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Martin Luther called it “the default mode of the human heart.”

What is it?



Tim Keller said that religion is just as dangerous as irreligion and the gospel calls us out of both.


Have you ever felt like God is punishing you because you failed Him?

That’s religion.


Have you ever felt that if you would be better about Bible study and being pure, God would love you more?

That’s religion.


Does your prayer life consist nearly exclusively of

requests to control your environment?

Religion again.


This summer we had a week where we saw how Galatians 4 used the story of Hagar and Sarah to illustrate the difference between the religion and the gospel. (If you missed it, you can review it here:

The Enslavement of Non-Gods

But in a nutshell, the birth of Ishmael came about through Sarah and Abraham’s own devices instead of trusting God,

whereas Isaac was “the child of the promise” who was a result of God’s plan.

Religion is a man-made plan to get right with God.

The Gospel is God’s plan to make us right with Him.

We’re going to examine in the next two weeks how we tend to veer into religion so that when we see it,

we can repent, and get back on the gospel track.

Some of these questions are hard, but just be as honest as you can.

This is to help you see into your heart. And we can help one another here, for a man’s heart is like deep dark waters, but a friend of understanding can draw those waters out.

(Proverbs 20:5)









Blog thoughts on God and suffering- plan or allow_



1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

Monday: How are we saved from the wrath of God?

Ron stood behind my kitchen counter and banged his fist on it. “What you have been teaching my wife is not what I’ve heard in church all my life.”

“How is it different, Ron?”

“You told her that all she has to do to go to heaven is to put her trust in what Jesus did at the cross.”

“That’s right.”

He banged his fist again. “She doesn’t have to be good?”

2. What does Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us, and why does God tells us that our good deeds can’t get us into heaven?

3. Do you feel confident of your acceptance before God? If so, why?

Tuesday: Legalism versus the Gospel

4. How would you feel if someone asked you if you were a Christian? Be as honest as you can.



Martin Lloyd-Jones says that if you ask someone if they are a Christian, and they are insulted, you know that they are trusting in works righteousness. But if they say, “Yes! Isn’t it wonderful?” You know they are trusting in God.

5. Have you had any experiences that were enlightening to you when you asked someone if they were a Christian?


Wednesday: Why do you obey God?

6. What is your motivation for:

  • Giving of your finances?


  • Forgiving?


  • Serving?

Thursday: What motivates you to serve God?


7. Which of the above do you think better describes you?

8. What does 1 John 4:18 say and how could this apply to the above?

Friday : How Do You Respond to Criticism?

Prepare your heart with this:


9. Give an example from Job of how his friends seemed to equate suffering with sin. (There are many — so go early and don’t copy others! 🙂 )


After Steve died, I remember thinking, I deserve this. i’m such an idiot. And then I was watching Keller and he said, “When a Christian suffers, God is never punishing him, for IT IS FINISHED.”

I thought, I knew that.

Luther’s right — our default mode is works righteousness, so we must continually speak the truth to our soul that Jesus paid it all.

10. What trial are you facing right now, and how do you pray you will process it?


11. What is your take-a-way and why?


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  1. 8. I read this “there is no fear in love” and then I read 19-20 and it just reminded me that the only way we can really love, to really let go of fear and trust in HIS love is to KNOW that HE LOVED US FIRST. And if we believe that what naturally will happen is that we WILL love others, it is an absolute side effect of being confident in HIS love for us.

    When I am having a hard time loving others I try to look and see what is going on in my heart. It is usually because I am using  the relationship to fill an area of my life that only GOD can fill. I have the capability of being so manipulative. Of trying to get out of relationships with others things that they were never meant to fill. I can only really love others freely when all my fear of HIM not loving me is gone.

  2. I really wish I had time this week to sit & do this week’s study fully & in depth, but rushing to get stuff together for weekend away.   This one is so important to me, and needed.  But I just had to take a few minutes to share something with you all that was too good not to.

    I hear Charles Stanley on the radio from time to time–this week he was addressing pastors & issues.  He shared a story one day about a time when things were very very bad in the church he was pastoring.  Ultimately, a large group ended up leaving.  But after some traumatic events happened, an elderly woman came up to him & said she would like for him to come to visit her, she had something she wanted to show him.  So he went to her apartment.  She sat him down & asked him to look @ a painting on her wall.  It was the painting of Daniel in the lion’s den, on his knees praying, with lions all around him.  She asked him what he saw.  So he told her, “I see Daniel, kneeling & praying, I see the ray of sunlight coming through the prison cell window, I see the lions…”  She said, “Son, what I want you to see is that Daniel has his eyes on God, not on the lions.”  oh that is SO good!!

    Needed that this week, for sure.  And Mary B, love your transparency.  I would bet that most of the women here on this site (including myself) have struggled with the same issue from time to time in their lives.  praying for you!

  3. 9. Give an example from Job of how his friends seemed to equate suffering with sin. (There are many — so go early and don’t copy others! 🙂 )


    As I did a cursory reading of what Job’s friends said of him and began to rethink the gist of what is really going on in the story of Job it stood put to me at the beginning of the book God declared that He had nothing against Job but considered him upright and blameless, a man who feared God and turned away from evil. So the premise that Job’s 3 friends made of him having to have some sin in his life and God was punishing him for that sin was wrong from the start. In his notes on the Bible   Warren Wiersbe says they judged Job to be a hypocrite thinking sin had to be the reason behind his suffering but God rebuked them in chapter 42:7 that they were wrong and He required their repentance. They were addressing what they thought was why Job suffered and that question is never answered in the book of Job but rather the lesson to be learned is how he went through his suffering.  The bottom line is that Job maintained his faith in God even when God was silent and saying even though He slay me I will trust Him. He knew in his heart there was nowhere else to go but to God.

    I’m not sure I answered the question very well but that is the path my reading and thoughts took me down (-:


    It does cause me to think about facing trials and what my responses have been and what they need to be. The old beating ourselves up for our trials is a lie from the devil.  Unless we are suffering consequences of out and out known sin suffering is part of living in this broken fallen world.  But we have the promises of God to carry us through. Right now my trials  are comparatively small to others but I find  myself coming back to the Word.  God brings me great comfort in the Scripture. I am finding the truth of the Word that I have hid in my heart often rescues me from the lies when I am struggling, hurting, afraid and not sure where to turn.

  4. 10. What trial are you facing right now, and how do you pray you will process it? 

    I have told our story for the most part on this blog for years. I won’t bore you with the details. Sarah, our daughter, continues to be the lead in a drama that unfolds daily. I guess the ultimate goal would be to see her repent and move toward God, but I really don’t see it happening any time soon. Maybe He will put someone in her life to remind her that she is His and then she will come back home (to Him). Meanwhile, my husband and I struggle with guardianship of two adorable, well behaved grandchildren (2 and 8 mo). We are feeling old and, to be honest, really wish we could spend time just the two of us at this time in our lives. God has other plans for us it seems! They are keeping us young….

  5. Dear Laura, blessings on u & your husband as you take on this big job that the Lord has given you…at least for now. May He give you the endurance & grace & joy that will be your strength! Praying for Sarah’s heart to turn towards her loving God, like the prodigal son.

    My take away this week, is to remind my soul that Jesus did it all & “It is Finished”! To serve Him with grateful joy, & to obey Him in order to bring Him delight, & to become more like Him. Only the Holy Spirit can do this in me. I am very emotional & so my challenge is not to base my faith or decisions on my feelings, but on Jesus alone & His unchanging nature & His love. To trust Him, no matter what is going on in my life. He is bigger!  🙂

  6. Prepare your heart with this:
    One of my favorite songs. “In Christ Alone”-all other hopes are futile.
    9. Give an example from Job of how his friends seemed to equate suffering with sin. (There are many — so go early and don’t copy others! 🙂 )
    Eliphaz “Think now,” he says, “who that was innocent ever perished? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow iniquity and sow trouble reap the same” (Job 4:7-8)
    Bildad “See, God will not reject a blameless person nor take the hand of evildoers”  (Job 8:20).
     Zophar “If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, do not let wickedness reside in your tents. Surely then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be secure, and will not fear.…Your life will be brighter than the noonday” (Job 11:14-15, 17).
    It seems like too often, we start being suspicious of our friends and think they have hidden sin if after a long time they are still suffering or their pain is relentless.
    After Steve died, I remember thinking, I deserve this. i’m such an idiot. And then I was watching Keller and he said, “When a Christian suffers, God is never punishing him, for IT IS FINISHED.”
    I thought, I knew that.
    I knew this too, Dee. In Christ alone.
    Luther’s right — our default mode is works righteousness, so we must continually speak the truth to our soul that Jesus paid it all.
    Being in the Word is so crucial to remind us of the truth-much, much more when we default into works.
    10. What trial are you facing right now, and how do you pray you will process it?
    I am presently struggling with low back pain which is hindering me from giving my best to my students in the clinical area. I am asking God why He has put me in this position of influence and yet not able to give it my 100%. A thorn in the flesh to keep me humble? A Job experience through a direct hit from Satan? I struggle but I have seen him provide-like having a good nurse-teacher-substitute, good doctor and favorable encounters with other health care professionals, strength for the day, an understanding husband. And His promises that He would never leave me nor forsake me.

    1. Oh dear Bing, I pray that your back pain will be healed! Thank God for all His blessings to you tho & your humility & grace.  <3

  7. Saturday:
    11. What is your take-a-way and why?
    The questions that you have here, Dee are very probing and made me think about how I respond to suffering. Facing my thoughts and putting it against the grid of Scripture and the real life experiences of dear women here is hard. I want easy fixes and a “reward” for my good works while still here on earth. But I know as long as we are here on earth, trials will come. I need to trust God for His promises and stand on them.
    I found this commentary on Job and the last 2 paragraphs really spoke to me. A little bit lengthy.
    The book of Job demands that we see ourselves in the faces of Job’s friends. We too — presumably — know right from wrong, and have some sense of God’s ways. But we do not know all of God’s ways as they apply in all times and places. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).God’s ways are often a mystery beyond our understanding. Is it possible that we also are guilty of ignorant judgments against our friends and co-workers?
    But it doesn’t have to be friends who accuse us. Unlike Job, most of us are quite ready to accuse ourselves. Anyone who has tasted failure has likely pondered, “What have I done to deserve this?” It’s natural, and not altogether incorrect. Sometimes out of sheer laziness, bad data or incompetence, we make poor decisions that cause us to fail at work. However, not all failures are the direct result of our own shortcomings. Many are the result of circumstances outside our control. Workplaces are complex, with many factors competing for our attention, many ambiguous situations, and many decisions where the outcomes are impossible to predict. How do we know whether we are following God’s ways all the time? How could we or anyone genuinely know whether our successes and failures are due to our own actions or to factors beyond our control? How could an outsider judge the rightness of our actions without knowing the intimate details of our situations? Indeed, how could we even judge ourselves, give the limits of our own knowledge?

  8. 3. Do you feel confident of your acceptance before God? If so, why?

    Mostly, yes, I do feel confident of His acceptance of me–in my head, I fully know this is true. My emotions can sometimes falter though–on a “bad” day when my words have been too many and foolishly chosen–I do initially feel like I’ve disappointed Him and am less lovable in His eyes. But then I turn from that inward-looking place to acknowledging that yes, my sin grieves Him, and I grieve it too and sense my depravity before Him. And then I feel the overwhelming grace of His love, in spite of my sin, flood me.

    4. How would you feel if someone asked you if you were a Christian? Be as honest as you can.

    When I read this now, I think it would excite me! I realize I am naive as I have never been in a situation of true persecution, but I do feel confident of the Lord’s protection over me in that moment. I can’t imagine denying Him–and yet, even in saying that, I realize how often I do deny Him when I choose to seek my own glory of His.

    6. What is your motivation for:

    Giving of your finances? It’s not usually hard (emotionally) for me to give of our finances to something we believe in supporting–much harder to pay for a broken washing machine or new car motor! But I think that is key too, because either way, I am acting as though I am the owner. I remind myself even then, the money IS God’s. It is His to decide how to spend it, I am only a steward. I’m thankful my husband has always been very generous with giving–from our years in a 1 room apartment, to now. We have been blessed in giving generously. Still, for me, whenever I see a question like this, in acknowledging that giving of money isn’t as difficult for me–I admit I do struggle with giving of my time, which can be harder to give than money sometimes.

    Forgiving? Now that’s the harder one for me! I am currently in a situation, very hard to forgive, mostly because the offender says they have done no wrong. The truth, it seems, will never be discussed and I don’t know how we can have healing without truth. Yet I know my motivation to forgive cannot rely on their actions, but only on my own need of grace and what Christ did for me on the Cross–and then I think ‘who am I to not forgive?’. Still–there is a brokenness, a lack of healing–so I think it is sometimes not possible to have the full joy found in forgiveness when there has been repentance, but there is at least a releasing of bitterness and vengefulness in my heart. Not sure how clear any of that was!

    Serving? What motivates you to serve God? The question of motives is always tricky for me! My motives are always tainted. I really enjoying serving in most capacities–volunteering, etc…and I’m sure in those cases there is always a percent that is my own self-righteousness at work. The challenge is how I act when I see the 25th dirty bowl on the counter that couldn’t make it’s way all the way to the sink, and I am asked to serve my family with grace and a good attitude! Those are the moments I most need to remember He sees me, and to wash the dishes without a whiny attitude pleases Him.

    7. Which of the above do you think better describes you?

    Well, I am definitely still growing, but by His grace, less and less I think I am motivated by fear and insecurity. There are still times I fall back into especially wanting to please or gain approval of man, but at the same time, my desire to express my deep love and gratitude to the Lord is strong, and I am thankful for how He graciously is more and more making my full dependence for approval, for security, for love and acceptance–on Christ alone. I am currently is a “situation” where I know my name has not been safe with a few people in my life, and things have been said about me that are not true, and not kind. If I go the path of wanting to make things right & set the record straight–oh, in this case, it seems an insurmountable feat. So I can either fester in frustration or–what I trying to do, is rest in the truth that my God, my Savior, knows all things and sees all things, and He knows what is true. Even though I don’t believe the truth of this situation will come out on this side, I can know He is still my Defender and Protector.

    8. What does 1 John 4:18 say and how could this apply to the above? 

    “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”

    The more I apply the Gospel to my heart, and let His love for me fill my deepest wounds, the more I can live out of a place of being whole, complete, in Him. There is no longer then an aching need for others’ approval or man’s praise. I am not living in fear of God’s judgment or wrath. I can live freely–knowing I am fully, deeply loved and owned by God. “whoever fears has not been perfected in love”–is convicting. When I fear man’s approval, I am not living out of a place that is assured of God’s love for me. It’s a red-flag that my functional security is mis-placed.

  9. 7. Which of the above do you think better describes you?


    I see a bit of both in myself. I have recently had a conversation with God that went like this, Lord, I can be so selfish with my time, yet remembering times when I felt the most happy and had a sense of purpose was when I was helping others, not when I am being self-centered. I do believe that serving others, and we each have our own ways and people in our lives to serve, is part of those good works that God prepared in advance for us to do. Maybe this is one of God’s good gifts to us to bring us a sense of joy and fulfillment in our lives. And then, there are times when I know I’m being selfish and my comfort idol is thriving, and I fear God’s punishment for it, or at least that He is not pleased with me.


    8. What does 1 John 4:18 say and how could this apply to the above?


    There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect (or mature) in love. What is catching my eye today is “love” and “perfect love”. The only one who demonstrates perfect love is God. This is telling me that when I am believing and trusting and secure in His perfect love for me, I have absolutely no reason to be afraid of God (not talking about the healthy fear/respect/awe of God) in the sense of what is God going to do to me when I mess up? Fear has to do with worrying about being punished and rejected. If I am afraid of what God is going to do to me, I am still behaving as one who is immature. It is immature for me to think that I’d better be busy about serving and helping so that God won’t punish me.

  10. 9. Give an example from Job of how his friends seemed to equate suffering with sin.


    Job’s friend Zophar said, “Yet if you devote your heart to Him and stretch out your hands to Him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear.” He seems to be saying that Job needs to get rid of the sin in his life and get his heart right with God.


    10. What trial are you facing right now, and how do you pray you will process it?


    OH. I pray that I will process it right and not look at God and ask WHY and not feel that He is doing it on purpose to hurt me.


    11. What is your take-away and why?


    I didn’t realize that much of my mindset is based on legalism and works-righteousness and not resting in His love and grace. I do believe that this is what Satan works so hard on, to get us to not really believe that God loves us, because the fall out from that lie is huge and affects every aspect of our lives. I just struggle with it so. Yesterday my son who lives in TX called his sister to talk to her, for which I am happy, and when she asked him if he wanted to talk to me he said no. That hurts my feelings. I don’t want to feel insecure in the love that my own son has for me and then, I struggle with really believing that God loves me. When people here make you feel like you’re not worthy of their time, or are un-lovable for whatever reason, it’s hard to believe that God loves so unconditionally.