Quick Thought – Thursday, October 18, 2018

Read

Psalm 120

In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me.
Psalm 120:1

Reflect

George Washington prayingThings were looking very grim. It was August 29; the ink was barely dry on the Declaration of Independence, and the Continental Army was already facing a loss that would quickly lead to the end of the war. They had been severely beaten in the Battle of Long Island, and now the remaining army was trapped with no way out, save for crossing the East River. Only 8,000 troops were left to fend off 32,000 British troops, and General George Washington knew those numbers would quickly lead to a British victory.

For two days, the British held off, oddly choosing not to press in and finish off the colonists. During those two days, General Washington prepared for a possible escape across the river in rowboats, though any such flight would be dangerous, and would have to be accomplished in secret. If the British suspected the Americans were escaping, they would certainly rush in to stop it and would try to intercept the boats, too.

General Washington also did one more thing. As was his habit, he retreated to his tent and prayed. He asked the Lord for guidance, and he asked Him to help his troops and his new country. At 8 p.m. on August 29, 1776, the answer to his prayer seemed to arrive. Heavy winds and rain had swept onto Long Island, and the storm gave him perfect cover to start sending boats, filled with soldiers, across the river. By 11 p.m., the storm died down, but the night was completely dark, so the retreat continued unhindered.

While this was taking place, a British sympathizer on the island saw the evacuation and wrote a note telling the British about the secret operation. The note was sent toward the British lines, but Hessians (German mercenaries fighting for the British) intercepted the note and held onto it because their English was very poor and they simply didn’t understand what it said. As the sun started to rise, there were still many troops left on the island, and another miracle happened. A thick fog blanketed the East River, so thick that it was hard to even see a few feet away.

At long last, the fog began to lift, and the wayward note finally got into British hands. Realizing what was at stake, British scouts moved onto the Island to see if the note was true. They found no soldiers remaining; the last one left on the island had been General Washington, and he was on the last of the rowboats moving safely across the river.

When faced with impossible odds, George Washington knew where to turn – to his maker, the Lord God Almighty. He clearly trusted Psalm 120:1 – “In my distress I called to the Lord and he answered me.” That miracle alone is credited with helping to save the Continental Army and giving it a chance to defeat the British.

When you are faced with your biggest challenges, where do you turn? Do you try to solve all of your problems by yourself, or do you drop to your knees and seek wisdom and guidance from your Maker? This week, let God have control of your problems. Before you try to fix things yourself, pray for His wisdom on what you should do, and pay close attention to where He leads you.

Reflection copyright © 2018 Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Quick Thought – Wednesday, October 17, 2018

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Psalm 106

Blessed are they who observe justice,
    who do righteousness at all times!
Psalm 106:3

Reflect

Empty courtroomOne of my grandfathers was a federal judge, and I was always a bit in awe of him. He was tall and strong and larger than life, and his hands were like baseball mitts. When you shook his hand, yours would literally disappear in his.

But the place I learned he was most feared was in the courtroom. Grandpa was all business on the bench, and he didn’t put up with any nonsense. Attorneys who tried to win with courtroom antics soon found that he wasn’t amused. And defendants who brought their bad attitudes with them to court were at immediate risk for contempt of court.

One time, my brother and I went to observe him preside over a trial in Miami, a case where some men were accused of stealing drugs from the Federal Customs locker, and then driving their cargo across two state lines. They were facing some serious prison time if they were convicted.

As we watched, one of the defendants took the stand. As the prosecutor cross-examined him, he started to show a bad attitude, which was revealed by his sarcastic answers. Bad move.

My grandfather quickly jumped in and set the defendant straight. “Son,” he said, “You had better change your attitude right now. I won’t have this kind of attitude in my court room. Everyone in this courtroom, including me, deserves your respect, so you had better have some. One more answer like that from you, and I’ll hold you in contempt of this court.”

The defendant narrowed his eyes and looked at his attorney, who clearly was signaling for his client to do what the judge was demanding. With some reluctance, the defendant said, “Yes sir.” And then he started answering his questions with a much different attitude.

Partly because of my grandfather, my family has always had great respect for the law and for justice. As Christians, those should be qualities that we all revere, because God says they’re incredibly important to Him. He says that people who observe justice are blessed. In Proverbs 21:15, we are told that justice is a joy to good and decent people, but it brings terror to those who do evil.

Remember that justice doesn’t just happen in a courtroom. It happens every day of our life in the form of fairness. When we treat people honestly and fairly, we are champions of everyday justice. You will often see people who don’t care anything about fairness, and who will cheat when they think they can get away with it. But also remember that even though they think they’re getting away with it, God still sees them, and one day, they’ll have to have a face-to-face talk with Him about their actions.

This week, work hard to be a champion of everyday justice. Pray that the Lord will give you a heart for His ways, and that He will help you deal fairly with everyone, even if it might be easier or satisfying to do the opposite.

Reflection copyright © 2018 Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Quick Thought – Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Read

Psalm 115

Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
Psalm 115:4-5

Reflect

Rick was bored. The Sunday night youth meeting was almost over, and now he was counting the minutes until he could get home to play on his Xbox.

“Rick!”

He had the latest edition of Grand Theft Auto, and the online gameplay was unreal. A few of his friends said they would be online in about an hour, and he didn’t want to be late.

“Rick!”

Plus, he had started watching “Breaking Bad” on Netflix, and he hoped to get a few episodes in before he went to bed.

“Rick! Are you listening?”

“What?” Rick was apparently put off by the interruption.

“I asked you a question,” Mitch, his youth leader, said. “I asked you if you knew of any idols in your life.”

“No,” Rick said with a sneer. “I don’t worship any idols. That would be dumb.”

Obviously, Rick’s only concept of idols was a little, carved household god that people in the days of the Old Testament somehow worshiped. And Rick was right to think that those idols were stupid. As our scripture today says, these idols, “Have mouths but do not speak, and eyes but do not see.” To worship something created by human hands is utterly pointless.

So is an idol just something like a jade statue of a fat guy? No. An idol can be anything that we put in place of God.  It could be money or TV or cars or Rick’s Xbox. Anything that we devote too much time and money on is possibly an idol. That’s not to say that everything we spend time or money on is an idol. We need food. We need a car. We need a place to live. But if you spend most of your time thinking about food or cars or your house, those things have become idols.

In our case, Rick was daydreaming about games and TV shows instead of getting something out of a message at church. It’s safe to say that Ricks Xbox and television were idols in his life.

What about you? Do you have anything that’s approaching idol status? If so, you should spend some time today looking at those problem areas and asking the Lord to help you overcome those idols. Ask Him to help you place Him back on the throne in your life.

Reflection copyright © 2018 Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Quick Thought – Monday, October 15, 2018

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1 Samuel 2:1-10

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
    he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
    he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
    and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord‘s,
    and on them he has set the world.
1 Samuel 2:7-8

Reflect

Having nice things isn’t bad. In fact, having some of the finer things can be helpful. We all need stuff like clothes and furniture and ovens and cars. But when people get caught up in a chase for more stuff, that’s when they start to get in trouble. After all, how much is enough? How much is too much?

The Greek myth of King Midas is a good example. The king had everything he could ever hope for and was by far the wealthiest man in the kingdom. He had a beautiful palace, a gorgeous daughter and enough gold to buy anything he wanted or needed. But it wasn’t enough.

One day, when King Midas was counting his gold (which he did several times a day), he wished that he could turn everything he touched to gold. His wish was granted, and at first, the king was thrilled. He ran around touching everything in sight, and everything became gold. It was fun at first, but then he got hungry, and when he sat down to eat, every piece of food he touched turned to gold. When he was thirsty, the water in the cup became gold before he could take a drink. When he laid down to sleep, his sheets became hard, cold gold. His daughter saw how miserable he had become, and she made the mistake of comforting him by giving him a hug – and then she turned to gold!

King Midas’ desire for more and more cost him everything. He had all of the gold he could desire, but it brought him no joy or comfort because he ended up hungry, thirsty, cold and alone. Sadly, that’s what happens to a lot of people who chase after things instead of chasing after God. People who just want more stuff never get enough, and even when they’re incredibly wealthy, they just want more. Their things don’t bring them any of the comfort that comes from the love of God.

I’ve known many rich people. Some of them know how blessed they are, and they give God all of the credit for their wealth. They give a lot of their money and time to help others who are less fortunate, and they’re very generous with God. Others have given God little or no credit, and they’ve spent most of their time and money merely trying to make more money. Which ones do you think have been happier in life? (If you’re wondering what the answer is, it’s definitely the ones who have honored God.)

Today, think of the possessions you have. Take a few moments and write down the ones that are the most important to you, and make some notes about whether they’re needs or wants. (The list will probably surprise you a bit – it’s really OK to have wants on that list, but the main point is to be aware of just how much you’re blessed to have.) Make a point of thanking God for the blessings he’s given you, and ask Him to help you be content with what you have, and to be grateful for whatever He chooses to bless you with in the future.

Reflection copyright © 2018 Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Quick Thought – Sunday, October 14, 2018

Read

Psalm 101

No one who practices deceit
    shall dwell in my house;
no one who utters lies
    shall continue before my eyes.
Psalm 101:7

Reflect

The following story is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty).

“You don’t want to fail, do you?” Kent was getting impatient. He and Don had been going over this for 15 minutes, and Don still wasn’t sure.

“It’s cheating, Kent,” Don said. “And if we get caught, then what?”

“We won’t get caught,” Kent said. “And every one of Miss Gill’s classes has done it for years.”

Kent was right. Miss Gill gave some of the most notoriously difficult vocabulary quizzes on record, and her gifted (you read that right – gifted!) classes had figured out a system. They found where she kept her test masters, copied the answers and passed them out to everyone in the class.

After they had gotten low grades on quizzes for the first month or two of class, their grades started to climb. They intentionally got scores in the 80s for a week or two, then got into the 90s. Every week, one or two students would get less than 100 so that she wouldn’t get suspicious. And she never did – not for the five years that it had been going on.

Now it was into the sixth year, and Kent had gotten the inside scoop from one of last year’s juniors. He had gotten most of the class on-board, but Don was waffling. “It won’t work unless we all do it,” Kent said. “And everyone has done this. What will it hurt?”

What do you think Don did? If you said he gave in and cheated, you’d be right. And everyone’s grade rose, just as in the previous years. Until one day Don got careless. He went into Miss Gill’s office to get answers, and she walked in. A three-day suspension was his reward, and he barely passed Miss Gill’s class. While he didn’t turn any of the other students in, Miss Gill changed up the tests. They got incredibly hard again, and the quiz grades went down.

The worst part was that Miss Gill, who had been a friend to Don and the rest of the class, was deeply hurt by his actions. The answer to Kent’s question, “What will it hurt,” is simply, “Miss Gill.” Plus, it hurt Don’s reputation and damaged his integrity. It made his parents trust him less, and it hurt his chances to pass a course that he was passing with flying colors. It turns out that cheating hurt a lot.

It always does. Cheating never really pays off in the long run, even if you think you’re getting away with it. Someone always finds out, and the price is steep. Bernie Madoff swindled people out of billions of dollars. He’ll likely spend out all of his remaining years behind bars. Lance Armstrong thrilled the world by winning seven straight Tour de France cycling races – before being stripped of those titles because he was found to have used drugs to improve his performance. Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez should be easy candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame, but the belief that they’ve both used steroids to improve their hitting will probably end those hopes.

Even if none of those guys (or even Don) had been caught, cheating would still be costly because God knew. It’s a sin in his book, and he wants no part of it. People who follow the Lord should be known as completely honest without a hint of deceit.

You may never be tempted to cheat, but if you are, pray to the Lord that He will help you stay strong and do the right thing – look in the other direction and stay honest. A clean conscience with an honest failing grade is better than a boatload of guilt with a passing one.

Reflection copyright © 2018 Doug DeBolt

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Quick Thought – Saturday, October 13, 2018

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Matthew 8:5-13

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.
Matthew 8:8

Reflect

Roman centurion in battleRomans weren’t known for their limitless faith – at least in anything credible. They were largely pagans, and if they believed in anything, it was in the host of Roman gods like Jupiter, Neptune and Mars. Often, they “believed,” hoping to get something in return. Other times, they showed a public faith because they were expected to, but privately, believed in nothing.

So, the world that Jesus was born into was one where the historic faith of Judaism was oppressed to some extent by the occupying forces of Rome, who thought the Jewish faith was a joke. Many of them probably thought their own gods were a joke.

In the midst of that spiritual stew appears a Roman centurion who shows more faith than almost anyone else in the Bible. While his superiors and underlings are undoubtedly scornful of the Jews, and certainly of a simple Jewish carpenter, the centurion has somehow been exposed to the teachings of Jesus, and they’ve had an effect. And the faith that has resulted is put to the test.

At home, the centurion’s trusted servant lay dying, and with no cure in sight, the Roman makes a fateful decision – seek out the prophet and plead with Him for healing.

What’s maybe most remarkable about this centurion is his understanding of Jesus’ divinity and power. He tells Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

And Jesus, after commending the man’s complete and utter faith, rewards him. By the time the centurion returned home, his servant had been healed. This one-time pagan, who had never seen Jesus before, came to complete faith in Him. And defying the conventions and beliefs of his own people, he was willing to risk quite a bit to seek healing from the Savior.

What kind of faith do you have in Jesus? Is it unwavering? What would you risk to show faith and devotion to Him? You may never have to step out and demonstrate your faith in a way that exposes you to ridicule and even punishment. But a true faith in Christ is at least willing to risk everything, just as Jesus did for us in His death. Today, pray that the Lord will strengthen your faith and resolve, should you ever be faced with a time of trial.

Reflection copyright © 2018 Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Quick Thought – Friday, October 12, 2018

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Genesis 11

Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”
Genesis 11:4

Reflect

Tower reaching toward the skyThere are so many questions that arise out of the story of the Tower of Babel, so instead of finding a clever story to illustrate the point of the story, let’s just take a few minutes to answer some of those questions.

1) Did this really happen?
Honestly, you could ask that about everything in the Bible. And if we’re going to say that one thing did happen, but another thing didn’t, then it opens the entire Bible to doubt. In some way, yes, I absolutely believe the story is true. People decided they were just as good as God – we still see that every day, don’t we? So it has the ring of truth and believability.

2) What was wrong with building a tower?
I’m sure God has no problem with people building towers. Just look at the skyline of any major city, and you’ll see huge buildings that reach toward the sky. The problem wasn’t with the building, but with why they were building it.

3) So, why was God mad with them?
In the first chapter of Genesis, God gave a simple command: “Fill the earth and subdue it.” God didn’t want people to just congregate in one place. He wanted them to spread out over all the earth and carry God’s message with them. At Shinar, they decided to all stay and do things their way. That’s where you hear them say, “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” They didn’t want God’s way, but their own.

4) Is this the origin of languages?
It would seem so. God, to keep all of the people from uniting – ultimately against Him – “confused” their language into many, and He himself scattered them in different directions so they would do what He originally commanded.

5) How high was the tower?
No one knows, and the height wasn’t really the point. The condition of the people’s hearts was far more important, and it seemed that mankind had so quickly after the Flood decided again that people knew more than God. As far as the height of the tower, without the understandings of modern engineering and materials like steel, it’s doubtful they truly could have ascended into the heavens with their tower. But if God hadn’t intervened, it’s also doubtful they ever would have stopped trying to accomplish that.

6) What lesson can I learn from this story?
Basically, doing things God’s way is always right and never wrong. If God tells us to do something, we should never assume that we’re smarter than He is, and look for a better way without Him. All such effort will ultimately fail and prove to be foolish.

Reflection copyright © 2018 Doug DeBolt.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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