January 2007

"Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always." Psalm 105:4


Thought: Out of Juice

Some time ago, I had a lot of trouble with my car battery. At first, we thought I’d simply left my lights on and drained the battery. We jump started the car, and everything seemed fine…for a while. Then, suddenly, my car wouldn’t start again. Another jump start, and I was up and running. But after a few starts, my battery died once again.

We were all confused. My battery could obviously take a charge—after each jump start, it would work fine. What was wrong?

We later discovered that instead of letting the engine recharge itself constantly like a healthy battery, my battery was trying to run off the last jump start it had received. As a result, it kept running out of juice.

It’s easy spiritually to act like that battery—to try to run off a “jump start” instead of letting God constantly recharge us and give us the strength we need. We need to continually remind ourselves that we can’t make it on our own! When we try to live the Christian life in our own strength, we eventually end up discouraged and frustrated, like a battery that has run out of juice.

John 15 reminds us that, like a branch, we need to continually draw on Christ. Just like a branch constantly needs the vine to bring it nourishment, so we constantly need our Lord’s strength and life.

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

This month, when we feel “out of juice,” let’s stop and run to Christ. Let’s ask Him to grant us His life and strength, and to help us remember that we simply can’t make it on our own.

Story: Even in the Darkness

Jill gasped with wonder as she reached the mountaintop and caught sight of the view. There in the distance, she could faintly see her future home glistening in the sunlight. For a few moments, Jill completely forgot about everything else except the beautiful scene before her.

“Oh, Father, it’s so beautiful,” Jill finally managed to whisper.

Her father smiled as he placed his hand on his daughter’s shoulders. “It’s even lovelier than you can see from here. Jill, the path there may get difficult at times, but keep thinking about the beautiful home I've prepared for you and my promise to guide you safely there. Know that no matter what happens to you on the way, I will never leave or forsake you."

Jill soaked in these words in happy silence. She felt so happy she could hardly speak. One day she would get to live with her father in that beautiful home! And her father had promised to be with her and guide her--how could she keep from being happy with such a promise?

After a few minutes, Jill's father started down the path. With one last look at the beautiful scene, Jill turned and followed him. She wondered why her father had told her to keep thinking about her future home and his promise. Her heart felt so light and happy, and the thought of her future home so completely consumed her, that she wondered how she could ever forget what she had just seen.

As time wore on, the sun began to sink behind the horizon, and the path Jill and her father were walking began to descend into a briary thicket. Jill suddenly found herself stumbling through thick brush in a growing twilight.

Soon the darkness had grown so great and the thicket so thick that Jill could not see which way to go! Confusion and panic seized her heart. She felt like giving up and abandoning her journey—anything to get out of this terrible thicket!

Although Jill looked around for her father, she could not see him. She began to wonder if he had he abandoned her or no longer loved her. Overwhelmed, Jill sank onto a log and burst into tears. She couldn't stand this! “Oh, Father, where are you? What is happening?” she sobbed.

To her great surprise and delight, she felt a reassuring arm on her shoulder and heard a voice say, “I’m right here, Jill.”

Jill looked up, but she still could not see anything. “I-I can't see you. Everything is so-so dark.” Jill shuddered as she spoke. The sun had now completely vanished behind the horizon.

“I know you can’t see me, but I’m right next to you," Jill's father assured her.  "I told you that I would never leave you—no matter what you go through or do. Have you forgotten what I showed you and said to you on the mountaintop?”

Jill hung her head. She had forgotten, hadn’t she? “Yes, I guess I have,” she confessed with shame.

“My darling daughter, remember that I am here in this dark thicket just like I was up there on the mountain. Even though you cannot see me, I am always with you. Get up and press forward again.”

“But I don’t know which way to go!” Jill saw no way she could possibly navigate through dense brush around her.

“I know the way, and I will direct you,” Jill’s father explained.

“But what if I make a wrong step or mishear your directions?” Jill asked. She felt so afraid of doing something wrong in the darkness that she simply wanted to stay still and do nothing. Her father’s next words caught her completely by surprise.

“My dear daughter, you will take wrong steps and you will mishear my directions at times. But I am right here with you, and I promise to bring you safely to the home I’ve prepared for you. No matter what may happen or how you may mess up, I will take care of you.”

Jill was silent for a moment as she absorbed her father’s words. Then she slowly got up and hesitatingly started on her way again. She would trust her father to lead her. She would try to remember what she had learned on the mountaintop. This dark thicket was only temporary—one day she would get to live with her father in the home he had already prepared for her. And even now, her father was guiding her, watching over her even when she stumbled and fell.

Although the darkness had only grown darker and the thicket seemed to be even thornier, Jill no longer felt the same suffocating panic squeezing her heart—that is, until she stopped thinking about her father and her future home and began looking at the darkness and thicket. Jill found that she had to continually watch out least her mind begin to wander and her heart begin to fear.

I wish I could report that Jill made it through that forest without ever stumbling or going the wrong way, but that wouldn’t be true. Jill often misunderstood her father’s directions and stumbled, just like her father had warned her she would. But her father was always right there to help her and teach her. In fact, Jill’s father always managed to use Jill’s falls to strengthen her and prepare her for what she would face next. His patience never expired, and his love never faltered. Jill began to realize that she could rely on her father, not just when she could see him, but even when the confusing darkness hid his face.

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

Homeschool Tip: Priority Check

--By Cris Loop

It's January again--time to get back to school, to tie ourselves to grading papers and explaining math problems, and to keep those New Year's resolutions we made to be more diligent in our homeschooling endeavors! But before you head back to the grind, sit back and take stock of your priorities. Are your priorities right now God's priorities? Is He most concerned that your children know all their English, history, and math facts, or that they see Him in all they do? Is He most concerned that your children behave properly, or that they know and rely on His unmerited love?

While diligence can be a good thing, we need to make sure that we don't lose sight of homeschooling's true purpose: to know and serve God and raise our children in Him. Keep this goal in mind as you wade through your pile of papers this week, and ask God how to practically go about schooling with eternity in view.

Not only do we need to keep our goal in mind, but we need to continually evaluate how we're practically striving towards this goal in what we do with our children. I was struck recently with how easy it is to have the correct goal yet strive towards that goal in the wrong way. Consider the Pharisees. They had a godly goal--they wanted to serve and please God. Yet they went about accomplishing that goal on their own. Their hearts became proud as they placed their confidence in themselves and what they were doing.

We can easily have the right goal in our homeschooling but strive towards that goal on our own strength, thus missing out on seeing Christ and abiding in His love. Just like the Pharisees tried to make God's Word into a Law, we can fall into trying to find a rule or formula that we can follow in our homeschooling.

So what can we do? Well, think about what the Pharisees should have done. What would have happened had they realized that the Law, instead of being a way to please God, was an expression of God's love and care to them, a revelation of His character, and a constant reminder that they needed Him to save them? They might have still offered all the same sacrifices and celebrated the same feasts, but with such a different heart! Our heart makes all the difference in the world.

Dear mothers, don't forget that God's love for you isn't dependent on what you do or don't do. You don't have to be the perfect Mom or do your homeschooling perfectly--in fact, you never can. Keep your eyes on the goal--knowing Christ. Strive, not to "get it right" or "get it all done," but to do what you do in Him.

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Unless otherwise indicated, articles are written by Katherine Loop, © 2007.  Feel free to pass these e-mails along to others in whole or part (please include a link to our website when you do). If you do not regularly receive Christian Perspective's monthly e-mails and updates and would like to receive them, please send your e-mail address to info@christianperspective.net or sign up on our website, www.christianperspective.net.   If you would like to be removed from the e-mail list, simply let us know, and we will promptly remove you. We'd always love to hear from you. Drop us a line sometime and share with us your thoughts and suggestions.

Unless otherwise indicated, scripture taken from the Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Where marked NASB, scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.