By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Thorns in the Flesh July 1, 2010

This summer I’m studying “Loving God with All Your Mind” by Elizabeth George with some wonderful friends of mine.  There are many potential blog posts coming out of this book.  This week, our study provided a fresh look at 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The question asked, “What did Paul ask God to do about [the thorn in his flesh]?”  He pleaded three times for it to be removed.  (Really, just three times?)  The next question asked, “What was God’s response?”  Uh, the answer was a big fat NO.  But there’s more than that.  God’s “no” was that His grace and power were sufficient for Paul as he dealt with this struggle.

There are a few “thorns” in my life right now that I have been pleading with God to remove.  And to be honest, I’ve been a little frustrated that they are still around.  But after studying this passage, I don’t see God being silent about my trials, both self-inflicted and other-inflicted.  I know that if these trials and temptations persist, it is for my good and His glory as He is making me more like Christ.  If that were not the case, He would have removed them.  As I walk through the difficulties, He has promised that His grace is sufficient for each one.

We ask, “Lord, please heal my family member.”

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

We plead, “Lord, please fix my financial difficulties.”

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

We cry, “Lord, please save my unbelieving loved one.”

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

I find Paul’s attitude toward God’s graceful “no” to be very convicting.  As I continue in my difficulties, my attitude should not just be tolerating them and getting through them as quickly as possible so I can move on to something happier.  Following Paul’s example, I am called to be content and even boast in my weaknesses and struggles, because they showcase God’s power and goodness.  What a lofty goal . . . one that I could definitely only attain by God’s power and not my own.

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The 10 Commandments and Christmas December 15, 2008

A few weeks ago, we studied the 10 Commandments in BSF.  Since I have been a Christian for a long time, I am pretty familiar with the 10 Commandments.  I have also studied Jesus’ explanation of some of the commandments in Matthew 5, which points out that these commandments are not just about our external behavior, but also about our heart attitudes.  But this time around, I was even more convicted about different ways in which I break the 10 Commandments, and how meditating on the 10 Commandments at this time of year emphasizes the importance of the work Christ came to do for me.

I would challenge anyone to convince me that they have kept the 10 Commandments.  I’ve certainly broken all of them:  I have put other people and things before God, I have failed to worship God rightly, I have misused His name, I have failed to keep the Sabbath day holy, I have definitely dishonored my father and mother (hello, adolescence!–and beyond), I have hated others, lusted, taken what does not belong to me, lied, and coveted.  Even if you set aside Jesus’ discussion of some of these commandments and take them all purely at face value (e.g., believing that if you have not murdered someone or bowed down to a golden idol, you have not broken those 2 commandments), you have admit–that 10th commandment about not coveting anything that belongs to your neighbor has got you, doesn’t it?

I have heard some Christians say that the 10 Commandments do not apply to us.  They are from the Old Testament, the old covenant–now we are under grace, not under the law.  I disagree.  Jesus said, ““Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).  And so if God requires us to keep the 10 Commandments, and if we all have to admit we haven’t done it, then we have a problem.

However, God, in His goodness and grace, not only gives us His law, but He is the one to remedy the situation when we fail to keep it.  God became man and dwelt among us, not only to teach us and heal us, but to live the perfect life that we could not live.  We cannot keep these commandments; Jesus Christ kept them perfectly, and He bore the punishment for our law-breaking on our behalf.  This truth gives us just one more reason to rejoice this Christmas!  Christ came to die for us, and He also came to live for us, to keep the law perfectly for us.

I think this is also an important point to teach our children.  When they sin, we can remind them of the One who was without sin.  Jesus obeyed His parents perfectly.  Jesus did not sin in His anger.  (I wish the Bible told us that Jesus ate his peas, it would really help me out!)  His perfection qualified Him to pay the penalty for our children’s disobedience, and it is important for them to understand that.  The baby Jesus was born to die for them, and also to live for them.  Their obedience should not be motivated by Santa’s list or by an elf on the shelf (no offense to those of you with elves on your shelves), but by gratitude to God for what He has done for us in Christ Jesus.  O come let us adore Him!


 

Greed November 29, 2007

Filed under: spiritual growth,Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 12:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

Tuesday night at the dinner table, as Noel prayed before the meal, he thanked God for all our material blessings. This isn’t a routine part of our pre-dinner prayer, so in my mind I started wondering if he had found out about a Christmas bonus or a raise or some exciting news like that. Later, as I drove home from BSF, I realized how disgusting and sinful my reaction was. I had been sitting in a beautiful home, filled with furniture, food, clothing, and toys, about to eat one of many meals that could be prepared from our fully-stocked pantry–we have more than we could possibly need. And instead of joining my husband in being grateful for all the ways God has blessed us, I was thinking, “Is there more??”

It gets worse. I thought back on the things that consumed my thoughts during the day. I had contemplated whether or not I would ever own designer jeans, when I might be able to have a set of Lenox Christmas china, and when I might be able to afford a housekeeper. I spent time obsessing over the layers of fat around my stomach and spent too much time and money making sure that if I wasn’t able to look cute, my kids certainly would.

Then I remembered an incident a day or two before when Christopher had some kind of treat and wanted another one, and I admonished him for being greedy. “You need to be thankful that you got a treat–to want more is just being greedy.” And more layers of sinfulness started to peel back in my heart as I saw not only a shocking level of greed in my life, but hypocrisy as well. How will my children ever take my warnings about greed seriously if they see me chasing after more and more in my own life?

It was part of our BSF lecture that night that drew my attention to this particular pattern of sin in my life. In Matthew 9, Matthew gives his own testimony (verse 9). He was a tax collector, which means he was the most corrupt, hated man in town. He was becoming filthy rich by cheating his own people. When he left his tax collector’s booth to follow Jesus, he suffered a massive financial loss. But, as our BSF teaching leader pointed out, Matthew never mentions this material sacrifice. Because his heart had been transformed by Jesus’ amazing grace, it just wasn’t an issue for Matthew.

I am willing to give for Jesus. I’m willing to have less because I’m trying to glorify God with my finances. But I can’t say I don’t think about it. Sometimes I feel like I deserve a medal just for giving God what is His to begin with, and I look down on others who I feel aren’t being as holy as I am in this area, when in reality, I have a lot of work to do. I want to be like Matthew–to be so singularly focused on Christ that the things of this world are of no significance, except in how they can be used for God’s kingdom.

I’ll admit, this entry is not easy for me to post. I’m embarrassed about my thought life, and it would be much easier to keep it between God and me. I’ve thought a lot lately about why I’m keeping this blog. The two primary reasons are for my own growth as I grapple with issues and then go back and read the posts and remind myself of what God has been teaching me, and also as a legacy for my children to see what God was teaching me through them and others. The goal of this blog is to bring glory to God. So if I can be reminded in a few weeks to continue to repent of my greed, and if my children can someday see that I was trying to live with integrity as I taught them to not be greedy, then I’ve accomplished my goal. And if other women reading this are struggling with these same issues and are helped by my making this post public, then I hope God is glorified by that result.