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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Staying the Course

Psalm 119:1-2 "You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You're blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him."

Yesterday, we began a look into the longest Psalm in the Bible - Psalm 119. This Psalm was written by King David, the anointed of God called to serve in the capacity of the King of Israel. Within the verses of this Psalm we find life-altering, life-challenging "keys" to developing in our walk with Christ. Each concept taught builds upon the other. If we had no other chapter from the entire Bible except this one, we could learn the importance of following Christ in passionate pursuit, how to avoid the pitfalls of sinful shortcomings, and what a life of worship entails. As we begin today, we will explore the first of these "life concepts" that David so aptly shares under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

David opens by sharing a blessing with his readers - "You're blessed when you stay on course..." Have you ever been "off-course" on a journey? I took a road trip to California recently with a friend. We shared the driving, each taking turn as navigator while the other maneuvered the busy highways of Southern California. We had made great efforts to Mapquest and AAA Trip Ticket the entire journey so that we were sure to arrive at the ship terminal in time for the departure of our long-awaited cruise to the Mexican Riviera. Spirits were high, chatter abounded, and life was good. That is, until we realized that all the signs were pointing to some very unfamiliar towns that didn't seem to be on the carefully printed maps we had in front of us!

There we were, traversing the "uncharted" territories of Southern California with no "real" map of the area (just the carefully outlined Mapquest / Trip Ticket instructions directing our every turn) and not recognizing any highway markers, town names, or points of interest. You got it...we were lost! Being the seasoned traveler that I am, we veered off the highway, finding the nearest service station - you know, the type with rows and rows of gas pumps, isles of chips, coolers of assorted beverages, and the attendant (better known as the sales clerk who had never traveled much beyond the little valley he lived in!). Try asking directions when people are clammering for their Fritos, plopping down their gas loot, or buying up their latest gossip rag!

I still remember the look on his face when we asked if we were anywhere close to Long Beach. It was priceless! He spoke as much as any words could have said, but without speaking as much as one word, his scornful chuckle and click of his tongue let us know without reasonable doubt that we were helplessly off-course! Within minutes, he has successfully made a whopping $5 off us for a map I was sure we could have procurred for free from the local Chamber of Commerce, indicated our present location on it with one finger and pointed pathetically at the little dot emblazened with the words "Long Beach". Just then, my friend and I enjoyed the immediate panic of imagining ourselves arriving just as the giant white ship glided past the now closed doors of the boarding terminal!

The "trip South" had cost us valuable time - time not easily "made up" in traversing those busy highways of Southern California in the rush-hour of commuter traffic. We scurried to fill the tank (obligatory when someone has just shown you how helplessly lost you are!), turn ourselves around, head down paths unknown in search of some highway that was "sure to take us back on course" and then "make up for lost time" (that means going just a wee bit faster than the posted speed limit for those of you that may not have read between the lines there).

After what seemed like endless, wasted hours later (really less than an hour), we came across that much pursued highway of our dreams. We were back on course! Sometimes life is just like this journey to our destination. We set out with well-intentioned plans, carefully laid out, researched beyond measure, only to find that some uncharted, unknown detour will take us miles off course, leaving us searching for answers as to our whereabouts.

The Psalmist gives us insight into staying our course - it comes from steadily following the road or path revealed by God. My friend and I got off course by not reading all the posted signs as carefully as we should have. As we came into an area with heavy traffic, torn up by the endless construction of urban life, we veered South when we should have gone the other way. We still saw the highway signs, they still read the right "number" we were looking for, but the simple truth is that we failed to read the "small print" of the actual direction we were traveling!

In life, we often "miss the fine print" of God's directions. We are moving so hastily, caught up in the "traffic" of everyday life, and focused more on our destination than on the specific leg of our journey that we are in right now, that we miss the subtle leadings of our God that he has carefully laid out along the way. David reminds us that we are "blessed" (happy, content) when we follow his directions. Follow carries many meanings, but I think David had in mind the idea of watching steadily, keeping our minds on, so that we don't miss the turns! The one who follows Christ down the path he has laid out is assured of one awesome fact - he has gone before us, he leads us where we are going, and he gets us there safely. The path may not be easy, but it is assured of getting us there! Don't be afraid to "read the fine print" of God's directions - there you will find all you need to traverse safely to your destination.

Tomorrow, we will look a little deeper at the pathways we follow in life. Until then, stay the course!