The Pagan Path

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

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Divisive Christianity?

For the word of God is living and powerful,
 and sharper than any two-edged sword,
 piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, 
and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12 

You will find no argument here that the above statement from Scripture stands just as true today as it did when it was penned in the first century. The question that might arise here is whether or not the context is the same in the 21st century! Most Christians would be quick to tell you that, while we have already entered the Rest to which the author refers, we have not yet fully entered that Rest, for obvious reasons. It is manifestly apparent that we have not yet inherited our Resurrection Bodies, as they still perish, pain & tears continue to plague us & evil persists', they might be tempted to say. John wrote, after all, that 'when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is' ( I John 3:2b )!

Heresy might better be defined as divisiveness. The divisiveness that threatened the early Church, though essence seemingly not that different than the doctrinal differences which plague the Institutional Church today, was of a different nature, so to speak!  The Judaizers that the apostle Paul, in particular, labored against tried to force the new Christians, both Jew & Gentile, to live according to the Law they had held sacred for thousands of years. Jesus, as the Christ, the Jew's Messiah, fulfilled that Law & even, as Paul later wrote 'wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross' ( Colossians 2:14 ). Having ushered in that 'age to come' ( Luke 18:31 ( Luke 20:27-38 ) Ephesians 1:21, Hebrews 6:5 ) which He had promised throughout the Scriptures, Jesus made His disciples a New Creation ( II Corinthians 5:17 ), One which is not divided!

Evil still exists, the can be no doubt, but it only persists as men & women persevere in doing wickedly! Again, there can be no doubt that there are many who continue to do evil & so there must be divisiveness, of a sort, to separate those who do righteously from those who do wickedly. However, within the Body of Christ, there is no such division! The Body of Christ, though different in nature than the Institutional Church, yet seems to be plagued by similar doctrines of demons as those that were adversarial to the Church of the 1st century. There are those among us, in the Institutional Church, who have been influenced by the ungodly culture that surrounds us, who would have us accept those things which the Word of God forbids. On the other hand & at the other end of the spectrum, so to speak, are those who, though the Law was fulfilled by the Christ, still endeavor to keep that same Law & teach others to do the same! 

The Law in question, in essence what we call the Ten Commandments, is still in force, though as Jesus elucidated in Mark 12:30 & 31, not quite quite in the same manner as under that first ( covenant ). In Fulfillment of the Law, Jesus showed Himself ( to be ) the Spirit of the Law; in a manner of speaking, the Law Incarnate! Since we are 'in' Christ, we are, in that sense, in ( fulfillment of ) the Law; no longer must we make every effort to keep those jots & tittles which were about to pass away ( Hebrews 8:13 ). Those who refuse to surrender to their wills to their Heavenly Father are thus guilty of the greatest evil & will never find that Rest, though they search for it with many tears!

Having entered our Rest, as those Christians in the 1st century did with the destruction of Jerusalem & the Temple, we no longer are divided! The Word of God functions still as that 'two-edged sword', helping us to discern between what is good, just & right & what is wrong, wicked & evil, but , as far as the Covenant is concerned, His job is done. We, on the other hand, have only begun; with the Strength of the Spirit that enables us, we must separate ourselves from those who do wickedly by refusing to participate in their wickedness, thus making a division between us & them.

The heresy that the apostle Paul battled in the 1st century was not a question of those within & those without, so to speak; it was rather a matter of divisiveness within the Body, a heresy which separated the Body of Moses from the Body of Christ, or as the apostle put it, 'The first man Adam' & 'The last Adam' ( I Corinthians 15:45 ). The divisiveness which now seems to divide the Body of Christ is not unlike this heresy of old in this sense; it proves which is truly the Body of Christ & which is merely a construct of man, full of doctrines of demons!

As we there continue in Fulfillment of the Law, let us be careful to discern that which unites us & that which seems to divide us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Cosmic Christ ( Ascended Servants )

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[f] 
because he will save his people from their sins.
 Matthew 1:21

 We are all very familiar with John 3:16; it is without doubt, one of the most quoted Bible verses ever, eclipsing even the one about judging ( really, it's about 'condemning'-Matthew 7: )! Jesus told His disciples that 'God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life', in other words, that whoever received Jesus as the Messiah would inherit the Promise of the Ages. This Promise, though it was given throughout the Scriptures, was most famously & succinctly iterated in Yahweh's promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, 'I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you'. When the Holy Spirit instructed Joseph, through a dream, that they should call the Child Jesus, He was telling those that could understand that this Promise was finally being fulfilled, that Israel would stand again to be a blessing to the nations!

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, 
and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
John 14:12

And I, when I am lifted up[g] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
John 12:32

 Jesus, when He promised to draw all people to Himself, was not just saying, as the majority of Christians seem to gladly accept, that upon biological death, His People would join Him in a place called Heaven, nor was He simply promising, as others latch onto, that all people, universally & individually speaking, would be drawn to Him eventually, ie., 'get saved'. He had told the Twelve 'Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel' ( Matthew 19:28 ) & though this was fulfilled in the first century, with the destruction of Jerusalem & the temple, which marked the end of an era, we, His disciples of the 21st century, as well as all between & beyond, still occupy those thrones, sitting as judges, ruling with Him!

The apostle Paul told his readers that our Heavenly Father 'has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ' ( Ephesians 1:3 ); with such we have been equipped with the necessary accoutrements for ruling with Him! We are, in that sense & having been baptized, like Him ( Romans 6:4 ( Mark 10:39 ), Anointed. As Jesus was the Christ to that 'world' ( cosmos ), so we, being His Body, are the Christ to our 'world'

Many, I'm certain, have wondered how we will do 'greater things' than Jesus Himself; though we are not of the same Essence as the Creator of all, we have been blessed with His Spirit! It is the Spirit Within that enables us to do these 'greater things'. Jesus told & tells His disciples that 'Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all' ( Mark 9:35 ); this is how we do 'greater things', by serving others, as Jesus instructed His disciples earlier, 'the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many' ( Matthew 20:28 )!

Many likely picture Jesus on the Cross when He talked about being lifted up; this is not necessarily a wrong inference, but primarily signified His Ascension. Although it was His Oblation that removed the Veil, so to speak, between Heaven & Earth, it was His Ascension that brought us into 'the heavenly realms'. Now that the Master has ascended to where He was before, in Essence, One with the Father, the Servants are called to continue His Work on Earth, to do those 'greater things' that He promised In Essence, we are the Anointed One who was to come into 'the world' ( I Peter 1:10 ); we ARE the New Adam!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, May 27, 2016

Love is Enough, Right?!

The Beatles were right; all we really need is love, but then, 'what IS love? Do you really, honestly think that good ole John, Paul, George & Ringo were dreaming of a true & lasting love, an active love, rather than just a fleeting feeling expressed in sexuality, when they sang those words fifty some years ago? Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm sure they & others like them were very sincere, but I can pretty much guarantee you they did not have scriptural love in mind!

We have explored previously the old-fashioned notion that love is more, so much more than just a feeling; if more people were to figure out in their own minds that glorious fact, then the Beatle's words might be proven true! Love must be a conscious choice, an action, in order to truly be love. As I've witnessed to before, one can say 'I love you' as much as he or she wants, but if they never actually prove through their actions the force of their words, then the intended will never believe their words & they will fall on deaf ears, so to speak!

The Creator formed humanity in Love; He built us for it, if you will! Feelings are natural to us all, they are a necessary part of our make-up! Without feelings, we would never know the love we have for each other. On one hand, if one ignored the feeling that he or she should act a certain way toward another, then that other would never experience the love that the other willingly offered, but on the other hand, if the one on the receiving end did not experience the love in action that the other willingly offered, then again, that love would be lost & fall on deaf ears!

More than a feeling, Love, like the Creator Himself, is active & unchanging! Feelings, however, often change as the weather. One day, the love may flow freely, but as the days, months & years wear on, feelings may begin to wane, disappear, or even turn again & rend the one who formerly benefited from that feeling. Love, true love, is not based on feelings, it finds its roots in the Creator Himself & is an active choice, a conscious decision to treat others, especially maybe, a certain other as we would like him or her to treat us. Our actions are influenced by our feelings, no argument there, but when our actions are based on feelings, which may easily change, then the love which is engendered by those feelings, will not last!

'Actions', it is said, 'speak louder than words'; it is good to fill your loved one's ears with the words 'I love you', it is better to show by one's actions that he or she truly loves the recipient! Love, if truly more than a feeling, will work itself out through the fingertips, so to speak, making the intended experience that love. That experience may then, in turn, engender within the recipient that same feeling toward the other, moving them to act in kind!

Boston had it right as well; love IS 'More Than a Feeling'! The glorious feeling of being loved is almost beyond words & in fact, many would find it impossible to describe it. Some may claim that both the Beatles & Boston, as well as other contemporary music groups have a faulty notion of love; maybe they're right, but at least those musicians & others like them understand that Love IS a necessity & that it IS more than a feeling. How MUCH more?

That, my friend, is up to you!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Explaining the Brain

Okay, so the human brain is not a computer! It, according to an article I read the other day, it does not store data ( text OR images ); memories can NOT be reduced to just 'files' stored in 'folders' for future reference. Obviously, however, our memories ARE stored SOMEWHERE for relatively easy retrieval in case of future need. So how DO we explain this remarkable organism; how DO we account for its seemingly limitless capacity for storage of both data & images?

Scientists have deduced that the human brain operates using a multitude of electrical impulses, synapses, if you will, that generate certain chemical reactions in this very intricate 'lump of flesh'! With the aid of technology, we have learned that certain stimuli set off various light-shows inside the cranial cavity of different individuals. Any given action may not spark the same reaction in any given brain. We have determined that there are certain parts of this marvelous muscle that seem to control certain actions & reactions in the exterior members of our body, but the very fact that not everyone responds in the same manner to the same stimuli should be enough to tell us that our brains are NOT computers; they are unique & finely-tuned instruments, formed for the Glory of their Creator!

If then, we cannot simply explain away this marvelous tool, given to us by the Creator, as just a computer that has been programmed by its Author to solve problems & even to exhibit an intelligence of sorts, to varying degrees, how then are we to explain it? If the human brain does not operate like a man-made machine, storing bits & bytes of information, how are we to account for the fact that we DO store up information, HAVE memories & act ( react ) differently according to certain stimuli?

The only explanation that makes sense is that the same Creator God who hung the galaxies in space, the same One that so ordered the universe that certain conditions have been so precisely met that life exists in relative ease on this planet, has used the same intelligence to design a body that holds even a greater wander, a greater marvel of engineering, if you will! The Theory of Evolution as presented by Charles Darwin & perpetrated by manifold rebellious humans since is just that, a theory & an unsound one at that. Although Science has seemingly shown that there are certain equations extant in the universe that could explain the existence of life, it all comes down to 'which came first, the chicken or the egg?'

There are some out there who deny the Existence of the Creator & accept without doubt that the marvels that we bear witness to on a daily basis are just examples of happenstance! Though there are manifold glaring ( shining ) witnesses to the fact of Intelligent Design, there ARE those who rebel so against any higher authority or power that they almost blindly & fervently accept that these wanders are here by chance, that all this order came out of chaos by its own free will. To try to explain how the universe itself came to be, much less how the human body & brain function so marvelously, by any means other than Divine Intelligence, is laughable, even sadly hilarious!

The human brain, as we have explored, to some extent previously, has been mapped, to varying degrees of success. Science & Technology have been, from some reports & again, to varying degrees of success, been able to create a sort of Artificial Intelligence, an an almost human computer, but there is one thing that man will never be able to duplicate; LOVE! Love is the glue that holds us together, the agent that binds molecule to molecule & provides the gravity that enables the planets to revolve in their respective orbits; Love is the Creative Force that set the universe in motion, yet bestowed the same intricacies on that marvelous creature known as a human being!

The electrical impulses, the chemical reactions, if you will, that scientists have observed in the human brain, may be explained by any number of stimuli, but how it stores memories & other data ( images, etc ) cannot be explained by any such means, like that of a mere computer! A computer may be programmed, to whatever extent, by a programmer, to perform certain tasks, but even a computer has its limits, it cannot do more than it was programmed for. Like a 64gb flash-drive cannot contain more than 64gb of information, so a computer is not limitless in its capacity to perform any given task; it cannot do more than it was programmed to do, or function beyond its capacity!

Human beings, unlike mere computers, are infinitely capable of love! We are also capable of great evil, something else that a simple computer, contrary to certain opinions, has no capacity for. Computers are machines, nothing more, nothing less & as such, cannot do anything beyond their programming. Human beings, on the other hand, with their fully-functioning & infinitely self-aware brain, are able to act & react without the programming required by computers. While a human being certainly responds in more or less predictable ways to certain stimuli, every individual will likely react in different ways to these, whereas a computer will always react in the same manner to the same stimulus.

As we continue to explore this fantastically marvelous tool we have been blessed with, this gift that makes biological life possible, let us never forget that it is the Gift of an Infinite Creator! The brain is infinitely more complex than any computer-driven Artificial Intelligence that man will ever be able to 'create'. Though we are creators, of a sort, like our Creator, we can do no more with the abilities we have been blessed with & the means we have been given than to be 'co-creators', or procreators, if you will, using the means provided though through the Creation to bring forth ( bear ) Life itself!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Rod of Iron

'You shall break[a] them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.'
 ( Psalm 2:9 )

'She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron.
 And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.
( Revelation 12:5 )

As the People of God, the Body of Christ, and rulers with Him, as the 'Israel of God',  you might wonder if we are, indeed, in the right to be imposing our 'doctrines' of what is right, and what is wrong on other 'nations'. Is that not the basic meaning of David's prophecy? That, I believe, is exactly what he meant to say here, but then the question should also be asked, 'what, or who, were the 'nations' to whom David was referring?' To answer this question with any degree of accuracy, a study, long or short, would need to be made of how Scripture uses that term.

God told Abraham ( Genesis 22:18 ), 'In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice'. This should sound familiar: we saw above that Jesus would 'rule all nations with a rod of iron', but here the Scriptures are saying that these 'nations' would be blessed through the People of God; so which is it? Are we, through the power of the Holy Spirit of God, to 'rule all nations with a rod of iron', or are they to be blessed by our presence? Maybe what is most needed now is a definition, a clarification of the phrase, 'a rod of iron'. Are the 'nations' to be blessed by our use of this 'rod of iron'; is it by conforming to the Scriptural definition of right and wrong, that the nations will be transformed, or transferred, rather, into the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, where He shall reign forever and ever?

Not being a Hebrew or Greek scholar, as best I could tell, this phrase means just what it says, 'a rod of iron'. The use of metaphor is fairly common and well-known throughout Scripture ( 'fishers of men' ), and thus is the case here! This phrase, at least variations of it, are still used to to denote a firmness in rule; unyielding rulers, whether right or wrong, are said to rule with an 'iron' hand. The rule of King Jesus with 'a rod of iron' is simply His rule of all 'nations' under His dominion with the unwavering firmness of His absolute Truth. There IS one right, and one wrong, one is either right or wrong; it does not depend on his or her situation, whether something is right or wrong for them; there is one rule for defining what is right or wrong, and that is the 'rule' of the Word of God, both in and through us, His Body!

For the longest time, our nation, the nation of America, or the United States thereof, has seemingly endeavored to extend its rule through the use of this 'rod of iron'. Our nation's history, and before this, the nations from which we derived, show manifold proof of this. in the past century, give or take a decade, we have thrust, even forced, our will, our sense of right and wrong, upon 'the nations'. At first, maybe, our rule of law was based, in greater part, upon God's Royal Law, but anymore, especially in the last 50 years or so, it is not God's absolute Truth which has formed the foundation, or core, of our 'rod of iron'. Our imposition on these 'nations', the Middle East, for example, has been anything but a blessing to them; on the contrary, it has earned us their hatred and animosity! ( the terrible events of 9/11 are an example of this ).

Rome, as the fourth beast/kingdom of Daniel's prophecy, might be named, Scripturally speaking, 'the Iron Kingdom. Daniel 2:40 reads, 'Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others'. Historically, Rome was the 'rod of iron' that Yahweh used to bring the nations under His feet. Due largely to the fact that we have misunderstood the narrative structure of history, Rome's place as the 'rod of iron' in the hand of Yahweh has been transferred to these United States, and the U.S. Inc. in particular, the Military Industrial Complex.

The 'doctrines' spoken of earlier, those with which we 'rule all nations with a rod of iron' are not those of men, or ones formulated by men! These doctrines are those given, first, through Moses, then reiterated by Jesus, who was God Himself. The two new commandments which Jesus gave His disciples are an encapsulation, a fulfillment really, of the famous 'Ten Commandments' given through Moses. These instruct us, first, to love the Lord our God: secondly, He instructs us to love our neighbor as ourselves, then, to top it all off, and this is most important when the rubber meets the road, we are to do unto others as we would like them to do unto us.

The corporate entity known as the United States of America has used a form of doctrine called Foreign Policy, to spread what they call democracy throughout the world.  Time has borne witness to how well this has worked, as this democracy includes the murder of innocent women and children, along with those who are not so innocent, as well as the detrimental effect that our fighting forces have received at the hands of the Lords of War, all in the name of freedom!

Though the American Empire has often been compared with that of Rome, and indeed can almost be viewed as an extension of it, we must understand that the prophecy of Daniel has been fulfilled, not just in part, but the whole! 'In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.' ( Daniel 2:44 ) By correctly understanding the narrative of Scripture, we can tell that this Kingdom has been set up. The majority of evangelical Christians will say that, because of the wars and rumors of wars that we hear about all over the world, as well as the evil which persists in our own nation, that this Kingdom has not been set up yet, though it may have already been inaugurated!

The Promise to Abraham ( Genesis 22:18 ) was fulfilled and is being fulfilled! The nations around them, that 'world', was blessed through the Seed of Abraham. Most nations, particularly those in the Middle East, would doubtless have a bit of a struggle to say that the U.S.Inc.'s gift of 'democracy' has been a blessing to them! The Seed of Abraham continues to be a blessing to the nations, however, because it brings is what brings healing, not death, peace, and not war! Contrary to popular belief, and here is where it becomes most important to understand the narrative properties of Scripture, the 'nation' of priests that we as Christians are is not like other 'nations'; we are not bound by geography: we are spread throughout the world, in  all countries!

The People of God may, in some sense, rule the nations with 'a rod of iron', even though this
Promise was primarily referring to the Roman Empire. the 'doctrine' that we have borrowed, though, could use some work! Rather than following along with that of empire-building, which the corporate structure known as the USA is currently using, we should be Kingdom-building, employing the means by which our God and Father has made us 'healing leaves' ( Revelation 22:2 ). Rather than spreading death and destruction across the globe in the name of democracy, we should instead be seeking to spread the Good News of the present Kingdom of Heaven, not through imposing our will upon the nations, but by employing the principles that Jesus gave His disciples, that of loving our neighbor as ourselves and doing to them what we would have them do to us!

Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Life of Riley

The origins of the phrase in question are somewhat ambiguous, but the general consensus is that it refers to one who lives or has lived a relatively prosperous life. No matter where the phrase was birthed, it has found universal acceptance as a catchphrase for one who leads a blessed life, if not one of ease. Although it is rather dated, 'the life of Riley' is one very familiar to this writer, as to many who follow in the footsteps of Jesus who was the Messiah of Israel & are willing Vessels of His Glory!

Some may accuse me of arrogance, even of dishonesty, but I believe that when we love our neighbor as we love ourselves & treat others as we would like them to treat us, we will, more often than not, receive blessings in accordance to those we freely bestow! This is a verily Scriptural principle, one espoused & practiced by Jesus Himself. Many there are who, when faced with trials & tribulations, like to blame it on some outside force ( such as 'Satan' ), not willing to accept the responsibility for their own actions or failures.

Some Christians are their own worst enemies; they have missed the forest for the trees, so to speak! So intent are they on what they call our 'Final Reward' that they are often blinded to the importance of being human. We were not awoken simply so that we could go to some place called 'Heaven' when our biological bodies perish; we were placed on this earth to spread the Good News that the Creator has deemed to live in relationship with the Creation!

Life, when you think about it, is ALL about relationship; whether good or bad, relationship defines our very existence! You've no doubt heard the phrase, 'no man is an island'. While it is possible to live as a hermit for a time, it is impossible to live for ANY length of time without the blessings of some sort of relationship. Human beings, in order to sustain biological life, must rely on some sort of relationship, even if they have the capacity to rule their own provender. There are plenty of ready examples out there of men & women who have withdrawn from society for a time to follow their own pursuits, to make their own way, in a manner of speaking.

Try as you might, there is no way to live in this world without relying on relationship; relationship sustains all life! Just as a plants wilts & dies without the proper combination of soil, water & sunlight, so this human experience cannot persevere without relationship of some sort! One MUST have relationship with others in order to sustain life. Anyone who believes they can make it own their own, if they're honest with themselves, soon finds themselves to be dead wrong. Life was meant to be lived & it cannot be without relationship of some sort, good or bad. Even a bad relationship may sustain life for a time, but if it does not turn to good, the life sustained, like a plant, will wither & die!

There are countless people out there who seem to think that they can call themselves Christians & yet live without the Communion enjoyed by the Body of Christ! Without the necessary relationship with those of like faith, the Faith of Christ, they will soon begin to lose the vigor of those associated with the Body. By cultivating the necessary relationship with the Community of Faith, our humanity will flourish & bear fruit to the advancement of the Kingdom of our God & Father!

Life, when lived according to the basic principles given earlier, from the teachings of Jesus, is blessed beyond measure! This is not to say that if you do everything right, you will be living on easy street all the time; by no means, but when one lives by these principles, religiously, one will begin to realize the silver linings to every dark cloud. They will begin to take responsibility for their own actions or inaction & rather than blaming all their problems on someone or something else, will begin to learn from their mistakes & draw strength from trials & tribulations!

As humans, being Vessels of His Glory, willing or unwilling, we get to choose whether we will live a blessed & prosperous life, or whether we will be an adversary to ourselves & fail to grow where we are planted. To a great extent, humanly speaking, how we face our challenges ( we ALL have them ) determines whether we live 'the life of Riley', if we wither & die. I don't know about you, but no matter the challenges I face; I want to live!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Idolatry of the Age

You may have heard it said, 'preach the Gospel at all times & if necessary, use words'; truly, the best way to convey the Good News is through action: conversely of course, the best way to make a bad impression is also through action! How many televangelists do you know of, I'm generalizing here, that don't practice what they preach? Oh, I'm certain there are some that do practice what they preach, but when's the last time you heard one regaling the love of Jesus, while living in a multi-million dollar mansion & speeding past the homeless beggar in his Lexus or Bentley?

Wealth is one of the greatest status symbols of this age & Christendom is no exception! The Prosperity Gospel taught by many televangelists is mostly referring to financial wealth & the accumulation of 'things' that goes along with it! 'God wants you to prosper', they might say, standing on an expensive, elevated sound-stage, accompanied by the latest & greatest technology, in order to heighten the emotions of the lowly masses. All the while, the listening audience, whether live or from the relative comfort of their living rooms, are swept away on this boundless wave of emotion, believing that what this teacher says is gospel & that, unless they are financially prosperous, they are under a curse!

Young men & women, to whatever extent, depending largely on the area they feel 'called' to minister in, are entering the seminaries of this nation in droves! Some are there because they actually want to learn, to make a difference in mankind's search for God, but some, I fear, are there simply because the pastorate is one of the most lucrative businesses out there. This is not to say that a pastor should not be paid for ministering the Spoken Word; just that too many pastors have made a career of it, rather than actively ( ad ) ministering the Love of Christ!

It is one thing to preach; it is another to be a minister! A minister may preach, using words, but he will practice, to the best of his ability, that which he preaches; on the other hand, a preacher, though he may practice what he preaches, often does simply that, he preaches one way & lives another. This is not always the case, but often, a preacher will follow the money faster than he will his chosen calling. Now, don't get me wrong, I understand that a man, whether he is a minister or a janitor, must make a living; if he cannot provide for his family on what he makes in one area, he must make corrections in order to survive. On the other hand, trusting in our Father's wise provision, he may follow his true calling, ministering & being ministered to!

In a nation where many of our young & even some older people are cutting ties with the Institutional Church as fast as some others are entering the seminaries & Bible Colleges, we should ask ourselves, 'why?' Why are as many or more as are training to become pastors or ministers leaving the church scene behind? Maybe it's because they're tired of the 'scenery! Have you ever thought about the possibility that many have noted the hypocrisy, of pastors saying one thing & doing another? If more pastors & preachers would start ministering instead of just preaching, we might see a turn-around in this disconcerting trend.We might also consider, though, that this growing trend is of our God & Father, in order to purge & reveal His True Church!

Actions are, for the most part, authoritative! Everyone makes mistakes, but when mistakes evolve into habits, then judgment must turn into justice. If, for instance, a pastor or preacher fails to practice what he preaches, the first time may be judged a failure, as we are all prone to, but if he or she continually fails to act in accordance with the Message they preach, then justice must be served; judgment should then be passed & they should be relieved of their post: he or she must be branded as the charlatan they are!

'Talk is cheap', the saying goes! Words have meaning & they are not with impact. They can put to rest the hardest misgivings & soothe the savage beast, but they can also lie & turn the slightest misunderstanding into a roaring forest fire. When right words are followed by right actions, however, fear is replaced by love! For example, if we were to witness one of those televangelists that we hear about, actually doing what he said rather than just preaching about it & raking in the dough, while fighting off allegations of scandal; we might see those who are leaving the Institutional Church in droves turn right around & foment a Revolution!

Charles Haddon Shank

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Cosmic Gospel

From the ANE ( Ancient Near Eastern ) context in which the Scriptures were written, we know that the Good News, that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, was fulfilled through His ministry & that of His disciples! Because of this, many seem to discard the Scriptures as inapplicable, even useless in the world of today; however, much of this reasoning is based on the notion that 'fulfilled' means 'concluded' & has the connotation of 'cessation'. 'Fulfilled', put simply, means '( to be ) filled up'; on one hand, as I have postulated previously, a contract, when fulfilled, does point toward the fact of conclusion & cessation, but a covenant, marriage, for example, is continually being fulfilled!

The Greek 'kosmos', which actually speaks more of the government, or arrangement of the world, than of the world, or globe itself, the sphere, in the context of Scripture, may be seen to refer to the known 'world' of the day, the Roman Empire. The apostle Paul, for example, used this same Greek word when he wrote to the Church at Colosse ( Colossians 1:6 & 23 ) about the Gospel which, he said had been told 'also in all the world'. From the ANE standpoint, especially, the Gospel had been spread from sea to shining sea, so to speak, by the end, or before the end of the first century!

Our modern Western, American mindset tells us, when we read the Scriptures, that they were written directly TO us & so the words of Christ & the apostles are very pertinent to our day! While this is very true in some cases, for the most part, while we may take lessons & make application from these hallowed pages, we must understand that, though they were written 'for' our instruction, etc ( II Timothy 3:16 ), they were written as letters TO a peculiar people, in the first century. Yes, we ARE a peculiar people, we the Body of Christ, but in the 21st, not the 1st century!

Much of what Christ instructed His disciples in the first century is just as applicable to His disciples today, but some of His instructions, though written 'for' our understanding, were primarily meant for His disciples in the first century! For example, when Jesus condensed the 'Ten Commandments', in a manner of speaking, into two 'new' commandments ( Matthew 22:37-39 ), He meant for His disciples of ALL ages, both that present & the one to come, to love God & their neighbor. However, when He told His disciples to 'wait for the Promise of the Father' ( Acts 1:4 ), we can be fairly sure that He never envisioned His disciples from the second century & beyond, waiting in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit to descend upon them!

There are many examples in Scripture, most of which have already been illuminated, where Jesus gave instructions to His disciples, some of which are directly or indirectly applicable to us, but for the most part were meant primarily, indeed only, for His disciples who were about to bear witness to the Great Transition! The Gospel, of which we read in the pages of Scripture, was that the Jewish Messiah, who had long been prophesied & awaited, was finally about to 'save His people from their sins' ( Matthew 1:21 ). Though this Good News was fulfilled in the first century, in the salvation of both Jew & Gentile, culminating in the destruction of the Great Wall of Separation, the Gospel is being fulfilled yet today, in that the separation that still exists in the minds of many is being continually torn asunder!

We live in a similar 'kosmos' today, in some ways, to the one which Jesus ministered in, but there are some pretty major differences! Though 'phariseeism' still exists on many levels & in many forms, we no longer must labor under the oppressive chains of that first covenant. We need not wait in Jerusalem for the promised Holy Spirit. The end of that old 'world' has come & gone; we now live, as a New Creation, in a 'new kosmos'. It is through the application of the universal truths of Scripture that we continue to fulfill the Gospel which was entrusted to His disciples of all time!

The Cosmic Gospel of Jesus the Christ, though it came, first to the Jew, then to the Gentile, is a Universal Truth! For ALL time & ALL people, the Good News is that Reconciliation was made & the Creator now dwells with His Creation! That Jesus came as the Messiah of Israel aligns with what the Creator God told Israel of old ( Exodus 19:6 ); 'you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation'. As Israel of old was to minister the Gospel to the nations, the 'world' around them, so we, as the disciples of Christ in the 21st century, are to minister the Good News to those around us: may we ever administer this Gospel in the Strength of the Spirit in which it was given!

Charles Haddon Shank