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”Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” Psalm 95:6-7

Why do we worship the Lord God? We worship and bow down – we kneel before the Lord – because He is our Maker and we are His Creation – We are His people and the sheep of His hand.

So often, it seems, we forget this truth and imagine that we are our own, that we exist and have life apart from God, but this could not be further from the truth. It is as St. Paul said to the Athenians: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

We worship You, O Lord, we bow before You, for You have made us and given us life, and You have redeemed us that we might have pardon and peace and live for You. Amen,

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.” Psalm 96:1-3

While we often join in the worship and praise of previous generations with time-proven hymns of praise, we are also called upon to praise the Lord with new songs – with songs of praise flowing from hearts which trust in the Lord God and love Him for all His goodness and mercy toward us (cf. John 4:21-24).

We sing to the Lord and bless His name. And we declare His mighty works – especially the salvation He has provided for us in His Son – to all the people around us in this world.

We praise You, O Lord, Maker of heaven and earth; and we give You thanks for Your mercy toward us for the sake of Christ Jesus and His blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world. Amen.

[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

Sometimes it’s difficult to give thanks. And, it may not always be because of a lack of knowledge of God. In fact, sometimes it can be, precisely, because one knows God and His Word and sees the wickedness and rebelliousness of our nation and world. Wickedness reigns and people – even family members and friends – go on in their sinful ways, paying no heed to the warnings of God’s Word calling upon them to repent and look to God for mercy and His help and strength to amend their ways.

And, knowing God’s Word, we know judgment is coming. We may not know the when or the how, but we know it is coming. We think of the terrible wars and the death and suffering which in times past have come upon our nation and people. We think of the earthquakes, the fires, the hurricanes and the tornadoes. We think of the diseases and plagues. We remember the depressions and recessions. We know that all these God sends with a purpose in mind – to wake us up and get us to listen to his calling. And these bring times of hardship and suffering for the believer as well as for the unbeliever.

Habakkuk the prophet lived at such a time in the last days of Judah and Jerusalem before the Babylonian captivity. Habakkuk saw the wickedness which prevailed among God’s people and questioned why God allowed it to go on so long. And, when God revealed His plans to judge His people through the Babylonians, Habakkuk questioned God as to how He could use a nation more evil than Judah to carry out His judgments. God’s answer was that judgment would come upon Babylon too.

As God’s judgments began and His blessings were withdrawn, it was hard to trust and still give thanks and praise to God; but giving thanks is an act of faith. “The just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). In spite of the shortages, in spite of the suffering, in spite of the death, the just lived and offered up thanks and praise by faith, trusting that God indeed was working all things for good to those who loved Him and were called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

Sometimes, learning of other Christians whose life circumstances are much worse than our own can help us in our giving thanks and praise by faith in our God and Savior. Martin Rinckart, a Lutheran pastor in Eilenburg, Saxony (Germany) in the early 1600s, authored the much-loved, familiar hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God,” and it has given fellow Christians strength in their trials for almost 400 years.

The following summary was provided by Harold Pease, a professor at Taft College and a columnist:

“In 1637, the Swedes and Germans were in the midst of The Thirty-Years War (Catholics v. Protestants in the years 1618 through 1648) and refugees from that encounter were flooding into Eilenburg, a walled city in Saxony where Martin Rinckart was serving as archdeacon of his native German town. A horrible plague gripped the area, leaving some 8,000 people dead in a single year.

“Rinckart had to assist ‘at the beds of the sick and dying.’ Although he maintained his own health during this time of death, he ‘had to read 40 or 50 funeral services a day’ including the services of two of his fellow clergymen. A fourth ran away, out of fear of getting sick, leaving him the lone church authority in this major crisis. He assisted in burying some 4,480 in all. In May of that year, his wife died. ‘By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services.’

“This horror was followed by a famine ‘so extreme that 30 or 40 persons might be seen fighting in the streets for a dead cat or crow.’ As the head of the church in his area, ‘his door was surrounded by a crowd of poor starving wretches who found it their only refuge.’ He shared everything he had, reserving ‘the barest rations for his own family.’

“Next, the Swedes returned, demanding a tribute of $30,000 from the town. Such money was not available. After failing to entreat the invading general for mercy, Rinckart turned to those following him and, in the general’s presence, said, ‘Come, my children, we can find no hearing, no mercy with men, let us take refuge with God.’ He then ‘fell on his knees and prayed with such touching earnestness that the Swedish general relented and lowered his demand at last to 2,000 florins.’

“Apparently, the words of his hymn were originally written as a grace to be said before meals but, given his circumstances, it became a song of strength in adversity.

“The first verse of this Lutheran hymn is certainly a message of thanksgiving; the second, one of protection and guidance: ‘Oh, may our bounteous God through all our life be near us, with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us, and keep us in his love, and guide us day and night, and free us from all ills, protect us by his might.’

“Perhaps his life and song can make us stronger as well. At the very least, it should give us a few extra things for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day. None of us are fighting over a dead cat or crow to eat. Despite our obstacles, deep inside we know that God still has our best interests in mind. When we next sing this song, let us do it with more gratitude reflecting, at least for a moment, on our great blessings, as he did, rather than our trials. The trials will always be there, but so will also the blessings.”

Below is a 19th-century translation by Catherine Winkworth:

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 blessed 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.

Through faith in our God and Savior, who so graciously redeemed us from sin and death and gives to us life in His everlasting kingdom, we say with the prophet Habakkuk:

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls — Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

Additional notes from Hymnary.org:

Martin Rinkart (1586-1649) was the Bishop of Eilenberg, Germany during the Thirty Years’ War. Since Eilenberg was a walled city, it became a place of refuge for fugitives of the war, and also a place of famine and disease due to overcrowding. In 1637 at the height of their misery, Rinkart was the only clergyman left in the city who could perform the 40 or 50 necessary burial services daily – one of which was for his wife. As if that weren’t enough, the city was sacked three times by invaders, one of which imposed a large tribute payment upon the people. During this time, Rinkart managed to find the time to write 7 dramas and 66 hymns.

The hymn “Nun danket alle Gott” was originally titled “Tisch-Gebetlein,” or a “little prayer before the meal.” This humble prayer of thanksgiving is laid out simply and beautifully in the first verse, but it’s the next two verses that expand the hymn’s focus and have given it its lasting appeal. You can see the Thirty Years’ War pressing on his mind in verse two:

And keep us in His grace,
And guide us when perplexed,
And free us from all ills
In this world and the next.

After a verse of thanks, and a verse that asks for strength during the trials of life, he ends with a paraphrase of the doxology as if to say, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, may the name of the Lord be praised.” —Greg Scheer, 1995

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“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left …” Matthew 25:31-33 (Read Matthew 25:31-46)

On the Last Day, when Jesus Christ returns with all His holy angels to judge the living and the dead, He shall separate the believers and unbelievers from one another as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats, putting the sheep on the right hand and the goats on the left.

The unbelievers, those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ and His innocent sufferings and death for the forgiveness of their sins and everlasting life, will “go away into everlasting punishment.” But those who trust in Christ and His cross have forgiveness and eternal life solely for Jesus’ sake — because Christ died for them and rose again — and will go into “eternal life.”

If it is through faith in Christ that one goes to heaven, and if it is through unbelief that one is damned and spends eternity in hell (cf. Mark 16:16), why does Jesus here speak of the works of believers for Him and the lack of works in unbelievers?

Jesus is not saying that those on the right hand go to heaven because of their works; it is only through Christ and His sufferings and death that they are acceptable in God’s sight and are given eternal life (Ephesians 1:6-7). But since they have been brought to faith in Christ and are saved by God’s grace, they now love their Lord and Savior and gladly live for Him and serve their fellowman (cf. Ephesians 2:8-10). They, those on the right hand, are not depending on such works to gain God’s favor; they are not even aware of the many times they have served Christ by serving their brethren. Rather they love and serve their brethren because Christ has first loved and served them by winning for them eternal salvation (cf. 1 John 4:9-11,19).

Those who do not have saving faith in Jesus Christ cannot love and serve Him. Even when they outwardly perform many of the same charitable works as Christians, they are not done for Christ; for “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6).

O Jesus, who my debt didst pay and for my sin wast smitten, within the Book of Life, oh, may my name be also written! I will not doubt; I trust in Thee, from Satan Thou hast made me free and from all condemnation. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #611, Verse 5)

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” Matthew 25:14-15 (Read v. 14-30)

We do not know when our Lord Jesus Christ will return. That day could be very soon, or it may be many years from now. What are we to be doing while we await the return of our Lord and Savior who died upon the cross to redeem us from sin, death and the power of the devil? With the parable of the talents, Jesus teaches us that we are to be faithfully serving Him and carrying on the work of His kingdom until He returns.

All of us, as Christians, have been given talents, abilities and spiritual gifts, as well as resources, to use in carrying on the Lord’s work until He returns on the Last Day (1 Peter 4:10f.; Romans 12:4ff.; 1 Corinthians 12-14). Whatever our gifts, talents and abilities are, we are to faithfully use them for the Lord and for the upbuilding of His kingdom and Church.

We have also been entrusted with the Word of God, which we are to faithfully use and proclaim (Mark 16:15; Hebrews 4:11-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; 4:1ff.). Since Christ Jesus suffered and died upon the cross to redeem us and make us children of God, He expects us to respond to His gracious gift of salvation by living our lives for Him. And, as a fruit of our faith, we also desire to do this (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 4:19ff.).

When Jesus returns on the Last Day to take to heaven all who trust in Him for salvation, He will examine our faithfulness. We are His stewards, having been entrusted with His Word and with his gifts, abilities and resources to use for the work of His kingdom. The Bible tells us: “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.” (1 Corinthians 4:1-2).

If, as a result of our faith in Christ as Savior, we faithfully serve Him, we will be graciously rewarded with greater opportunity for service when we enter the joy of our Lord in heaven.

But if, on the other hand, we are found to be unfaithful servants who cared to do nothing for our Lord but were afraid and hid our talents away, we will lose not only what has been entrusted to us, but eternal life as well; for such unfaithfulness is a denial of true faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior (cf. John 15:1-6).

O God of mercy, God of might, in love and pity infinite, teach us, as ever in Thy sight, to live our life to Thee … And may Thy Holy Spirit move all those who live to live in love till Thou shalt greet in heaven above all those who live to Thee. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #439, Verses 1,6)

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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