Posted by John Paculabo on 10 June 2014

[A year before he died, our friend John Paculabo wrote this brilliant article. We miss him, and we've still got a lot to learn, but pieces like this help...]

 

‘In good times and bad times people sing… to hide their fears, to express their joy; to endorse their beliefs, we carry songs with us throughout our lives and they reflect the character and the substance of our soul’.

Music is not an accident that mankind suddenly stumbled across. Music is as old as the universe itself. It is as vital to us as the food that we eat and the air that we breathe. From the dawn of time man placed music at the very center of community life, playing a leading role in ceremonies and rituals. Music is an ancient gift. Long before Gutenberg was even an idea man sang.

It’s not surprising therefore that at the very beginning of creation we find music woven into the very fabric of the universe. For every creature, every thing that lives and breathes and moves has a sound that proclaims its creator. From the birds of the air to the beasts of the field, all of creation sings to its Creator. Even the universe itself sings; every planet, every sun produces radio waves that when converted to ‘fit’ our ears becomes audible sound (hear if for yourself at youtu.be/_bnU6K1y468 - or Google ‘earth song sound’).

There are approximately 200 million suns in our galaxy, many with orbiting planets, and there are approximately 200 million galaxies in the universe. If every single sun and planet has its own song, surely God has created an interstellar symphony beyond compare? Isn’t it amazing to think that in every moment of every day the universe itself proclaims the glory of God? What’s more, how incredible is it to think of this song being made for an audience of one, entirely for His own pleasure?

Songs aren’t just reserved for the planets. They become milestones in our lives, denoting our seasons, marking those big occasions, bringing hope in times of sorrow, joy in times of goodness, courage in times of danger. They inspire us, stirring us into action and exerting a most powerful influence on us all.

If the songs that we sing become our mantras, then the music we consume throughout our lives - especially our early years - affects and shapes our thoughts and actions. The music that shapes us delivers so much more than pure pleasure; it directs almost everything about us - including our beliefs.

Therefore the songs we carry with us throughout our lives become important resources - especially for us who call ourselves Christians. Our songs help renew our faith daily and songs that are full of biblical content and substance remind us of who God is and what He has done. Songs can shape us by bringing to mind God’s promises to us, helping heal our soul, renewing our mind and refreshing our spirit. Songs become the curriculum we carry in our hearts every day of our lives.

So songs become our teachers, our ever-ready source of scripture, our constant companions on life’s journey, our daily provision that we hide in our hearts available at a moment’s notice with perfect recall.

It’s hard to believe that two billion people entered the new millennium unable to read or write their own name, for these people one of the only learning resources open to them are the songs that they sing. But an inability to read or write is no barrier to the power of the song. John and Charles Wesley evangelized a whole nation on the strength and substance of their songs - at a time when the common people of England were largely illiterate.

The Wesleys travelled the countryside on horseback, but today songs of truth carrying the word of God travel on the airwaves and digital highways, crossing borders and oceans at will, ignoring the rule of governments, feeding hungry hearts in lands that are dry and thirsty.

God calls us all to worship him, and the truths contained within our songs of proclamation and adoration help bring us to that place of worship, the place where God can speak and the place where we can listen.

I remember meeting a local pastor in India who recounted and amazing story. He loved to hike and he would often drive himself miles to remote regions in Southern India just to walk in the wilderness for days on end.

On one such occasion he came across a small village that did not appear on any map. On entering the village he met an old lady well into her nineties and as they began to talk he realised that she was a woman of faith.

Her Christian walk began when she was 12 years of age. Two missionaries had appeared in her village, but within two days the local authorities forced them to leave. But in those 48 hours the missionaries had relayed the Christian message to the village.

The old lady explained that she gave her life to God back then, and went on to become a midwife. Every baby she delivered she prayed for, and not once did any of the babies she delivered died. It was a miracle in rural India, and so she gained a reputation as a woman who God favoured. Many came to faith because of her.

When the pastor asked what books she had read, and what Bible she owned, she explained that she had never seen a Christian book or ever owned a Bible. Perplexed, the pastor asked then how she was able to keep her faith so fresh in such a remote place. Her reply was simple; referring back to the missionaries that visited her village when she was 12 she explained that ‘they taught me a song, and I sang it every day.’ For over 80 years this woman had fed on the good news that those missionaries had shared, and the song they had taught her. I have no idea what song it was - and perhaps that’s the point: the power of the song even extends beyond the arrangement of words and melody.

Recently my travels took me to the Amazon River in Brazil, where members of a team from the charity Ray of Hope had travelled to a remote village. The place was one of 80,000 untouched villages in the Amazon basin, and we held an activity camp for kids, but what with Indians being fun-loving people, many of the adults came also. After delivering the message of salvation and teaching them a few simple songs that spoke of the greatness and love of God, many wanted to become Christians and gave their lives to God.

We promised to revisit with Bibles and books, but because of its remoteness it was several months before the team could return. As we prepared to return some months later, we began to worry: would their faith have remained strong? Without Bibles, books or other resources, could they really have kept going?

We arrived and were amazed to find that not only were they still ‘alive in Christ,’ but even more of the village had come to faith. During the months that had elapsed they were sustained by a simple message and the songs that they sang.

Nothing can replace the Word of God or provide the systematic teaching that we find in books, but there’s power in these songs - real Christ-saving power. For those of you who write songs, I want you to remember this: scripture and substance are the hallmark of songs that have impact and lasting power.

 


Justice & Mercy Amazon was founded by John Paculabo.

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