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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Being Mindful of God June 19, 2009

Filed under: spiritual growth,Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:44 am
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Our Sunday school class is studying “Respectable Sins” by Jerry Bridges.  I highly recommend it.  His basic premise is that, as Christians, we condemn “big sins” such as adultery or abortion, but we tolerate certain “respectable sins” in our own lives, such as worry, gossip, discontentment, pride, worldliness, etc.

The first so-called respectable sin Bridges discusses is ungodliness, which he defines as “living one’s every day life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or of one’s dependence on God” (p. 54).  He writes, “Let us then seek to be as mindful of [God] as He is of us.”  This was very convicting for me, as I fear all of these chapters will be.  Psalm 139 tells us that God is extremely mindful of us.  He knows our every action, our every thought.  He created every cell in our bodies.  It makes sense that the creature should be just as mindful of the Creator as the Creator is of her.  But looking at my life, I see that I fall short in so many ways.

It is easy to be mindful of God on Sunday or even during the 15 minutes that I may or may not carve out of my day in order to not look stupid this Thursday at Bible study.  It isn’t hard to be mindful of God when life’s crises bring you to your knees and you know you have no answer but Him.  But it is oh so difficult to be mindful of God when my child has disobeyed me for the 300th time and it isn’t even 9:30 a.m.  Or when my three-year-old still won’t use the potty.  Or when the baby is screaming, the boys are fighting, and dinner still needs to be made.  And then hubby calls and says he will be late . . . almost never does mindfulness of God enter into my reaction at that moment!  And what a difference it would make if I were living in those moments with more awareness of God’s presence, His glory, and my dependence on Him.

 

Lessons from Leviticus February 12, 2009

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 6:30 pm
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Leviticus? Seriously?  I never thought I’d write a blog post about Leviticus.  I should have seen it coming when I started the BSF study of the life of Moses, Exodus through Deuteronomy.  (I suppose there is a post on Numbers coming soon.)  I don’t think I’ve ever studied Leviticus, other than a random reference here and there in other Bible studies.  But as always happens with God’s Word, there are great lessons there.  Here are a few that were especially meaningful to me:

In Leviticus 8, we were studying about the consecration of tabernacle and the priests.  Our lesson asked the question, “Is there some area of your life that has not been consecrated (set apart) to the Lord?”  This question was very convicting to me, and I wanted to write, “Is there an area of my life that HAS been consecrated to the Lord?”  But I tried to narrow down some key areas that have not been dedicated to God like they should and came up with my perceived control over my life and the way I spend my time and money.  I’ve been thinking lately about how I can truly consecrate these areas to the Lord.

In Leviticus 10, we read the troubling story of two of Aaron’s sons being burned up by God because they did not follow the commandments He had given them about sacrifices in the tabernacle.   Our lessons often ask us what we learned about God’s character or attributes from the passage.  This chapter showed me how serious disobedience (sin) is in God’s eyes.  We know from elsewhere in Scripture that our sin is deserving of death, and Aaron’s sons got what they deserved.  It showed me how great God’s mercy to me is–I have not gotten what I deserve.  I have done much worse things than what Aaron’s sons did.  And not only has God not burned me up on the spot, He sent His Son to take the punishment for all my sin that I might have eternal life.

In an overview of Leviticus, we read various passages where God gives the Israelites instructions about how to offer the various sacrifices He required.  The lesson talked about how each of the sacrifices cost the worshiper something.  It pointed to 2 Samuel 24:24, where David says he will not offer something to the Lord that cost him nothing.  This was another convicting point for me.  What have I sacrificed to God at a great cost?  I volunteer in the church nursery once every three months, and that costs me very little.  I am also leading the children’s choir, which carries a greater cost, and most of the time I don’t have a great attitude about that cost.  My financial giving should be more sacrificial–am I truly giving something up that I want in order to give sacrificially, or am I giving what is left over?  Contemplating the true meaning of sacrifice has changed my perspective about my service and giving to the Lord.

I also liked Leviticus 19:9-10 where God commands the Israelites not to harvest their fields all the way to the edges or strip their vineyards bare.  They are to leave some for the poor and for travellers.  This made me think about how I use my resources.  When I know we have some extra money coming, I know we will tithe on it, but I usually have the rest of it spent, at least mentally, before it hits the checking account.  And, apart from this commandment, it would be my right to use it as my husband and I decided.  But in this commandment, God is telling His people not to consume all that they have a right to consume.  I think this principle applies to me as well.  I want to be more intentional about leaving some crops  around the edges in a 21st-century sense . . . stashing some away for needs that arise so we are able to meet the needs of others.

 

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!


 

Grumbling November 20, 2008

Filed under: spiritual growth — Marissa Henley @ 4:36 pm
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I am so thankful to be studying the Life of Moses with Bible Study Fellowship this year.  Now that I’ve reached the glorious second trimester, I hope to do more writing about what I’ve learned.  I had been determined not to complain about not feeling well or being tired during this pregnancy, and I have to admit, I’ve done a terrible job.

I felt especially convicted about this and all the other complaining I do when reading about the grumbling the Israelites did after being brought out of slavery in Egypt.  God had just rescued them from horrible oppression and slavery.  He had done mighty works and miracles on their behalf, such as parting an entire sea so they could escape on dry land.  Then they find themselves in the wilderness, their food begins to run out, and they start to grumble.  In the chapters of Exodus that follow the crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites complain to Moses over and over again.

In Exodus 16:8, Moses answers their grumbling:  And Moses said, “When the Lord gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the Lord has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him—what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.”

Ouch.  All my grumbling isn’t against the weather, my kids, my hubby’s job, my circumstances, money, etc., but against the God who made me and redeemed me??  Of course!  For God has given me each and every circumstance:  each evening my husband is delayed at work to teach me reliance on Him, each tantrum of my 2-year-old sent to teach me patience, restrictions on my spending to teach me contentment, cold weather . . . well, I haven’t figured out what that is about, but God is most definitely in control of the weather!

I know contentment is important to God, but this verse shed new light on all the “small” complaining I do each day.  It showed me how much I am like the Israelites–God has done amazing things for me, and I still grumble against Him.  He has given me a beautiful home, and I grumble about cleaning it.  He has given my husband a secure, profitable job, and I grumble that he’s not home at 5:00 each day.  He has given me two beautiful, sweet, healthy kids, and I grumble that they just won’t give me a minute to myself.  My grumbling is a sin against God, and I’m thankful for this verse pointing that out in a fresh way.