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.”

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

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

Rising Very Early

Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.

2013-12-17 - Rising Very Early (IMG_0350)Early morning, “blue hour” photograph, waiting for the sun to rise over the lake.  Caesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

If you are into outdoor photography or have read any books or articles on the subject, you have probably encountered the term “golden hour,” and possibly “blue hour.” Simply stated, the golden hour refers to the warm, glowing quality of light in the hours just after sunrise and just before sunset which make for much better photography than the harsher light of mid-day.  The “blue hour,” while perhaps not quite as well known a term, refers to the periods just before sunrise and just after sunset, where the cooler blue tones tend to be more dominant, which are also better times for photography than mid-day.

I enjoy photographing sunrises and sunsets for a couple of reasons.  First, there is simply the sheer beauty of it all.  From pale pastels of pink, violet, and blue, to bold reds, yellows, and oranges and just about everything in between, the colors change continuously over the course of a single sunrise or sunset, transforming even an ordinary landscape into a spectacular sight; God’s majesty and artistry are so clearly on display.  The second reason is the peace and quiet I find at these times of day, but particularly at sunrise.  Except for the avid fishermen or hunters, depending on the time of year, there are not too many people up and out before the sun.  Even the most dedicated hikers usually don’t hit the trail until at least a little while after sunrise.  And, of course, the picnickers rarely show up until near lunchtime.

I do not often have the opportunity to get out early in the morning to do sunrise photography, it is only a hobby after all, but I still enjoy this time of day and find it to be the best time for me to go to the Lord in prayer and spend some quality time in his word.  It is a time of solitude, before all the busyness and business of life come blasting in, a time when the house is quiet and my thoughts are still uncluttered by the cares and concerns of the day.

As this single verse from the Gospel of Mark tells us, Jesus also took time away early in the morning to go to his Father in prayer.  I don’t think there is much speculation involved in saying that he probably chose this time of day intentionally, and for many of the same reasons, the peace and quiet, the lack of interruptions, and a clear mind after a good night’s sleep.  Christ in his humanity, and despite his divinity and perfection, still needed to get away, he still needed time alone to converse with his Father.  So we, in our fallen and sinful state, surely need these times far more than Christ did!

Early mornings may not be best for everyone, whether due to inclination or situation; however, I would urge you to follow the example of our Lord and Savior, himself, and find a time and place that you can get away and go to our Heavenly Father in prayer, to study your Bible and reflect on what he is telling you through his word.  Whether it is a few minutes or an hour alone with the Lord each day, taking time away from the noise and clutter of everyday life will benefit your walk with Christ more than you can imagine.

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

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