Intro: Change drivers?

7

1This way to getting lost 9 Make 2 a U-turn now 19 3Review the map 31 4Welcome to the joy lane 40 5Refill your tank 51 6One mile at a time 61 7Unload the junk from the trunk 8Do a convoy 84 9Again, again, again! 95

76

Epilogue: Quit blowing your horn plus some last-minute advice 105

Y

OU’RE SIGHT-SEEING NEW places and experiencing new things. Slow and sure, the car cruises along. The passenger seat from where you view the scenery is reclined. You’re all relaxed. Road trip’s been smooth. You put your shades on and start yapping your happy song. “It’s a beautiful life!” You holler. So far, everything’s been good. That is, until you started to get bored. Your hands feel the itch for the steering wheel. “I miss driving this car,” you whisper. Your foot can’t wait to step on the gas. Craving for control, your patience snaps. So you turn to the Driver. “I want to drive.” “Is there anything wrong with My driving?” “Nothing! I just want to drive again.” “But it’s too risky. I know where we’re going, and I can take you there.” “But this is my car, and I have the right to drive it. I think I can find my way.” “OK, if that’s what you want, I will let you.”

Back on Track > > > You’re all alone and back to where you once were—in the driver’s seat. You grip the steering wheel tight as you return to being your own driver and navigator. Scrap the map. Shun the signs. “Whatever, wherever” just became the new order of the day. The engine screams. Mercury rises. Car’s starting to heat up but who cares? You go for breakneck speed even as you miss one turn, and then pass another. So you keep on racing towards the direction of nowhere in particular. To quick-fix the error, you make an illadvised left turn. Then you follow it with another three more. You’re wondering, “Did four left turns make things right?” You step on the brake. The front wheels screech as you pull over. Gas gauge reads near empty. Engine heat-check says way beyond over. Left headlamp’s dead. When you pop up the hood, steam and smoke burst out as the engine hisses. One smoking machine is all you’ve got. The car is busted, and so are you. To make matters worse, you find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere. Pause for a moment and think. How did you get here? One minute you’re traveling the right road, letting the Good Driver take you where He wants you to go, the next minute you’re all alone in the car and officially lost!

Will you ever find your way back?

page

8

H

ANDS IN THE AIR!” Three soldiers carrying ArmaLite rifles are ready to fire “on command.” Snipers are poised to shoot the target with their fingers on the triggers.

Off from a dinner date with my girlfriend at the time, I made my way to Glorietta from a restaurant in Alabang to meet up with some college chums. Late night meant traffic’s light so I coasted through Makati’s metro. My phone rang. Then rang again. I needed to pick up more speed. Time to hurry-up, Ru! The map in my head said not to turn right until after the stoplight. The correct turn meant a slot nearest to the meeting place. And the wrong one equaled a trip to the farthest car park. Suddenly the traffic light winked. Yellow blinked and the red light was up. I made a full stop. While waiting for the green to light

Back on Track > > > up, I felt the lull was more than I could handle. Impatient me made a quick right, which turned out to be a wrong turn. The result: I had to park at the wrong side. From Oakwood, I had to go for a long walk to reach our meeting place. And so I walked. When I finally got there, the party had just ended. When I suggested we have coffee, my friends relented. And so we hung out and had coffee until the break of dawn. At 3 am, while we were enjoying our frapuccinos and mochaccinos, the guards barged into the scene without warning. Sirens screamed. We had to leave immediately. The fastest way to my parking slot was via a hitch. I rode with my pals to get to the building’s other wing. On the way, I saw tanks and army trucks filling up the streets. Soldiers lined up left and right. From the way it looked, a war was waiting to happen. We finally reached the square where I left my car. While attempting to make for the entrance, somebody fired a gun. A man, shot in the leg, dropped. Somebody shouted, “Do not enter!” Quickly, soldiers with red armbands started barricading the open parking lot. Bombs, they said, surrounded the whole area. It was not too long before the situation became too hot to handle. The best Quickly, soldiers with red armbands start barricading choice was safety first. A friend’s the open parking lot. condo located nearby proved to be the perfect hiding place. Inside the condominium unit, my eyes stayed glued to the TV screen. All local channels were reporting on the Oakwood Mutiny. Apparently, 300-plus soldiers were staging a mini-revolt against the government.

page

10

< < < This way to getting lost Clock read 6 am. Broadcast revealed that the negotiation between the government and the unhappy soldiers was at a standstill. The bomb threat was announced. If a settlement would not be reached, the soldiers threatened to push the button and detonate the explosives. If they pushed the button, I’d also have to kiss my car “Chill” goodbye. “Oh no! Not like this!” I was not about to let another car fry. Besides, who wants to have “Frying cars” as a hobby? Not me! “Hang in there, Chill. I’m coming to get you.”

After a quick cab ride and some walking, I finally reached the entrance of the car park to face one of the greatest scares of my life. When I got there, a soldier “welcomed” me. “What do you want, Boy?” “My car, S-sir.” “Louder!” “My car, Sir. It’s inside, Sir!” “Can’t you see that this area is off-limits?” Before I could utter another word, I pointed to my car and reached for my wallet in my back pocket. “Hands in the air!” He ordered. Probably thinking I was reaching for a gun, the soldiers pointed their ArmaLites to my face. “My car, Sir. It’s inside. I’m just a student from Pampanga. I can’t go home without the car.” Thankfully, the soldiers were pacified after I showed them my school ID. After explaining the situation to their commander by radio, they received word that they can let me go. Serving as escorts, the three soldiers got inside the car with me. “Don’t be afraid,” they assured me. “We’re going to lead you out of this place.”

11

page

Back on Track > > > With their help, I extricated myself from the sticky mess and left the danger zone for good. But before my three military escorts slammed the car door, one told me: “Next time, Boy, be careful not to get into trouble.” “Next time, Boy, be careful not to get into trouble.”

Don ’t just eenie, e meenie, miney, mo

Life is about making choices. Where we are today is the result of the series of choices we’ve made along the way. It’s as simple as A-BC-D. From point A to point B, one small C—Choice—may spell the biggest D—Difference. In my Oakwood experience, one wrong turn led to the entrance of the wrong car park, which has led me to terrible consequences. Making choices, both right and wrong, has major consequences. Right ones equal to you finding the right path. Wrong ones lead to you being lost. And just like a vicious cycle, a wrong choice, if not immediately corrected, leads to another wrong decision. And another. The stakes become higher. Until finally, you hit a dead end and the bottom starts falling out. No wonder the writer of Proverbs had this to say: There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12

page

12

< < < This way to getting lost

Small choices, Big sins

The company crook started his “career” in cheating with a quick look at his classmate’s test paper when he was in 6th grade. The perpetual liar started with a little fib she told her mother. An adulterer started by having two girlfriends at a time when he was a teenager. And the chain smoker started his habit with his first puff. All of them share one thing in common: They all started their downward spiral with one bad choice. And if they don’t change their ways, many of them might end up in prison, or worse, dead before they reach middle age. They all started their But the epidemic of making downward spiral with one wrong choices is not limited to bad choice. the 21st century. It actually started with the very first couple (Hello, Adam and Eve!) and continued throughout the history of mankind.

Who wa nts to be a part of this “honor” roll?

Allow me to tell you something about people who could’ve been included in the Bible’s Hall of Shame (if ever there was one): At a time when this king was supposed to be joining his army at war, he went for an untimely R and R (rest and recreation) by staying in his room with a view. When David went out to the rooftop to get some fresh air, he saw Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, taking a bath. He lusted after her and then slept with her. Later on, upon hearing the news that Bathsheba bore his child, he came up with a plan to have Uriah sleep with his wife.

13

page

Back on Track > > > When that didn’t work—David tried twice—he arranged that Uriah be killed in battle. David’s plan worked to perfection, and it instantly made him someone who gave birth to twin sins—adultery and murder. • “Oops, he did it again!” One of the things that characterized Moses was his inability to control his temper. When anger hits him, he strikes hard. Once, he struck at an Egyptian soldier and killed him on the spot. After years of hiding in desert and after being re-called to duty by God, you’d think foul temper has left him. But think again! Moments after encountering God, he can still be found losing his cool (Exodus 32:19; Numbers 20:2-11). One time he struck by throwing away the tablets of stone with God’s handwriting on them, and then again by striking a rock with his staff out of frustration. This next one loves the booze. If you push the rewind button, you will see Noah getting drunk not long after being saved by God via the giant ark (Genesis 9:20-21). Do you know Mr Liar-Liar? Abraham, driven by fear for his life, made a big fat lie about his wife. “She’s my sister,” he told a king. He did this not long after receiving a promise of blessing from God (Genesis 12:11-20).

They were all guilty as charged when they sinned and disobeyed God. But amazingly, there is no Hall of Shame in the Bible and we find their names, instead, in faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. So what turned the tide to their favor? Why are their names included in that list? The answer is simply this—GRACE. Their life stories are God’s way of telling us that He is never into counting our mistakes. Instead, He is in the business of handing out second chances.
page

14

< < < This way to getting lost

Lemme tell you ‘bout P a ul

Paul who? Paul, formerly Saul, was one of the greatest persecutors of the followers of Jesus Christ. He was a strict Pharisee. Pharisees belong to a group that didn’t believe in Jesus. They emphasized the interpretation of the Law of Moses but laid great stress upon observance of rituals and ceremonies. They believed that they were holier than others. And unlike Jesus, who welcomed sinners, these guys separated themselves from the common people. They were viewed as hypocrites because they came to equate knowing God with being a member of their group. To be one of them was ultimately more important than knowing and understanding the will of God. Though they often claimed to be keeping God’s Law, they were, in fact, only drawing attention to their self-glorifying moral achievements. This guy did not like Jesus. He He initially thought that Christianity was nothing but initially thought that Christianity a crazy religion. was nothing but a crazy religion. He hated the guts of those who believed in Jesus. As a result, he wanted to get rid of them all. The anti-Jesus followers were glad to have such a super-driven man as Saul who defended their cause. Saul labored day and night, working and planning how he might destroy the church in Jerusalem (Need proof? Check out Acts 7:58). But after encountering Christ while he was on the road to Damascus, he made a 180-degree turn from being Saul the great persecutor to Paul the great apostle of Jesus. God used him to write half of the books of the New Testament. When he realized what evil he has done against Christians, he knew he deserved to be punished.
page

15

Back on Track > > > He knew he deserved death. And he knew that in all those times, he was living in the grip of grace. That’s probably why the concept of grace was central in Paul’s teachings. In one translation, the word grace (charis in Greek) appeared 97 times in his epistles. Reference to grace became the trademark beginning and ending of his letters. And in his letter to the Corinthians, he speaks of what God told him about His grace: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT God delivers this line to him at a time when Paul confessed to have been struggling against a weakness. He referred to it as a “thorn” in the flesh. For three times, he pleaded to God to take it away. But instead of giving in to his request, God tells him that His grace will always be People fail. Who doesn’t? But hallelujah enough. for grace. People fail. Who doesn’t? But hallelujah for grace. It is God’s power in action, manifested in God’s weakness-filled people.

Game over or ? start over

Let’s play a little chess. You’re down to your last piece. Last one standing is the king. You are trapped in a corner and have nowhere else to go. Make one move and you’re dead. Checkmate! Next thing left to do is to give up and let your opponent topple your king. Next thing you know, it’s game over. Good thing that although this applies in a chess match, it’s never the case in our life with Christ. The big difference is this:

page

16

< < < This way to getting lost Grace. While there’d be times when our wrong moves can cause us to be caught in seemingly “no-way-out” situations, I can boldly say that with Christ, there’s no such thing as game over. For when all the odds are against us—when even a step forward or backward, or even sideward can spell the end—remember that there is one more option left: to look up! There you’d find God ready and willing to hand you His grace. So if there’d be times when you feel like your king is trapped and about to be downed by a checkmate, don’t choose to concede. Look to the How would you like to King of kings. You just got found. exchange your game over for a start over? You’ve got grace. How would you like to exchange your game over for a start over?

Where are you?

Are you lost, in the middle of nowhere in your life, and can’t seem to find your way to back to the track that will lead you to God? You feel sorry for a sin but can’t seem to overcome it. As a result your heart has gotten stone-cold. You lost the fire. Or are you in the middle of a big mess because you’ve made wrong choices and are now struggling to pick yourself up? Guilt has struck. Consequences left and right hit hard and knocked you down. There seems to be no way out. Or are you in the middle of a catastrophe? Your grades flunked because you partied instead of studied. Or you just broke up with your boyfriend or girlfriend and it’s your fault. Your life has just reached rock-bottom. The end seems near for you. Don’t give up just yet. Hold on for just a moment. Just as God said to Paul, so is He telling you right now: His grace is all you need. His grace is enough, it is sufficient.
page

17

Back on Track > > > No sin, no failure, no mistake is ever too big to crowd out the grace of God. “For there is nothing we can do to make God love us less.”1 No problem is ever too big for God to fix. And nothing is ever too difficult for Him. God is not giving up on you. So don’t give up on Him. Through God’s grace, a clean slate is up for grabs. A fresh start is yours for the taking. Get up and get moving. Begin again now. The second chance begins when you invite Him to take the driver’s seat No sin, no failure, no again. The first step to recovery is mistake is ever too big to crowd out the grace of God. to let Him have the steering wheel. It’s time to get back on track.

on on e w ith stubbornness has On e Lord, today I realized that myth e On e led me to
losing my way. I was careless and I thought less. My wrong choices resulted in a pile of bad consequences. That’s why today, Lord, I receive Your grace. I long for a clean slate and a new beginning. I am turning over my life once again to You and humbly surrender. So Jesus, here I am, in all humility confessing once again that You are the Lord of my life and of everything I have. From this day onward, it will not be my will, but Yours be done in my life.

_____________
1

Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing about Grace? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002) p. 70.

page

18