Faith, Nature

True North

Oh send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me…  Psalm 43:3

The Earth is a magnet―true on two counts.

The physical earth is literally an enormous magnet. Due to the metallic composition of its core (primarily iron alloys) and its constant motion (due to rotation and convection), the earth acts as a giant generator, producing a magnetic field with north and south magnetic poles. This is a scientific concept fundamental to the explanation of a host of geophysical phenomenon.

It is also a truth conveniently exploited for the purpose of navigation. The magnetized needle of a compass responds to the earth’s magnetic field, aligning its positive and negative ends with earth’s magnetic poles and indicating which direction is “north”.

Earth is not however the strongest magnetic force we encounter. The naturally magnetic rock lodestone is case in point. Bring the same compass in proximity to lodestone and the needle will orient itself to the rock’s magnetic pole; identifying IT as north. Of course the stone could be re-positioned any number of times… taking north right along with it.

The earth’s magnetic field is not used as a point of reference because it is the strongest force, but because it is unchanging.  The Earth’s magnetic poles are fixed (ignoring shifts over long periods of time) and therefore a reliable point of reference. Because of its unchanging nature, we can trust the earth’s magnetic field to help us orient ourselves and to safely navigate. It provides us with geographical “true north”.

There is also a non-physical world in which we live. It is a world we call “culture” and it is also a magnet.  Its force can be very strong and like lodestone its position is not fixed. What is deemed culturally acceptable, important or of value changes over time like shifting sand. Culture is not absolute, and therefore can never reliably point us to true north. Orienting our lives to the influence of such a magnet will inevitably pull us off course.

The good news is that there is a source of absolute, unchanging Truth in which we can trust.  Like the earth’s magnetic field, the still small voice of God does not guide us by overpowering the voice of the world; we must tune our ear to it.

And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;
and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 
1 Kings 19:11-12


How do we set our compass to the True North of God’s voice? How do we avoid being pulled off course by the influence of the world? First, we must intentionally remove unnecessary magnets from our lives. Carrying a chunk of lodestone in your backpack would be a pretty foolish thing to do if you want to avoid getting lost. Likewise, cluttering our lives with the things of this world will only pull us away from God’s voice.

But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears,
He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
John 16:13


Secondly we must actively navigate our lives using only the unchanging Word of God as our reference point. Leaving the compass in your backpack is a sure fire way to wander off course. Likewise, a Bible left on a nightstand to collect dust does no good. We must be intentional in tuning our ear to the still small voice that will keep us oriented toward True North.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.  Psalm 119:105

Make me know Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day. Psalm 25:4-5

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