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 October 26th

SAVED

In everyday situations we are generally able to acknowledge things we have been saved from. Quick action on someone’s part might save a toddler from being hit by a car and possibly killed. Having a working smoke detector can save us from a house fire. But in the spiritual realm we don’t hear much about what receiving Christ saves us from. Probably the thing most people think of when we learn our sins are forgiven is that we are saved from our tangible and valid sense of guilt before God.

While that is true and priceless to us, we should never forget that we are saved from so much more than just our own guilt feelings. God is holy and just. He abhors sin and, while His love prompts Him to exhibit mercy and long-suffering to allow sinners to come to Christ, He will in the end judge those who reject Him and inflict His righteous retribution against them.

The Biblical descriptions of God’s judgments against sin are many, varied, and graphic. Fire and brimstone fell from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah. Fire from heaven fell and consumed the rebellious in Israel on a number of occasions (Lev. 10:1-3, Num. 11:1-3, 16:1-34). And plagues broke out, as well (Num. 11:31-33, 16:41-50). The earth swallowed up rebels alive (Num. 16:1-34). God ordered executions (Num. 25:1-9), caused defeat in battle (Josh. 7:1-26), tore the kingdom from Saul (1 Sam. 15:1-9), and ultimately sent His unfaithful people into exile (Deut. 29:26-28).

Jesus’ descriptions are equally disturbing. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man wound up in a place of conscious, agonizing fiery torment (Luke 16:24). Many of the parables condemning hypocrisy end with the hypocrites being thrown into either fire or outer darkness where they weep and gnash their teeth.

Even for us who know Him, the letter to the Hebrews gives us a sobering warning. "If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God" (10:26-27). And this is not just speaking of our actions, but also our thoughts and motives, for "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account" (4:13).

This is the God we serve. He loves us; He is gracious and merciful to us. But He is also the holy, just Sovereign of the universe. We do ourselves, others, and the gospel itself a grave disservice when we only present the former and omit the latter of these attributes of God. Jesus is our savior and friend; we may be sure of that. But He is also our judge and His demand is perfection. How grateful I am to be saved by His shed blood. It saved me when I first believed; it continues to save me as I battle sin in my life, and it alone will save me from God’s righteous wrath in the day of judgment.

© Judy Nichols 2014


Week of October 19th

LOVE IN OUR HEARTS

In my father’s family there were four siblings. Three of them looked a lot alike; the fourth bore no notable resemblance to any of the other siblings. Though there were occasional jokes like, "It must have been the milk man," there was never any doubt that he was, in fact, a member of the family. He did not have to work hard or hope that at some future date he might become or be accepted as a family member, because he knew he already was. Why? Because of the love that was poured into his heart by his parents and siblings


Paul writes in Romans 5:5, "And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us." He earlier wrote that we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. The minute we believe, this hope is laid before us as part of our inheritance in Christ. As Peter says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who . . . has caused us to be born again to a living hope . . . to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:3-4).

The trials we face and the things we suffer develop the character of Christ in us (Rom. 5:3-4). The more we become like Christ, the more convinced of our complete unworthiness we become, and the more we realize how much God loves us. He loves us not because of any good we have done but because He is Love. Nothing in us merits His approval. Yet, when we come to Him in faith, He pours out His love on us through the Holy Spirit. Commentator William R. Newell says, "The indwelling Holy Spirit, given freely to all believers, sheds abroad in our hearts this love of God – making us conscious of it in a direct inner witness."

Paul put it this way, We "have received a spirit of adoption by which we cry out, ‘Abba [that is, Daddy]! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8 15-16). "Daddy" is the most personal and endearing term we use for our fathers. That we can now call God our Daddy indicates a profound change in the relationship between a holy God and His fallen creatures.

In the Old Testament, the command was to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and strength." But it was a distant love, an obedience-only love. After the sacrificial death of Christ, it became an intimate love. As the apostle John wrote, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I John 4:10). Love between God and man originated with God. God loved the creatures He created and even when they fell into sin, He initiated contact with His disobedient children by His "where are you" as He walked in the garden in the cool of the evening. He continued seeking the lost as He sent prophets again and again to them, culminating with the coming of His Son Jesus Christ, in whose sacrificial death the barrier between God and man was forever removed.

How grateful I am to know the love of Christ in my heart, even though my resemblance to Him is but a dim reflection.

© Judy Nichols 2014


 

Week of October 12th

IN THE CIRCLE

This world is in bad shape. With scandal and corruption in government, saber-rattling in various parts of the world, vicious, barbaric terrorism on the move, and worries about an ebola epidemic, many of us undoubtedly are praying for revival. Nothing else, I believe, but massive, world-wide revival can solve our problems and preserve civilization.

Revival is birthed in prayer. But what do you pray when you’re praying for revival? Do you ask for our elected officials to reform their behavior? Do you come against the satanic powers that inhabit evil, aggressive nations? Do you plead for mercy, not only for the victims of terrorism, but also for the terrorists to have changed hearts? Do you pray for those dying of ebola to cry out to God in their last moments and be saved? These are all things I would love to see happen, but they are not the heart of revival prayers.

A friend told me a story about a young man who became a Christian. He was on fire for Christ; he wanted to change the world. He spoke with his pastor about how he could get involved in a ministry that would bring people to repentance and faith, in short, revival. The pastor told him to make an imaginary circle on the floor. This he did. Then the pastor said, "Go stand in the circle. This is where revival begins."

This week in church, a member shared something she felt God had spoken to her. The gist of it was that she should stop trying to fix problems and other people because, for heaven’s sake, she couldn’t even fix herself. To "get with the program," that is, to do it God’s way is to relinquish our efforts and trust Him. As she read this, blinking away tears, it was evident that she was in the circle. God had called her to repent and put her trust in Him, and she was there to publicly declare it. This is revival.

But it wasn’t just her own personal revival. Her testimony brought into much sharper focus the things God has been dealing with me about (which are not at all the same as hers). And I heard others say how her words resonated in their hearts, as well. This is how revival works. One person’s revival leads to another’s, and another’s, and another’s.

Do you want to see world-wide revival? Get in the circle. Ask God to show you the things you need to repent and the areas where you need to trust Him. Be willing to hear it, no matter how painful it may be. And be ready, by His grace, to act on what He tells you. Then don’t be quiet about it; let others know how He has changed your heart. Tell them why your behavior has changed. Demonstrate His victory over the demons in your life. Remind them that calling out to God in faith at any time is the best and only real answer. In so doing you will draw them into the circle and begin that revival we so desperately need.

© Judy Nichols 2014


Week of October 5th

AMMO

A young woman who grew up in our church is now a Drill Sargent in the Army. One of her duties is to take recruits through rifle marksmanship training. She recently posted a photo on her facebook page of the sign above the entry to the firing range. It is a quote of Theodore Roosevelt. "In battle the only bullets that count are the ones that hit. A soldier who cannot shoot is a soldier who counts for little in battle." This got me thinking about its application to spiritual warfare, and I made a comment to that effect.

Another friend of hers then posted this quote: "Lord, let me be fast and accurate. May my aim be true and my hand faster than those who would seek to destroy me. Grant me victory over my foes and those that wish to do harm to me and mine. May not my last thought be, ‘If only I had my gun.’ And Lord, if today is truly the day that you call me home, let me die in a pile of empty brass."

As Christians in a spiritual battle, we have an enemy, the devil, whose goal is to steal, kill, and destroy. He is crafty, subtle, and relentless in his attacks. He is a schemer who targets his assaults to affect us in our areas of weakness, in times of distress, and in places of temptation. He is a liar, deceiver, and sower of doubt and fear. He seeks to dismiss, distort or embellish God’s truth so that we come to doubt its veracity and power.

As we enter into this warfare, we have many pieces of armor to protect us, but only one offensive weapon, the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). While it is supremely comforting to know that we are more than adequately protected, we must remember that our goal in this warfare is not merely to survive. When Jesus gave Peter the keys of the Kingdom, He said, "The gates of hell will not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18). Gates are not offensive weapons, but defenses designed to keep others out. If we, as soldiers in God’s army, are to advance through those gates, plunder the enemy and release his captives, we must learn to use our sword effectively.

The Apostle James admonishes us to "resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). We do not resist the devil by our own words or authority. He laughs at our puny human efforts, as the evil spirit responded (see Acts 19:15), "I recognize Jesus and I know about Paul, but who are you?" to the Jewish exorcists. No, we must use God’s word, which He has given us authority to do, to resist and conquer the devil.

God’s word is the bullet that always hits its target. Our part is to know it, have it ready, recognize the need, and use it immediately. Paul wrote to Timothy, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). How is your equipment? Do you have enough? Where is it stored – in a book on the shelf or in your heart? What condition is it in? Is it polished and ready or rusty from disuse? If God called you home today, would the battlefield that is your life be littered with used Scripture verses? I hope mine would be.

© Judy Nichols 2014


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