Sermon on the Mount, Week 4, You Have Heart That It Was Said, Part 1

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 ESV

The Pharisees were all about what looked good on the outside. They obeyed the letter of the law flawlessly, and they were quite proud of themselves for that! However, their hearts were far from honoring God. Inside, they were full of pride, greed, and corruption. Later, Jesus would say about them, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.” Matthew 15:8-9 NLT

Jesus wanted to make it clear at the onset of his sermon that doing all the right things, or conversely, not doing all the wrong things, is not enough to make us right before God. Obedience and holy living are more than mere acts. They stem from a sincere and pure heart, and there is only one way to have a true heart transformation. Our only hope is to repent and allow Christ to redeem us by His blood as we put our faith and trust in Him. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

For those of you who are unsure of your relationship with Christ, you can make certain here, How Can I Be Saved? However, for those of you who already have a relationship with the Lord, the mindset of legalism can continue to be a stronghold. Our pretense of having everything all together on the outside can be a hindrance to being truly holy and pure within. Instead of having hearts after God’s heart, we become fixated on man-made rules and traditions. That leaves us cold and distant from God.

In Jesus’ day, the religious sect of the Pharisees was the supreme example of this legalistic fallacy. Jesus sure had a lot to say about them later on too! (Matthew 23)

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25-28 NLT

In Matthew5:12-16, Jesus quotes the commandment prohibiting murder, but He takes it a step further and forbids hatred, out of control anger, and name calling. Any kind of malice at all has its roots in the same place as murder. Instead, Jesus instructs us to resolve our differences and be reconciled to those with whom we have conflict. He even commands us to make things right with others before we bring our gift to the altar. That is how important this is to God!

Jesus goes even further in verses 17-20 to get to the root of adultery. While the 7th command is quite clear of the serious nature of committing adultery, Jesus explains that to look at someone lustfully is to commit adultery in our hearts. This is not something to play around with! Pornography is a dangerous practice that has torn many families apart and has destroyed numerous marriages, even Christian marriages. Habitually engaging one’s heart in sexual fantasy is being unfaithful to one’s marriage, yet some justify it by saying that they are not committing the physical act of adultery. Jesus made it clear that the root of adultery is in the heart, not in the act.

So, what was Jesus saying in verse 20 when he said that our righteousness must surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees? He is saying that righteousness is a condition of the heart, not a bunch of rules. We need to be genuine. Don’t give a false outward impression of being righteous and yet hold on to the bitter roots of sin deep within our hearts. We must be holy from the inside out. That begins with accepting the price Jesus paid for us on the cross and then submitting our hearts to him entirely. Then, our inner purity will show on the outside.

Ultimately, let us yield our lives to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to do the work within. He will form us more and more into the image of Christ!

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:16-26 NIV

Dear Lord, let us have sincere hearts that follow hard after You! Purify us from the inside out. In Jesus’ name.

(This is labeled “Week 3” Video, but it lays the foundation and introduces the main topic we will be discussing in weeks 4 and 5 as well. Enjoy!)

Week 4 Assignments

  1. Read Matthew 5-7
  2. Study Week 5: “You Have Heart That It Was Said…” Part 2, pp. 60-73; Matthew 5:31-48
  3. Attend a small group.
  4. Watch my video for this week.
  5. Memorize this week’s Bible verse, Matthew 5:23-24 ESV:

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.

Week 4 Discussion Questions

Here is a sneak peek of the questions we will be discussing this week in our small groups.

“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.” Matthew 5:21-22 ESV

QUESTION 1: (Day 2) Do you think it is a sin to be angry? What is the difference between sinful and unsinful anger? Give an example each of sinful anger and unsinful anger.

“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.” Matthew 5:23-24 ESV

QUESTION 2: (Day 3) What is Jesus teaching us here about fractured relationships? Should all relationships be reconciled? What should you do if the person with whom we want to reconcile has no desire to do so? What if the person is no longer living?

“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.” Matthew 5:27-28 ESV

QUESTION 3: Jesus challenges the casual mindset toward sin and takes it much deeper, getting to the heart of the matter. What are some ways we are easily influenced by our culture to take the sin of lust, or sexual promiscuity, too casually? How can we take this sin more seriously and keep our hearts pure without being judgmental toward others who have different convictions?

“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 5:29-30 ESV

QUESTION 4: What do you think Jesus means by this statement? Do you think He literally wants us to tear out our eyes or cut off our hands? What are some examples of ways we can crucify our flesh daily, or to figuratively remove our eyes or hands?

QUESTION 5: What impacted you most in this week’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount?

Reading Schedule

  • Skip Week 1 in the book; Optional video
  • August 28 – September 3, Study Week 2: “Who Is Blessed?” pp. 14-29; Matthew 5:1-12
    • Small groups: Introduction. No need to ready anything ahead of time.
  • September 4-10, Study Week 3: “A People of Influence,” pp. 30-45; Matthew 5:13-20
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 2
  • September 11-17, Study Week 4: “You Have Heard That It Was Said…” Part 1, pp. 46-59; Matthew 5:21-30
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 3
  • September 18-24, Study Week 5: “You Have Heart That It Was Said…” Part 2, pp. 60-73; Matthew 5:31-48
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 4
  • September 25 – October 1, Study Week 6: “Secret Righteousness,” pp. 74-89; Matthew 6:1-18
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 5
  • October 2-8, Study Week 7: “Where Your Treasure Is,” pp. 90-105; Matthew 6:19-34
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 6
  • October 9-15, Study Week 8: “Do Unto Others,” pp. 106-121; Matthew 7:1-12
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 7
  • October 16-22, Study Week 9: “A Foundation That Endures,” pp. 122-137; Matthew 7:13-29
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 8
  • October 23-29: Catch Up Week and Finish Study
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 9

How This Works

  1. If you have not done so already, please register by leaving your name and email address below.
  2. Purchase the study book.
  1. Subscribe to this site to receive future updates by email. Enter your email address in the field to the right, and then click the subscribe button.
  2. Join our closed Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, for weekly interaction, activities, videos, and small group sessions. Closed means that no one will be able to see our posts unless they are members of the group. This is for your safety and privacy.
  3. Small Groups: There will be a schedule for small groups pinned to the top of the Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, as we get closer to the time. All you need to do is show up at the scheduled day and time, and the discussion will take place underneath the group photo. 
  4. Follow my ministry page on Facebook, Shari Lewis Ministries, to stay up-to-date on ministry events and for daily prayers, nuggets of wisdom and encouragement for your life, photos that you are welcome to share, and faith building blog posts to strengthen you in your walk with Christ.

 

Let us continue being faithful and diligent in the Word. May we seek to know God and His ways. I hope to see you in a small group this week!

God bless!

 

 

 

Share on Social Media

Announcing Fall Bible Study at Heart to Heart

 

 

Hello, my Heart to Heart Sisters! Things are exciting around here at Heart to Heart as we make plans for our upcoming fall Bible study! I think we have kept it a secret long enough. It’s time for the grand unveiling!

We have chosen a magnificent, in-depth study of the very Words of Jesus from His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. The name of the study is Sermon on the Mount, by Jen Wilkin.

This is a nine-week study in which we will absorb some of the greatest words ever spoken or written! Come! Let us sit at the feet of Jesus, just as the early believers did, and learn straight from the Master Himself what it means to live as true Kingdom citizens.

If you have ever done a Jen Wilkin study, you know what a joy it is to approach the Holy Scriptures in this manner! She is a fabulous teacher! Her method is quite different from previous studies we have done at Heart to Heart. This is more of an inductive study, meaning that instead of a lot of wordy explanations from the author’s point of view, Jen leads us directly to the Bible to discover deep meaning from the words of Jesus for ourselves. We will go deep into Scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to be our teacher.

This is my favorite way to study the Bible, and I can’t wait for you to try it if you haven’t before!

We will begin this study on Monday, August 28, 2017, and wrap it up the last week of October. You will notice that we are taking a few weeks off after Steadfast Love. The reason is two-fold. First, we want you to take some time to catch up on any lessons you may have missed from our previous study, and second, I am taking some time to revamp certain aspects of our ministry. I want this to be the most exciting experience possible for you, and I also want to make sure we are ministering to your needs most effectively. I believe you will love what you see!

 

I can hardly wait to get started! Here is all you need to do…

  • Register by leaving your name and email address below.
  • Purchase the study book.

Lifeway: Paperback: Sermon on the Mount

Lifeway Ebook: Sermon on the Mount

Amazon: Paperback: Sermon on the Mount

Christianbook.com: Sermon on the Mount

Here is a product sample so you can see it before ordering it: Sample

  • Subscribe to this site to receive future updates by email. Enter your email address in the field to the right, and then click the subscribe button.
  • Join our closed Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, for weekly interaction, activities, videos, and small group sessions. Closed means that no one will be able to see our posts unless they are members of the group. This is for your safety and privacy.
  • Small Groups: There will be a schedule for small groups pinned to the top of the Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, as we get closer to the time. All you need to do is show up at the scheduled day and time, and the discussion will take place underneath the group photo.

  • Follow my ministry page on Facebook, Shari Lewis Ministries, to stay up-to-date on ministry events and for daily prayers, nuggets of wisdom and encouragement for your life, photos that you are welcome to share, and faith building blog posts to strengthen you in your walk with Christ.

Reading Schedule

  • Skip Week 1 in the book; Optional video
  • August 28 – September 3, Study Week 2: “Who Is Blessed?” pp. 14-29; Matthew 5:1-12
    • Small groups: Introduction. No need to ready anything ahead of time.
  • September 4-10, Study Week 3: “A People of Influence,” pp. 30-45; Matthew 5:13-20
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 2
  • September 11-17, Study Week 4: “You Have Heard That It Was Said…” Part 1, pp. 46-59; Matthew 5:21-30
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 3
  • September 18-24, Study Week 5: “You Have Heart That It Was Said…” Part 2, pp. 60-73; Matthew 5:31-48
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 4
  • September 25 – October 1, Study Week 6: “Secret Righteousness,” pp. 74-89; Matthew 6:1-18
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 5
  • October 2-8, Study Week 7: “Where Your Treasure Is,” pp. 90-105; Matthew 6:19-34
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 6
  • October 9-15, Study Week 8: “Do Unto Others,” pp. 106-121; Matthew 7:1-12
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 7
  • October 16-22, Study Week 9: “A Foundation That Endures,” pp. 122-137; Matthew 7:13-29
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 8
  • October 23-29: Catch Up Week and Finish Study
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 9

 

Be sure to register today! I can hardly wait to get started! I hope this is a tremendous blessing to you!

 

In Christ!

 

 

 

Share on Social Media

Sermon on the Mount, Week 3, People of Influence

It is kind of funny to remember the images that came to our minds as children when we first heard some of the stories in the Bible. The first time I heard of being “Salt and Light,” I thought of my favorite snacks, especially popcorn. As Christians, we are like the yummy, buttery, salty topping that makes movie popcorn so awesome!

As we have grown into adults, the popcorn analogy is still there, but the meaning of Christ’s instruction to us has grown so much deeper. We have a responsibility, yet also a privilege to make an impact on the world around us. We have the ability to influence everyone in some way with whom we come in contact, and we may leave them better or worse as a result. What an honor, yet also, what a weighty responsibility!

I also find it interesting that Jesus chose both salt and light. I wonder why He chose these specific metaphors for the influence we will have on this world?

Something I think about is that salt makes us thirsty. For example, we wouldn’t think of buying a giant bucket of salty popcorn at the movie theater without also buying a huge soft drink. That popcorn will suck all the moisture out of your body and make you crave something to drink. Nothing like a huge Dr. Pepper to satisfy!

In the same way, when people observe our lives, we should live in such a way, that it will make them also want what we have. We must represent Christ in a way that will cause others to also be thirsty for Him, the only source of living water that will truly satisfy their souls.

Then, as lights, we can shine the way. The aisle lights in the movie theater illuminate the path so you can find your way to get more snacks and drinks. Similarly, once we have provided a taste of Christ to this sin-parched world as agents of salt, our lives must also light the way for them to find Him.

See how salt and light can work together?

What are some other purposes of salt? Before refrigeration was available, salt was used to preserve meat and keep it fresh longer. It draws out impurities and can be used as a disinfectant. Salt tastes good and brings out the natural flavors of our food. Salt has been used to establish binding covenants, as currency, and as an ingredient in ceremonial sacrifices and offerings. Perhaps the symbolism may even go as far as spreading the Gospel as salt is scattered from a shaker.

The symbolism of light brings up different qualities that complete this picture. The first thing that comes to my mind is to turn on a light when you enter a dark room so you can see where you are going. It prevents you from stubbing your toe on the furniture or falling over a toy left on the floor. Does our light help prevent others from falling over obstacles? Various types of light can also set the atmosphere. For example, bright lights can make a fun, celebratory atmosphere for a party, while soft lamps or candles can make a warm and cozy atmosphere for our homes. What kind of atmosphere do we bring into a room? Light also reveals what is unclean. For example, light allows you to see clearly to vacuum or mop your floors more thoroughly. The light reveals the dirt so you can get rid of it.

Billboards along the interstate, or signs within the city are usually lit up so people can read them. What good would an advertisement for a restaurant be if no one could read it? How many customers do you think it would attract?

As you consider these uses of salt and light, how do these correspond to our lifestyle? How then does this effect the way we act, the words we say, and the way we treat others? Do we leave a good or bad taste wherever we go? Does our lifestyle light up the way to Christ? We will discuss this and more in our small groups this week, and I hope to see you there!

Week 3 Assignments

  1. Read Matthew 5-7
  2. Study Week 4: “You Have Heard That It Was Said…” Part 1, pp. 46-59, and Matthew 5:21-30.
  3. Attend a small group.
  4. Watch my video for this week.
  5. Memorize this week’s Bible verse, Matthew 5:20 ESV:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Week 3 Discussion Questions

Here is a sneak peek of the questions we will be discussing this week in our small groups.

 

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. Matthew 5:13 ESV

QUESTION 1: On Day 2, we read about several occurrences of salt in Scripture. Why do you think Jesus chose salt in His sermon? What are some of the things salt symbolizes? And, what are some of the practical ways we can be salt in this world?

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16 ESV

QUESTION 2: (Day 3) What are some functions of light in the natural world? How does the analogy of light illustrate the role of Jesus’ disciples in the world? In other words, what are some practical ways we can shine our light?

QUESTION 3: What are some things that hold us back from shining our light or can dim our light in this world? How can we protect our light?

QUESTION 4: (Day 4) What did you learn of the purpose of the Law? How does Jesus relate to the Law? Is the Law still necessary? Why?

QUESTION 5: What sort of righteousness could ever exceed that of the Pharisees?

QUESTION 6: What impacted you most from this week’s study?

Reading Schedule

  • Skip Week 1 in the book; Optional video
  • August 28 – September 3, Study Week 2: “Who Is Blessed?” pp. 14-29; Matthew 5:1-12
    • Small groups: Introduction. No need to ready anything ahead of time.
  • September 4-10, Study Week 3: “A People of Influence,” pp. 30-45; Matthew 5:13-20
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 2
  • September 11-17, Study Week 4: “You Have Heard That It Was Said…” Part 1, pp. 46-59; Matthew 5:21-30
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 3
  • September 18-24, Study Week 5: “You Have Heart That It Was Said…” Part 2, pp. 60-73; Matthew 5:31-48
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 4
  • September 25 – October 1, Study Week 6: “Secret Righteousness,” pp. 74-89; Matthew 6:1-18
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 5
  • October 2-8, Study Week 7: “Where Your Treasure Is,” pp. 90-105; Matthew 6:19-34
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 6
  • October 9-15, Study Week 8: “Do Unto Others,” pp. 106-121; Matthew 7:1-12
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 7
  • October 16-22, Study Week 9: “A Foundation That Endures,” pp. 122-137; Matthew 7:13-29
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 8
  • October 23-29: Catch Up Week and Finish Study
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 9

How This Works

  1. If you have not done so already, please register by leaving your name and email address below.
  2. Purchase the study book.
  1. Subscribe to this site to receive future updates by email. Enter your email address in the field to the right, and then click the subscribe button.
  2. Join our closed Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, for weekly interaction, activities, videos, and small group sessions. Closed means that no one will be able to see our posts unless they are members of the group. This is for your safety and privacy.
  3. Small Groups: There will be a schedule for small groups pinned to the top of the Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, as we get closer to the time. All you need to do is show up at the scheduled day and time, and the discussion will take place underneath the group photo.
  4. Follow my ministry page on Facebook, Shari Lewis Ministries, to stay up-to-date on ministry events and for daily prayers, nuggets of wisdom and encouragement for your life, photos that you are welcome to share, and faith building blog posts to strengthen you in your walk with Christ.

 

Let us continue being faithful and diligent in the Word. May we seek to know God and His ways. I hope to see you in a small group this week!

God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share on Social Media

Sermon on the Mount, Week 2, Who Is Blessed?

What does it mean to be blessed, and who is truly blessed?

This week, we have dissected a poetic portion of the Sermon on the Mount, and perhaps one of the most familiar passages to us, The Beatitudes. Because of the familiarity of the language, we may have merely glossed over these verses in times past and have missed out on the deeper, life-impacting meaning behind these words of Christ.

I can hardly wait to get into our small groups this week and see what you have learned from this passage!

According to Dictionary.com, beatitude is defined as “Supreme blessedness; exalted happiness.” The original Greek word for blessed, makarios, is often translated as happy as well.

Blessed is more than the subjective emotion of happiness, however, but it is tied more to the spiritual fruit of joy. It is an inner satisfaction tethered to our salvation in Christ. It is not affected by our emotions, feelings, or circumstances, but it is an eternal, unshakeable reality.

As I read these blessings, I can understand more fully the reasoning behind each of Jesus’ sayings because I see how they relate to the character of God. These are areas He is perfecting in us and making us more like Him. Therefore, we are truly BLESSED!

This week, I am paraphrasing the beatitudes according to my research this week to help us better understand what Jesus was teaching us. You may have much better wording than I do in your rewrites this week, but my attempt is to help us  move beyond the familiar and beautiful poetry to get to the nitty gritty of Jesus’ amazing teaching. May this bring powerful transformation and immense blessings to your life!

 

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Supremely blessed and happy are those who realize their abject spiritual poverty apart from God, their desperate need for and dependence on God, who shun the mindset of self-sufficiency or a puffed-up self-worth, and who understand that they are completely empty and without hope without God. Blessed are you when you quit looking for fulfillment and worth in yourself, in worldly pursuits, or in the acquisition of material gain. You are blessed when you realize that you are not “all that,” and the world does not revolve around you. It is not until you completely understand this reality that you are fully able to grasp the principles of and are truly prepared to receive the Kingdom of Heaven.
  2. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Supremely blessed and happy are those who grieve and are sorrowful for their sin and rebellion. To be aware of our sin is to recognize its vile and corrupt nature that separates us from God, and grieves the heart of God. To mourn is to lament deeply over anything that grieves the heart of God, to be truly sorry and remorseful. We do not foolishly deny our sinful state, but we willingly confess our broken state before a holy God. It is then that we are forgiven, cleansed, and set free, and that will bring us great comfort.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Supremely blessed and happy are you who remain gentle, patient, and submissive, even in crisis; who firmly take their stand against evil in this world, or against bullies, without stooping to their level; who refuse to take revenge even if you can; and who remain calm against the urge to give in to anger or rage. Being meek does not mean you are weak, timid, wishy-washy, or that you are a doormat for anyone to manipulate or abuse. Meekness does not mean that you are inferior, worthless, or have no voice. It does not mean that you cannot establish healthy boundaries in your life or allow others to push you around. Contrarily, meekness is about “power, or strength under control.” You are a “gentle giant,” and it is you who will inherit the earth.
    1. You are a gentle breeze that cannot be stopped, but gently caresses and affects change.
    2. You are like gentle medicine that heals and soothes without the bad taste or harmful side effects.
    3. You are like a tamed wild animal who continues to possess strength and power, but is trained to be gentle and yielding.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Supremely blessed and happy are those who crave what only Christ can give. You know that Christ alone is your righteousness. You have learned that nothing else on this earth can satisfy, and that every physical appetite only leaves us wanting more. When you realize that Christ is your only source of true spiritual satisfaction and fulfillment, that He is the living water that will cause us to never thirst again, and that He alone is the Bread of Life that will satisfy our spiritual hunger, then we are in the perfect position to be filled to the brim and to overflowing by Him.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Supremely blessed and happy are you when you show kindness and compassion to someone who deserves your wrath. You are being merciful when you focus on your own plank instead of picking at the speck in your bother/sister’s eye. You refuse to judge or condemn. When you withhold punishment or retribution and opt for mercy instead, you have demonstrated the heart of God. He will also withhold His wrath and be merciful toward you.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Supremely blessed and happy are you when your heart is wholly devoted to God, without distractions of the world or of sin pulling you away or crowding God off the throne of your heart. You refuse to allow the world to corrupt your thinking or your character. You have put to rest your selfish desires and fleshly appetites in order to walk wholeheartedly by the Spirit of God. You recognize that you are not without sin, but you have accepted the atonement for your sin through Christ’s death on the cross. Therefore, because of Christ, you can stand before God completely pure and blameless.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Supremely blessed and happy are those who work for peace and pursue it. You use a gentle answer instead of stirring up conflict. You know when to stand up for what is right and when to back off and just let it go. You are considerate of others and unselfish because you know that selfishness leads to quarrels. You have a humble spirit and do not allow pride to cloud your judgment. You show respect to others and refrain from using inflammatory or derogatory words. You strive only to build up and encourage. You make the effort to create a peaceful atmosphere wherever you go, and you bathe it all in prayer. It is you who are acting in your true nature as children of God.
  8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. You are supremely blessed and happy when you are persecuted for the sake of Christ, knowing that you are sharing in His suffering, as He was also persecuted. You have an eternal perspective and trust that God will make all things right in His time. For now, you will not relinquish your faith or your hope. You will continue to praise God in all circumstances. Just remember, the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to you!

 

As Jesus concludes this portion of His sermon, He moves right into His teaching of what it means to be salt and light, or rather, people of influence in this world. He also explains how He has come to fulfill the Law, rather than to abolish the Law. WEEK 3, “A People of Influence,” is going to be such a powerful week of learning! I can hardly wait!

I pray you have such a blessed week of study!

Week 2 Assignments

  1. Read Matthew 5-7
  2. Study Week 3: “A People of Influence” pp. 30-45
  3. Attend a small group.
  4. Watch my video for this week.
  5. Memorize this week’s Bible verse, Matthew 5:16 ESV:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

 Week 2 Discussion Questions

Here is a sneak peek of the questions we will be discussing this week in our small groups.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Matthew 5:3-4 ESV

QUESTION 1: Based on your Day 2 study this week, why should we desire to be poor in spirit? What does this mean?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matthew 5:5-6 ESV

QUESTION 2: In Isaiah 53, how does Christ perfectly demonstrate meekness? How would you describe meekness?

QUESTION 3: How can a sense of entitlement stifle your relationship with God or skew your perception of God? (Day 3, p. 21)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:7-8 ESV

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 1 John 1:8 ESV

QUESTION 4: On Day 4, we learned about being merciful and pure in heart. According to 1 John 1:8, none of us can claim to be sinless. So, if pure in heart is not being perfect or free from sin, what is it? (Day 4, p. 24)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:9-10 ESV

QUESTION 5: What is a peacemaker? What are some practical ways to be a peacemaker in our homes, church, community, workplace, country, etc.? (Day 5, p. 26)

QUESTION 6: How has Jesus changed your concept of what it means to be “blessed”? Or, what impacted you most in this week’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount?

Reading Schedule

  • Skip Week 1 in the book; Optional video
  • August 28 – September 3, Study Week 2: “Who Is Blessed?” pp. 14-29; Matthew 5:1-12
    • Small groups: Introduction. No need to ready anything ahead of time.
  • September 4-10, Study Week 3: “A People of Influence,” pp. 30-45; Matthew 5:13-20
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 2
  • September 11-17, Study Week 4: “You Have Heard That It Was Said…” Part 1, pp. 46-59; Matthew 5:21-30
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 3
  • September 18-24, Study Week 5: “You Have Heart That It Was Said…” Part 2, pp. 60-73; Matthew 5:31-48
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 4
  • September 25 – October 1, Study Week 6: “Secret Righteousness,” pp. 74-89; Matthew 6:1-18
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 5
  • October 2-8, Study Week 7: “Where Your Treasure Is,” pp. 90-105; Matthew 6:19-34
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 6
  • October 9-15, Study Week 8: “Do Unto Others,” pp. 106-121; Matthew 7:1-12
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 7
  • October 16-22, Study Week 9: “A Foundation That Endures,” pp. 122-137; Matthew 7:13-29
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 8
  • October 23-29: Catch Up Week and Finish Study
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 9

How This Works

  • If you have not done so already, please register by leaving your name and email address below.
  • Purchase the study book.
  • Here is a product sample so you can see it before ordering it: Sample
  • Subscribe to this site to receive future updates by email. Enter your email address in the field to the right, and then click the subscribe button.
  • Join our closed Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, for weekly interaction, activities, videos, and small group sessions. Closed means that no one will be able to see our posts unless they are members of the group. This is for your safety and privacy.
  • Small Groups: There will be a schedule for small groups pinned to the top of the Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, as we get closer to the time. All you need to do is show up at the scheduled day and time, and the discussion will take place underneath the group photo. 
  • Follow my ministry page on Facebook, Shari Lewis Ministries, to stay up-to-date on ministry events and for daily prayers, nuggets of wisdom and encouragement for your life, photos that you are welcome to share, and faith building blog posts to strengthen you in your walk with Christ.

 

Let us continue being faithful and diligent in the Word. May we seek to know God and His ways. I hope to see you in a small group this week!

God bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share on Social Media

Why Won’t God Take This Away?

Have you ever been so frustrated that God won’t rescue you from that storm in your life? You know He is more than able, so why is He allowing you to suffer?  Surely, He sees your pain and weakness. What about all the verses you memorized about being healed by His stripes, and that He will do whatever you ask in His name?

I wish I could answer all these questions in a few short words, but pithy, clever clichés just don’t cut it sometimes, do they? Unfortunately, there are just some things we will never understand here on this earth. We are not capable of grasping the big picture, but we can have assurance that we are held firmly in the hands of God. He will carry us through, and He will never ever abandon us.

God only knows how this will all come together for our good. On the contrary, with our limited mortal minds we are unable to fathom the depths of God’s unlimited love and wisdom. However, our trials give us the opportunity to see the hand of God moving mightily in our lives. The same situation that we think is hurting us at the present is actually the vehicle God is using to show us more of His goodness, and to draw us into a deeper relationship with Him.

One thing I have observed is that it is only through our struggles that we can develop the character and strength we need to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives. It is often against the backdrop of pain and suffering that we are able to perceive the lovely brush strokes of God’s provision and grace intermingled within. If everything were easy and comfortable, we would never experience growth or come to understand some of the most amazing aspects of God’s character. It is when He carries us through the storms that we come to know Him more intimately than we ever could from the outside of the storm.

So, what is happening when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we expect?

For one, God’s answers ALWAYS trump our expectations. Even when we think we know what is best, God’s plan is always better. When you think of it, who are we to stand before God and tell Him how to deliver us? Our deliverance will surely come, but it will come in a much better way than how we prayed!

When the Israelites fled Egypt, and faced the Red Sea on one side, and a return to bondage on the other, they had no idea that God was getting ready to part the sea for them. From their perspective, they felt trapped. They began complaining and grumbling that God had led them into the desert to let them die.

This is the point many of us find ourselves. We are right there on the verge of God’s deliverance, but we are too fixated on what has us bound. We are tempted to think God has abandoned us. Or, we allow ourselves to believe His promises aren’t what they are cracked up to be after all.

It’s time to change our perspective!

Imagine that moment when the waters began parting, and dry land appeared before them. Suddenly things looked different as the multitude traveled to the other side. If that isn’t mind-blowing enough, just picture the reaction of the Israelites when the enemy that had pursued them was swept away and drowned in the very same water that they thought had them trapped just hours before.

Let that be your story! Let that thing that has you bound be the very instrument God will use to perfect you. Instead of stamping your foot and wavering in your faith, wait and see how God will deliver you. He will do it! But, He will do it in His way and His time. He will work it out in the way that will bring out the best in and through you, and in the way that will give Him the most glory. In the end, God will right every wrong and restore everything that was lost or broken. You can count on it!

In the meantime, here is something else to think about. If God doesn’t allow us to have limitations or weaknesses, He will not have the opportunity to demonstrate His strength. Our self-sufficiency and independence can actually hinder God from doing something truly amazing in and through our lives. When we have a handicap or challenge, it causes us to look to God as our source.

God can show us his mercy, compassion, providence, protection, and greatness through our problems. If we never had a problem, how would we know He could solve it? If we never had a need, how would we know He could meet it? We need to rid ourselves of pride and recognize our dependence on Him, and then we are in the perfect position for Him to really show out!

The apostle Paul had a perpetual “thorn in the flesh” that God had allowed to keep him humble, and God would not take it away. Sometimes our struggles in life are merely a thorn in our flesh for the same purpose. Read Paul’s words and ponder his reaction to his own suffering.

“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 MSG

May this change in perspective restore your hope and faith, regardless of your circumstances. Hold on and wait to see what God will do!

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:13-14 NIV

 

 

 

Share on Social Media

White Washed Tombs and Stony Hearts

39092416 - nothing to wear concept, woman lying on a pile of clothes
This is what happens when you open some closet doors!

It has been exactly one year now that my youngest daughter left for the Navy, and I am left with an empty nest. I am reflecting on countless memorable moments of her growing up years. She gave me so many reasons to be proud, but one memory that pops up tonight is not one of her most glorious moments.

As is typical with creative personalities, when she was little, her bedroom had a tendency to be … well … a disaster! Her brothers used to call her room “The Abyss.” Anything that entered may never. make. It. Out!

I wouldn’t embarrass her for the world, but her example illustrates such a powerful spiritual lesson.

The rule of the house was that when she wanted to get together with her friends, her room had to pass inspection. She could bury herself under a mound of clothes and clutter for weeks until an invitation came her way. Then, suddenly, the miraculous occurred! Within minutes, her room would be sparkling! I was astounded at her ability to knock it out of the park when she put her mind to it!

One day, however, I decided to investigate. Oh my goodness! It was like discovering buried treasure! Let’s see, how can I describe what I found under her bed, in her closet, and tucked into every nook and cranny available? Would Hiroshima give you the picture? Perhaps Hurricane Andrew or an F5 tornado? While I am at it, how about the Tasmanian Devil from the cartoons? Yep! That was her secret. Just shove all the clutter into a hiding place, and Viola! It’s all clean! Just understand that you are taking your life into your own hands if you should choose to open that closet door!

Does any of this sound familiar in our lives? Often we work so diligently to have a spotless exterior while neglecting what is truly valuable on the inside. We want to present ourselves well and give the impression of having it all together, yet we may be hiding a load of chaos on the inside. We would be mortified if anyone knew what was really going on inside – the flaws, the hurts, the habits, the hang-ups. As long as we clean up well on the surface, we can just stuff the rest into the abyss of our hidden, internal selves, never to be seen by anyone else.

It is futile to patch up all the cracks on the outside while neglecting all the internal repairs. We all have conditions of the heart that need the touch of the Master’s hand in order to have true wholeness. Why settle for mere surface appearance when we can have the spiritual salve of healing applied to where we really need it? Why cram all the clutter into all the hidden recesses of our hearts when we can be truly healed and repaired from the inside out? When we are refurbished on the inside, it will show on the outside.

Spiritually speaking, in our human nature, we also have the tendency to strive to follow all the rules and do all the right things to make ourselves right with God, but that is not going to cut it. We will never make ourselves holy by following a list of religious rituals. It has to begin with the heart, and it is only possible in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

For those of you who are unsure of your relationship with Christ, you can make certain here, How Can I Be Saved? However, for those of you who already have a relationship with the Lord, the mindset of legalism can continue to be a stronghold. Our pretense of having everything all together on the outside can be a hindrance to being truly holy and pure altogether. Instead of having hearts after God’s heart, we become fixated on man-made rules and traditions. That leaves us cold and distant from God.

Isaiah 29:13 describes this perfectly: “The Lord says:
‘These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.’”

heart fly away

What makes it worse is that when our focus is on outward works, we often fall into the habit of comparing and judging others. We may think that we are doing is all right if we aren’t as bad as someone else. We may look at what someone else is doing and turn up our noses because we don’t do such a thing! However, that takes the focus off what true holiness is.

Romans 3:20-24 explains that we have all sinned, but we can never be made right with God by observing the law. We are only made right with God through faith in Jesus. He is the only one who is able to cover our sins because He is the only one who is truly righteous. Therefore, we are all in the same boat and are all in the need of a Savior. We have no basis for pointing our fingers at anyone else.

In Jesus’ day, the religious sect of the Pharisees was the supreme example of this legalistic fallacy. Jesus sure had a lot to say about it too! (Matthew 23)

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.
“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. Matthew 23:25-28 NLT

So, where does this leave us as mature Christians? Are we beyond the need for this teaching since we are already saved? As long as we live in our earthy bodies, we need to be aware of this hypocrisy and yearn for a heart after God’s heart above and beyond anything and everything else. When we put relationship before behavior, the behavior will take care of itself; but when we strive to be made righteous by following a list of rules, we will never know the true heart of God. Holiness is a condition of the heart, not a to-do list!

How are we then to live? Jesus did teach us that the most important commandments are to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31) When we focus on love, this will fulfill all the requirements of the law. (Galatians 5:14, Romans 13:10). Ultimately, let us yield our lives to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to do the work within. He will form us more and more into the image of Christ!

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27 NIV

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:16-26 NIV

 

Dear Lord, let us have sincere hearts that follow hard after You! Purify us from the inside out. In Jesus’ name.

Feel free to leave a comment below in response or visit my Bible study group on Facebook to discuss this. I would love to hear from you!

God bless!

Signature Shari

love and good works with frame

Share on Social Media

Sermon on the Mount Begins Today

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

I am so excited to begin our new Bible study this week, The Sermon on the Mount, by Jen Wilkin, a study of Matthew 5-7! This is going to be awesome!

Let’s set the backdrop as we begin. In Matthew, chapters 1-4, we have a brief but fascinating introduction to the life and ministry of Christ. Matthew begins with a lengthy genealogy of Jesus, but this was for a powerful purpose.

To understand Matthew’s perspective, he was Jewish and writing to other Jews. His Gospel was written for the purpose of convincing the Jews that Jesus is truly the Messiah, the King who would sit eternally on the throne of David. This explains why Matthew often uses many references to the Old Testament in his writings, because his original readers would understand and relate. This genealogy of Jesus would illustrate that Jesus was officially in the bloodline of King David.

Furthermore, Matthew also included others in this list that we can relate to and see for ourselves that we may also be grafted into the family of Christ, even as an outsider who is unworthy of His grace. Notice names such as Tamar, who was raped; Rahab, who was a prostitute; Ruth, a Moabitis; Uzziah, who was full of pride; Ahaz, who was pure evil; and Manasseh, who was a vile king. Matthew was careful to include each one of these people in the list, and we can see here that we are definitely not beyond the reach of God’s grace to also be included in His family!

We then read of Christ’s birth, the worship and gifts of the Magi, the fleeing to Egypt for safety, the settling in the town of Nazareth where Jesus grew up, the rise of John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus’ baptism, Jesus’ fasting and temptation in the wilderness where he was victorious over the devil’s schemes, the gathering of His twelve disciples, and the launch of His ministry as Jesus taught in the synagogues and healed all those who were sick and afflicted.

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. Matthew 4:23-24 ESV

This is the setting for the beginning of the most famous sermon in Scripture, the Sermon on the Mount, and where we will be camped out for the next nine weeks.

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: (Matthew 5:1-2 ESV)

Imagine sitting captivated at the very feet of Jesus, listening to His infinite wisdom and observing His miracles firsthand. How my heart longs to see His precious face and hear His extraordinary teaching in person! What an amazing opportunity the people of Galilee had as they followed Jesus, and were the first ones to hear his astonishing teaching. How amazing it must have been as they brought their sick and demon possessed to receive instant deliverance. What an exciting time this must have been!

We have an extraordinary opportunity ourselves as we begin this study. We have the irrefutable words of Jesus written for us in the Holy Scriptures, since we could not there in person over 2000 years ago. Yet, we have an advantage. We also have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who teaches us all things and gives us the mind of Christ. He will enlighten our hearts and minds as we study God’s Word.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26 ESV

These things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. … “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:10, 16 ESV

Before we begin, I want to bring up one more incredible insight that Jen Wilkin explains in her first week’s video. Remember, these videos are not required because of the cost. However, I do want to share something awesome I learned from her this week. Let us compare two contrasting times God spoke from a mountain.

In Exodus 19, God spoke from Mt. Sinai with thunder, lightning, smoke, and darkness, and the people were scared out of their minds! This was when God gave them the Law, or the Ten Commandments. Let’s look at a portion here:

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”

On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke, and God answered him in thunder. Exodus 19:9b-13, 16-19 ESV

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” Exodus 20:18-19 ESV

Notice how the Hebrews could not go near or touch the mountain, lest they die. They were terrified! However, when Christ came, He made God approachable to us. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, and He is the only way for us to be able to approach our Heavenly Father. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Therefore, when Jesus sat on the mountain to teach, the people did not need to fear, but they could gather closely. We can too! We do not need to be full of shame or fear. We don’t have to worry about being rejected or struck down, but we can confidently approach the presence of God because Jesus made the way. My friend, His arms are open wide to accept you as you enter in!

This mountain is significant for us to understand the complete contrast between the giving of the Old Covenant and the introduction to the New Covenant that Christ came to bring to us. This is one of the most exciting insights I have ever been taught! I hope this excites you as it does me!

(For more information about the Old vs. New Covenants, see Hebrews 8-10.)

Let’s get started!

 Discussion Questions

 Here is a sneak peek of the questions we will be discussing this week in our small groups.

QUESTION 1: Think about the miracles and teachings you have read about Jesus. Which would you have most liked to witness first hand, and why?

QUESTION 2: If you could have the afternoon alone with Jesus, face to face, what would you ask Him?

QUESTION 3: If Jesus were to speak directly to our churches today, what do you think He would say?

QUESTION 4: One of the beautiful things about the body of Christ is the diversity. We are all different – looks, talents, spiritual gifts, opinions, nationalities, backgrounds, etc. We all complement each other with our differences, and we can bring out the best in each other when we learn to celebrate what makes us unique. What is something unique about you?

QUESTION 5: What time and where do you plan to do your Bible study? How can you keep from giving up?

QUESTION 6: (optional) Do you have any questions for us? Or, do you have any words of advice for new members?

This Week’s Assignments

1.    Read Matthew 5-7

2.    Browse through the introductory pages of the book, Sermon on the Mount, pp. 4-10, and become familiar with Jen Wilkin’s teaching style.

3.    Study Week 2: “Who Is Blessed?” pp. 14-29

4.    Attend a small group.

5.    Watch my video for this week.

6.    Work on memorizing this week’s Bible verse:

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. Matthew 4:23 ESV

 How This Works

  1. If you have not done so already, please register by leaving your name and email address below.
  2. Purchase the study book.

·   Ebook: Sermon on the Mount

  1. Subscribe to this site to receive future updates by email. Enter your email address in the field to the right, and then click the subscribe button.
  2. Join our closed Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, for weekly interaction, activities, videos, and small group sessions. Closed means that no one will be able to see our posts unless they are members of the group. This is for your safety and privacy.
  3. Small Groups: There will be a schedule for small groups pinned to the top of the Facebook group, Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study, as we get closer to the time. All you need to do is show up at the scheduled day and time, and the discussion will take place underneath the group photo. 
  4. Follow my ministry page on Facebook, Shari Lewis Ministries, to stay up-to-date on ministry events and for daily prayers, nuggets of wisdom and encouragement for your life, photos that you are welcome to share, and faith building blog posts to strengthen you in your walk with Chrisst.

 Reading Schedule

  • Skip Week 1 in the book; Optional video
  • August 28 – September 3: Study Week 2: “Who Is Blessed?” pp. 14-29; Matthew 5:1-12
    • Small groups: Introduction. No need to ready anything ahead of time.
  • September 4-10, Study Week 3: “A People of Influence,” pp. 30-45; Matthew 5:13-20
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 2
  • September 11-17, Study Week 4: “You Have Heard That It Was Said…” Part 1, pp. 46-59; Matthew 5:21-30
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 3
  • September 18-24, Study Week 5: “You Have Heart That It Was Said…” Part 2, pp. 60-73; Matthew 5:31-48
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 4
  • September 25 – October 1, Study Week 6: “Secret Righteousness,” pp. 74-89; Matthew 6:1-18
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 5
  • October 2-8, Study Week 7: “Where Your Treasure Is,” pp. 90-105; Matthew 6:19-34
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 6
  • October 9-15, Study Week 8: “Do Unto Others,” pp. 106-121; Matthew 7:1-12
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 7
  • October 16-22, Study Week 9: “A Foundation That Endures,” pp. 122-137; Matthew 7:13-29
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 8
  • October 23-29: Catch Up Week and Finish Study
    • Small groups: Discuss Week 9

Have a blessed week, and I hope to see you in a small group!

 

Share on Social Media

Objections to Forgiveness

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15 NIV

These verses can be a difficult pill to swallow. We all know what it is like to be hurt, betrayed, or even abused by someone else in some way. You know the awkwardness you feel around someone when there is an unresolved issue between you. Perhaps your wound goes much deeper than mine, and you are struggling with this command to forgive the one who inflicted this pain on you. I know what that is like. It just doesn’t seem fair.

A broken relationship can weigh so heavily on our hearts, but we may not fully understand the residual effects we will experience if we allow the bitterness to continue to grow without resolve. It can fester and morph into a hideous beast!

We may think we have allowed bygones to be bygones and have put the offense in the past, but if we haven’t dealt with it and intentionally chosen to forgive, it will continue to eat away at us. We will sacrifice peace and wholeness because we are not willing to swallow our pride and make things right with that person. In a moment, I am going to answer some of the objections you may have about having to forgive, but first, let’s adjust our perspective.

When we choose to forgive, it is not a matter of having to give something of ourselves to someone who has already taken something from us. Rather, we are merely extending the free gift of grace that was first extended to us. When we consider what Christ has done for us, we will see our offender in a different light.

You see, we do not deserve this free gift of grace that Christ died to give us. We deserve the death penalty for our sins. Yet, when we were still dead in the muck and mire of our sin, He took our sin upon Himself and was punished in our place. He freely forgave us and made us as pure and clean as if we had never sinned. He gave us right standing with the Father and reconciled us to Himself. How much more should we be willing to offer forgiveness to others for lesser offenses?

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. 1 John 1:8-9 NLT

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV

Because of his grace, he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life. Titus 3:7 NLT

Matthew 18:21-35 tells of a man who owed the king millions of dollars. He was arrested and sentenced to be sold as a slave, along with his wife and children, until he could pay the debt. As he begged the king for mercy, the kind had pity on him and forgave his debt.

As the man was released, he went straight to a fellow servant who owed him only a small percentage of what he had just been forgiven, and he grabbed the servant by the throat and threated him. The servant begged for mercy, but the creditor would not show mercy. He had the servant thrown into jail!

The other servants saw this and reported it back to the king. When the king heard of this man’s lack of mercy toward his fellow servant, he recanted his act of forgiveness and had the man thrown into prison to be tortured until the debt could be paid. Jesus said:

“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:35 NLT

You may have objections such as:

“You don’t know what this person did to me. They don’t deserve forgiveness.”

  • No, but we don’t deserve forgiveness either. Yet, God loved us so much that He gave His life so we could be forgiven. It’s called grace. Besides, forgiveness is more about freeing ourselves and choosing to live in peace than it is about letting the other person off the hook.

“You don’t know how badly this person hurt me. If I forgive, it will minimalize what they did.”

  • True, you have been hurt. Forgiveness does not deny the hurt, nor does it mean that they are not accountable to God for their actions. What you are doing is to put it in God’s hands instead of seeking retribution yourself. God can take care of it much better than we ever could!

“I cannot allow this person back into my life after what they did.”

  • Forgiveness does not mean that you are a door mat who has to allow the abuse to continue. It is OK to establish healthy boundaries, and it is possible to do so with a heart full of forgiveness.

“Every time I try to forgive, the hurt and anger keeps coming back. I just can’t get over this!”

  • I have learned that actions usually must precede the emotion. We first make the choice to forgive out of obedience, and soon our feelings will follow suit. Until then, what I have learned that helps the most is to pray for the one who has hurt me, and to speak kind words to and about the person. This will catapult you into the fast track to healing!

“But I really just don’t like this person! I don’t want to forgive, and I surely don’t want to build any kind of relationship with this person!

  • This is a tough one for sure, but we aren’t getting off the hook with this one! To love as Christ loves does not mean we have to be BFF’s with this person. When Jesus went to the Samaritan woman, hers was a race the Jews despised. Yet, Jesus looked beyond the external and saw into her soul. He loved her anyway; however, He didn’t invite her to hang out with his disciples or travel with him on his ministry journeys. It is OK to admit we don’t fit together well with someone, or that they belong in the outer ring of our hearts, but it is a choice to love with the unconditional love of God.

We love each other because he loved us first.

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. 1 John 4:19-21 NLT

 

This Scripture sums up the process of forgiveness so beautifully! Let these words sink in deeply.

 

Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,
says the Lord.

Instead,

“If your enemies are hungry, feed them.
If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap
burning coals of shame on their heads.”

Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:17-21 NLT

 

When we consider the lavish gift of forgiveness that God first bestowed upon us, we are more willing to choose forgiveness toward others. By the grace of God, we have been forgiven of all our sins and declared “Not guilty,” although we did nothing to warrant such mercy. Now we are in a position to offer the same kindheartedness to others.

So, my friend, choose to forgive and be free!

 

 

Share on Social Media

In Over My Head

Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel. Psalm 22:3 ESV

Read Ezekiel 47:1-12 and Galatians 5:13-26.

We are currently in a season of prayer and fasting as we prepare for our upcoming fall Bible study, Sermon on the Mount, by Jen Wilkin, beginning August 28, at Heart to Heart Women’s Bible Study. We invite you to join us in seeking the face of God wholeheartedly, as He has promised that we WILL find Him when we seek Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13).

This brings up the question; how much of God do we really want? Do we yearn deeply for His presence, even more than we hunger for food or physical pleasure? Are we willing to deny the most basic, yet intense, of physical appetites in order to yield ourselves more fully to the Spirit of God? Do we long for more of Him, or are we content to settle for mere crumbs?

We have a constant tug-of-war between our physical bodies, our souls, and our spirits, and the one who comes out the strongest is the one most nourished. The more we give in to our physical appetites, the more out of control our physical cravings will be, and the more difficulty we will have submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It will be more challenging to hear the voice of the Lord when our flesh is allowed to call the shots in our lives.

On the other hand, if you have had enough of spiritual complacency and are ready to dive in to a deeper, more abundant walk with God, it is worth the aching denial of flesh for a time to chase after the heart of God with everything that is in us.

Galatians 5:16-17 draws a clear picture of this struggle between our flesh and spirits, yet we are encouraged that when we belong to Christ, we have crucified our flesh. We then have the ability to live our lives by the Spirit rather than being controlled by our flesh.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25 NIV

Understanding this contrast between our flesh and our spirits bring us greater understanding of why fasting is an effective way to help us draw closer to God. It is not a matter of engaging in a hunger strike to get what we want from God, but it is an act of denying our flesh so that we are able to yield more fully to His Spirit. We then have more room for Him to fill us up with Himself.

Here is something else I have learned about the benefit of fasting. Not only is it a perfect opportunity to seek God and to devote our time to prayer and Bible study, but one of the most powerful things we can do during our fast is to focus on worshiping God.

In the King James Version, Psalm 22:3 says that He “inhabitest the praises of Israel.” Worship leaders and pastors have used this verse for years to encourage church members to worship wholeheartedly, because when we worship, it is like bringing the Spirit of God right into our midst. Or, as I like to put it, we are “tuning in” like a radio dial to His frequency, enabling us to enter into His presence.

I have done a little research and have seen that this verse can be interpreted from the original Hebrew in a couple of different ways. One way is to say that God is enthroned in holiness and is praised by Israel. The word “inhabitest” is translated as enthroned in just about every other translation. The ESV, which is a very literal translation, illustrates the second way to translate this verse “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” An alternative to the word enthroned is also offered in the ESV, and that is dwells. “He dwells on the praises of Israel.”

I thought that was an interesting way to view this verse and to understand that when we praise and worship the Lord, He is right there! He dwells in, inhabits, lives in, comes close to, resides in, occupies, abides in, stays in, exists in, draws closely to, and fills the space of our praise and worship!

So, my recommendation to those who are fasting is to focus on praising and worshiping the Lord more intensely than ever during this time.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you … James 4:8 ESV

This is where the exciting chapter from Ezekiel comes in. This is one book of the Bible that has typically left me scratching my head, but this chapter makes me want to jump for joy and swim on over to the deep end!

If you haven’t yet, please read Ezekiel 47:1-12.

We see the rivers, representing the glory of God, flowing from the center of the Temple of the Lord. The first 1000 cubits was only ankle deep. However, when he trekked a little farther, the water was knee deep. He walked another 1000 cubits, and it was waist deep. However, the final section was over his head. He could not pass through unless he swam it.

This illustrates to me the varying levels we can choose to engage in our walk with God. How many times do we merely settle for wading ankle deep when the Holy Spirit is offering a deluge of His presence to completely saturate us? I cannot settle for barely skimming the surface of God’s presence when I have the opportunity to dive in with my whole being!

So, how do we go deeper? We have touched on several things here. There is fasting, prayer, Bible study, worship, and drawing near to God so that He will draw near to us. On one hand, we cannot even come to God at all except that the His Spirit draws us (John 6:44). However, when He does, we have the choice as to how deeply we are willing to go. He does His part first, and then our part is to press in with all we have.

How about it? During this fast, let’s move beyond the ankle, knee, or waist deep water and dive in with our entire beings. Remember, He inhabits our praises, and that is where we will be able to move beyond the spiritual plateau that has kept us stuck for too long. Take some focused time to speak praise to God and give Him your deepest, most heart-felt worship. Express glory, honor, and affection for Him. Stand in reverential awe and adoration for who He is. Tell Him how awesome You think He is!

Say it. Sing it. Shout it. Meditate on it. Write it. And recite it from His Word. Get ready to go to the next level!

I pray that this season of fasting and prayer will draw you more deeply in your walk with God than you have ever experienced before. May God bless You and pour our His Spirit upon you!

Share on Social Media

Our Grand Opportunity to Make a Difference

41460090 - group of children riding bikes in countryside

I know what it feels like to be the outsider, the misfit, the dork who is ostracized from the popular group. It’s no fun! Yet, to think I may have caused someone else to feel that way is much worse. In every social  interaction we have with others, our words and actions have the ability to encourage and build people up, or we can reinforce feelings of insecurity and destroy a person’s sense of self-worth.

We often speak of the psychological damage students incur from bullies or “mean girls,” and how children can often be so cruel to each other. Unfortunately, many of us have also observed, or even personally experienced, that this is every bit as true for adults as well.

On the contrary, I have a story of how a group of kids in the neighborhood were kind and cheered me on as I overcame a fear that could have been a great source of embarrassment. They taught me a positive lesson that I carried with me into adulthood.

You see, I had a secret, and I would have just died if anyone found out! I was the only kid in my fourth grade class who had never ridden a bike. Well, without training wheels that is! Can you believe it? FOURTH GRADE!

The rugged and hilly terrain of my rural childhood home had not afforded the opportunity to learn this required skill of every child of my generation. However, our family had just moved into a suburb in Virginia, and this would be the perfect place to learn!

I felt the pressure as many of my classmates rode their bikes by my house calling for me to join them. How long would I be able to keep this secret?

I can picture it now. There I stood, a tall, awkward, frizzy-haired and plain-looking girl, the new girl in the neighborhood. I had made friends easily enough, but now was the true test to see if I really did fit in to this already tight-knit bunch. I felt awkward enough as it is; did they need to rub it in with the many ride-by’s?

My dad had bought me a beautiful new, ultra-girly, glittery purple bike with a pink daisy banana seat and sparkly pink streamers hanging from the handlebars. My brother took it a step farther and added rainbow colored spoke straws to jazz it up even more. I was set! Now what?

Did I mention the training wheels still attached to it? I didn’t dare join my new friends looking like a baby! It was time to get over my fear!

The day of reckoning finally came. Several of my new friends came to my house and saw my dad trying to teach me how to ride my bike. There it was – the truth was out! Now they knew! Oh horror!

While I was expecting ridicule, that was not what I got at all. They began cheering for me and encouraging me. I felt a wave of courage and determination wash over me. This was going to be the day! I just knew it!

After falling on my rump more times than I could count, I finally learned to balance, and I did it! I was riding a bike! For real!

From that day on, there was no stopping me! I rode my bike throughout the neighborhood every day from the moment I got home from school until it was time to go in for dinner, bath, and bed. Homework? Ahem, I don’t recall that part!

I think it is funny that I was reminiscent of a childhood memory tonight. What is precious to me from this memory is how my friends helped me learn instead of making fun of me for not being able to ride a bike like they all could. Instead of ostracizing me from the group because I was uncoordinated, new, and had horribly frizzy hair, they put much effort into making me feel like a part of their group. It was their encouragement that gave me the determination I needed to finally get over my fear.

46123536 - girlfriends friendship party happiness summer concept

Now, this gets me thinking about modern relationships and my daily encounters with others as an adult. How many times have we unknowingly and unintentionally caused someone to not feel included as part of our “clique?” Is it possible that something we may have said might have injured or discouraged someone’s heart? Perhaps our rosy portrayal on social media of the “perfect life” has festered the wounds of a sister in Christ who is struggling just to get by.

Do we make a point to make others feel included? Do we acknowledge the innate value of others in our realm of influence, or is it easier to ignore people with whom we don’t feel like associating? What if someone in our church, or someone we encounter during our busy day is teetering in their relationship with God, and something we may say or do, or not say or do, just may be the catalyst for setting them over the edge of throwing in the towel?

I am not saying that we are accountable for the decisions or attitudes of others; however, we must acknowledge the grand opportunity we have to make a difference – either positive or negative – in the lives of everyone we encounter every day. What an awesome responsibility we have as daughters of the King!

Let us make it our life’s mission to encourage, help, bless, and minister to everyone we can, in every way we can, and as often as we can. Be aware of people around us. Take notice. You may never know when something you said or did was the very thing that person needed. Don’t hold back if you have the opportunity to encourage or cheer someone on. It is not always something as simple as learning how to ride a bike, but perhaps someone you meet today needs your encouragement as they deal with a broken relationship, a hurting heart, a major life decision, financial stress, managing a special needs child, nursing elderly parents, or trying to make it on their own for the first time. Who knows?

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV

Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. 1 Peter 3:8 NLT

God bless!

Signature Shari

Share on Social Media

Weed Be Gone for the Garden of Your Heart

Armed in my paint-saturated, holey t-shirt and bum pants, hair in a ponytail, and minimal make up, I was all set to join my husband and the others at church for a work day. This was certainly not one of my most glamorous moments!

While the men worked on repairing the walls and painting the sanctuary, I grabbed my grubby garden gloves and set to work on weeding the flower beds. It was just a few weeks ago that I thought I had evicted all those infernal weeds, and here they are again!

Now, I am quite proud of how beautiful the flowers are looking. They have multiplied like crazy this past month! My favorites are the deep purple wave-petunias. I’m not sure if I love them because they are so vividly colored, or because petunias are so easy to take care of. Unfortunately, however, it seems that in no time they are beginning to be overrun by these out-of-control weeds again.

As I set to work, one thing I learned was that I can either pull up only the parts of the weeds I can see, or I can dig a little deeper and pull them out by the roots to ensure they will be completely annihilated. I guess it all depends on how quickly I want to be back out here to do this again.

Isn’t the garden of our hearts quite similar? We have been given abilities and gifts that enable us to fulfill our God-given purpose in life, and they are like the vibrant flowers in the flower bed spreading beauty and fragrance all around.

As we grow in our walk with Christ, we will also see spiritual fruit develop in our lives. It is much like the lush peaches that are bountiful in the orchards of Georgia in the summertime. There is nothing better than peach harvest time. And, there is nothing better than producing ripe, abundant fruit that yields Kingdom results for the glory of God.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Unfortunately, our hearts can be overrun with destructive weeds that can choke the tender blooms or hamper our fruit production. We battle the weeds of destructive habits, stinking thinking, unwise choices, unhealthy relationships, and many other distractions that can grow frenziedly if we do not keep them under control. We keep trying to rid ourselves of these things, but they keep coming back! What can we do?

Here are four steps to help you keep those foul weeds under control and bear the most luscious and abundant fruit possible:

  • Abide in the vine. John 15:4-5 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”If you allow yourself to become detached from the vine, you will certainly wither and be unfruitful. In order to bear ripe and healthy fruit, you must be connected to the source, who is Jesus Christ. Stay close to Him, focus on relationship with Him first, and you will have all you need to live the most abundant and purposeful life possible.
  • Walk in the Spirit.When you have accepted Christ as your Savior and have allowed Him to be the Lord of your life, the Holy Spirit dwells within you (Ephesians 1:13-14, 1 Corinthians 6:19). Consequently, as you live according to the Holy Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, which are like weeds that stunt your spiritual growth (Galatians 5:16-26). Walking in the Spirit is the best weed control there is! He convicts us of sin and leads us on the very best path for the sake of Christ. Listen to His still small voice, and obey. That is the secret to staying on course! Then you will bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21.

  • Resist the devil. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7. You need to understand that you have an enemy that is bound and determined to render you completely useless. That is his job! He is like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, and if we are not on guard, he will have a heyday in our lives (1 Peter 5:8). However, you are not helpless against this fierce foe. You have been given an arsenal of weapons to defeat him once and for all. The sixth chapter of Ephesians is your spiritual “weed-be-gone” against the enemy’s schemes. (Ephesians 6:10-13). He will try to make you think you are powerless, but he is nothing but a big, fat liar, and the father of lies. You have been given all you need to stand victoriously against him and his attacks!
  • Pluck these weeds out by the roots. You can do as I did the first time, weeding but merely removing the parts of the weeds that are seen above the surface. You may have the façade of having it all together on the surface, but in no time, those weeds will be back to smother any productivity in your life. You essentially have two choices. You can continue dealing with the fruit of bad behavior and the consequences of irresponsible choices, or you can endure the momentary pain of plucking these weeds out by the roots and having them removed once and for all. It’s your choice! Get to the root of what is hindering your life and deal with it completely. Don’t be afraid to allow the Holy Spirit to prune you so that you will eventually be even more fruitful. And, don’t let the weeds come back!

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. John 15:2

Back to my story. My husband and I carried a bagful of freshly picked, ripe, sweet peaches home with us after working at the church, and we made a batch of homemade, peach ice cream. It was a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Ah yes, this sweet treat was so worth the hard work of weeding and nurturing those peach trees! And yes, your life will also be sweet when you do the work of weeding and nurturing the fruit of your life, and it will be so worth it!

God bless you, and here’s to fruitful living!

 

 

 

Share on Social Media