By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

Unthankfulness July 1, 2009

Do you know how many times my children have opened their dresser drawers and exclaimed, “Clean clothes!  Washed, dried, folded and put in my drawer!  Way to go, Mom!  Thank you!”

Zero.  Usually, all I hear is, “When are you going to wash my Transformer pj’s?”  Sound familiar?

When I read Jerry Bridge’s chapter on Unthankfulness (see previous post on his book Respectable Sins), I realized that I must look the same way to God as my kids do to me.  God has done so much for me and continues to sustain me every day, and I seldom stop to thank Him.  God has rescued me from guilt, sin and death by delivering me from the domain of darkness and transferring me to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom I have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).  He has blessed me in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).  In addition to spiritual blessings, He has given me every ability or skill I have, a loving husband, three healthy children, friends, a home, possessions, food . . . everything I have comes from Him.

How often do I thank God for my mini-van?  For the ability to go to the store when we run low on food?  For the privelege of gathering with other Christians openly every Sunday to hear the Word of God preached?  It is not often that I exhibit a sincere attitude of thankfulness.

I read an article on happiness recently in Good Housekeeping magazine.  It said that when we buy something we want, we have a high level of satisfaction, but only for a very short time.  We quickly become used to having that item around and take it for granted, and our sights turn to the next item we want.  This is so true in my life.  I remember last year, when I desperately wanted to replace the ceiling fan over our dining room table with a beautiful chandelier.  Finally, I got my chandelier, and I loved it.  For about a week, I looked at it all the time and felt happy and thankful.  Now, how often do you think I still notice my beautiful chandelier?  Pretty much never.  Rather than being thankful for what I have, I turn my attention to that sofa I’d like to replace.

Jerry Bridges reminded me in this chapter that my unthankfulness is a sin.  Sound harsh?  It’s true.  In Ephesians 5:20, we see the command to give “thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Bridges writes, “Failure to give Him the thanks due to Him is sin.  It might seem like a benign sin to us because it doesn’t harm anyone else.  But it is an affront and insult to the One who created us and sustains us every second of our lives.”

Bridges also writes about giving thanks in ALL circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  This is a personal challenge for me right now, as someone I love very much is facing a battle with cancer.  I found comfort in Bridges’ discussion of this topic, encouraging us that giving thanks in difficult circumstances can only be done by faith in the promises of God.  We can only obey I Thessalonians 5:18 because we know Romans 8:28 is true:  For we know for those who love God all things work together for good.  In the midst of heartache, we can thank God for the good we know He can accomplish through any circumstance.

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“Calm My Anxious Heart”–Greed April 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 2:20 pm
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I read Linda Dillow’s chapter in “Calm My Anxious Heart” on greed several weeks ago and have been mulling it over in my mind ever since. Several things stood out to me:

  • Everything I have belongs to God. (More on this below.)
  • The main issue is the condition of my heart. Am I content or always wanting more? (See Matthew 6:19-21–where is your treasure?).
  • No one can serve two masters–whom do I serve? Am I so busy taking care of my stuff that I don’t have time to serve God and His church?
  • Possessions are to be used for God’s kingdom, not gripped tightly or adored. What am I holding on to too tightly? Or what daydreams about possessions consume my day? How can I better use what God has given me to serve Him?
  • “God can rid your heart of greed, but it is your responsibility to remove yourself from situations that promote greediness . . . stand in your house and look around. Where does greed have hold of you?” (p. 97) For me, this means throwing out catalogs as soon as I walk in from the mailbox (when does looking through the Pottery Barn catalog ever lead to feelings of contentment?!?), limiting the time I spend browsing through the mall, and being careful about spending time with people who cause me to be tempted in this area.
  • “Listen to your heart. Listen to your words. Look at your actions. Are you teaching your children to be grateful for God’s blessings?” (Sorry, don’t have the page number for this, and my book is currently in Europe. I wish I was with it.)

The most striking thing for me in this chapter was when she talked about everything we have belonging to God, and therefore, the question is not “how much will I give?” but “how much should I keep?” If I adopt this “How much should I keep?” attitude, it radically transforms how I view my finances. Back when we were barely making it financially, prioritizing our spending was easy–pay taxes, 10% to God, keep the rest to pay our bills, thank you very much. But now that there is more than what we need for the bare necessities of food, clothes and shelter, things seem so much more complicated.

What does God want me to keep His money for, and what does He want me to do without so I can keep less and give more? Does He want me to keep enough for a new car or an old one? Does He want me to keep His money so my kids can have clothes from children’s boutiques or Target? Does God want me to use some of His money for an XM radio subscription so I can listen to commercial-free 80’s music? (I had totally rationalized the relatively small XM radio expense until I thought about it this way.)

Now that I think about it, it isn’t complicated. I just don’t like the answer. It seems clear to me that God wants me to use some of His money to provide what our family needs, to create special memories with our kids, and for Noel and I having time alone together to strengthen our marriage. I hope God doesn’t mind my spending His money on the safest minivan money can buy (but He probably doesn’t need the sunroof), and I hope that someday He’ll let me keep enough to pay someone to clean my house (if I use the time to glorify Him by serving others and/or educating my kids).

But God probably doesn’t want me wasting His money on things that only glorify me, and that is where most of it goes. He isn’t concerned with what others think of my home decor, my purse, my clothes or my shoes. He doesn’t care if my kids have real crocs or generic ones. (I’m embarrassed to admit that I do care and went to great lengths to buy generics that look the most like the real ones. Kid shoes!! What am I thinking?!?) He’d probably like for me to realize how much eating out is an idol for me and how I shouldn’t be so lazy that I spend His money on Chick-Fil-A anytime I don’t feel like making a sandwich.

A disclaimer in case you’re still reading . . . I don’t think there is anything inherently sinful about children’s boutiques, crocs, new cars (in the interest of full disclosure, I drive a 2008 Odyssey with sunroof), Chick-Fil-A, or XM radio. It’s just that greed is an area in which the Holy Spirit is relentlessly working on me, and He is convicting me about several areas in which I am wasteful with God’s money. If you are seeking God’s wisdom pertaining to your finances, and He provides the money for you to have an XM radio subscription, you will not receive judgment from me . . . and enjoy singing along to some Chicago for me, will you?

 

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.