117 Total Listings – 25 New Listings on Today’s Report,
5 Listings Removed from Today’s Report .
were the wealthy aristocratic leaders headquartered primarily in Jerusalem.
They tended to be much more interested in politics than religion. The second
much more widespread and popular party went by the label of Pharisee. The
Pharisees lived in and around the common people and focused on the demands
of the law and personal righteousness.
While neither group could stand the other, they had a common hatred for this
upstart prophet from Nazareth that went by the name of Jesus.
Both groups loved to play, “Stump the Messiah.” They would generate some
penetrating question and then trot it out to Jesus and hope to trip him up.
One day the Sadducees had flamed out badly with a question related to marriage
and the resurrection. It was an ironic question considering the Sadducees didn’t
even believe in resurrection.
After the debacle with the Sadducees the Pharisees thought they would try their
hand with this meddlesome Messiah. After a quick sidebar they rolled out their
favorite Lawyer to pin him down with a burning question related to the law.
“Teacher,” the barrister queried, “which is the greatest commandment” (Matthew
The question was a carefully crafted minefield. In their minds the greatest
commandment was the one they recited every single day, “Hear Oh Israel the
Lord is our God the Lord is One.” They called this the Shema and it came from
Deuteronomy 6:4. Every Jew knew it by heart.
The trap was set. As soon as Jesus quoted that familiar line they would pounce
on him. “Wait, if God is one then how can you be God as you profess to be?”
Jesus shocked everyone by quoting, not Deuteronomy 6:4, but Deuteronomy 6:5,
And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL
YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’”
And then for good measure he added a second,
“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’”
I don’t know if you can feel the difference but here it is. The verse they loved to
quote was descriptive. It defined God but said nearly nothing about what that
means. The part Jesus quoted was prescriptive. It didn’t so much define the
nature of God as it prescribed the actions He wanted from followers.
I know it’s a fine distinction and I don’t mean to split hairs but the implications are
The Pharisees thought that knowledge was the most important thing. Jesus
showed them that application matters most. God is not nearly as concerned with
what you know as he is with what you do with what you know.
I think the lesson for the Pharisees is a great reminder for us.
Churches spend a lot of time studying about God. Maybe we should spend a bit
more time applying what we’ve learned.
Nine years ago the Amish showed us what it means to apply the great
commandment. It happened in Bart Township, Lancaster County Pennsylvania.
Bright young faces with their bikes and scooters parked beside the door were
sitting in rows at an Old Amish one-room-schoolhouse when a crazed gunman
burst through the door. He took hostages and then brutally shot ten little girls, all
between the ages of 6 and 13. Five died.
The story quickly burned up the Internet and news outlets.
But then the Amish did what most people could never do. They buried their
innocent children and then reached out to the family of the murderer.
Here’s the Fox News piece:
“The Amish say they are quietly accepting the deaths as God’s will.
‘They know their children are going to heaven. They know their children are
innocent … and they know that they will join them in death,’
‘The hurt is very great,’ Gertrude Huntington said. ‘But they don’t balance the hurt
In just about any other community, a deadly school shooting would have brought
demands from civic leaders for tighter gun laws and better security, and the
victims’ loved ones would have lashed out at the gunman’s family or threatened
But that’s not the Amish way.
In the aftermath of Monday’s violence, the Amish have reached out to the family
of the gunman, Charles Carl Roberts IV, 32, who committed suicide during the
attack in a one-room schoolhouse.
Dwight Lefever, a Roberts family spokesman, said an Amish neighbor comforted
the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them.
Among Roberts’ survivors are his wife and three children.”
I like to read the blogs of people that don’t always share my worldview. I will
never forget one such blog. The writer tends toward the politically far left. He’s
often cynical and sometimes jaded, but the Amish reply to senseless brutality got
to him. Shortly after the tragedy my friend posted a picture of an Amish carriage.
It’s the familiar simple black buggy with the ubiquitous red triangle on back. The
photograph showed the window on the carriage with the faces of three small
children peering out.
At the top of his column he wrote: “I think the world would probably be a better
place if we were all Amish.”
Maybe the world would be a better place if Christians spent less time on knowing
about God and more time doing what He says. The Amish showed us what that
Years ago I asked a young man who was engaged to be married, “How do you know that you love her?” It was a loaded question, intended to help him look at his heart’s motives for the upcoming marriage. After several thoughtful moments, he responded, “I know I love her because I want to spend the rest of my life making her happy.”
We discussed what that meant—and the price tag attached to the selflessness of constantly seeking the best for the other person, rather than putting ourselves first. Real love has a lot to do with sacrifice.
That idea is in line with the wisdom of the Bible. In the Scriptures there are several Greek words for love but the highest form is agape love—love that is defined and driven by self-sacrifice. Nowhere is this more true than in the love our heavenly Father has shown us in Christ. We are deeply valued by Him. Paul stated, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
If sacrifice is the true measure of love, there could be no more precious gift than Jesus: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16 nlt).
Luke 1:17 “And it is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous; so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John the Baptist was given the ministry of preparation. He would pave the way for Jesus. His message was hard and unyielding. He called folks to examine their sinful ways and get ready to make a change! We all know what John was about. Prophet, pure and simple. He wore wild skins and ate wild things. But here’s something I picked up today in the text that I’d never seen before. One of the manifestations of a repentant heart was for fathers to once again care for their children.
We don’t think much about that do we? For us, repentance usually includes turning from immoral things and inappropriate behavior. But look what the front end of that verse says. It’s all caps. Emphasized because it’s a direct quote from the Old Testament. He’s quoting Malachi 4:6. One of the signs of a changed heart will be “to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children.” Here’s what I suddenly realized. “When men stray from God they often stop loving their families like they should.”
I was talking with a woman not long ago and she was saddened by the fact that her ex-husband never came to see his children or grandchildren. He lives one state over and was back within thirty miles on a hunting trip with his brother. Another brother that still lives in the same town as the children tried to encourage him to come see them, “Why don’t you come home with me for a day or so and see the kids and grandkids?” The absentee father, now in his mid sixties said, “you know I’m getting on up in years and there won’t be too many more good hunting seasons for me to have.”
I was speechless. Then I came across verse Luke1:17. I gained a new insight on lostness and repentance and sin. Men don’t go to bars and hang out with their buddies at the expense of their families because the bars are so glorious and glamorous. They go because their hearts have been turned from their children. And one of the signs of a man who is right with God will be when he comes home to his family.
While millions watched on television, Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a 1,800-foot wire that was only 2 inches in diameter. He took all the precautions he could. But adding to the drama and danger of both the height and the rushing water below, a thick mist obscured Nik’s sight, wind threatened his balance, and spray from the falls challenged his footing. Amid—and perhaps because of—these perils, he said that he “prayed a lot” and praised God.
The Israelites also praised God in the middle of a dangerous challenge. Theirs involved a large group of warriors who had gathered to fight them (2 Chron. 20:2). After humbly asking God for help, King Jehoshaphat appointed a choir to march out into battle in front of the Israelite army. The worshipers sang: “Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever” (v.21). When they began to sing, the Lord caused the enemy forces to attack and destroy each other.
Praising God in the midst of a challenge may mean overriding our natural instincts. We tend toward self-protection, strategizing, and worry. However, worshiping can guard our hearts against troubling thoughts and self-reliance. It reminds us of the lesson the Israelites learned: “The battle is not [ours], but God’s” (v.15).
The old business guru Peter Drucker said that whenever he was called to consult with a company he would ask the leadership two questions: “What’s your business?” and “How’s business?”
He said that he asked the first question because sometimes leadership forgets the purpose of their business. They get sidetracked and lose focus. So he starts by trying to clarify the company objectives.
Peters and Waterman shared a similar concern in their fine work, In search of Excellence. They called it, “Sticking to the knitting.” The writers point out that back in the 70’s and 80’s conglomeration became the rage and many good companies saw their fortunes crumble through poor acquisitions. The problem was, they got into business that they didn’t understand. Westinghouse went into aircraft engines, RCA tried computers, and Exxon tried their hand at telecommunications.
Peter’s and Waterman quoted an article from Business Week concerning the problems of Ling-Temco-Vault. Most today have never heard of LTV. I remembered that company because my dad had stock in LTV and every morning at breakfast he would check the stocks in the Wall Street Journal, and boast about his latest windfall with LTV. LTV was a great company in the 1960’s.
So what happened? Ling-Temco-Vault started as an electronics and aviation company. Then it went into the steel business. Then it bought a meatpacking consortium that included sporting goods. By the time the conglomerate had finished expanding it comprised 33 companies employing 29,000 and producing 15,000 different products.
Peters and Waterman wrote:
“Jimmy Ling was down in Washington appearing before an anti-trust committee describing why conglomerates were not in restraint of trade. He put up a chart that said, “How many people in LTV (then Ling-Temco-Vault) know the steel business?” He had just bought Jones and Laughlin. The answer? A big red zero was the next chart in his presentation. I bet today Jimmy Ling wishes the answer to that hadn’t been zero, because when Jones and Laughlin went down, Ling lost control of LTV”
In July of 1986 this company that was worth $3.6 billion in 1969 ($23.3 billion in today’s dollars), was in bankruptcy. The final asset, “LTV Steel,” liquidated in a second bankruptcy in 2000.
What happened? In simple language, they took their eye off the ball. They forgot why they were in business.
If you plan to stay in business then you’d better know what business you are in.
Church isn’t a business but like those international conglomerates we too can forget why we exist.
Years ago I read the story of some guys traveling through the southern United States. It was lunchtime and they were hungry so they started looking for a restaurant. They stumbled across a greasy spoon with an odd name, “The Church of God Grill.” Curious, they phoned in an order and asked for an explanation. The cashier told them that it was originally a church but finances were tight so they started selling burgers and things to help make up the difference. The burger business took off, but the church kept on declining. Eventually they dropped the church all together and today it’s just a grill.
What’s your business?
No, we aren’t a business, but I still think we need to ask this question. Why are you here? What purpose do you serve?
Sometimes churches forget who they are and gradually morph into something God never intended. I’ve seen churches start acting like a country club. The focus turns inward, and while they may not say it, they certainly live by the unwritten credo, “Membership has its privileges.” Some churches turn into shrines. The key mantra is, “Don’t mess anything up.” Churches can become academies of learning. “Forget about the lost, we’re here to study the Bible.” Some churches become strange self-help centers. Some are like giant pep rallies. Some churches feel like political conventions.
It seems as if there are countless ways for churches to take their eye off the ball.
So what’s your business? If the Lord were to walk into your church and ask that question what would you say? It’s really not a hard question because Jesus defined our purpose in Matthew 28:19-20:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit ,teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The church exists to tell the world about the beautiful grace of Jesus. When you think about it, church is one of the only institutions in the world that exists for the benefit of its non-members.