Enter by the Narrow Gate

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” ~Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV)

IMG_6480Private Arch, Arches National Park, Moab, Utah.

Private Arch is located on a side trail off the Devil’s Garden Primitive Loop in Arches National Park.  As the name Devil’s Garden suggests, this trail traverses a fairly harsh landscape and the primitive loop is an even more challenging trail that fewer visitors to Arches NP actually hike.  On the day we visited, private is exactly what we got.  Though the parking lot at the trailhead was bustling with visitors, and the easier sections of the Devil’s Garden trail were filled with a continuous stream of hikers, because we chose to take “the road less travelled,” we really had an opportunity to spend a little extra time enjoying the beauty and solitude of this hidden little corner of God’s creation.

Like the passage from Matthew’s gospel suggests, good things don’t always come easy.  Whether it is enjoying the beauty and solitude of a remote, less visited place in a busy national park, or the eternal life offered by following our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the best destinations often require us to travel a more difficult path.

If you want to find your way to the less visited, scenic corners of our amazing national parks you either need to hire a guide who knows the trails or have a good map and the skills to read and follow it.

In our Christian walk we are equipped with the best map available, the Bible.  But more than that we have the Master guide himself, who has gone before us, paying the price for our sins, and who through His mercy and grace is ready to show us the way.

Christ is the narrow gate through which we enter, and though the path may at times be hard, the reward of this challenging journey is nothing less than eternal life with our Master in His glorious kingdom!

Yours in Christ,
Todd the Hiker

© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2015.

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The Light of the World

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

2014-01-01 - The Light of the World (IMG_1602)Looking out our front window at the first light of 2014.  Morrow, Ohio.

As a new year dawns and we take down the decorations and lights to pack them away in some dark and dusty corner of our house until next Christmas, we need to make sure we don’t pack Christ away into some dark and dusty corner of our life.

As Jesus tells us in today’s verse, he is “the light of the world.”  And, if we follow him, he promises that we “will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  As his followers we need to resolve daily to let that light shine brightly in our lives.  “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

God’s blessings for a wonderful New Year!

Yours in Christ,
Todd the Hiker

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

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

The Sky Is Red

Matthew 16:1-3 – And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

2013-12-27 - The Sky Is Red (IMG_1668)Sunset over Caesar Creek Lake from the Fifty Springs Picnic Area, Caesar Creek State Park, Waynesville, Ohio.

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky in the morning, sailor take warning.”  Perhaps you have heard this saying, or some variation thereof?  Obviously this little weather forecasting adage was well known even in Jesus’ day.  By the way, there actually is a scientific explanation behind this saying; and, it is a reasonably useful indicator of the weather coming your way.

What was not quite so obvious to the Pharisees and Sadducees, though, was that the long expected Messiah had already come and that he was, in fact, the very one they were presently challenging.  Certainly a part of their problem was that they expected a Messiah who was an earthly king, not the humble son of a carpenter, the babe born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger.  Even though, by this time in his earthly ministry, Jesus had already performed numerous signs and miracles, the Pharisees and Sadducees were seeking something more spectacular, or at least something that was more suited to their own expectations.

When we take things to God in prayer we need to make sure our hearts are in the right place.  God does answer prayers, just not always in the way we desire, nor with the timing that we expect.  Rather than approaching him with selfish motives, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, we would do well to recall these words from Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

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

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

A Mist that Appears

James 4:13-17 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

2013-12-26 - A Mist that Appears (IMG_2095)The morning mist hangs over a field along Hopkins Road. Maineville, Ohio.

When I read this passage from James, I have a sense that there are a couple of things that could be misunderstood if we are not careful.  First, I do not see this as a condemnation of commercial ventures that make a profit.  Christ himself in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) uses an illustration of profitable investing to make a point.  I will grant you that the intent of this parable was not to teach wise business strategies, rather that we should use the time, talent, and treasure God has blessed us with to the best of our ability in serving him.  That said, I doubt Christ would use something as a positive example for us to follow in our Christian walk if God considered that something inherently evil or sinful.

And, second, I do not believe James is telling us it is wrong to plan for the future, nor that we should just sit idly by and assume God will provide everything without any effort on our part.  Certainly God will provide; but as we read in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.”

So what should we take away from this passage?  For one thing, it reminds us that our time is short and the future in this life, even for Christians, is uncertain, “you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”  We should plan for the future and work to earn a living, but we need to realize that the outcome is in God’s hands, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  It also reminds us that our successes are gifts from God.  He is the source of all blessings.  We need to give him the credit, and not “boast in” [our own] “arrogance,” which is a sin.

And finally, I would leave you with this thought, though this passage does not speak explicitly about prayer, it does serve to remind me that we need to bring all things to God in prayer, thanking him for the blessings in our life, as well as seeking to understand and accept his will for us as we plan our future endeavors.

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

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

Consider the Lilies of the Field

Matthew 6:28-30 – And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

2013-12-04 - Consider the Lilies of the Field (IMG_8197)Glacier lilies along the trail to Iceberg Lake. Glacier National Park, Montana.

In yesterday’s post I focused on our need to take our concerns to God in prayer and to seek him through his word. Continuing in the sixth chapter of Matthew for today’s passage, Jesus goes on to tell us why it is we have anxiety in the first place, “O you of little faith.”

Now faith is a gift from God; we cannot will ourselves to have faith, nor can we work harder to earn more faith. As we are reminded in Ephesians 2:8-9, “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.”

Even though our faith is not earned, we still have a responsibility to care for this precious gift we have been given through Christ. Without water and sunshine the lilies will not grow, neither will our faith without proper nurturing. One way our faith grows is through diligent study of God’s word. Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” So, not only can God relieve our worries through the assurances provided in his word, he also uses it as a means to mature our faith, which is our best armor against anxiety.

Look at how magnificently these glacier lilies proclaim the glory of God. He has provided the rain and sunshine needed for them to blossom. How much more will our faith blossom and glorify him if we avail ourselves regularly of the great gift of his word?

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

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

Look at the Birds of the Air

Matthew 6:25-27 – Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

2013-12-03 - Look at the Birds of the Air (IMG_4112)A pair of goldfinches (not a reflection) on the thistle feeder in our back yard.

I must admit, as many times as I have read these verses, I struggle to heed the advice Jesus is giving here. I think these words are especially important to reflect on during such a busy time of the year. Between hectic social calendars, year-end pressures at work, and the everyday tasks of life, it is easy to get anxious about it all.

As demanding as things may be, sometimes we need to find time to get away. For me that means getting out into God’s magnificent creation and putting a few miles on my hiking boots. Even pausing a few minutes at the back window to watch the birds on the feeder provides a bit of respite. The peace and quiet of the outdoors help me to set aside my concerns and focus on the two things that matter most in life, God and family.

That said, it is even more important, especially when worries get the better of us, to take the time to bring our concerns to God in prayer and seek him through his word. After all, it is through prayer and his word that we find great reminders, like this passage from Matthew, of our Father’s constant love and daily provision for us, his children, who are more valuable to him than the birds of the air.

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

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