A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God."

(purchase entire string hymns album)

The hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, written by Martin Luther, has had wide-spread influence throughout Christendom, having been used by many well-respected musicians throughout history, starting with J.S. Bach in his chorale cantata “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott” (BWV 80). 

Other well-known composers include Dieterich Buxtehude, Johann Pachelbel, Felix Mendelssohn, Claude Debussy, Ralph Vaughan Williams, and more recently jazz pianist Bob James.

The message of God’s protection is as ancient as the Scriptural texts from which it is inspired.  Having faith in His capacity to protect and defend us against all forces that would attempt to bring harm to our lives is foundational to the Christian faith.  This protection even defies death itself: “That through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” (Heb. 2:14-15)  “But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.  O death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?” (I Cor. 15:54-55)

This conviction is not only relevant for eternity, but also for our daily existence, as the following two passages reveal a truth beneficial to our personal relationships.

“The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe (set on high)” (Prov. 18:10)

“The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted” (Prov. 29:25)

The words “safe” and “exalted” in the Hebrew are the same word: sagab, which means to be inaccessibly high, having the connotation of security, a place of safety to the one fleeing or to the one at rest in a fortified height which would be inaccessible to beast and enemy alike.

How many people curry the favor of various communities and leaders, only to be let down in one way or another.  “Many seek the ruler’s favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord.” (Prov. 29:30)

Eventually, man’s ideas, communities, governments, authorities and protection all fail.  But there is an absolute foundation of strength and power to those who unite to Him by faith.  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,’ so that we may confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.  What shall man do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6)

Throughout the ages, thousands will attest that He is faithful to all who put their trust in Him.  “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (Rom. 10:11)

 

 

 

 

The Solid Rock

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "The Solid Rock".

(purchase entire string hymns album)

With so many voices competing for our attention, so many good ideas and seemingly stable aspects to our culture or community upon which we can lean, there is only one truth that will withstand the test of time, and that is the solid foundation of faith in Christ Jesus. 

It surprises many when they see something they hold dear, something familiar just vanish from existence.  Maybe a familiar building that is destroyed to make room for something new, maybe a cultural style that has ceased to be mainstream, or maybe a close family member or friend who has passed away, all of these things can have an unsettling effect upon our lives.  As someone said, “The only thing constant is change.”

Even though everything in this world is perpetually changing, there is something higher than this world, something above the natural realm (i.e. super-natural).  These things, however, are spiritually perceived.  Though they are invisible to the natural eye, they are more real and more substantial than the things we can physically observe.

“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18)

“Now faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1)

Even though everything around us is changing (seemingly impossible to keep up with) it is the spiritual realm that contains something solid as a rock.

When Jesus asked His disciples who people said that He was, Peter answered,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I also say to you that you are Peter (lit. Petros, a stone), and upon this rock (lit. Petra, large rock, bed-rock) I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.” (Matt. 16:17,18)

As Peter acknowledged Jesus as being the Christ, the Messiah, he was seeing the ‘unseen realm’, he was able to perceive beyond the natural.  Upon the bed-rock revelation that Jesus is the Christ, the true church is being built.  It is an unchangeable foundation.  Even though history and cultures change, Jesus remains the priest,

“according to the likeness of Melchizedek (king of peace and righteousness), who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.”  (Heb. 7:16)

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:19,20)

He is the Solid Rock, an unchanging foundation in the midst of an ever-changing world.

 

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

Refrain:
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

 

Edward Mote

Amazing Grace

Here's a string quartet arrangement I wrote using the melody from the hymn "Amazing Grace".

(purchase entire string hymns album)

What is grace?  The Bible defines it as follows (from the Greek word Charis):

That which causes joy, pleasure, gratification, favor, acceptance, a benefit, thanks, gratitude, a favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.

That’s what God has done for us by His love, through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and resurrection, having justified us before God.  As God sees Jesus, He sees us.  The Almighty God, perfect and complete, sees us through “Jesus-colored glasses”, if you will.  The same way He views His Son, in righteousness and completeness, is how he views all mankind.

You may not feel holy and righteous.  You may not always do holy and righteous things, and you may feel completely undeserving of total forgiveness, wholeness and peace.  But it’s God’s gift to you.

Like any gift, we can refuse it or accept it.  For those who choose to simply accept it, saying, “Thank You”, all the benefits pour in.  How could anyone reject such a lovely gift?

Receiving it inspires us with a new idea: we want to give a gift to someone else.  It's the gift of unmerited, undeserved favor, forgiveness and acceptance.  Our desire to do this is the evidence of whether or not we first received it for ourselves.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.  You are My friends, if you do what I command you…This I command you, that you love one another.” (Jn. 15:12-14, 17)

His grace is truly amazing, as it comes to us, but it takes on a whole new dimension when it flows through us to others!

 

Amazing grace!  how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind but now I see.

 

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed!

 

Thro’ many dangers toils and snares,

I have already come;

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,

And grace will lead me home.

 

When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

Bright shining as the sun,

We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise

Than when we first begun.