Quick Thought – Sunday, July 23, 2017

Read

Matthew 9:9-13

Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Matthew 9:13

Reflect

Bible-era tax collectorSometimes when you read a passage in the Gospels, you get a perfect picture of exactly who Jesus was. Today is an excellent example of that.

Tax collectors were hated among the Jewish people because they tended to be more than a little greedy and corrupt. Plus, they were typically Jews who were collecting taxes on behalf of the Roman oppressors, and they were making a huge profit doing it.

Jesus probably encountered such people often, and on two occasions, he made a point of ministering the Gospel specifically to those tax collectors. We find one in the story of Zaccheus (who climbed a tree to see Jesus), and the other in the calling of Matthew as one of Jesus’ closest disciples.

This calling probably would have confounded not only the holier-than-thou Pharisees but possibly some within Jesus’ inner circle. That’s why I loved the interpretation found in “The Bible” miniseries, where the producers combined a story in Luke 18, where Jesus contrasts the false piety of the Pharisee against the utter humility and remorse of the tax collector.

We don’t know if this is how Jesus actually called Matthew, but it has such a ring of truth to it, and it looks like what I would expect from the Lord, who always showed love and mercy. Even so, He also used the calling of Matthew as a teaching opportunity, not just about the Pharisees, but to them. He sends them on a scriptural hunt for the meaning of Hosea 6:6. (“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”) And He sends a message to the others listening, including his disciples, that God’s quality is always to show mercy to sinners.

What about us? How do we treat the “sinners” in the world? Do we look down on people who do things we don’t agree with? Or do we show the love and mercy of God to them? It’s pretty clear what Jesus would have done, and we’re supposed to be His hands and feet to those around us. Today, pray about how the Lord would have you reach out to people who need Him most.

Reflection copyright © 2017 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, July 22, 2017

Read

Genesis 7

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation.”
Genesis 7:1

Reflect

Silly Symphony Noah's ArkToday’s scripture is one of the most debated passages in the entire Bible. Did the flood happen, or didn’t it? Is the story of Noah, the animals and the destruction of the world true or false?

(If it is true, it certainly must have been different than the way we learned about it when we were kids, right?)

Scientists will tell you that it’s impossible, and they’ll typically talk about the boat, the space on the boat and the number of animals that Noah would have gathered, as well as the supplies needed. And honestly, they’d have a point but for one thing – faith.

Is the story of the Ark hard to swallow? For people who doubt the existence of God, absolutely. But for people like me who trust completely that He’s not only there, but that He is “large and in charge,” no, it’s not hard to believe.

Think about it – if you believe that God created everything, then how hard is the Flood going to be for Him? And if he designed every animal carefully, don’t you think He can figure out how to fit them on a boat? Of course, if you deny the very existence of God, then you’re not going to place any credence in the story of the Flood anyway.

For me, and for people like me, the story of the Flood is the story of hope. It’s proof that God is there, and that He cares. It shows that even in the worst of times, He has a plan for our future, and that He wants a relationship with us. And it shows that He gives us special reminders that He’s always there – like the beauty of the rainbow after a storm.

The hardest part of the story of the Flood – and with any other story in the Bible – is, “What are you going to do with this?” It comes down to you and to me. Will we believe the Word that God has given us and allow it to lead us to even deeper faith, or will we choose to doubt, deny and turn away.

Today, pray that the Lord will use His Word to build and strengthen you. And pray that He might use you to help lead others into that same kind of faith.

Reflection copyright © 2017 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, July 21, 2017

Read

Psalm 130

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
    O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
    that you may be feared.
Psalm 130:3-4

Reflect

Good teacher with studentsWanted: The Perfect Teacher
Teaches amazing lessons every day and gives away candy for correct answers. Gives no homework. Allows cell phones to be used in class. Never yells at students – in fact, never gets mad, even when students act out. Tutors for free in spare time. Gives only A+ grades. Loved by students and parents equally. Works for free.

Can  you imagine anyone measuring up to that description? Honestly, I would think that the above ad would have been written by a student, and likely one who was struggling in school. But even if they thought that they were getting the perfect teacher, even with those qualities, the teacher they got wouldn’t be perfect simply because there would be no incentive to learn.

Not even the “perfect teacher” would be perfect. No one even has been, except for Jesus, who never sinned even once. That’s certainly the case with each of us. We all live with the curse of sin, which we inherited from our oldest ancestors, Adam and Eve. We’re born as little sinners, and we grow up as sinners. If God kept a written account of our wrongdoings, can you think of anyone who would have a clean record?

But the cool thing is that God is willing to forgive us and give us that clean record. It would be like being in a class where you took a test and got a lot of the answers wrong. God, as your teacher, gives you a chance to ask forgiveness for all of your wrong answers, and when you make that request, he erases each red X and marks those answers correct. Your mistakes are erased, and you’re made whole by the God who wants you to succeed.

Every one of us will fail God’s sin test, but He offers free forgiveness, so that we can clean up our record and ace His test. All it takes is a little humility and a simple request. When we admit that we’re wrong, and we ask Him to forgive us, He’ll wipe the slate clean and let us start over.

As you go through your week, don’t forget to take God up on His promise to forgive. Keep your slate clean and ask God to forgive you each day.

Reflection copyright © 2017 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 – Thursday, July 20, 2017

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 © 2017 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, July 19, 2017

Read

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 © 2017 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, July 18, 2017

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

People worshiping an idolRick 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 © 2017 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, July 17, 2017

Read

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 richest 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 he 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 rich, 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 simply 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 © 2017 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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