Tag Archives: Highway to Hell

Even If It Cannot Be Known

Read Mark 8:27-34

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

In 2022, Amazon Prime Video came out with an original series called, The Rings of Power, based off of J .R. R. Tolkien’s Silmarillion and Appendices, which map out the history of his beloved Middle Earth and how the evil we see in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings came to be.

Anyone who know me knows my love of Tolkien and his Middle Earth. I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and I am planning on reading the Silmarillion as well; so, when I learned this series was going to be released, I was sure to watch it and, of course, I LOVED IT.

The next several devotions I will be writing on certain nuggets of wisdom that I found to be profound in the series. No worries, I won’t spoil anything. Today’s devotion takes place aboard a ship in Middle Earth. This is the ship of the Queen Regent Míriel of Númenor, the kingdom of men on the island originally called Elenna, which was brought up out of the sea by the Valar, mighty beings who were called the Holy Ones and came out of the thoughts of Eru Ilúvatar, the god of Arda.

All those names need not mean anything to you, but they are important to the history of Middle Earth. Now, back to the Queen Regent. She is alone with her captain, Elendil. She can see the pain and anguish in his eyes. Without going into detail, he had suffered great loss in the battle to fight the evil leader Adar (who was created for this show and was never in the books) and his army of orcs and Uruks.

The Queen Regent too had suffered great loss and she is looking at her seemingly broken captain with compassion and regret. She tells him that she would understand if Elendil decided to retire following their return to Númenor. The Queen Regent Míriel had brought them into this fight with the hope that she could fight Adar in Middle Earth, across the sea from her homeland of Númenor, with the hopes of establishing Númenor once again in Middle-Earth. The truth is, in the First Age, the race of men was defeated by Morgoth and Sauron, and they fled middle earth and reestablished Númenor on the Island of Elenna. The Queen Regent, after much deliberation, came to the decision to act and save the people of Middle Earth from the great evil that Adar was spreading through the land.

In this scene I mention on the ship, though, they realize that they have not one and all seems lost; however, with that said, the Queen Regent’s knows the fight is not over, but has just begun. Elendil, following Míriel’s kind and compassionate words, tells her that he is not looking to quit, and that everything he has done to that point was done intentionally, though he never imagined it would lead to the situation they were currently in.

In her wisdom, Queen Regent Míriel tells him the following: “My father once told me that the way of the faithful is committing to pay the price, even if the cost cannot be known and trusting in the end it will be worth it.” Elendil followed with, “Sometimes the cost is dear.” The Queen Regent acknowledged, “It is.” After a pause, Elendil nodded, “Then the only choice we have is to keep serving.” Amen.

That is the way of the faithful. They sign up because they think it will be easy, a smooth ride if you will. They don’t give up because the times have gotten tough. They endure even though they did not know what the cost would be and they know that, no matter the cost, the mission is too important to abandon. In other words, they are willing to keep paying the cost until they have completed what was needed to be done.

Jesus calls us to THAT kind of faith too. The fact is that Jesus demanded of his followers that they deny themselves…in other words, that they turn away from their own selfish desires and will. Jesus demanded that they deny themselves, pick up their cross and follow him. In other words, prepare to be willing to die in order to preach the Good News, because the world is not going to like it and who knows what in the end discipleship will cost? It could even cost one her or his life.

Are you walking the way of the faithful? Are you willing to? There’s no telling where journey will take you; however, we know where the destination is: The Kingdom of God, on earth as it is in heaven. Let us reflect on Queen Regent Míriel’s wisdom and take it to heart, for as Jesus said, “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Amen.

“Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They’ll stay faithful as long as it’s safe and doesn’t involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going.” – Rev. Dr. Charles Stanley

Lord, lead me down the narrow hard path. Though I know not the cost, I commit my life to be in service of you. Amen.

God’s People, part 42: Eli & Sons

Read 1 Samuel 2:12-36

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way.” (Matthew 7:13 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Steinway-and-SonsPart 42: Eli & Sons. There is nothing quite like an exquisitely made, top of the line, grand piano. The sounds that come from such an instrument are enough to inspire, strike fear, haunt, elicit grief, elicit love, elicit anxiety, and stir the heartstrings within the being a of a person. For instance, one is horrified by the skeletal dancing on the fingers down the “ivory” keys in a song like Franz Liszt’s arrangement of Danse Macabre, and one is moved by the overwhelming beauty of Beethoven’s reflective “Moonlight Sonata.”

There is no doubt that such songs would not carry the same effect on cheaply made piano, or on a Yamaha keyboard. There is nothing like a quality piano. One of the best makers of pianos is Steinway & Sons. There impeccable design and attention to detail make for an instrument of no parallel. The company was formed by a German immigrant, Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg, who changed his name to Henry Steinway upon arrival in America. Between him and his sons, the business grew and expanded and made an incredible name for itself.

Unfortunately, this is not a devotion about Steinway & Sons, or about the history of the piano empire they built; rather, this is a devotion about Eli & Sons and the brand they never ended up building. Eli was God’s high priest and was appointed to that position to lead others in worshiping God and living in a godly fashion. Not only that, but he was also the second to last judge of Israel, preceding Samuel.

Eli, himself, was not the most discerning of individuals. When Hannah came to the tabernacle to pray to God in order to request that she be allowed to bear a child, Eli was quick to think she was drunk and tried to send her away. With that said, he did bless her when he heard that she was merely there to pray and wished that God grant her the request she made.

Eli also was able to point Samuel, as we will soon see in the next devotion, to realize that it was the Lord that was calling him. So, like most human beings, Eli was wishy-washy at best. He was definitely someone worthy of leadership and someone who was attuned to God; however, he did not always reamin attuned and was often quick to make rash judgments. What’s more, he wanted his family to reamins the judges of Israel. Yet, his sons (who were also priests) were corrupt and would steal meat and goods that were meant to be sacrificed to the Lord.  They ended up ruining the family name as well as the people’s confidence in them to lead.

As such, they brought on themselves their own destruction and the Bible says that God rejected Eli’s household. To Eli’s credit, though, he called his own sons out for being disgraceful and, when push came to shove, Eli did mentor Samuel and knew that God was calling him to be the leader his sons never would be. In the end, despite his flaws, Eli served the Lord and gave Israel their next judge and leader: Samuel. This is the same Samuel who would eventually find, annoint, and advise the greatest King in Israel’s history: the shepherd boy and songwriter, David.

As can be seen, God knows our imperfections and works in us, through us, and even in spite of us when need be. The question for us is not whether we will be perfect, for will never will. The question for us is this: will we, despite our imperfections choose to serve the Lord as faithfully as we can? Or will we, like Eli’s sons, choose our own twisted and corrupt path? One way is a redemptive, grace-filled path, and the other is the path that leads to destruction. One path is narrow and hard to find, while the other is broad and wide and chosen by many. The choice is ours. Choose wisely.

“Sartre was only half-right. Both heaven and hell are other people. The difference is how you treat them.” – Rev. Todd R. Lattig

Lord, I recognize that I can either be an ambassador to heaven or an agent of hell. Steer me and correct me when I stray off of the narrow road so that I may walk The Way that leads to the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Sermon, part 26: Two Roads

Read Matthew 7:13-14

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Matthew 12:30 NRSV)

two_roads_by_jelly_bonWe have now entered into the final section of Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount”, which is a series of three eschatological (end-time) warnings. The first of the warnings is a very famous and often misunderstood teaching which utilizes two roads, one which is broad and wide with many traveling on it, the other which is long and narrow with few ever finding it, let alone travelling down it. The more desirable road leads to the desirable gate EVER; whereas, the less than desirable road leads to the most desirable gate of all.

Of course, we all know which roads these are, even though they are literal roads. Even if we have never stepped foot into a church or picked up a Bible, there are very few in the Western World (and beyond) that haven’t heard AC/DC’s Highway to Hell song blaring out of the speakers. Conversely, many know the less than desirable road as the road or the way to Heaven. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Michael Landon even had a show called “Highway to Heaven” which, despite it’s name, showed the “straight and narrow” road of God through the eyes of an angel seeking to do good in the world.

Pretty simple so far, right? It seems pretty clear that the well-traveled road leads to hell and the least traveled road leads to heaven, right? It seems clear that those on the highway to hell are outside of Christ, while those on the jagged trail to heaven are those who belong to and follow Christ, right? If all of this is true, it then follows that the warning is for all of the people who are choosing the wrong road, right? It must be a warning for all of the people choosing the “easy way” over the straight, narrow, rugged trail that leads to heaven.

Who do you think we’d find on the highway to hell? Perhaps, the adulterers, the addicts, the theives, the sex offenders, the greedheads, the liars, the cheaters, the prostitutes, and the wild partiers? In some Christian circles, anyone listening to AC/DC or bands like Marilyn Manson are traveling the Highway to Hell; if you think about it though, that is kind of like a badge of  honor to Rock N’ Roll and Heavy Metal bands! I mean, for real! Beyond the Highway to Hell, who do you think are going to heaven? Well, duh! Christians, right? As for music, what could possibly be better than listening to the Newsboys sing “God’s Not Dead” live for an eternity in heaven. Yes, that was sarcasm.

While all of this may seem clear and obvious, it is actually wrong to assume all of the above. First, we must remember that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount” is being addressed to Jesus’ disciples, not to the masses. Yes, the multitude gathered are listening in and they do apply to them as well; however, Jesus’ warning is not geared toward the outsider; rather, it is being delivered for the insiders.

The roads to hell and/or heaven are not predicated on what music you listen to, what your view on same-sex marriage is or isn’t, or whether or not you are Christian. Hard to believe, right? Well, it is the truth. In fact, Jesus preached this Sermon before the term Christian (let alone the relgion) even existed. Rather, these roads are being presented as a warning to Jesus’ followers who have just been instructed on the standared God is calling us to uphold.

The “Highway to Hell” is the easy road. It is the road  most people travel because it requires little work or commitment. It does not have much, if any, accountability. The Highway to Hell is the road that tells us that we can be the judge and jury of what God wants. It is the way that abandons the very heart of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. The rugged, narrow and long road to heaven is hard to find and remain on because it requires an absolute commitment to Christ and his way of being. It means making Christ’s way our way, and since Christ’s way leads to the cross, most would rather just not go there.

When I say “most”, one must avoid the inevitbale pitfall of thinking “non Christians”. Again, as a reminder, Jesus is addressing his disciples. These are the people who are following Jesus, not the ones who are not. What this means is that Jesus is warning HIS DISCIPLES to avoid choosing the easy way, over his way! The only way to heaven, according to Jesus, is summed up in the Golden Rule, “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you, for this is the Law and the prophets.” The Golden Rule, of course, is the summation of the two Greatest Commandments.

Thus the easy way to love oneself, one’s agenda, one’s idealogy, one’s theology, one’s doctrine, one’s religion, one’s whatever over and above loving others as oneself. To do this is to also love onself over and above God. That is the easy way and most, if not all, of us find it without any trouble at all; however, Christ is calling us to a wholly different and harder way and warning us that our way leads to our own destruction. Christ’s way, however, leads to the Kingdom of God.

The long and rugged pathway to heaven is the cross; it is the way of love.

Lord, help me to embrace the long and rugged pathway to heaven. Amen.