By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

We’ve Moved! August 20, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 6:45 am

I’m now blogging HERE.  If you know me, it should be easy to remember:  marissahenley.com.  Please come check it out!

Advertisements
 

Help fund a 6th Seeds Family Worship CD! June 15, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 1:18 pm
Tags: , , ,

As any reader of this blog knows, our family are huge fans of Seeds Family Worship.  Their CD’s of Scripture set to music are so well-done that I often listen to them in the car, even without the kids!  The CD’s set the tone for many of our days at home and have helped myself and my kids memorize more of God’s Word.  I’m starting to wonder if I’m getting a reputation for breaking into song when someone mentions a Scripture reference–sometimes I just can’t help myself!  If you have never ordered a Seeds CD, I recommend that you do so immediately!

Now we all have an opportunity to be part of making a 6th Seeds CD a reality.  The new CD will feature Scripture about the character of Christ–the character we should each be developing as the Holy Spirit makes us more like Christ.  Because the people at Seeds are committed to providing high-quality music, the production cost of this CD is $52,500.  If they raise the funds by July 24, they will produce the CD to be released this fall.  They are offering some fun incentives for those who want to be part of this project.  Check it out by clicking here or on the Seeds widget to the right.

 

A Wake-up Call March 14, 2010

Last week, I had the privilege of hearing a very powerful testimony.  “J” and “E” were visiting my church from the mission field in Turkey.  E is a native of Turkey who is working with J, an American, to reach both Turks and Kurds living in Turkey.  Here’s what I’m sure will be an inadequate synopsis of E’s story:

E grew up in an influential family in Istanbul.  At the age of 12, he felt empty and started searching for truth in the holy books of major world religions.  He started with the Koran.  He then read the Old Testament and the New Testament separately, since he had been taught that Jews believed the Old Testament alone, and Christians believed only the New Testament.  He also explored Buddhism, but none if it seemed right.  Finally, he saw a book titled “The Holy Bible” at a bookstore.  The woman working at the bookstore explained to him that Christians believe the Old and New Testaments together.  So he read them again, this time taking note of all the connections between the two, the prophecies made in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.  At the age of 14, E put his faith in the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ.  At that point in his life, E had never met another Christian.

E was forced to make difficult choices and suffer for his faith.  He was kicked out of his parents’ house as a teenager because of his faith.  He has been imprisoned for telling others about Christ.  E and J are now ministering to the Kurds, a highly discriminated-against group in Turkey.  For awhile, it was illegal to write, speak or listen to anything in the Kurdish language, Kurmanji.  J and E are trying to provide a way for Kurdish Christians to worship in their own language.  They have held one worship service so far, in the storage room of a church whose pastor was willing to let them meet there.  There is no guarantee that they will continue to be able to meet in that storage room.  It is unusual and unexpected for them to receive any help from the Turks in this endeavor.

After E shared his testimony, he had some tough words for us as we sat comfortably in our pews.  He said the church in America is sleeping and needs to wake up.  He said he doesn’t want to have to send his grandchildren over here to evangelize our grandchildren someday.  And he is absolutely right.

In America, we have the awesome privilege of worshipping in our own language, at our choice of a church, and without fear.  We don’t have to watch the door anxiously, waiting for soldiers or the police to appear.  We have beautiful buildings that are kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  We have facilities for Sunday school classes, youth group meetings, basketball games and yoga classes.  We have extensive children’s ministries, music ministries, Vacation Bible Schools, youth programs, college ministries, and on and on.  And yet the church in America is shrinking every day.  Children who are raised in the church are leaving in droves.

Thinking about E’s words, I am more firmly convinced that the American church at large has put its faith in all the wrong things.  We are trusting in our buildings and our programs.  There is nothing wrong with these things.  They can be used for good.  But that is not where our faith should lie, because on their own, they are powerless to change lives.  The power lies in the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  E did not grow up in Sunday school.  No one outlined spiritual laws for him or loved him to Jesus.  Again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these things.  But E’s testimony shows where the true power lies:  in the Gospel of Christ, given to us in the Word of God and made clear to us by the Holy Spirit.

I spend a lot of time worrying about who my kids spend time with now and who they might choose to spend time with when I’m no longer in control of their every waking minute.  I want them at Sunday school, children’s church, Bible study, and Christian schools and preschools.  And E’s testimony didn’t change my mind about that.  But it did remind me that these things are simply tools.  Without God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, these things are powerless to change my children’s hearts.  My own Christian pursuits are also powerless unless I am digging into God’s Word and living by the Spirit.

What are you trusting in:  for yourself, your church, your kids?  Are you attending a church that preaches the Gospel of Christ?  Is His Word preached, or is it an accessory in the worship service?  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16.

 

Who Are You Praying For? March 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:21 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been asking a lot of people questions about prayer lately.  My BSF leader was kind enough to loan me a CD of a talk given by Dr. Chuck Lawless at a recent conference.  Dr. Lawless was speaking on Genesis 18-19 as an illustration of the power of intercessory prayer.  It definitely changed the way I view this passage of Scripture and the importance of intercession for others.

In Genesis 18, Abraham petitions the Lord regarding the righteous in the doomed city of Sodom.  He starts by asking the Lord, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?” (verses 23-24).  The Lord answers, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake” (verse 26).  Abraham continues to ask the Lord, what if there are 45 righteous found there, will He spare the city?  What about if there are 40? 30? 20? 10?  The Lord agrees to spare even a few righteous who might be found in the city.

Then in Genesis 19, we see that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family are living in Sodom.  Before God destroys the city, He sends three angelic visitors who tell Lot to escape the coming destruction:

As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”  But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:15-16)

Lot and his family should have perished.  God, in His mercy, sent the angelic rescuers.  And even still, Lot lingered.  The Scripture doesn’t tell us why he lingered, but obviously he was being drawn in some way by the sin around him.  Maybe it was his material possessions, maybe there were friends he was leaving behind.  Whatever the reason, his lingering should have cost him his life.  But the Lord showed mercy again, and Lot was rescued.

Here’s the part I’ve never noticed before at the end of this passage:

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:29, emphasis added.)

God remembered Abraham.  God remembered Abraham’s pleading on behalf of his nephew.  And God answered by rescuing Lot, both from the consequences of the sin of the city and the consequences of his own sin when he lingered in Sodom.

In his lecture on this passage, Dr. Lawless posed the question:  when do we start praying for others?  Usually, it is when they are already in the midst of a trial or entangled in sin.  In addition to those circumstances, we should be praying before the trial hits, before sin ensnares.  We should especially be praying for our children, that God would seize them and bring them out when they are lingering in sin.

This passage teaches us that intercessory prayer is powerful.  Lot didn’t know it, but he needed a prayer warrior petitioning the Lord on his behalf.  The image of Lot being seized by the angels has been an encouragement to me as I pray for my loved ones.

Who are you praying for?  How well are you fulfilling the weighty responsibility of praying for your spouse, your children, your pastor, your friends?  What a privilege to be used by God in such a powerful way in the lives of those we love.

 

Prayer: The Why February 25, 2010

One of the primary areas I’d like to work on in 2010 is prayer.  At the beginning of the year, God brought the issue of my sub-par prayer life to my attention in various ways.  One was the teaching at our church women’s meeting when the speaker asked, “Do you look forward to praying?”  Uh, no.  It’s humbling and disgusting to admit, but many days I look forward to my favorite tv show or a date with my husband more than I look forward to spending significant time in prayer.

In recent years, as I have become more and more dependent on the Holy Spirit as a mother, prayer has become a greater part of my life.  But my prayer life is mostly informal–short prayers for help, wisdom, patience or self-control during the day.  Or praying for others when God brings them to mind.  That informal prayer life is valuable and important.  But when thinking about looking forward to prayer and reading a chapter on prayer in Donna Otto’s book Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time, I realized that I need to develop a consistent, substantial time for prayer.

Otto writes:  “Fortunately, God is generous, loving, and–most of all–full of grace . . . He does not maintain prayer meters or time clocks . . . But the Lord of our lives deserves homage and our allegiance.  If we are too busy to commune with Him regularly, we are doing a disservice to Him and to ourselves” (p. 237).  She discusses the importance with combining the informal prayer life I’ve described with a formal prayer life:  time set aside for prayer, including adoration, confession, thanksgiving and presenting our requests to God.  This part of my prayer life has been inconsistent at best.

I love how Otto describes this time she spends with God:

Personally, I think of prayer time as a specific opportunity to get down on my knees and subordinate my will to God’s will.  God has a will.  God has a perfect will.  God is sovereign.  And through prayer I try to subordinate my will to His will.  I do that by asking Him to create in me a clean heart, to create in me a sinless heart that is in line with His plan for me and to allow His desires to be my desires (p. 252).

Who wouldn’t want their will to be in line with the will of their good, sovereign Creator?  I know I want that.  But I battle against my sinful nature daily as sleep, worldly desires and my to-do list wage war against setting aside this time with God.  I’ve been talking to other women about prayer and working to improve in this area, so I look forward to sharing more about this topic soon.  In the meantime, I hope you are as convicted and encouraged as I have been to set aside time for prayer.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

Wasted Suffering February 14, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 10:10 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A few weeks ago in BSF, we studied the raising of Lazarus in John 11.  Although the miracle of raising a dead man is powerful, I found the words and actions of Christ prior to going to Bethany just as impactful.  When Jesus receives word that his beloved friend is gravely ill, He replies, “This illness does not lead to death.  It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (verse 4).  Then the Scripture says that Jesus loved Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus very much, so when He heard Lazarus was ill, He stayed where He was for two more days (verses 5-6).  From that tiny word “so,” we must infer that Jesus’ delay (and therefore Lazarus’ death) was somehow for the good of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

In the BSF study notes for this passage, the author writes that in this miracle, God’s glory was revealed in a way that blessed all those who witnessed it.  Of course, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were blessed in a special way, and in a way they would not have experienced if Jesus had come immediately and healed Lazarus before he died.  The same is true of the suffering in our lives.  In every trial, there is a unique blessing for the believer, an opportunty for God to be glorified, and an opportunity for other believers to be encouraged by our response of trusting God even in hardship.  I learned in the BSF notes that suffering can be wasted, or it can be used to glorify God and seek the blessing He will give in that trial.

Shortly after reading this lesson, our entire family was sick.  Nothing serious, but enough to put me out of commission for three days and send us to the pediatrician multiple times in a span of 12 days.  As I lay in bed with body aches and a pounding head, my BSF lesson on wasted suffering came to mind.  Although I knew my sinus infection was a very minor hardship, I realized that not even minor suffering should be wasted.  I started to look for ways that God was blessing our family during our illness.  And God showed me several ways.  I gave thanks to God for the snow and ice that kept my husband home from work, because I never would have made it without him.  I gained renewed compassion for people who are ill.  My appreciation and love for my husband grew as I watched him take care of the kids on his own and spend quality time with them while I was sick.

I can’t tell you I spent those three days smiling toward Heaven, singing praise songs and meditating on God’s goodness.  I did plenty of complaining and feeling sorry for myself and wishing things were different.  Looking back, I can see that the difference between the moments of wasting the suffering and not wasting the suffering was a matter of my focus.  When my eyes were on myself and my misery, I moaned and groaned and complained.  When my eyes were on God and His glory, I could see the ways He was blessing and providing for me and my family.

I don’t share this out of pride.  I don’t think that having a few moments of thankfulness in the midst of a sinus infection is anything to boast about.  But I’m thankful that God provided this small test, an opportunity to apply and reinforce what I’m learning in His Word.  I want God to be glorified by my life, no matter what the circumstances.  I don’t want to waste opportunities to learn more about God’s character and draw closer to my Savior.  Even if that means seeing the good in a really, really runny nose.

 

Goals for 2010 February 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 3:48 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I thought I’d write a bit about my goals for 2010.  Because it’s February, and everyone knows that February is the time when you let everyone know how you’ve already failed at keeping the goals you wrote down in January.  (Even worse, I found a post I wrote in January 2008 (yes, ’08) about my goals for that year, and they are pretty much the same as my goals for this year.  Gulp.)

I recently read a book on organization by a Christian woman named Donna Otto.  The title was compelling–Secrets to Getting More Done in Less Time–and I found many helpful tips inside.  In the book, she urges women to write down their goals, which we’ve all heard before.  But she also urges women to look at their goals regularly after writing them down.  I’ve taken the first step, and I plan to put the goals inside the cover of my prayer notebook, which hopefully I’ll be opening daily (one of my goals).   So this will either go really well or really badly.

Otto suggests 8 areas to help you brainstorm your goals:  intellectual, physical, emotional, financial, social, spiritual, family and career.  Here are some of the goals I wrote down in these areas:

Intellectual–finish 3 non-fiction books (I’ve finished 2 already!)

Physical–exercise 3 times a week

Emotional–display the fruits of the Spirit to Noel and the kids (And apparently, yelling and grumpiness are not fruits of the Spirit.)

Financial–save money in areas of our budget where Noel asks me to do so

Social–have someone over for dinner once a month

Spiritual–spend time daily in God’s Word and develop a more disciplined prayer life

Family–spend time every week working with Will on pre-reading skills

Career–I don’t have one, but in this area, I’ve set the goal of writing a post on this blog every week.  Obviously, this isn’t happening yet!

Other–scrapbook at least one year’s worth of photos, start Sarah Kate’s baby book

Other than reading books to myself and to Will, none of these goals are going too well.  I’m hoping that by making them public to the 8 people who read this blog (hi, Mom!), it will provide some accountability and motivation.  I do feel like these are all areas in which I should be growing and progressing.  I don’t want to look back at this post in 2012 and be struggling with the same issues.  I want to look back on 2010 as the year that I developed a vibrant prayer life, learned huge lessons from God’s Word, applied them to my life, shared them with others, and served my family with joy.  (And if I happened to lose 5-8 pounds and finish a scrapbook along the way, that would be a bonus!)