Downtown Chicago at night, Chicago, IL

The GPS made me do it

Last year, I ended up in Miami for a work trip. I was down there interviewing some plumbing contractors for a story I was writing for my company magazine, and while we were down there it was decided that we needed to rent a vehicle. We ended up with a manly Nissan Versa and my coworker, our videographer, our guide, and I spent a couple of days trying to get ourselves killed in Miami traffic. Fortunately for us, the manly Nissan Versa came with a GPS. But unfortunately, it only spoke Spanish.

One night after we’d had dinner out with some of our Latin American sales team members, we were trying to get back to our hotel, and the GPS (it had decided to speak English for us) got confused. And I mean really confused. The poor thing kept directing us back to the Miami airport, and once we were at the airport, it kept telling us to turn right, turn right, turn right! … But turning right would be turning into the arrival terminal! Not a good place to turn right.  The GPS was obviously glitching out, but the driver had enough common sense not to listen.

I heard a story on the radio yesterday that tourists in Alaska are running into a similar problem. Their GPS systems are giving them directions that send them onto the runway of an Alaskan airport that is clearly marked with signs and fences, and the people are doing what the GPS says in spite of the fact that it’s obviously wrong.

Can you imagine what would have happened if my coworker took the GPS’s word for it and turned our Nissan Versa into the airport terminal? I think we would have gotten in a lot of trouble. People might have gotten hurt. I’m sure we would have gone to jail. And our only reason would be that the GPS told us to do it.

Sometimes I think I’m like a broken GPS system, not because I get easily lost but because I get easily confused and then I stubbornly insist that I’m right even when the truth of my ignorance is staring me right in the face.

Downtown Chicago at night, Chicago, IL

Downtown Chicago at night, Chicago, IL

Today’s verse is Isaiah 48:17-18.

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is good for you
    and leads you along the paths you should follow.
Oh, that you had listened to my commands!
    Then you would have had peace flowing like a gentle river
    and righteousness rolling over you like waves in the sea.

None of us can trust our own senses or our own understanding of circumstances and situations because we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. We don’t know what the big picture is supposed to look like. So how on Earth can we know which direction we’re supposed to go when we aren’t even sure where we’re going? That’s why we have the Bible. That’s why God is leading us in the direction He wants us to go, and He expects us to trust Him.

If we trust Him, He brings us peace. If we trust Him to take care of the details, He’ll handle the real problems before we reach them. Everything else we encounter on the road is just an opportunity to get stronger, to grow our faith, and to learn something we didn’t know the day before.

But it’s our choice to trust Him. We don’t have to take His word for it. We can go off and do our own thing, blindly groping in the dark, facing the insecurities and uncertainties we thought we understood. But it won’t be very long before we realize we don’t know as much as we thought we did. We’ll learn soon enough that we’re trying to navigate with a GPS system that isn’t functioning properly, and either we’ll end up more lost than we started out or we’ll crash and burn. Following our own path always ends up one of those two ways.

But God never gets confused. He never gets turned around. He always knows exactly where He’s going and exactly where we need to be, and He’s not about keeping secrets. No, He tells us everything we need to know. And the stuff He doesn’t tell us? Well, we don’t need to know it.

So if you’re tired of getting bad directions, if you’re tired of driving your proverbial Nissan Versa into the proverbial Miami airport, consider a word of friendly advice: ditch the broken GPS. Get directions from somebody who knows where they’re going. You’ll be less frustrated, and you might even learn to enjoy the ride along the way.

Stone carving of Tiglath-Pileser III from the ruins of Ninevah at the British Museum, London, England

You can always come back

Do you know a Christ-follower who has been hardened against God? Maybe you don’t think it’s possible to be a Christian and to have given up. Maybe it’s not. I can tell you that I haven’t been there, but I know people who have confessed Christ as their Savior who also decided at some point that following Him wasn’t worth it anymore. Does that make them not Christians anymore? No. If someone has trusted in Christ, they’re His; they can’t get away from Him, no matter how hard they try.

I know Christians who don’t want to be Christians anymore, or who at least don’t claim Christ anymore. But just because they have turned away from Him entirely doesn’t mean He’ll do the same. From what I’ve seen, He comes after those who have trusted in Him who decide to twist off on their own. And it takes a really hard heart to ignore God when He’s dead set on getting your attention.

Sin is so tricky. It doesn’t feel like sin at first. In the church, we always hear about “sin this” and “sin that” and you’d think sin would have a huge black sign on it that identifies it as something evil, something dangerous, something you need to stay away from. But the truth is that sin is easy. Most of the time, it’s easier than not sinning. And it’s fun, it satisfying (at least briefly), and it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Or it makes you feel like you’ve gotten away with something. And, let’s just be honest, getting away with something you know is wrong has it’s own kind of allure.

But it doesn’t stop there. It’s like a malfunctioning GPS. You take one wrong turn and think that you can find your way back to your original path afterward, but it keeps leading you in the wrong direction. And before you know it, you’re so lost you don’t even know where the original path was. But then the other side of sin sneaks up and bites you. It tells you that you’re so far gone, so far off the path that even if you tried to get back to where you started, no one would let you. No one would give you a chance. No one would love you. And God must hate you, right?

Sin doesn’t just mislead us. It deceives us. After it’s directed us to follow our own path, it convinces us that it’s no use going back.

Stone carving of Tiglath-Pileser III from the ruins of Ninevah at the British Museum, London, England

Stone carving of Tiglath-Pileser III from the ruins of Ninevah at the British Museum, London, England

Today’s verses are Hebrews 3:12-14.

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.

Here’s the deal, my friends. Everybody sins. Each one of us is going to screw up somehow, probably in the next hour. I know I can guarantee I will because I’m going to be around people today. I’ve discovered that I can reduce my likelihood of sin by about 50% if I don’t have to talk to people.

We have all turned against God. We’re all broken. We want to do things our own way, and we have to rely on God’s help so that we don’t. We have to rely on each other as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to help us stay on the path. And for those who’ve wandered off the path, we need to be the beacons that help them find it again.

“Today” isn’t going to last forever. Sin is tricky and sneaky and everywhere, and if you’re using your own reasoning to get through life, you’re going to fall prey to it. Just accept it. It’s going to happen. If you use your own reasoning, you are going to sin. But if you live your life by the Bible, you won’t. And if you help each other using the Bible, you’ll save yourself and your friends a lot of heartache.

So if you’re a Christ-follower, know what the Bible says. Otherwise how are you going to know how to help another believer? Are you going to use your own reasoning? That won’t work. We’re here to help each other, support each other, point each other in the right direction, but if you’re just as lost as the person you’re trying to help, what good are you going to do? You’ll just have company while you’re wandering around.

And if you happen to be someone who used to follow Christ, remember that God never gives up on you. He never will. He’s still there, waiting for you to tell sin to shove it. And whether you believe it or not, there are probably still believers in your life or around it who haven’t given up on you either. So when you make the choice to come back, don’t hesitate. Come back. Some might not believe you, but I guarantee that the people who really love Christ will rejoice to see you coming, because it’s likely they’re in the road watching for you.