Quick Thought – Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Read

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:1-4 (ESV)

Reflect

When I was in middle school, my stepmother offered to pay me to wash her car. I did a great job (if I say so myself) but then got another idea. What if I waxed the car, too? Certainly, she’d see how awesome of a job I did, and then would pay me even more. So I did a quick wax job on the car and then took her outside to show off my handiwork. She said it looked good, but then I bragged about the wax job. “I paid you to wash it. I didn’t agree to the wax,” she said.

“But…” I was a bit shocked.

“No. I’m paying for exactly what we agreed to. The waxing will be your donation.”

I was shocked. I thought I could force her into more by doing more. But she saw straight through my ploy and shut it down immediately.

That’s kind of the way the Pharisees did things in Jesus’ time. They would go to make their offerings to God at the Temple, just like everyone else. But instead of doing things quietly and in reverence, as was the custom for most Jews, the Pharisees would be as loud and obvious as possible. “See how much we’re giving?” they seemed to say, without using those words. “We must truly be holy if we’re giving this much.”

Their hope was to impress the other Jews, probably so that they would easily keep their religious power. Perhaps they also thought God looked at things that way. But Jesus shut down such notions when He told His followers that there would be no reward in heaven for impressing people through giving. Instead, He told them to keep things as low-key as possible, and that God would notice and provide heavenly rewards.

Giving is definitely important to the Lord. But giving with a thankful heart and in gratitude to God is extremely important. Don’t forget to include God in how you spend your money, but when you do give, remember to do it only because you love Him, and not because you want your gift to gain you anything in return.

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, April 17, 2017

Read

Matthew 28:16-20

And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
Matthew 28:17

Reflect

Jesus had done it all.

He turned water into wine. He healed people with blindness, deafness, leprosy and paralysis. He cast out demons and cast a bunch of them into some pigs who immediately jumped off a cliff. He calmed a storm, walked on the water and brought a disciple onto the sea to join him for the stroll. He raised three people from the dead. And to top it all off, He also came back from the dead after being in the grave for three days.

And yet, “some doubted.”

These weren’t just s0me casual passers-by who caught a glimpse of a so-called prophet putting on a magic show. These were men who walked with him every day for three years and saw him do the unimaginable. And now, in spite of seeing the resurrected body of Christ, they still had doubts it was really happening.

Is it any wonder that people today, who never saw any of those miracles, doubt the reality of the message of Jesus Christ?

That’s one of the two big stories in today’s scripture: People will doubt, and Jesus wants us to tell them anyway. He has commanded us to go into every nation and tell them about the Good News, making disciples of all who are willing to cast aside their doubts and put their faith in Him.

That’s the whole point of why He came and lived and died. It wasn’t so that we could go to church a couple of times a year, put a few bucks in the offering plate and then go home with a warm feeling in our hearts. It was so that people who loved Him and believed in Him would spread the message of His saving grace to others, in hopes that the whole world might be saved from the consequences of their sins.

Lent and Easter has come and gone, and now the season of living in the resurrection hope of Christ begins. Today, give thanks for what He has done for you on Good Friday and Easter. Embrace it – for the first time or for the thousandth time – and commit yourself to carrying His saving message into the world, and letting His light illuminate the darkness.

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 – Sunday, April 16, 2017 (Easter Day)

Easter Sunday

Read

Matthew 28:1-15

“He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”
Matthew 28:6

Reflect

I’ve been to both the Garden Tomb and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Both are reputed to be places where the body of Jesus was placed after His crucifixion. In both cases and places, there’s only an empty tomb.

I’ve also been to the tombs of David, Abraham, Isaac, Sarah and Rebekkah. The bodies of those ancestors are there, entombed in holy sites that pilgrims visit to pay their respects.

People still visit the other sites, but to do more than pay homage to Jesus. They do it to celebrate that He’s truly not there. They do it because He was resurrected, brought back to life by His Father through the power of the Holy Spirit.

You can visit the tomb of the founder of practically every other major world religion:

Buddha was cremated and placed in relics that can be visited in Sri Lanka.

The grave of Confucius is in a coastal town in southwestern China.

No one knows what happened to “Veda Vyasa,” the central figure in Hinduism. That terms actually applies to 28 people who have compiled the beliefs of the Hindu faith.

In spite of his reported journey to Heaven and back on a donkey, Mohammed’s remains are interred in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, was murdered by an armed mob and is buried in Nauvoo, Illinois.

L. Ron Hubbard, who founded Scientology, died of a stroke and had his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

Jesus, our Lord and Savior, rose from the dead on the third day. His victory over death gives us the power to escape a spiritual death, and allows us the opportunity to live forever with Him in Heaven. But only if we accept that He truly is Lord.

Today, thank the Lord again for His sacrifice, and for dying – and living – so that we can die to sin and be alive for Him. Renew your spirit in Him, and let this Easter be the first day of your spiritual life. Live each day in the resurrection power that his victory over death gives us, and spread that joy to a darkened world that desperately needs it.

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, April 15, 2017 (Holy Saturday)

Holy Saturday, 40th day of Lent

Read

Matthew 27:15-44

Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[b] Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.
Matthew 27:26

Reflect

There is perhaps no character more like us in the story of the crucifixion than Barabbas. Lined up for a certain death sentence, Barabbas was suddenly pulled from his jail cell and hauled out in front of a Jewish mob to give them a choice. Choose to set free one of the following: Jesus or Barabbas.

Now there’s an interesting contrast: Jesus, the peaceful, loving teacher who was at worst guilty of claiming to be the Son of God (which He was); and Barabbas, the violent, murderous leader of an insurrection against the Roman forces in Jerusalem. That shouldn’t have been much of a choice. But the religious powers in the city worked diligently to sway the crowd in the criminal’s favor, and Barabbas walked free. Jesus literally died in his place that day.

So often, I’ve thought, what must it have felt like to be Barabbas. But one day it occurred to me that I do know what it feels like to be that criminal – because I am that criminal. Without Jesus, I stand guilty of every crime imaginable. I deserve a criminal’s death, but instead, Jesus died in my place.

There’s no way of knowing if Barabbas truly accepted the sacrifice that Christ paid on his behalf. But you and I know the rest of the story. We know that today, as we remember Jesus lying dead in the tomb, that tomorrow will bring a much different chapter. We know that His death gives us the opportunity lay our sins at the foot of the cross. And we know that His imminent resurrection gives us hope for an eternity with Him in Heaven.

Today, thank the Lord for His sacrifice, and ask Him to reveal to you what it’s truly like to be Barabbas. If you haven’t accepted Him as your Savior, today would be a perfect time to do that. And ask Him to give you an expectant heart that can truly worship Him tomorrow on a glorious Easter 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 – Friday, April 14, 2017 (Good Friday)

Good Friday, 39th day of Lent

Read

John 19

So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.
John 19:16-18

Reflect

Shame.

That’s what the cross meant. In fact, that’s why the Romans executed their criminals that way. It was shameful and degrading. A man on the cross was hung there naked, and everything they did from then until they eventually died was done completely in public. It was horrifying and debasing and the worst possible way to die.

Often, the Romans would simply tie their victims to the cross with heavy ropes, and that was effective. But when they wanted to express a more complete level of hatred and contempt, they used nails. These weren’t just any nails, but solid, four-inch long nails that were likely driven through the wrists and feet so that every movement the victim made exacted even more pain.

For Jesus, after an unreal scourging that left his organs exposed, after having a cross of razor-sharp thorns driven into his skull, after carrying the crossbeam of his cross from the Praetorium all the way to Golgotha and after being stripped completely naked, the Romans made the decision to firmly affix Jesus to the cross by pounding nails through Him into the wood.

It was shameful. And that’s what the Romans intended to do. They wanted to shame this Jewish prophet to make an example of Him. The irony is that no level of the visible shame that they heaped on Him could even approach the unseen shame he was carrying to the cross. Every sin ever committed – past, present and future – was being piled upon Jesus as He sacrificed His life for our redemption.

And those nails, though painful, couldn’t compare even to the shame of my sins being driven into our Savior and Lord. Frankly, those nails didn’t hold him to the cross. Our sins – my sins – did.

Starting at 9 a.m., Jesus’ agony on the cross began. He was firmly nailed to the device of his execution, and the cross was lifted high atop Golgotha in fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophecy to Nicodemus in John 3. This Sunday, we know that we will be able to look to this moment with hope for our own redemption, just as Jesus said we would. But today, we are left with the shattered shell of our Lord, hanging bleeding on a rough-hewn cross, and waiting for His agony to come to a merciful end when He takes His final breath.

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, April 13, 2017 (Maundy Thursday)

Maundy Thursday, 38th day of Lent

Read

Luke 22:14-23

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19

Reflect

“Remember to pick up the dry cleaning.”

“Do you remember the first time you saw that movie?”

“President’s Day is when we remember all of our Presidents.”

“I remember the day I had my first kiss.”

“Do this in remembrance of me.”

We use the word remember in a lot of different ways. But the way many – or maybe most – Christians use it in Communion is simply wrong. Too often, we say that we celebrate communion to remember Jesus and the Last Supper and because He commanded us to do that. But that places the Eucharist in the same realm as remembering July 4 as the day that America’s founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

The Greek word used for remember in the New Testament is anamnesis. Yes, that word is used for remembrance. But I once heard from a bishop that the best antonym, or opposite, of anamnesis is not what we would assume – to forget – but rather to dismember, or pull apart.

The true meaning of remembering Jesus’ in the Last Supper is to reconnect with Him through the Eucharist. It’s not enough to just walk forward, get a piece of bread and some juice or wine, consume them and return to your seat. True communion with Jesus comes when you essentially “time travel” in your heart to receive those things as though Christ himself was placing them in your hands.

In that moment, the bread and wine don’t chemically transform into flesh and blood, but in a mystical way, a real transformation takes place. When you meet face-to-face with Jesus at the altar, He uses those simple elements to work a healing in your heart.

Today, on this Maundy Thursday, attend a service where you can receive Communion. Take that time to truly meet at the altar with the Lord. Let Him bring you directly into His presence, and allow the elements of bread and wine in the Last Supper renew your heart and your relationship with Jesus Christ.

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, April 12, 2016

37th day of Lent

Read

John 13:1-20

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”
John 13:14

Reflect

Jesus spent only three years with his disciples, but he spent the entire time teaching them and preparing them for the role they would play in his absence. He taught them how to pray, how to worship, how to give, how to love. And here, near the end (though the disciples didn’t know that’s where they were), he was teaching them how to serve.

During their last meal together, Jesus took a basin of water and a towel, knelt to the ground and began to wash each of the men’s feet. In ancient Israel, foot washing was common because of the wearing of sandals. The host provided water and a towel, and in ordinary homes, each person was responsible for washing their own feet. In wealthier homes, a slave or servant had that task. But in no case did the host himself ever wash the feet as Jesus did that night.

Predictably, Peter was the one who took exception with what Jesus was doing. “You shall never wash my feet!” Peter exclaimed.

Jesus’ first response has confused some people: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” He’s not telling Peter he can’t follow Jesus, but rather that if Peter doesn’t learn from the Lord’s example, He will never truly be able to follow Him.

Our Lord was acting as a servant, even though He was the master. He was showing us that unless we allow Him to serve us, we can never be able to serve others. And that is the essence of Christian living – service in the Lord’s name. Jesus was an amazing teacher and leader, but his greatest example was the way that He allowed God to use Him to serve those around Him. And our greatest ministry to the word comes when we do the same – allow God to use us to serve those who cross our path.

Today, pray that the Lord will open your heart and mind to know how He wants you to serve others – even if that means that you’ll need to wash their feet.

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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