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Friday, July 1, 2022

Strasburg railroad
We took this photo on Father's Day from the Casey Jones restaurant near Strasburg, PA.
Whenever the "Tommy The Tank" engine is used the train rides are especially popular and onlookers line up along the wooden fence, both big and small, young and old, male and female!

"Pursuing Paradise"

Message summary: 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.

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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).

Among the most popular tourist attractions here in Lancaster County is the Strasburg Railroad, an historic rail line that has been converted into a tourist attraction, with a train powered by a restored steam engine. (It also still hauls freight). It travels through the beautiful Amish countryside in eastern Lancaster County from Strasburg to Paradise, PA. When we visit the Old Windmill Farm we often hear the distinct sound of the steam whistle over a hill just beyond the farm.

As the train prepares to depart the station in Strasburg the conductor calls out with a loud drawn out announcement, "All aboard for Paradise". Throughout the short trip a narrator makes colorful comments regarding the history of the area and the railroad. We’ve ridden the train several times but I recall once when we arrived at the end of the line he announced our arrival at the station “PARADISE”. He paused and then injected, "Pennsylvania, that is, which is the closest to the real Paradise some of us will ever get to".

Paradise, PA is, a small hamlet about 12 miles east of Lancaster city. Years ago we worked in Paradise for a volunteer service project on an old school being repurposed as a youth center. 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 our own mailing address, Mount Joy. Having lived here for the last 20 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.

Our 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. He writes "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 of these messages 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". One of our favorite verses is Romans 8:37, "But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us".

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 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.

An old spiritual declares, "This train is bound for glory". Let us all keep this eternal perspective ever 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, (Hebrews 3:13)

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily 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 greater 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 and lasting treasures in heaven where we will receive the eternal, unbounded blessings that await us as we enter Your eternal Paradise. In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"This Train Is Bound For Glory"  Video  Rocky Railway VBS

Strasburg Railroad maintenance shop
Years ago I had an "excuse" to visit the Strasburg Railroad Maintenance Shop, which is closed to the public. Two roofers from Smucker Home Improvement, where we serve as chaplains, told me they had an unusual roofing job; putting a new roof on a railroad car. I eagerly stopped by to greet them at their work-site.

Strasburg Railroad maintenance shop
Jeff is one of the engineers who also works in the shop. It was fun visiting with the employees, several who dressed like real old time rail yard workers, black soot and all.

Strasburg Railroad maintenance shop
The shop is restoring this old steam engine and has a full array of tool shop machines for the job. After all, you just won't find these parts listed on EBay!

Strasburg Railroad maintenance shop
Big old rail wheels. Anyone believe they could bench press these!

Strasburg Railroad maintenance shop
Wouldn't want to see this engine coming at me for real!

Ryan and Friends
Yesterday Brooksyne and Ester, along with Anna Ruth and four of the Lapp children, went to a presentation of Ryan and Friends in Bird in Hand. Ryan Bomgardner is a full time ventriloquist and comedian who is also a Christian. Each year, he performs over 150 shows throughout North America. Ryan’s performances range from corporate events, theaters, and resorts to churches, cruises, TV appearances, and a headlining performer for the Walt Disney Company. Ryan’s show has taken him to 6 continents making people laugh.  Video

Finally today:

Peacock on car at Old Windmill Farm
When we visit our friends on the Old Windmill Farm we never know what we will encounter. This peacock thought a good vantage point was our car roof (or was the peacock engaged in a plan of escape)!

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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 make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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