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Raise your Spirit: Reach for Heaven!

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Holistic health includes harmony and balance in mind, body, soul, and spirit. For this reason, this blog aims to provide edifying articles for its readers.
NYHS. Editor.
Jafolla, Mary-Alice; Jafolla, Richard. The Quest: A Journey of Spiritual Rediscovery. Unity Books.

HEAVEN AND HELL


Do heaven and hell really exist? Yes, but perhaps not in the way you originally thought Where are they and how do I get there? “Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” —Luke 17:21
During his first campaign for Congress, Abraham Lincoln attended a church service conducted by a fiery evangelist. The congregation was asked to stand and sing a series of stirring hymns. After the songs were finished and while they were all still standing, the preacher commanded, “Anyone who wants to go to heaven, sit down!” There was immediately the thunderous sound of bottoms slapping pews. Everyone sat … except Lincoln, who stood tall and straight amidst turning heads and hushed whispers. Somewhat puzzled, the preacher pressed further, “Anyone who doesn’t want to go to hell, sit down.” Still Lincoln remained standing like a lanky lighthouse in the middle of whispering waves of chatter. “Mr. Lincoln, if you’re not going to heaven and you don’t want to escape hell, just where do you want to go?” thundered the evangelist. Amid excruciating silence, all eyes turned to Lincoln. A broad smile came to his face. “I’m going to Congress,” he said.

 

NOT ON ANY MAPS

Could be that Abe Lincoln knew a thing or two about heaven and hell that the preacher and the rest of the congregation did not know, namely, that heaven and hell are not places to go or to avoid. Heaven and hell are states of mind. There is no geographical location where the streets are paved with gold, people play harps, and Saint Peter stands sentinel at a pair of pearly gates, arbitrarily deciding who may enter. Nor is there a geographical location ruled by a red-garbed being with horns, tail, and pitchfork, where people scream in agony and are tortured endlessly in eternal flames. The notions of this kind of heaven and hell have been popular for centuries. If you happen to have been brought up in a traditional Christian home, chances are these ideas were passed on to you, too, and at a very early age. If they were, and if they are still your dominant impressions of heaven and hell, perhaps you can suspend this belief for a bit and stay open to what may be a new idea to you.

The truth is that the idea itself is actually an old idea. It has its origins with Jesus, your Leader on The Quest.

HEAVEN One of Jesus’ primary teachings is that the kingdom of God is within. Not somewhere in the sky out there beyond our visual perception, but right inside of us. “For behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Jesus spent much time spinning parables and weaving metaphors about heaven. Yet there is not one word in the more than one hundred references that He made to heaven where Jesus describes it as a physical place “out there.” Rather He said, “The kingdom of God is near” (Lk. 21:31). He would continually state what the kingdom of God is like … And when He was pressed to get more specific, He would compare it to a grain of mustard seed (Mt. 13:31), or leaven (Mt. 13:33), or a treasure hidden in a field (Mt, 13:44), or many other comparisons.

Heaven is a state of mind.

When you live in the awareness of God as a presence and a power in your life, when no matter what happens in the outer world the “real” of you is unchanging, peace-filled and expectant of good, heaven will indeed be in the midst of you, heaven will indeed be nearby. It seems that while most of us have moments when we experience this heaven, for some reason or other we have trouble sustaining it, and so we move in and out of heaven helter-skelter. Is that the way with you too? Although you may not stay in this state of heaven full-time, even a “short vacation” in it is enough to convince you that it is there and that you can return anytime you wish. Your aim—the aim of The Quest—is to take up permanent residence in this state of mind called heaven. By the way, nowhere is it written that being in this kind of heaven means not being playful or having fun. Some astute observers of the human condition once joked, “I don’t mind going to heaven if I can go to hell every Saturday night.” A funny comment, and like anything funny, there is at least a bit of truth to it. The “truth” it holds up to us reflects society’s belief that “evil” things are often fun and “good” things are mostly a bore. Yet one of God’s greatest gifts to us is a sense of humor and the ability to laugh. Heaven can be all that you want it to be and much, so very much, more.

 

 

HELL, Now what about hell?

What about the myth of a devil and his dreadful abode? While merely a myth that is easily explained, myths die hard, especially if they are engraved in our souls when we are children. The famous French priest, Abbé Arthur Mugnier, was asked if he believed in hell. “Yes,” he hesitatingly replied, “because it is a dogma of the church, but I don’t believe anyone is in it.” Well, the Abbé was right. People are not languishing in some physical location of hellfire and damnation. This doesn’t mean people don’t suffer in hell. They go there many times.

 

HAVE YOU BEEN THERE?

Have you ever been in hell? We have a friend, Sally, who is a former drug addict. She describes the time she was using drugs as “sheer hell.” As a result of her addiction, she lost her job, her house, her husband, and nearly her life! Her children were taken from her by the courts and placed in foster homes. She hung out in the streets, sleeping in abandoned cars and flophouses. She was beaten and abused by the men she chose to be with, and she describes her self-esteem at that time as “lower than flat feet.” Finally, she was sent to jail and, as part of her probation, had to attend a rehabilitation program. This was the beginning of her ascent out of “hell.” Now, with over two years of drug-free living and with a good job and her children back with her, she uses such heartfelt, poetic words to convey the supreme joy of her recovery: “I thought that God had opened the gates of heaven and let me in, but I had opened the gates of hell and let myself out.” Hell is a state of mind. It, like heaven, is within. Yet if that is true, then where did we get the idea of eternal fire at a specific geographical location? It must have come from somewhere, and indeed it did.

 

THE HISTORY OF HELL

The word hell is not a correct translation from the original language of the New Testament, which was Greek. (Although Jesus and the people in His area spoke Aramaic, the New Testament was originally transcribed into Greek.) The “hell” referred to in The Gospels represents the word Gehenna, which was in a valley southwest of Jerusalem, where the refuse and filth of the city was burned. It was the city dump. There was no Environmental Protection Agency and so the consuming fires burned continually. In Jesus’ day, it was a smoky, smelly, gruesome place. Centuries earlier it had been even worse! Certain idol-worshiping kings of Israel had practiced appalling religious rites in this same place, sacrificing children in the fires. The region was called the Valley of Hinnom, which means groans and anguish. A perfect name for such a grisly site! So, Gehenna, located in the Valley of Hinnom southwest of Jerusalem, became legendary as a place of human suffering and eternal fire. When Jesus and his contemporaries spoke of what we are now calling “hell,” they were not referring to some underworld of eternal fire. They were referring to that infamous valley, using it as a metaphor for what happens inside of us, in our souls, when we go through our inner torments.

 

FIRE CAN BE GOOD

Fire is also a purifier, and we must know that when we go through the “fires of hell,” we need not come out frazzled and destroyed. We can come out changed for the better transformed. There might even be some fires for you to encounter in your quest for your spiritual identity, but if there are, they will be only within yourself, not in some afterlife damnation. Furthermore, like tempered steel, you will emerge stronger, more resilient than ever before. No one must stay in hell. Like our friend Sally, you can open the gates and let yourself out.

 

USE YOUR OWN JUDGMENT

Along with heaven and hell, we usually hear the term judgment day. That is the day we supposedly will all be taken before God, who will render the final judgment as to whether we go “up” or “down.” Is there a judgment day? You bet there is. But it is not where, what, or when most people think it is. Judgment day takes place each time you set a cause into motion. If you are responsible for some wrong action of any kind, you are “punished” by the deed itself. Your own thoughts and deeds are continually setting up their results, their judgments, and are “taking action” for or against you. No one escapes the day of judgment, because it is taking place every moment of our lives. (This will be expanded upon in later lessons.) So, we see how heaven and hell and judgment day are not places or experiences waiting to pounce on us if we leave this earthly existence. Each of those concepts is a part of us right now. They are within. It is we who determine the outcome of each judgment day, and it is we who make our own heaven and hell.
Mile markers:
• Heaven and hell are states of mind.
• The kingdom of heaven is within you.
• You create your own heaven or hell.
• The anguish of a personal hell can serve to strengthen you if you will let it.
• Judgment day takes place every moment of your life. Thank You, God, for Your ever-present sanctuary of love and joy and peace within me. I know that all strength, all comfort, all wholeness are already mine when I enter the kingdom of heaven which you have established for me. I claim that kingdom now.

 

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