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.

Concerning the Times and the Seasons

1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 – Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

2014-01-14 - Concerning the Times and the Seasons (IMG_1683)Icicles on the face of the waterfall on Flat Fork CreekCaesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

Winter hiking requires additional preparations that you may not consider in other seasons, unless you hike in the high mountains where you need to be prepared for extreme weather any time of the year.  Carrying a cutting tool, fire starting supplies, a map and compass, a first aid kit, and enough food and water are important all the time, but even more so in cold weather; and clothing, that you may barely give a second thought to in warmer weather, becomes a major concern in the winter.  The key to being prepared is to “expect the unexpected,” so you are ready to handle any situation.  When you are away from civilization you often cannot just call 911 when an emergency arises, and even if you can it will likely take rescuers much longer to get to you than when you are at home.  (REI’s website has a great article with Winter Camping and Backpacking Tips if you want to read more.)

Today’s passage from 1 Thessalonians 5 is all about being prepared in the “times and seasons” while we await the second coming of Christ.  And just like a winter hike, these preparations we make in our Christian walk are necessary because there is an element of the unexpected, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  In Matthew 24:44 Jesus, himself, tells his disciples, “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”  And in Matthew 25:13, he says, “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Clearly we do not know when the Lord will come again, and because of this we need to be ready at any time.  Fortunately in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 Paul gives us advice on some things we can do to prepare, as well as some things not to do, that are written almost in checklist fashion:

12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

If we read this passage daily and heeded Paul’s advice, how much more joyful could we be in our approach to life?  How would it change our outlook and our expectations if we actually did what we are told to do in these eleven short verses?

Do you think this sounds impossible? Well, we find good news as Paul concludes the body of his letter to the believers in Thessalonica with these great words of encouragement:

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24)

These are words that we too should take to heart. They are words that give us hope because it means we are not doing this alone, and they are words that apply equally to us as believers today!

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

You, Lord, Laid the Foundation

Hebrews 1:10-12 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”

2014-01-05 - You, Lord, Laid the Foundation (IMG_1762_AC)An unusual view of the waterfall on Flat Fork CreekCaesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

This photograph was possible only because of a solid foundation afforded by the thick ice resulting from the recent sub-zero temperatures here in southwest Ohio.  Of course the weather will eventually warm up, the ice will melt, and this foundation will be lost, though not anytime soon according to the forecasts.

If we put our faith in the permanence of the things of this world, like the ice in this photo they will eventually disappear, and we will be disappointed.  However, if we put our faith in the Lord who “laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,” in “Jesus Christ [who] is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8) we will never be disappointed and will always have a solid foundation to stand on.

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

By the Breath of God Ice Is Given

Job 37:10-13 – By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. 11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. 12 They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. 13 Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

2014-01-04 - By the Breath of God Ice Is Given (IMG_1749_AC)The waterfall on Flat Fork Creek is nearly frozen over with ice after a bout of sub-zero temperatures.  Caesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

Today’s passage from the book of Job reminds us that God is sovereign over all of his creation, even the winter weather, for “By the breath of God ice is given.”  One question often asked by those who doubt God’s sovereignty is, how a loving God can let bad things like storms or natural disasters happen?”  Even as Christians we do not always understand God’s purpose behind the events in our own lives, let alone those in the larger world around us.

But, as we read here, God is most certainly in control and his purposes are achieved, for the clouds “turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.”  We also read of some possible reasons behind God’s actions, they may be “for correction or for his land or for love,” even though we may not fully comprehend the reasons at the time.

With prayer, patience, and perseverance perhaps in time we will understand God’s purposes, whether in the little things or the big, or perhaps not.  Either way, in the mean time we need to rest in the hope and promise of Christ and in the words of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

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