True North

It's hard to hear a whisper if your life is full of noise.

Scripture References & Transcript

Romans 12:2

Hebrews 13:8

Isaiah 40:8

1 Kings 19:1-12

How many of you would say that you are bad with directions? Anybody out there bad with directions? Okay, a handful. Handful. How many you would say that you’re good with? Directions. Alright, that means about three fourths of you are neither, you’re neither good or bad. You’re just ambiguously vague with directions. Uh, let’s do a quick pop quiz. Everybody hated those back in school. So quick, pop quiz. Everybody point the direction of north. So go ahead and point the direction of North where you say think that north is, uh, some of you feel judged. Somebody I I like that. Just point up. You know, you can’t, can’t go wrong with that. Uh, so I’ve got the compass on my phone out and north is directly that way right there. Um, some of you’re cheering that were not pointing that way. You’re like, I was, yeah, that’s right.

Over, over there. Now here’s what’s fascinating about North. Did you know that on your phone there’s two different Norths that you can use? So if you go into your settings, uh, your phone is automatically going to magnetic north, but then there’s also true north. So if you go into your settings and you change those things, there are difference. Not very much, it’s only one or two degrees, but there is a difference between magnetic north and true north. Technically there’s four different Norths. So, so there’s a magnetic north, there’s a grid north, a project north, that’s one the architects know use. I have no clue what either of those things mean. Uh, there is a geodetic north or also called the geographic north, also called true north. So the main ones that we think of is we either think of magnetic north or true north. And so to show you on a map the difference between those, uh, that the geographic North Pole, it’s true north, it does not change.

It’s always in the exact same spot. It’s the northern most part of our globe, the planet. But there’s also this thing called magnetic north, and that’s where the magnetic north pole of our globe is. But here’s what’s crazy about magnetic north. It changes, it’s been changing for the last couple hundred years. E every year that dot changes by about 40 miles. And so if you have a compass that is taking you to magnetic north, that is a distinctly different location than a compass that is going to take you to true north. Now, if you’re right here and you’re looking at the compass, it hardly looks any different. It’s just one or two degrees off, and one or two degrees doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal. And if you’re not going very far, one or two degrees isn’t a very big deal. If if I’m going from here to there, then the difference are one or two degrees, I’m still gonna end up in the same destination.

But if you’re going a long way, like let’s say for example, that we were gonna take a rocket ship and we were to aim it towards the moon and we were to launch it, but we’d be off by one degree, we would end up missing the moon by more than 4,000 miles. One degree in terms of a destination, in terms of a long journey is a really big difference. So here’s a big question that I’ve got for you. I’ve got for me, and that is this, what is my true north? You see, magnetic north is kind of floating around all over the place, but true north is something in my life that I would say that’s the direction that I’m going and it’s not going to change. One of the challenges with directions is perspective can throw off directions. A couple years ago I was in the car with my, my son, he’s 11 now. At that point he was around kindergarten age, so he was somewhere around five or six years old. And we were in the car and he’s actually pretty naturally gifted with directions. So we’re driving down the freeway and he says, daddy, which direction is north? And so I, I point off to my left. And so, so he points with his left hand. He was at that age where he is learning left and right. So he takes his left hand and he says, so North is that way. And I said, right.

He said, so North is that way. I said, no, no, no left. He said this way. I said, sorry, wrong terms that I used for you. So, so north right now is the direction left inside the car That’s the correct direction for North. He said, okay, got it. About an hour later, we had finished wherever we were and we were headed back to our house. Now we’re going the opposite direction. And so well brand says, Hey daddy, I I’m just trying to make sure I get it so North is to my left. I said, well, it was to your left. Now North is to your right because we’re going a different direction. And I remember what he said. He said, that is so confusing. And I said, you’re right. It is confusing. But true North is a direction that is independent of my perspective. It’s independent of my circumstance, it’s independent of my emotions or my feelings or what I think about it.

It is simply factually correct. See, the challenge is we live in a culture that has a magnetic north, a culture that is changing constantly all the time. That what is true and valued today is actually a little bit different than what was true and value 10 years ago. And I would bet that what’s true in valued 10 years from now in our culture is gonna be different than what’s true in valued today. Everything is constantly changing. In Romans chapter 12 verse two, a famous verse of Paul’s writing, and he gets to this exact point, he says, do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. That by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. So he’s pointing out this tension that exists, this tension that exists, that we live in a world that it’s so easy for us to conform to the world around us.

Now, there’s some ways that we conform that aren’t necessarily bad things. For example, the way that you are dressed today, the way that your hair is today, the way that stylistically you walk around on a normal day is really conforming to the pattern of the world around us. There’s nothing bad with that. Like I, I don’t see anybody that’s wearing a white wig and, and kneehigh socks and, and dress like the 17 hundreds. Like that was the style. Then that has changed. As a matter of fact, if you did walk in dressed up like that, our security team would probably have a quick conversation because they’d say, what, what’s going on with this guy or this girl? Uh, so, so there’s a part of us that does conform to some things that we just say, Hey, that’s normal. But here’s the challenge. There’s other things that our culture is trying to get us to conform to.

That is more than just style. It’s more than just surface. It really comes down to the core identity of who we are and what we believe and what direction and destination we are headed with our lives. Meanwhile, he says, we should be transformed by the renewing of our mind. In, in addition to that, he says that we should be able to test what is the will of God for my life As a pastor, I give that question a lot. People say, Hey, I’m trying to figure out what does God want me to do? What is God’s will for my life? Well, well, here’s the good news scripture’s really clear. Romans chapter 12, verse two tells us, God’s plan for my life, for your life is transformation. You can be a hundred percent certain that God’s plan for your life in 2024 is transformation. What does that look like?

Transformation in two different ways. That, that, first I’m transforming more and more to be like Jesus, that I’m transforming all of am my thoughts, my words by actions to be more and more Christlike, that that transformation should be happening and occurring in my life. In addition to that, God wants to be using me to transform the lives of the people around me. That’s that nonstop transformation. If I look back at 2023 and, and I say, was 2023 a success from the perspective of God, from an eternal perspective, here’s how I can answer that question, was 2023 a year where my life was more transformed to become more like Christ. And additionally, it was 2023 a year that God used my life to transform people around me, to experience God in a profound and true and real way. That’s, that’s God’s plan transformation. But here’s the key to that transformation is you’ve gotta have a true north.

So as a Christian, what then should my true north be? It should be something that doesn’t ever change. Hebrews chapter 13 verse eight, it, it talks about someone who never changes. It says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. That that culture like magnetic north is gonna float all around you. Look at human history and morals and values, century by century change radically. But scripture tells us that Jesus, Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change. And the author of Hebrews also, it says that he’s the author and the perfecter of our faith, that we are supposed to fix our eyes on Jesus. What does that mean? That means that he’s the destination we’re chasing after he’s that north, the true north of our life. That we say, I’m going to go that way. And and maybe I have a year or a moment or a season where I get a little bit off that, that I can turn back and say, Hey, he hasn’t changed.

He’s still in the same spot. And so I can, I can change and course correct to continue to head that direction. How then do I chase it after Jesus? Well, the primary method that God gives us to understand who he is, who we are, and what God’s plan is for our life while we’re on this planet, is through the word of God. Look at what it says in Isaiah chapter 40, verse eight. It says, the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. That’s a wonderful and profound truth. It should be an encouraging truth. Everything around us is gonna fade. Hey, the building that we are in, it’s gonna fade. I I can tell you every week there’s something in this building that has faded. There’s, there’s a doorknob that has started breaking. There’s a toilet handle that stopped working.

There are things that break in this building every single day. Why? ’cause the world around us faiths, it’s gonna disappear. It’s temporary. But the word of God, his word, it’s eternal. It’s not temporary. It is something that is permanent. It’s something that is eternal and important. And so here’s the challenge that God has given us, that this book, the Bible, the word of God, should be a foundational piece of how we live our lives and how we function. If you’ve got a Bible, turn with me to one Kings Chapter 19, one Kings chapter 19. We’re gonna look at a guy named Elijah. Now, Elijah, if you grew up in the church, you went to Sunday school as a kid, you heard a lot about this guy named Elijah, and he’s probably the most famous prophet in the Old Testament. We see him show up in the New Testament at transfiguration.

Now let’s look at the amazing Elijah, some of the cool things that he does in his life. So in Elijah, uh, we see in one Kings chapter 17, uh, he predicts this drought. He says, there’s gonna gonna be a drought, there’s gonna be a famine. Uh, it’s going to happen. And then guess what? It happens. Uh, then we have this whole storyline with this widow where first he shows up with this widow and she’s got this, this jar, uh, where she has very little food. She’s got a little bit of flour and a little bit of oil. And Elijah says, I’m hungry. Can you help me? She said, well, I I don’t have hardly anything. All I’ve got is this jar and this jug, a little bit of flour, a little bit of oil. And so Elijah blesses the jar, he blesses the jug, and it becomes an unending supply of flour and oil, which is really cool.

Then right after that, that widow’s son dies. So the widow’s son dies. And then in one Kings 17 through 24, it, it’s kinda wild, Elijah lays on top of the dead body and then raises him back to life. Kinda odd. That’s what happens in the Old Testament. There’s some weird stuff in there, lays on top of him. He comes back to life. Then after that, there’s the really famous story of Elijah in one Kings 18, 23 40, where he’s in this contest with the prophets of Baal, hundreds of prophets of Baal. They’re trying to light this altar on fire. And then what Elijah does is he calls down fire from heaven. That burns up the altar. I mean, like awesome, cool stuff. I’ve never been able to call down fire, not a gift that God has given me. Um, it would be really cool in counseling though, to just be able to like, boom.

Yeah, stop doing that. Boom. That would be, it’s never happened. Probably not ever going to happen. Uh, also, he, he ends the drought. So the drought that he predicted, he also ends the drought, uh, right after that whole thing. Uh, so this is the guy that God is doing huge, amazing, awesome things in his life and through his ministry. But then we also find out he’s very normal now. Now, what’s interesting about ancient history is oftentimes ancient narratives, they, they paint the picture of a hero that it just doesn’t have much flaws. Like they’re just perfect. And yet Elijah has these parts of him that are amazing, but also he’s got some pretty big flaws. We see it in one Kings chapter 19, sermon in verse one. It says, Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword.

Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah saying, so may the gods do to me and more also if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow. So here’s what’s happened. Elijah has killed all the prophets of Baal. The Queen finds out about it, evil queen. She sends a message, message to Elijah, I’m gonna do the same thing to you that you did to those other prophets. I’m gonna kill you in the next 24 hours. Now again, Elijah has just called down fire from heaven, probably something that he shouldn’t be too worried about. And yet what does it say? Verse three. Then he was afraid and he arose and ran for his life and came to be Sheba, which belongs to Judah and left his servant there. Elijah’s pretty relatable. Have you ever been scared of something?

You ever been afraid? You ever had something happen in life where you weren’t really sure what to do with it? And one of our natural human tendencies when we experience fear is to run, just run away. We do it in relationships and we do it when we lose someone, we do it in all kinds of different areas. We experience fear, and that fear causes us to run. Just like Elijah in verse four, it says, but he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and ca and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die saying, it is enough now a Lord take away my life for I’m no better than my father’s. And so he was scared. He runs away, then he sits down and he’s suicidal. Psychologist would say that, that he clearly is depressed based off of all the symptoms that we see in scripture.

So he’s depressed. He wants his life to be over. He’s scared. He is alone. Have you ever experienced a situation like that? Maybe you’re in a situation right now like that, where you’ve got some combination of being scared, being alone, not knowing what to do with yourself. You’ve come to the end of yourself. Then skip down to verse nine. It says, then he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold the word of the Lord came to him and he said to him, what are you doing here, Elijah? This is the voice of God talking to Elijah, saying, what are you doing here? And Elijah responds to verse 10. He said to him, I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts for the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars and killed your prophets with the sword.

And I even, I only am left and they seek my life to take it away. Now, pause for a second. ’cause here’s what’s interesting, what he says there is not factually true. He’s not the only prophet left. Uh, we know from scripture that there are other prophets that are alive at the exact same time, and yet that’s is what he feels. Uh, I think sometimes we have this idea of God that the only way we’re allowed to communicate to God I is to speak in the Old King James version. Thou art thy you’ve been around people that they’re, they’re hesitant to prayer ’cause they’re like, I, I, I don’t know how to pray. I don’t wanna pray in front of other people ’cause I’m gonna say the wrong words in the wrong manner. But here’s what we see when we experience true prayer in scripture.

It’s just honest communication with God, even though what he’s saying is not true. It’s what he felt. And so in his feeling, he says, I’m alone. I’m abandoned. I’m by myself, God. And, and then here’s what’s so cool, what happens next? Verse 11, it says, and he says, this is God talking to Elijah. Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. So, so I want you to just put your mind to be Elijah. If he’s in this low state, he’s been scared. He’s been running, he’s been hungry. He feels alone. And now God is talking to him and says, I want you to stand at the edge of this cave that you’re in.

And his

Expectation now is that he’s gonna hear

The voice

Of God. He’s gonna experience God in this profound and true way. And then look what it says. It says, and behold,

The Lord passed

By and a great and strong wind tore the mountain

And broken pieces, the rocks before the Lord. So you’re Elijah, and all of a sudden you’re experiencing God and you’re expecting to hear the voice of God. And, and now there’s this huge wind, a wind that’s so strong. Scripture says that it’s tearing rocks in half. And you’re probably thinking at first, surely this powerful wind that’s gotta be God, be God. This is the voice of God. But, but then guess what it says.

It says, but the Lord was not in the wind. Then it says, an after the wind, an earthquake.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced an earthquake before or literally the world

Around you starts

To shake

And it’s

Scary and it’s intimidating. You’re not really sure what to do. And, and Elijah is standing at the cave and everything around him starts to shake. And probably he thinks, surely this is gonna be it. Surely this display of might and power, this is the voice of God that I’ve been waiting for. But look what it says. It says, but the Lord

Was not in the earthquake. And then it says, and after the earthquake, a fire. Now here’s what I know about fires. Fires sometimes are hard to

Start, but once you get a fire going, they’re really hard to stop. And I can just imagine he’s at the edge of that cave, and he’s feeling the heat from the fire coming up against his face and all around him. And probably at first, he, he would think this glorious thing, this powerful thing, this has to be me experiencing God. But then what does it say? It says, but, but the Lord was not

In the fire.

And then it says, an after the fire, the sound of a low whisper. Elijah experiences the presence and the voice of God, not in these grand crazy ways, but instead in the voice of a whisper. Now in Hebrew that that phrase, probably in your translation, there’s different ways that it might say it’s ’cause There’s three Hebrew words. The first word can be translated as either voice or sound. The second can be translated as either still or silent. And the last can be translated as small. And so sometimes translations will say he heard, he heard the voice in stillness or in a whisper or in a sm uh, still small quiet voice was one translation. But the point of it is that Elijah does experience God, but not in the way that he probably would’ve presumed. You see, I think sometimes in our life, the same thing happens.

Like I, I remember in high school when I was, when I was driving in my car and I’m praying about different things, and I want God to talk to me. And I would do things like, uh, God, if you’re a real and if you’re there, if you would make this green light turn red, or most of the time it was the opposite, God, hey, that red light, if you would just make it turn green right now ’cause I’m running late, and it would really help God show me your reel by making ’em all green and it doesn’t happen. Or maybe you’ve been outside at night, you’ve been looking up at the stars, and you say, God, I’m really trying to wrestle with this decision. And if you could just gimme the answer, just gimme a shooting star right now, and then it doesn’t happen. And that’s often the way that we want God to speak to us or we expect God to speak to us.

But rarely, even scripturally, rarely is that how God communicates. Instead, God wants to communicate to us in a still quiet, small voice. But, but here’s a key truth, and this is a challenging truth for me and probably a challenging truth for you. And that is this. It’s hard to hear a whisper if my life is full of noise. See, we live in a world that is full of interaction. It’s full of engagement, it’s full of enticement, it’s full of busyness all around us. Like in your pocket, you’ve got a cell phone that probably it takes a whole lot of self-control to not pull that thing out and check it every two minutes. Half of you have checked it at least once, maybe twice during the sermon. Some of you are checking it literally right now, even in this moment. And why, why do we do that?

Uh, we do that because of the dopamine hit. The way that that neurologically our brain is wired is that when we get a text message, it, it gives us a shot of dopamine. So we are excited to see what that new message says, because by getting a message, it means that someone wants to contact me because that means that I’m important. I’m a big deal. I need to check that. You might not go through that every time psychologically. And yet that’s what your brain is saying when we scroll through social media, it’s a dopamine hit after a dopamine hit, after a dopamine hit. When you get a like on a post or a picture, it’s a dopamine hit. And so we have this thing that is just constantly pulling for our attention and with our attention at wants our affections. Not to mention the fact that we’ve got the internet and we’ve got television.

It’s hard for my kids to grasp the fact that when I was growing up, I did not have unending amounts of entertainment at my fingertips 24 hours a day nonstop all the time without ever having to sit through a commercial. That’s their life. Like, like they just, it’s always there. And it’s interesting, and I’ve said this before, but it’s, it’s just a fascinating thing to me. Uh, when they do this thing called the Happiness Index, they found that one of the, the most enjoyable activities that we participate in is watching TV on a happiness scale. Zero to 10 watching TV is between a seven and eight, like very, very high up there. So we are very entertained when we watch tv. And yet, here’s what they’ve also found, the people that watch the most TV in their life, there’s a correlation that they’re the least happy in overall life satisfaction, more tv, temporary happiness, really high, loving it, very much enjoying it.

Overall life satisfaction is low. Is it any wonder that we live in a culture that is more entertained than it has ever been in the history of humanity? And yet, studies have shown that our overall life satisfaction is the lowest that we’ve recorded on record. You see, here’s the lie of busyness. There’s an article in the New York Times in 2012, and this is what it said, busyness serves as a kind of hedge against emptiness. Obviously, your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked in demand every hour of the day or busy because of our own ambition or drive or anxiety because we’re addicted to busyness and dread what we might have to face in its absence. We live in a life where we just naturally get busy, busy, busy, and we fill, fill, fill, fill. And yet what scripture tells us is that God wants to speak to us and is still quiet.

Voice tog as an acronym that stands for time alone with God. One of the things that we’re gonna do as a church this next year is we’re gonna really try and dedicate ourselves to spending time alone with God, spending time in God’s Word. Why? Now, there’s some very tangible benefits to spending time alone with God. Number one is that we’re transformed by the renewing of our minds. And that if I wanna accomplish God’s will for my life, that I wanna be transformed just as Paul said by the renewing of my mind. How do I do that? Well, I gotta make Jesus my true north. Well, well, how do I know what that true north is? By spending time in God’s worth, by spending time decluttering the busyness, decluttering the noise in silence before God, reading scripture, spending time with scripture. In doing that, not only am I gonna be transformed, but it also helps me to slow down and it gives me perspective.

Here’s what I found in my own lifetime. And time again, sometimes life will be busy and frantic and I’ll have anxiety and fears and, and all kinds of different things. And then all of a sudden I will spend time alone with God and slow down. And I’ll be reading through scripture and all of a sudden some of those problems that that not too long ago seemed like such a big deal in the presence of God alone with my Bible, with the right perspective. Some of those challenges are no longer as big of challenges as they seem. And all of a sudden, with the right perspective, my circumstances might not have changed, but my understanding of those circumstances have ’cause my trust in God has gone up. And also, I think this is a huge one. By spending time alone with God, it helps me to prioritize what’s important.

When I’m just caught up in the busyness, I’m just go, go, go, go. And, and I get drawn towards the pattern of the world by, by elevating and valuing the things that the world values and chasing after all the things that the world values. But when all of a sudden I’m by myself alone in the presence of God, that here’s what can start to change, is I start to see life the way that God wants me to see life. By spending time in scripture, I I I start to value the things that he values, not just the things that the world values. And so all of a sudden some things before spent time alone with God that, that I was coming in really high net, a whole different level. All of a sudden, those things are diminished. And then these other things that God would say have eternal significance and value.

Those things have more and more value, different relationships in my life. Spending time alone with God is gonna make me want, want to be not just a better Christian. It’s gonna make me want to be a better husband, a better father, a better friend, a better person, because I value what he values. Irma Bombeck is an author, and in 1979, she wrote a short story slash poem titled, if I Had My Life to Live Over. These are a few different excerpts that I love from that short story. She says, if I had my life to live over, I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed. I would’ve invited friends over to dinner, even if the carpet was stained and sofa faded, I would’ve sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would’ve never said later, now go get washed up for dinner. There would’ve been more, I love yous more. I’m sorry, more I’m listenings, but mostly given another shot at life. I would seize every minute of it, look at it and really see it, try it on, live it, exhaust it, and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it. How can we best exhaust the life that God has given us? Exhaust every second, every moment, live it to its fullest? We do that by making him our true north, making him that direction that we’re headed for our life. Today is week one of a five week sermon series on through the Bible, the Bible Project. And really it’s a challenge for all of us to dive into God’s word, to make it our true north.

Uh, now, if you were here Christmas Eve, or or the last couple weeks, we’ve been, uh, pushing that tomorrow we will officially kick off a 19 day devotional, uh, through the Bible Project, uh, where they’re gonna help us understand how to look at how to read the Bible. Typically, new Year’s resolutions last about 21 days. So we’re January 7th, so probably some of your New Year’s resolutions, they’re already out the window. People that start New Year’s resolutions say, I’m just gonna read through the Bible. Most of the time they make it somewhere around Leviticus, maybe numbers, and then it just dies off. And so we’re gonna start with a 19 day devotional that helps us understand how to read scripture. And so if you have not opted in, here’s how you can opt in. You can text the word Bible to the number 7 7 4 1 1. So if you pull out your, your phone text, that what you’ll do is every day for the next 19 days, starting tomorrow, you will get a text message at six o’clock in the morning that has all the info that you need.

If you are not a morning person, then make sure your phone is silenced at six o’clock in the morning. And so for 19 days, we as a church family are gonna go through this devotional. My family’s gonna go through it together, so we’re gonna sit down every day together. And so there’s a, there’s a video from the Bible project and there’s a devotional, and then there’s, there’s the biblical text that we can spend time reading or trying to create and make a habit in our lives to make the Bible important, to stop and slow down the busyness and order that we might be able to experience God in a true, real and profound way. So you’ve not opted in, you can opt in that way. You can also opt in by responding to the email that we sent out to everybody a couple days ago.

Uh, if you still are like, Hey, I, I don’t know how to do that, I don’t know how to do that. If you just go to Trailhead as soon as we were done, we will help you get connected and plugged, and let’s pray together. Heavenly Father, as we give you this year, when we pray that in the midst of so much busyness in our culture, that we can slow down and stop and experience you and hear from you, that’s still quiet, small voice through reading your word and experiencing the Bible, that our lives would be transformed and you can help us to transform the world around us. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. Amen.