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God on the Radio

Tom Arthur

All truth is God’s truth. I learned that at the Christian liberal arts college I attended. If we found truth in our biology class, it was God’s truth. If we found truth in a movie or a song, it was God’s truth. Actually, I grew up with the idea. One day, I was riding in the car with my mom, listening to a song on the radio; and my mom said, “What this person is singing sounds like my feelings about Jesus.” Mom found the truth of God’s love for us and our love for God in a song that wasn’t explicitly about God. All truth is God’s truth, even when we hear it on the radio.

devozine Sing! 2 TSP 146816384As a teenager, I lived with my dad. Dad liked listening to music, everything from pop to country—whatever was on the radio. I also listen to music of all kinds. More often than not, I hear God’s words popping up where I never expected to find them. The music reminds me of scripture or theology, and I grow in faith because of songs I hear on the radio.

I remember the first time I heard the Fugee’s Lauryn Hill cover the classic Roberta Flack song “Killing Me Softly.” She sings about hearing another singer who is “telling my whole life with his words, killing me softly with his song” (Isaiah 55:11). As I listened, I thought of the way I feel when I read about Jesus. Jesus is “strumming my pain with his fingers” (Isaiah 53:5), killing the sin within me, and bringing me health, healing, and wholeness (Mark 2:17).

More recently, I was listening to Pink sing “Just Give Me a Reason.” She sings of love that is “not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again.” As I listened, I thought of St. Augustine, who taught that our will is bent in on itself. We love the wrong things in the wrong way (Psalm 1). Our loves are disordered (1 John 5:21), but our will is not bent to the point of being broken (John 3:16). It can be fixed or redeemed, not by our own doing but by the power of God’s grace working through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. We can learn to properly reorder the ways and the things we love (Matthew 22:34–40). I heard Pink singing about God, who straightens out our bent wills and teaches us to love again.

In “How High,” Madonna sings about seeking fame and fortune but eventually realizing that neither is worth much: “Will it matter when I’m gone? Will any of this matter?” I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 5:10, 15 (NLT): “Those who love money will never have enough. . . . We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us.”

In “The Monster,” Eminem and Rihanna rap and sing about being saved from the monster that each of us has become. Eminem raps, “Hit the lottery, oh wee. But with what I gave up to get it was bittersweet.” Later, he raps, “I need an interventionist to intervene between me and this monster.” We all have a monster we are trying to befriend; but it’s killing us, and we need someone to save us. I think of Paul, who wrote in Romans 7:15 (NRSV): “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” He goes on to say, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24b–25, NRSV). Jesus saves us from the monster we become when left to our own devices.

200313921-001When I hear John Legend’s love ballad, “All of Me,” I remember that Jesus loves all of me, even my “perfect imperfections” (John 3:17). I seek to give all of myself to Jesus, who becomes “my end and my beginning” (Revelation 1:8). When I give up myself to the Lord, “even when I lose I’m winning” (Matthew 16:25). It all begins with giving “all of me,” my whole life, to God and loving God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27).

The next time you’re listening to Pandora, Spotify, or your local radio station, don’t miss the moment when God speaks to you.

 

DIG DEEPER

Listen to one or more of the songs listed above. Look up the scripture verses. Or listen more carefully to your favorite song and write about what God is saying to you. Don’t forget to include some reflection on what scripture says too.

Tom Arthur is the husband of Sarah Arthur, dad of Micah and Sam, and pastor of Sycamore Creek Church, where they often use secular music during worship to explore God’s truth.

—from devozine (January/February 2015). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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