Running with Your Head Turned – fourth in a Series Songs of Ascent

Running with Your Head Turned
Good morning Facebook friends,
Today is the post 4 of 15 from the Psalms of Ascent Psalm 123. When I read this Psalm, I thought of how often people run into life without really looking where they are going and end up disappointed in the end. As the Psalm begins, the writer is using a comparison of a servant or slave looking to the master for daily sustenance in the same way we look to the Lord for direction in our life. This kind of focus referenced in this Psalm is more than a passing glance, it is a permanent fixture. As an avid motorcyclist, I learned from day one that whatever direction my head is turned, the bike will go in that direction. As an experiment, try walking in a straight line with your head turned in either direction and I am willing to bet that your body will gravitate to that direction. As we are walking in the pathway to the Temple, if our head is turned in the wrong direction, we will never get to the Temple; hence, the title of this post. I would like to share with you a few key points to think about as we walk up to the Temple.
Point 1 – The distracting noise
Anybody who has taken photographs or a video knows how important it is to focus in on the subject in order to have a solid presentation. In scripture, we are reminded that our focus needs to be on God at all times; that is, in the good times and bad, in sorrow and in joy, in peace and in times of storms (Prov 3:4-5). The book of Job, whether true story or a Mesopotamian story, presents a man whose heart is fully set on the Lord only to lose everything. It wasn’t bad enough he lost everything, he had three so-called friends who told him how bad he was, how much he was steeped in sin and all he had to do, was confess his crimes and everything would be good just as it was before; if only it were that easy. The enemy uses noise to scare us, to provoke us to foolish anger, and to turn our eyes away from the solution, God, to the problem, the sin.
The noise tends to throw us off kilter and causes many to walk away from our God-given calling. Consider how Saul son of Kish the first King of Israel, having been touched by God, received the prophecy of his kingdom and, yet walked right into the trap. In the end, Saul was removed from his kingship. His remaining years would be spent going from fear to fear, disappointment to disappointment, anger to anger, rage to rage until he died by his own sword having watched his sons die by the hands of the Philistines. Sadly, this is not a unique story as many strong Christians fall by the same noise as Saul. To me, it is tragic to hear of a soldier for Christ caving into sin because, it isn’t just that one person but everyone who associated with that person, it is anyone that was thinking of joining that church as well. In the 80’s when TV evangelists Jim and Tammy Baker fell into sin and were put in prison, the world was all a buzz. When Jimmy Swaggart confessed his sins a short month later and was also removed from the pulpit, Time Magazine did an expose on the sorted affairs of these three called “An Unholy Row”. What the writer of the article failed to mention but was recorded in the Kingdom of God was the number of souls that would never again enter the House of God. The enemy is clever and knows just how to get our goat and he does it with great ease. What is hard to believe, is that often the noise we hear is word pictures whispered to our imagination.
Point 2 – Daily Setting the Focus of our Life.
Life is about making conscientious choices about what we will do with our gifts and calling, what our values will be, and how we will respond to the noise of the enemy. If we make no decisions and choose to take life exactly as it comes to us, we have made a decision to go at life unprepared and ill-equipped for the struggles that lie ahead. I think of the Gedaliah son of Ahikam the 1st Governor of Israel after the leadership was taken to Babylon at the start of the exile in 586BC. The Governor was warned of a pending assassination plot against him by the king of the Ammonites and chose to ignore the warning and would be killed by Ishmael. After his death, the remaining people in Israel were taken to Egypt where many would never return (Jeremiah 40:13 – 42:22). I remember working on a copier at a church in Champlin, MN and I heard the sad tale of the church’s collapse following the Pastor getting charged with rape; the saddest part of the tale was the trust the people had in the man being crushed and would probably never trust a man of the cloth again. I never went back to the church again but, I think of how one person’s decision led to the collapse of a much larger audience. The focus of our life is never really limited just to us but to everyone in our family, extended family, work relationships, etc that hinge on what we do with our lives.
Point 3 – Job’s Resolve in the Storm
Of all the things Job said in his discourses, the one thing that sticks out is “I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a woman” (Job 31:1 NIV). In making a covenant, it is, in fact, stating, “no matter what happens, I will _____”. Paul speaks to this covenant by using the illustration of marriage, choosing to marry or not marry, and living for God through our choices (1 Corin 7 NIV). In the midst of a storm, it is easy to lose your way. I think of a cartoon I saw years ago in which the main person was driving in a snowstorm but couldn’t see where he was so, he followed another car until it stopped abruptly. The main person chastised the other driver for stopping without warning only to be told: “it is my driveway”!
As a man, I know how hard it is to stop and ask for direction and chose to continue on a road that I had no idea where it is going to; everything within me cries out “stop immediately” but I ignore it. As an example, when I was stationed at Kami Seya Naval Base Japan, I drove over to Atsugi Naval base which was about 10 minutes away. I had never driven there by myself, so this was a first for me. I ended up getting lost for about two hours all the while I was getting angry and frustrated. I finally asked for direction and the guy told me “go about 1 block and the base will be on the right”; again, I got lost. I saw the same person and asked him to ride in the car with me until I got to the base which was just one block away with a great big sign that said, “Welcome to Atsugi Naval Base”; I had driven around the base for over 2 hours and all I had to do was look slightly to my right and I would have found the base. As funny as this story may be to you, it is a common ailment of mankind. From this ailment, people walk away from marriage after as many as 30 – 45 years, walk away from ministry, and other callings in life simply because they got lost.
Conclusion: God’s greatest desire for mankind is that he/she will be happy and content with where he/she is in life, and with what God has so richly provided. We cannot control the storms we face, we can only control the attitude of our heart. May you find peace today in your journey, that you never lose sight of God and will always allow him to lead you with his eyes. Come walk with me up to the Temple. I leave you with a poem by J Trevor Roberts.
In false ideas of mind evil is sustained That drives away the very truth of God, Carnal nature with us is maintained When we dwell in anti-Christ abode; To cast away the evil, we must atone in the works and words of truth believe, As taught by Jesus, seek him alone, For us its power of life receive.
Carnal nature dominates man through life when he chooses his evil ways to live, It brings him sorrows in vicious strife When his heart to sensuous thoughts doth give; The promise mind of truth in Jesus’ word. Is far from those in sensuous sin, their very being does not accord, the promise blessings God’s peace to win.
To cast away the false ideas we must, To obtain the promise blessings due to man The light of truth within shall remove the lust, In the promised gift in the Father’s plan; Bring blessings to all the people of the earth, This is the promise now fulfilled to all, That shall remove the carnal nature’s dearth, Our Father’s purpose in the heavenly call. “Abide in me” are the living words to note, That Jesus spoke that brings man to life – To cast away the mind in traditional thought, That’ll remove from all the evil strife; “Abide in me,” those loving words of Jesus They shall make us clean of carnal mind, Shall restore the power of life within us, Shall establish our thoughts in the Father’s mind

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