By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

What I Believe February 21, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:38 am

Last Sunday, Noel and I met with the elders of our church and officially became members. We were asked to either tell the story of how we became a Christian or give a profession of faith, that is, what we believe. I chose to give a profession of faith and decided to write it out, since I thought it would be a good exercise to really think everything through. So if you’ve ever read this blog and thought, “Where is this girl coming from?!?”–here it is:

I believe that the living, triune God of the Bible is my Creator, Ruler and Judge. He wrote His law on our hearts and revealed it to us in His Word. Any lack of conformity to or transgression of this law is sin, and the wages of sin is death. I am a sinner by nature and in thought, word and deed, rendering even my best attempts at pleasing God like filthy rags. I deserve nothing on my own merit other than God’s wrath and condemnation.

However, God, in His great mercy, chose me before the foundation of the world to be adopted as His daughter. Even though I was an enemy of God, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life and die as an atoning sacrifice for my sin. By grace and through faith in Christ, His perfect record has been given to me, and I have been declared righteous in God’s sight. Since Christ met the righteous requirement of the law on my behalf, the law of the Spirit of life has set me free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, God has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. I believe Jesus is coming again, and His sovereignty will be displayed as He rules over the new heaven and new earth as King. All men will be subject to God’s judgment, and those who are found to be in Christ will enjoy eternal life in God’s presence.

In response to this free gift of salvation, and by the power of the Holy Spirit which has been given to me, I strive to live a life worthy of my calling as a daughter of God. I want to walk more fully in the Spirit, setting my mind on the things of the Spirit rather than the things of the flesh.

I believe the Bible is the infallible, inspired Word of God. It is the final authority of all matters of doctrine and practice to which it speaks and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (both mine and my children’s).

I believe that it is important to be a member of a church committed to sound doctrine and biblical worship, submitting myself to church discipline and using my gifts to build up Christ’s church.

Scripture references: Romans 2:12-16, Romans 6:23, Ephesians 1:3-10, Romans 8:2-4, Romans 4:23-25, Romans 5:18-21, Colossians 1:13-14, John 10:27-29, Philippians 1:27, Romans 8:5-6, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 10:24-25

If you have questions or comments about any of this, please contact me. I’d love to discuss it with you further.

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“Calm My Anxious Heart” part 2 February 6, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:18 pm

I have been married for almost ten years to my high school sweetheart, a man who loves Christ and seeks to walk with Him daily. He treats me fabulously, praises me for completing mundane tasks like laundry, and gives me sympathy after a tough day with the kids. I have two sons, Christopher and Will, who are healthy, adorable, sweethearts. They are eager to please, often play well together, and say hilarious things all the time. I have the privilege of staying home with them every day. I love teaching them about Jesus and hearing Christopher’s insightful questions about God. I have a gorgeous house that has more space than we need. I have a huge Jacuzzi tub and a fabulous kitchen with cabinets I can’t even fill. My husband has a job that he loves, and his income provides enough money to pay our bills.

On the other hand, I have been married for almost ten years, which means most of the romance vanished a long time ago. I wish my husband would get home from work earlier, help more with the housework and lavish me with romantic gifts. I have squeezed two 9+ pound babies from my body after enduring vomit-filled pregnancies. Now that they are almost 2- and 4-year-olds, the boys are constantly moving, frequently whining, and often hitting, screaming, and grabbing the other’s toys. My house is too big, and I can never get it all clean at one time. I have nothing on my walls because I can’t afford anything nice right now. The list of things I want for the house and can’t afford is extensive. By the time I finish what I need to do in the evenings, I’d like to take a bath in my Jacuzzi tub but that just means having to clean it later, and I can’t reach all the way around it without doing some serious yoga-like moves.

Those two paragraphs, two very different ways of looking at my life, are an adaptation of how Linda Dillow begins her second chapter, “Content with Circumstances.” Dillow’s is a much more interesting account of the years she spent living in Hong Kong. It struck me as I read the first half and then the second–two very different ways of looking at the very same circumstances. I was encouraged to do the same and wrote a more detailed description than I’ve included here. As I feel discontentment creeping in, it is because I’m choosing to focus on the negative description of my circumstances, and I remind myself to switch my thinking to the positive. I highly recommend writing out these descriptions of your own life, or at least jotting down some bullet points to come back to when you’re feeling discontented.

Dillow draws on Philippians 4:6-9 in this chapter on contentment with circumstances. She describes verse 6 as “our part”: to choose to pray with thanksgiving rather than give in to anxiety. The result will be “God’s part” (verse 7): He will guard our hearts and minds with His peace.

Philippians 4:8-9 exhorts us to think about that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy. This means focusing on the first paragraph of my life’s description, not the second; mediating on the greatness of God’s love for me rather than the things I think I’m lacking. Dillow writes: “We become what we think. Our thought life–not our circumstances–determines whether we are content” (p. 32). She references Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) and 2 Corinthians 10:5 to prove this point. I love the mental picture in 2 Corinthians about taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ. Many of my circumstances are out of my control, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, I can choose to respond with contentment rather than selfish grumbling. I often think that when my circumstances change, I will be more content. But the truth is, when I take control of my thought life and make it obedient to Christ, peace and contentment will follow.

Today, God gave me the opportunity to apply these truths, along with lessons from this week’s passage for BSF. We were studying the feeding of the 4,000 in Matthew 15:32-38. One of the lessons I learned from this passage is that God will supply every one of our needs, even if it requires a miracle–He can and will do it! Conversely, if I don’t have something, it must mean that God knows I don’t need it. This week, the one thing I thought I needed was for both of my kids to make it to preschool/mother’s day out so I could have a day to myself and do several things I need to do without the kids. This afternoon, Will started running a temperature of 102, replacing my dream of drinking Starbucks and test driving minivans with the reality of taking a sick, cranky 2-year-old to the pediatrician. I can’t say I passed this test with flying colors–I complained about it this afternoon to anyone who would listen (breaking the rules of my previous post). But I acknowledged to Noel that God must have decided that I didn’t need that day to myself, even if I thought I did. I will choose to be thankful for the time I will get to spend with Will tomorrow and the privilege of being his mom. I will be thankful that we can afford to go to the pediatrician (and that my friend Lynette can afford an ear monitor that let me know I should take him). And I will continue to pray that both kids will be healthy so they can go to school next week. 🙂

 

 

“Calm My Anxious Heart” by Linda Dillow February 4, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth,Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 2:43 pm
Tags: , , ,

I highly recommend this book I’ve been reading lately–thanks to my friend Janet for recommending it to me! I’ve read the first half so far, and she has been talking about contentment. This is a constant struggle for me (see a post I wrote 7 months ago on the subject, for example). There have been several poignant words of wisdom in this book that have made me even more aware of how pervasive discontentment is in my life. She shares a “prescription for contentment” found in the journal of missionary to Africa:

“Never allow yourself to complain about anything–not even the weather. Never picture yourself in any other circumstances or someplace else. Never compare your lot with another’s. Never allow yourself to wish this or that had been otherwise. Never dwell on tomorrow–remember that [tomorrow] is God’s, not ours.” (p.13)

These words are extremely convicting and seem impossible to put into action. But keeping them in mind has brought me to repentence often for my envy of others and dissatisfaction with the day God has given me.

Dillow describes contentment as “accepting God’s sovereign control over all of life’s circumstances” (p. 18). She shares a quote from J.I. Packer that says, “Contentment is essentially a matter of accepting from God’s hand what He sends because we know that He is good and therefore it is good.” When I look at it this way, my discontentment is a matter of unbelief. I am refusing to believe the truth: God is sovereign and God is good, and therefore, if my kids are at home driving me insane instead of at mother’s day out, that is what my loving Heavenly Father has for me today. If I’m yelling at them and wishing they’d be quiet so I can go on with my pity party, I am not accepting what the Father has sent. I need to repent and joyfully accept that which He has given. God has decided that the other options (such as a day to myself) were not best–I need to put them out of my mind as well. (I’m describing myself last Thursday, in case you were wondering.)

More to come when I get a chance . . .