Hi, this is Pastor Ken, I want to welcome you to my Thoughts on a Thursday Podcast where I take some regular occurrence or personal story from my life and connect it to a scriptural truth. So here are my thoughts on this Thursday, October 19th 2023…Planning the Route
Planning a route for a trip has changed considerably in my lifetime. When I was a kid it meant spreading state maps out across the kitchen table and switching from one to another as needed to plan a journey into unfamiliar territory. Some people had trouble reading those maps, I’ve even known some who seemingly didn’t know which side was the top of the map. Regardless of your ability to read those free maps provided by the local gas station, everyone had problems refolding them back to their original size and shape.
As I got just a little older Rand McNally began printing automobile atlas books that included each of the 50 United States and some incorporated all of North America. That book made the phone book look small, but I remember happily perusing through my parent’s Atlas in the back seat trying to identify all of the places on the various pages we had visited. Even as a young boy I thought those books were a vast improvement over the old “gas station” state maps. It was like possessing all of them without having to travel to each state to collect them and…you didn’t have to fold it up correctly when you were finished with it. That fact alone made it a vast improvement!
In my early twenties, AAA came out with “Trip-tics”. If you were a member, and you made your local AAA agent aware of where you were going, they would print out 4×8 inch pages cropped from a full size map with a highlighted line that followed the best route from point A to point B. All you had to do once you had traversed the road depicted on the current page of the trip-tic was flip it over to the next page and begin recording your progress there.
In my thirties Garmin and Tom-Tom were released. This was cutting edge technology for sure. Inputting your destination and simply following the directions of the insistent and sometimes downright rude voice that emanated from the device’s speaker made traveling much easier. Anyone could successfully navigate with one of those devises. You didn’t need to be able to read a map at all, and no preplanning was necessary…except being ready to mute the indignant gizmo when you wanted to stop for something to eat, gas up or simply use a rest-room. This was necessary to avoid it incessantly shouting, “Recalculating!. Recalculating!!” as if you would not have the good sense to know how to get back to the prescribed route again.
Then Cell Phones grew a brain and became “Smart Phones”. With one of those, Google offers all of us its Maps app, and you can get the turn-by-turn instructions without all of the preprogramed hype if a recalculation of the route becomes necessary. The Maps app can calculate the time to destination including heavy traffic slowdowns, weather conditions, and will offer detours around accidents miles before you inadvertently find yourself sitting in a traffic jam. Other Apps like Waze will do all that and tell you where the police are staked out behind that road sign trying to catch those ignoring the speed limit.
Last week I used an App on my phone that let me do something we haven’t done much of since folding “gas station maps” and Atlas books. I planned my own trip. That app allowed me to choose each and every road and turn. It kept track of the distance and calculated the time it would take, but I got to choose the route. When I took that trip, it guided me turn-by-turn, but it did so in accordance with my wishes. Planning a journey sure has changed a lot over the years.
Whether I made the plan or it was made for me, the success of the journey has everything to do with my ability to obey the instructions given and keep the course. My walk with the Lord is a lot like that. My success has much to do with my response to God. His word says that He is always there to guide me, but whether I conform to His will or not…therein lies my success or lack of success navigating life. Psalm 16:4 says; You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. I don’t take this to mean that there are no difficulties that will cross my path if I let God decide the route. What I do understand, is that God has rightly decided that it is His place to set the path for me, it is my position to follow as He makes that path evident, and He says He will do just that. It also means that in His presence, in other words walking that path with Him by my side I can have joy regardless of the perils, and the peace that comes from His company, provision and protection along the way.
So what about those times when it seems that the path is full of obstacles and trouble? Sometimes it indeed appears that life is out of control. From our limited ability to see what is ahead that may seem like a fair and correct assessment. However, we have to recognize that if we are letting the Lord lead and guide, we are submitting to an authority that has never failed. As the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, King of all kings and Lord of all lords, He is the ultimate authority on what direction is best for our lives. Isaiah 58:11 says; And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. God desires us to let Him always be the One we lean on for direction. So much so that He has a plan to provide exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, no matter what the world around us might suggest. Just a handful of pages before in Isaiah 48:17 it says; Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. Here God is saying that He teaches us how to increase in our ability to reflect Him in any situation, That God goes ahead of us and leads the way. My father often says that Where God’s finger points…His hand always provides. No matter where His finger may point, no matter what difficulties, trials and tribulations may be ahead on the path He has chosen, because He goes ahead, we can trust that He sees those things, and has already decided that leading us over, under, or strait through them will be good for us in the final analysis. Romans 8:28 tells us, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
So how can we know what to do? How do we know whether it is time to turn right, left, turn around or keep going strait? In Psalm 32:8 God tells us we can count on Him for that help. There He says, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Isn’t it a comfort to know that God offers us His direction, with His eye upon us. That means that His counsel to us is specific to us. It is given to us with us in mind. One way that He offers it is in the same form as the maps, atlases, and trip-tics of the past…it’s all written down for us. Psalm 119:105 tells us, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. And in Joshua 1:7-9 God says; 7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
We can rely upon God’s written word to be our guide, but that is not the only source of counsel we can expect from One who has His eye upon us. We also have the gift of the Holy Spirit indwelling us and offering us the much needed momentary, turn by turn instructions. John 16:13 tells us, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. God keeps His eye on us and tells His Holy Spirit what direction to give us. If we are receptive to the Holy Spirit, meaning that we are listening to Him to guide us Isaiah 30:21 tells us we will hear Him. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.
And what about those times when we decide to stray from the path and risk becoming lost? Our Heavenly Father’s GPS (godly positioning service aka the Holy Spirit) will help you recalculate. The Bible tells us that no matter what caught our eye and encouraged us to get off track, He wants to help us re-establish the way. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Hopefully we will choose to allow Him to help us recalculate and resume safely following His direction. If we persist in following our own desired path, our spiritual enemy will try to convince us that God is finished with us and will no longer be willing to give instruction to someone too hard-hearted to listen. Thankfully God says otherwise, He says, “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sin and to cleanse us of all [of our] unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9) Unlike our old Tom-Tom or Garmin, we should never try to mute the Holy Spirit as He tries us to warn us of the dangers of veering off of His prescribed route for our lives. Instead, we need to ask Him to fill us anew each day so that we can hear Him loud and clear.
The Bible tells us that we make our plans but the Lord orders our steps. God does give us the ability to plan and set out in the way that we think we should go. God also has the ability to order our steps, in other words, He controls many things we do not. So, the next time you have made plans and something outside of your control causes you to have to take a different path…don’t be discouraged. Thank God for the direction and the fact that He loves you so much that He has His eyes fixed on you and is working in ways you cannot, to make sure that your feet don’t slip.
So now, in gratitude for a God that watches that closely and cares that much, follow His lead, let him blaze the trail…and go be awesome!