Between Panic and Paradise

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. —Hebrews 11:1 (TLB)

 On State Route 119 between Big Run and DuBois stands an interesting and somewhat amusing highway sign, giving the direction and mileage to some area towns: Panic, Desire, and Paradise. Yes, those are real names of real towns here in western Pennsylvania.

Pity the poor folks who have to say they live between Panic and Paradise. Wait. That would be all of us. 

On our journey from the womb to the tomb, much like the ancient Israelites’ 40-year trek through the wilderness, we travel through various states of panic and desire (and so much in between) to get to our Promised Land. We learn the rules of survival along the way—one of which, and the most important, is to carry a survival kit.

Included in this survival kit are four essential items.

First is a vision of your destination—Paradise, or Heaven, God’s home. In this goal-setting society in which we live, we’re advised to post a picture of what it is we want to achieve someplace where we’ll see it everyday. When we were still building our house—a 30-year-project—I taped picture of a log home inside a kitchen cupboard door. Keeping what we want in sight daily reaffirms the belief that we will eventually get there and helps us to trudge through the rough spots. Read Revelation 21 and 22 often to keep the vision of your destination fresh.

Another vital item your survival kit should carry is faith, which will fuel your faltering steps. As Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Faith is like radar that sees through the fog.” As defined by God’s Word, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

The third item is a map to guide you along the way. You already know the route: Jesus Road, for He said, “I am the way. … No one comes to the Father (and His home) except through Me” (John 14:6). But we can get confused when darkness descends, as it always will. God’s Word, as phrased in The Message, will “throw a beam on light” on the darkened path (Psalm 119:105).

The last item is identification. Even when I’m hiking, I carry my driver’s license in a pocket. Identification is proof that we are who we say we are. When you travel to a foreign country, you need proof of citizenship. On our journey to Paradise, we carry the citizenship papers Jesus provided—proof that we are citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20). We don’t belong to the world we’re traveling through. Like the heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11, we’re “aliens and strangers on earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

As you travel from Panic to Paradise, clutching your survival kit, remember you don’t walk alone, for the King of your destination is travelling with you. (See Exodus 33:14; Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20). 

As I trek through the wilderness of this world, Lord, remind me to use my survival kit.  Amen.

Read and reflect on Hebrews 11.

 From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Forty Days

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? – 2 Corinthians 13:5 (RSV)

Ever notice how the number forty occurs at critical moments in Scripture? It rained on the earth for forty days and forty nights. It was the number of days required to properly embalm a body for burial in ancient Egypt. 

Moses, especially, is linked to the number. Not only did he lead the stubborn Israelites in the wilderness for forty years, but his life is divided into three forty-year periods: his Egyptian years, his shepherd years, and his wilderness years. He spent forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai being personally tutored by God Himself in the law. 

The Israelite spies cased the Promised Land for forty days. Goliath defied God for forty days. Elijah fasted in the desert for forty days. Jonah told the Ninevites they had forty days to get their act together before God would judge them. 

Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus fasted and prayed in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. And His final forty days on earth between His resurrection and ascension were spent giving last-minute instructions to His disciples.

Notice how the number is associated with judgment and preparation. Lent, the forty weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday commemorating Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness, is a time of self-examination and spiritual preparation. We give up things, such as eating candy and pop or watching television, to practice self-denial and self-discipline. 

But the most important part of this time should be examining our hearts, minds, and spirits, asking God to show us anything we harbor that hinders us in our spiritual growth.

First, examine your heart, the seat of our emotions and true character: Are your motives right? Do you choose love over hate, forgiveness over resentment, self-control over anger, contentment over envy, generosity over selfishness, faith over fear, humility over pride, hope over discouragement, trust over doubt, patience over impatience, thankfulness over complaining?

Next examine your mind: Are you allowing God to transform and renew your mind? Or are you still hanging onto control of your thoughts, especially the bad ones? Are you capturing every thought and giving it to God? Are you filling your mind with the positive or the negative? Use Philippians 4:8 as your report card.

Now for the soul and spirit. According to the Children’s Ministry Resource Bible, my soul is the part of me that responds to the world, while my spirit is the part of me that responds to God. I am not to love the world or the things of the world. Instead I am to fix my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and use Him as my model. Am I still running from Him, a rebel with my own agenda, and making myself miserable? Or am I running to Him, needing His love, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom as desperately as I need air? Do I allow Him to guide my footsteps, day by day, moment by moment, or do I insist that I do it my way? 

Some pretty hard questions, but ones that God will help us with if only we ask.

Search me, O God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts; and see it there be any wicked way in me. And lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23–34). Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 139.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea for the Seasons©2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.