Britain's worship music pioneer DAVE BILBROUGH takes us through the tracks on his 'Hidden Kingdom' album
A long time ago I gave up on the idea that I was called to be some kind of spiritual postman with a mission to deliver through music and song messages into lives and meetings devoid of any emotional attachment or identification with the subject matter. I realise that just like the prophet Ezekiel over two millenniums ago, like us all are called to eat the scroll to absorb and imbibe the truth we seek to share with others. As a troubadour of the gospel I've taken my fair share of geographical travels and adventures. I'm sure these have influenced my music but none of these is more important than the internal journeys, the 18 inches from my mind to my heart in shaping and forming the songs of the Hidden Kingdom.
Hopefully some of the themes will stir you to worship, some may even cause you to stop and think, others may, over time, prove a catalyst for growth and development for your own life in the spirit. Whatever is right for you at this time remember that the one who is greater is also the one in whom we inter-abide.
Christians are sometimes accused of not necessarily telling lies but singing them. Fair enough, let's admit it, we are all prone to get carried away from time to time and confess through the medium of music and song statements that appear to be at odds with our experience, but what if the good news really is that good? What if God really has opened a way for us? What if instead of the nagging feeling of hopeless and "not good enoughness" there really is hope? What if when the next time we are visited by the dark angel of condemnation and failure there really was an antidote, an answer. This opening song sets the tone in my desire to communicate through this album a message and provocation to trust in the ever enduring one who is and always will be steadfast through the winds of change, unshaken in his commitment to us and more active than we give him credit for or realise in our everyday lives.
"Love That Never Dies"
I started writing this song while we in the UK were mourning the loss of many lives through what has been hailed as a national disaster. The tragedy of Grenfell Tower. As I watched a memorial service for the victims on my TV screen something gripped me of the fusion of prayer and praise that we as Church can bring and its value in affirming that beyond it all Love will never die. Legitimate questions and doubts for some will remain and will not be pushed down or ignored, but I believe there is a beacon of light shining above beyond all earthly realms of goodness, truth and love.
Civilizations and individuals may jostle for power and status, celebrities come and go but none can match the ever present I Am.
"Who Am I"
An imposter? A pretender? When dark days come that's the accusation that most consistently becomes my nemesis in life. Should the negatives threaten to assail it's important to remember how God sees us. . . his child. . . the righteousness of God. . . accepted! Positive thinking, you may say? No, it's the truth! Step into what God has done in your life and like sprinkling some water over the invisible man within your soul the unseen will become visible. Our identity is more than our biography.
"Clean Before Him"
Shift your perspective. All too quickly we allow a genuine response to God to devolve into a legalistic and fear-based relationship. Receive the love and affirmation that we find so easy to deflect. Accept it and let it affect radical change. Worship will cease to be a chore or duty but a response and as an ancient mystic once wisely said, "There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."
"The Kingdoms Of This World"
Politically, sociologically and ecologically these are times of great turmoil. Uncertainty abounds as to where we are heading on so many levels. In these challenging days, let us remember that Christ is on the throne and for ever will be. He is in charge; nothing is exempt from his rule. He will have the final word on everything. In the words of Julian of Norwich, "All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of things shall be well."
Unfettered by man-made systems, God's seeks to make his Hidden Kingdom visible in our lives. I see it breaking out sometimes in unconventional ways. It will always challenge the status quo and the comfortable, offering help, healing and reconciliation. Standing on that ground remember, courage often comes before confidence.
"Every Living Thing"
The impetus for writing this song occurred one Sunday evening as I looked out from our garden window to see the most beautiful sunset filling the skies with its subtle shades of pink, yellow and blue stretched out before me. Just for a moment time seemed to stand still as I observed the feast of colour and grandeur on display. Fortunately, my guitar was at hand and I was able to interpret the moment with some music and words to later flesh out into the song. A reminder that God is not just a friend but the one who sustains the universe by his powerful word of command.
True spiritual enquiry must by its very essence make room for stillness and reflection in the presence of the Almighty. Without this we tend to become overly cognitive. In other words, we think too much! Lay aside the armada of thoughts running through your mind and just for a moment let God be God to you.
The Psalms help us to give voice not only to the triumphs but the struggles and longing of true authentic faith. Following on from that tradition I have included here a song I wrote as a prayer of lament for those oppressed by persecution overseas or perhaps nearer to home through illness, isolation or challenging circumstances.
Though sirens scream and winds may howl we draw our strength from the "Hidden Kingdom within. To quote: "The passion of the cross/Your power over the grave/Secure for us a greater hope/Beyond this present age."
In our search for acceptance we are prone to adopt many false identities; donning masks and strategies to avoid looking vulnerable to others. In so doing we abdicate living out the person that God has called us to be. Transformation begins, however, when we walk the way of Spirit. "In losing our life we truly find it," says Jesus. "Our life is hidden with Christ," says the apostle Paul. Give up on your self-made pretences and strategies. Instead, learn to walk the way of the One who loved us into existence. As it says in the book of Isaiah, "Come follow down the ancient path," the path of the Hidden Kingdom.