Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Hymn of Thanksgiving

"Now Thank We All Our God" is a hymn we sung in church this morning; unfortunately, it is one that typically just gets sung around late November.  It is, however, a great hymn with a great story behind it.  From the Cyber Hymnal website:

Rinkart, a Lu­ther­an min­is­ter, was in Eil­en­burg, Sax­o­ny, dur­ing the Thir­ty Years’ War. The walled ci­ty of Eil­en­burg saw a stea­dy stream of re­fu­gees pour through its gates. The Swed­ish ar­my sur­round­ed the ci­ty, and fa­mine and plague were ramp­ant. Eight hund­red homes were de­stroyed, and the peo­ple be­gan to per­ish. There was a tre­men­dous strain on the pas­tors who had to con­duct do­zens of fun­er­als dai­ly. Fi­nal­ly, the pas­tors, too, suc­cumbed, and Rink­art was the on­ly one left—doing 50 fun­er­als a day. When the Swedes de­mand­ed a huge ran­som, Rink­art left the safe­ty of the walls to plead for mer­cy. The Swed­ish com­mand­er, im­pressed by his faith and cour­age, low­ered his de­mands. Soon af­ter­ward, the Thir­ty Years’ War end­ed, and Rinkart wrote this hymn for a grand cel­e­bra­tion ser­vice. It is a test­a­ment to his faith that, af­ter such mis­e­ry, he was able to write a hymn of abid­ing trust and gra­ti­tude to­ward God.

Here are the words to the three stanzas of the hymn:

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

An Excellent Perspective on Israel

I am on an email list from Shalom Ministries, a NYC-based ministry to bring the good news of Christ to the Jewish people.  Craig Hartman, its founder, sent out an email last evening regarding the situation in Israel.  I am copying it here.

Greetings friends,

By now you all have, no doubt, heard about the barrage of rockets being launched against Israel from the Palestinian-controlled territories. For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you already are receiving frequent updates on what is happening through that resource. Many news outlets are covering the violence. Too much is happening to try to review it all here, but all believers should track what is happening.

In light of these events, I wanted to share a few thoughts as we watch the matter unfold together. It should be noted that within the last week over 600 rockets have been launched against Israel. This barrage is different than ones in the past because of the number of rockets within such a short period of time and especially because of the locations where the rockets are landing. Now, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem neighborhoods are being hit as well as the areas in the south near Gaza. That is new. Many of the rockets are being intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome, but sadly a number have hit, and there have been a few deaths of innocent civilians. Amazingly, some in the world community are blaming Israel and labeling her defensive actions as aggression. America has condemned the attacks and expressed Israel's right to defend herself. The recent actions are very bold, without any pretense, to the point that Hamas is actually tweeting its actions and intended targets. It is a very tense and sad time for the people of Israel and a matter of great concern for all of us who love the people and the land.

In addition to tracking the news in the region, we are also in contact with friends there. Israelis are a tough people and have a great attitude even in these times. I received an e-mail from an unsaved friend, who lives in southern Israel. He wrote from his bunker and was matter of fact about the realities of their situation. He also expressed that he was looking forward to when we are back in Israel to visit him. I have spoken with another friend in Tel Aviv, who told me that the people there are encouraging each other to celebrate their lives in the land in spite of the difficulties, and that many entertainment and other public facilities and gathering places were removing all charges for attendance. The theaters were full last night. The spirit of life and strength is always demonstrated by the Israeli people. They will not be intimidated by terror.

The timing of all of this is rather interesting in that it all started just two days after the US election, and there is a new election coming in Israel in just a couple of months. Further, the Palestinian Authority has recently reiterated its intention to raise its status at the United Nations. Interesting indeed. I am not speculating here, just noting the fascinating timing of it all. In any event, we must not be surprised by any of this, and we must remember that God is still on the throne. We know that Israel will not be destroyed (Jeremiah 31), and we know that a far worse time will be experienced by her and the entire world during the Seventieth Week of Daniel. Perhaps these current events can cause us to remember the terrible events that are yet to come in the future and motivate us to reach out to the very dark world around us before it is too late.

As Israelis celebrate the Sabbath, we should all be praying for Israel, Jerusalem, and the Jewish people. We should be praying for the salvation of Palestinian people. Their only hope is the Lord, and He is the only cure for the evil that consumes their leaders.

I also want to suggest that the attitude of the Israelis at this time should challenge us all about how we respond to living in the midst of constant attack. I have been challenged to celebrate light and life in the midst of the darkness and hatred around me.

I can only imagine that times will become more and more difficult for people throughout the world, and we know Israel will be at the center of it all. The Bible is very clear about that. My heart is aching for my people, and I am having difficulty on a personal level just hearing what is happening and the reaction of some in the world community. Please join with us in lifting up sacrifices of praise to the Lord and heartfelt prayers for the people throughout the Middle East. Please pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for our country. This is also a test for America. These are perilous times indeed, and we must hold each other up as the day approaches.


Craig Hartman