Highways To Zion

Highways to Zion is a weekly devotional message on WVMC FM designed to encourage you in your daily walk with Christ through lessons from everyday life.  Here are the archive's of past devotional messages.

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See what Judy has to encourage you this week...

Week of September 21st

POOP AND CORN

We have friends who have horses. Horses are prolific manure producers. We have a large vegetable garden every summer, and every year our friends bring us a load of manure to fertilize our garden. Recently we gave them some of our sweet corn we grew this year. When she thanked me in an email, she said, "You know your friends are special when you give them poop and get sweet corn in return."

How amazing is it that God created the universe, or at least the earth, to operate on a system that takes decayed waste and uses it to produce beautiful, delicious, nutritious food! I believe He operates the same way in the spiritual realm. Romans 8:28 tells us that He causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him. He takes what our enemy means for evil and turns it into good. He takes the mistakes we make, the infirmities we suffer, the trials we face, the attitudes we harbor, and uses them to grow us up into the likeness of Christ, which is our greatest good.

When I read in Romans 5:3, "We also rejoice in our sufferings," I’m tempted to wonder if Paul is from some other planet. My experience of the few things I’ve suffered in this life has been notably devoid of rejoicing. My eight years of infertility were an emotional roller coaster with hopes rising monthly and then crashing in sorrow. My cancer experience was a pungent stew of terror, nausea, pain, and grotesque visage.

But in the midst of both of them, I saw God’s faithfulness as He met me in His word and ministered His love to me through friends and family. When I came to the point of accepting the fact that I might never be a mother, God assured me that He would personally make up to me for the loss of the experience of motherhood. I knew my testimony would be from Psalm 84:11. "No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly." He would be to me better than children. And while I was not at all certain I would survive my cancer experience, He taught me through my grappling with my mortality that "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116:15). I became convinced that if the Lord took me, it would not be for lack of His considering how it would affect my parents, husband, children, and community.

I am so grateful that both of those experiences ended. My children have been and continue to be sources of great joy and blessing in my life. And my life has been unalterably changed through my cancer experience.

I rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. The things I suffered increased my perception of and appreciation for what lies ahead for me in Christ. Whether I had children or not, God would have been good to me. Whether I died or lived, God would have been glorified. I may not have rejoiced in the midst of the trials but, like the poop and the corn, I can see how they were used to make me more like Jesus. And I can certainly rejoice in that.

© Judy Nichols 2014


Week of September 14th

HOPE OF GLORY

When I was a little girl, my greatest – well, really my only – aspiration in life was to grow up to be like my Mom. I never wanted to be a doctor, lawyer, teacher, or nurse. I just wanted to be happily married, a good wife, and good mother to my children. And to a large extent, my hopes were realized. I am happily married; I try to be a good wife. And now that my children are grown and have "risen up and called me blessed," I guess I can say I was a good enough mother.

But back when I was a little girl, I didn’t know what it took to have a good marriage or be a good wife and mother. I just liked what I saw modeled before me and knew I wanted that. My hope was somewhat veiled; I couldn’t know how wonderful it felt to be married until it happened. I couldn’t know what was involved in maintaining the marital relationship. I couldn’t know the work and stress and pain involved in raising children until I did it. These things had to be revealed to me through my experience.

As I consider Paul’s statement in Romans 5 that we "rejoice in the hope of the glory of God," I have to wonder what the Old Testament saints thought about the after-life. As much as it is veiled for us to know what it will be like to experience God’s glory, it was even more veiled for them. The promise of a Redeemer was known from the time of the fall onward (Gen. 3:15). The suffering Job declared that he knew he would one day see his Redeemer with his own eyes (Job 19:25-27). David’s poetry reveals his sure hope that Sheol, the place of the dead, was not the end (Ps. 16:10, 49:15).

I suppose they knew, as we do, that life in glory would mean realizing the full potential man was created with. God created humans in His own image and declared all his creation "very good." With God’s image marred by sin, life became decidedly inglorious. How wonderfully gracious of God to give us Jesus Christ, His Perfect Example of how human life should be lived. That was a giant step forward in lifting the veil, but only the full implications of Jesus’ death and resurrection could pull it away.

Jesus’ death was our death; Jesus’ resurrection is our resurrection. We demonstrate this symbolically when we are baptized. Just as Jesus took upon Himself our sin, He also put upon us the perfectly holy life He had lived. Because he overcame sin, its power in us was disabled. He gives us new life, His life within us, by giving us the Holy Spirit. He makes us part of His body; we are in Christ. All that He received as first-born from the dead and only begotten Son of God, we also will receive.

Did I say the veil was removed? I was wrong. I just wrote those words on the page and realize I still have no concept of what it will be like to live in glory with God. But it will not always be that way. "Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully . . . " (I Cor. 13:12). Beloved, we will experience these things; our hopes will be realized. And it will be more and better than anything we could have hoped for in this life. That is something worth rejoicing over.

© Judy Nichols


 

Week of September 7th

PEACE WITH GOD

In Romans 5 Paul lays out the benefits of justification by faith. First and foremost is peace with God through Jesus Christ. Then access to a standing in God’s grace, the hope of God’s glory, recognition that our suffering is not meaningless, and God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Peace with God – what a relief! – means that the barrier of sin that separated us from God has been removed once for all. The prophet Isaiah spoke of this. "But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you" (Isa. 59:2). Indeed, the entire chapter of Isaiah 59 is the story of fallen man’s condition and God’s redemption. We are a race that stands guilty before God; we speak lies and wicked things. Integrity has been replaced with empty arguments; webs of lies cannot cover our evil deeds. We rush headlong into sin, resulting in ruin, destruction, lack of peace, and injustice. And when the tables are turned, we cannot find the justice we seek. All around us is darkness as we grope to find our way, stumble, and bemoan our situation. (see Isa. 59:3-11.)

At last, reality sets in when we recognize the source of it all is our own sin, our own offenses against God. We accept personal responsibility for them as we finally understand that we are helpless to get rid of them ourselves. All our sinful hearts have produced is rebellion, treachery, oppression, and turning our backs on God. And the results are visible in society, in our own time as well as in Isaiah’s. "Justice is driven back and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets; honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey." (see Isa 59:12-15.)

God was displeased at the absence of justice. He saw our hopeless and helpless situation and was appalled. Since there was no one else who could intervene, He did it Himself. "His own arm worked salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him" (v.16). He, figuratively speaking, put on His battle gear – righteousness, salvation, vengeance, and zeal – to accomplish salvation for His own and vengeance on His enemies. And He will be revered and glorified everywhere when His saving work and His punishment of evil are revealed. Redemption will come to those who repent of their sins. (See Isa. 59:16-20.)

Then God describes the covenant He makes with those who repent. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever" (v.21). This peace with God, bought for us when Jesus Christ "bore our sins in His body on the cross" (1 Pet. 2:24) and "was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many" (Heb. 9:28) is not for us alone, but for our children and their descendants, as well. Lord, grant that we, our children, and their descendants always have open ears and soft hearts to hear Your call to repentance! Thank you for taking it upon Yourself to remedy our hopeless and helpless condition! Thank you that we can be at peace with You! © Judy Nichols 2014


Week of September 1st

GROWTH MEDIUM

After college I worked in a virology lab. Since viruses cannot grow outside a living cell, a significant portion of my work involved growing cultures of cells so that we could grow viruses and then test them for strength and cross matching. Cell culture is somewhat like sourdough bread; you put a starter, that is, a small amount of cells, into a medium in which they can grow. Like the yeast in bread dough, the cells permeate the whole culture medium. Then we would divide this batch up into test tubes to do our testing, adding a maintenance medium so that the cells would stay alive, but not continue to grow as rapidly.

I thought about this as I was reading Romans 5 where it says our faith in Jesus Christ introduces us "into this grace in which we stand" (v.2). When we believe that Jesus’ death atoned for our sins and receive Him as Savior and Lord, our standing is one of being in God’s grace. It is the medium in which we live our lives thereafter.

Grace is not just something we ask of God for dire situations, although we do and He gives it ungrudgingly. Grace is more than that. It is the air we breathe, the spiritual atmosphere that surrounds us. It is the ground we walk on, the sure knowledge that every thought and action of God toward us is prompted by His love and mercy. It is the energy that rearranges everything in our lives.

The Christian life is not meant to be static, but always dynamic, marked by continual growth. There is no maintenance medium for the Christian. When testing comes, we can know that growth is still the objective. In our virus testing, the cells died as a result of the viral growth and the fact that they were not supplied with the enriching ingredients in the growth medium. God never withdraws the enrichment of His grace from us. His intent in testing, no matter how severe, is never our demise, but always increased growth in Him, not only for us but also for all whose lives we touch. Even when physical death is the outcome, our faith in the midst of suffering will deeply impact those around us.

Are you soaking up God’s grace? If you know Christ, grace is where you live. It is a rich environment, providing sustenance not just to survive, but to thrive, not just to resist, but to overcome. And no matter how much of it you consume, there is always more, enough for each day’s need. It is the ultimate growth medium!

© Judy Nichols 2014


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