He Has Put Eternity into Man’s Heart

What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.  ~ Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 (ESV)

IMG_6059View along the Grand View Overlook Trail, Island in the Sky District, Canyonlands National Park, Moab, Utah.

The open spaces and seemingly infinite views of the American west provide us with many iconic landscapes that encapsulate our nation’s deep seated spirit of independence and freedom.  Our recent trip to Canyonlands and Arches National Park fully met, and perhaps even exceeded, my expectations of amazing vistas and endless photo opportunities.  I have yet to decide whether these places are a photographer’s dream or nightmare, as incredible scenes surround you every step you take along the trail.  The real challenge is deciding what not to photograph!

As we would pause on our hikes to gaze out upon yet another magnificent panorama, I could not help but reflect on the vastness of the wilderness that lay before us, and ultimately my thoughts would turn to my own smallness in contrast to the infiniteness of our mighty God who created all of this.  What is it about scenes like the one in this photograph that give us pause and lead us to great moments of reflection?

Beautiful places like this serve multiple purposes in God’s sovereign plan.  On one hand they are simply a gift from God given for our enjoyment and relaxation.  On the other hand, they are also intentionally designed to stir deep feelings within us. As the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, these feelings come from God, who “has put eternity into man’s heart.”  God has made us in His own image, and part of that image is a mind that allows us to consider things beyond ourselves, beyond the physical horizons before us, beyond the moments in which we currently live, and eventually to things eternal.

And yet, while we may ponder the eternal, we will never have all the answers, in fact this passage tells us we “cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” We cannot know the mind of God, nor will we ever fully understand His ways, but thankfully he has given us hearts that desire eternity.  Ultimately that longing we feel is a longing for God, a longing for a personal relationship with the Almighty Creator, Himself.  In our fallen, sinful state, though, our desires lead us to pursue things other than God as we try to fill the void within us.

But praise God, because he has not only given us a desire for eternity, he has also given us a means to fulfill this desire!  He has given us an amazing creation that points us to Him.  He has given us his written word, the Bible, that tells us how to fulfill this desire.  Above all He has given us  the Living Word, His own Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who, through His perfect life, undeserved death, and glorious resurrection, gives us the only way to fulfill this desire and spend eternity with Him beyond our brief and tiny lives here in this world.

To God be the glory, forever and ever!  Amen!

Yours in Christ,
Todd the Hiker

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2015.

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He Will Make Straight Your Paths

Proverbs 3:5-8 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

2014-02-11 - He Will Make Straight Your Paths (IMG_6828)Rough Trail descends a twisted path from the Second Story rock shelter. Red River Gorge Geological Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

If you plan to hike in a remote area like Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, you really should not just head out and rely on your own sense of direction to find your way; carry a good topographic map and a compass and learn how to use them.  Before you venture out on an unfamiliar trail spend time studying your maps so you have a good understanding of the route you plan to follow as well as key landmarks along the way.  Even though GPS technology is useful and quite amazing, anybody who carries one will know what I mean when I say that reception is very unreliable in places like the one in this photograph.  Finally, even if you are hiking on familiar trails, you should always let someone know where you are going, what trails you are hiking, and when you plan to be back.  If something happens and you do not return as expected, this information could save your life.

In our daily walk we too often rely on our own understanding, failing to pick up the map and compass God has given us to navigate on our Christian journey through life, the Bible.  Whether in good times or bad, we think we have all the answers and fail to seek the Lord through his inspired and infallible words found in the pages of Scripture.  Nor do we turn to him in prayer like we should, seeking him with all our heart and trusting in his perfect will for our lives.  Yet if we heeded the words of today’s passage from Proverbs 3, we would realize that it is God who “will make straight [our] paths,” instead of following the twisted paths of our own understanding.

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

Equipped for Every Good Work

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2014-01-30 - Equipped for Every Good Work (IMG_8155)The key to being properly equipped for our Christian walk.

If you plan to hike in remote areas, away from civilization where cell phone service is non-existent, or sketchy, at best, it is a good idea to be equipped to handle any situation you might encounter.  In addition to food, water, and extra clothing (weather and season dependent), some of the gear I typically carry, either on my person or in my backpack includes:  a knife (or three), a fire starting kit, a map and compass (even though I carry a GPS unit, it is unreliable in deep valleys with heavy tree cover, and useless when the batteries die), a well-stocked first aid kit, a headlamp and spare batteries, 55 gallon drum liners (emergency shelter or rain cover), rope or paracord, duct tape (many uses, including fire starting), and last, but not least, my Bible.  I have a few other odds and ends in my backpack, but this gives you an idea of some things to consider.

Of course carrying all this gear does you no good if you do not know how to use it.  For example, a topographic map is just a confusing mess of squiggly lines if you do not understand how to read it, and navigating with a compass is not a trivial task if you have never used one before.  Starting a fire is not nearly as easy as you might think, especially in an emergency situation or under adverse conditions.  And, finally, having some basic first aid training and skills practice will make a big difference when you open that first aid kit to treat an injury out on the trail.

In the Bible God has provided us the means to prepare for the situations we will face in our Christian walk, so that we “may be complete, equipped for every good work.”  But, how useful will our Bibles be to us if they sit on the shelf gathering dust?  How much will we profit from the wisdom and teaching of the Almighty God of the universe if we never take the time to study and apply his word in our daily life?  How well equipped will we be if the texts from a Sunday sermon are our only exposure to God’s word?  It takes time, effort, and perseverance to gain a solid understanding of the truths of Scripture.  And, just like wilderness survival skills, you have to practice and train regularly with God’s word to be able to apply it most effectively in times of need.

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.

Be Ready In Season and Out of Season

2 Timothy 4:1-4 – I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2014-01-17 - Be Ready In Season and Out of Season (IMG_6809)One of our favorite scenic spots to stop for lunch, somewhere off-trail along the Rough Trail. Red River Gorge Geological Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

Even though we do hike as often as possible in the winter, there are certainly less opportunities to get out hiking this time of year, especially with the extremely cold temperatures we have had recently, seven degrees Fahrenheit as I type this!  There are rare times that the skies are sunny and the temperatures get into the 70s, like January 12th, 2012, the day this photo was taken.  When these “out of season” beautiful days arise, you need to be ready to go if you want to take advantage of them!

Likewise as followers of Christ we need to “be ready in season and out of season” to share the gospel with those around us, as opportunities can present themselves at any time.  Part of the way we stay ready is to be committed in our private devotional life, going to God in prayer and studying his word daily; but, we also need to hear the word preached.  Left to our own devices it is easier to be led astray into false teachings.  As Christians we need the encouragement and reproof of fellow believers to properly grow in our knowledge and faith.  It is also our duty to hold each other accountable, including our leaders, by testing the things that are taught against the written word of God found in the Holy Scriptures.

We certainly live in a time where the teachings of the Christian faith are less and less endured by the world around us.  People are more and more inclined to listen to the false teachings of the secular world rather than the truths of the Bible.  “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  As redeemed followers of Christ we have “the word of the cross,” “the power of God” on our side, therefore we have no excuse, we should always “be ready in season and out of season.”

Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.