Five Things Every Christian Should Know - Number 4

Several years ago, on something of a whim, I decided to get my pilots license. I was always fascinated by flight, and like to get places fast, so flying was a good fit for me.

One of the weird things about flying that might surprise some of you, is that there aren't road signs in the sky. Rather than street signs, pilots rely on landmarks to navigate their way around. Instead of looking for the intersection of Live Oak and Boardwalk, they'll draw their route on a map, and look for sections of a lake, or small towns they know they should cross en route to their destination. They stay oriented by knowing that a major highway runs on their right and a river on their left. If you don't know your landmarks, bad things happen.

Case in point: Shortly after I received my private pilot's license, I decided to fly from Stillwater, OK (my home at the time) to Columbia, MO (my parents' home at the time). It was about a four hour flight, which was a big deal for me. The flight to Columbia was a success. I arrived when I thought I should, and didn't have any problems. I had the use of GPS (global positioning satellite) in the plane, which meant I didn't have to rely on landmarks at all - it automatically helped me stay on course, and allowed me more time to look out the window and enjoy the scenery.

On the way home, I threw my maps in the back of the plane since I hadn't used them on the first leg of the trip. They're big and cumbersome, and you have to contort your legs in weird ways to keep them spread out on your lap and prevent them from falling to your feet. I left the airport without a hitch and made my final contacts with Air Traffic Control in Missouri. I didn't expect any more communication from them until about the time I would fly out of their communication zone, where they would transfer me to a different channel that would follow me the rest of the way back to Oklahoma.

That call never came.

About 45 minutes into the flight, I realized the scenery was unfamiliar. I looked down at the GPS to make sure I was still on track, and realized it was off. Knowing this was weird, I attempted to turn it back on. Nothing. Its fuse had blown.

Not knowing how long it had been off, or where exactly I was, I attempted to call back to Columbia Air Traffic Control to get some information from them. Nothing. I had been blown so far off course I had escaped their communication area before they had intended. The wind had shifted direction, so all the readings on my instruments were wrong - they weren't calibrated correctly.

I frantically searched the horizon for a landmark I recognized - a lake, river, big city, anything, but couldn't find one. To make matters worse, it was starting to get dark, which meant more than half of the landmarks would be disappearing. Finally, I saw a watertower in the distance and headed toward it. I descended to the point I could read it, and fortunately it was a town I recognized. I scanned the radio for another pilot's voice and asked what the nearest airport was. Fortunately, they had their maps with them and pointed me toward Springfield directly to the West. I pointed toward the sun, and made an emergency landing at an airport nearly 90 miles from where I should have been. All because I decided to enjoy the flight over doing the necessary work to ensure I covered all my bases.

It's a long story to make my point, but the point is this: Far too many Christians are flying the Christian life today without the necessary landmarks. We rely on pastors, Sunday School teachers, books, tapes, and radio programs to keep us on track, but when one of those goes haywire we don't have the knowledge to be able to fix the problem until it's too late.

Every Christian needs to have a basic understanding of every book in the Bible so that they're able to orient themselves no matter the situation.

What is the point of the book of James? Why did Mark write his Gospel? What does Malachi say about God? Why is Exodus important? Is there a point to all the names in 1 Chronicles?

Will you ever need to know why the book of Hebrews was written? Maybe not. The GPS you're using may function for the rest of your life. But it may not, and it's unsafe to fly without knowing your landmarks.

Not long ago I read an article that started with the words, "Micah was written to talk about the sins of the church against God." So I threw the article in the trash. Why? Because I happened to remember my landmarks - the church didn't even exist when Micah wrote. So I made a decision to use my maps instead of rely on that author's GPS.

It's more common than you think - blatant errors in thinking by some of today's most popular preachers. They rifle through the Scriptures and cherry-pick verses that make their point without bothering to thing about the point the verses were intended to make. That's dangerous flying - you'll need to have your maps handy.