Friday, May 30, 2008

The Story Behind The Hymn - A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Martin Luther
November 10, 1483, Eisleben, Germany
February 18, 1546, Eisleben, Germany

I hope you don't mind if I paste in this description prepared by the staff of Bible Communications, Inc. It is said more perfectly than I could do (and I've had blogger brain freeze for a while now). I found it very interesting so I think you will too. I grew up in the Lutheran Church and we sang this hymn quite often, and have a soft spot for it. It is also one of Steve's favorite hymns.

"On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Cathedral of Wittenberg, Germany. That date was sometimes called the “4th of July of Protestantism.” It symbolized the start of the Protestant Reformation.

And the single most powerful hymn of the Protestant Reformation Movement was Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” based on Psalm 46. This hymn became the battle cry of the people, a great source of strength and inspiration even for those who were martyred for their convictions. Its majestic and thunderous proclamation of our faith is a singing symbol of the reformation.

This hymn has been translated into practically every known language and is regarded as one of the noblest and most classic examples of Christian hymnody.

The first line of this national hymn of Protestant Germany is fittingly inscribed on the tomb of the great reformer at Wittenberg,

Luther had strong convictions about the use and power of sacred music. Once he wrote, “I would allow no man to preach or teach God’s people without a proper knowledge of the use and power of sacred song.”

Here are more excerpts from another site you can visit if you want to read the sheet music or listen to a choir sing it for you.

"Martin Luther was born into a musical family. He loved to sing and became a very good flute player. He became an Augustinian monk and struggled to meet the demands of a holy God. This grew into a torment and it is said that "he fasted until his cheeks caved in." He confessed his sins for hours at a time. But he soon began to see that man could not, even at his best, satisfy the almighty God.

Through his study of the Bible, he found that a person can only be saved through the blood of Jesus Christ; not through the purchase of indulgences, which were widely sold in the Catholic Church of his day. For purposes of discussion, he wrote a paper with ninety-five points and tacked it to the church door at Wittenberg. Those theses enraged the Catholic hierarchy, and thus started the Protestant Reformation.

Luther became known in particular for three things: the doctrine of salvation by faith alone, the belief that Scripture should be translated into the people's language, and the birth of congregational singing.
Working with skilled musicians, Luther also created new music for church choirs, organ, and other instruments during his life. "

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memories For Memorial Day

Most people have known at least one service person that they can remember on Memorial Day. Passing the memory of those people on to others is what helps us honor their sacrifice.
Here is an excerpt from a Memorial Day speech by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., as he remembers those he served with in the Civil War.

"...I see them now, more than I can number, as once
I saw them on this earth, ...and when I speak of those who were my brothers, the same words describe yours.

I see a fair-haired lieutenant, and a captain sitting by the long mess-table in camp before the regiment left the State, and wondering how many of those who gathered in our tent could hope to see the end of what was then beginning. For neither of them was that destiny reserved.

I see another youthful lieutenant. The officers were at the head of their companies. The advance was beginning. We caught each other's eye and saluted. When next I looked, he was gone.

I see the brother of the last as he rode before us into the wood of Antietam, out of which came only dead and deadly wounded men. So, he rode to his death at the head of his cavalry in the Valley.

I see one--grandson of a hard rider of the Revolution -- for five days and nights in front of the enemy the only sleep that he would take was what he could snatch sitting erect in his uniform and resting his back against a hut. He fell at Gettysburg.

His brother, a surgeon, I saw kneeling in ministration to a wounded man just in rear of our line at Antietam, his horse's bridle round his arm--the next moment his ministrations were ended.

There is one who on this day is always present on my mind. He entered the army at nineteen, a second lieutenant. In the Wilderness, already at the head of his regiment, he fell, using the moment that was left him of life to give all of his little fortune to his soldiers. His few surviving companions will never forget the awful spectacle of his advance alone with his company in the streets of Fredericksburg. In less than sixty seconds he would become the focus of a hidden and annihilating fire from a semicircle of houses. His first platoon had vanished under it in an instant, ten men falling dead by his side. He was little more than a boy, and for us, who not only admired, but loved, his death seemed to end a portion of our life also.

I have spoken of some of the men who were to me among others very near and dear, not because their lives have become historic, but because their lives are the type of what every soldier has known and seen in his own company. ...The army of the dead sweep before us, "wearing their wounds like stars." It is not because the men I have mentioned were my friends that I have spoken of them, but because they are types. I speak of those whom I have seen. But you all have known such; you, too, remember!"

Friday, May 23, 2008

I Bless Your Name

What does it mean to bless God?

In looking for this explanation on the web, it led me to John Pipers site where he had looked for the answer to this same question. His examination of the scriptures in this little study seems to be true, and when I compared some of his verses to renowned commentators with the same outcome, I think it's safe to agree that in these instances the word "bless" translates to "praise". So, to bless God means to acknowledge various aspects of His magnificence, and express our gratitude and delight in experiencing it. Check out the many verses that led him to this conclusion, and compare them yourself to your favorite commentators.

May others in witnessing our life, also bless His name.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Lift Him Up - 2 Great Worshipful Songs

You Are My Hiding Place by Michael Ledner ('81)
Psalm 32:7 Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah
In this psalm of confession and forgiveness David teaches that ..."when we have received the comfort of our remission, we must fly to the grace of God to be preserved from returning to folly again, which way soever I look I shall see occasion to rejoice and to praise God; " Matthew Henry

As The Deer by Marty Nystrom ('81)
Being exiled from Jerusalem, David longed to be where God dwelt in His temple
Psa 42:1 ...As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.
"When I wrote As The Deer it was a testimony of when I was earnestly seeking God's will. I believe pure, sincere adoration of God is spiritual warfare. In the Old Testament, when they went into battle, they didn't sing a warlike song. Instead, they sang about the goodness and mercy of the Lord. We are created to commune with God. Worship is a powerful weapon against the enemy. It should be our lifestyle." Marty Nystrom

"....Sometimes God teaches us effectually to know the worth of mercies by the want of them, and whets our appetite for the means of grace by cutting us short in those means. ...lamenting after God is as sure an evidence that we love him as rejoicing in God." Matthew Henry

Control Individual Dogs - Not The Whole Breed

Please vote no for BSL. Here are some excerpts from this very informative article.

Breed Specific Legislation does not consider owner responsibility.
In almost every publicized case of a dog attack, there is a bad owner behind the wheel.

Statistics can not establish which breeds are "more dangerous" than others. As the TDH Survey states, "the number of animals in various dog breeds in the overall canine population is unknown; therefore, no conclusions can be drawn concerning whether dogs of these... breeds [in the study] are prone to bite more often than other breeds or if these are merely the more popular breeds." Taking this into consideration, it's natural that a ban on certain breeds of dogs only means that another breed will become popular in the area - and new breeds will take the top spots on the Severe Bite list.
Pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Chow Chows (in no particular order) were consistently on the list. But most interesting of all are the other breeds found on the list - so-called "family dogs". During the studies provided (1996 - 2002), these other breeds included Labrador Retrivers and mixes, Blue Heelers, and Collies. Additional breeds seen occasionally on the list included Chihuahuas and Dachshunds. Remember, this report deals with severe bites and attacks, so that should put to rest the myth that bites from little dogs are not serious.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Just For Fun

Do they make you feel happy?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Down Syndrome Awareness

I have seen some people balk at the words "special child", as if they were thinking someone with a mentally or physically handicapped child thought their child was more special and deserved more love than other children. I could see how that might rub people wrong when they don't know what is meant by that phrase. When you think about what is involved in raising a handicapped child, you would realize that it just means that they have a special set of needs from us. Like extra attention and time for everything they need to learn that normally wouldn't take as much work, not only from us family members but also from themselves. And special patience to deal with their slow progress (and not being able to let go of bad habits and behaviors). They need advocates in order to win community acceptance. They need impossible answers from us about why they may never be quite ready for the natural processes of life, like driving a car, buying a house, and getting married (or achieving Power Ranger skills!). No matter how old they are they will always need our extra involvement in their daily life, not only to make sure they remember (or need help with) grooming, chores, homework, connecting with friends, getting to work on time... but also to make sure they don't just sit on their bed all day long, or take off on their bike and forget how to come back.
So "special child" or "special needs child" doesn't mean we elevate them above the specialness of every other child, but that they will always require more, or special attention from us. And as our other children, whom we proudly (though reluctantly) see going off on their own so much faster, making their own lives, we secretly relish still having one to be the companion of our old age.
Some people don't want to have to come across special needs people in public, maybe because they don't know how to act around them. I take my son with me most of the time when I'm out in public, partly so he will feel comfortable in our community, and partly so the community will become comfortable seeing people that are different from them, and learn acceptance. There are many cashiers that are used to seeing Stephen with me and talk to him regularly. When he's not with me at times, they ask me what he is doing or is he okay? Ever since he was a baby people have approached me and said it is nice to see someone like him in public (I know they don't know how else to express it) because they also have a child or relative with a handicap.

The more that special needs kids are involved with the public the more they can be accepted, and even enjoyed, by those who get to know them. That is why there is a Down Syndrome Day (March 21st), just to remind our communities that they want to be accepted too. It isn't DS Day today, but I found a great video (below) that I can't wait to share. It's made by Renee from Life With My Special K's and she has given me permission to use it. There are lots of other great videos on You Tube but I don't want to over-do it because this one is 15 minutes long, with some very nice songs too, so I'll post some of them later.
Also, here is a new Down Syndrome blogger, (check out the post on "Dreams") and you can find many others through Google, or these bloggers blog rolls.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day - Eve, The Mother Of All Living

Eve's humiliation must have been debilitating when she realized what it really meant to be deceived by Satan, when her eyes, along with Adam's, were opened to the knowledge of good and evil. This is evident when they tried to cover their shame and hide from God. Though they had to live with the consequences, their Father clothed them in forgiveness and gave a promise for their future. Eve may not have fully understood God's curse on the serpent, but in her despair she could treasure the hope that one of her own offspring would destroy the one who led her to this predicament, overturning the wickedness that she had taken part in.
With the gift of each child came the confirmation of God's promise for that coming Redeemer. I wonder if she imagined that one of these immediate sons would be the one to crush the evil one that haunted her daily. I think I would have anticipated every day to be the fulfillment of that freedom. I'm sure it crushed her heart to have to live through evil once again taking hold of her family when Cain killed Abel, no doubt longing for her sin-free Eden. In fact every time that tempter made himself known to all the generations that she lived through, she found comfort in those sacrifices that reminded her of her Father's mercy and grace.

The godly line that came from their grandson Enosh (Gen.4:6), which lives through the faith of millions today, proves to be an infinitely more enduring legacy than her sin. Heaven will be filled with her redeemed offspring, eternally occupied with celebrating the work of her Seed.*

*Some exerpts taken from Twelve Extraordinary Women - ch. 1, J. MacArthur