Sermon on the Mount: Week 9 and Blogging hiatus to prepare for baby!

This was the final week of our study of Kay Arthur’s book on the Sermon on the Mount, Lord, I’m Torn Between Two Masters. In many ways, Arthur definitely came “full circle” from Week 1 when she focused on the kingdom of heaven, what it is, and its coming glory. This final week focused on possessing the kingdom of heaven and coming to a true understanding of how Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount shines a light on His kingdom.

The life of righteousness set before us in the Sermon on the Mount is one that is impossible to attain without Christ. Many non-believers will try to emulate the principles of the Sermon but will ultimately fail in achieving a righteousness that “surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees.” (Matthew 5:20) This life of righteousness is one characterized by complete dependence on Christ. A persistent striving to ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7) and a belief that God delights in our dependence on Him. This is His character.

We note the parallels between the Sermon on the Mount and the Ten Commandments in that the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) begin with our relationship with God (vv 2-6; poorness in spirit, mourning, meekness, a hunger/thirst for righteousness) and then turn to our relationship with others (vv 7-12; mercy, making peace, persecution). In the same way, the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) first instruct us on relating to YHWH (vv 2-8; idols, taking the LORD’s name in vain, keeping the Sabbath) before instructing us on relating to our fellow man (vv 9-17; honoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting).

As we have learned throughout this study, Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). His Sermon on the Mount gives us a fuller understanding of the Law and how this Law is fulfilled through our Savior and ultimately fulfilled in our lives when we strive to live by the higher Law of Love.

There was an interesting “news” feature on ABC World News describing how “nearly 6 in 10 Americans blend their faith with new age beliefs.” According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Americans from all religions are blending their traditional beliefs with new age and eastern beliefs, such as astrology, reincarnation, and yoga. What is most disturbing about this trend is how it stands in striking opposition to the teaching of Jesus. Humans will always want to enter the kingdom of God on their own terms. That is the story of the Fall in Genesis 3. But what does Jesus say?

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few… Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:13-14; 21-23)

In the words of Kay Arthur, “How small is that gate? It’s so small that it causes you to bow in total poverty of spirit in order to enter it. How narrow is the way that leads to life? It is the narrow way of righteousness, a righteousness that actually exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees.” (p 242)

Strive to enter by the narrow gate, friends. Jesus is the only way through that gate and his teaching is pure and true. Do not be fooled by false teachers and do not be swayed by the desire to find a spirituality that “fits” your lifestyle or makes sense on the afternoon talk shows. Our God is a holy God who calls us to a life of righteousness modeled after Christ. Make the choice. Shalom!


Thank you to all of the lovely women of Grace Chapel who joined us for this study of the Sermon on the Mount. As many of you know, I will be taking a break from leading study and blogging to prepare to have my first child in a few short weeks. I wish God’s blessing on you and your family and look forward to joining you again very soon!


Sermon on the Mount: Week 7

What is it about this world that makes us want to accumulate more and more stuff? To put our faith in the things we can buy, collect, display, or store in closets and under stairs? To find it easier to be comforted by looking at our bank account balance than by studying the Word of God? We are all vulnerable to the overwhelming desire for “things” — for whatever reason, “things” provide feelings of comfort and security.

Jesus exposes the vulnerability of earthly possessions in Matthew 6:19-20:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal,
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
whether neither moth nor rust destroys,
and where thieves do not break in or steal;
for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

What does this tell us? Our earthly possessions are completely vulnerable and our heavenly possessions are not. Vulnerable to what? In so many words, impermanence. Nothing in heaven is impermanent — you can be sure without a doubt that any treasure you lay up in heaven is permanent…eternal. These verses also tell us that it is our human nature for our heart to go with our possessions — what we have becomes very closely linked to who we are. Are you linked to your earthly possessions or your heavenly ones?

Jesus then turns to directly address the issue of anxiety in Matthew 6:25-31:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life,
as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink;
nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.
Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow,
neither do they reap, nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not worth much more than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to life’s span?
And why are you anxious about clothing?
Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,
yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory
did not clothe himself like one of these.
But if God so arrays the grass of the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace,
will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?
Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’
or ‘What shall we drink?’
or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?'”

In these current times, we are clearly vulnerable to anxiety about having our needs met (food, drink, clothing, our bodies). Yet God seems to be saying that we are the only earthly creatures who have anxiety about these things — the rest of nature does not work to earn and gather possessions as we do, but God provides for them and they don’t struggle with anxiety. God provides for us to a much greater degree than the rest of nature, but we continue to question Him. Do you ever ask yourself, “Will He actually provide? Don’t I need to make sure I’ve provided for myself and then I can trust in God to provide?”

Jesus gives us our answer in Matthew 6:32-34:

“For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek;
for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness
and all these things shall be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow;
for tomorrow will care for itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

First notice the three references to “all these things” that I emphasized in italics — Jesus is referring to what He addressed in the previous verses — our needs. Food, drink, clothing, our bodies. We seek all these things, but God already knows that we need them. In fact, He is the one who knows most deeply and intimately what we truly need.

The amazing thing about this passage is that Jesus is telling us EXACTLY what we must do to finally free ourselves of the anxiety related to “having enough.” We must seek God first, even before we seek the things that we need. As one of the wise women in the Grace Chapel Women’s Bible study pointed out, God is our greatest need. By seeking Him first we have in essence found the One who will meet all of the needs that follow. The daily needs. The hourly needs. The moment by moment needs. He is at the heart of it all.

Sermon on the Mount: Week 5

Jesus says a lot in the Sermon on the Mount about how we should respond when we feel hurt, cheated, or wronged. The Law gave Israel specific instructions for how to penalize those who commit crimes: “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21) Under the Law, punishment was sure and swift, people knew that they would receive punishment that was equivalent to the crime they had committed, and people were held accountable for their behavior.

But what does Jesus have to say? “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

This sounds so very different that the Law of the Old Testament! Was Jesus changing the Law?  No. He was revealing to us the true intent of the Law. Jesus was fulfilling the Law by “telling us that righteous men are to be controlled by a higher law. The law of love.” (Arthur, pg 116)

Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength should lead us to have love and compassion for our fellow man. And loving your neighbor allows you to fulfill the Law because you cannot cheat, murder, steal, or covet from one that you love.  Mercy and the desire for another’s ultimate good are the goal of the law of love. And with this goal, we no longer need personal justice or retribution.

What are we to do?

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not.”
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.”
“Never take your own revenge.”
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink.”
“Overcome evil with good.”
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another.”
Romans 12:14, 17, 19, 20, 21; 13:8

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 10

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)


We live in a society of manufactured needs. Television, magazines, and the internet constantly remind us of what other people have, what we don’t have, and what we “must” have to keep up with everyone else around us.

The women of Grace Chapel were asked “What are some examples of manufactured needs?” Here are some of their answers:

  • Large house, cars, clothes
  • Fame in a particular field of work
  • Riches, the same salary as someone else
  • Popularity, beauty
  • For everything to be perfect and to have no suffering in life
  • New school clothes every year
  • Self-fulfillment or self-actualization
  • Marriage or being in love
  • Technology

The one thing that all of these items have in common is that they are “wants”  that we somehow convince ourselves are “needs.” They simply serve to remind us that, as humans, there is a fundamental emptiness in our lives that we are constantly trying to fill.

Many think that this emptiness began in the Garden, when our first parents – who not only had everything they could want but also the very presence of God Himself – chose the one thing they couldn’t have. As Paul describes, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21)

We live in a world that is in bondage to decay. In bondage to longing for what other people have, and yet blind to the fact that nothing except for God and the love of Christ can satisfy the depth of that longing. We were designed to long for God and Him alone.

These last commandments are a fitting summary to the Decalogue. According to our authors, “Here in the last commandments we discover what the whole Decalogue is about – namely, that we were created to love God, and when that love is misdirected, life degenerates into a jumble of disordered desires, fragments testifying that we were meant to be something quite else than what we have become.” (Hauerwas & Willimon, p 130)

As we conclude our study of the Ten Commandments, I pray that you will return to the love for which you were created. I pray that you will embrace the freedom from the bondage to decay that is only found in the blood of our savior, Jesus Christ.


Thanks so much to the fabulous women of Grace Chapel for your faithful attendance and participation in this study. I enjoyed our discussions immensely and learned so much from you all. See you in the fall for our next study!

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 9

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)


The truth can be difficult – telling it, hearing it, living according to it, accepting that someone else has a different version of it than you do. As Christians, we seek to know God’s truth. Indeed, “the sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160).

So why is lying so easy? Why would people rather be polite than truthful? Simply, we take risks when we tell the truth. We risk losing relationship and reputation. We risk making others uncomfortable. We may risk revealing truth in a situation where another person has gone to great lengths to make sure the truth is covered up. But don’t we take the same risks when we lie? By lying we risk alienating those we love, we risk our integrity, and ultimately we risk our relationship with God.

Satan is the author of all lies. His conversation with our original parents in the Garden of Eden began with the ultimate of lies: “Did God actually say…?” (Genesis 3:1b) It is as though this first lie still lives in our subconscious – we may know the truth of God’s word and meditate on it day and night yet still doubt that this truth actually applies to us or the world in which we live. In desperate times we may even twist the Word to suit our own will, hoping that God didn’t really say what we think He said.

Or, most tragically, we may live a life full of lies that were cleverly hidden on the outside by a cloak of good works. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

The women of Grace Chapel were asked “What does the eighth commandment reveal about God?” Here are some of their answers:

  • We are representatives of God and thus show his truth to others by being truthful. It harms the neighbor whom we are commanded to love.
  • He is a God of truth and also cares for and watches over all of His creation.
  • He loves everyone the same and would not want one of His children spoken wrongly of.
  • He is true and does not tolerate falsehood.
  • God cares very much how we treat each other.
  • Through truth things are meant to be revealed. Lying in a desire to hurt others or protect one’s self is not godly motivation.


For Week 10, please read Chapter 9 on the Ninth and Tenth Commandments. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. What do these commandments reveal about God?
  2. In what ways does advertising create desire?
  3. What do you think “disordered desire” means?
  4. Give a past example of envy in your life. What harm did it cause?
  5. How can the church help us keep these commandments?
  6. How do these last 2 commandments act as a summary of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments)?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 8

“You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15


I think that our small group of women at Grace Chapel was surprised in our discussion of how deep and far-reaching this commandment goes. Many of us tend to think that this commandment is simply saying we should not take anything that rightfully belongs to someone else. But this particular chapter helped many of us to see that “stealing” can be very deep-rooted in one’s culture, particularly the wealthy American one that we all share.

The women of Grace Chapel were asked the following question: “What motivates people to steal?” Here are some of their thoughts:

  • Lack of resources (such as money or time) to get what they want or need
  • Poverty, lack of money or food
  • Apathy for others
  • Adrenaline, thrill, peer pressure
  • Temptation
  • Not knowing that God is sufficient for their needs and that He knows what they need
  • Survival
  • Fear (not trust) and greed (not thanksgiving)
  • Taking credit for someone else’s hard work

We are part of a culture that glorifies wealth and those who are wealthy. People see many example of institutional theft in our culture – for example, living on land that was stolen from native peoples, buying clothing made in poverty-stricken countries that use slave labor, or buying food at supermarkets that has been harvested by migrant workers who are not even paid a living wage.  In our human condition, we tend to want to find “loopholes” in the system and free ourselves from the fact that we may be stealing from people who we have never even met.

But not all wealthy people have gotten that way by stealing from others. Many wealthy people are excellent stewards of their money and give generously to those in need. So who are the “rich” that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 19:23-24? “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

The answer seems to be in the attitude. No matter what your income is, if you are a Christian you are commanded to give and to give generously. Recognizing that Christ has freed us from living under the law, we must now accept that all of our income belongs to God and we are simply to be good stewards of what we have been given. And finally, as Hauerwas and Willimon put it, “So not to be caught by a world of theft requires prayer. The first attitude of prayer is to receive, not to ask, to listen rather than to speak, to be willing by prayer to be formed rather than to use prayer to inform. Through learning to receive, we may be a people capable of sharing.” (pg 114)


For Week 9, please read Chapter 8 on the Eighth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. What risks do we take when we tell the truth?
  2. What risks do we take when we lie?
  3. What gifts did God give us to help us speak the truth?
  4. How can we help others affirm the truth?
  5. Why would we rather be polite than truthful?
  6. What does this commandment reveal about God?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 7

“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14


Again, another commandment that is simple and to the point. However, Christians don’t seem to struggle with the meaning of this commandment quite like we do with “You shall not murder.” But do we really understand the meaning of the 6th commandment? Does it simply mean not to have sex with someone other than your spouse? Or not to have sex outside of marriage? Does this commandment only apply to our physical relationships with other people? What about emotional adultery? Spiritual adultery? Can we commit adultery against God?

God refers to Israel as an unfaithful wife in the harshest of terms in the Old Testament. Here are just a few examples:

“Do not make treaties of any kind with the people living in the land. They are spiritual prostitutes, committing adultery against me by sacrificing to their gods. If you make peace with them, they will invite you to go with them to worship their gods, and you are likely to do it. (Exodus 34:15)

During the reign of King Josiah, the LORD said to me, “Have you seen what fickle Israel does? Like a wife who commits adultery, Israel has worshiped other gods on every hill and under every green tree. (Jeremiah 3:6)

When the LORD first began speaking to Israel through Hosea, he said to him, “Go and marry a prostitute,* so some of her children will be born to you from other men. This will illustrate the way my people have been untrue to me, openly committing adultery against the LORD by worshiping other gods.” (Hosea 1:2)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes the concept of adultery and makes it very personal — from the eye, to the hand, to the very inner places of the heart. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)

Obviously, based on the words of Jesus, both single and married people can break this commandment. The women of Grace Chapel were asked the following question: “How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without being married?” Here are some of their thoughts:

  • Through lust or impure dating relationships
  • Lust is adultery so anyone can break this commandment
  • You can commit spiritual adultery towards God when devoted to someone or something else
  • Through fantasizing or giving yourself to other things/idols instead of to God
  • By viewing pornography
  • Lusting after someone who is married
  • Anything that compromises purity of heart, mind, or body is committing adultery


For Week 8, please read Chapter 7 on the Seventh Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. What motivates people to steal?
  2. How is a thief injured by stealing?
  3. How are theft and lying alike?
  4. How are theft and murder related?
  5. What is the good news of this commandment?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 6

“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13


This commandment is simple and to the point, yet Christians continually struggle to determine what exactly this commandment means for us. Does it mean “to kill” or “to murder”? Does this commandment apply to animals? Suicide? War? Does it apply to the accidental killing of another person? Does it apply to the government’s killing of a convicted criminal? Does it apply to the unborn? These are extraordinarily difficult questions that many people believe are not up to our government to decide.

God ordains and even orders the killing of others in many stories of the Old Testament. Is He allowing Israel to break the fifth commandment? According to Hauerwas and Willimon, “All life is God’s. In the Bible, when killing is done, it is done under the agency of God, not by individuals or in service to the state, for only God is to kill and to make alive.” (page 80)

How is this commandment fleshed out further in the person of Jesus Christ? Jesus makes no attempts to soften or simplify this commandment, but makes it more comprehensive by including anger, insults, and demanding reconciliation from the offending parties. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser…” (Matthew 5:21-25a)

The women of Grace Chapel were asked the following question: “How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without killing a person?” Here are some of their answers:

  • You can murder someone’s reputation, hate them, wish they were dead, or even simply dead to you and out of your life.
  • The New Testament says that hatred of someone is equivalent to murder.
  • Hate kills a relationship. Then love can’t be shown as God would have you do.
  • You can take a person’s reason for living or his livelihood, or demean him.
  • You can be hateful towards someone in thoughts, words, or actions.
  • If you hate someone you have already committed murder in your heart.
  • It is possible to “kill” the image of God in others without slaying the person.


For Week 7, please read Chapter 6 on the Sixth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why is sexual conduct taken so seriously by God?
  2. What does this commandment prohibit besides adultery?
  3. How can you break this commandment without being married?
  4. Why does our culture make this commandment so hard to keep?
  5. What does this commandment mean to those who are single?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 5

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:8-12)


Our parents were the first ones to love us, the first ones to teach us about Jesus, and the first ones to teach us about what it means to worship God. They kept the Ten Commandments while we were watching them with a child’s eyes.

Yet before our parents loved us, God loved us. The fourth commandment reminds us of this, and also that we must love our parents and obey our parents as we love and obey God. We can understand all notions of fatherhood and parenthood from what God tells us about his Father in heaven.

It is important to see the relationship between the commandment to obey the Sabbath and the commandment to honor our father and mother. “Even as the third commandment tells us that we must live in time as a gift, rather than as an arena of our achievements and assertions, so the fourth commandment commands us to live as those who know their very being is a gift. Our lives are not self-derived. The self-made man or woman is a lie.” (Hauerwas & Willimon, page 69)

Here are thoughts from the women of Grace Chapel on what it means to honor our parents: show them respect, be dutiful in taking care of them, respect them and love them even if you don’t agree with them, obey them always as long as it doesn’t go against the word of God, submit to them as an act of humility, pray for the will of God to be active in their lives, remember their authority over you, love them because they are the parents God gave you.


For Week 6, please read Chapter 5 on the Fifth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why did God give us this commandment?
  2. How does anger fit into this commandment?
  3. Is this a simple commandment? Why or why not?
  4. How can you be guilty of breaking this commandment without killing a person?
  5. What is the key to keeping this commandment?
  6. Does this commandment relate to suicide? War?

Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 4

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it. (Exodus 20:8-11)


Sabbath is God’s gift to humanity. With the sabbath, God has given us back time because time is not our own. God intends for us to have consecrated time to remember who God is and to remember who we are – part of His creation…part of His original work. On this day we are called to remember, recall, recollect.

Sabbath is tied to Creation. God rested from His work of creation on the seventh day to designate the work as good, and to recognize the goal of perfect rest – reflection, perfection, recognition of God’s intention for life. “The third commandment is a reminder that we have been created for no higher purpose than the worship of God.” (Hauerwas and Willimon, page 58)

Observing the sabbath faithfully is a witness to the world. How we choose to observe the sabbath will set us apart from a world that strives for more work by showing that life must contain a balance of work and rest, and this balance is the gift of a gracious Creator. How we choose to observe the sabbath will teach our children about self-discipline and what it looks like to use our time intentionally to worship God faithfully.

Here are thoughts from the women of Grace Chapel on how to spend the Sabbath day: church, reading the Bible with family, prayer, silence, spiritual conversation and fellowship, meals together, relax, spend time with loved ones, taking a walk and admiring nature, worship, reflection, serving others, volunteering in the church service, Bible study…add your own ideas to the list!


For Week 5, please read Chapter 4 on the Fourth Commandment. Following are discussion questions to prepare you for our next meeting:

  1. Why did God give us this commandment? What is the need?
  2. What does it mean to “honor”?
  3. What qualities does good parenting require?
  4. What are the benefits of following this commandment?
  5. What does it cost to follow this commandment?
  6. Does this commandment have any limitations? If so, what?