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.
See what Judy has to encourage you this week...
Week of July 27th
Many years ago Grace Haven had a work-study program. In its heyday there were upwards of thirty people participating. The work portion involved helping in the homes of those who provided lodging and meals, arts and crafts produced for sale, building and grounds maintenance, and dairy farming. For several years the half-dozen beef cattle were housed in our barn.
One summer day the cows got loose and headed for the hill across the road. We also had horses and several of our staff members were good riders, so they were dispatched to round up the cattle. They may have been good riders, but they were not experienced cattlemen, with the result that the cows scattered still more.
The next day all thirty or so of the farmies, as they were called, were equipped with a metal pan and a spoon. The idea was to spread out, safari style, beyond where the cows were, make some noise, and gently herd them back toward the barn. This effort was also met with failure.
The next morning we awoke to find the cows had meandered back to the barn on their own and were placidly munching their hay, as if nothing had ever happened.
It’s a funny story we laugh over whenever it’s related, but there is a lesson to be learned from it. So often, when we are faced with a dilemma, an obstacle, a problem, we take control and do whatever comes to mind to try to solve it. Sometimes these measures work, but just as often they do not.
Abraham got tired of waiting on the son God had promised him, and produced a son Ishmael by his wife’s maid. There has been no end of trouble over that one ever since. King Saul couldn’t wait until Samuel arrived and sacrificed a burnt offering himself, prompting a rebuke: "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?" (1 Sam. 15:22.)
We can all probably think of instances where all our efforts were for naught, but in due time the solution to the problem came about anyway. My own experience with infertility therapy falls into this category. Nothing we did worked, but in due time God in His mercy and grace gave us not just one, but two children.
This is not to say we should just do nothing when presented with an obstacle. We seek the Lord for His direction. If He gives a specific word, we obey. If not, we do what we can do, and if these things fail, we wait.
Were we right to send out the horsemen and then the safari after the errant cows? Who knows? What we do know is that God brought our cattle back in His own good time and for that we were grateful.
© Judy Nichols 2014
Week of July 20th
TRUST AND DUTY
Many years ago we loaned our well-used ice cream maker to friends. It had an outer wooden barrel that was decorative and an inner tub that held the ice slush. After many instances of salt brine being slopped over the edge, the barrel hoops picked this inopportune moment to rust completely through, letting the staves fall down flat like the walls of Jericho. Our friends were embarrassed that they had "broken" our ice cream maker and offered to replace it. They knew that trust implies duty.
If I borrow a truck to move something, I have a duty not to wreck the truck in the process. If I entrust my money to the bank, they have a duty to invest it wisely enough to produce a profit, both for the bank and for me.
In Romans 3 Paul addresses the false notion the Jews had that they were immune from God’s judgment because they had His law. But this very law declares plainly that all men are under sin’s power and condemnation. Paul quotes extensively from the Old Testament in verses 10-18 to make his point.
The Jews did have an advantage in having the word of God entrusted to them, but they evidently failed to recognize their duty in regard to it. They thought just having the Law was enough.
How easily we fall into the same trap! As those who live after the advent of Christ, we have even more revelation than the Jews of old had. Many people today, whether church-goers or not, have some knowledge of the Bible and may quote it when it serves their purposes, yet never really take to heart what it says.
The Apostle James wrote, "Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (Jas. 1:22). And Jesus Himself said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more" (Luke 12:48). To have as much revelation as we do is a high privilege, and our responsibility to live out that revelation is all the greater for it.
The wooden barrel part of our ice cream maker was purely decorative. The machine functioned perfectly without it. We were actually happy when the barrel was gone because it took up less space in the closet without it. Even so, it was only with difficulty that we dissuaded our friends from replacing it.
The Word of God is not merely to be a decorative part of our lives. It is not something we can parade to make ourselves look better or persuade others to our point of view. Rather it is "living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, or both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). Neither will it ever fall flat around us due to corrosion. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" (Isa. 40:8).
© Judy Nichols 2014
Week of July 13th
IDOLATRY AND REST
Matthew Henry’s commentary notes that the list of sins Paul enumerates in his indictment of mankind in Romans 1 encompasses breaking every one of the Ten Commandments. Those who reject God’s revelation of Himself are allowed by Him to descend into deeper and deeper depravity.
As I considered each of the Ten Commandments, the one that really stuck out to me was the fourth: keeping the Sabbath as a day of rest. Our idols do not afford us the luxury of any respite from our pursuit of them, but the living God does.
As I read through Leviticus where the details of the sacrificial system are laid out, I do not find any mention of specific sacrifices that were to be made on the Sabbath day, the only exceptions being the three annual festivals. There were daily sacrifices, morning and evening, that were also done on the Sabbath, but nothing prescribed for the average person to bring as an offering to the Lord on that day.
The God we serve, the Creator, who is perfect in holiness, righteousness, justice, and mercy is pre-eminently deserving of constant worship. This is the picture of the daily morning and evening sacrifices in the Old Testament, that there should always be worship ascending to God. In heaven worship is continual. When the Apostle John was given his vision of heaven (see Rev. 4:1-11), he noted that "day and night they do not cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is, and who is to come’ . . . and the twenty-four elders fall down and worship Him" (v.8-10). The angels also worship Him (see Rev. 7:11).
How amazingly gracious it is, then, that this One, who merits unceasing adoration should condescend to allow His people one-seventh of their time to be free from any obligation to Him! This is not to say we are free from His moral requirements, but only from work and religious duties. God is worthy of our perpetual worship but He does not need it, nor does he demand it. (See Psalm 50:8-12.) He is at rest and so He allows us freedom to rest.
Those who reject God’s revelation of Himself seek to set themselves free from His requirements. In doing so they also certainly set themselves far from the possibility of true rest. The author of Hebrews makes it clear that rest is directly linked to faith (Heb. 4:2). The children of Israel did not believe God would overcome the peoples of the Promised Land. As a result, they wandered in the wilderness for forty years until everyone of that generation had died. (See Heb. 3:16 - 4:7.)
Our puny idols, so worthless compared to the great I AM, demand our undivided attention and unending subservience. How grateful I am to know the One who said, "Come to Me, all who work to exhaustion (marginal translation), and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).
© Judy Nichols 2014
Week of July 6th
IDOLATRY AND IMMORALITY
I find it interesting that in Romans 1 Paul is quick to connect idolatry with sexual immorality. As I considered this, the irony became evident. Even in their rejection of God, mankind still exhibited the latent knowledge of His first command to Adam and Eve: "Be fruitful and multiply" (Gen.1:28).
Fertility gods and goddesses have been prominent throughout the ages. And their worship, obviously, involved sexual activities outside the bonds of marriage. What an utter perversion of what God intended to be a blessing! One man and one woman becoming one flesh for life, in order to become co-creators with God of new persons who will be loved most and nurtured best by those who created them.
There is no other love like the love of a parent for the newborn child. The child has done nothing to deserve this love, yet it flows unaided and abundant from the parents’ hearts. This also gives us our best picture of how God loves us, the people He created, since He has identified Himself as our Father.
To pervert this into mindless, non-permanent, non-binding copulation is to repudiate the very created order and, hence, the Creator Himself.
The pain and dysfunction that result from sexual immorality is well documented in social science statistics. It is also evident all around us today. People who dishonor God in this way dishonor themselves as they reap the consequences of their selfish, godless ways. And they bring dishonor and dysfunction to the children they beget as a result. This is part of what may be inferred from God’s statement that He will "visit the iniquities of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me" (Ex.20:5).
To deify fertility, with its immoral sexual rituals, would (in those days of no birth control) also produce a host of unintended, indeed likely unwanted, children. It should come as no surprise, then, that there should also be idols to whom little children would be sacrificed. What depths of depravity! As Matthew Henry commented, "How much are we beholden to the restraining grace of God! For, were it not for this, man, who was made but little lower than the angels, would make himself a great deal lower than the devils."
© Judy Nichols 2014
- July 31stThe Fathers Garden Christian Fellowship "Back to the Garden"
- August 17thBack to School Amp'd Youth Rally
- August 24thFeed the Hungry Benefit Concert