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Going Through Hell

From time to time, I will receive heart breaking news. A car accident ends the life of a teenager, cancer takes another victim or an unforeseen illness takes away a loved one before you have a chance to say goodbye. Anyone who experiences these trials might compare their pain to “going through hell” on earth. Yet, is this an accurate comparison based upon the description of hell in the Bible?

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward], Hebrews 10:26.

The word hell is used 54 times in the original King James Bible. If you dig deeper, there are 4 distinct words in the Bible used to describe aspects of hell: Sheol, Hades, Gehenna, and Tartaroo. Sheol has two different meanings depending on the context, the grave or pit. Hades refers to the physical location of hell, the abode of the spirits of the dead or the underworld. The final two terms focus on the eternal consequences of hell.

[There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:27.

Gehenna is a small valley in Jerusalem where some of the kings of Judah in the Old Testament sacrificed their children by fire. A first century doctor uses Gehenna in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus to describe hell as a place of burning, torment, and misery. Meanwhile, Tartaroo refers to the deepest abyss in hell where the wicked suffer eternal punishment for their wicked deeds committed on earth. Upon further review, may the anguish that you suffer on earth draw you into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, so that you current pain is only temporary and not eternal.

by Jay Mankus

Looking Up from Hell

At the end of every year, television networks reflect upon what happened, news worthy events of the year which form a best of list. When a year falls at the end of a decade, this only adds to programming as shows analyze current events of the past year and decade. If you did this for President Trump’s comments or tweets, there aren’t enough days in the year to follow the good, the bad and the ugly. One recent comment got my attention.

Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it. 14 But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it, Matthew 7:13-14.

During a Trump Rally in December, the president went off script. After being impeached by the House, President Trump told a story about a phone call from the widow of John Dingell, a former congressman from New York. Following this story, Trump couldn’t resist the opportunity to poke fun of a former adversary, suggesting that John Dingell might be looking up from hell instead of down from heaven. This particular comment created a fire storm in the media, making headlines on every cable channel and newspaper. Yet, few members of the media reported the full context, that one of Dingell’s last text before dying wished that President Trump would to go to hell. This doesn’t make Trump’s comment right, but it reveals the full context.

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, Matthew 10:28.

Most funerals assume that the loved one who died went to heaven. While this is a natural desire, hope and wish, the Bible paints a different picture. Jesus uses the analogy of two paths, a spacious one which many follow and a narrow trail which few find. Thus, if this is true, there are far more souls looking up from hell rather than looking down from heaven. Since you only get one chance, one life on earth, devote 2020 and beyond to following the Way so that your eternal destination will be secured before you die, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Determined to Change the Status Quo

Status quo is a Latin phrase which refers to the existing state of affairs in regard to social or political issues. From a modern perspective, this is similar to the expression”don’t rock the boat” by maintaining the existing social structure and values. During a scene from National Treasure, Benjamin Gates’ father warns his son that unless the status quo changes, their lives will be in danger. Whenever I am pressured to conform to one ideology, mindset or worldview, my creative nature craves to go against the flow, finding a better way by thinking outside the box.

Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it, Matthew 7:13.

Jesus addresses the status quo during a first century sermon. Jesus uses the analogy of two roads: a super highway and a trail through the woods. The status quo is compared to a broad road, where the popular crowd resides followed by the masses and wanna be accepted. Meanwhile, the less attractive path is narrow, only accessible for one person at a time. Jesus details the eternal destination that awaits based upon the decisions each person makes on earth. Perhaps, Jesus is using fear instill a desire to change the status quo.

But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it, Matthew 7:14.

Thirty five years ago, I was a teenager who recently accepted Jesus to be my personal Lord and Savior. This decision didn’t sit too well with many of my non-believing friends. As I became an active member of my high school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I found comfort and support on the narrow path. Sure, being considered cool and popular by my peers would have been nice, but I was determined to change the status quo. A similar decision today could be compared with committing social suicide. Yet, in the end you have to decide who do you want to please; others or God. As for me and my house, I remain determined to change the status quo.

by Jay Mankus

More than Just a Fright Night

Every October television networks devote their programming to reruns of Halloween and horror themed movies. Meanwhile, local cities, communities and towns use haunted forests, houses and theme parks to prepare individuals for Halloween. The first purpose-built haunted attraction was the Orton and Spooner Ghost House located in Liphook, England. Since this establishment opened in 1915, nearly every region has developed their own Fright Land to scare the hell out of visitors.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7.

Most brains have a memory capacity of about 2.5 petabytes. This is equivalent to 2.6 million gigabytes. To place this fact into its proper perspective, Blu-Ray discs hold roughly 50 gigabytes. This means that the human mind is comparable to a digital television able to store up to 3 million hours of television shows. While this potential is impressive, if minds absorb too many images of horror, pornography or other inappropriate content, this opens the door for unclean spirits to enter your life.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love, 1 John 4:18.

Human minds don’t need an internet connection to be reminded of the unpleasant experiences of their past. All your mind needs is a flashback, a song or some sort of trigger to unleash these haunting memories. Anyone who has ever been abused, raped or fallen prey to pornography have these nightmares seared into their minds. As individuals use horror flicks to get into the mood to celebrate Halloween, it only takes one unwholesome image to inflict a troubled soul. Therefore, as Halloween approaches, be on guard so that this one night of fright doesn’t turn into a lifetime of reliving nightmares.

by Jay Mankus

From Spiritual Blindness to Humility

Spiritual blindness is a grievous condition experienced by those who do not believe in God, Jesus Christ, and His Word, the Bible. This state is often brought on by a popular view that God is all loving, preventing this spiritual being from sending human beings to hell. Spiritual blindness can also be contracted by the self-righteous. This occurs when religious individuals begin to compare themselves to less spiritual people. This comparison elevates their own self-esteem while lulling souls into a false sense of security.

He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves and were confident that they were righteous [posing outwardly as upright and in right standing with God], and who viewed others with contempt: Luke 18:9.

During the first century, Jesus attempted to expose the spiritual blindness of religious leaders by using a parable.  This analogy compared one outstanding citizen, a Pharisee with a stellar reputation to a tax collector, the most corrupt and dishonest occupations at the time.  Jesus made his point by noticing the prayer habits of these two men.  This so called good guy exalted himself without any acknowledgement, gratitude or praise for the Lord above.  Meanwhile, the social misfit, hated by society, did not feel worthy to look up to heaven.  Rather, this tax collector beat his chest, disgusted by the spiritual condition of his soul.

The Pharisee stood [ostentatiously] and began praying to himself [in a self-righteous way, saying]: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of men—swindlers, unjust (dishonest), adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing at a distance, would not even raise his eyes toward heaven, but was striking his chest [in humility and repentance], saying, ‘God, be merciful and gracious to me, the [especially wicked] sinner [that I am]!’– Luke 18:11-13.

Life is full of cycles. phases and transitional periods.  During these ups and downs, God humbles the proud and lifts up the meek.  The hardest part of these emotional experiences is remembering where you came from.  In the darkest days of Job’s trials, this broken man once said, “from ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”  This confession reflects upon God creating Adam out of the dust only to return to the ground following his death.  When human beings recognize the frailty of life, a mist that appears for a while then quickly vanishes, this should move the spiritually blind to humility.  May this painful reality prompt acts of faith to get your life in order this year.

by Jay Mankus

Perhaps Its Time to Get Off Your High Horse

As a child, adults, parents and teachers often quoted euphemisms.  These indirect expressions were meant to drive home a point during a teachable moment.  Whenever I appeared to be too judgmental, I heard “get off your high horse.”  The point of this phrase serves as a rebuke to stop criticizing everyone.  Essentially, this a warning to avoid claiming to have a superior moral ground than everyone else.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” Luke 6:39.

In the attached You Tube scene above, a man is forced to determine the eternal fate of his two children.  The only catch is one can go to heaven with the other eternally condemned to hell.  The angelic being reveals flaws, imperfections and secret sins formerly unknown to this father.  After a brief period of contemplation, Mack declines to go through with it, offering himself up to take his child’s place in hell.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? – James 4:11-12

After watching this powerful clip from the Shack, conviction consumed my heart.  To a certain extent, I felt like I was the character in the movie, guilty of the same crime, judging others prematurely.  Everyone has a reason for the behavior that they display daily.  Whether its innocence lost at an early age, bad parenting or unwholesome addictions, each impacts actions, character and words.  The key to getting off your high horse is developing a heart that breaks for the pain of others.  May this scene and these words inspire you to see the people in this world through the eyes of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Battle Scars

In 1998, a film brought the battlefields of war into movie theaters across the country.  Using the invasion on the beaches of Normandy during World War II as a backdrop, Saving Private Ryan graphically depicts the brutal nature of war during an extended battle scene.  Those who survived were haunted by images of splattered blood, cries for help and the silence of death.  Some of these individuals returned home with visible signs of this violent venture.  Others possessed emotional and mental scars, like a part of their soul was ripped out and left behind.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28.

More than eighty years later, descendants have their own battle scars.  Survivors of the Holocaust have to live with the knowledge of what happened to innocent Jews.  Immigrants have the memories of the hell they went through just to make it to America.  Meanwhile, those living in crime infested areas stay awake at night wondering, who is going to be next?  There are many that express how unfair life is or could be.  Yet, blaming, complaining and denigrating others didn’t save the world from Nazi Germany.  Rather, victory is achieved by forgetting your own battle scars by coming together for a greater purpose and cause.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, Matthew 11:29.

Instead of making situations better, divisiveness by modern politicians is only adding scars, one soul at a time.  Words are cheap, a campaign slogan to help get elected.  Yet, what this world needs are leaders who inspire others to rise above their own battle scars to make the most of life.  My largest scar is three inches long, what’s left of an ankle surgery from high school.  Prior to this procedure, I was told by doctors that I would never run again.  My Christian friends refused to believe this fate, offering up prayers to the Most High.  In the end, these prayers of intervention proved science wrong, healing me to be able to compete in athletic competitions throughout my life.  While not every story has a happen ending, come to Jesus with the battle scars from your past so that you will find rest for your soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

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