Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min
An introduction to True North Ministry ~ strengthening the hands that hang down and feeble knees and helping to make paths straight ~ (Hebrews 12)
When Christ taught lessons that became some of His dearest and most treasured, He took the listener, the learner, right to their own dry spot. He knew their hearts and where they most needed the refreshing truths of His Word. His talk with the Samaritan woman, who had come to the ancient well that Jacob had dug centuries before, came directly to the dryness of her heart. He told her that if she drank from the water of life that He offered, she would never thirst again. Although she thought of her physical thirst, Jesus had so much more to offer. (John 4:1-26)
Jesus planned the encounter with this Samaritan woman. He knew that she would arrive at the hottest hour of the day to draw water because of her position of shame. Even in the Samaritan community, she could not draw when the other women came to draw. She was too shamed by those around her to be permitted to draw water with the other women of the town.
How surprised she was when Jesus spoke to her. After all, she knew Him to be a Jew and no self-respecting Jewish woman would talk to a Samaritan woman; they were mixed-breeds, having been subjected to Assyrian slavery and inter-marriage. For a Jewish man and a teacher, a rabbi, to not only speak to her, but ask a favor of her was more than her mind could absorb.
Jesus knew all these thoughts were spinning through her mind. Still, Jesus understood the depth of the well from which He was able to draw and the depth of her need. When Jesus asked the woman to provide for him a drink of water, He opened the way for dialogue that would shine a straight ray of light directly to the darkest parts of her hurt. She was to find not only the refreshing coolness of the water of life that Christ could bring to her dry parched soul. Christ’s light banished the darkness from her life to provide her a direction for the future paths she could never find alone.
One of my favorite stories that I recall from my teen years, when I would stay up late at night to catch the A.M. radio station, WWL, New Orleans Louisiana. (I can still hear how they would say that call-sign!) It took just the right atmospheric conditions for their signal to reach NE Ohio; but I often was able to listen to the story tellers that came on late nights. One in particular was of a navy ship out at sea in a dark stillness. The captain of the ship radioed to the vessel he believed to be about to come on a collision course with his ship.
“Unidentified vessel, this is the USS Franklin, change your course ten degrees to starboard.” Much to his surprise, the reply came:
“Negative. Advise that you alter your heading ten degrees to port.”
Furious, the Captain responded, “Sir, this is the USS Franklin, an armed vessel of the United States Navy. I order you to alter your course ten degrees to starboard!”
Once again came back the calm reply, “Negative, sir. Alter your course ten degrees to port.”
Fearing now that a crash was imminent, the still fuming Captain would not be swayed. His voice boomed over the radio waves, “I am a Captain of senior rank aboard a United States destroyer. What is your rank and vessel that you refuse to alter course under a direct order? I demand a reply.”
Calmly, the voice replied, “I am a Seaman, Second Class, sir. I am the lighthouse.”
So often, just as pride made the Captain risk wrecking his ship rather than take the course of safety to which the lighthouse directed him, how often do we ignore the directions the Lord has given in His Word as a light to our path? The book of Proverbs has a verse that reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”[i]
True North Ministry is based on that simple proverb. The earliest explorers, whether on land or sea, sought the brightest star, the North Star. They knew that single light would direct them home. That star would always appear in the same place in the night sky. Its light was true. A single beam of light, the North Star never veered from its post, always there to direct sailors home from the sea and adventuring explorers home back from their excursions. A fancy star with all kinds of lights shining from it and around it would be useless as a guiding star. If the lighthouse would have cast out dozens of beams in different directions, it too would be useless for keeping ships from going aground on the rocky shores.
An author known for his entrepreneurial work in local business, Steve Adams, said this about a focus for anyone’s life work. He explained that it must be like a laser beam, not a disco ball. The same is true for a ministry. Our goals must align with those of Christ. When He told His disciples that they must follow Him where He was about to go, one replied that if they did not know where it was that Jesus was going, ‘How could they know the way?’ “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”[ii] If that is not an exclusive statement, then such a statement doesn’t exist!
One of the key problems in the post-modern world is its lack of belief that a single truth exists. Everyone’s truth is as credible s everyone else’s. That is just wrong and there is no other way to say it. The world is full of men and women just like the Samaritan woman at the well who found Jesus there. Their souls are as dry as an Iraqi sandstorm. They need the refreshing water of life that comes from the throne of grace. Millions of people are lost in that very same sandstorm and they cannot find their way. They need Jesus to direct their paths. There are those whose lives are adrift at sea, being tossed about by every wind of doctrine or ‘new’ thinking that comes along and they need the creator of the North Star to guide them safely home. Their pride may keep them trying to sail in another direction but eventually, they run out of headings to take as each one fails, and there is just one heading left to take; that is Christ’s. God’s Word informs us that those who seek to follow Christ are to: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”[iii] (The ‘Therefore’ refers back to the fact that God will discipline His children when they need it. So, the writer says… before, during and after that disciplining; do these things which will strengthen and help you and others.)
Tough times come sometimes because God disciplines. Sometimes they come simply because we live in a fallen world and bad stuff happens, even too good people. Then, too, there are also consequences for our actions. In those tough times, Christ’s followers should be those who come alongside, provide the refreshing water, explain the new way that is open to those who are hurting, and help them to get strong and to help lift them up when they fall. That is the essence of True North Ministry. Will you join us in prayer daily as we seek God’s blessing on this new and growing ministry?
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”[iv]