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SET FREE OF RELIGION!

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

What is it?

RELIGION


 

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

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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)

AND ON THAT NOTE: 

BRAVO SISTERS FOR PLUMBING TOGETHER

ONE OF THE HARDEST QUESTIONS LAST WEEK:

WHAT IS GOD’S ROLE IN SUFFERING?

THERE WERE SO MANY THOUGHTFUL RESPONSES I STARTED

PUTTING THEM IN MY JOURNAL.

I REALLY COULD HAVE JUST KEPT THE WHOLE BLOG.

FOR THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO REVIEW, CONTINUE THE DISCUSSION, OR KEEP THIS ON YOUR COMPUTER — HERE’S A PDF FROM MY JOURNAL:

Blog thoughts on God and suffering- plan or allow_

 

Sunday:

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:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNRFumI2ch0

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?

Saturday:

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

 

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121 comments

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

     

    I think I am way more “religious” than I care to admit 😔. I catch myself and it is very hard to get back on track. I think some of my problem actually has to do with dance (weird, huh??). In ballet, you are always looking in a mirror and tweaking every little, minuscule  imperfection to make your body have the most perfect angle of arm, leg, head…even pinkie finger! Well, that is truly difficult, and it wears on you when you can’t seem to ever get it just right. Do this for 47 years and, well, it could be a problem. This “habit” tends to spill into other areas of your life if you aren’t careful. Perfection. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t speak for others; it’s just been my experience. So, even though I know it’s wrong, my tendency is to want to be perfect in everything, including being a “good” Christian. What does that mean? I should read my bible everyday, I should pray (thanking God first, and not asking for “favors”), I should go to church at least once a week and fellowship with other Christians, I should be part of the church by offering my time and service, etc. Get the picture? My mom used to tell me that I should be careful of offering my time because the church can “suck you in” and you will lose track of your family. I think she meant there is a healthy balance. Perfection. I actually won’t allow mirrors in the studio at our church now and others get upset with me. I tell them they should feel they way their bodies look. They still don’t like it. I also like (?) it now when things get messy in my life, although sometimes enough is enough (like now). I enjoy waiting and watching to see how God will work. I enjoy trying to problem solve the situation (although that can get hairy – there’s a fine line between doing what I need to and letting God do what He needs to as well; at what point do you stop “helping” God?). Sometimes when you pray and pray He doesn’t seem to speak. Then, what do you do? That’s when I need to remember to wait. So hard. That’s the gospel I think? Step out of the way and let God move. Don’t worry if I miss a church service, or can’t sign up for the latest function. He knows my heart. How do we recognize when we steer off the gospel path and how do we quickly get back on? Hopefully we will learn some good technique this week 😇.

    1. That is a wonderful analogy, Laura, and love that you took away the mirrors from the dance group at your church!! 😀  Oh how life-transforming it would be if we could take away some mirrors in our lives and just focus on our love relationship with Christ.

    2. Oh, Laura, you said this so well and I can see myself in this predicament, though I have never been a dancer. How I try and try to do what is right and need to let God move and wait. Thank you for this clear, honest post.

    3. Laura, you’ve done a great job in describing the trap of perfection! You are making progress, “I also like (?) when things get messy in my life, although sometimes enough is enough (like now).”

  2. Laura, I love the way u said “step out of the way & let God move”….soooo hard when we want to rush in & fix or prevent fires!

    What caught my attention was “Religion is a man-made plan to get right with God”;   “the Gospel is God’s plan to make us right with Him”!

    This will be a good study to do cause I think I am all about God’s grace, but I still beat myself up at times when I don’t make the mark, or when I don’t have enough Bible reading time etc….As you said Dee we need constant reminders that its all about Him doing the work, & “it is FINISHED”! What a relief & a comfort. Thank You Lord for Your mercy & kindness & love for us   🙂

  3. Oh goodness.  And I thought last week’s blog was a doozie.  After reading through this, there is a major ‘traffic jam’ and pile up in my brain, soo many thoughts going in all different directions.  This stuff is right down my alley–I grew up in a very legalistic environment & I struggle with it to this day.  I go back & forth, even when I know the truth…Jesus took care of it, all of it, at the cross.  I think also of the times I’ve told my sister, after my mom was throwing verses at her right & left & making sure she felt guilty enough about it, “well, always remember Rom. 8:1–“For now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus“!  And my mom would come back again with another stack of verses, ones talking about how we are held accountable for our actions, and that as believers when you know better you are required to do better, etc etc…”  My siblings & I have dealt with this all our lives.  It’s in every cell of our body.  And so, it’s hard not to lean the other way, even when you know it’s right.

    Along with all of that, is another ‘rotten’ thing that creeps up in our (me, siblings) lives.  I can almost just start crying right now thinking about it, I hate it so much.  Because that was engrained in my life so much, so deeply, I find myself doing the same thing to my own kids!  Not long ago, on my son’s birthday, after he sent a text saying he was on his way to the theatre to see Stephen King’s “IT”, I blasted back with “What! On the lst day of your 37th year, you choose to see that dark, evil movie!” (but, no, I wasn’t finished…)  I added, “I would think that would chase away any little bit of light that God gave you to begin with!”  Of course he didn’t like that, not one bit.  He wrote right back, “And these are the kinds of emails that chase people away!”  Sigh.  Did it again.

    Like Jenny, “Religion is a man-made plan to get right with God, the gospel is God’s plan to make us right with Him” jumped out at me instantly.

    Also, the song “In Christ Alone” is one that I adore.  It speaks to me every single time I hear it.  And the first time I heard it in church, well, it was all I could do to keep from boo-hooing right out loud.

    1. Wendy, have you ever read M Scott Peck’s book, “people of the Lie”? His major premise is that the most evil people are those who use religion to hurt other people and manipulate. It is pretty sobering. I’m not saying anything about your mother, but I know it helped me in getting some clarity with my own mother, who claimed to know Jesus and yet by her words and actions alienated everyone in her life and didn’t help anyone draw closer to Christ. Praying for you as you struggle with this.

    2. I am so glad you are here for this, Wendy!  I’m still a work in progress in this area.  Love this comment of yours, “Jesus took care of it, all of it, at the cross. “

    3. Wendy, as a mom I’ve also fallen into the trap of trying to be the Holy Spirit in my children’s lives, and boy, when they get older, they will call you on it. But I’ve also found that when I truly apologize and admit that I was wrong, it softens their hearts.

  4. 1.  What stood out is that in this blog, we help each other draw out the deep waters. That is a comforting thought, and as we do it here it is a good action.

    Having read through the rest of the questions, I am hoping and looking for more of it to happen this week. It is this depth that drew me to the blog and keeps me coming back. The relationships here, the honesty and support, these are things we’d all like to be getting in our face to face relationships but for whatever reason, aren’t. Maybe it is because in person it is pretty risky.  Thank you, Dee, for modeling openness and acceptance to us all, and encouraging us to dig deep.

    1. Mary B, I love your description of our fellowship here! Yes, things we’d like to be getting face-to-face, but aren’t. This is truly a special place.

  5. Wendy, first of all Hi & welcome! I have a sister Wendy (in Australia with all my family of origin). I’m so sad to hear of how u were beaten over the head with Bible verses & legalistic demands 🙁   I pray that this study brings you deeper healing & that you are set free more & more by His grace!

  6. Sunday:
    1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
    Religion is a man-made plan to get right with God.
    The Gospel is God’s plan to make us right with Him.
    Thank you, Lord that no human work can ever get us to be right with you. Or mankind will be without hope because we will always miss the mark. “Mice in a treadmill”, “burning both ends of the candle”, “digging our own grave”, and living for this world only. What a tragedy!
    Only Jesus, the essence of the Gospel has made us right with God. As Paul said, “thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!”
    Today, Richard, my husband pastor and I shared this new song with our congregation. Take a listen and hear the words speaking of Jesus as our Savior and what He did for us. How great is the love by Meredith Andrews
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhIZlNHpm6U

  7. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why? 
    I think I have probably shared so much already on this blog about how significant this issue has been in my life.  I have been a Christian since I was 5, but for many, many years there was a lot of religion mixed in.  Enough that I perpetually felt like God always had some underlying displeasure/anger towards me and, in return, I felt angry at a God I could never please.  I truly think this is one of the #1 ways the enemy works to keep Believers away from an intimate relationship with God and I think it will be a bit of a struggle for as long as we are in this life…but I’m SOOOO grateful that many years back the Lord put several people in my life who pointed me to God’s relentless grace and love for me, completely independent of my performance.  YEAH!  So, it’s always nice to discuss this topic and in that process hopefully grow deeper and deeper in love with our Lord.

    1. Mary, I believe you’ve described (in how you formerly felt) the turmoil that Martin Luther also felt before he studied Romans and realized that the righteousness came from God….”I perpetually felt like God always had some underlying displeasure/anger towards me and, in return, I felt angry at a God I could never please.” I have felt this way with people in my life, too.

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

    What some of you have shared resonates with me. In my desert I thought that God is aloof and doesn’t care because of my wandering heart and because my circumstances were awful. I thought he was out of patience with me and has forsaken me. Not sensing his presence was my punishment for lacking faith- until I came to Dee’s blog the first time. The truth: In my wandering I was forsaking him yet He rescued me by bringing me here to open my eyes to his longing for me and to his faithfulness even when I am unfaithful.  He melted my heart and helped me turn. I will never forget it.

     

     

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

    That the first two leanings towards religion are more like me than the third one. I thought about how very subtle these tendencies can be, how I need to stay connected to the Vine because in my self I sure do lack wisdom.
    I am glad of the topic and the chance to “see into my heart.”

  10. 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?

    It is by his grace alone we are saved-it is the gift of God and therefore by nothing we have done.  Religion tells us it is by our works we are saved-something we have to do- and it is adding to the Gospel. What stinks about Religion is if we had to do something or keep having to do something to secure God’s love and acceptance then when we stumble or  mess up, which we do every day, we lose it-which is saying Jesus lied, it isn’t finished. When would our good works be enough to attain God’s acceptance? When I was in my desert time that is what I was “living” even though I believed that Jesus plus nothing is everything.

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

      Yes. Because He did it all. Because my heart is deceptive I can, and have, easily weaved in and out of a religious heart though. 🙁 I mean just the depths of my dark heart that he has shown me overwhelm me enough. there is nothing I have done or can do to clean it. It was He who wrapped me in His righteousness so that I am accepted before God. It is He who sealed me with His spirit, and yet I still have my sin nature which can veer into a “religious” heart so easily.

  11. 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?

    Grace is free and unmerited, i can’t earn it, my salvation is not my own doing, it is a gift from God

    Doesn’t that just make your heart well up? 🙂


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

    I do mostly, there have been so many times, so many ebenezers for me, times when he has clearly rescued me, or supernaturally made a way or has let me know that he sees me, those things give me assurance. Also the way his word sometimes comes alive to me, or the way he speaks things to me, like when I go to sleep praying about something hard and I wake in the morning with a new perspective or a verse that brings peace, that I know didn’t come from me.
    When I see darkness and unbelief in me I can doubt, but he keeps reeling me back in. I am so grateful that my adoption doesn’t depend on my emotions.

  12. 2.  It is not our ‘goodness’ that gets us into heaven, but His grace. And it isn’t just a matter of ‘getting to heaven’ like the world thinks. It is a matter of being in right relationship with God. And we couldn’t fix that. He fixed it by His death on the cross. Our choice is to either say, ‘yes, I accept that’, or ‘no, I can do it myself’.

    3.  My head is always confident of acceptance before God because of His reaching down and drawing me to Himself, just like the Bible says. But there are times when the devil showcases my failings and I start to wonder. Then I have to remember that His choosing me in the first place wasn’t based on what I do or don’t do, but on His love and mercy. He knows I need Him every moment as much as I needed Him when I first gave in to Him. I am still a sinner, still saved by grace.

  13. Monday: How are we saved from the wrath of God?
     
    The wrath of God has been satisfied through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. There is no one righteous and Jesus bore all our iniquities that we might be saved from judgment.
    I can just picture Ron. (Smile). Glad someday, if not in this life, I get to meet this wonderful man along with his wife, Debbie.
    1.    What does Ephesians 2:8-9 tell us, and why does God tells us that our good deeds can’t get us into heaven?
     
    Love Keller’s words, “I am accepted, therefore I obey.”
     
    Ephesians says I have been saved by grace, not good works, and through faith in Christ Jesus alone.
    3. Do you feel confident of your acceptance before God? If so, why?
     
    Yes, because His word says so. Some days, though I hear a sound bite from the enemy. At those weak and vulnerable moments, I reach for my Bible and re-read God’s promises and the secure place I have in His kingdom through Jesus.

  14. 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? That we are saved by GRACE and nothing of ourselves, but as a GIFT from God, so that we cannot boast! (cause we certainly would.)
    3. Do you feel confident of your acceptance before God? If so, why?
    Yes, not because I’m some great Christian (because I fall everyday in some way, either word or deed, or thought) but simply because I am trusting Christ’s death on the cross as the payment for me sin so that I can be seen as holy and righteous in God’s sight.

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

     I think I would be happy to have found another Believer.

  16. 6. What is your motivation for:

    Giving of your finances?  when I was a child I gave 10% of whatever I was given because my parents told me it was the right thing to do 😀  Now I give from a place of gratitude for all that the Lord has done for me, how He continues to take care of me, and because I want what I have to be used by Him (I know He can multiply it beyond what it would normally be able to do, just like the five loaves and two fish.)

    Forgiving?  I remind myself that I have so enjoyed being on the receiving end of grace, mercy, and forgiveness for so long (and still do!) from both the Lord and from other Christians He has put in my life that I want to extend that same mercy, grace, and forgiveness to others.

    Serving?  This one is hard for me.  I WANT to serve out of love and gratitude for Him, but sometimes I do it because I feel guilty in the eyes of others if I don’t.  I have sometimes taken on roles that were not right for me at all (and not what God wanted) simply because I was asked and felt a sense of guilt or shame if I didn’t do it.  Not actually from the Lord, but from people and wanting to please them.  Right now I still feel guilty because, at this time in my life, I don’t do very much “serving” aside from praying for others.  Sometimes “religion” rears it’s ugly head in my life/heart/mind in this area.

  17. 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? 
     

    We are saved by grace; grace which is a gift from God. Our works can’t help us get in.

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

    Shaky confidence at best. My life is full of drama most days. Some of the drama is painful (today), and I just can’t believe one person would have such an insane experience here on earth. Especially after our discussion last week and those who think (not sure if I agree yet) He has a hand in all of it. I feel like sometimes I am being “punished” for my behavior with some of the situations. I know there are things I still need to repent for and make right in my life. What if He takes me prior to that happening? Will He be merciful?

    1. Laura, if you are trusting in Jesus’ death on the cross as the full payment for your sin (which I believe you do, because you know Him) then He can take you anytime  and you will be with Him.  A Christian counselor of mine (who helped me so much) used to say,
      “Mary, God is not tit for tat!  When I would say, “I know I’m not in prayer enough, do you think that’s why He…._______” (let this or that happen to me.)  We try to make God look like us (human) we are tit for tat sometimes with each other.  God doesn’t cause (or allow) difficult things in our lives because we did something that displeased Him (or failed to do something that would please Him.)  We live in a VERY fallen world, and Christians are not exempt from the effects of that.  The difference is that we are not in it alone.  Even if you are mad at Him, He loves you and wants you to come to Him, even with that.

      Laura, He loves you SO much.  I think that if we could (while still alive here on earth) be in His presence for just one second we would be overwhelmed with such pure LOVE we would be undone.

  18. Mary E–beautiful.  Laura, I will tell you that even as a Christian “all my life”…there are still days when doubt seeps through my pores.  I know that comes from the devil.  I know that I am a child a God, that my sin was taken care of at the cross, fully, completely–yesterday’s sin, today’s & tomorrow’s.  Maybe I still have those doubts once in a while simply b/c I’m human, and as a human I often find it hard to trust.  I also think some of it stems from what I shared earlier…even this morning, I laid in bed thinking of this study & all those verses in the Bible that I heard growing up (the “shaking finger” kind) were knocking around in my head.  I guess I’m still a work in progress (we all are, until we get to heaven)…and I certainly don’t have it all figured out.  But what Mary said is true.  When we come to him in repentance & ask him to save us & be Lord of our lives, He promises to do that, once and for all eternity.  How many times, since I was I child, I did not believe that, knowing how badly I messed up & praying in bed with the covers pulled up tight over my head, begging God to forgive me & save me once again.  I think, also, that my own insecurity is tied to legalism, and the lack of grace & mercy.  I fight against it.  All the time.

    Mary B, thanx for the book tip.  I’m going to check that one out.  Bless you.  And thanx everyone for your prayers.

  19. Well, I started to TRY to answer “1. What stood out to you from the above and why?” and I could not stop copying & pasting every other line you wrote! I’ll try to narrow down!

    THIS: “Have you ever felt like God is punishing you because you failed Him?”
    and THIS: “Have you ever felt that if you would be better about Bible study and being pure, God would love you more?”
    and THIS: “Does your prayer life consist nearly exclusively of requests to control your environment?”

    But then the HOPE is found here–we will examine “how we tend to veer into religion so that when we see it, we can repent, and get back on the gospel track….” and you will help us see into our heart.

    OH MY HEART. I was thinking yesterday that normally if we’re given a warning, like “speed bump ahead”–you then EXPECT a speed bump ahead. We don’t get to the speed bump and say it isn’t fair or ask why it happened, we expected it. And yet, although I am warned “you will have trials and suffering on earth” I still do not expect it when it comes and I ask God why didn’t He stop it. Or honestly, sometimes I “get” the having trials part, but I want to negotiate for a different one instead! Religion is so ingrained in my thought processes and I SO instinctively go to “what did I do wrong?”, or–“I didn’t do anything wrong!”–and then the Cross comes back to my mind. And the truths that yes, I have done a whole lot “wrong”–but my trials are not because of my wrongs. And what a mercy it is that the Lord’s love for me is independent of my actions. Psalm 103 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love…He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him”

  20. 4.  It is nicer to be asked if I am a Christian rather than what church I go to. Both of those are better than someone saying ‘I know you are religious’. It’s like you said, Dee. Religion is man trying to reach God, while Christianity is God having reached down to us.

    5.  I don’t recall what sparked my sister to say ‘of course I’m a Christian! What do you think, that I am a pagan?’ So many times people sidestep the question if you ask them. Because of that, I tend to ask differently. I will ask, ‘tell me about your relationship with God’, or how did you get to where you are today in your spiritual journey? Maybe I should be more pointed. In any case, it is not easy.

    1. Mary, I like your questions: “Tell me about your relationship with God” or “How did you get to where you are today in your spiritual journey?” It’s an invitation to talk and it expresses curiosity and interest. Years ago when I was at work as a nurse, one of my patients who I had known for about 5 minutes blurted out, “Are you saved?” I did know the Lord then, but her question kind of irritated me! I thought, when you don’t even know someone….I felt sort of ‘accosted’, like she must have been ready to hit me with the ‘Romans Road’ or some other explanation of how to be saved. I’m sure she had good intentions, but that approach, in my opinion, is more of like ambushing someone.

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

     

    These next two weeks are going to be as hard as last week! “Have you ever felt like God is punishing you because you failed Him? That’s religion.” And the next statement, that God would love me more if only I would (fill in the blank)….not be such a screw-up, be a better wife, be less selfish, be more loving…. but I never guessed that when I feel this way, I am caught in the trap of religion.

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

     

    I would say yes. Sometimes I also say that although I have always gone the church, my whole life, it doesn’t mean I have known Jesus. That’s only come to me in the past 10 years or so. That’s the important thing.

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

     

    Salvation is a gift from God; it His grace extended to us. We are saved through faith – but even that faith is not something we have produced in ourselves, it is God’s gift. We are not saved by works, and there won’t be any boasting in heaven of what we have done to get there.

     

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

     

    I can honestly say that when I feel the most confident of my being accepted by Him is when I am endeavoring to draw closer to Him, like when I have been doing the Song of Songs study by Nancy Wolgemuth. She had highlighted a verse in chapter one in which the bride says about Him that He is like a pouch of myrrh lying all night between her breasts. Nancy explained that in those days without showers, you would wear a pouch of myrrh like that all night to refresh yourself, so she’s saying “you refresh me”, and “all night long” is constant abiding. I wake up a lot during the night, and after learning that, when I was awake that night I repeated that verse to myself. It’s when my focus is on Him that my confidence grows.

    However, I am one who has struggled for years with really feeling accepted and secure. I believe in eternal security, I believe in God’s plan as the only way, yet I look at myself and think, “How can you really be saved when you _____?” I look at all my flaws, mistakes, pride, selfishness….I feel like I’m a snail in moving along the path to be more like Him. I often feel guilty because my husband isn’t a believer, and I feel that in our family we don’t live for God. I have really struggled in this area in doubting that I am really saved.

    1. Susan you are such a tender-hearted person and He is so in love with you!  He is crazy about you, dear one, and He feels your pain in living with an unbelieving spouse, and I know that husband sees Him in you, and He will use that and honor it.

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

     

    I might feel a little nervous because I’m afraid of someone asking me a question that I don’t have an answer for, and sometimes (I’ve had this experience) they want to challenge you. At times, certain people in my life have used it to bash me when my behavior doesn’t measure up – I’m held to a standard. Other times, I’m bashed for it because if I speak up about something, I’m seen as being judgmental. It’s like I can’t win.

      1. I like this angle…I’ll try to remember this if it should come up!

      2. Wow, that’s a really good response, Dee!  I can’t remember the source, but there’s a quote that goes something like this: If our thoughts were revealed or made known, we’d deserve hanging. I think that means that yes, our thoughts can be criminal and deserving of the most severe punishment.

    1. Oh Susan–you truly have faced such fires–I can’t imagine being challenged almost daily, and I know even by those who love you. I remember you sharing once though how when you admitted your own sin to your son he was so encouraged by your faith because of it. You are such a beautiful, humble, example of really living out your faith, as imperfect as we are, but remaining steadfast even when you are alone in it. I feel I live in such a “bubble” world–having always worked for churches even…but you truly face persecution, and yet remain faithful. praying for you dear friend!

      1. Thank you Lizzy! I must say that it has gotten better….it’s not a daily occurrence. Sometimes I just wish that I had someone who was “on the same page” with me, so that I could talk about Him and share that part of myself with someone who is the closest to me.

  25. Dee , I love that response but I’m afraid I might not have the courage to say it! I feel like Susan, having been criticized & shot down in flames by my own family members (husband in particular).   It makes me very wary & more inclined to “speak the Gospel without words”. However if a person genuinely wants to know if I am Christian & why, I am ready to say “Yes!” & it’s all by His grace & a free gift. We can never earn it & it has to be God’s way. How we love to come to Him on our own terms & not His, & that’s the hardest part for people to accept. Thanks be to our God that He made the way & we can freely enter in thro Jesus the Door, & then we are safe forever  🙂

    1. Prayers, Jenny!

  26. 6.  Why do I give?  Because it is so fun to see how God supplies our needs over and beyond, and then how He uses our gifts for kingdom growth.  I’d love to be like LeTourneau, giving away 90% and living on 10%.  I think that would be a blast!

    Why do I forgive?  Because I’ve been forgiven, and because it takes the burden off me. But I sometimes really struggle with it. Last week my niece did something that cannot be undone and it really hurt me. When I share the situation with people, it just makes the hurt worse. It is when I remind myself that I can choose to forgive, and that Christ has forgiven me of the same attitude, then the hurt subsides.

    Why do I serve?  This is the one where my sinful self really rears its ugly head. I can start to serve because I feel God asking me to, and it is in my giftedness and I want to please Him. But then it shifts or morphs, and I am looking for praise or to be compensated emotionally for what I did.  Hard for me to fathom that Christ will bring to completion His good work in our lives without ever once having His motives or thoughts move into sin!

  27. Well here I am back to jump into this week’s discussion. We were gone over the weekend and then had houseguests for the last two days so meal prep and extra activities kept me occupied.

    I just finished reading all the 50 some comments so far this week and have been greatly encouraged and blessed by the testimonies and questions  raised.  Hard not to jump in and comment but I wanted to read all and get the bigger picture.

     

    What stood out to me was the truth that “Religion is a man-made plan to get right with God.  The Gospel is God’s plan to make us right with Him.”

    I like several have already shared grew up with an element of legalism  and a works oriented Christianity.  I struggled with my view of God as Father because I felt disapproval much more than mercy and love.  I realize now what a wrong view I had of Him.  Many years ago I read a  little book based on Romans called “How To Be A Christian Without Being Religious”.  That started my thinking toward a greater personal freedom because of Jesus.

    I am looking forward to exploring this topic.

     

     

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

     

    It tells us we are saved by God’s gracious gift and not anything we can do.

    I think He tells us because it is in man’s fallen nature to take pride in doing things. In our sinful flesh we want to exalt ourselves. But because of Jesus all we are is to his credit alone. All glory belongs to Him alone.

     

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

     

    I do now at this point in my life and I am so very grateful. The knowledge of that truth has brought great freedom into my life and walk with God. And in great measure that came about as I began to understand his unconditional love. Studying the Song and reading “He Calls You Beautiful” has been a wonderful affirmation in my life personally of that deep and wonderful pursuing love God has for me.  There was a  time He challenged my doubt of his love for me and when I confessed that doubt as sin against Him and his clear written Word something changed for me. When I accepted that love He gave me a new confidence in my heart that He accepted me. What a wonderful God and Savior He is!!

  29. Tuesday: Legalism versus the Gospel
    1.    How would you feel if someone asked you if you were a Christian? Be as honest as you can.
    I would start thinking why they asked. What have I been lately? A good or bad example? (religion) Then I would be happy in the sense that I am reflecting Christ if I think I was good. (religion). Then I would be sad, if I missed the mark (religion! Again!)
    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.
    Would I really say, yes! Isn’t it wonderful?” I probably would just say, Yes I am. I did not really think of a follow-up conversation to mention Jesus.
    2.    Have you had any experiences that were enlightening to you when you asked someone if they were a Christian?
     
    When they would say, I try. Then, they might not be a Christian? Or confused about works and grace?

  30. 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.

     

    Well I always start thinking about the context of the question and why it might be asked.

    I do see it as a wonderful opportunity to share why I am a Christian and what that means.  That it is about Jesus and my personal relationship to Him and not about being a “good” person.

    My husband and I have an unsaved friend who thinks of us as  “good” people because we don’t react toward hard to get along with people like he does.  He has alot of anger in himself.  We keep trying to help him understand we are not naturally good but that it is because of our personal relationship to Jesus that helps us love others.  My husband has shared with him several times the Gospel and what Jesus did at the Cross to take away our sin. We pray at some point soon God will open his eyes  spiritually.

     

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

     

    A hard one for us is my husband’s twin brother.  My husband has shared the Gospel with him and has asked him about his relationship to Jesus.  His response has always been “I ok”  But that is the end of conversation.  He would say of course I believe in God. But his life gives no evidence of the Lord in it.   It feels more like he thinks his good will outweigh his bad in the end.  We just keep praying.

     

  31. 7.  Serving from insecurity or gratitude?  Gratitude mostly, but as I said in number six, I am prone to have that subtly change over to something that is sin.  Either I start looking for praise or feel prideful, or even resentful of other people.

    8.  1 John 4:18 says there is no fear in love. So if we serve out of fear, we are not serving out of love.  If I am not serving out of gratitude, is it OK to be doing it out of a desire to enhance the relationship? There are times I do something for my husband not out of insecurity or gratitude or fear, but because I know it is good for our marriage.  Is that tainted?

  32. 6. What is your motivation for:

    Giving of your finances?

    My husband has gotten better about increasing the amount we give each year, but it is definitely not the 10% that is spoken of in the Bible 😔. His motivation is whether we have enough money to pay our bills, as to how much we can afford to give. My motivation depends on him. I will say he treats it like a regular bill and has it automatically removed from our account each week, so there is  no waffling on whether we give each week; we are consistent. I remind him that God always provides.

     

    Forgiving?

    I don’t like to be at odds with people, even though I do speak my mind and would like others to do the same. I believe I can handle the truth better than people know. I would rather be told the truth than lied to, and have a consistent view that I will always forgive, it just may take me a long time to get there in some cases. I’m not sure why I always forgive? It’s just who I am? Maybe because my mom was a passive person? Habit? I wish I could say it’s because Jesus wants us to, but I’m not sure that is the reason here. Maybe it’s that it is intrinsic; I know it’s what I should do so I do it?

    Serving?

    I’m fairly certain I serve to receive the “glory” of doing the deed 😔. It doesn’t have to be noted by others though, I can pat myself on the back as well as others! I want people to know they are being thought of, and I have had the experience of being flooded by cards when I was going through surgery and radiation therapy for breast cancer, and know the wonderful feeling it was to receive them day after day. I would like others to have that same feeling, so maybe I’m not just serving myself here?

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

    It depends on the context. If it were someone who knew I claim to be a believer I imagine that I would be wounded and want to know what they had observed in me that made them question my faith. On the flip side I had a stranger ask me once while standing in line at a grocery store, when I replied that I was a Christian she grinned and said sometimes you can just tell…that was really fun.
     
     

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

    The experiences that come to mind are the ones when the persons response made me uneasy, when I felt like they were trusting in the wrong things. 

  34. 6. What is your motivation for:

    Giving of your finances?
    I want to be obedient in this, to assess where my treasure is by giving.
    I can be overly uptight about what I perceive as waste. I have leaned to repent when that anxiety grips me and to trust God to provide.
    One time on Midday Connection I heard “never suppress a generous impulse” I took that to heart, I try to give when the Spirit leads.
    I started giving to my local church out of my bill pay service on my checking account. So I no longer put an envelope in the offering. This has been a heart check for me. No one sees me giving 😮
     
    Forgiving?
    All sin is against God, my life stories have forced me to really cling to this. It helps me not to harbor thoughts of revenge. Sometimes I say things, when in conversation with a group, that I realize as I say them that I have wounded my husband. I wonder when that happens if I have completely forgiven him. So I pray that God will make it plain to me what work I need to do in this area. I hate it when I have wounded him.
    I want to control my tongue.
     
     
    Serving?
    This is harder, I do get joy out of being useful, but I also see my approval needs being met in it.
    I find more often a need for repentance in my heart response to serving, both in my fear of negative feedback and my hope of pleasing people rather that my focus being out of my gratitude, pleasing God.

  35. 6. What is your motivation for:

    Giving of your finances?

    I would say partly out of obedience to God’s Word but also because it feels like the right thing to do especially in giving to our own local church to support God’s work. Pastors & staff need to be paid and the physical needs of the church have to be cared for. We also give regularly to some missionaries and occasionally to other needs as God leads us. I feel my heart’s attitude toward giving is what is important because the Bible says God loves a cheerful giver. If I begrudge giving I might as well keep my money.  The important thing is never how much I give because God honors the widows mite every bit as much as any larger amount given. Also giving should be a private matter  not letting the right hand know what the left hand is doing. Giving is a private matter between me and God and He is  my motivation.

    Forgiving? 

    This one is huge and often I think is misapplied. Forgiveness is not about making nice.  It can be so hard to do.  It would seem to  me that feelings are often tied to our reason for forgiving or not forgiving someone.  We either just can’t get past what they have done and it becomes about our hurt or we just want to feel better and be set free from our hurt.  I think sometimes it just has to be a step of faith claiming what Jesus did at the cross to forgive another where  I choose not to hold their offense against them. Christ makes it clear we are to forgive like we have been forgiven.  He is the ultimate example.  What He did by dying on the Cross sets the standard.  Jesus Himself has to be my motivation because I wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

    Serving?

    This one has been a challenge for me personally. Some ways of serving are just simply easier than others.  It feels more natural to “take care of” family and their needs but giving of myself to do for others and put others first isn’t natural to me.  I am not the first one to jump up and help.  I don’t immediately see the need and go address it.  When my husband volunteered “us” to make the coffee at church every Sunday a few years back I was not a happy camper cheerfully going back to the kitchen  every Sunday morning to fix and set up the coffee and then get to clean up everything afterwards. I’m the one who wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus like Mary but I became like Martha complaining in my heart that I was being kept too busy with the preparations. Finally the Lord challenged my attitude and  showed me that I needed to find joy in serving others and I could do that by letting Him lead me.  I found He began to lead others with needy hearts into that kitchen who I could love on and listen to and He wanted me to practice grace. But none of that came naturally to me.   So when He became my motivation to serve my heart began to change and find joy in serving others.

    1. I love your story about the coffee preparation, Bev, and how He became your motivation and showed you how it could be used to love on others.

  36. 7. Which of the above do you think better describes you? By the grace of God, the second (the gospel) mostly describes me now, but the first (legalism) was mostly what described me for many, many years.  I knew the Lord, and I did love Him and knew that salvation was “by grace, through faith…” and yet I lived as if it all depended on me to earn His love and favor.  When you believe that it does two things:  1.  Makes you feel like He is mad at you when you fail and 2.  Makes you think He owes you when you feel you are doing well.  The truth is, for the Believer, He is madly in love with us no matter what we say, do, think, or feel and we owe HIM everything! I’m definitely not saying that I never fall back into that legalistic mindset, but praise the Lord, my who heart and mind has been transformed so those lapses back into legalism are usually short-lived.
    8. What does 1 John 4:18 say and how could this apply to the above?  That when we fear punishment for not doing everything right, following the letter of the law, we are not perfected in His love because we are fearing punishment, essentially, and as Believers we do not need to fear punishment. It applies to the above because we don’t need to follow a list of rules to gain or earn His love and acceptance.  We already have both.  We are as fully loved and accepted by Him and His own Son, Jesus is.  That is a very hard thought to fathom, but it’s amazingly true.  We face no punishment for sin because that has been paid for and is finished.  We can REST in his love (something I think the enemy fears most, for that is what non-Christians will be most attracted to, not legalism!)
     

  37. 9.  Job’s friends said that suffering proved sin, as in 22:4-5 is it for your piety that he rebukes you and brings charges against you? Is not your wickedness great? Are not your sins endless?

    even the disciples believed this kind of thinking, John 9:2 his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” But Jesus said it was not sin, but was an opportunity to glorify God.

    much easier to be on the outside looking in on both of these pictures. Terribly hard to be on the inside, as so many of our dear sisters have been sharing with us. And hard to see how God gets any glory from it when it is happening to us and seems to go on forever.

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

    Being honest, I’m probably a little bit of both. I’m not scared in the true sense of the word, just maybe that I don’t always make the right decisions in my life situations. When that happens, I am afraid that I chose wrong and the consequences will be more painful than if I had followed His Word (better), not involved myself more than God, and made the correct choice.

     

    I am grateful that Jesus paid the price for my sins, however I don’t think I really think about that enough in my day to day activities. I don’t know if I make choices in every day life based on this either. It isn’t a consciousness in the forefront of my thoughts. Maybe when I am able to “do the right thing” it’s because I want to please Him, but I’m not really sure.

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

    There is no fear in love. Fear is about punishment, and that doesn’t agree with perfect love.

     

    I suppose that having a love for Christ and He a love for me, means that we are in agreement with Him and should not have fear in our life situations. He will handle them for us (no fear) and because we love Him and He loves us, we are relieved from the stress of the situations.

     

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

     

    I can’t think of an example that stands out. I guess I usually don’t make the first move to ask someone.

     

    6. What is your motivation for:

    Giving of your finances?

     

    There have been times when I’ve just felt prompted to give, and I’d like to believe it was the Holy Spirit, because the best times of giving were done in secret. Not too long ago I was talking to a patient about home care who told me she couldn’t go home because her electricity had been turned off because she couldn’t pay her bill. I reported this to the care manager, who consulted social work. But, I called the electric company and asked if I could give them a name/address and if they could tell me how much was owed and could I pay it? They said that people do this all the time. Unfortunately, the amount she owed was more than I had expected, but I gave $100 to help. Once, in my old job, I talked to a man who, because of his health, hadn’t been able to work and he expressed fears of not being able to support his family. It was before Christmas, and so I anonymously sent him a card with a Visa gift card in it. It’s that kind of giving that makes me feel secretly happy inside. It’s just between me and God.

    On the negative side,  because of my own sin, I know that I can buy something for myself or one of my children and not bat an eye at the price, but then I carefully consider how much can I give in my offering, or to the local homeless shelter. That’s a heart problem.

     

    Forgiving?

     

    My motivation is that I know how much I’ve been forgiven, so how can I refuse to forgive? But, although I know this is the truth and the right reason, it can be hard to do. Bev brought up that our emotions are often involved. Being at odds with someone is uncomfortable, so I might just want to make things right, and often there is an approval/affirmation idol at work because I don’t want to lose that and I fear rejection. Sometimes I think I have forgiven someone, yet when I get around them I feel a dislike for them, depending on what they did.

     

    Serving?

     

    Serving is pretty easy when you love what you’re doing and the people you’re doing it for. Here’s an example, though, and I learned this from the Song of Songs study by Nancy Wolgemuth…..she refers to the passage where the bride says “My mother’s sons were angry with me; they MADE me work in the vineyards.” She said we can serve out of that attitude – it’s a duty, a compulsion, we feel stuck, and the evidence is complaining, resenting. Or, we can serve under love’s delights. She said that the cure for this isn’t more “ME TIME”, but to seek Him. My parents can’t clean their place, and so my one sister and I have shared the duties, though last month my dad hired a cleaning lady to come in every 2 weeks because my sister is having a hip replacement this month and won’t be able to help anymore. My other sister works full time and therefore never really helped with the cleaning duties. There were times when I’d be over there scrubbing the toilets and mumbling and complaining to myself about how she never has to help….I could have quite a conversation with myself about it. When I heard Nancy’s teaching, I thought, that’s me. I find it can be hard to not at least want to be selfish with my time….comfort idol. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not serving God in a “big way”….when I listen to Christian radio it seems a lot of people have some kind of “ministry” doing something.

     

     

    1. Oh Susan!  Scrubbing your parent’s toilets is serving God in a “big way”!! Remember it was Jesus who washed all those dirty feet.

      God bless you!

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

    In my earlier years legalism was my motivation.  I looked for security in following rules.  Legalism was black and white in it’s dogma and gave answers which offered a false security.  But it couldn’t deal with my sin and insecurity reigned  instead.  Legalism is a task master.   I just couldn’t be good enough and it didn’t meet my heart’s need.

    The Gospel on the other hand took care of my sin and magnified Jesus in my life. I found freedom in my spirit because of the Cross when I truly understood what Jesus had done there.  Freedom brings a joy to life that can’t be explained.  Part of that is the unconditional love that comes from the Lord.  There is a wonderful security in being loved by Him.

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

    Oh! OK I guess I started answering this before I read

    1 John 4:18. It really is about the love of God in our lives. Legalism is about being subject to punishment for not being able to keep the rules. And no one can keep all the law.  But in the Gospel it is all about the love of God being poured out to us. And God’s love takes away fear and punishment.  Oh what a wonderful peace He brings into our lives because of redeeming love. What a wonderful passage of scripture. Verse 19 “We love because He first loved us.”  That is my motivation!

  41. 7. Which of the above do you think better describes you?
    I know both of these motivations to be true of me. I think and hope the latter is becoming more prevalent, but I know sometimes I am blind to my motivations.

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

     
    I am not grown up in love yet, I do still fear punishment. I have made progress in believing that God loves me but it is still an area in which I am weak. I have grown, would like to grow more.

      1. Thank you for that very real encouragement Dee. 😊

  42. 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! 🙂 )  Yes, there are MANY examples to choose from in Job!  So the first one I see is the response of Eliphaz to Job, after they have sat in silence together, Job 4:  7-9:  “Remember now, who ever perished being innocent?
    Or where were the upright destroyed?8 “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquityAnd those who sow trouble harvest it.9 “By the breath of God they perish,And by the [f]blast of His anger they come to an end.

    Basically saying that this is how God operates and if you are suffering it has to be due to “iniquity.”

  43. 10. What trial are you facing right now, and how do you pray you will process it?  You would think the biggest trial for me would be stage 4 cancer, but the bigger trial has actually been friends who believe that every, single Believer should be healed of every disease (in this life) or else that person (Or those praying for him/her) must not have enough faith. Others have thought it might be demonic and that I need deliverance from that.  Those issues have actually been harder for me than the cancer!  So, I pray that I will process it in the light of the truth.  Sometimes I get very down and have said to my mom and close friends, “What if they are right?  What if this is all my own fault, that I brought this on myself?”  But when I look at it in the light of the gospel,  I don’t really believe that.  I know the Lord may allow some testing to bring about maturity and for His glory, but I know that when the Holy Spirit wants to convict me of sin, it is usually a very clean, clear, and concise message…not a vague sense of guilt that leads to depression. 

    1. oh Mary (e.)–this mindset of others makes me SO sad–for you and for them. What a warping of truth, and I know it makes God sad too. The beauty He creates in His suffering children who turn to Him in their pain–is such evidence to me of His work, His using ALL things to bring Himself glory. It is why I am so drawn to you, to our Chris (Swan)–that evidence of Him in you that could only come from such fires. You know my brain is struggling these days and I cannot formulate my thoughts well here, but OH–I did have to jump in and rebuke that way of thinking! One of my favorite truths is that we know our suffering is never punishment–yes, because of the Cross–but I remember Keller’s picture of Christ as our Advocate and that He already paid for the crime and we cannot be tried for our crimes because God cannot require double payment…something like that!

      1. Love you, dear friend! You have been in your share of the “fires” in your life as well and He certainly shows up in a BIG way in you, Lizzy.

    2. there are not words for how upset this makes me! I HATE that anyone would EVER believe this. My father in law walked away from Jesus for 10 years because HE did not heal my husband from type 1 diabetes. He was told if he had enough faith and did all the right things that Paul would be healed. I think this has done more damage to believers than any other one thing the “church” has ever done! Im SO SORRY!

      1. Honestly, Cyndi, I agree with you (about how much damage this mindset has done.)  I think it maybe part of the falling away from the truth that takes place in the end-times.  And, it’s funny, one of my friends who believes this way has her own issues (which she has not been totally healed of) and yet for some reason they place more emphasis on healing of certain things.  And they feel that God will get more glory through someone being healed, rather than through that person continuing to press into Him, despite not being healed and I strongly disagree with that.  God has REALLy been glorified through Joni Earickson, I think far more than if she had instantly been healed of paralysis, because due to her condition she has probably reached hundreds of people for Christ.

    3. This grieves me so Mary. I loved your differentiation between the conviction of the Spirit vs a “vague sense of guilt that leads to depression”
      You have gained such much wisdom .

      Lizzy I  love your sweet, sweet heart, and how you are drawn and give such mercy to those who are in deep suffering. 

  44. Oh dear Mary, I am sorry that people would put such pressure on you, as if you don’t believe God enough! So warped & so unlike our compassionate & tender hearted Shepherd. He meets us in our weakness & need, & loves to minister to our hurts. May He strenghten & fill you with His Presence over & over again!

    I hope that more & more my motivation to serve is based on grateful joy. When my attitude is not right tho, it helps me to picture Jesus right there & that I am serving Him, no matter how small or unappealing the task!

    “The heavens shall reveal his iniquity & the earth shall rise up against him”. Is this an example of Job’s friends equating his suffering with sin.? Praise God that there is NO condemnation for us when we are in Christ Jesus. How we love to condemn ourselves & others!

    My kids & husband & I are all meeting in Baltimore/DC for Thanksgiving & I’ve been anxious about possible conflict & how it will come together. Am praying that I can process this by TRUSTING the Lord to go before me & prepare the way, & to help me rest in Him, & not hinder His work. To help me to trust Him with the outcome & all the relationships! Not my responsiblity!!!

  45. 10.  My trial right now is the extra 50lbs I am carrying, and how I am handling it. I am struggling with Jesus’ promises that we can ask and receive, and that we have power by the Holy Spirit to live upright lives. I still find myself turning to food for both comfort and sensual pleasure. I truly believe that in these circumstances, I am sinning against the Lord. I keep asking for a break through, where He either changes my desires and moves them over to Him, or gives me the strength to fight and overcome. It is even more complex than I’ve painted it here, and has been going on for over two years. I’ve sought Biblical counseling for it, and am seriously looking at some deep prayer time with other believers. I’m doing all I know to do and still struggling. It makes me wonder how serious I really am about the Lord, the way I say I am. This is so trivial compared to Mary E, or those with wayward children, or those whose home situation is hostile. Yet I find it taking up way too much real estate in my life.

      1. thank you. I will watch the video.

      2. Oh Mary, I can relate too, this has been an area of struggle for me as well. I have to plug Dee’e Women of Moderation study here. It was so helpful to me. I feel sure that if I had not been taught by it that I would have gained even more weight than I did when I lost my son.

    1. Not trivial, Mary B.  Honestly, I am carrying more weight now than I should be and I went on such an extreme diet for 6 weeks (no refined sugar, not even in salad dressings, soups, etc… so essentially could not eat out, no refined flour, and zero animal products) when I saw that after all that effort my tumor marker ROSE, rather than dropping (or even staying the same) I just went nuts and started to eat whatever I wanted.  Now I am having a horrible time reigning that in and it is bothering me a lot.  Like you, I wonder why I can’t summon the strength, through the Lord’s help, to get it under control.  I’m praying for you right now, my friend.  And we can both know that, while He certainly wants us to get our comfort from Him (not food) at the same time, Mary B. He knows we are operating from a place of brokenness and, like all of creation, we long to finally be freed from this and He sympathizes with our weaknesses.  He loves you right where you are and wants to work with us to bring healing and wholeness, but it is a process, and a long one in some areas.

    2. Mary, I have struggled with this issue my entire life.  I wish I didn’t like to eat so much! As I get older I realize I don’t need as much food as when I was younger. I also realize I need to exercise more consistently as I get older, even if it’s just something small every day. Awhile ago, I told Diane I would send her a link to an exercise website. Here is that link:

       

      https://www.fitnessblender.com/videos

       

      The winter months are coming for us, and here in New England it can be a long haul come March. It’s difficult to exercise outside, so I have found these types of videos to be extremely helpful. I hope others will also.

       

      The other thing I have found recently is the weight watchers app. I don’t go to meetings because that guilt thing doesn’t work for me. I can guilt myself with the best of them! I like the app because I can barcode scan items and make decisions about whether I really want to “spend” my points on the product. I get about 30 points per day, and when I see that the Ben and Jerrys ice cream I want is 17 points per 1/2 cup, I put that ice cream back in the freezer immediately! Most fruits and vegetables count for no points so I find myself munching on cherries (whole bags sometimes) and carrots. I like crunchy snacks. I eat most anything I want, but keep track of how much. It works for me and I have lost weight over the past 3 months.

       

      I will also say that my life is upside down right now with raising two grandchildren. I have little time to worry about what I am eating!

       

      I will pray for us, Mary. Our struggle is difficult.

       

       

  46. 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! 🙂 )

     

    I wasn’t really sure how to paraphrase all of this, so I used The Message to help me understand the whole. Sorry it’s so long; I was having trouble cutting and pasting.

     

    ““I’ve a thing or two to tell you, so listen up! I’m letting you in on my views; It’s what wise men and women have always taught, holding nothing back from what they were taught By their parents, back in the days when they had this land all to themselves: Those who live by their own rules, not God’s, can expect nothing but trouble, and the longer they live, the worse it gets. Every little sound terrifies them. Just when they think they have it made, disaster strikes. They despair of things ever getting better— they’re on the list of people for whom things always turn out for the worst. They wander here and there, never knowing where the next meal is coming from— every day is doomsday! They live in constant terror, always with their backs up against the wall Because they insist on shaking their fists at God, defying God Almighty to his face, Always and ever at odds with God, always on the defensive.

     

    “Even if they’re the picture of health, trim and fit and youthful, They’ll end up living in a ghost town sleeping in a hovel not fit for a dog, a ramshackle shack. They’ll never get ahead, never amount to a hill of beans. And then death—don’t think they’ll escape that! They’ll end up shriveled weeds, brought down by a puff of God’s breath. There’s a lesson here: Whoever invests in lies, gets lies for interest, Paid in full before the due date. Some investment! They’ll be like fruit frost-killed before it ripens, like buds sheared off before they bloom. The godless are fruitless—a barren crew; a life built on bribes goes up in smoke. They have sex with sin and give birth to evil. Their lives are wombs for breeding deceit.””

    ‭‭Job‬ ‭15:17-35‬ ‭MSG‬‬

    http://bible.com/97/job.15.17-35.msg

  47. 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! 🙂 )

    8:4 If your children have sinned against Him, then He has delivered them into the power of their transgression.

    That one really stings my heart. Well intentioned people can make such thoughtless comments.

    Job 22
    21 “Agree with God, and be at peace;
    thereby good will come to you.
    22 Receive instruction from his mouth,
    and lay up his words in your heart.
    23 If you return to the Almighty you will be built up;
    if you remove injustice far from your tents

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

    I am grateful not to be in a season of great terrible trial right now. I mentioned before that I am trying to move in the direction of telling our story. I have a testimony of God’s goodness in it, but it is so hard for me to speak of what happened. I know when I do it moves and encourages others, but it is soooooo hard for me to get out.

    So my ‘trial’ at the moment I suppose is to deepen my maturity so that the love of God casts out my fear. I don’t know how to do that, but I know the One who does.

    I am at the CCEF conference this weekend. Yesterday at lunch I opened a piece of gum, the wrapper asked the question “If you could be anywhere right now where would you be” I could honestly say that this is totally where I would choose to be!

    1. What is CCEF?

      1. Sorry 🙂
        CCEF stands for The Christian Counseling and Education Foundation. Dee has used some of their material here on the blog, that was how I first became aware of them, then was overjoyed to find that my church had a growing connection with the organization.

        If any one is intrigued here is a link to the conference with a live stream feature for some of the sessions:
        https://www.ccef.org/events/event/2017-national-conference

  48. I have to say that I have never doubted my salvation or that GOD loves me. I get upset with myself for not ACTING like I know that! 🙂 I have got VERY angry with HIM and have begged HIM to change things here on earth but I have never wondered if HE loved me or if I would one day be done with this place called earth and get to live in HIS glorious presence one day.

    I think I may have TOO MUCH confidence LOL….BUT I have to be honest, if I believed as the Calvinists do, that God allows each bad thing to happen on a case by case basis….I would never worship HIM again.

    I stepped away last week because I am just not on the same page with the whole “God in in control of every single action that happens here on earth” thing. I believe that HE let satan be prince of this earth for now and in that sense HE allowed it. BUT I will never believe that he sits up there and says, “yes I think i will let satan give an only child of a single mom lymphoma today” (which is what I am dealing with at the moment. the best man in my sons wedding and, the child I helped his single mom raise since he was 6 has a 7 INCH tumor on his heart, he started chemo last friday…we live in a world full of sickness and pain because of the fall, HE let us have free will, HE let satan have the earth for now. I believe that is how he LET it happen, not and never in a case by case basis. 🙂

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHosmHnOrb8

    my song for the time! Even if HE doesn’t Nothing will change who we are in CHRIST

    1. Cyndi, you articulated so well what I also believe….I also cannot believe that God “hands out” things like cancer, or Alzheimer’s, or car accidents, or somebody getting killed by a drunk driver as in “I am going to give you cancer, and you will be paralyzed….”

      I know there are those who believe otherwise, but I just can’t. I do believe we live in a fallen world and yes, Satan is the prince and ruler of this world, yet he isn’t more powerful than God. I’m so sorry for this only child of his mother who has lymphoma, will pray for him.

  49. 6. giving, forgiving, serving…my modivation for all three is how they make me feel. I give because it feels good to give, I forgive because I do not want to be filled with anger and bitterness and I serve because it makes me feel useful and needed. Its funny, I never thought of doing any of those things to EARN GODS love. not that I think my modivation is the best one! its a very selfish one! I want others to value me so I serve and give….I want to live at peace with others so I forgive…all about ME.

    I will be searching my heart and spending time with my FATHER a bit as I try to figure out what HE wants my motive to be. 🙂

    I think HE rewards us with good feelings when we do things with right motives, because we love HIM. But beyond that I’m not quite sure what the “right” motive is 🙂

    1. Cyndi, this is good, too….I would think you are on the right track because you are not doing these things to EARN His love. I also like to serve or give (at times) because it makes ME feel good….yet that might not be entirely wrong either? I’ve heard it said that if you feel depressed, a good thing to do is to do something for someone else because it will get your focus off of yourself and help you feel better. I would think that God wants us to experience happiness and joy when we give and serve others and that’s the opposite of living a selfish, self-centered life.