Quick Thought – Tuesday, September 12, 2017

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Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea.
Psalm 46:1-2

Reflect

Ground Zero after 9/11Her name was Joan, and though I only saw her for less than an hour, I’ll never forget her.

The day was Tuesday, September 18, 2001 – exactly one week after the tragedy on 9/11. My dad and I had gone to New York because God had spoken to his heart and told him that there was work to do there. So on Sunday the 16th, after church, we made the long trip to the Big Apple, stopping briefly in Washington, D.C., to pick up a friend.

On Monday, we made it into the city, and if you’ve ever been there you’ll know what I mean. It was eerie. The noisiest city in the world was practically silent. No horns were blaring. No words were shouted. People were actually being polite. This was not New York as I had known it.

On Tuesday, we ventured as close to Ground Zero as we could get. There, we began to survey the situation and wait for God to “show up.” It didn’t take long.

As I looked around, the evidence of the disaster was still evident. We were a street away from Ground Zero, but soot and dust still covered everything. Shopkeepers were just beginning to clean off their storefronts to reopen. In the midst of this were people who were confused. No one understood why “God would let this happen,” and many of them were walking the same street searching for answers.

One of them, an older woman, came up to me and asked me to pray for her. I called my Dad, an Episcopal priest, over and he listened to the woman’s request and led her in prayer. A man saw us in prayer, and he walked up and also asked for prayer. While we prayed for him, a woman, Joan, waited with her daughter.

We learned that Joan’s husband had been on one of the upper floors of one of the two towers. She knew that he had to have been killed when the towers fell, but she had to see for herself. Dad prayed with her, then we walked with her past the police line and all the way to Zuccotti Park, where we surveyed the damage. (For perspective, look at this photo. Zuccotti Park is just below the tall red building at the lower right edge.)

When she saw the damage, Joan knew her husband was truly gone. She fell into the arms of her friends, and as they sat her in a chair, Dad continued to console her and pray with her.

There are two thoughts I want to leave you with. First, Joan was going to go to Ground Zero, with or without a priest. Had we not been there that day, she would have been there to deal with the loss of her husband without any spiritual support. God knew she needed prayer, and I truly believe He sent us to New York mainly to be there for her.

Second, no matter how big the tragedy, God is bigger than whatever may come. He truly is our refuge and our strength, and even if the earth falls to pieces and the mountains collapse into the oceans, He will still be the God who is big enough to overcome it all. In the days after 9/11, this nation turned to God for strength and guidance – and then promptly turned back to what we were doing before 9/11 once the danger had passed. The time to turn to Him isn’t when the bad things happen – it’s right now.

Today, ask the Lord to keep your heart set on Him in the good and the bad times. Ask Him to strengthen you for the tough times that might come your way. And take just a few minutes to watch this video, which I made after I got back from New York. (You’ll see Joan and her daughter at the end of the video.)

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, September 11, 2017

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Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
Psalm 46:1-2

Reflect

Most people remember where they were on September 11, 2001. I’m no exception.

I had just arrived at work when a co-worker pulled me into our meeting room where several people were watching the news on TV. At that point, all we knew was that a plane had struck the first of the World Trade Center towers. But almost as quickly as I got into the room, the second plane appeared from nowhere and struck the second tower.

A priest I worked with summed up what we all would all be certain of by the end of the day – “This was no accident. We are under attack.”

The next week, I went with my stepfather to New York to pray with whoever God led our way. At our hotel, I met a bellhop named Benny who summed up what many people across the country were thinking. He said that the night of the attack, he went home and held his young son, and thought, “What kind of world are we living in where this could happen?”

Today’s scripture went through my mind frequently whenever I think of 9/11. We can often think that God has forgotten us or that the world is out of control. But the truth is that we live in a sinful world filled with sinful people, and sometimes sinful people do unthinkable things. We simply can’t stop that from happening. But when tragedy does strike, we can take comfort in knowing that we do have a refuge – God. Though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the sea, God will not be moved. And He wants us to turn to Him first, both in good times and in bad.

Today, take some time to thank the Lord for the good things in your life. And the next time something happens that seems desperate and completely beyond your grasp, turn to Him again and let Him guide you to the other side.

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, September 8, 2017

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Matthew 22:1-14

“And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless.”
Matthew 22:12

Reflect

Wedding party with balloonsImagine throwing a party that no one wanted to attend. You bought all of the food and drinks, decorated for the day, planned the activities and – most important – sent out all of the invitations. And those went to your closest friends and family – people you were certain would show up. But not one person came, and no one even bothered to RSVP. How would that make you feel?

The party in this story is even a bigger deal than our hypothetical party. Jewish weddings in the time of Christ were such a big deal that the party would often last an entire week. People absolutely loved going to weddings, and that was just the average weddings of average people. But a royal wedding would have been a HUGE deal. To receive such an invitation would have been an enormous honor. But in Jesus’ parable, the king’s invitations went completely unheeded. None of the invited guests wanted to come. The king’s first invitation was ignored, and the some of the servants who delivered the second invitation were treated with violence. Finally, the king resorts to inviting anyone who the servants could find. Still, those who were invited would have known how big of a deal this wedding was, and they would have gone home to clean up and put on their finest clothing for the big event.

But one man showed up “with no wedding garment.” There is a suggestion that each guest would have been offered a beautiful, clean garment – much as a man might be given a coat and tie to enter a nice restaurant. But this man seems to have refused the nice clothing, and opted to continue wearing dingy, dirty “street clothes.” Seeing this, the king had the man ejected from the party, bound hand and foot, into the darkness outside.

That’s not a pretty picture, but it’s pretty clear that God says we will not get into His presence on our own accord. Our “clothing” – the supposed righteousness we try and create for ourselves – will never be good enough to earn God’s eternal rewards. Only the righteousness that He provides us (free of charge!) will earn us entry into His presence in Heaven. But if we opt to spurn his garments of righteousness and opt to continue doing things our own way, we can certainly expect that He will not allow us an eternity with Him, but rather apart from Him in utter darkness.

Today, if you truly know the Lord and have accepted His son, thank Him for that gift and ask how you might share it with someone else. If you haven’t yet accepted Christ, today would be a perfect day to cast aside the filthy rags of your sins and instead clothe yourself in His righteousness. (You can find a great explanation of how to do that here.)

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, September 7, 2017

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Genesis 32

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.
Genesis 32:25

Reflect

Masked wrestlerAnd now, for tonight’s main event! In the blue corner, standing at seven feet tall and weighing 350 pounds, the reigning champion of the world, Killer Crush. And in the red corner, standing a whopping three feet tall and weighing just under 40 pounds, the challenger, Baby Bob.”

How long do you think that wrestling match is going to last? Honestly, if Killer Crush took it seriously, he could just step on the baby and end things instantly. And if you think about today’s scripture, that’s what it seems like what God could honestly have done to Jacob in their all-night wrestling match. But Jacob – who at that point in his life was at least in his 60s – wouldn’t let go of the Lord. He held on for dear life, insisting that the Lord give Him a blessing.

Even after God put Jacob’s hip out of socket, the elderly Jacob wouldn’t let go until he received a blessing. In the process, Jacob truly earned the Lord’s respect.

Have you ever felt like you were wrestling with God about something? If you know that what you’re seeking is truly something of God, don’t give up. Keep seeking the Lord and don’t give up. In the long run, you’ll only earn His respect for holding on to Him in spite of any trouble that may come your way.

Today, search your heart and place the things that are most important to you in front of Him. Even if you have to wrestle with Him, don’t let go. Keep praying to God with all of your might until He gives you an answer, whether it’s yes, no or wait.

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, September 6, 2017

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Matthew 20:1-16

Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
Matthew 20:15

Reflect

Crash test collisionImagine this scenario. Bob and Tim both live their lives pretty much the way they want to for a lot of years. But one day, Bob decides that following God is a pretty good idea, and he gives his life to Christ. Meanwhile, Tim keeps doing his own thing.

The years go by, and Bob has become a devoted Christian. He serves in the church, shares his faith and is an all-around good guy. Tim, however, has gone the other direction. In doing his own thing, he has had a string of bad relationships, is an alcoholic and has been thrown in jail several times. It is there that Tim finally understands the Gospel, and turns his life over to Jesus.

That night, Tim is released from jail, and on the way home, he and Bob have a head-on collision, killing both of them instantly.

The question is this: Which one will the Lord let into heaven? And the bigger question is this: Assuming He lets both of them in, which one gets the greater share of heavenly rewards?

That’s what today’s passage is all about. Jesus tells the story of workers hired to do a job for a specific wage. Later in the day, other workers are hired, and they’re paid the same wage. The first workers are angry, feeling they should have been paid more, but the master’s point is, “Why should you care what I paid someone else as long as you got the pay you deserved?”

His point is that it doesn’t matter when you show up to the family of God, as long as you show up. God doesn’t love anyone less just because they took longer to accept Him . If you accepted Christ when you were 99 years old, the Lord has the same love for you as the child who accepted him when they were four. (Of course, it’s a big chance to wait until you’re 99, but that’s another story…)

Today, pray that the Lord will give you His heart for all believers, regardless of when and where they came to 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 – Tuesday, September 5, 2017

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Matthew 19:16-30

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 19:23-24

Reflect

Camel standing in a sunsetOften when you read this blog, I’ll tell a story that attempts to illustrate a biblical principle. Other times, Jesus tells the story so well that it’s foolish for me to even try.

In this case, the story is set up by a rich young man who wants to know what it will take for him to achieve eternal life. The young man had the religion part down pretty well – he clearly knew his scriptures and the “legal” requirements of the Jewish law. But Jesus added a caveat that threw the young man for a loop – sell all of your possessions, give the money to the poor and follow me

That, of course, revealed the true love of the young man’s life – money. He wanted to be able to follow Jesus and keep all of his wealth. And honestly, Jesus wouldn’t have been against that – if the young man was merely willing to give everything up. But our Lord was able to discern the young man’s heart, and He knew that money would always take first place. And Jesus already had a disciple who had too great an affection for money.

Jesus doesn’t tell us that it’s impossible for rich people to be Christians. But He does say it’s incredibly difficult. Even then, wealthy people had a love for money that separated them from God. But there were also undoubtedly wealthy people who loved God and put Him first.

I know godly people today that you’d consider wealthy. One is the founder of a family of amusement parks. Another started a successful home building company. Another was a board member for a major petroleum company. But all of them have used their means to further the Gospel, and I fully believe that they would gladly give it all up if they had to in order to follow the Lord.

That isn’t the case for most rich people. Honestly, it isn’t even the case for most poor people. If you have anything that you’d not be willing to give up for Jesus, then you have a material obstacle in your life – an idol – that you love more than the Lord. In order to follow Jesus to the fullest, we have to be willing to put everything aside for Him.

Today, pray that the Lord will show you if you have anything in your life that you prize more than Him. Ask Him to help you set those things aside in your heart, and also ask Him to guide you in knowing where He would like you to use your means to further His kingdom.

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, August 25, 2017

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Genesis 33

Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.”
Genesis 33:10

Reflect

Humble Pie now served!In the middle ages, the chopped-up “innards” of a deer were often cooked into a pie. These were called the “umbles” and the pie was “umble pie.” Very often, this sort of pie was eaten by people from a “humble” station in life, and the term evolved into “humble pie.” Eventually, in English society, that term took on the meaning of owning up to something you had done wrong.

In the early 1800s, there was a story about an American soldier who shot a crow with his rifle. A British officer complimented the young man on the shot and asked to see the rifle, which he then turned on the soldier, demanding that the young man take a bite from the crow. Once the rifle was returned, the soldier turned the tables on the officer, pointed the gun at him and forced the Brit to consume the rest of the crow. That’s one story about how we got the term “eating crow,” or taking up the distasteful task of admitting a serious wrong.

In Genesis 33, you can see Jacob eating a healthy portion of crow and humble pie. After a number of years living far away from home, Jacob has finally decided to return home, but he realizes that means he will come face-to-face with his brother Esau – who he had duped out of his birthright and inheritance. Jacob had every reason to suspect that Esau would still be hacked off about the deception, especially since they hadn’t seen or communicated with each other since then. In Genesis 32 you see Jacob preparing for the impending showdown, which finally takes place in Genesis 33.

Jacob ultimately had to face up to what he had done, and he did so by offering a huge gift of livestock to show his brother that he was truly sorry. And he found that an amazing thing had happened – time and distance had done an incredible healing work on Esau’s heart. Their eventual face-to-face meeting completed that healing as the brothers were finally able to put the past behind them.

Putting off the difficult tasks of life rarely works out well. At some point, you will have to eat crow or humble pie and come face-to-face with whatever you’ve been avoiding. That’s especially true in relationships, where the rawness between two people only gets worse the longer their differences go unresolved.

Today, search your heart and ask the Lord if there are any difficult situations in life that you need to deal with. If there are, ask Him to give you the strength to face those situations with strength and courage, and to stand with you along the way.

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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