Tossed By the Wind

James 1:2-8 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

2014-01-08 - Tossed By the Wind (IMG_1503)Sunset over the wind tossed waters of Stonelick Lake on a blustery late December evening.  Stonelick State Park, Pleasant Plain, Ohio.

I have mentioned in the past that I enjoy photographing sunrises and sunsets, though, on this particular evening’s trip to Stonelick State Park the ground was very muddy due to recent heavy rains, the spectacularly colored sky never quite materialized, and the wind was so blustery that the reflections off the lake, I desire, were just not there.  Despite things not turning out as I wanted, it was still a good opportunity to get out, do some photography with a friend, and learn a little about capturing a decent shot in less than ideal conditions.

In today’s passage James begins by telling us we should take joy when we encounter trials and have our faith tested.  This, he says, produces steadfastness, which, when allowed to take full effect, makes us “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  Much as the process of forging steel shapes and perfects the metal into a finished product, so too do the difficulties we face in life and in our walk with Christ help to shape and perfect us into the person God wants us to be.

Often times we gain far more wisdom from our failures than from our successes, and by asking God for wisdom we need to realize that his method for teaching us may not be as straightforward as just picking up our Bibles, opening to some particular page and finding the answer we seek.  I am by no means proposing that we set our Bibles aside, however God does frequently teach us through life’s experiences, as James is suggesting here.  If our faith is based on pure academic knowledge I would offer that it is incomplete.

James tells us to “ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”  This does not mean we should expect God to answer all our prayers with the specific outcome we desire, but rather, that we need to hold firm in our faith especially when things do not turn out as planned.  We need to understand that the problems and struggles we face serve God’s purpose, and that they will likely give us exactly the wisdom we asked him for, in the first place.

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

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Hear, My Son, Your Father’s Instruction

Happy Birthday Dad!  Seventy years young today!

Proverbs 1:7-9 – The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. 8 Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, 9 for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.

2013-12-18 - Hear, My Son, Your Father's Instruction (IMG_0114)Grouse hunting with my dad and son (many years ago) in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near the town of Ralph.

Being raised learning to love the outdoors was a true blessing and something I have carried with me throughout the years.  Hunting and fishing with dad are some of my fondest memories from childhood.  But the greatest blessing of all was having parents who brought me up in the knowledge and fear of the Lord!

Fathers, the single most important thing you can do for your children is to raise them knowing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Read to them from the Bible.  Teach them to bring everything to God in prayer.  Set the example by being the spiritual leader of your family as God intended.  Do not shirk that responsibility.  Listen to Paul’s advice from Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

And children, as the fifth commandment, in Exodus 20:12, says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.”  This commandment, unlike the others actually carries with it a specific promise for being obedient.  Not that we deserve a reward for obedience, nor are the other commandments are any less important; but, this is the only one that makes such a promise, making it noteworthy.  Even Paul highlights this distinction in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Thank you for all you have done for me throughout my life Dad!  May God bless and keep you today and always!

Love,
Todd

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.

Rising Very Early

Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

2013-12-17 - Rising Very Early (IMG_0350)Early morning, “blue hour” photograph, waiting for the sun to rise over the lake.  Caesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

If you are into outdoor photography or have read any books or articles on the subject, you have probably encountered the term “golden hour,” and possibly “blue hour.” Simply stated, the golden hour refers to the warm, glowing quality of light in the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset which make for much better photography than the harsher light of mid-day.  The “blue hour,” while perhaps not quite as well known a term, refers to the periods just before sunrise and just after sunset, where the cooler blue tones tend to be more dominant, which are also better times for photography than mid-day.

I enjoy photographing sunrises and sunsets for a couple of reasons.  First, there is simply the sheer beauty of it all.  From pale pastels of pink, violet, and blue, to bold reds, yellows, and oranges and just about everything in between, the colors change continuously over the course of a single sunrise or sunset, transforming even an ordinary landscape into a spectacular sight; God’s majesty and artistry are so clearly on display.  The second reason is the peace and quiet I find at these times of day, but particularly at sunrise.  Except for the avid fishermen or hunters, depending on the time of year, there are not too many people up and out before the sun.  Even the most dedicated hikers usually don’t hit the trail until at least a little while after sunrise.  And, of course, the picnickers rarely show up until near lunchtime.

I do not often have the opportunity to get out early in the morning to do sunrise photography, it is only a hobby after all, but I still enjoy this time of day and find it to be the best time for me to go to the Lord in prayer and spend some quality time in his word.  It is a time of solitude, before all the busyness and business of life come blasting in, a time when the house is quiet and my thoughts are still uncluttered by the cares and concerns of the day.

As this single verse from the Gospel of Mark tells us, Jesus also took time away early in the morning to go to his Father in prayer.  I don’t think there is much speculation involved in saying that he probably chose this time of day intentionally, and for many of the same reasons, the peace and quiet, the lack of interruptions, and a clear mind after a good night’s sleep.  Christ in his humanity, and despite his divinity and perfection, still needed to get away, he still needed time alone to converse with his Father.  So we, in our fallen and sinful state, surely need these times far more than Christ did!

Early mornings may not be best for everyone, whether due to inclination or situation; however, I would urge you to follow the example of our Lord and Savior, himself, and find a time and place that you can get away and go to our Heavenly Father in prayer, to study your Bible and reflect on what he is telling you through his word.  Whether it is a few minutes or an hour alone with the Lord each day, taking time away from the noise and clutter of everyday life will benefit your walk with Christ more than you can imagine.

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© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.

Like a Tree Planted by Water

Jeremiah 17:7-8 – “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

2013-12-14 - Like a Tree Planted by Water (IMG_2958)Sycamore trees along the bank of Caesar Creek.  Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve, Oregonia, Ohio.

The sycamore tree is a common sight along the creeks and rivers here in southwest Ohio.  The mature trees are quite beautiful, and also easy to identify, with their smooth, white bark.  If you spot a sycamore you can be pretty certain there is a stream nearby.

Just as we find many passages in the Bible where God is glorified by his creation, examples from nature, like today’s passage in Jeremiah, are often used to provide practical illustrations of important scriptural truths.  We understand the need that trees have for water, and easily grasp that these sycamores, growing near a stream, will have a sustained source of water even in times of drought.

In the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel we find Jesus speaking to a Samaritan woman beside a well and read of their exchange:

10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:10-14)

You see, Christ is the “living water” that carries us through the droughts, the one who helps us flourish even in the difficult times of life.  But, if we have not put down our roots by the stream, if we have not put our trust in him, how then will be able to draw upon this “spring of water welling up to eternal life?”

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

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2013.