our biological life ceases. Although he knew, or expected, that his own race would be completed by the Time the End was Revealed, Paul knew that the End was coming no matter whether he was still alive or not!

When the Prize was finally Revealed in the first century, it was no coincidence that the apostle Paul had already passed from this earthly ( material ) realm, but the it was not so much the end of his physical existence that the apostle looked forward to, it was the Enduring Presence of the Creator God with His Covenant People! The apostle Paul's race was the one that, when finally completed, would reveal this Prize. Biblical Eschatology shows us that, from the beginning, this race was being run & it was this race which Paul was running.

As Ministers of Reconciliation, we are each ( individually ) faced with our own race to run; some might call it a journey & that it is! We are placed on this earth to continue, to Fulfill the Work of the Christ, Jesus the Messiah. At the end of this race, we will receive a reward of sorts; we will be Pure Spirit; free of the encumbrances of this mortal life & we will be able to lay to rest the physical strains that pull upon this biological body. However, as we saw earlier, this is not the Prize was not the One for which Paul strained & was constrained; he looked forward to attaining, not just individually, but as a member of the Body of Christ, the Son of the Creator God, 'the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus' the Saving Presence of the Creator God when He descended in Judgment on the Temple & Jerusalem in AD66-70!

We each have our own race to finish, our own end to attain! Our reward will be according to how we run that race. We cannot say for certain to what extent we will enjoy the fruits of our labors after we have passed from this life, but we can say for certain that the Prize for which Paul waited in earnest expectation came soon after the end of his personal ministry. The Prize for which he yearned was not just the blessed hope of a cessation of his personal struggles, his own individual pain & suffering; the Prize which the apostle Paul sought & wrought was nothing but the True Temple, that made of 'living stones' ( I Peter 2:5 ). This New Temple is made up of the People of the Creator God & through the Blood of the Covenant, though It was fulfilled in the first century, It is still Under Construction & is expanding to fill the whole earth!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Theology of Marriage

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,
 and the two shall become one flesh.[e]
 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Ephesians 5:31 & 32

Marriage is kind of a hot topic in this day & age, even controversial, you might say! On one hand, we have the 'bible-thumpers' clamoring for the Federal Government to save the holy State marriage license from the limp-wristed infidels, while on the other end of the spectrum, we have those who are totally disenchanted with the whole idea & just want to live together in various forms of disrepair & disarray. In between the two extremes are those who know enough not to let the State or Federal Government into the marriage bed!

The apostle Paul recognized that the institution of marriage was not just a comfortable institution arranged for the convenience of cohabitation, or just so that a man & woman could use their members in the way the Creator intended, yet without sin! I'm sure that many or most Jews ( Hebrews ) recognized that the institution was formed, as certain other institutions, to signify a greater spiritual truth, that truth being the union, the bond that was & is formed through covenant between Christ & the Church. Before we get too far into the Theology of Marriage, let us backtrack a bit, to present some reasons that even some Christians seem to have missed the point here!

In the Trinitarian view, though it may vary somewhat in its adherents, there is still somewhat of a separation in what is termed 'the God-head'; this is usually referred to as 'Father, Son & Holy Spirit, or Jehovah ( Yahweh ), Jesus ( the Christ ) & the Spirit of Both. Setting aside discussion of 'the Holy Spirit' for now, let's focus on the Father & the Son, or as most Christians commonly refer to them, 'God & Jesus'. Please don't get me wrong, any Christian worth their salt will readily acknowledge that these Two are One & the same, although They're Two separate Persons. Not confusing at all, right?! ( I'm not sarcastic at all, either! ) So anyway, based upon this kind of reasoning, some Christians have built a theology around the Creator of the Universe, saying that while God the Father is married to national Israel, though He seems to have set Her aside for a bit, Jesus the Son is married, as Paul writes, to the Church. Then there are those Christians, the majority in fact, who say that Jesus is not married to the Church yet, though God the Father HAS changed gears & made Israel the Church; so, that would mean that now............................I'm confused!

If the Church has replaced Israel as the Wife of God ( the Bride of Christ ), yet we have Three separate & distinct Persons within the 'God-head', then where does that leave the Father, not to mention the Holy Spirit? Is the Father just an old divorcee who has given up on the idea of any sort of marriage except vicariously through His Son ( who is One with Him )?! No matter where this road might lead, you're likely to end up in some sort of ditch & possibly a deadly game of chicken ending in a head-on crash!

For a true Theology of Marriage, we must understand, first, that the institution of marriage spelled out for us in the pages of Scripture IS NOT just about the human institution, though for all intents & purposes it IS the blueprint for marriage between a man & a woman ( not man & man, woman & woman or man & several women ). Marriage is a Divine Institution that not only is pictured BY the human institution; it is the Union that has been & is yet BEING established between the Creator & His Creation. Once this Glorious Truth is established, we can only go further up & further in: the Marriage, as some term it, of Heaven & Earth, like the proverbial leaven, changes EVERYTHING!

Okay, so the Church is the Bride of Christ; this is readily established, right ( 'for the Bible tells me so' )? Jesus ( the Son ) & God ( Jehovah/Yahweh-the Father ) are One, yes, so really, the Church is more correctly the Bride, or Wife of the Creator God, right? Of course, right! As we all know, the majority of Christendom believes that the Marriage has not yet been consummated, though in a sense, through the Holy Spirit, we already live together! Wait...........................Oh, Phew.............they're two separate Persons ( I guess we're not technically Joined to Christ yet............) so we're not guilty of living in..............

Getting back on track here ( I DID say 'track', NOT 'crack' ), this theology, or the study of the Nature of the Creator God, shows us that the Divine Essence is pictured by human marriage; the apostle, under Divine Inspiration, correctly noted that the human institution symbolizes the Divine Institution, or the Make-up of what is commonly referred to as 'the God-head', especially in Trinitarian doctrine. We can argue till the cows come home & we're blue in the face, but the fact is plainly set before us in the pages of Scripture; our marriages are a mere representation, a shadow, if you will, of the True Marriage, the Marriage of Heaven & Earth, or Christ & His Church, as the apostle Paul so eloquently put it. If, as so many Christians object, the Marriage has not yet taken place, that WOULD explain a lot about why so many marriages are a sham & why even many Christian marriages end in divorce!

However, it's abundantly & gloriously clear that, though the apostle WAS writing in expectation of the Consummation of this Marriage, he expected this Revelation SOON, not in his own lifetime, maybe, but in THAT generation! Was he wrong? Some people seem to think so & from the looks of things, it seem they're right! Everyone knows, though, that things aren't always what they seem ( thank the Father ), so, although it seems that the Marriage has been put on hold ( indefinitely? ) because the human institution is so fucked up ( excuse my French ), we can Rest Assured that the Spirit IS in control of His Body & We ARE moving forward, however slowly & painstakingly!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, March 11, 2016

The True Exodus, the True Temple

It's fairly common knowledge that the Exodus which occurred in the days of Moses, wherein Yahweh led His covenant people out of Egypt, was typological of the Final Salvation of Israel through Jesus the Christ, the Great Anti-type of Moses. It is also pretty common to metaphorize this event, equating 'Egypt' with 'sin' &, using this Story to relate our own personal journey out of sinful lifestyles. There are certain critics who have convinced themselves, as well as others, that this event never actually happened, but that it is simply an example, like the Story of Adam & Eve ( particularly 'The Fall'-Genesis 3 ), of ANE ( Ancient Near Eastern ) prose, not meant to be taken literally ( at least, not to our Western mindset ), but prophetically, pointing to & foreshadowing the Christ, or the Messiah!

The Temple itself, which was typological of the conjunction of Heaven & Earth, was patterned, from all accounts, after the Hebraic Vision of the Courts of Yahweh, or Heaven. As the Dwelling-place of Almighty God on earth, or more technically, in the Land, first the Tabernacle in the Wilderness & then the Temple in Jerusalem signified Yahweh's Presence in the midst of His covenant people. In the language of Peter & Paul, even Jesus Himself, the Temple itself symbolized, not just the Dwelling-place of the Creator on this earth, it was significant of His Covenant People, those who received salvation through Messiah!

In his first epistle, the apostle Peter used a building metaphor, talking about Jesus the Messiah as being 'A chief cornerstone' ( quoting Isaiah 28:16 ), then referring to His disciples ( followers ) as 'living stones'. The apostle Paul goes even further in his first epistle to the Church at Corinth, revealing clearly that His People, individually & collectively, are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. He wrote, in his second epistle ( II Corinthians 6:16 ), 'you are the temple of the living God'. Paul borrowed language from Peter's epistle in his own letter to the Church at Ephesus ( 2:19-21 ) when he wrote, 'you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit'.

The Exodus was all about Establishing Temple, or bringing Heaven to Earth! The apostle Paul again wrote, referring to that first, typological Exodus, 'they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ'. Jesus Himself, in a type, had followed the Children of Israel throughout their wilderness journey, providing them with safety & sustenance, though they knew it not. That first Exodus was a weeding-out, so to speak, of those who were not fit to dwell in Yahweh's Presence; the Final Exodus took place when Jesus extended His Arms outside the City & led His People to Heaven. He spiritually led His Covenant People on an Exodus, the True Exodus, out of Sin & Death!

Jesus told His disciples, '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.' Because we keep His Word, or rather, His Word keeps us, we are now Home to the Creator of the Universe! Previous to this, He told them that there were many [ places ] in His Father's House: these [ places ] are us, we, His Covenant People. We make up His Body, as He formed ours in the beginning!

The True Exodus continues for the people of the Creator God, as the True Temple continues to expand with the People of the Creator God! As Moses led the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt through a burning wilderness to freedom on the Land, so Jesus led His People out of the  ( national ) Land into true & lasting freedom in what the Land had only ever pointed to; Heaven & the Blessed Presence of our Creator God! As we, the Son of God, now lead those who will follow into the Promised Land, let us forever remember that though we have entered our rest, there are those who have yet to reach those hallowed shores; let us continually rejoice in the blessings we have received & share those blessings with all those around us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, March 07, 2016

'Serve the King of Kings & Let the Empire Go to Hell'

For the Christian, especially, the choice should be clear; Jesus told us very succinctly, 'seek first the Kingdom of Heaven................... and all these things will be added to you-these things, of course, being all that is necessary for the sustenance of body & soul! In this day & age, though, of entitlement & empire-building, even many Christians have been so caught up in nationalistic fervor ( AKA, 'patriotism' ) that well-nigh anything is conscionable for the welfare of this nation, or 'the greater good', as most call it. Endless wars, even bombing the hell out of our neighbors is not out of the question when it comes to waving our national idol, the good ole 'stars & stripes'!

One should understand, listening to the news today, especially that having to do with the Foreign Policy of the U.S. Inc., that America has built an empire, the likes of which Rome & Britain might have dreamed of! With numerous military bases across the world ( 800 that 'we' know of ), the presence of American service-men & women has caused a stench to come up before many peoples, most notably ( especially recently ), the Islamic State. Because of this, as well as other atrocities, Jihad has been declared as well as carried out by certain of the more radical & fanatical Muslim factions!

For these & many other reasons, the American Empire is following in the fabled footsteps of both the British & Roman Empires, even all the way back to the Assyrian & beyond! Empires have a history of lasting a few hundred years & burning out! Not being a historian by any stretch of the imagination, I can only point you to the earliest histories that we have available in order to ascertain the veracity of this statement. For the most part, this is true because humans are corruptible: when men & women try to rule over each other, usually several things happen, one of which is that those ruled over rebel against the established order, or those who claim authority over them!

The Order that was Established by our Creator, our Heavenly Father is the Only True & Lasting One, so to try to set up any kingdom besides that, especially in opposition to the Heavenly Vision, is to rebel against Him: any way you look at it, it most certainly is not seeking first His Kingdom, but rather the kingdom of man, which is always poised to fail! The corruptibility of mere human beings has ensured, since the dawn of history, that when men & women try to rule each other, trouble always ensues, sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but it is inevitable; no matter how good the intentions, things always end up on a downhill slope, or worse! ( Ever hear that 'the road to Hell is paved with good intentions'? )

Pride has been the downfall of every empire that has ever disgraced the face of the earth ( 'under Heaven' ); all one has to do is pick up any history book, particularly ancient history, to see that this is so! The American Experiment was begun with the best of intentions & with a good foundation; to some extent, part of that foundation & some might argue, many of those good intentions remain, but for all intents & purposes, this latest empire to appear on the world stage is doomed to follow in the footsteps of all those before her, Death & Hell, or Sheol!

Patriotism is infectious & in fact, one might say it is insidious! Patriotism has caused many Christians, both in this country & elsewhere, to commit acts of treason against the Heavenly Vision. A misunderstanding of what the Heavenly Vision, or the Kingdom of Heaven ( God ) actually entails is very likely the prime culprit in their failure to seek first His Kingdom, but the fact remains that many Christians, especially those who back America & Israel, are guilty of idolatry & empire-building!

This is not to say that all those who exhibit a nationalistic fervor, to whatever extent, are intentionally & purposefully NOT seeking first the Kingdom of Heaven & disobeying the Heavenly Vision-God forbid! As the case may be, though, this empire is on a very slippery slope & is headed for certain demise. It may be arguable as to whether this crazy train can be stopped or even turned around before she comes to the end of her track, but one thing is sure, the best we can do is 'Seek First The Kingdom Of Heaven And Let The Empire Go To Hell'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Acquired Rights & Legal Plunder; Likely Bedfellows

'He/she has earned that right'! This is the kind of society we live in today; rights are most often earned, or acquired, but is this right? The other side of the coin says that the opposite is true as well, we can lose our rights through certain actions or through inaction! Are rights earned though, or are they inherent? This could open a whole nasty can of worms & engender a lot of heated controversy. It could even almost be on par with Politics & Religion.........................Oh, wait!

'There are two things in this life that are certain; Death & Taxes!' However you phrase this old adage, there seems to be a lot of truth to it; you WILL die someday ( 'who wants to live forever?' ) & EVERYONE has to pay their taxes! Really? Taxes ( whatever form they take ) seem to be inevitable, almost as inevitable as our physical demise, but where does it say that we MUST pay a tax on anything, much less on our hard-earned paycheck? A statement like this, I realize, could stir up a lot of controversy, but sometimes things need to be disturbed!

A tax is defined in numerous ways, but maybe the most true & simple definition is 'a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on worker's income and business profits or added to the cost of some goods, services and transactions'; however one defines it, therefore, it is a forced contribution ( that's a paradox, if I ever heard one )! Some may object to calling this 'legal plunder', especially to referring to it as 'plunder' at all, since 'we owe these taxes'. My response would be, 'since when?' Many people that one might butt heads with on this issue would say something like, 'well, how would our federal government operate ( build roads, schools, etc. or protect us ) if not for our tax monies?' 'We OWE it to them!' My response & the obvious answer is, 'well, how did people do it before the federal government became big?' If a certain community needed a road, they built it; they didn't rely on the federal government for these matters. If a school became a necessity in the community, the people of that community built the building & started ( formed ) a charter.

Taxes, especially in this day & age, have seemingly become a necessary evil! In order for the up-keep of our roads ( highway system, especially ) & for the education of the greater part of the young people of this nation to continue, it would seem that everyone MUST pay this fee. However, the question might be proffered here, 'if everybody stopped playing the victim to this 'legal plunder' & started taking care of their own matters ( like they should ), then where do you think would be the NEED for a 'Nanny State'? Even further & maybe more importantly, if the Church ( not the institution, necessarily ) was doing Her job, then there would be no need for the 'Nanny State' ( by 'Nanny State', I simply mean the federal or state government that thinks 'they' must take care of everyone )!

While it is hard to deny the need, in this day & age, for certain things that the Federal & State Governments have ( legally or illegally ) taken under their 'wing', nothing that they have undertaken would have become 'necessary' but for the lack of responsibility of the American people! Looking at our Highway System, for example, one could argue that without the necessary influence forced upon us, this never would have been accomplished. That may be true, but would that necessarily be a bad thing? Sure, our highways make it much easier to get from point 'A' to point 'B', but easier is not always better, as we all can attest to. Look at all the deaths that have unnecessarily happened because of our Highway System; with responsibility comes freedom, without responsibility, freedom takes flight! Because many people lack the responsibility to understand that traveling at certain speeds in a highly populated area ( either by wildlife or people ) can be dangerous to their health, we have seat-belt 'laws', speed limits, etc. Because certain drivers lack the responsibility to stay off the road ( behind the wheel ) when unduly impaired, we have drunk-driving 'laws', etc.

Can rights actually be taken away? It would seem so! Every day, usually because of a lack of responsibility ( stupidity ), someone's 'right' to transport themselves on America's highways & byways is taken away. Lately, we have noted an increasing amounts of our rights being trampled on by those in authority; the news stories from a certain county in Nevada & certain areas in Oregon ( to name a few ) bear witness to the fact that certain officials DO indeed believe they have the authority to take away those rights that come directly from our Creator!

In some sense, one could argue, certain 'rights' ARE acquired! If someone wants to do certain things, he or she should prove that they possess both the ability & responsibility to undertake such things. Unfortunately, many who 'prove' their ability & responsibility, although they may possess the ability, lack the responsibility to correctly govern their actions. This is where the State & Federal Governments come in; because they have witnessed the 'need' for external government, they immediately  swoop in on the situation & threaten the removal of those rights if certain action is not corrected. Many Americans seem to be clueless as to why their rights are being trampled on & their freedoms are going the way of the Dodo bird; this is why: we, as a people, have given our responsibility over to those who don't deserve it & so we have what we now see!

Rights are acquired, but not from any external agency except the One that gives life! People have the right to life, liberty & property, but with those God-given rights come the responsibility to maintain them; when we give up our responsibilities, we also give up, for all intents & purposes, the rights & freedoms we have previously enjoyed. The State, then, has every legal 'right', since they bear our responsibility, to the 'legal plunder' that we love to complain about!

Charles Haddon Shank