He Has Delivered Us from the Domain of Darkness

Colossians 1:11-14 – May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

2013-12-16 - He Has Delivered Us from the Domain of Darkness (IMG_0656)A lone tree silhouetted against the darkness of a stormy sky along Skyline Drive near Big MeadowsShenandoah National Park, Virginia.

This leafless tree silhouetted against the gloomy skies screams “darkness” to me.  Yesterday’s photo from Yosemite was post processed to create a black and white image from a color image, but today’s photo is actually an untouched color image.  That is just how dark and gloomy it was on this particular early spring day in Shenandoah National Park.

We are in the midst of a joyous season as we anticipate the coming of Christmas.  For many it is a time filled with excitement as preparations are made to celebrate with family and friends.  We rush about from store to store buying gifts and stocking our pantries with food for our holiday meals.  But, despite all the festivities, it is often a time of great darkness for those around us who struggle with loneliness or depression.  Even as Christians we deal with times of darkness in our lives, times that we are under attack from the Prince of Darkness himself, or times that we are simply battling with the day-to-day realities of life in a fallen and sinful world.

If you are suffering right now, or know someone who is, take the time to bring those troubles to God in prayer and seek answers through his word.  Today’s passage from Paul’s letter to the Colossians offers great words of prayer and encouragement, and also reminds us that God has already “delivered us from the domain of darkness” through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is our only true hope and joy.

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

The Bear Shall Graze

Isaiah 11:6-76 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7 The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

2013-12-09 - The Bear Shall Graze (IMG_8271)Grizzly bear along the trail to Iceberg Lake.  Glacier National Park, Montana.

(Not my best photography, I’ll admit, but when you are thirty yards from a grizzly bear in the wild, you tend to forget about swapping lenses and adjusting camera settings)

Today’s passage from Isaiah sounds rather absurd to anyone who has hiked in grizzly country, even to those who have not, for that matter.  I suspect that a fear of large predators keeps many people from venturing very far into the wilderness of places like Glacier National Park.  This fear is not totally irrational, just read some of the precautions that hikers and backcountry campers are told to follow.

As beautiful as God’s creation and creatures are, most people understand that there are risks in the outdoors.  And, whether or not a person is aware of the Judeo-Christian concept of the fall, I think everyone will at least acknowledge there are dangers, suffering, and even death in our world.  We live in a fallen world, where everything is corrupted by sin.  As Romans 8:22 tells us, “we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

Faced with an understanding of the effects of the fall, the scenario described by Isaiah seems strange to us in two ways.  First, there is the very unusual behavior of the animals, not something you typically see on nature programs.  And, second there is this seemingly odd notion that “a little child shall lead them.”  Even for Christians it all sounds rather foreign, because we, too, know well the realities of life here on earth.  But, as Christians we are blessed to know who this little child is.  It is the same child, the predicted Messiah, written about in yesterday’s passage from Isaiah 9.

It is the Messiah whose coming we celebrate on Christmas, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  It is only through his birth, perfect life, and undeserved death on the cross that these impossible sounding things become possible. It is only through his innocent blood shed on the cross that we will some-day be able to experience what we read about in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

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

For to Us a Child is Born

2nd Sunday in Advent

Isaiah 9:6-7 – For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

2013-12-08 - For to Us a Child is Born (IMG_7069)Anticipating the sunrise on a cold March morning in the hills of eastern Ohio.  Pathfinder School property, near Jackson, Ohio.

If you have ever camped out in cold weather you know a little something about anticipation.  The dark hours of early morning, before even the faintest rays of sunshine begin to grace the eastern sky, seem endless.  There is certainly some trepidation knowing that you have to climb out of a warm sleeping bag into the freezing morning air.  But, there is also excitement for those good things you know await you, stoking the smoldering embers of last night’s fire back to a blaze by which to warm yourself, that first steaming cup of coffee, and, perhaps, a hot cinnamon roll baked in a Dutch oven over the coals.

Those in Isaiah’s time knew a lot about anticipation.  In fact, it would be many generations before the promised Messiah arrived.  Fortunately for us, we have the advantage of knowing how the story of the Messiah unfolds.  Advent is a time of waiting for Christmas, that day we have set aside to celebrate the birth of Christ.  But, as Christians, our real anticipation is for the coming of God’s eternal kingdom, that time when we can celebrate the “marriage supper of the lamb” (Revelation 19:9) with our Lord and Savior in heaven.  If a warm campfire, a steaming cup of coffee, and a hot cinnamon roll on a cold morning sound good, try to imagine what awaits us in heaven!

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

Joy and Peace

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

2013-12-01 - Joy and Peace (IMG_1170)What better way to find joy and peace than a beautiful fall afternoon spent out in God’s amazing creation? Sharon Woods, Sharonville, Ohio.

As we enter into the Advent season it is important to remember why we celebrate Christmas. The advertisements on television would have us believe it is all about the “things,” the diamond ring, the new <insert expensive brand name car>, the latest video game, or electronic gadget. Despite the beautiful images of happy, smiling people we see on our screens, these are not the things that fill us with joy and peace. These are not the things that will ever give us hope. They may produce temporary happiness, perhaps, but ultimately they only lead to a desire for more “things.”

As today’s Bible verse tells us, true joy and peace come “in believing.” Believing, that is, in the one for whom we celebrate Christmas, and that is Christ the Lord! It is God who fills us with that joy and peace; it is by the power of his Holy Spirit that we will abound in hope. And, it is only through Christ his Son, that babe born in a stable over 2000 years ago, that we can find this promised hope, joy, and peace.

While the beautiful fall colors may be gone, and temperatures may be a bit colder, winter is still a great time to get outside. Take some time to get away from the hustle and bustle this Christmas season and get out into God’s creation. If you do, perhaps the silence will give you a chance to reflect on why it is we celebrate Christmas.

Autumn colors will fade and the leaves will fall, the “things” we get for Christmas will lose their luster and soon be forgotten, but the love of Christ will endure forever!

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

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