Off Roading

A six-and-a-half hour solo drive last weekend included several surprise freebies along the way. One that I did not like very much was the section of highway that virtually shut down in an incredible thunderstorm, when everyone had to turn on their blinkers and crawl along due to the “visibility: zero” conditions. That’s always a lot of fun and good for the blood pressure. Another was happily spotting the friendly blue “Rest Area” signs at the point where a Rest Area was much needed, only to discover that either 1. The Rest Area was actually located off an unmarked exit or 2. The Rest Area signs were placed by cruel hoaxers to give false hope to desperate travelers. In either case, there was no Rest Area as advertised.

But the surprise freebie that was the most unwanted was a two mile GPS-directed excursion across some guy’s farm land on a road labeled “Oldie Moore Road.” I missed the proverbial fork in the road (Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” I did.) Then the GPS told me to continue to Oldie Moore Road and turn right. I did.

It lured me in with its compact gravel for the first several hundred yards….you know, just enough for me to think, “Oh, this is a short cut back to the road I should have taken. It will be OK.” All too soon the gravel dissipated into a thick-sand, muddy “road” littered with potholes worse than the ones in New Jersey. And that is saying a lot.

I suppose for some four-wheel drivers, this would have been a joy ride. I spun, slipped, stuck and splashed mud all the way up to my roof in my 2007 van. The GPS was telling me to turn right in 2 miles. TWO MILES. About half way through this terrifying mess, I began praying out loud: “Help me, Father!”

As you have surmised, I did survive. An hour later, God sent the aforementioned thunderstorm, which had the added benefit of completely washing all the mud off my van so that I arrived at my destination rattled but clean. And luckily Farmer Oldie Moore himself did not come after me with a shotgun for trespassing through his soybean fields. I call that winning. Or at least surviving.

Psalm 50 New International Version (NIV)

1 The Mighty One, God, the Lord,

    speaks and summons the earth

    from the rising of the sun to where it sets.

2 From Zion, perfect in beauty,

    God shines forth.

3 Our God comes

    and will not be silent;

a fire devours before him,

    and around him a tempest rages.

4 He summons the heavens above,

    and the earth, that he may judge his people:

5 “Gather to me this consecrated people,

    who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness,

    for he is a God of justice.

7 “Listen, my people, and I will speak;

    I will testify against you, Israel:

    I am God, your God.

8 I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices

    or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.

9 I have no need of a bull from your stall

    or of goats from your pens,

10 for every animal of the forest is mine,

    and the cattle on a thousand hills.

11 I know every bird in the mountains,

    and the insects in the fields are mine.

12 If I were hungry I would not tell you,

    for the world is mine, and all that is in it.

13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls

    or drink the blood of goats?

14 “Sacrifice thank offerings to God,

    fulfill your vows to the Most High,

15 and call on me in the day of trouble;

    I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

This psalm kind of puts us in our place. The reality that when we “call on God in the day of trouble he will deliver us” is a pleasant help in times of trouble. God always inclines his ear whenever his people cry out to him. “Help me, Father” is met with safe passage through a dangerous situation.

But the interesting part is where God appropriately turns up his nose at the animal sacrifices (sorry, Vegans!) in favor of thank offerings. The thank offering was something not ordained or prescribed by ritual, but instead was a spontaneous response to God’s goodness coming from the heart of the bringer. God does not need nor want the showy required offerings brought to the altar with great pomp and circumstance.

We wouldn’t think of offering an animal sacrifice, but we do present our pious hypocrisy from time to time. By this I mean when we make a great show of being a church pew-sitter on Sunday without being a Christ follower in our words and actions on Monday through Saturday. That’s “bull” right there, and it doesn’t honor God. No, indeed, what God wants instead is a thank offering: a measure of our gratitude, our genuine and humble acknowledgment that he is the one who provided deliverance, and the honor we show him by sharing our testimony to his greatness.

Friends, what God really wants from us is a RELATIONSHIP. A one-on-one, every day, talk-to-ya-every-hour kind of relationship. When we call on him on a day of trouble, or a day of joy, we are saying to him that we can’t do life without him.

Where is God calling you to call on him today? What thing of distress do you need to turn over to him? Where can you bring a thank offering of praise, trust and acknowledgment of his power?

No matter where you are today, it is a good day to thank the Lord for all of your benefits. Even stuck deep in the mud somewhere in South Carolina, God is there. Thanks be to God! He delivers us.

Storm over Kitty Hawk.

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