A rather different Easter message to all my brothers and sisters in Christ!
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Part 1) Becoming Who You Were Born To Be (this has to do with you)
My heart is full. Not because it is Easter. Not because of who I am. But because God is at work in my life, changing me, disciplining me, and ever so patiently teaching me more of Himself and His will for me! My heart is full and rejoicing, because I know that God is not making me into the people I admire most: Joseph; David; Jim Elliot; Pablo Yoder; Nate Saint; Dad. Rather, God is making me into someone different. He is making me into N. Yoder –called by God for a special purpose. A purpose I am being built and molded for –a purpose no other person could correctly fill. It is an anointing upon my life –and with this anointing I can have the Faith of Joseph, the Tender Heart of David, the Boldness of Jim Elliot, the Commitment of Pablo Yoder, the Eagerness of Nate Saint, and the Humbleness of my father.
He is doing this work in you too! He is making you into D. Schlabach, into E. Yoder, and into D. Yoder. He is making you into A. Schrock, into D. Miller, and into J. Yoder: He is raising up Great men and women for His Work in this Age where all ages are coming to an end.
We may be very different people from each other. You may be a rich farmer. You may be a poor preacher. You may be an humble mason. Or you may be the CEO of a large company. You may be a disciplined school teacher, or you may be the dedicated secretary at mission headquarters. You may be the humble wife of the humble mason –or you may be the respected wife of the CEO. God is calling each one of us into a different place. He gives each one of us different abilities –different interests –and different callings.
Do you have the humbleness to submit to becoming the person God is creating? You who look upon the greatest missionaries of all time and wish you could be as great as they…are you willing to live the lowly life of a carpenter? Are you willing to lay down your dreams of being an extremely effective missionary like Watchman Nee and bringing thousands to Christ, and instead be the lowliest member in your church and touch men’s lives in a different way?
Or God may call you to farther and stranger places! Are you willing to lay down your desire to be a poor, simple man and become a rich CEO and play the part of God’s accountant? Are you willing to lay down your desire for marriage and become a single man working at a drug addict rehab center? Or are you willing to lay down your desire to remain single and enter into a marriage commitment that will bind you for life to another?
If you begin to think that by my words I am suggesting one must go against his desires, I shout NO! On the contrary, I believe that desires are often a guiding factor God uses in our lives. But my point is this: You were not meant to be someone else. Yet often we began to feel guilty that we are not being as effective as the ‘great missionaries’ –often because we are able to note very real spiritual weaknesses in our lives. When we see those men, we see how spiritually strong they are (often we fail to see their weaknesses), and we begin to assume that where there is great spiritual strength there are ‘great missionaries’ (and this is not altogether false). Therefore, our route of thinking sometimes is to assume that being a ‘great missionary’ must always be the final outcome of great spiritual strength and if we do not achieve that place in life (of being a ‘great missionary’) we have failed our highest calling.
False. Great Spiritual strength will certainly make ‘great missionaries’ –but that is not always its outcome. Sometimes that outcome may mean a very simple and lowly life that will be recognized very little for its great part in God’s kingdom until we receive glory from God for that work in heaven –and we do well to recognize this and to sift our motives and desires and commit to becoming the special person God has called us to become!
As a final note here, I wish to clarify that I am not trying to promote the lazy Christianity we (or I at least) often find ourselves a part of. I am ONLY fighting the misconception that all great spiritual warriors are on the ‘glorious’ front lines of battle. Instead I am promoting a willingness to take a very lowly path if God asks this of us. And by ‘great missionaries’ I am referring to truly great men who have been recognized for their deeds on the mission field and are a wonderful example and testimony to others –there’s nothing wrong with that either!
Part 2) A Step of Faith (this has to do with music and conviction)
This past week in Guatemala we had a ‘Youth Institute’ which is like the State’s ‘North Dakota Meetings’ or our church’s ‘Youth Rally’ -except with less volleyball. While all of the messages were very good, one especially stands out to me and has brought me to a serious point. It really wasn’t a message. It was a music class by Stephen –a missionary here that I admire very much. Stephen simply told us how he used to think of music (and not very long ago) as being in two boxes. In one box was his music for worshipping God. In the other box was music for fun. As long as fun music wasn’t ‘bad’, it could be tucked nicely away in his ‘fun box’. But God began to speak to Stephen about this. Was the ‘fun music’ as harmless as he thought? Could he really separate it from his ‘worship box’? Was not all that he did to be for the honor and glory of God? And could his ‘fun music’ really do that?
Stephen told us how he believes that music is the one hold Satan often continues to have on our lives even after we become Christians. We have learned to compromise. We say that the words are good so the music can’t be bad. We say that the music is good and the words aren’t really bad –so it’s okay. We say that it doesn’t really matter if it doesn’t bother our conscience –after all, music tastes vary and everyone has to draw his own lines. In fact, the truth is, that anything that we really, really like –we make excuses for and it becomes a part of our music library.
Stephen told the story of how a friend of his, when he was young, was having some problems with sin and couldn’t seem to break free from it. This friend also listened to some ‘wrong’ music. One day, this friend took his tapes (just two, actually) and threw them away –and from that day on he never struggled with that sin in his life.
Stephen didn’t make any great, thorough arguments about why some music is good and some music is bad. He didn’t declare what is wrong about hard rock music (except for its ties to sex and rebellion). But Stephen did make a great argument by his example. In the months since God began to work on this area of his life he has begun to throw away CDs. What once was completely ‘innocent’ he realized didn’t really do ANYTHING but harm to him and he threw them away!
Stephen’s example was a force in my life that took me the final steps of a long awaited moment. Even though I have been more careful in the last years about buying music, and even though I have on occasion deleted a song or two, I’ve never been serious about getting rid of unhealthy music. Following Stephen’s example, I am choosing to say goodbye to a lot of music that I once argued was so innocent -even some music that wasn’t so innocent, but that I loved for its composition and ‘art’.
I have chosen to be very harsh with the Beatles –even those beautiful renditions by the King’s Singers. The Beatles were god-less, God-hating, and God-blasphemers. I choose to have no part of their spirit. I have deleted much of my Michael W. Smith collection –most of it is shallow and is hard rock. I’ve deleted various songs by Fernando Ortega, Marcela Gandera (a Spanish Singer), Full Table, Josh Groban, almost all of my small Go Fish collection, and the stupid (and sometimes rather sinful) comedy of Weird Al Yankovic. But, by far, the bulk of my deleting was in the albums of the group I love most. The King’s Singers. It was very painful. The Beatles Collection, a lot of vaguely suggestive love songs (even some less vague), and some songs that I couldn’t nail down why I felt uncomfortable with them.
It may surprise some of you what I didn’t delete. Believe me –I still have a lot of good old fun music, and my share of love songs –and some stuff that would be classified as Christian rock. I expect that God will continue working in me to delete more -and I’m open to that. But what is different is that I’m now in control of my music. You may disagree with my music standards, and you certainly shouldn’t expect me to outline my white and black lines for how to tell good and bad music apart…but you can ask for my MP3 player and I’ll hand it over with a clear heart. Dad –this is for you too. Though I think I’ll spare my grandparents the horror ;-).
Dad is a great example of this too. Dad used to be a great Guitar player in his late teens/early twenties. He probably still is. But he got into some bad music. Music that a lot of us wouldn’t think is that bad anymore, probably. God worked in his life and Dad got rid of his guitar and all that bad music with it. I’m sure it was very hard for him. Dad never allowed us kids to play guitar. Maybe that wasn’t really necessary –and I have some thoughts of picking up the guitar myself now. While you may call his rule an ‘over-reaction’ to a problem in his past –it always left a deep impression on my life. My Dad was willing to lay down something he loved to live a life he knew was better! Now it is my turn. So, Dad –for me at least- you did the best thing in laying down that guitar and never allowing us kids to learn to play it.
Part 3) Being the Final Part
So what does this have to do with Easter? Maybe not so much. Easter is about Jesus –not Nathan. But maybe this has everything to do with Easter. Jesus living today and working in Nathan –saving him from his hopelessness, and proving that Easter is so much more than bunnies and chocolates.
I write this hoping that you too can enjoy Christ’s work in you this Easter season –and encouraging you to open yourself to Him (behold, he stands at the door and knocks) and allow His special work in you –to create YOU – His special instrument.
These thoughts inspired by:
Paul’s letter to the Romans
John Coblentz: Living a Pure Life
Elizabeth Elliot: The Journals of Jim Elliot
Ronnie Miller’s Youth Rally Messages:
And, believe it or not,
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord of the Rings;