Off The Rails

Locomotive trains are very powerful, can carry huge loads over immense distances, and travel with a tremendous amount of momentum…which means it takes a while to get them going and even longer to stop them.  Everything goes smoothly as long as the machinery stays in good order, there’s plenty of fuel, and speed is controlled to keep the behemoths on the tracks.  As long as things are going smoothly, they have an unrivaled capacity for transporting cargo and people, and can be operated to such precision that people used to set their clocks by them.  When safety is violated, terrible things can happen.

“On December 18, 2017, Amtrak Cascades passenger train 501 derailed near DuPont, Washington, United States. It was the inaugural run on the Point Defiance Bypass, a new passenger rail route south of Tacoma, Washington. The bypass was intended to reduce congestion and separate passenger and freight traffic, and was designed for faster speeds and shorter travel times (saving ten minutes from Seattle to Portland) than the previous route used by Cascades. The lead locomotive and all twelve cars derailed while approaching a bridge over Interstate 5 (I-5). The trailing locomotive remained on the rails. A number of automobiles on southbound I-5 were crushed and three people on board the train died. The train derailed a short distance from where the new route merges with the previous route. Preliminary data from the data recorder showed that the train was traveling at 78 miles per hour (126 km/h), nearly 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) over the speed limit, when the incident happened.” (Wikipedia)

Our emotional & spiritual lives are like this.  Have you ever crashed?  Have you ever experienced the consequences of taking undue risks in circumstances that turned against you?  Have you ever known you were moving too fast but were so overconfident that you ignored the warning signs that resulted in a crash?

As sons and daughters made in the image of Almighty God, we are incredibly powerful and capable; yet great care is required to keep us on the rails.  Part of the trouble we experience in our generation is the fundamental polarizing arguments about what, exactly, constitutes “the rails.”  Values, both internal and interactive, are the railroad ties, spikes, and the steel rails of our lives.  There are a host of directions offered in this vast, diverse world we live in; and a seemingly endless number of exchange opportunities.  Those of us who have committed to following Jesus’ straight-and-narrow path have believed that we can trust Him, no matter how alluring the alternatives, arduous the terrain, or distant the destination.

Part of staying-the-course is avoiding the constant temptations to change tracks…especially when we’re working hard to go up hills.  There are always lots of opportunities during hard times to give-up and choose the easier paths.  These temptations arise from our own desire for comfort, the misguided cheers of others, and from the enemy of our souls. The enemy’s desire is to “kill, steal, and destroy;” and he has a multitude of victims who have wandered far from The Way of Jesus.  Temptations that get us most often come at times of weakness, capitalizing on lack of maintenance.  The other dangers have to do with speed.  In a culture where our worth is measured by accomplishments, activity, and possessions, we are prone to careening so quickly around the twists and turns of life that we risk crashing.  The ever-increasing speed of “more” only leads to hardship unless it is governed-back into control by the Master.  Have you ever gone off-the-rails? Have you ever wounded yourself or others so deeply that you wondered if God could possibly put you back together?

I have…and in those times I’ve found the heart of the Father, always ready to heal and repair and recommission; as if He was waiting there for me, knowing I was going to crash there in need of Him to set me back on track. Thankfully, we can never wander too far, or be wrecked to such an extent, that we cannot be put back together and placed back on the tracks that lead to Him.  But make no mistake, there is one path that leads to Him, it’s the One that He prepared for thousands of years which culminated with the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus of Nazareth.  Following in His steps, along the path of values and commitments that He has laid out for us, is HIS PATH.  This is the path that leads to life.

I needed this reminder today…to surrender my desires, dreams, and destinations to the Father; knowing that when I do, His way always leads to life.  Entrust yourself to Him today.

”Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) 

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3) 

“Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. But the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard, and there are few people who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Matthew 16:26) 


Loving God v. Using God

I was talking with a good friend about how to discern “God opportunities.”  We all face decisions every day where we need to judge between this choice or that, and those of us who want to follow the way of Jesus also need to know His thoughts on every matter.  How do we tell the difference between opportunities that God brings to us, those that spring from our own desire, or those from the enemy that are meant to ensnare?  This is a big question…so big, in fact, that it has a way of tripping us up and distracting our focus on what’s deeper.

“Understanding God’s Will” is the subject matter here, and the answer is woven all throughout the scriptures.  But the nature of the answer isn’t what we’re often looking for, so we miss it.  “God’s Will” is not primarily concerned with specific plans that He has for our lives, but for conforming our characters into the likeness of Jesus.  He cares about our development as His children, as members of His family, and as His agents in the world….in that order.  Our tendency, however, is to hijack His attention and divert it to the things we’re most interested in…which often have to do with stroking our egos, filling our wallets, and keeping us comfortable.  These things have nothing to do with His Will.

The goal of following Jesus is not to become a better person, to be more successful, or to change the world; but, like Him, to experience INTIMACY in relationship with our Heavenly Father, and to partner with the Holy Spirit in a way that aligns with our specific IDENTITY in Him. When the pursuit of these priorities is woven into our daily rhythms, responsibilities and relationships; God’s Word is unleashed, His Will is made known, and His Power flows freely to fulfill it…everything else falls into place.

That probably doesn’t seem like a real answer to the original question, does it?  It is, in fact, God’s answer.

When we leap-frog over intimacy and identity, and focus on trying to get God to fulfill agendas, things tend to fall apart.  This is ultimately about trust.  Do you trust God to do what needs to be done if you focus your attention ON Him, or do you carry the weight of the world on your own shoulders and ask God to make you stronger to do things FOR Him?  These can represent two extremes, God has a part and we have a part…but the message throughout scripture is clear.  Our primary posture, and indeed the whole goal, is relationship with Him…everything flows from this.  Here are some scriptures to meditate on….

“Don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

“I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)

“God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” (Romans 8:28-29)



What we believe is of utmost importance, because belief shapes our trajectories and motivations and desires. We seem to have trouble understanding or valuing this when we misunderstand the nature of belief.

The word “believe” in the New Testament of the Bible is not passive agreement about things that happened a long time ago that are removed from our real lives.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  It’s translated from the Greek word “pisteuó” (pist-yoo’-o), which means to have faith in, trust in.  The word TRUST is probably a much better translation, because it requires something of us.

I thought of this when I was reading John chapter 14 this morning, especially the part where Jesus says…

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”  

There are some crazy-big claims in this verse!  Doing greater works (aka miracles) than Jesus? Having Jesus grant our every request?  And all we have to do is end every prayer with “In Jesus Name, Amen”….right?  Obviously this isn’t what He meant…so what does He mean?

In the language Jesus used in this section, His “name” is figuratively the manifestation or revelation of His character, i.e. as distinguishing Him from all others. Thus “praying in the name of Christ” means to pray as directed (authorized) by Him, bringing revelation that flows out of being in His presence. “Praying in Jesus’ name” therefore is not a religious formula just to end prayers with – to get what we want; but a life-discipline of operating under the authority of our Master – to work toward what He wants.  This is why the prayers of someone who invests in his/her relationship with Jesus every day is more potent than the prayers of another who only grasps at Jesus’ promises from afar in times of trouble.  Not to say that God is not available to all of us, or that those closer to Him are more dearly loved; but truly, those who are more greatly connected to Him through active TRUST/FAITH/BELIEF have greater access to Him.

Biblical belief is not a passive nod to some unknown force beyond us, the the aggressive dedication to aligning our desires and priorities to the God who has revealed Himself!

The power of belief is not in the believer, but in the ONE who is believed.
Believe Him today.
Put your faith in Him today.
Trust in Him today.