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 December 14th
When we visited friends in Tennessee recently, we were given the grand tour. We saw Lookout Mountain from the inside and out. We went on the Ruby Falls cave tour and drove to the top of the mountain to view the scenery and learn about its place in Civil War history. In the cave, the walkway was uneven and slippery in places, but there was always a handrail or nearby rock one could use to steady himself. At the summit of the mountain, in one place our host wanted us to see a specific site that could only be seen by stepping out on a rocky outcropping. I stepped out, just a bit apprehensively, to see where he was pointing. After standing there a few minutes, with my feet rocking back and forth from the unevenness of the rocks, and seeing nothing but air all around me, I had to tentatively reach for my friend’s arm before I felt comfortable turning around to return to the path.
Last night I read Psalm 18 and was struck by several references to footing. David wrote that God made his feet like the feet of a deer and set him secure on the heights (v.33). Deer are not as noted for sure-footedness as mountain goats, but they do sometimes live in alpine environments and can run fast and jump both high and long. The last thing I would have wanted to try atop Lookout Mountain was to run or jump. Yet Scripture says no matter how rocky or steep the road we must climb, He makes us secure there.
A few verses later David says to God, "You gave a wide place for my steps under me and my feet did not slip" (v.36). Given that David has already proclaimed God to be his Rock (v. 2, 31), it is encouraging to know that this Rock on which we also stand is solid, broad, and immovable. No matter how narrow our physical path may be, there "is a wideness of God’s mercy" – to quote an old hymn – at our disposal.
Still later, as David is recounting how he pursued and overtook his enemies, he says, "they fell under my feet" (v.38). I doubt that he meant it literally, that he walked on their bodies, but that they were utterly defeated, never to rise against him again. We also can be assured that the enemy of our souls lies defeated before us. He was defeated once for all at the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. And he is defeated every time we walk in faith through whatever adversity we may face. As Paul wrote to the Romans, "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20).
Every step we take trusting in God, is spiritually secure, amply graced, and ultimately victorious. The grand tour that is our lives may take us places we don’t want to go, through circumstances that tax us to the limit, fraught with risks that humanly we would never take. But God, our Rock, is there. Stand on Him and walk assured!
© Judy Nichols 2014
Week of December 7th
We just returned from visiting dear friends with whom we co-labored in ministry over thirty years ago. We had seen them briefly at their daughter’s wedding six months ago, which only served to whet our appetite for a longer visit. Our time together was all we hoped for and more.
We shared news of our families – the marriages of our children, the birth of grandchildren, the decline and death of parents. And we got caught up on mutual friends’ lives and activities. Much of the news was good and happy, causing us to rejoice, but there were also hard situations and poor choices that brought us sadness and grief. We shared the joys and struggles of our own lives. We laughed, almost cried, and prayed together. We gave and received wise counsel.
On the long drive home, I was mulling it all over and the Scripture came to mind that "Abraham was called the friend of God" (James 2:23). It made me wonder if Abraham and God had the kinds of conversations we had with our friends this week.
As I think back over the life of Abraham, it seems there were a number of times when God spoke to him and he obeyed or believed, as the case may be. God told him to leave his homeland and go to a place He would show him, and Abraham obeyed. God promised to give him all the land he had walked around on and he believed it. God promised him a son even though both he and Sarah were very old, and Abraham believed even that. Later God told Abraham to sacrifice that son of promise and he set out to do so, even though I’m sure his heart was breaking.
The only conversation of theirs I can recall in which Abraham had a speaking part was when God disclosed to him His intent to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their great sinfulness. Abraham questioned God about the propriety of sweeping away the righteous along with the wicked and God said he would relent if fifty righteous people could be found there. Abraham evidently knew just how wicked the cities were, for he began dickering with God about how few righteous persons would need to be found for Him to spare the city where his nephew Lot lived. When he got it down to ten, the conversation was over.
Moses, on the other hand, had many conversations with God, encompassing everything from questioning God’s identity, to trying to decline his call, to interceding for the people, to confronting God about His promises. These are not the kinds of conversations I would consider friendly. Yet the Scripture says God spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend (Ex. 33:11).
Jesus told His disciples that He called them friends because He had made known to them everything the Father had told Him (John 15:15). This, I believe, is the essence of true friendship: to be able to speak whatever is on your heart and to hear whatever is on your friend’s heart. Between friends our questions, our doubts and fears, our needs, and even our disappointment or anger are all on the table. And since "a friend loves at all times" (Prov. 17:17) we can know we are safe in expressing them.
I am so grateful for the dear friends we visited recently (you know who you are). Their love, their words, and their deeds buoyed our hearts and encouraged us in the faith. I am even more grateful to be called a friend by Jesus. His love is boundless; His compassion never fails; His fellowship is sweet, and His counsel is always perfect. And to think – He ever lives to make intercession for me! Grateful doesn’t begin to cover it.
© Judy Nichols 2014
Week of December 1st
There have been times in my life when I have said to the Lord, "I can’t do this! If this is Your will for me, then I need more of your grace." Such a statement reflects the notion that God is not present or providing enough to get me through whatever circumstance I am facing. I am at the end of my rope; my resources are exhausted.
I find comfort in knowing I am not alone in such thoughts. David, the great king of Israel penned a number of psalms expressing his need for God’s help. Psalm 13 begins with his queries, "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?" Doubtless David knew, as do we, that God never forgets His own (Psalm 9:12) and would never deliberately abandon them (Deut. 31:8). But he also knew the way to begin the dialogue is to be open and honest before God about how he was feeling.
David continues his questions. "How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" Here, I believe, David is revealing our common response to adversity: we focus on it, mull it over, and let our negative emotions consume us. This is truly the recipe for letting the enemy of our souls have the victory.
By verse 3 David is making his request. "Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken." He asks for relief from his circumstances. And while a miraculous – or not – removal of the adversity would certainly brighten any countenance, I see another facet of David’s request to light up his eyes. To be enlightened is to understand, to see things differently than we did before. Revelation from God, whether that be seeing it from another’s or His perspective or viewing the struggle as a test, can be God’s instrument that increases our ability to persevere. Paul prayed for the Ephesians that the eyes of their hearts would be enlightened so that they would know the hope to which they’d been called, the riches of God’s inheritance in the saints, and His great power toward those who believe (Eph. 1:18). Receiving (or in our case remembering) the revelation of such a big picture would certainly reorient how we look at our present troubles and put our enemy to flight.
At the end of the psalm, David affirms his trust in God and sings praises as he remembers his salvation and all God’s kind and merciful dealings with him. We don’t know if his situation has been altered, but we do know that he has been changed. His encounter with God has put his tribulations into proper perspective. As he focused on God and His greatness and love, his trials shrank in proportion.
When we come to the place of exhaustion and tell God we can’t do it any more, may we, like David, come to Him honestly and ask for what we need. Whether our situation changes or not, we can know that we do receive what we most need, God Himself.
© Judy Nichols 2014