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Monday, September 16, 2013
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"To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7).
On Friday I did something that very few of our readers can lay claim to; I worked in Paradise. Paradise PA that is, a small hamlet about 12 miles east of Lancaster city. Paradise is often included in a list of "delightfully named towns" in Pennsylvania Dutchland, along with Intercourse, Blue Ball, Lititz, Bareville, Bird-in-Hand, and Mount Joy. Having lived here for the last 12 years we've grown accustomed to these names but we still overhear tourists chuckling.
Paradise got its name in 1804 from a remark made by Joshua Scott, publisher of “Scott’s Map of Lancaster County.” Scott stated that the area was just like “paradise,” and the name stuck. It is a beautiful agricultural area with many Amish residing there.
I worked with a work crew from one of the companies we serve as chaplains renovating an old elementary school that is now being used as a Youth and Community Center. This company completely closed operations for one day allowing for employees to serve in two designated community projects and still receive their normal salary or wage. Their lunch was also provided. It was a beautiful day of cooperation and service and we did make a difference.
Our first daily Scripture verse is a wonderful promise given by Christ to the church in Ephesus and through the written Scriptures it is directed to all of us. "The paradise of God" is a description of what we commonly call heaven.
The word Paradise is only used three times in the Bible. It is a transliteration (meaning the English sounds like the Greek) of the word "paradeisou", a term describing the abode of the righteous ones.
Probably it's most famous use is when Jesus spoke these blessed words to the thief from the cross, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
The second Bible reference to Paradise is the apostle Paul recounting a spiritual experience he had in which he states, "And I know that this man was caught up into paradise" (2 Corinthians 12:3). This was a very life transforming experience for him even though he himself was unsure of the nature of what really happened, "whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter."
But today let us focus on the third and final time Paradise is used in the Bible. This is Jesus speaking in His message to the Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7). The meaning and application to all subsequent generations of the churches in Revelation are variously interpreted.*
But we will focus on the last verse: "To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). The word translated as "overcomes" can just as correctly be translated "conquers." We are involved in a lifelong battle against Satan and his demons, against a world where he dominates. We also war against our own proclivity to sin, as we carry within us the self-centered nature, habits, and attitudes that originate from Satan and his co-horts. Thus, Christ's concern for us as we approach the end is that we remain faithful to His cause, enduring to the end, and resisting the forces of evil that seek to overtake us. We must be faithful as well during the testings God allows to prove our faith to be genuine (I Peter 1:7).
These words ought to be written on the tablets of our hearts and in the recesses of our minds. Our life's goal is to be victorious overcomers as we stay faithful to Christ.
I recall the old spiritual that declares, "This train is bound for glory." Let us all keep this eternal perspective before us as we consider that we are indeed bound for the true paradise of God, which is an eternally glorious destination (exceedingly far greater than Paradise, PA)!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, as we place our faith in You and read the Scriptures, we learn that Satan is like a roaring lion seeking to devour us. Certainly he wants to conquer us, but through Your strength and our adherence to Your warnings we can be more than conquerors over our worst lifelong enemy, the devil. The full reward of resisting the enemy is not fully realized in our earthly pilgrimage, for the best awaits us on the other side, as we eat from the tree of life in Your paradise. Help us to find the joy of living here below as we store up our true lasting treasures in heaven where we will fully experience the eternal, unbounded blessings that await us as we enter Your eternal Paradise. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.
* Here's one viewpoint regarding the churches of Revelation.
Here's a photo of one of the Val-Co work crews on the bus after all-day service at two separate nursing centers. One of the distinctives that we enjoy about this company is their ethnic diversity in the workforce with Orientals, Hispanics, and eastern Europeans. We can't always communicate very well but we find people are all receptive to friendliness.
In Paradise the larger work team team worked on an old elementary school that is being used as a Youth and Community center. The most remarkable improvement was a garden area that had been overgrown after years of neglect. (I'd post the before photo but all you would see is just weeds and overgrowth.)
Brooksyne participated with the groups who went to Willow St. Manor and Conestoga View where hundreds of residents reside. We played games, visited their rooms, handed out long stem carnations, exercised, did crafts and sang. Several of us volunteers gave manicures which gave me an opportunity to have extended visits with the residents and learn more about their personal lives.
I can rarely resist playing a piano when I see one, and rarely can a resident of a nursing home (especially the ladies) resist rolling their chair up close and singing along when hearing the hymn tunes. That was the highlight of my activities. (There were restrictions regarding our taking up close facial photos so thus you only get to see the resident, Esther's hand, in this photo.) Val-co is kind enough to let our daughter, Ester, come along and take photos which she thoroughly enjoys.
On Friday afternoon following our workday service we stopped by our local Costco warehouse club. One of the colorful aspects of shopping here are the many Amish who also shop in the warehouse store which provides a covered shed for the horses and buggies. It appears this Amish lady did some serious bulk shopping!
On Saturday morning Brooksyne hosted a group of ladies from our church for breakfast. Afterward they sang around our piano as they also shared of the ways God is working in their lives. (Roxie likes to appear in our photos, especially among the ladies.)
On Saturday afternoon we took our four unofficially adopted Amish grandchildren to the Cherry Crest Farm. (We'll share more about this along with photos tomorrow.) WDAC, one of our local Christian radio stations was having a special day highlighting various Christian ministries here in Lancaster County. We visited with John Shertzer who worked in one of the companies we served as chaplains when we first moved to Lancaster County in 2001. John is enthusiastic in his current service for the Lord as the Executive Director of Black Rock Retreat here in Lancaster County.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Overcome" Video Jeremy Camp
"We Will Overcome" Video Jaci Velasquez
"Our God is Greater" Video Chris Tomlin
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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