Creation Waits With Eager Longing

Romans 8:18-25 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

2014-01-28 - Creation Waits With Eager Longing (IMG_1725_B10_C20)Frozen waterfall on Flat Fork CreekCaesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

For Christians living in North America today, we should be humbled when we compare our own circumstances to all of “the sufferings” that Paul endured for the sake of the gospel.  I won’t deny that we live in a culture increasingly hostile to much of what we believe; but, unless we serve in certain foreign missions or a few difficult ministry fields, I think it is safe to say that few of us will ever face imprisonment, torture, or death for sharing our faith.

Though our present circumstances are far better than Paul’s, we do still live in a fallen world as he reminds us, “the creation was subjected to futility,” it is in “bondage to corruption,” and “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”  This is because of the curse, brought on by the fall, described in Genesis 3:16-19.

16 To the woman he [God] said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Not only were troubled relationships, pain, and death brought on by Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden, all of creation suffered as a result, ”cursed is the ground because of you.”  Fortunately this is not the end of the story.  By God’s divine providence the solution was already planned, as we read one verse earlier in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  This verse speaks of the Messiah who would later come to conquer death and the grave.

Of course Paul knows that Jesus Christ was that promised Messiah and this is to whom he refers when he says, “For in this hope we were saved.”  He also tells us “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” when all of creation is redeemed and the “sons of God” are revealed at the second coming of Christ.  And although he has not seen this glory, he reminds us that “hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  In a similar manner, we cannot see the blossoms of spring, and yet we have hope, waiting patiently for their arrival to announce the end of the ice and cold of winter…

2014-01-28 - Creation Waits With Eager Longing (IMG_7192)Springtime view of the waterfall on Flat Fork Creek with the redbuds in bloom.  Caesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

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

To Keep You from Stumbling

Jude 1:24-25 – Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

2014-01-26 - To Keep You from Stumbling (IMG_3666)Whittleton Branch trailhead on KY-15. Red River Gorge Geological Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

My wife and I have come to depend on our hiking sticks.  We were not sure we would like them at first, but now we very rarely hit the trail without them.  If you have never used hiking sticks you might be surprised at the difference they make in your endurance and ability.  They reduce the strain on your hips, knees, and ankles and at the same time give you the added benefit of an upper body workout.  On several occasions they have kept me from twisting an ankle on rugged terrain or slipping on a muddy trail.  They also provide stability if you need to ford a stream.  If you plan to do any serious hiking, I highly recommend getting a set of sticks!

When it comes to our Christian walk we have one who is able to keep us from stumbling, as well, that is, of course, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  But unlike a set of hiking sticks, we cannot treat him like some optional piece of gear that we pick up one day and set aside the next as our feelings dictate.  If we want to keep from stumbling we must put our trust in him daily, walking in faith with the knowledge that it is only through the power of his blood shed on the cross that we are able to overcome the desires of our sinful hearts.

We also need to remember that as Christians our destination is secured by Christ who came before us, but the life of faith is still a journey that will have rough spots along the way.  We will encounter struggles in our Christian walk to be sure, but through Christ we have assurance that one day we will persevere and he will “present [us] blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.”  And, finally, we can take great comfort in Jesus’ own words from John 6:38-40,

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

“To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

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

Come, Follow Me

Mark 10:17-27 – And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

2014-01-11 -  Come, Follow Me (IMG_9388)Trail junction near the Bear Lake trailhead.  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

“Money is the root of all evil.”  Have you ever heard someone say this?  Many Bible verses are misused or misinterpreted.  And, while I have no real data to support this, I suspect that the first sentence of 1 Timothy 6:10, which actually reads, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils,” is one of the most frequently misquoted verses.  The oft intended message of those misquoting this verse is that money and the rich are inherently bad.

Today’s passage from Mark’s Gospel is another that is taken out of context and used to condemn the wealthy.  When Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” the inclination for many is to again conclude that money and the rich are inherently bad.

I think the key to understanding what Jesus says here is to look closely at the man’s question:  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The emphasis of the man’s question is on what he, himself, must do.  So, Jesus tells him that he must perfectly obey the commandments, sell everything he owns, give it to the poor, and follow him.  After all, God does demand perfection.  The difficulty for the rich man entering heaven, though, lies not in his money or possessions, but rather in the fact that he trusts his own abilities and wealth to accomplish something that only Christ can do.

It is certainly fair that we as Christians should challenge each other to be accountable for where we invest our time, talent, and treasures, because being a follower of Christ does demand a change in the way we live our lives.  But we really need to ask ourselves, what path to salvation are we following?  Do we trust in ourselves, our own abilities, and our possessions?  Or, do we trust in the infinite and eternal God of the universe?  Do we trust in the God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)?  Because, you see, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

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

How Beautiful Are the Feet

Romans 10:13-18 – For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. 18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for “Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.”

2014-01-06 - How Beautiful Are the Feet (IMG_8226)Taking a break and enjoying the view after the long hike up to Iceberg LakeGlacier National Park, Montana.

Though the nature of my blog tends to focus on how God reveals himself to us through his creation, we also need to be reminded that we are called to a mission of evangelism.  As Jesus command his disciples in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” so too are we called to proclaim the gospel to the world.

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is the good news, the gospel, that Christians have been blessed to know and believe.  It is also a message that needs to be shared in order for it to be effective.  Today’s passage reminds us that the only way others will hear of Christ, believe in him, and actually be able to call on his name and be saved, is if there are “preachers” who are sent.

When Paul writes about “those who preach the good news” I doubt that he is only referring to the ordained ministers who get up in front of a congregation every Sunday to preach a sermon.  I am certain that Christ’s imperative in Mark 16:15 to, “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel,” was not just a one-time command that applied only to the disciples.

As Christians we are all sent to proclaim, to preach, the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost world.  Our mission field could be as close as the house next door or as far away as “the ends of the world.”  The next person to “call on the name of the Lord” could be a co-worker in the cubicle across the hall or an orphan in some distant land.  But, whatever your calling may be, make sure that yours are some of those beautiful feet.

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