The Pagan Path

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Lion of the Tribe of Judah & the Lamb of God

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.
Isaiah 11:6
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust [ shall be ]  the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”
Says the Lord.
Isaiah 65:25 

 But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose[b] its seven seals.” And I looked, and behold,[c] in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Revelation 5:5 & 6

Contrary to popular opinion, no Bible, to my limited knowledge, has EVER used the phrase, 'the lion & the lamb will lay down together' ( or any other similar iteration )! Although some have come up with pretty wild theories as to why the phrase is in existence ( one that I have heard recently is that the words were supernaturally changed, even in old copies ), one theory that bears hearing out is that it comes from Sunday School lessons & sermons from early on. This would explain why many think that the words have been changed to say, 'the wolf & the lamb'. However, it does not explain why the Sunday School teachers, even the preachers of old used the phrase.

The projected imagery of the Lion of Judah finds its roots in the patriarch Jacob's final words to his sons, the Children of Israel, found in Genesis 49: of Judah he prophesied saying, 'Judah [ is ] a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He bows down, he lies down as a lion; and as a lion, who shall rouse him?' We know that this tribe, the tribe of Judah, was that through which the Messiah of Israel came, so we see as well, throughout the History of Israel, that this prophesy & all such subsequent prophesies led to the revelation that Jesus, the Son of God & the Son of David, was the True Lion of Judah.

'The Lamb of God', yet another phrase descriptive of Jesus, takes us back to the so-called Old Testament. The Hebrew Scriptures are full of examples of the Old Covenant sacrificial system which involved, in part, a lamb or young goat being sacrificed to atone for sin. As we know however, these sacrifices merely pointed to the True Sacrifice, that which was personified in Jesus the Christ, the Messiah of Israel. According to John's Revelation above, as well as numerous other passages, Jesus was also the Lamb of God.

:We begin to see, at this juncture, why the true wording, 'the wolf and the lamb' might have morphed into the more popular, 'the lion & the lamb'; it seems to fits better with the meta-narrative! Does it really, though? A famously fierce creature like a lion, laying down with a weak & timid creature like a lamb might seem to present a stronger image, but the image of a wolf laying down with a lamb actually is truer to the History of Israel, both actually & metaphorically speaking. In that region of the world, shepherds were in abundance ( still are ) & if knowledge serves correctly, according to Scripture, anyway, wolves, not lions, were their main problem.

Jesus, according to Matthew 10:16, told His Disciples, 'Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves'. Going back further into Israel's history, He had warned them previously, saying, 'Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.' ( Matthew 7:15 ( Genesis 49:27 ) He spoke these words concerning the Pharisees & later the Judaizers who claimed to be of God's 'flock', but who were actually trying to destroy it! 

The apostle Paul used this metaphor, as well, when he warned the elders of the Church at Ephesus, 'after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock' ( Acts 20:29 ). Although we know that lions did/do inhabit that country ( note Sampson's Story in Judges 14 ), they apparently were not as prolific or problematic as wolves, especially in connection with sheep & shepherding. I Samuel 17 also recounts young David's encounter with both a lion & a bear who came upon his flock, but that is another story for another day & a slightly different metaphor. 

Jesus sometimes referred to His followers as His 'flock', as did His disciples after Him ( Matthew 26:31, I Peter 5:1 ). He is most famously recorded as saying, 'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me' ( John 10:27 ). The writer to the Hebrews, in his famous benediction, called Jesus 'that great Shepherd of the sheep' ( Hebrews 13:20 ) Though Jesus was the Shepherd of Israel, He was also the Lamb of God, both as the Great Sacrifice foretold throughout their history & as an Israelite Himself, 'who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh' ( Romans 1:3 )

Using highly metaphorical language, a dying father described how the tribe of Judah would rise to preeminence over the other tribes, those fathered by Jacob's other children. As the lion is known popularly as 'the king of the jungle', so the tribe of Judah was prophesied to rule over his brothers, sometimes with a fist of iron ( I Kings 12:10 ), to their own hurt. Jesus, on the other hand, as one of those sheep Himself, became 'the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' ( John 1:29 ) Rather than ruling over them, as previous kings had, He laid down His life for them ( John 15:13 ), showing them He was with them in their trials & suffering ( Revelation 1:9 ).

So, while the phrase in question, referring to the Lion & the Lamb, personifies Jesus as the Christ, the actual phrase from Scripture, 'the wolf and the lamb' speaks better to the history of Israel. As it is used popularly, speaking metaphorically of the peace that has come to us through the Kingdom of the Christ, it is being fulfilled daily as 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' flows through us to bring peace to the entire creation.

We, in our limited vision, read & hear the news of the world, despairing of seeing this peace gain a foothold in our generation ( if ever ), much less becoming a way of life, yet can bear witness to this truth, first in our own life, then in the lives of those around us & finally, to the rest of the world. When we stop acting as 'wolves', devouring others of the 'flock', instead realizing our part in & with the Lion of Judah, who became a Lamb, then we can lay down with the rest of the flock in peace. As this Peace spreads throughout the world, not only will the wolf lie down with the lamb, but we will bear witness to the fact that the Lion laid down AS a Lamb & rose as King!

May it be,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Christ as Inner Reality

'Christ in you, the hope of glory'; when the apostle Paul wrote these mysterious words to the Church at Colosse, he had just been telling them about his sacrificial service on their behalf. ( This in itself might give us a hint as to what Jesus meant when He told His disciples they would do 'greater works' ( John 14:12 ) than He did ). By telling them this, was the apostle simply telling them that the Spirit of the Christ, or God, would be their Guide, or was he telling them something more delicious? He used the phrase 'Body of Christ' a lot, too; what do you think he meant by that? Was he just using a metaphor, juxtaposing the Body of Christ with the body of Moses, or was he saying something different?

Many people seem to think that 'Christ' was Jesus' last name! I'm not well-versed in ancient history, but I know enough to tell you that Jesus, if indeed He had a last name, would have been called 'Jesus ben Joseph' ( kinda like 'Judah ben Hur', from the classic movie starring Charlton Heston ), for, as far as most people could tell, Joseph was His father. Put simply, 'Christ' means 'anointed, or sent'. As such, Jesus was called 'the Christ' because He was sent by His Father to redeem His people, the Jews.

In his letter to the Church at Rome, Paul explained the somewhat enigmatic phrase in question a little more in-depth. He wrote to them ( Romans 8 ) that, since the Spirit of God ( the Christ ) was in them, their innermost being, they were thus free from the sin that so easily beset them. He went on to tell them that though they were free now, they were still going to suffer much pain from those who had not been freed like them.

Though the apostle's words were written to address a certain situation that his original audience was about to face ( if they weren't facing it already ), we should also take his words to heart, for they are almost as relevant today, or so it would seem! Those who have 'accepted Jesus', so to speak, having thus been freed from the burden of guilt that many of us still seem to bear, often seem to suffer still, at the hands of those who have not, nor will 'accept' the Messiah of Israel, or Jesus the Christ.

Much of the suffering that goes on around the world, in this manner, is totally unnecessary! To 'suffer for the Name of Christ' is still worn by many Christians as a Badge of Courage. This is not to say that the suffering of people like Corrie Ten Boom or Richard Wurmbrand ( there are countless others ) was useless or that the sacrifices they made were for nothing. On the contrary, through their suffering, the Kingdom of Heaven advanced & continues to advance.

Much of the problem, as this blogger sees it, is that many or most Christians have not realized the true gravity of 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'. Not only are we free from indwelling sin, but as Jesus said, we will do & have done 'greater works'! 'The Christ', as most, if not all Christians view it, was embodied by Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Biblically speaking, Jesus was THE Christ, but was Jesus the only one?

As Christians, we confess, along with Scripture, that Jesus was/is the only begotten Son of God.We also agree that it is through Him alone ( the Christ, the Son of God ) that one gains access to the Father ( John 14:6 ). What most fail to realize or remember is that 'as He is, so are we in this world' ( I John 4:17 ). In context, I realize, the apostle's words were directed to a specific audience for a specific time, but they also bear this meaning for us today; when we face trials & suffer for our witness, we face them with the same Strength He did!

'We are not Him', most will argue: 'agreed, we are not Jesus, we were not born over 2,000 years ago, nor are we Hebrews ( Jewish? ), but have we not been sent for the very same purpose, have we not been anointed to carry on His labors; were we not told we would accomplish 'greater works'? As He was the Christ for the redemption of that world, are we not given the ministry of reconciliation for our world? Yes, Scripturally speaking, we understand that He was 'Sent' to 'save His people from their sins' ( Matthew 1:21 ). We do not save people from their sins, maybe, in the exact same sense that He did, although, through the same Love that He showed those He healed, we do forgive them & help them to see the Light!

The Story of Israel comes from a culture that is both ancient & almost totally foreign to us, though our economy is based largely on theirs. The Sacrifice of Jesus at Golgotha had been foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament. ( Animal sacrifice was apparently an acceptable thing in that culture; in ours, not so much ). This is not to say that Jesus suffered & died for the Jews alone; His atonement baptized the entire creation, both Jew & Gentile. In other words, it was universal in scope, heightening our responsibility to carry on His work, as the Christ, spreading the Good News of Redemption & Reconciliation throughout our world!

As mentioned before, the trials & sufferings that Christians have gone through in the past & continue to go through around the world fulfilled & continue to fulfill their purpose. Though these men & women suffered as the Christ, most do not recognize this, nor do they realize, sadly, their Power. Use some mysterious term like 'the Body of Christ', if you wish, say that they were/are merely representing the Christ; these men & women were & are presenting the Christ to a lost & dying world. for all intents & purposes, they ARE the Christ!

The apostle's words in Romans 8 hold as true for us today as they did back then! It is this blogger's opinion that many today, even Christians, suffer death because though they acknowledge the Spirit in them, they yet deny, or at least fail to realize that it is not a borrowed Strength they wield; it is the very same Strength as Jesus employed. Because of a misplaced hope, as well as other reasons, many or most Christians, while realizing their spiritual nature, to whatever extent, yet place overmuch focus on their carnal ( physical? ) nature & thus end, physically speaking, in death, just like Paul warned ( Romans 8::6 )!

Jesus DID embody the Christ; there is no doubt, but when we do those 'greater works', so do we! We present the Christ every time we show the Love we were shown by our Heavenly Father. Every time we help a little old lady across the street, every time we feed a starving orphan, every time we defend the fatherless & widows. The Christ is being presented all over the world, even though those who embody Him may not realize it: this is the true meaning of 'Christ in you, the hope of glory'!

Live it, Love it, Lavish it!
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Love Without Judgement?

There's a lot of talk going around these days, even in the so-called Christian camp, about how we shouldn't judge: quoting Matthew 7:1, the argument goes something like this; 'the Bible says we shouldn't judge others, because if we do, we'll be judged'. Well, that's not quite true! First of all, we need to remember that Jesus spoke these words to a certain people, at a certain time, in a certain place. .Jesus told His first-century listeners ( Jews, mostly ) that when they judged others for not keeping the Law, they condemned themselves, for though they may have kept the letter of the Law, like circumcision, cleanliness & tithing, they ignored the weightier matters, 'justice and mercy and faith' ( Matthew 23:23 ). Jesus' words in Matthew 7:1 do not say that we shouldn't judge, only that we should be prepared to be judged in the same manner that we do judge!

'Unconditional Love' has been the topic of many conversations lately, as well. 'If only people could just love one another without judging each other', might be a representative statement. One might well ask, 'is it possible to love without judgement?' Many would immediately respond with, 'YES, just love; Love is all that matters!'.  Love IS all that matters, but then we must define Love; 'what IS Love?' A better question might be, 'Who is Love?!' According to I John 4:8, 'God is love'. If one follows the Law of God then, according to the apostle Paul ( Romans 13:10 ), one has loved another.

Some might say that hate is the opposite of love. Although there may seem to be some truth to this, nothing could be further from the truth! In this day & age, love seems to be defined more as a feeling than anything else; I love _______', or 'I hate ________'. Of course, these feelings may change & the one that was 'loved' one day may be 'hated' the next! The object of true ( holy ) hatred is not a certain person, though they are definitely on the wrong, or receiving end, but rather, it is the actions of any given person that should inspire hatred. If one is doing wrong, especially since that wrong will, at some point, come back to bite them in the ass, it is not unloving to tell them so. Not to tell them so, in other words, not to warn them, would in fact be unloving.

Biblical, or holy hatred is aimed more at ones actions, rather than at the person themselves; Jesus showed this when He congregated with those the Jews called sinners, more than He did with, say, the Pharisees, the religious ruling class. According to John 8:1-12, Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery for this very reason. The Pharisees sought to condemn her, or rather force Jesus to condemn her, but Jesus knew they were guilty of the same crime.

The phrase, 'hate the sin, not the sinner' is thus true; while we should deplore sin in whatever form it appears, rather than hating the wrongdoer & furthering the wrong, we should lovingly alert that one to his or her crime, warning them of the consequences to come. If they will not listen to us & continue in their particular crime, then we have done what is required of us, to love our neighbor as ourselves but if they do listen & cease their unlawful actions, then, according to Scripture ( Matthew 18:15-17 ) we have gained a brother or sister.

As it is impossible to love without some sort of judgement, so it is impossible to have a right or holy hatred without just judgement. In order to love rightly, one must judge for themselves, first of all, what it truly means to love. After they have determined what love truly is, then they must judge how best to show that love. Thus with a holy hatred; one must determine what is the true object of that hatred before one can truly & rightly hate. Scripture teaches us that a true & righteous hatred is reserved for that which the Creator God loathes, nothing else!

To love unconditionally does not then, mean to love with judgement! To go around, as some do, telling everyone you love them is one thing, but to act on that statement is another. It's fine to tell someone you love them, but unless we show them that love by acting according to the Laws of Nature & Nature's God, our words are less than useless. Love without judgement is no love at all, for even in determining not to judge, one has made a judgement & unless one determines to love another, he or she may as well have murdered them!

Judgement is a funny thing; like a two-edged sword, it cuts both ways! Judgement can be for good or evil, right or wrong. To judge rightly, whether in matters of love or hate, one must have a true, biblical understanding of both. To have a holy hatred, one must understand what the Creator God hates & why. To rightly & truly love, as well, one must know what it means to love. If we would like to be judged in the same way we judge others, then we'd better make sure ours is a righteous judgement!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Future Destiny

They say that time flies when you're having fun. He 16th birthday was looming already & she was having the time of her, something like that, anyway. With such an interesting beginning in this existence, Jim & Sharon knew that she was destined for greatness, but the whirlwind that the past 16 years had been was nothing like they expected! When Jim received the call that fateful evening, he had no clue what his affirmative would mean for him & his barren wife.

Jim had never been very close to his sister, though 'God knows' he had tried, so when he heard Destiny's voice on the line, he was taken aback & rendered speechless for a time. Jim loved his sister, always had, in his own way, but had never really been able to figure out the best way to show it. Therefore, he had remained silent, letting his sister suffer alone. When he heard his sister's plea that day, therefore, Jim was all ears! 'I'm dying', she told him. 'I've lived a wild life ever since I left home & it's finally caught up to me!' Destiny next asked her brother a question that would change his & Sharon's life forever.

'Would you raise Sarah for me?' With barely a moment's hesitation, just long enough to signal for his wife to pick up the extension, Jim replied that he would be honored. Sharon, when she became aware of the situation, immediately echoed her husband. Not knowing much about Destiny, for Jim had never talked much about his estranged sister, Sharon instinctively knew this was the chance she had been waiting for. They had found out, soon after the wedding, that she could never bear children, so when Destiny made this strange request, both Jim & Sharon knew that they had been given a second chance!

From the beginning, they knew this was no ordinary child! The day that Sarah arrived at the local airport, Jim & Sharon noticed immediately that she was more aware than any newborn they had ever known. With bright, attentive eyes, Sarah looked out on her new world with a steadiness, almost an understanding of her surroundings that surprised all with whom she came in contact. The caretakers that had brought the child to her new home barely even noticed the fact that this was no ordinary child, but her new parents picked up on it immediately.

On the short ride home from the airport, Sharon remarked to her husband, through her tears, how blessed they were to have received this Gift. As Jim piloted the vehicle down their long, paved driveway, he fought the lump in his throat while a stray tear coursed down his face. He HAD been given a second chance; a chance to prove his love for the sister he had barely known. Raising Destiny's Child, he knew, would not turn back the sands of time, but maybe, just maybe, he could redeem himself by showing her the love he had failed to show her mother!

Jim & Sharon Weatherbey were well-to-do. They were not as fabulously wealthy as some, at least not as wealth is most often measured in this world, but neither did they lack. With Jim pulling in six figures as an independent contractor & Sharon doing a computer-based business from home, there was plenty to share. The lifestyle they led barely showed their affluence either; the Weatherbeys led a fairly quiet life, not wanting to make a big fuss.  They had a beautiful 4 bedroom house, with a two-car garage that housed a late model pickup for Jim & a nice, modest little SUV for Sharon. They were surrounded by nearly 30 acres of land, including several large groves of trees & a well-appointed man-made pond.

Jim continued to reflect on the Gift they had been given, while he brought the vehicle to rest in its spacious home. Moving past his wife, who seemed in a hurry to introduce their new child to her new home, he opened the door that led into the kitchen, stepping back with a flourish. 'Aren't you going to carry us across the threshold?' Sharon asked, almost jokingly. With no hesitation, Jim scooped up both his bundles of Joy & proudly carried them through the welcoming open door!

When his wife & the baby were securely ensconced in his mother's old rocking chair, Jim knelt before them both & enfolded them in his arms, while the tears finally fell freely. Mingling hers with his, they stayed in this position for what seemed like hours before Jim finally raised his head. With a husky voice still full of tears, he first apologized to his wife for not discussing his sister with her like he should have, then thanking her for allowing him to take the second chance that he, or they rather, had been given. Still fighting tears herself, Sharon could only hold onto him tighter, almost forgetting, for the moment, that Sarah was enjoying the same embrace.

The next few years were no picnic! The Weatherbeys, don't get me wrong, thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, but raising a child like Sarah, with such an obvious Destiny, was no easy task. From the day she had arrived on their doorstep, Destiny's Child demanded their undivided attention. She was so aware of her surroundings, while at the same time, everything was so new to her that Sarah often resorted to tears of frustration, largely due to the fact that her tiny, immature body was usually unable to keep up with her 'old soul' & independent, free spirit.

Raising Sarah was certainly an adventure, even a rather painful one sometimes, but Jim & Sharon never held a moment's regret for their quick decision those many years ago. Sarah was not always the easiest child to raise, for she was still a child, at least, in her body & Jim spent many hours in tears, because every time he watched Sarah, he could not help reliving that time so long ago when he had watched his sister struggle through life. While he had not been able to love his sister like he wanted to, he was now able to shower her Gift with all the love he held for her.

When Destiny finally caught up with Jim those many years later, he was more than ready to love this sister that it seemed he barely knew anymore. She told him enough of her adventures, or rather, misadventures, that he was pretty certain he didn't want to know anymore. She had changed, this beloved sister of his & now she was ready for a new beginning. With Sarah in a good home, a family that loved her & better prospects, Destiny knew that this was the second chance, the greater purpose she had been longing for.


Destiny's Story is not an unfamiliar one & as we continue to follow it, some parts of it, to whatever extent, will likely resonate with us, whether because we, a friend or relative has gone or is going through a similar storm. The Second Chance that she received should hold out for all hearers
( readers ) that when we fail, there is always the next time, another chance to right the wrongs of our own world. Even death itself does not bring an end to the Story!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lucifer; Bringer of Light ( A Companion to 'Who is this 'Satan'? )

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:14

Okay; so in the past few days I have found myself being assaulted by 'Satan'!

No, seriously, 'Lucifer' himself has me under attack, but I know why! Better yet, I know who he is, I can control 'him'! ( Sorry for all the personal pronouns, but just insert 'we' where applicable. ) The 'lower' mind, our basest chakra, if you will, likes to control our emotions & therefore our actions, but we must overcome 'him'; just as the Lord told Cain, 'If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire [ is ] for you, but you should rule over it' ( Genesis 4:7 ). We have a choice, we can choose to act the part of 'Lucifer', or we can choose to act the part of 'Satan'!

'Satan', as my readers might remember, is simply Hebrew for 'adversary.'. Though this, in itself, does not rule out the possibility that there might, after all, be something to the relatively modern rendition of the old goat with a pitchfork, the biblical evidence is too overwhelming to the contrary for this blogger to understand the concept of 'Satan' as anything other than an adversarial spirit. When people blame their problems on 'Satan' or 'Lucifer', then, though the notion still rankles me somewhat, I find that I must agree!

'How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer,[b] son of the morning!' Speaking through the prophet Isaiah ( Isaiah 14:12 ), YHWH began what most perceive as a judgement on this 'Satan' character. 'Lucifer', as further study will show, means 'Day Star'. A Google search may even reveal that 'Lucifer' is another name for 'Venus', or what we often call 'the morning star'. This planet is often mistakenly called both the 'morning' & 'evening star' because it is the first one visible to the naked eye before dawn & after dusk. Usually uttered with a bad connotation & used interchangeably with 'Satan', 'Lucifer' is anything but & so, one might recall these words from the apostle Paul in his second letter to the Church at Corinth ( 11:14 ), 'And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light'!

As 'the light of the world', it is we who often place ourselves under a certain condemnation when we fail to live up to our 'name' In Paul's day, it was the Judaizers, the apostate Jews, those who denied that Jesus was the Christ, who, as those who were ( supposed to be ) 'the light of the world', failed to recognize the True 'Light of the World' when He appeared. These, who were sent as angels ( messengers ) of light, had taken the position of adversary ( 'satan' ) against the cause of the Christ!
Jesus was sent, as the Christ, the Son of the Creator God, being of the same Essence. So too, being of the same Essence with both Jesus & our Heavenly Father, we are Sent Ones. We are the Light of the World in the exact same sense as Jesus was the Light of that world! Though we often fail to shine that Light as we should, or think we should, we are still the Light of this world & it is when we fail to acknowledge or recognize this glorious fact that our Light is dimmed.

Getting into the more esoteric & astrological studies, even into what many would term 'New Age' or 'eastern mysticism' , one may ascertain that, 'as above, so below': our human bodies are fashioned in much the same manner as the heavens above & when we fail to realize this, not acting according to this knowledge, we find ourselves prone to all sorts of 'disease', even when it comes to functioning as the 'Light of the World'. On the other hand & to a far greater degree, when we realize our true position in the Universe, our Light so shines before men & women that they cannot help but praise our Father in Heaven, even though they may not acknowledge Him!

Addressing the king of Babylon, YHWH reminded him that, while his purpose was to preserve the People of the Light in their exile, he had, in his own pride, striven to gain the ascendancy. In much the same manner, it is our pride which causes us to fall. However, when we fall, for we always do, we can choose to rise to the occasion, like the bright & morning-star ( Revelation 22:16 ) that we are, or we can choose to settle in the dust!

The greatest adversary in our lives is usually us, our pride, our ego! This is what Cain fought against & what a multitude after him, both in biblical history & otherwise, fought. We continue, to this day, to fight against this 'demon'. Again, though, it is up to us; it is our choice as to whether we give in to our baser instinct, like mere animals, or whether, as the New Creation, we rise above our meaner nature & shine forth as the 'Light of the World'.

Some may say that we're dreamers, but we're not the only ones! As the Children of the Highest, it is in us to shine! Because of a failure to understand what that truly means, we do not shine as brightly as we could, maybe, but even though as through a glass dimly, we still shine. As we continue to realize & acknowledge our place among the stars, we will shine ever bright in the Perfect Day!

The conclusion of the matter, then: BE a 'Lucifer', not a 'Satan'!

Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Clothed with the Christ

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.( Galatians 3:27 )

For we know that if our earthly house, [ this ] tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in [ this ] tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. ( II Corinthians 5:1-4 )

We must keep in mind, first & foremost, that the apostle Paul wrote these words to a certain, specific people, at a certain, specific time in history. These words of comfort were written specifically to Gentile believers to encourage them in the fact that, though they were not of the peculiar people who had been chosen to spread the Gospel under that first ( covenant ), they had indeed been integrated into that number, having inherited the Blessings of the New Covenant through their acceptance of the Christ, the One who was Sent to redeem True Israel!

Baptism into the Christ, in that day & age,  meant that they, along with the Jews, Yahweh's chosen people, would inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. It was the accepted sign of their inclusion into the New Covenant, not like circumcision, which was merely an outward sign, but the inner reality to which circumcision had pointed ( Deuteronomy 30:6 ). Using the language of Genesis 3, the apostle assured the Gentile believers that they too had been clothed with Righteousness of the Son of God. 

In this Day & Age, to be clothed with the Christ means much the same, yet with this important difference; as the Body of Christ, which was the apostle's way of differentiating between that first ( covenant ) & the New, or the first Adam & the Last Adam, those who lived & died during that transitional period (  the crucifixion of Jesus to the destruction of the Temple ) were waiting for that time when they would be freed from the bondage that still plagued them: we are no longer waiting for that freedom, having inherited the Kingdom which they were promised.

Jesus told His Disciples, 'I [ was ] naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me' ( Matthew 25:36 ) Really, this is what it means to be Clothed with the Christ. The brother of Jesus corroborated this when he wrote, 'Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, [ and ] to keep oneself unspotted from the world.' ( James 1:27 ) Although not in so many words, maybe, the point of what Jesus & His brother said was that our actions, not our words ( beliefs, doctrines ) define who we are. Being clothed with the Righteousness of the Christ means that we are doers, not just hearers or sayers!

The Christ, as personified in Jesus, was/is the God-man! When He walked the Land back in the day, Jesus did many things, but maybe the simplest was that, when He saw a need, He did everything He could to meet that need. Jesus, as the Son of the Creator God & The Creator God Himself, according to accepted orthodoxy, did many miracles, such as raising the dead, healing the sick with a word & walking on water. Most would say that we may be able to imitate Jesus, doing what He did, in a manner of speaking, but some things are just too far beyond our reach. Well; it's almost unthinkable, but Jesus DID say, 'he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater [ works ] than these he will do, because I go to My Father.' ( John 14:12 )

Jesus also told His Disciples, according to Luke's Gospel, 'Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem[i] until you are endued with power from on high.' ( Luke 24:49 ) The question might be asked here, 'was this Power for which they waited any less that that which Jesus Himself wielded?' Many would likely say 'yes' ( if they'd even countenance such a notion ), but we must ask ourselves if we truly DO wield less Power, especially considering what Jesus said about doing greater things!

'Greater' might simply mean that they/we continue His work of reconciliation. In that case, it's true enough; we have the power to reconcile with one another, even to orchestrate reconciliation on a greater scale, but I'm not sure that covers it. It would be enough, probably, but there's so much more! If Jesus turned water into wine by the Power of the Creator God, who's to say that we can't. Because Jesus healed from a distance, by the same Power we have at our disposal, is it outside the realm of possibility that we can as well?

Despite the fact that we could do so much more than we allow ourselves, there is a lot that humanity has accomplished, many miracles that continue to occur on a daily basis. Such 'miracles', whether made possible through Science & Technology or what, occur only by the Power of the Creator God. It is 'in Him we live and move and have our being' according to the apostle Paul in Acts 17:28, He, as the Creator & Sustainer of the Universe, has endued us with all that is necessary for the subsistence of biological life, but this biological existence is not all there is!

As the Christ, Jesus showed His contemporaries that it was possible for a Man to be God! Jesus wielded the Power of the Creator God, there is no doubt; no Man could accomplish the feats that Jesus did with apart from this Supernatural Agency. Since we, however, are endued with this same  'power from on high', it follows that we, a Sons & Daughters of the Creator God ourselves can accomplish the same feats that Jesus did & greater! So, why aren't we?!

Charles Haddon Shank

Friday, June 02, 2017

Universal Salvation

'Am I alive, or dead?'

'We don't have to think like that any more. We're together now.'
 'Everything we've done is forgiven. Everything.'
Chris & Rheya Kelvin-Solaris

'True universalism is the scope of the gospel, not some antiquated 'doctrine' that says all are 'saved' & going to Heaven when they die, no matter how they have lived in this world!' 

In theological terms, 'universalism' is the belief that all humanity is 'saved' & headed for 'Heaven'.  Most or many Christians deny this of course, some most voraciously, while others have embraced this theology & call themselves 'Christian Universalists'. Christian Universalism, in general terms, teaches a Universal Reconciliation, in essence, that all humanity will eventually be saved. Numerous different Scriptures ( I Timothy 4:10, I John 2:2, et al ) seem to indicate that this is true insofar as the Creator God has reconciled the world to Himself ( II Corinthians 5:19 ( Romans 11:5 ), though the world, in its totality, has not ( yet ) reconciled itself to the Creator God

The Wikipedia article on the subject puts it this way; 'Universalism is a theological and philosophical concept with universal application or applicability. Universalist doctrines consider all people in their formation.' In other words, while the Gospel, in terms of the Scriptures, was presented, or revealed, to the Hebrew nation, or Israel, its message was given to spread from there throughout the world, to all of humanity. The Gospel, or 'Good News' is that the Creator God invested Himself into His Creation, by placing His Image in them, thus making them His Living Temple. Again, because all have not ( yet ) reconciled with their Heavenly Father, it should be clear that not all fulfill or realize this function!

The Story that we read in Scripture is indeed the Story of Israel:the 'Good News of Salvation' was a message primarily for the Jews, although it included the Gentiles as well. With the fulfillment (
 filling up ) of the Gospel ( Colossians 1:23 ) & thus the fulfillment of salvation, the question has surfaced about whether it is proper to continue the use of this terminology ( 'salvation' ). The traditional Christian doctrine of salvation, including the doctrine of Heaven & Hell is thus brought into question, since the salvation that Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah, brought, was primarily for them. Thus, it could well be argued, were the constructs of Heaven & Hell. It has been shown that the traditional doctrine of Hell is not so much a biblical construct as a mythological Greek one.

Evangelical Christianity teaches, in other words, maybe, that Jesus came to save us from our sins & an eternity in Hell; more correctly, though, it should be noted that He came to deliver the Jews from their self-imposed Exile & to save them from the biblical 'Lake of Fire'. In Jewish literature, this has been shown to be 'gehenna', or the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem & mistranslated as 'hell'. As this was all accomplished in the first century with the destruction of Jerusalem, the leading question of whether people today are saved from Hell, is rendered all but moot!

The Salvation that Jesus the Christ brought to the Jews was thus fulfilled; those chosen 'before the foundation of the world' ( Ephesians 1:4 ( Matthew 25:34 ) having escaped to the mountains, as Jesus instructed ( Matthew 24:16 ), while the rest perished in the fiery 'hell' of AD70. The doctrine of Salvation, then, or Soteriology, must be understood, not as salvation from the traditional concept of 'hell', but as a deliverance from the bondage which exists, ultimately & only within our own minds!

People, in particular, those suffering from religious indoctrination, to whatever extent, often feel separated from their Heavenly Father when they fail to live up to their calling. Although there is something to this, it is not so much an actual separation as it is simply a feeling of guilt, a self-imposed exile if you will: this feeling might be likened to our earthly fathers whose presence we tried to avoid when we knew that we had failed them in some way. Sooner or later, usually sooner rather than later, they found us & reassured us of their continued love for us, even though we may have been 'reprimanded', however harshly, for our mistake.

The Story of Israel, as we have noted previously, is the Story of Humanity. Although we skate on thin ice when we endeavor to place ourselves in their Story, we can see many similarities. Since the Advent of the New Covenant, though, there is much that has changed;  for one thing, we are no longer under Law, though many Christians seem to think we are, but we are under Grace, to use Scriptural terminology. We are not waiting for a Messiah, political or otherwise, to show up & deliver us from the 'hell' we created; in the same 'vein', we are not waiting for all things to be made anew, for we are, as the apostle Paul wrote, 'a new creation' ( II Corinthians 5:17 ). Here too, we must remember that in speaking of being found 'in Christ', Paul was speaking directly to his contemporaries, both Jew & Gentile, not to us!

Both 'Heaven' & 'Hell', in some sense, exist, here on earth! In the sense that we enjoy the Presence of our Heavenly Father, we live in 'Heaven'. However, there are those who purposefully flout the Laws of Nature & Nature's God; more often than not, these find themselves in their own private 'hell' ( although sometimes, it's not very private ). In some sense, then, we might almost understand 'salvation' today as deliverance from 'hell', while those who enjoy the Blessings of the New Covenant do not have to die in order to enter 'Heaven'!

With the fulfillment of the Story of Israel came the Fulfillment of Salvation! Though, as we have borne witness to, there are those who have committed such acts of atrocity that there seems to be no hope of reconciliation. Some even, who still cling, however tenaciously, to life, seem to stubbornly refuse to reconcile with their Heavenly Father & with His Son, the Christ. For such as these, we may only dare to hope & pray, with Love!

The Hope for Salvation to which most, if not all people cling, to whatever extent & in whatever form, is a universal construct. Many seek such 'salvation' outside themselves , but it is only to be found through the Christ Within, for it is through the choices we make that one lives in 'Heaven' or 'Hell'!

'Universalism' then, TRUE 'universalism', is not so much the belief that everyone will eventually be saved, as it is the belief that it is our own choices & our acceptance or rejection of the Good News of the Christ Within which determines whether or not we enjoy the Blessings of our Inheritance. The Scope of the Gospel, or Good News to Israel was, ultimately for all mankind; it was not, as many in Israel thought it should be, exclusive to those within Israel. The inclusiveness of the New Covenant is ultimately freeing & truly Good News; only those who realize & accept its blessings will enjoy them, it is true; however, one cannot simply place limits on something that is limitless!

Charles Haddon Shank