Finding True North
The other day, my son mentioned needing more parking spaces for trucks and trailers in our landscaping company area before the new season starts up. This conversation led to a brainstorming of sorts between my husband, son, and sons-in-law. How do we make more parking when the area is already full? This went on for a couple of days and then last night my husband came in and told me that one of the boys had a great idea. He explained it to me (complete with paper and pencil to draw it out) and it does seem like it may be the answer to our problem.
This is generally how we solve problems, is it not? We talk to others, we have meetings, we process, we brainstorm, and we hold “think tanks”. And, just as putting heads together for that parking area yielded a helpful solution, so, too, does this happen in other areas of life. When we start fleshing out a problem, answers often do come when we work together.
But is this how we Christians should be solving spiritual problems? Is this how we should go about helping Christians with their problems? Or changing churches? Or fixing ministries? Or living our lives?
While there can and must be some of that, I have been amazed with how much this has been done without scripture in modern day Christianity. Someone I know has received a degree in counseling and is at a local (and what many would consider “solid”) church practicing their profession. But, in conversations, this person makes it clear that scripture is non-essential in therapy sessions. Unnecessary and not even wholly believed. Instead, this idea of processing and hashing over problems, offering man-made solutions is chosen as the means to spiritual and emotional health. This is just one example of millions. The Bible has been mostly removed from the lives of Christians in favor of following after the philosophies of men.
Before I go on, let me say that this is not my normal post. You may think it is just like any other post but this is far more important than most and I’ve spent days praying and thinking about what I should write to you. The message of this post won’t be new but it will be surrounded by more proof of its importance.
Just as you cannot find true north without a compass, you cannot find truth without the Bible. Imagine you are walking through the woods with a compass and a map in your hand. While the map might be helpful, it is the compass that you can rely on. The compass (unless it is broken) will always point to true north. The map, on the other hand, could be outdated or misprinted or blurred. In other words, the compass is reliable and the map is not.
The same is true in the spiritual world. The Bible is our only source for truth that is reliable. Other things might be helpful but these things often become marred by sin and pride; they become outdated or changed along the way. But God never changes (James 1:17) and His Word is true and everlasting (Psalm 18:30; Isaiah 40:8).
And, so, when it comes to anything we do in life, we believers must use God’s Word as our compass. Whether it is walking through a trial with someone, dealing with our own abuse or emotional pain or someone else’s; whether it is working through church challenges personally or at the board level; and even when it is coming to problems we face at work as a believer; all things we face should be through the grid of the Bible. It is truly the only thing that will help us to find “true north” and if we ignore or sideline it and choose instead to follow man’s philosophies or chase after the latest religious trends, we will become hopelessly lost in the quagmire of false religion that is cultural Christianity.
Later on in this post, I will share an example of how this doesn’t look but, first, I’d like to share an example of how holding scripture as our standard and guide does look from a book I read recently.
A few weeks ago, God, in His Providence, led me to a book that impacted me profoundly. Sitting on a table in the outer lobby of a small Christian bookstore I just “happened upon”, a stack of books sat next to a sign that said $1. The publisher was looking to get rid of its copies so I grew a bit doubtful about purchasing the uninteresting-looking book. But I have always had a heart for Russia and Eastern Europe and so the dollar seemed like it might be worth the risk. I picked the book up and purchased it. And I am so glad I did!! Written in 1931 and called In the Flame of Russia’s Revolution with God and the Bible* (by N.I. Saloff-Astakhoff), this book contains the inspiring and encouraging testimony of a traveling evangelist and his team during the years of Russia’s Revolution (1917-1926).
Filled with amazing and astounding accounts of God’s awesome power, amazing grace, and abounding mercy, the book is a great reminder that God is the same today as He was in the Bible and that He cares for His own in such a marvelous and loving way. None of us will leave this earth unless God has ordained it. Trials and troubles must first go through Him before they can assail us. And, through them, He will give us the strength, grace, and peace we need and that He has promised.
The trials that the team faced in this book are beyond anything we could imagine or comprehend in our modern, western world. And, yet, God so faithfully gave His strength and joy and mercy and peace and much fruit as they lived out the calling that God had given them. The book abounds with examples of this.
But one of the things that most stood out to me was the team’s reliance upon the Word. They worked hard to get the Bible into the hands of the people with whom they shared the Gospel and relied on it for their own decisions and choices. At one point they began to question the role of women in their ministry. What is God’s will regarding the role of women? Instead of going to their favorite pastor or following after modern day philosophies, they spent several days going through God’s Word, from cover to cover, to see what He had to say about this important topic. And God, in His faithfulness, guided them into the truth, just as He promised He would.
I don’t think it is an accident that I read this book before I listened to a podcast called The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. Telling the story of Mark Driscoll and his church, it was a mind-boggling, disturbing account of its rise and fall. Many of the details surrounding it that were unfamiliar to me (and, I’d imagine, to most people not directly involved.)
But the thing that most struck me was the disinterest in and the sidelining of scripture in the entire podcast series. The producers, the interviewers, the interviewees, and the objects of the interviews… none were all that interested in what God had to say about any of this. In fact, I am pretty sure they quoted movies more than they quoted scripture. The Bible, if used, was sapped of its authority by listing it alongside man-made philosophies such as mysticism and psychology. False teachers were held up as icons of the faith. The world and its ungodly influence on the life of a believer were not only minimized, they were glorified.
In the final episode, a therapist made a remark that really summed up the whole disturbing series. As she counseled those who had been abused at Mars Hill through the years, she said she wanted to “not pressure them to have a relationship with God but to focus on a healthy relationship with their body.”
Honestly, the entire thing was a morass of human philosophy couched in Christian language. It was such a fascinating and disturbing account on so many levels.
The thing is: During the “best years” of Driscoll and Mars Hill, cultural Christianity was affirming and promoting them. Driscoll, known as the swearing pastor, claimed to hold “biblical doctrine” but he did so in such an incredibly harsh, unloving way, he ended up souring many, many people to the truth of God’s Word. And, while all that was going on, he was inviting the world to come like a flood into his church, until it had overflowed their doors and spilled out on to a good portion of American Christianity.
I’d venture to say that few of us have been unaffected in some way by this church you may have never even heard of.
And, as I reflected on this series which cared so very little about God’s opinion on things, my mind goes to two books that echoed the same message, albeit through a different storyline. Books by those who would call themselves “missionaries”, who went to foreign countries and put their focus wholly on meeting only the temporal needs of the poor, while ignoring the eternal need of the people. Claiming to follow Jesus in taking care of the poor, somehow they missed the whole point of why Jesus came.
As we think of these examples (and countless others), we have to remember that Satan is fully aware that either discarding the truth (removing the Bible) or warping the truth (twisting the scriptures) will lead many to hell and render the true believer ineffective.
God has given us His Word as a guide and a help and, as believers, we need this desperately. We cannot find “true north” without it.
And, yet, still today, many who call themselves Christians rarely pick it up between Sundays. Or they are satisfied with one verse and a paragraph about that verse written by a sinful human (while devotionals can be of great encouragement to us, we must view them as dessert and never as our main food.)
Oh, dear reader, if you say you love God, then it’s important to study His Word. It is truly our only reliable guide and sure protection in this crazy, mixed-up, chaotic world we find ourselves in. It’s a true gift and treasure and if you will take the time and do the work to actually really study it, you will be greatly rewarded.
Don’t wander around lost in the dark forest of today’s cultural (and false) Christianity but move towards the Light by picking up your Bible today!
*This book is hard to find online. If you would like a copy but can’t find one, I will be happy to send one to you for simply the cost of shipping. Feel free to reply to this email or message me on Facebook with your address if you’d like a copy.