Cease-fire in Israel–Hamas war has taken effect

Cease-fire in Israel–Hamas war has taken effect November 24, 2023

An initial four-day cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas took effect this morning in Gaza, a day later than originally planned. The deal was brokered by Qatar, the US, and Egypt. At this writing, there have been no reports of fighting for several hours, and sixty trucks carrying aid have entered Gaza from Egypt.

NOTE: I have written a book on the Israel–Hamas war which we are releasing as a free digital download. I invite you to get your copy here.

Thirteen hostages are to be released by Hamas today, along with an undisclosed number of Palestinian prisoners by Israel. The deal calls for Hamas to release fifty of the women and children it took hostage on October 7, and for Israel to release 150 imprisoned Palestinian women and teenagers. The exchange will occur in phases across the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Israel said the truce would be extended by a day for every ten additional hostages released.

Hostilities are temporarily on hold in Gaza, but the shocking rise of antisemitism in the US is affecting many Jews in our country. When CNN asked Jews in America how they are dealing with antisemitism following Hamas’s October 7 invasion, some replied that they are hiding their kippahs, choosing not to wear their Star of David necklaces, and changing long-held traditions for religious holidays. Some are even afraid to visit their synagogue out of fear of being killed or harassed because of their religion.

For example, while Hanukkah begins in two weeks, Melissa Franklin has already decided she will not decorate her home for the holiday. “I just can’t see us doing it because I don’t want retaliation,” she said. “I don’t want vandalism on my home.”

“Give thanks always and for everything”

You may not be a Jew confronting the rising threat of antisemitism, but you are facing other challenges today. From billion-dollar disasters more numerous than ever before, to a long list of asteroids that could threaten us, to growing fears that we are at the beginning stages of World War III, there’s something in the news to frighten everyone.

For Thanksgiving to be a daily lifestyle rather than an annual holiday, we have to learn to give thanks every day, including our hardest days.

Scripture calls us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, my emphasis). We can take this passage to mean that we need not be grateful for hard times, but that we can find ways to be grateful in them.

However, we are also told to “give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, my emphasis). Does this mean that we are to thank God for the October 7 atrocities, 9/11, the Holocaust, or our personal suffering?

As I noted in my latest leadership article, this does not mean that we are to be grateful for evil, as Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and anguished cry on the cross (Matthew 27:46) make clear. We can be grateful to God in and for every circumstance only if we recognize that he gives us all that is good (James 1:17) and redeems all that is not (Romans 8:18, 28). While we may not (and often do not) see this redemption in this world, we can know that our circumstances do not change the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) in every moment and experience of life.

Practicing Christians are more generous than others

A worldview that credits God for our blessings and trusts him with our trials should produce Christians who are more generous than others out of gratitude for our Father’s grace. And this is just what research shows.

A recent American Bible Society (ABS) study reports that 95 percent of practicing Christians gave to charities in 2022. (The ABS defines practicing Christians as those who identify as such, attend church at least monthly, and consider their faith very important in their lives.) By contrast, 68 percent of non-practicing Christians and 51 percent of nonbelievers gave to charities last year.

The ABS explained this disparity: “Again and again we see people transformed by God’s word, with hearts pried open by God’s love, people of faith moved to share what they have with others—even if they don’t have much to spare.”

This is true to life: the more we experience the living Lord Jesus, the more we become like him. And the more we become like Jesus, the more we will live with an attitude of gratitude in every moment and circumstance of our day.

So, the key to making thanksgiving a daily experience is not trying harder to feel more thankful but resolving to walk more intimately with Jesus. We start each day by entering his presence with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4) and submit our day to his Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) as we encounter him in his worship and word.

Then we practice his presence consciously and intentionally all through the day, asking for his help with our needs, thanking him for our blessings, and listening to the voice of his Spirit in our spirits (cf. Romans 8:16). The result is a lifestyle of optimistic, joyful gratitude that glorifies our Lord and draws others to him.

What kind of impact would we make on our secularized culture if every Christian made Thanksgiving not just a holiday but a lifestyle?

What if you and I did?

“Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake”

The German hymnwriter Catharina von Schlegel (1697–c. 1768) expressed today’s theme better than I can:

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; the Lord doth undertake
To guide the future as he did the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence, let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

How “still” will your soul be today?

NOTE: We’re currently running a flash sale of 40% off on one of our most popular resources: full sets of our Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series. These sets make great gifts, or you can complete your own set. You may request the full set of Vols. 1–12 (which includes the box set of Vols. 1–10), the 10-volume box set, or the set of Vols. 1–6. Request your Biblical Insight to Tough Questions set today at 40% off with code BLACKFRIDAY40. This sale ends Nov. 26 at 11:59 p.m. CST.

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