Words of encouragement from the church family

Happy Easter!! 

And it is a “Happy” time. Even though we may be going through what feels like a never-ending nightmare, we are promised, by our creator, that He is in control, and we should not worry or fear the outcome. Those are very reassuring thoughts at a time in our lives, where not much is very reassuring. We should be “Happy” for that promise. 
Easter is a time of “renewing, rebirth, and reaffirming.” I cannot think of any situation in our history whereby the timing of the Easter season was more meaningful than today. Together we will all make it through this terrible virus…and when it’s over, we will have changed the way we do things. I really doubt that the “handshake” ever reaches the importance in our society that it has had in the past. Simple embraces of friends at their meeting will likely become a nod and a smile. Sitting in the middle seat on an airplane will probably become a tale we share with the next generation. A face mask will be developed into a new fashion statement---and we’ll wear it with pride and excitement. I think we may see many more jobs that become “at home” jobs in the future, and bigger companies will downsize their brick and mortar footprint as they discover that American workers can be very productive from home. 
So, as we come out of the “lockdown” in the coming weeks, we will have the opportunity to renew our social network…but still likely from at least 6 feet away. 
We will hopefully see a rebirth in our economy, as many are eager to become “normal” again.
We will likely see renewed enthusiasm for life’s simple pleasures--like picking up toilet paper from the store without waiting in line and having it rationed to us, or being able to sit on our beautiful beaches and watch the sunset, or take a nice quiet walk in the park. 
And, yes, we will reaffirm our faith that God is in control. 
Now, is a great time to take inventory of your life and reassess what is important, and what is not as important as we once thought. 
Now, is a time for forgiveness and reconciling of relationships gone bad. 
Now, is the time to really prepare the things in our life that we never had the time to address in the past. 
But, most of all, 
Now, is the best time to be Happy…after all, it’s Easter, and He IS Risen!!!!! 

Shared by Andy Haynes, by way of George Harris


Yesterday I saw a headline about the Corona virus. For some reason the headline jumped out at me. I knew the Lord was speaking to me so I was still for a moment and just looked at the headline:

"COVID19 death rates increase."

I don't write that to spark fear. I just know that in that moment the Lord was trying to speak to me.

I grabbed my Bible next to me and saw it was bookmarked to 2 Corinthians. I looked at the headline again and this is how it jumped out at me:

CO VID 19.

I thought, Well, maybe the CO is talking about Corinthians. So I opened up my bible to 2 Corinthians. I looked up the verse 1:9. And when I saw it, I couldn't believe it! This is what it says:

"Indeed we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead."

Man!! Did you get that?

How many of you have been relying on yourselves? Have you been relying on your ability to stock up on food? On your ability to provide for your family? 

How many of you have started to leave God out of the equation a bit more out of fear and worry?

God is using this to show us not to rely on ourselves but to rely on Him! 

His power! His provision! His promises!

God is using this to break off pride and fear and to instill complete trust in Him!

But wait.... there is more!

The word "vid" is in the very middle. I decided to look up the meaning of it. Guess what it means?

It means to see. What if God is asking us to SEE that He is still in the midst of this? He hasn't forsaken us. His promises are still YES and Amen! 

As scary as the world may appear to look right now, I encourage all of you to release your fears to Him. Don't rely on your power and your ability to get by. Seek Him wholeheartedly. 

The word corona has a definition of a crown. But it also has another meaning that says "what surrounds you." If you look at what surrounds us today, it may look like it is not pretty. Lack of supplies, long lines, scared people, closed buildings, etc. But let's not lose focus that in the midst of this, God is here. And He will never leave us. He surrounds us like a shield. He surrounds us with His glory.

"And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the glory that will never fade away."  1 Peter 5:4

Shared by Robert and Trudy Craft


While you hunker in your bunker you can muse about music and worship with words.

Instead of "Where in the world is ________?" this will be "What in the world is this hymn?"  See how soon you can determine the correct answer as these clues unfold more information about a well known hymn.  It will be surprising, but you'll see how it has some unique links to the health crisis we are going through in 2020.  No fair peeking first at the end to see the answer.  

It was written in Germany.  (Well, that narrows it down....barely.)

It was written as a table prayer - as least the first two stanzas.

Next to "A Mighty Fortress" it is probably the second most widely sung hymn in Germany.

It was written during the Thirty Years' War.  Second only to World War II in comparative country desolation.

It was written by a pastor.         He was the only pastor in the city.

It was written in the walled city of Eilenberg.  (Do we feel like being "walled in," alone, now in 2020?)

The city was overrun by Swedes, then Austrians, and then Swedes again.

Refugees fled to the walled city hoping for safety and refuge.

In those crowded conditions, hunger and plagues (bubonic plague, typhus, etc.) were chronic problems.  (We don't have a food shortage in 2020, but some people think of Covid 19 as a type of plague.)

In 1637 this single pastor conducted funerals for 5,000 people, including his wife.  That's a lot of funerals for one area since cities weren't as large as our cities are nowadays.

The text deals with death and life.  Some cities lost up to 75% of their population over the 30 years of war.

Catherine Winkworth did the translation most often used.  (But then, she translated a lot of hymns.)

This single pastor was Martin Rinckart.      (Figured out the hymn yet?)

A scripture reference is Romans 8: 36, "We face death all day long." 

The third stanza is a doxological stanza - but then the same is true for other hymns.

Another scripture reference is all of Psalm 147, too long to print here, but a big clue.

Another scripture reference is Isaiah 12: 4 - 6.  I'll let you look it up.   

The text was first published in 1636.  The tune is by Johann Cruger.  

A second name for the hymn tune is WITTENBERG.

 Text and tune were first sung together in 1644.   Text and tune were first printed together in 1647.

It was sung in 1648 at the Peace of Westphalia, which ended the devastating Thirty Years' War.

Another scripture could be 1 Thess. 5: 18, "Give thanks in all circumstances," even in the trying times we're living in now in 2020.      (Figured out the hymn yet?)

 This pastor would have been perplexed at burying his wife plus over 13 people a day over one year.

 This pastor was dealing with life and death "in this world and the next."

 So now maybe you figured it out.  Now here is the text with an analysis a bit different from what I've done when I've introduced hymns and songs to people in recent years.

 Now thank we all our God    (A well known arrangement from a Bach cantata takes the NOW seriously and may have the shortest "introduction" of any setting with just one beat before the hymn tune is sung or played.  Sing thanks NOW, not after many measures.  Give thanks NOW while you have life and breath  whatever is happening.  I played this at the end of the memorial service for Arno Korth on March 14th.)

With hearts and hands and voices,  (Not just by singing, but thanks can be shown in many ways.)

Who wondrous things has done,    In whom His world rejoices;  (You can make your own list.)

Who, from our mothers' arms,    Has blest us on our way (The reality of death sometimes causes us to  remember the beginning of life, being rocked in "our mothers' arms," especially in challenging times.  Our parents sent "us on our way" as we grow up and leave home.

With countless gifts of love, (How long is your own list?) 

and still is ours today.  (We're not guaranteed tomorrow, but we always have God's presence and love.) 

 Oh, may this bounteous God    (Psalm 147: 8, 9 - rain -> grass -> food) 

Through all our life be near us,

("All our life" is even more meaningful when that life may be cut short and/or without warning.)

With ever joyful hearts    (1 Thess. 5:18 -"Give thanks in all circumstances" - EVER joyful, no matter what happened or is happening)

And bless-ed peace to cheer us,  (God's peace is often shared between people at funerals.)

And keep us in His grace,    (God's grace is His plan for our salvation because we all will eventually die unless Jesus comes sooner.)

And guide us when perplexed,

(Perplexed = Living with the constant presence of death, burying your wife and 5,000 people in one year.)

And free us from all harm    In this world and the next.  (The reality of dying from a disease or war is a real harm in this world.  The possibility of dying eternally from sin is a real harm in the next world.)

 Isaiah 12:4-6 and Psalm 147 reaffirm our need to be thankful for all God has done, physically and eternally, for people.  A doxological stanza brings those thoughts and others together in a great way.

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 heav'n adore;

For thus it was, is now,    And shall be evermore.

Yes, it's a hymn for times of thanksgiving and we may very well sing it when the present crisis is over.  At some time in the future we almost need to have a service celebrating that we get to have a worship service again.  But I just wanted to make you aware of the unique background of where this hymn came from.  A faithful pastor gave his people a hymn of hope in the midst of unbelievable human carnage and devastation in their world of war and pestilence.  Remember to still give thanks in the midst of death, of a crisis, of "down" times of all kinds.  And also remember that we win in the end eternally because of our God!

Bach used this hymn verse and arrangement not in a thanksgiving cantata but in a Reformation cantata, BWV 79, "God the Lord is Sun and Shield."  Other texts in the cantata included, "He will allow no good thing to be lacking to the righteous," "He cares for His little flock," "He wants to continue to protect us," "God, forsake Your people never again."  So Bach very likely knew the history behind the writing of the hymn "Now Thank We All Our God." 

Shared by Heidi Stanley