Press On Toward the Goal

Philippians 3:7-14 (ESV) – But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

2014-12-17 - Press On Toward the Goal (1-IMG_3174)A view looking west from one of the side trails along the unofficial Star Gap Arch trail. The furthest ridge in the center of the photo is our goal on this hike.

On a backpacking trip to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge early this fall, we decided to explore a trail that was new to us, the unofficial Star Gap Arch trail. Though I knew from our outrageGIS map and the description in Jerrell Goodpaster’s book, “Hinterlands,” that there were many spectacular views along the way, and at the end of the hike, there were still a few times we considered turning back. The hike was difficult at times, involving rock scrambles and thick brush; but, having a goal in mind and some idea of what lie ahead, were key to our perseverance.

2014-12-17 - Press On Toward the Goal (2-IMG_3204)A closer view of the end point on the Star Gap Arch trail.

Even though you may not get a complete picture of what to expect when hiking in a new place, or even on a new trail in a familiar place, it is worth taking time to do some research. Studying topographic maps, reading a guide book, or finding online reviews from other hikers, can give you motivation to both start and complete a new adventure.

2014-12-17 - Press On Toward the Goal (3-IMG_3178)The final climb up the ridge at the end of the Star Gap Arch trail.

In many ways our Christian walk is like a hike in the wilderness. Fortunately, God has given us the ultimate guide book for our journey, the Bible. However, the Bible is far more than just a simple guide book it serves a much greater purpose, pointing us to the ultimate goal, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Personally knowing the author who actually wrote the guide book is our best assurance of all. We will probably never endure the trials that Paul suffered, but we still need to realize there will be good times and bad, easy days and difficult ones in our lives, but with Christ we can be certain that we will make it to the end.

2014-12-17 - Press On Toward the Goal (4-IMG_3193)One of several spectacular views that awaits you at the end of the Star Gap Arch trail.

There is a price to taking a backpacking trip, we give up modern conveniences, endure difficult terrain, and occasionally suffer cuts and bruises, but getting to experience the beauty of God’s creation along the way and the spectacular views at the end of the trail make it worth the effort. There is also a cost to following Christ, the Bible makes this clear, but how much more incredible will the end of our life’s journey be when we “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

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

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

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To Keep You from Stumbling

Jude 1:24-25 – Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

2014-01-26 - To Keep You from Stumbling (IMG_3666)Whittleton Branch trailhead on KY-15. Red River Gorge Geological Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

My wife and I have come to depend on our hiking sticks.  We were not sure we would like them at first, but now we very rarely hit the trail without them.  If you have never used hiking sticks you might be surprised at the difference they make in your endurance and ability.  They reduce the strain on your hips, knees, and ankles and at the same time give you the added benefit of an upper body workout.  On several occasions they have kept me from twisting an ankle on rugged terrain or slipping on a muddy trail.  They also provide stability if you need to ford a stream.  If you plan to do any serious hiking, I highly recommend getting a set of sticks!

When it comes to our Christian walk we have one who is able to keep us from stumbling, as well, that is, of course, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  But unlike a set of hiking sticks, we cannot treat him like some optional piece of gear that we pick up one day and set aside the next as our feelings dictate.  If we want to keep from stumbling we must put our trust in him daily, walking in faith with the knowledge that it is only through the power of his blood shed on the cross that we are able to overcome the desires of our sinful hearts.

We also need to remember that as Christians our destination is secured by Christ who came before us, but the life of faith is still a journey that will have rough spots along the way.  We will encounter struggles in our Christian walk to be sure, but through Christ we have assurance that one day we will persevere and he will “present [us] blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.”  And, finally, we can take great comfort in Jesus’ own words from John 6:38-40,

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.

“To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

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

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

Be Ready In Season and Out of Season

2 Timothy 4:1-4 – I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2014-01-17 - Be Ready In Season and Out of Season (IMG_6809)One of our favorite scenic spots to stop for lunch, somewhere off-trail along the Rough Trail. Red River Gorge Geological Area, Daniel Boone National Forest, Kentucky.

Even though we do hike as often as possible in the winter, there are certainly less opportunities to get out hiking this time of year, especially with the extremely cold temperatures we have had recently, seven degrees Fahrenheit as I type this!  There are rare times that the skies are sunny and the temperatures get into the 70s, like January 12th, 2012, the day this photo was taken.  When these “out of season” beautiful days arise, you need to be ready to go if you want to take advantage of them!

Likewise as followers of Christ we need to “be ready in season and out of season” to share the gospel with those around us, as opportunities can present themselves at any time.  Part of the way we stay ready is to be committed in our private devotional life, going to God in prayer and studying his word daily; but, we also need to hear the word preached.  Left to our own devices it is easier to be led astray into false teachings.  As Christians we need the encouragement and reproof of fellow believers to properly grow in our knowledge and faith.  It is also our duty to hold each other accountable, including our leaders, by testing the things that are taught against the written word of God found in the Holy Scriptures.

We certainly live in a time where the teachings of the Christian faith are less and less endured by the world around us.  People are more and more inclined to listen to the false teachings of the secular world rather than the truths of the Bible.  “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  As redeemed followers of Christ we have “the word of the cross,” “the power of God” on our side, therefore we have no excuse, we should always “be ready in season and out of season.”

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

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

My Grace Is Sufficient

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 – So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2013-12-29 - My Grace Is Sufficient (IMG_8633)A remote bluff with a scenic view a quarter of a mile off of Rough Trail.  Red River Gorge, Slade, Kentucky.

I always carry a well-stocked first aid kit along with quite a bit of survival gear when we hike.  Some would probably accuse me of being a little overstocked.  I suppose I could trim down what I carry a bit, but leading groups of people on hikes, sometimes in fairly remote places, I would rather err on the side of caution and be ready to handle any emergency that might arise.

There are a number of well known “pastors” out there today who preach a terrible distortion of the Christian message, known as the prosperity gospel.  Promises of health, wealth, and happiness abound in their teachings.  Following Christ does not mean we will be successful in everything that we do, not even in our ministry efforts, nor does it mean we will be richly rewarded in the form or earthly treasures.  Neither does being a follower of Christ mean that we will be free from sickness or injury.

Paul does not tell us specifically what his “thorn…in the flesh” is in today’s passage.  We do not know whether this weakness of Paul’s was an illness, injury, or some mental or spiritual challenge he was facing.  Regardless of the particular affliction, Paul was obviously bringing it to the Lord in prayer, but apparently to no avail.  God’s answer to Paul was simply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

How many of us can actually say that we would be “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities?”  I can only pray that someday I might be blessed with this kind of faith.  I can only pray that someday “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”  May we all be blessed to realize, whatever afflictions and weaknesses we experience in life, that God’s grace, won through the blood of Christ, is the only thing we really need.

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

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