July 10, 2014

Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Now that’s a magnificent promise! What’s more, the only condition I can find related to it is simply being part of the People of God. The last half of this verse is picked up in the old hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” Many of the old hymns are Biblically based, though they don’t quote Scripture as directly as some modern worship songs. However others, of all ages, are no better than humanistic exhortations. It has been said, accurately enough, that you can tell the theology of a church by what they sing. Pastors who don’t pay attention to the lyrics of what is being sung in their churches are asking for trouble down the line. It would be nice if all believers memorized Scripture and spent their time “talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up,” as it says in Deuteronomy 11:19. We all know that isn’t common, but music has a way of sticking in our heads, and if the lyrics are Biblical, that can be a very good thing indeed. If we would live out even what we sing in church we would make good strides down the road to true discipleship. Music is a powerful, glorious gift from God, which is why the devil tries so hard to pollute it. We need to take it back by focusing on music that glorifies God and builds people up. I won’t get into the mess that is secular music. Some of it is innocuous, but much of it strongly encourages a very twisted world view, and that is dangerous indeed.

I was blessed to grow up in a highly musical family. Our music certainly wasn’t limited to “church music,” but we delighted to gather around the piano and sing through the hymnal. I have enjoyed what at the time were called “worship choruses,” which has morphed into what today is called “contemporary Christian music.” I have heard, and sung, a fair amount of junk, as well as some real gems. I have come to the position that church music needs to be of a style the congregation can relate to, but that “comfort zones” need to be stretched as well. Sometimes setting good lyrics to a different tune can give people a fresh appreciation for what they are singing. Living and ministering in Japan, song translations are a real issue. Lyrics need to be contemporary enough to be fully understood, while being poetic enough to stick in the mind and heart. Sometimes going between languages can provide an opportunity to straighten that sort of thing out! I have been privileged to translate quite a few songs, from brief choruses to multi-verse hymns, because of our bilingual congregation. I wish my quality were a little more consistent, but every creative person produces some duds! I am to be faithful with what the Lord gives me, sharing it as He directs, so that the Body of Christ may be built up with true disciples, for His glory.

Father, thank You for music, and for all that it has been in my life. Thank You for the privilege of translating songs for You. Thank You for directing me to start blogs to share those translations. I pray that those translations would fulfill the purposes You have for them, building up Your children indeed, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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