April 27, 2011

Distinguishing features of a Christian life

Psalm 40:3

He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

From my early teens I have been telling people that song lyrics are vitally important and the musical style only important insofar as it supports and contributes to the message of the lyrics (or detracts from that message). But, many years ago the group 4Him put out a song called “The Roller Coaster Ride.” As I often do, I ignored the things I had repeatedly asked others to do. I enjoyed the music, but did not pay a lot of attention to the words.

I’m not sure how I missed the lyrics of this song because they talked about how the ups and downs of life can overwhelm us if we don’t keep our eyes focused on Christ. Great advice.

Great advice that I continually need to remember.

This morning I decided to listen to sermons instead of music as I began my day, so I pointed my MP3 player to my sermon collection and began listening to one of the sermons in Arturo Azurdia’s “Distinguishing Features of a Gospel Congregation.” And like those lyrics that I had missed over the years, apparently I had missed something in one of these sermons when I listened to them before.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Dr. Azurdia tells the story of a conference he preached at. He told one of the host pastors that he was thoroughly enjoying the singing there at the church. The pastor responded, “Here’s our approach. We sing when we’re happy, and we sing when we’re not happy. And when we’re not happy; we sing until we get happy.

God knows that our lives are going to be roller coasters. Some people cower in fear and close their eyes when they’re on roller coasters. Others cringe and hang on to the bar in front of them with a death grip, then sigh in relief when the ride is over. And then there are the others...

When I was a teenager, I remember going to King’s Dominion with my sister and our friends. I remember getting onto roller coasters and preparing for the ride. If I focused on the ups and downs of the ride I became a cringer. If I focused on the ups and downs of the ride, but I was afraid to look weak to my friends I became a hang-on-for-your-life-and-sigh-when-it’s-done rider. But... when my sister, who has no fear about anything, would break into song—and then the rest of us would join in—I would raise my hands in the air, sing along as loudly as I could, and have a blast for the duration of the ride. Then, at the end of the ride, we would get off, run as quickly as we could around to the entrance and jump back into the line again so we could do it all over. At the end of the day we went home happy and still singing until we got to the meeting location where all the parents would pick up their kids and take them home.

That’s how I want to live my life. I want to throw my hands up in the air, abandon my fears, and sing with gusto because, after all, he has put a new song in my mouth—a song of praise to our God!

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