My Rock and My Fortress

2 Samuel 22:1-4 – And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 3 my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence. 4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.”

2014-02-01 - My Rock and My Fortress (IMG_1503) Half Dome towers over the valley below.  Yosemite National Park, California.

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

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And They Shall Call His Name Immanuel

3rd Sunday in Advent

Matthew 1:18-23 – Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

2013-12-15 - And They Shall Call His Name Immanuel (IMG_1388_Sat-100_Mid-50_AutoCorrect)El Capitan towers more than 3000 feet over the valley below.  Yosemite National Park, California.

Standing in the Yosemite Valley gazing up at the massive granite monolith called El Capitan is an awe inspiring moment, to say the least.  For me it is a reminder of just how small and vulnerable we are in this world; but, even more, it is a reminder of just how great and awesome our God truly is.  Yet, our God who has all the power and might to create such as this, and even the universe beyond our sight, this is the same God who loved us so much that he sent his only Son down to dwell with us and save us from our sins, “and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).”

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

The Trees of the Forest Sing for Joy

Psalm 96:11-13 – Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it; 12 let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy 13 before the LORD, for he comes, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness, and the peoples in his faithfulness.

2013-12-13 - The Trees of the Forest Sing for Joy (IMG_1550)The giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove. Yosemite National Park, California.

I have walked through many forests over the years and have always enjoyed the cathedral like feeling of an old-growth pine forest with little underbrush and a soft carpet of needles.  The giant sequoias of Mariposa Grove take that feeling to a whole new level.  God’s power and magnificence are clearly on display in this grove of ancient giants!

As with so many of the Psalms, Psalm 96 reminds us once again that all of creation celebrates and glorifies the Lord.  The earth rejoices, the sea roars, the fields exult, and “the trees of the forest sing for joy.”  What I find most noteworthy about the celebration described in today’s passage, though, is that it is a celebration of God’s judgment.  In today’s culture the word judgment often carries a negative connotation.  Many equate it with intolerance and bigotry, which is an unfortunate perversion resulting from our fallen and sinful condition.  But we all understand and appreciate judgment when we see a criminal punished justly for their crime, don’t we?

The thing we must always remember about God’s judgment, is that it is fully righteous.  His punishment meted out for our sins is fully deserved.  What we don’t deserve is the forgiveness that God has granted us in grace, through faith, made possible only by the blood Christ shed on the cross.  We have done nothing, nor can we, to earn his forgiveness, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)

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

My Rock and My Salvation

Psalms 62:5-8 – For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.
6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.

2013-11-21 - My Rock and My Salvation (IMG_1378)First view of the Yosemite Valley from the Tunnel View overlook. Yosemite National Park, California.

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