By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Whose clothes are you wearing? March 29, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 12:48 pm
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In last week’s BSF lesson, we read Matthew 22:1-14, the parable of the wedding feast. In this parable, Jesus is comparing the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast. The king (God) invites many to this royal event, but they are too busy with other concerns to attend, and even kill the servants who came with the invitation. The king then invites others who fill the banquet hall. Then one man shows up without the proper wedding garment and is thrown into the outer darkness.

If you read this passage without the larger context of the rest of Scripture, it may sound as though God invites people to the wedding, and if you can’t manage to get the right clothes on, you will be cast out. However, our lesson pointed us to other relevant passages of Scripture:

Isaiah 64:6

We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.

Isaiah 61:10

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness.

The first verse tells us that our best deeds are only like a polluted garment, or as the NIV says, like filthy rags. But the second verse shows us how we get the proper wedding garment–from God Himself, who clothes us with the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness.

How do we get this garment of salvation from God? How can filthy rags be exchanged for a robe of righteousness? 1 Peter 2:24 tells us “He [Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” And Philippians 3:8b-9 says, “in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

Christ wore our filthy rags on the cross. And God takes Christ’s robe of righteousness and puts it on us. My own fanciest wedding garment cannot get me into the kingdom of heaven. God requires a robe of righteousness, and He supplies it in Christ. If you are in Christ, when God looks at you, He does not see your own record of good deeds and bad. He sees Christ’s perfection, Christ’s righteousness.

So the question is: Whose clothes are you wearing? It is a question I am asking myself and that I need to be asking my kids as they grow in faith. Are we living as though we have been given a garment of salvation, living in obedience out of gratitude to God? Or do we think we can keep wearing our own clothes, working as hard as we can to keep them clean and hoping it will be good enough? I think this distinction is crucial to my kids’ understanding of the Gospel. I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone on how to make sure our kids understand this important truth.

From one of my favorite hymns, “How Much I Owe,” words by Robert Murray McCheyne:

When I stand before the throne, dressed in beauty not my own,

when I see Thee as Thou art, love Thee with unsinning heart,

then, Lord shall I fully know, not ’til then how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me, wakened up from wrath to flee,

hidden in the Savior’s side, by the Spirit sanctified,

then, Lord shall I full know, not ’til then how much I owe.


The Resurrection March 26, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth,Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 7:27 pm
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This post is a little late in getting written, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Resurrection of Christ. I often think about the Cross, but before last week, I hadn’t spent much time thinking about how different my life would be if Christ hadn’t risen from the dead. What if my college professors were right, and the Resurrection is just a metaphor, an encouraging story about the peace and joy God brings to our lives? What if Christ did not literally die, lie in a tomb for three days, and then rise again and appear to the disciples before ascending into Heaven?

If there is no Resurrection, there is no eternal life. There is eternity, for our souls will last forever, but not eternity with God. As my pastor said on Sunday, without the Resurrection, there is only eternal grief.

If there is no Resurrection, this world is all we have. There are no treasures in Heaven, nothing beyond what we can store up for ourselves in this life. So I better focus on making this life as good as it can be.

If there is no Resurrection, this world is a chaotic, depressing, fallen place without any hope that God has won over sin, evil, and death. You live, try to avoid as much pain as possible, and then die.

If there is no Resurrection, then Christians are to be pitied, because we are following a dead guy, a prophet who spoke inspiring words but was powerless at the hand of human soldiers.

Praise God that the Resurrection is a reality! God has conquered sin, evil, and death. As my kids’ Jesus Storybook Bible says, God is making everything sad, even death, untrue. While we still live in a fallen world, we have hope. God is in control, He has already won, and those who are in Christ will spend eternity with Him.

If the Resurrection is true, how should I respond? It proves that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, and therefore deserving of my faith, praise, and devotion. It compels me to have an eternal perspective, knowing that this world is not my true home. It should instill unending gratitude that Christ bore the punishment for all my sin and conquered death and hell for me.

One of my favorite songs from our church in Indianapolis describes the impact of the Resurrection so well. Please spend time reading the words and/or click here to listen (wait for it to load and then click play):

Praise the Savior now and ever; praise him, all beneath the skies;
Prostrate lying suffʹring, dying on the cross, a sacrifice.
Victʹry gaining, life obtaining, now in glory he doth rise.

Manʹs work faileth, Christʹs availeth; he is all our righteousness;
He, our Savior, has forever set us free from dire distress.
Through his merit we inherit light and peace and happiness.

Sinʹs bond severed, weʹre delivered; Christ has bruised the serpentʹs head;

Death no longer is the stronger, hell itself is captive led.
Christ has risen from deathʹs prison; oʹer the tomb he light has shed.

For his favor, praise forever unto God the Father sing;
Praise the Savior, praise him ever, Son of God, our Lord and King.
Praise the Spirit; through Christʹs merit he doth us salvation bring.

(Copyright Cardiphonia Music and Laura Bradham)


Obedience March 9, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 8:27 pm

Disclaimer: This post is about my being obedient to what God is calling me to do for my children’s education. I do not mean to imply that everyone else should make the same decision that we are with regard to schools. Even if you live near me and are weighing the same options, I do not know what God is calling you to do or what is best for your family. I do not think it is wrong or unwise or selfish for other families to choose public school for their kids if that is where God calls them to be. In fact, I don’t think it would be good for all Christian families to flee from public schools. So as long as you promise not to take it the wrong way, read on . . .

Ever since Christopher hit the terrible twos, I have been looking forward to kindergarten. I imagined I would not be one of those weepy moms on the first day of kindergarten–I would be the one giving high-fives on the way to my minivan, embracing the well-deserved time I would have during the school day. Over a year ago, I learned about an educational option in our area that threatened that dream . . . a classical Christian academy that operates on the university model, which means the students attend school two days a week and do school at home the other three days. When I first heard about it, I thought, “no way–I am NOT a homeschooling mom!” After talking with other moms and hearing more about it, even before we moved here, I reluctantly prayed (just once) that God would change my heart if this was what He wanted us to do.

As the months passed, I was horrified to see that God did change my heart. I’ve always loved the classical education concept but continued to struggle with the two-day-a-week issue. But I started to see the many advantages of having my kids home those additional days–leisurely mornings, bonding time with their siblings, time for family worship, Scripture memory and the other things we want to teach them, etc. God even brought another family into our lives–now they are our close friends–who live in our neighborhood and are planning to send their children there as well (hooray for carpooling!). But in my flesh, I was not willing to commit.

Last Tuesday, after another “snow” (meaning there’s a little bit on the grass and the roads are a little slick) day at home and a frustrating attempt to teach Christopher handwriting, I sat Noel down for a little chat. Actually, it was more like a tirade. I told him that I needed those 5 days to myself. I’m just not cut out for homeschooling. I don’t know if it is a personality difference or if those moms who can do it are just more godly than me, but I’m in the Word and praying every day and just don’t know what else I can do! Basically, I told him that I knew it is what’s best for our kids, but I didn’t know if I could do it.

Then I went to BSF on Wednesday. (You see where this is going, right?) We were studying Matthew 19, talking about marriage, little children, and the rich young ruler. I settled in for a lecture that would make me feel really good about being married for 9 years and being certain I’ll never be divorced. The first words out of the teaching leader’s mouth were, “God will not tolerate selfishness. He will call you to give up yourself . . .” I’m sure there was more to that sentence, but I can’t remember. That was all it took for me to realize that God intended that message for me and for our school decision. Because I have known for months now what God wants me to do. I just didn’t want to give up something that has become an idol in my life: my time alone to do what I want to do. God is calling me to give that up for a season of my life to help educate my kids.

The rest of the lecture consisted of God making sure I hadn’t missed His message. Our teaching leader talked about bringing children to Christ, and how God will probably ask you to give something up in order to bring children to Him. She talked about the rich young ruler who was following all the rules, but in order to truly follow Christ, he had to give up that which was the most important to him. He wasn’t willing to do it, and he went away sad (and most importantly, without a relationship with Christ which leads to eternal life). I saw how much I am like the rich young ruler–I live a moral, religious life, but I want to hold on to certain aspects of my life and my selfish desires. Then after the lecture, I heard two moms of school-age children talking about how there’s just not time in their day for their family to worship or read the Bible together. By the time it was over, I wanted to shout, “Okay, Lord! I get it!”

So I have decided to obey. I have decided to trust God to provide what I need to follow this call and will ask for continued wisdom to make sure it is the right decision. It still hurts a little to sacrifice some things I want and to do something that most of society will find strange, but there is relief, peace and freedom in obedience.

As I continue to contemplate what happened last week, it occurred to me that I cannot think of another instance where I made a conscious decision to obey God in spite of my own selfish desires–just for the sake of obedience, not out of fear of disappointing others or some other consequence. I’m a little scared that for the past 31 years, I’ve been ignoring what He wants me to do and doing whatever I want to do. I’m enough of a rule-follower that my external behavior looks obedient, but I want to make sure I’m being obedient in the gray areas, the tough decisions, the more private heart matters. I encourage you to examine your heart for areas of disobedience. Ask God to show you areas in your life where you are following your own selfish desires . . . but make sure you’re ready, because if you ask Him, He’ll do it!


More on “Calm My Anxious Heart” March 2, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 11:11 am
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been reading more of Linda Dillow’s book and really liked her chapters on being content with my role and with my relationships. It is so easy to always be looking ahead to a point in time when I think my life will be easier or better–when all my kids are dressing themselves and taking care of their own potty-related needs, when Noel cuts back on his hours, when I start to really love working out and hate eating sweets (yeah, right!). Before I was married, I wanted to be married. When I didn’t have kids, I wanted a baby. And now that I have preschoolers, I want them to go to school (and on my more insane days, I want another baby). I have a tendency to think that surely having a 2-year-old and 4-year-old is about as tough as it gets, and when they get a little older, then I will be able to pull myself together and be the kind of wife, mom, friend and Christian I want to be.

I started to realize the truth of my need to be content with what my role is right now when I had a single girlfriend over for lunch a few weeks ago. I was feeling jealous of her life–her nice clothes and car (the kind that doesn’t seat 8), her important job that brings her into contact with actual adults every single day, all the freedom that she has to do what she wants when she wants. It was the week before Will’s birthday party, and on my kitchen counter was a to-do list full of things, most of which I was dreading. Mop floors, clean bathrooms, dust living room, make treat bags, bake and decorate cake, etc. My friend looked at my to-do list and exclaimed, “I wish I had this to-do list!” I was shocked, but I shouldn’t be. It is so easy to take what we have for granted, to get weighed down by the mundane tasks — to lose sight of what a privilege it is to clean up after these little treasures God has given me and plan their birthday parties and teach them about Jesus.

In a discussion of maturity, Dillow writes: “We grow up when we see our life and our role from God’s perspective . . . when each morning we ask, ‘God, how can I glorify you today in my given role?'” She writes about Christ as an example. His role was to humble Himself, serve others, and give His life as a ransom for many. (See Mark 10:45 and Philippians 2:5-8) My role is to glorify God by serving my husband, my children, and others around me. My role is to mop floors, fix peanut butter sandwiches, change diapers and read books. My role is to train, discipline and teach my sons to love God and each other. My role is to pray for my children and about the decisions we make that impact their lives. I want to be a real grown-up and glorify God in the role He has given me today rather than waiting for Him to give me a more glamorous job.

In Dillow’s chapter on contentment in relationships, she focuses quite a bit on forgiveness. This is a fairly new topic for me, one that I’ve been thinking about more in the last year and realizing that it is something that I struggle with. (See previous post on forgiveness.) This is also a topic that came up in last week’s BSF lesson. I know God is trying to get my attention when He’s teaching me the same thing through two different avenues!

My BSF lesson and part of Dillow’s chapter on relationships examined Matthew 18:21-35, the parable of the unforgiving servant. In this parable, the king forgives his servant’s massive debt (roughly $15 million in today’s terms) and then the servant goes out and refuses to forgive another’s minuscule debt against him. Likewise, in Christ, we have been forgiven for a debt that we could never pay: the penalty for our sin. If we fail to see our need for the Cross, we will view other’s sin against us as great and difficult to forgive. If we have a proper view of our sin and how much we have been forgiven, it will be a natural reaction to forgive the much smaller offenses that others commit against us.

Studying this passage made me realize that if I’m keeping a mental list of the ways my husband has let me down or harboring resentment toward someone who has offended me, it should be a red flag for me that I need to turn my attention back to the seriousness of my own sin against God and grace I have been shown by His forgiveness. When those thoughts of “I’ve been wronged” start to trickle in, I need to consciously turn my thoughts to the Cross. This could really transform some of my relationships where I continue to hold on to past hurts and disappointments.