I just read an amazing book entitled, “The Barbarian Way.” by Erwin McManus.  In it, he stressed the point that the church has gotten so far away from Jesus and what He really called us to do and how He really called us to live.  Jesus calls us to a life where we should “deny (ourselves) take up (our) cross and follow Him.”

Often I talk about making worship more than just a Sunday morning thing.  This video made by Community Christian is a great, slightly humorous look at what it looks like to be a Christ Follower and not a Christian.

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”
Psalm 59:16

While I really enjoy modern music and I am a big advocate of vertical songs (songs sung directly to God), there is a huge benefit to keeping the hymns of the church alive.  Unfortunately, a lot of the language is hard to understand for new believers.  So, on this Reformation Day, I thought it would be fitting to talk about Luther’s great hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”

A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood.
Of mortal ills prevailing.

The word bulwark doesn’t seem to be used very often anymore; dictionary.com’s second definition is this:

2. any protection against external danger, injury, or annoyance

God is a fortress that cannot be shaken.  A bulwark is something that protects against attack, against flood, against outside influence.  In the flood of the world’s teachings that come at us, God is our helper that can never be moved.

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.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” I Peter 5:8.  Our ancient foe, the devil has great power.  He has great cunning.  He is a great deceiver.  He especially hates those who live for Jesus and wants to crush us.  Things sound kind of bleak don’t they?  Not if we keep looking at the next verse:

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.

If we trust in ourselves to defeat the devil; if we trust in our own strength to make it through our lives, we will lose.  But we have the right Man on our side!!  We have the Man God chose to be the power we need.

Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is He
Lord Sabaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

You ask who it is that God chose?  It is Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Sabbath, the Lord of Lords who is our fortress that cannot be shaken through the ages.  And he will and must win the battle that we struggle with every day.

And tho this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph thru 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.

The world is full of the devil’s plans.  But we have no need to fear, as long as God’s truth is living in us.  We do not tremble for the devil, because that one little word, “Jesus,” will fell him.  That name will cripple the devil every time.

That word above all earthly pow’rs
No thanks to them abideth;
The spirit and the gifts are ours
Thru 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!

That Word, Jesus Christ, is lifted above every power on earth, and He abides forever.  God’s spirit and the gifts of God are ours through Jesus Christ.  Therefore, we declare that things of this world are worth nothing compared to knowing Him.  His truth is the fortress that cannot be shaking, and His kingdom is a kingdom that will last for eternity!

I praise God that He has given us words such as these that have lived on through the centuries.  And I encourage you, the next time you don’t understand a hymn, a Bible passage, look for help!  Ask someone about it.  I know that there are many people who would be more than willing to explain it to you.

What’s your favorite hymn?

~ Revolution ~

Ryan Egan —  October 30, 2006 — Leave a comment

Ah…Reformation Sunday.  The Sunday we get to sing Tommy Walker’s “A Mighty Fortress.”  That song is always fun to sing.  However, it was interesting to watch a young couple who are relatively new to church life sing the song.  I could definitely see confused looks on their faces at times as they struggled to comprehend the words.  Tomorrow I will blog on the words of Luther’s great hymn.

We sang:

Sing to the King – Foote
Because of Your Love – Baloche/Brown
A Mighty Fortress – Luther/Walker
In Christ Alone – Townend
Wider Than the Ocean
You are the One – Baloche
Grace Alone

Pastor John‘s sermon really struck home.  Before the Reformation, people we’re buying their way into Heaven.  People we’re buying forgiveness for their sins.  The life-saving, life-transforming power of Jesus Christ that had been dominant in the early church had been lost.  People could do what they want, feel no remorse, and buy their way out of it.

Unfortunately, to some degree, this is still true today.  We think we’re living a free life by saying, “Hey, God will forgive me.  I can do whatever I want.”  Yet we’re really enslaving ourselves by sinning as Jesus said, “Anyone who sins is a slave to sin.”

The boundaries that God gives us in His Word and that Jesus teaches actually free us from the burden that sin places upon us.  We are freed from guilt.  We are freed from shame.  We are freed from the consequences that sin brings.  We are freed to live for Him!

Let’s be radical like Luther was.  Let’s start a revolution just like he did.  Let’s live lives passionate for Jesus Christ.

Last night in my devotions I read through Proverbs 24, and remembered how applicable the Proverbs are for today.  Take a look at vs. 30-34,

I passed by the field of the sluggard And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense, And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles; Its surface was covered with nettles, And its stone wall was broken down. When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, {and} received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest,” Then your poverty will come {as} a robber And your want like an armed man.

What do we do with our time?  I know that I have been very guilty lately of wasting a lot of time.  I have spent time on things that were definitely not pleasing to God, and I have spent time on things that, while not necessarily bad, just didn’t profit God’s kingdom at all.

When we spend our time during the day, do we think of the advancement of God’s kingdom?  Do we think of how we can be sharing God’s love with someone?  Or do we think of how we can take “a little folding of the hands to rest.”  While rest is of course good, when we purposefully put off important things just to relax, we get caught in the trap of having an overgrown vineyard with a broken wall.

But praise God that He doesn’t leave us without any power to be able to spend time wisely!  I pray that today you would not ask God for more time, but that you would ask God to help you manage your time more wisely, so that you can offer it to Him in worship!

How do you manage your time?

Many people actually have the spiritual gift of encouragement, and are just natural encouragers.  You feel so motivated around them and just feel a great boost in morale when they talk to you.

But that doesn’t mean that all of us can’t encourage just a little bit.  Paul makes this plea to the church in Thessalonica,

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (I Thess. 5:11)

So many times I get down because I haven’t been encouraged in a day, but I forget that I haven’t encouraged anyone either!  I shouldn’t get depressed when I’m not doing to people what I’d like done to myself!

So I challenge you, make a sacrifice today and take some time to encourage someone.  Take some time to encourage your pastor (especially in this month of pastor appreciation!).  What a great act of worship to our God by taking the time to encourage someone else!

What have you done to encourage someone lately?  How has someone encouraged you?