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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Which Gate Will it Be?

There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given. . . by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).   

Predictably routine. That’s what the passengers thought of a 1995 Northwest Airlines flight across the Atlantic from Detroit to Frankfurt. Many of the 241 passengers spent their time reading or watching the in-flight movie. Some walked along the aisles, stretching their legs. Some fidgeted in their seats trying to find a comfortable position to sleep or doze. Hours passed slowly. Another bag of pretzels. Another cup of coffee, until the long-awaited announcement broke over the intercom: "Ladies and gentlemen, the captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign. Please return to your seats and secure your belongings . . ." the voice droned on.
That was when their predictably routine flight turned unpredictable. As the plane made its approach to the airport, an embarrassed captain clicked on his microphone and announced that they were landing at the wrong airport. In fact, they were landing in the wrong country.

Federal Aviation Administration officials immediately set out to learn the error occurred. Why had European air traffic control relayed incorrect course headings to the jumbo jet?  Why did the flight crew fail to cross-check their position on cockpit navigation instruments?
Whatever the reason for the mishap, investigators quickly determined that no one purposely led the plane astray. The whole thing was simply an embarrassing accident. A potentially serious one, but an accident nonetheless.
When I first read this story so many years ago, I wondered if there is a spiritual parallel between this story and the way many people travel through life. Now, 17 years later, I am convinced of it.
 If we believe the polls, most people expect to arrive safely in heaven when their life is over. However, if we believe Scripture, many of these same people will be horrified to discover they have landed in the wrong place (see Matthew 7:21-23). Air traffic control accidentally misdirected the Northwest flight, but Satan purposely misdirects humanity, transmitting deceptive course headings to anyone naive enough to follow. How many people have followed his directions?
- All religions lead to the same place.
- There is no absolute truth.
- God is a creation of superstitious minds.
- We are all gods - or can become gods.
- Jesus Christ was a great teacher, but certainly not God
        in the form of a man.
- Christ’s virgin birth and physical resurrection are myths.
Flight 52 innocently followed the wrong signals to the wrong airport. Likewise, those who navigate their lives according to Satan’s directions - whether in innocence or by design - are guaranteed an arrival far afield from the heavenly destination they seek.
Investigators also asked why the cockpit crew failed to follow standard operating procedure by regularly checking the plane’s position with cockpit navigational instruments. That simple check would have uncovered their error in time to change directions. Instead, the crew blindly trusted the information fed to them by others.
Similarly, many people seem content to travel through life blindly trusting their ultimate destination to friends, teachers, parents, Hollywood - instead of regularly cross-checking their position on the navigational instrument (the Bible, and, for Catholics, the teaching authority Christ gave the Church) to ensure safe passage to the heavenly kingdom.
            Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, warns the Lord Jesus, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). I am the way, and the truth, and the life, Christ declares. No one comes to the Father, but by Me (John 14:6). In speaking of Jesus, the apostle Peter adds, There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given. . . by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).    
Except for the inconvenience endured by the passengers, their friends and  families, no harm resulted from Flight 52's error. But the same will not be said for the final journey all humanity takes.

Where are we going? From whom are we taking our course headings? Are we making frequent life corrections according to the Book, or are we navigating according to the popular philosophies of the hour? These are much more than mere academic questions casually considered over a Frappuchino. One day each of us will roll to a stop at the final gate.

Which gate will it be? 

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