A Crooked and Twisted Generation

Philippians 2:12-16 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

2014-01-07 - A Crooked and Twisted Generation (IMG_0172)The twisted roots of a sycamore tree along the bank of Caesar Creek.  Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve, Oregonia, Ohio.

In today’s passage Paul is writing to encourage the church in Philippi, who it seems were living “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.”  Every generation since the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3) has lived with its share of problems and corruption, and we certainly have no shortage of either in our times.

Paul’s advice is just as relevant to today’s generation of Christians as it was to the Philippian church nearly two thousand years ago.  First, we are told to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling.”  This is certainly not a call to works righteousness, because we are quickly reminded that “it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  Even though our salvation is through faith in Christ alone, by God’s grace, this passage does remind us that our faith is active, not passive.  We cannot just sit on the sidelines.

We are also told to “do all things without grumbling or disputing” so that we “may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish.”  If we can do these things that Paul instructs, and hold “fast to the word of life,” that is cling to the promise of the gospel of Christ, then we will “shine as lights in the world,” “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.”  And, as Jesus, himself tells us in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

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

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

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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.

The Very Stones Would Cry Out

Luke 19:37-40 – As he was drawing near–already on the way down the Mount of Olives–the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, 38 saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” 39 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

2013-12-11 - The Very Stones Would Cry Out (IMG_0164)Fallen leaves on a moss covered stone.  Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve, Oregonia, Ohio.

As a hiker and aspiring photographer I am always looking for new and exciting locations with magnificent scenery.  Of course, time and distance limit the opportunities to travel to such places.  But, I often find that some of the most beautiful things in God’s creation are the little things right there in front of us, like a mossy, leaf-covered rock in a stream or the little patch of spring wildflowers beside the trail.

God is present in all of his creation.  And, as we read in today’s passage, even if someone were to try silencing the voices of those proclaiming the glory of God, be it a government, or religious leaders like the Pharisees in Jesus’ day, “the very stones would cry out.”

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

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

Its Leaf Does Not Wither

Psalm 1:1-3 – Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

2013-11-19 - Its Leaf Does Not Wither (IMG_5174)Without Christ in our life we are like these leaves withering in the stream! Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve, Oregonia, Ohio.

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

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