There Is One

Ephesians 4:4-6 – There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

2014-02-02 - There Is One (IMG_0558)A lone tree silhouetted against a cloudy evening sky.  Caesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

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

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Tossed To and Fro By the Waves

Ephesians 4:11-14 – And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

2014-01-24 - Tossed To and Fro By the Waves (IMG_2450)Wave tossed shoreline of Lake Erie on a stormy morning.  Presque Isle State Park, Erie, Pennsylvania.

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

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.

We Were Dead in Our Trespasses

Ephesians 2:1-9 – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience–3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2014-01-03 - We Were Dead in Our Trespasses (IMG_5099)Fallen sycamore leaf on a wet, algae-covered rock.  Caesar Creek Gorge State Nature Preserve, Oregonia, Ohio.

From the world’s perspective people are all basically good, it is just that sometimes we make mistakes, or the circumstances of our lives or upbringing cause us to do bad things.  This, “basic goodness of humanity” philosophy is quite pervasive in the world today, even among some Christians.  This philosophy is deceitful.  It is like looking at this fallen sycamore leaf, seeing the green that remains, and presuming that the “greenness” is a sign the leaf is still alive.

In fact, as we read in today’s passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we are all “dead in” our “trespasses and sins.”  We are not just a little bad; we are “sons of disobedience” who are “following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air,” Satan, that is.  We need to realize this is not just a case of being sick and needing a little medicine to make us better, just like this sycamore leaf, we are dead!

Thankfully, the story does not end here for those who are in Christ.  Thankfully, we have a merciful and loving God who, “even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.”  Make no mistake, though, without Christ’s atoning sacrifice, without his blood shed on the cross to pay the price for our sins, we would remain “children of wrath,” fully deserving of the eternal punishment God would mete out for all of our trespasses.

And, lest we think we can make it right on our own, through good works, or trying a little harder, or by being a little nicer person, we need to remember what Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

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