The lyrics that we in the US church call to mind as Martin Luther’s are actually a translation from German to English by Reverend Frederic Hedge. American-born, Hedge was a German scholar therefore his handling of the lyrics of this great hymn should be supposed as honoring of the original.
Still, Hedge was a Unitarian minister. His particular theology, in Unitarianism stresses the oneness of God, without the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – three persons in One being). This thinking did, in fact, shift some of the meaning in the translation of A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.
David Mathis’ 7 points on what was lost in translation help us appreciate the hymn even more, in its original form. Read those lyrics re-translated from German by John Piper and Matthias Lohmann in Mathis’ article.
God is not only our safe refuge but He is also our strong offense.
God doesn’t just help in some of our woes but in ALL of them.
Compared to Hedge’s strong statements abut God’s power and our weakness, Luther’s original lyrics were extreme descriptions – ALL-powerful God and our total defenselessness.
In Luther’s words: All that happens is according to God’s plan.
Hedge speaks of God’s sufficiency in our day-to-day, and Luther further clarifies that even in our worst situation possible, we are secure in God’s sovereignty.
Hedge’s claim that God never changes is true, but Luther stressed that there is no other God. Full stop.
Hedge closes the hymn with the great truth that God’s “Kingdom is forever”. Luther personalized it more stating that His “kingdom must remain for us.” For us. Hallelujah!
The nuances are worthy of note. Hedge’s translation brought the hymn to English for many more of us to enjoy. His translation left intact the hymn’s power in speaking to the greatness of God and the church’s confidence in Him. Yet, Luther’s original lyrics were even more emotive of the glorious nature of God, His working out His purposes in the world, and His complete provision for us.
I know it’s Monday (when I usually write about leadership), but as the year closes on the grand celebration of the Reformation, can we worship together? Hedge’s English translation will more than suffice.
A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our shelter He, amid the flood Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow’r are great, And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Did we in our own strength confide, Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, The Man of God’s own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth is His name, From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.
And tho’ this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us; We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim — We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, For lo! his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.
That word above all earthly pow’rs — No thanks to them — abideth:
The Spirit and the gifts are ours Thro’ Him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also; The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.*
On this quiet, rainy Friday morning, I’ve looked back on another week of days. Days that can transform our thinking as we brush shoulders with people like us and not so much. Days that introduce different ways of thinking that require us to check our own. Days that arrest us with their beauty and days that move us to note beauty where it seems lacking…but it isn’t. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. Your thoughts, please? In the Comments below.
1) Beyond the Guitar – Over the last few months, I have discovered a strange dichotomy in my experience of video games and beautiful music. In my mind, those two things did not exist together. I was wrong. Not a big fan of video games, I am now drawn to the music of many. Thanks to the arrangements of classical guitarist Nathan Mills. His most recent arrangement and YouTube posting of Yearnings of the Wind composed by Yasunori Mitsuda is hauntingly beautiful. This song is from the music score of popular video game Chrono Trigger: 600 AD.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, Patreon
His arrangement begins almost like a melody you would find opening a turn-of-the-century music box. Pure and lovely. Then it moves to a romantic rendering of Mitsuda’s piece, such that you might hear in the background of a small café in Italy. Just wow!
Funny thing: I love this piece and have not one bit of sweet nostalgia from playing this game…as so many will have growing up with this game.
2) Recognizing Doublespeak – From the time our children were small, we tried to teach them how to cut through messages that seemed true but were not. We wanted them to be critical thinkers and not take the things they heard as fact just because they were spoken with authority from authorities. We wanted them to be able to distinguish between manipulation and persuasion.
Doublespeak is defined as language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language. – Wikipedia
“What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it, and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.” – Edward S. Herman
“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible…Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Whether there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms.” – George Orwell in Politics and the English Language
When we gather around the dinner table these days, our children are adults and have their own ideas and tolerances about doublespeak. We still talk about current events under the microscope of discerning the doublespeak, what the intention of the speaker is, and what bias I bring to the interpretation.
A high-ranking government official in the US was sacked this week. For weeks prior to his dismissal, his firing was insisted upon by one political party. Immediately after his firing, the action was deemed suspicious by the same party. Whatever was warranted in that action, we struggle with determining what is true and noteworthy in our present political climate.
What we believe about something can be affected by cleverly crafted messaging. I really loved The Oatmeal comic You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You . It’s a graphic illustration of how we might be made to change our mind on something. The key here is the compelling nature of the message and our core values. Our core values inform our worldview. Our worldview can change as we absorb a changing culture’s views. That is why revisiting such things with people you trust, whether they share your worldview or not, is important. Otherwise, we begin to believe the messages – the doublespeak – without thinking critically what we are really buying, and giving up, in believing/accepting the message. Something to consider…
3) On Distraction – I struggle with distractions, always have. Long before the various diversions found online became my struggle. Photo Credit: Flickr
This week, David Mathis posted a great piece entitled You Can Defeat Distraction. He talked about the importance of “setting our minds” on what matters. Where our mind is “at home” is also a factor. I want my own thoughts to return to God and the things of God. Just this week, an ancient Scripture verse has been on my mind: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5) This consideration follows Mathis’ take on defeating distraction. If I can truly say “I love God” with how I spend my time and who and what I invest my time in, then the issue becomes a non sequitur – Distraction is checked.
4) Uncelebrated Moms – Mother’s Day is a holiday celebrated around the world (not on the same date but remembered still). As Mother’s Day looms here, we prepare in the US to celebrate and be celebrated – fueled by TV commercials, social media blasts, and sometimes wild expectations of our own.
It got me thinking this week about the moms who aren’t celebrated. Let’s celebrate these moms here. I want to celebrate my youngest son’s birth mother who could have aborted him in a culture where she would have been shamed if her pregnancy became public. I celebrate the foster mother who loved him for 14 months until he came home to us (see pic).
Let’s celebrate the moms who aren’t in positions of being celebrated this week – those moms who miscarried; those moms who lost children to accidents, wars, or other calamity; those moms who care for children unable, by physical or mental challenge, to celebrate them; those moms whose children have walked away from them…for reasons they don’t understand.Photo Credit: Soldiers Magazine
Not all of us have moms who are easy to love. I did and still do in my mom-in-law. Still for our own sakes, and that of the next generation, finding something to celebrate in these moms can be so redeeming…for them…and for us.
5) Colored Glass – To close, I want to tell you about a joy from my childhood. My mom grew up just after the Great Depression. She knew a level of poverty I can’t begin to understand. Because of it, and maybe because of her own inclination, she surrounded us with beauty growing up. In the small house where she raised four children, she and my step-dad built open shelves across the windows in the kitchen and dining room. On this shelves she displayed mid-century whiskey decanters which she filled with colored water. I wish I had a picture from those days…it was so beautiful to my little-girl eyes. Walking into those rooms, on waking from sleep, with the early morning sun streaming in, seeing those decanters was like looking through stained glass windows.
Because of this, because of my mama, I have always loved colored glass.
Welcome to the weekend y’all. If you’ve had some favorites this week, please comment on them below.
Bonuses: A Quote on The Love of God/the Like of God, and Ducklings
When you are face-to-face with Love himself, you become more loving. When you are face-to-face with Kindness himself, you become more kind. When you are face-to-face with Generosity himself, you become more generous. When you are face-to-face with Hospitality himself, you become more hospitable. It’s how Jesus works. He rubs off on us. While Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is busy trying to be like Jesus, Mary spends her energy being with him. And in being with him, Mary becomes like him.
It was at Jesus’ feet that Mary learned she was deeply and dearly loved. But she also learned something more. At Jesus’ feet, Mary learned that Jesus liked her. And when you know that you are liked…it changes everything…in Christ we are the apple of God’s eye, he takes great delight in us, he rejoices over us with singing… – Scott Sauls, Befriend – Create Belonging in An Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear
Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord is the great God, And the great King above all gods. In His hand are the deep places of the earth; The heights of the hills are His also. The sea is His, for He made it; And His hands formed the dry land. – Psalm 95:1-5
I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. – 2 Timothy 1:12
One of the things I cherish most about Movement Church is our corporate worship time. To stand essentially before God, with other brothers and sisters, and sing just to Him is a taste of Heaven. There are so many great worship songs these days – both the grand old hymns and the more contemporary. Gospel-saturated lyrics remind us who God is and who we are as His children.
As the Swedish proverb says, a shared joy is a double joy. In corporate worship, the “graces and benefits” we uniquely enjoy are not only awakening, assurance, advance, and accepting others’ leadership, but also the accentuated joy of deeper and richer and greater adoration and awe, since our delight in Jesus expands as we magnify him together with others.
The secret of joy in corporate worship is not only self-forgetfulness — or to put it positively, preoccupation with Jesus and his glory — but also the happy awareness that we are not alone in having our souls satisfied in him. – David Mathis
This past Sunday, as we enter the season of celebrating Christ’s death for us and his glorious resurrection, we sang three familiar songs. You Are [Be Thou] My Vision, Lead Me to the Cross, and Oceans.
As we sang I remembered how God has touched my heart with these songs many times over. I’ve written about or referenced them at pivotal times in life. [See links to those previous blogs below.]
Corporate worship is a soul-filling opportunity weekly to connect with each other and to celebrate our God. Worship Wednesday is a touchpoint for me during the week. I purposely remind myself (and whomever reads this) that God is worthy to be praised, lauded, and obeyed. Whatever the rest of the week brings, truth stands.
So…wherever you are…at your desk or work station, on your phone…maybe you can’t sing out loud…but could we worship together through three songs? These three songs?
[If you click on the link, it will bring up a lyric video] or you may know these songs well enough to sing with just the printed lyrics that follow. Let’s worship together the God of the universe and the Lover of our souls.]
You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders Let me walk upon the waters Wherever You would call me Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger In the presence of my Savior
So it begins. December 1. Turn around…and Christmas will be done. NOOOOO! There are those out there who respect no day over another (Romans 14:5). I get that. Still, Christmas is such a sweet time of year. What’s not to love about it? All the bright colors and shimmering lights in the dark of winter (granted, this is in the Northern Hemisphere). The many expressions of generosity (gift-giving among family and friends and kindnesses to strangers near and far). The secular and sacred observances that we share within this holiday and holy day.
“Christmas is too big for one day”, writes Andreas Köstenberger, and I agree. As the years go by, some Christmas observances deepen while others diminish. I’m becoming a lack-luster gift-giver, but cherish times together more than ever. December weekends full of parties just make the month fly by, but quieter more intimate times are the experiences I long for.
Connecting with people, savoring the beauty around us, remembering Christmases past, and pondering the wonder of what it all means. This Christmas miracle…this Child who would usher in a redemption only He could provide…from before Creation through a coarse cradle all the way to a Cross.
I need to stretch time in December…to go as deep as is humanly possible into the reality of this Savior King…to think long on the incredible truth of what happened there – To hold a place for His coming…“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.“ (Isaiah 9:6) Photo Credit: YouTube
Celebrating Advent (the “coming” of Christ) marks out the month of December in Sundays. If it’s not your tradition, you can search it out easily (here is one resource). For me, it doesn’t require prescribed readings and lighting candles…but I’m beginning to delight in those expressions of worship, as well.Photo Credit: Church Stage Design Ideas
Advent, to me, incorporates prayer, meditation on God’s Word, worship in song…and quiet. A quiet that gives space for God to fill it with Himself. That is Advent. The coming of Christ into hearts made ready for Him.
Are there times in December when darkness attempts to extinguish the Light? Sure…I’ve known those times…that’s actually one reason I love Christmas so much…celebrating the coming of a Savior who shines light into the darkest of our nights…setting us free from what keeps us in darkness…because He came.
Your burden is too great to bear? Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season? Your tears have no end?
You should lead the celebration! You should run through the streets to ring the bells and sing the loudest! You should fling the tinsel on the tree, and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance! For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent. It is unto you that a Savior is born this day, One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders, One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes. You are not alone, for He is born this day to you.– Ann Weems
In the hordes of shoppers and restaurants bursting with celebrants. In the packed candlelit churches and at boozy company parties. In the silence outside of celebrating Christmas as well as the quiet night within…
You are not alone, for He is born this day to you.
Happy Friday! Here we are entering the weekend when our Daylight Savings Time springs forward to longer days of sunshine. This beautiful season launches with St. Patrick’s Day and an early Palm Sunday and Easter. It’s such a sweet time of year. Our weekend in Richmond is supposed to be beautiful with lots of opportunity to plan outings and plant gardens.
1) Antidepressant Soil – I came across this article on antidepressant microbes in soil and was intrigued. My husband loves to garden.As hard as he works out there, he always comes in with such a joyful satisfaction, I wonder if this article might actually be true. What do you think?
2) Signs of Spring – The morning sky, the changeable weather, and all the new growth are cause for wonder. The sunrises amaze me how they change with the seasons in their glorious presentations.Photo Credit: Bekkah Mills (Beach Sunrise) & me
3) Farewell to Downton Abbey – Although the BBC show finished at Christmas 2015, we can manage here in the US to watch it through to its finale without knowing how it ended 3 months prior. The finale episode of this upstairs-downstairs story, set in a Victorian England manor house, was lovely and completely satisfying. All sorts of resolution to the different storylines. A wedding, babies, and NO deaths. Finally, in the end, DA creator, Julian Fellowes “let Edith be happy“. So hopefully you’ve all seen the last episode, otherwise the photo below becomes a spoiler. If you’re not already a fan, I hope you’ll catch up with the family and servants of Downton Abbey sometime over a beach week. 6 great seasons. You won’t be disappointed. The thought of that reminds me of our occasional Pride and Prejudice weekend marathons with friends when our daughter was a teenager at home overseas. Such a lovely diversion…
Even our son Nathan, who usually watches something altogether different on Sunday night TV, honored Downton Abbey with an arrangement on classical guitar. Enjoy.
4) Single Most Important Habit – So what do you think might be considered the single most important habit of our lives? Probably not the one David Mathis marks as a keystone habit – that is, “simple, but catalytic new routines that inspire other fresh patterns of behavior”. He contends that for Christ-followers that single most important habit is corporate worship.
David states: “God didn’t make us to live as solitary individuals. Neglecting corporate worship sows seeds of unbelief in our soul.”
Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25)
This isn’t just a casual hanging out with each other, nor is it merely church attendance. This is a community of Christ-followers attending to the teaching of God’s Word, agreeing together in prayer, and joining together in response to God’s love, goodness, and sovereignty in all of life…through the singing of songs and the witness of His faithfulness in each of our lives.
It’s definitely something to consider for our spiritual maturing when staying in bed or making other plans seem so much more inviting, at first, than gathering with other imperfect people who know how much we need God. At first…Something to consider…
5) Roaring Lambs – Lastly, I just want to give a shout-out to those people in my life and whom I know through their writing and other celebrity who live their faith wherever they are.
The bus driver, the clerk in the doctor’s office, the TV producer, the teacher, the mail carrier, the retired person, or the [fill in the blank]. Those people in our lives in whom we see the love of Jesus, the excellence of effort, and the tenacity of a life poured out for others. Not baiting and switching, but day in/day out, living their lives with honesty and transparency, faithful to God, loving as He calls us to love. Thank you. Thank God for you.
Johnny Hart’s I Did It His Way – celebrated comic strip creator who mixes his faith with his humor. Not in every strip, but from time to time…”drawing” attention to God, Creator and Redeemer, while depicting stories of early (pre-historical) men and women.