Hell on Earth

I was reminded listening to the words of a friend the other day that not everyone believes that there is both a heaven and a hell.  Funny how choosing to believe something doesn’t exist, does not mean that it in fact does not exist!  If the source for ultimate truth is the Bible, the very representation of God Himself, then this is the place for us to turn on such matters.  Since I am not a Bible scholar, I will enlist the help of Hank Haanagraf from the Christian Research Institute to shed a little light on the subject:

 First, Christ, the Creator of the cosmos, clearly communicated hell’s irrevocable reality. In fact, He spent more time talking about hell than He did about heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7), He explicitly warned His followers more than a half-dozen times about the dangers that lead to hell. In the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24–25), He repeatedly told His followers of the judgment to come. In His famous story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16), He graphically portrayed the finality of eternal torment in hell.

Furthermore, the concept of choice demands that we believe in hell. Without hell, there is no choice. Without choice, heaven would not be heaven; heaven would be hell. The righteous would inherit a counterfeit heaven, and the unrighteous would be incarcerated in heaven against their wills, which would be a torture worse than hell. Imagine spending a lifetime voluntarily distanced from God only to find yourself involuntarily dragged into His loving presence for all eternity. The alternative to hell would be worse than hell itself in that humans made in the image of God would be stripped of freedom and forced to worship God against their will.

Finally, common sense regarding justice dictates that there must be a hell. Without hell, the wrongs of Hitler’s Holocaust would never be righted. Justice would be impugned if, after slaughtering six million Jews, Hitler merely died in the arms of his mistress with no eternal consequences. The ancients knew better than to think such a thing.  [“Ask Hank” column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 27, number 1 (2004)]

We read that in hell there will be darkness, eternal separation from God, unquenchable fire, weeping and gnashing of teeth.  For all of eternity, a person will never be able to get comfortable or find relief.  Wow.  All this for turning one’s back on the God of the universe who created each one of us, loves us unconditionally, promises to never leave us or forsake us . . . if we but repent and believe in Him.  A reasonable choice I would say given the rewards, given the consequences for not doing so!  I opt for the eternal party in heaven with streets of gold and the mansion with many rooms He is now preparing for His own.  I trust that many Gentle Readers of this blog have made the same decision for Christ as Lord and Savior.

In the meantime, believers and non-believers alike must live in a fallen world where Satan rules, not God.  What?  Surely God is here, dwells in the hearts of those who love Him, reveals Himself through the wonder of nature and the blessings He bestows upon us, right?  Yes He does.  He will not rule, however, until He comes again in glory at His second coming.  Until then, we must face the consequences of sin and everything short of the Garden of Eden.  At times and increasingly in the world in which we live, we see evil and darkness.  Increasingly we see and experience what we might call “hell on earth.”  Perhaps you have tasted this yourself.  I know I have many times . . . my personal hell plays out every day as I battle a serious illness.  Wretched, man.

If you want to make sure you don’t end up in hell, well then I invite you to get connected to the Lord, Jesus Christ personally.  While there are no guarantees that you will not suffer in this life, you are guaranteed that you will live gloriously in heaven with your Heavenly Father and believers who have gone before you . . . FOREVER.  Now that’s a guarantee that pulls me through any glimpse of hell on earth these days.

All of this is good to reflect on and get straight right before Christmas.  After all, the holiday traditions will fade.  Christmas presents will break down someday and the fruitcake will live on beyond most of us in a garbage dump somewhere!  But even fruitcake will turn to dust eventually.  And when it does I know where I will be.   I will no longer have seizures, chronic illness, and chronic pain.  Everything will be perfect.  (Happy sigh.)

How about you?

Pray without ceasing

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5

The pages of my journal are color coded for quick reference to the various noxious symptoms of this ongoing illness.  This system helps when making medical summary documents or answering questions during doctor appointments.  It looks like every line has either blue (for headache), green (pain), orange (seizure attacks), purple (nightmares or waking terrors), or red (flu-like sickness) today.  Whew!  I had planned to write the hairy details directly from my journal for my blog entry today but I think that just mentioning the rainbow of wacky stuff going on is good enough.  But don’t worry.  I am more stable now.  I slept until 5:00 p.m. today with about 1 1/2 hours awake this morning for breakfast and journaling.  This is crazy stuff man.

And yet every speck of color and it’s accompanying saga are part of the Lord’s perfect plan for my life.  I am sad that Steve has to endure this too.  Yet as a believer, to have a wife with a serious illness is part of the Lord’s Divine plan for his life as well.  How this works is such a mystery!  So for me, if I am to live as Christ then I must take His Words into my heart and allow them to breathe life into my achy body each day.  I must pray without ceasing, give thanks for all the goodness that continues all around me, and know that He can use everything for His glory.  This is a mighty responsibility.  Hope I get it right!

Will this time of illness refine me in some way?  Perhaps.  I know that in another time of my life, repeated trials softened the harsh edges of my personality.  I learned that I have a Heavenly Husband and grew in fellowship with Him.  (Oh how I wish every married woman would know the joy of having a perfect partner in life as manifest in the Lord so she could cut her earthly husband some slack a little more often!)  I also witnessed the amazing provision of my King in what appeared to me as “upside down and backwards” most of the time.  In the end, the pieces of my frazzled life came together perfectly.  I even met my knight in shining aluminum (aka the 24-foot box truck that Steve rented to move me from Illinois to Indiana!) who has shown me love like no other person on this earth.  The Lord restored the years the locusts had eaten (Joel 2:25) so to speak, and I was set to live happily ever after . . .

When there’s a major turn of events in the life of a believer, chances are there’s also a major opportunity to receive something wonderful that could not come any other way.  Who changes his or her personality just because it’s Saturday?  No, it usually takes a major train wreck or two for that to happen!  Because the Lord has shown me His faithfulness, His heart, and blessings even in heartache, I will continue to choose to lean on Him, wait on Him for all things.

Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the thing which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

These colorful experiences of mine, good and bad are temporary.  Thank goodness!  Allow me to share with you one more passage that brings this hope home in my heart:

You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth.  You hall increase my greatness and comfort me on every side.  Also with the lute I will praise You — and your faithfulness, O my God!  Psalm 71

We have a Heavenly Father who promises to be with us though all of the trials of our lives and redeem them for eternal glory.  Come to His throne of grace with me Gentle Reader and bring before Him all your weariness, hurts and pain.  He sees them and carries them with us.  And one day they will be washed away when either He comes again for His own or we join Him when our time here is through.

Matisse Tree of Life
Matisse Tree of Life

If you do not know Him as Lord and Savior of your life, well, you are missing out on perfect peace and so much more.  I pray that you will consider following Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life.  If you make that decision today, please contact me and tell me all about it.  If you rededicate your love for Him, please tell me that too.  After all, to reach others for Christ is the main reason why this blog is here.  My time of illness and connecting with you today are part of His perfect plan for my life.  They just represent more pretty colors for the threads in the tapestry of my life you might say . . .