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A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

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TENSION NEEDING REDEMPTION:

1 | How have I experienced the tension?

Many of you know that Ali and I and the kids got away for a month back in April and May, we found an incredible deal to go stay in Spain for a month for under $1000 so we jumped on it. We did some of the tourist stuff of Barcelona but most of our time was spent in a small village called Cabrils enjoying time together.
If you would have asked me before what I was hoping out of the time I would have told you that I am aware of how much I desire to see God do in my life and heart and I know that this month away cannot fix it only Jesus can.
And I would have been completely right. There were not many big epiphanies. There weren’t seismic shifts that occurred, at least not in the sense that all of a sudden I completely took a 180.
But not that is wasn’t invaluable… it was. But it was more the beginning of many important lessons rather than the completion of any of them.
Instead though God whispered to me as Ali and I read a book together called A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson.
I mentioned this book before because I loved the title but I took the time while we were away to really dive into it.
It was the balm for my soul, although it wasn’t the cure that I was hoping for either.
It is centered around a sequence of 15 psalms known as the Songs of Ascent.
These 15 songs were the worship album for the people of Israel as three times a year they would make their way to Jerusalem for pilgrimages for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.
Three times a year there was an expectation that followers of Yahweh would leave their homes and become pilgrims on a journey that would be unique to them, influenced from their geography, facing potential threats, meeting new fellow pilgrims along the path… but even though they each had their own unique journey they were a united people playing the same playlist on the road.
Each of these 15 songs were meant to captivate the imagination with another part of the journey.
Ultimately though, even these journeys themselves were meant to be seen as a living metaphor of the long journey each pilgrim experiences through their life with God.
We each have a vision of the good life, maybe its the absence of financial hardship, travel more, the right relationship, kids acting better, landing the promotion…
But in the Scriptures we get the image of the good life, one of flourishing… but it is a long journey. Jesus called it one of abiding..
Experiencing the life of Jesus as we spend time in His presence day by day through life.
This is what the Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, singing these songs of Ascent were meant to symbolize.
I got my own version of this metaphor while we were in Spain because our Airbnb was in this beautiful town that was a few miles uphill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And we had no car. And we had one stroller with two kids.
So each day was filled with a lot of uphill walking, and it felt like we just about never walked downhill. Just uphill.
As we would walk I spent a lot of time thinking about my journey with Jesus, and how I want things to be quicker. I want to be more patient, kind, understanding, and loving… And I spent time praying over these songs of ascent…
So I continued reading the Bible, Eugene Peterson’s book, and listening to a playlist I created for Ali and I that was inspired by these Psalms (a bit cheesy) but it helped me consistently come back to meditate on these ancient truths…
As I meditated on these concepts, I was struck by this question?
Do I have the mindset of tourist or pilgrim?
[Read section from the book]

2 | How have you experienced this tension?

We know a bit about a tourist mindset right?
We experience it every time a friend has a birthday party and requires us to brave I Drive.
Tourists are only here because its convenient and fun.
If there is any chance of a hurricane, families call off their vacations here, reschedule it for another time or go somewhere else.
Do you have the mindset of a spiritual tourist? Pursuing Jesus only when its convenient with your schedule, doesn’t require too much of you, and only as long as you are having one of those weeks where you want to listen to worship music on your drive to work?
Pilgrims are different.
They have a singular focus. The destination.
They are going to a place with purpose, and they are willing to brave whatever it takes to get there.
When it comes to your journey with Jesus, do you have the mindset of a tourist or pilgrim?

3 | What do the Scriptures say about this tension?

A Pilgrim has the mindset that the journey is A LONG OBEDIENCE IN THE SAME DIRECTION.
The reality is that often times our mindset and expectations leads us to become disenchanted because we start with the wrong mindset.
Let’s take that phrase and work from the back to the front…
Same Direction
Read Psalm 122:1-4
“I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord!”
2 Our feet have been standing
within your gates, O Jerusalem!
3 Jerusalem—built as a city
that is bound firmly together,
4 to which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
The journey of the tourist might be excited for the destination, but ultimately is just as likely to pick another destination or change plans if things don’t work out.
The journey of the pilgrim has to have a spot they are setting out for.
Frodo was heading to Mount Doom, Luke was heading to the Death Star, Jesus was heading to the Cross.
Here is the tricky part though, the journey is not just a quest next door to borrow sugar from your neighbor. The journey changes you. Tests you. Challenges you. It calls you to a long obedience in the same direction… so it has to begin with a daily rememberence of why the direction matters.
There are days when you cry out to God. When you doubt the direction. When you are unsure if this was the right path. When the brokenness of other people and yourself gives you pause…
If you are anything like me you are good with a direction but once things get costly, frustrating, or upsetting we prepare to head to a safer passage.
But you see that totally makes sense if you are a tourist.
Tourists will try anything until something else comes along.
Pilgrims have a direction though.
But it can’t just be a direction you have intellectual agreed with… it has to be one born out of desire. Genuine worship.
The Israelites didn’t go to Jerusalem begrudgingly or just because they had to, at least that wasn’t meant to be their posture.
They were created to be captivated by their affections for God, to experience His presence in the here and now and into eternity.
Do you hold onto the truth of the Gospel as genuine good news in your heart? Do you find strength and courage for the journey in your relationship with Jesus?
If not, you aren’t alone. But if you find yourself swayed in 12 different directions based on the time of day the truest hope for you is to become captivated with the hope found in Jesus, that you would become stoked by the fire of the Holy Spirit, and that you would find yourself on the journey in 15 years still moving in the same direction as Jesus called you onto today.
Obedience
Read Psalm 132:1-5
“Remember, O Lord, in David's favor,
all the hardships he endured,
2 how he swore to the Lord
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
3 “I will not enter my house
or get into my bed,
4 I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
5 until I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”
“True knowledge of God comes out of obedience” John Calvin
The first half of this Psalm is recounting a specific incident of obedience, David not resting until the ark of the covenant found a safe place to rest.
They are literally singing a story of obedience, and that matters.
Would you say obedience is a priority in our world or even in our own lives half the time?
In the Scriptures, we have countless stories that are meant to form us and shape us.
To give us something more substantial to root our obedience in.
This is why the Israelites sang of an obscure story of David, to be reminded of what obedience looks like.
Tourists make decisions in life based on experiences, wants, and desires in the moment. The mindset of a spiritual tourist focuses thoughts on things like, “But what do I want?” “That doesn’t make sense to me, so it must not be true for me.” “But what is in it for me?” “That doesn’t fit in with my dreams or goals”
The mind of the pilgrim it rooted in radical obedience. Pilgrim’s understand that between humans and God only one of us is perfectly trustworthy and it isn’t us. Pilgrims trust God’s desires over our own. God’s hopes over our own. God’s ways over our own.
This is what David displayed in his best moment’s like this obscure story they are singing about.
But if you know David’s story, you know he is far from perfectly obedient…
David was not perfectly obedient, but even in this song one who is perfectly obedient to God’s desires, the Messiah, would one day come…
Read Psalm 132:11-18
11 The Lord swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
12 If your sons keep my covenant
and my testimonies that I shall teach them,
their sons also forever
shall sit on your throne.”
13 For the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
14 “This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
15 I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
16 Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
17 There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
18 His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.”
To be the ultimate symbol of obedience.
We follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The one who was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. We follow in His Way.
C.S. Lewis—(Mere Christianity)
The Christian way is different; harder, and easier. Christ says, “give me all.”I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work; I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires of what you think innocent as well as the ones you think wicked, the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself; my own will shall become yours.
Both harder and easier than what we are all trying to do. You have noticed, I expect, that Christ himself sometimes describes a Christian way is very hard, sometimes it’s very easy. He says, “take up your cross”, in other words it is like going to your execution. Next minute he says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light”. He means both. And one can just see why both are true.”
Christianity is not meant to be a religion for spiritual tourists, but a journey for Pilgrims. We pick and choose what to follow and obey, but the reality is the only decision we are called to make is if I will follow and obey Jesus.
The truth is too often the Way of Jesus is talked about without any understanding of the costliness of obedience or it is talked about legalistically, like follow these obscure rules and then you are good, but the reality is the path of the pilgrim goes way deeper than we could imagine…
Long
Read Psalm 124
If it had not been the Lord who was on our side—
let Israel now say—
2 if it had not been the Lord who was on our side
when people rose up against us,
3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,
when their anger was kindled against us;
4 then the flood would have swept us away,
the torrent would have gone over us;
5 then over us would have gone
the raging waters.
6 Blessed be the Lord,
who has not given us
as prey to their teeth!
7 We have escaped like a bird
from the snare of the fowlers;
the snare is broken,
and we have escaped!
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
What tourist wants to go on a journey if its going to sound like this song?
A tourist will journey to safer water when things get tough and when the path seems too long.
The Pilgrim is fully aware of the difficulty of the journey, but has a mindset rooted in the One who carries us through the journey.
Why do we need to reminded that God has not abandoned us, that he is still on our side? Because life is ROUGH!
The journey is not easy. There are thieves, droughts, dangerous paths ahead.
It is long.
So we need to be reminded that the length of the journey is not wasted.
It is in the LONG that we discover the grace and presence of Jesus, day by day.
You might think of the obedience piece and just think well that is unfortunate because I am nothing like Jesus. So if I cannot be fully obedient today then why even try?
Neither was any spiritual mother or father that you look up to at one point in their journey.
When we remember the length of the journey, we realize that we are recipients of such great grace. We are not called to be perfect today. We are called to draw near to Jesus today. To learn what it looks like TODAY to love God and love people TODAY.
We live in an instant culture, where at the touch of a phone you can do just about anything, see just about anywhere, buy just about anything, and answer just about any question.
What do you think this instant mindset has done to our ability to patiently go on the journey?
Do you find yourself frustrated when you start the new bible reading plan and after a few days you don’t feel anything? You commit to praying more intentionally but the circumstances don’t change? You start going to counseling to process difficult realities from your past but after a couple months you don’t feel better?
You are for sure not alone. We have been trained to expect and desire instant results.
But I think intrinsically we realize there is value in the time spent on something…
When I was 8 I was so thankful for Easy Mac, but the reality is that the instant nature made it taste like rubber.
Who doesn’t love things that are craft right? Root beer, Kombucha, 24 hour slow roasted pulled pork, or the men and women at Animal Kingdom who carve the cool statues out of wood.
We know that the longer process has value, beauty, flavor, and texture.
It’s not quick or nearly as appealing as quick fixes, but it is the transformation of your heart and mind into Christlikeness.

4 | How can the Gospel bring resolution to this tension in your life?

But here is where each of us should ultimately rest…
Read Psalm 127:1-2
Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.”
What makes the journey worth it is not just the growth that occurs within us or even the destination itself, but the one who journeys with us!
He builds the house, he takes us on the journey… he is the author and perfecter of our faith.
If the Lord doesn’t build the house, then our effort is just a cheap substitute. I don’t want an Easy Mac solution to life, I want the long journey if it means I get to experience real life.
Which journey will you venture onto?
Will it be the long obedience in the same direction of Jesus or a quicker, easier, or more flexible substitute?
Talk to Ali and she will tell you that I am far from the perfect pilgrim, and getting a month away didn’t fix that.
But even now I can tell new aspects to the journey that Jesus is just beginning a new work in my mind and heart.
That is hard right, because we want the fullness of the journey right now… but here is the encouragement…
But here is the beauty, we do not journey alone. As we go on our pilgrimage to the Celestial City we look to our right and left and find Biblical Community, and most importantly we discover our Messiah the one who is the ultimate display of this long obedience in the same direction and discover he both has gone before us and goes with us…
“Cause in the highlands and the heartache
You're neither more or less inclined
I would search and stop at nothing
You're just not that hard to find”
Jesus is not that hard to find.
This long obedience in the same direction is one we do not go on alone.

5 | What would the world see if the church embraced this resolution?

Let’s take a few minutes to give ourselves space to talk with Jesus about whatever is going on in your heart and mind.
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