Monthly Archives: August 2014

Slaying the Can’ts

I can’t do public speaking. I can’t learn to play a musical instrument well. I can’t play sports. I’m pretty sure most everyone has something they believe they can’t do. I know I’ve struggled with a lot of can’ts. I can’t write anything worth reading. I can’t communicate. I can’t paint. (And yes, those are real examples.) The problem with believing I can’t do something is that it leaves me believing it’s not even worth trying. And worse, it leaves me defining myself by my can’ts and avoiding anything that is can’t-related because I won’t be able to do it well (or even decently). Unwittingly, the can’ts form a prison wall all around me, as cold and hard as though they were physically there.

There are worse can’ts too: I can’t be a leader. I can’t understand God’s Word. I can’t overcome sin. I can’t be good enough. They stack up like individual stones in an insurmountable wall, their dismal messages painted everywhere in glaring neon colors. (And everyone wonders why I’ve had confidence issues all my life…) For years I accepted the fate my can’ts doomed me to, not realizing that there was more to life than the walls that had become my world. I accepted them just as though they were physical disabilities, and lived accordingly.

I was ignoring the truth of a commonly-recited verse that probably everyone already knows –

Philippians 4:13  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

No small print, no exceptions, no states where it’s unavailable. (Don’t you just hate those? I feel bad for people who live in Alaska and Hawaii…) There’s (yes, I’m being grammarly rebellious) two phrases that I think need emphasized at the moment. I can. Let’s be reasonable here. It doesn’t say “I will”. Obviously you aren’t going to do everything. But… “I can”. To me, that means that if the need arises, I have the ability to rise to the occasion. How? “Through Christ.” Duh. I can’t do it by myself. We all know I’m not that capable. (I have all those can’ts, remember?)

Let me be very plain. Can’ts are lies of the devil. Satan knows how effective they are in limiting our service to God. He’s not dumb. He’ll throw any can’t at you that he thinks you’ll buy into. Can’ts are not disabilities. Can’ts are lies. And lies can be combated with truth.

I am not defined by can’ts. I am defined by Christ and Christ alone – and Christ says that through Him I can do ALL THINGS. Especially if He specifically asked me to do it. And guess what? Quite a few of the can’ts refer to things He did ask – no, even told – me to do. I firmly believe that it was He who commanded me to write. It was He who gave me a love of creating things through art. He wants all His people to communicate freely with each other in love. Duh. Of course He will give me strength to do what He already wants me to do. Has He not promised, and is He not faithful?

I wish that slaying the can’ts was a one-time deal. (I could be publishing books and music by now if that was the case…) Unfortunately, can’ts are like flies; they keep coming back. The devil doesn’t give up on his favorite methods that easily. He comes back and hammers on us again and again and again and again ad nauseum. He tries to wear us out until we fall apart of our own accord. (Also a very effective method. There’s a reason God tells us to be persistent in our prayers. Persistence pays off.) What can I do when I’m exhausted from fighting the lies and just want to give in and agree with them; when I feel like I’m falling apart?

I’m reminded of Ephesians 6, which contains the well-known passage about putting on the armor of God. One of the pieces to the armor is “the belt of truth”. Is it just a coincidence that Paul decided to name the belt ‘truth’? I don’t think so. One, I don’t believe coincidences exist, and two, I love analogies far too much to brush this off as an unintentional one. What do belts do? They don’t just hold your pants up. They – and here’s a key – hold your outfit together. Belts hold things together that would otherwise fall apart. (Or fall down. Like pants.) The truth can hold me together when lies have worn me down and I’m falling apart.

I’ve fallen for a lot of can’ts in my short life, and maybe you have too. Do you feel like your life is defined by all the can’ts, limitations, ‘disabilities’? You don’t have to. Like we sing at STEP (You knew that was going to come up eventually, didn’t you?), “Go ahead, leave behind what you thought you were and instead be defined by a better word. [Christ]” You don’t have to be defined by what you can’t do. Because by the power of Christ Jesus our Lord you can do all things. So go ahead. Slay those can’ts.

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My Current Challenge

The day before we came home from STEP Advanced (Don’t you just love how I always bring that up nowadays?) our Group Leader gave us each two books, one of which was Kept for the Master’s Use by Frances Ridley Havergal. Naturally, I read it. 😉 Basically, Miss Havergal goes through the hymn Take My Life and Let it Be (which she wrote, by the way) and talks verse by verse, about what it would look like to actually literally give each aspect of our lives to God.

So I’ve been thinking. If God wants us to give Him every aspect of our lives (and I know He does), what would it look like to give Him my talents? (Well, I say talents. Really, they’re just the things I’m most interested in. I don’t presume to say I’m especially talented in those arenas, since I tend to err either on the side of self-criticism or pride. [Honestly, why is it so hard to find the healthy balance?]) By talents I mean my writing, drawing, singing, music (piano, ocarina, guitar), and sign language. (Not that sign language is necessarily a telent. But I did say that I was referring to my main interests as talents, and sign language is a main interest. So there.) What would it look like if I submitted each of those to Christ? What if I wrote everything – and I mean everything – all for Christ? What if I drew every picture for Christ? What if I sang, signed, and played music all for Him? What if?

Well, maybe I would spend more of my time focusing on blessing people with those talents instead of just enjoying them. Because when we submit totally to God we care more about blessing people than enjoying ourselves. When we submit totally to God we want to use every single tool we have for the Master’s use.

That’s the kind of person I want to be. (Although I sometimes wonder how I’m supposed to multitask to that extent….) I want to use every gift He’s given me for His service. So…that is my current challenge – to find ways to use them. Fun, ain’t it? *Grin*

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He Doesn’t Make Me ‘Happy’

I once heard a pastor say that God speaks to us more than we want Him to, and I completely agree with that. He’s very good at convicting us when we don’t want Him to, and telling us to apologize or confess things that we would far rather squelch down inside and pretend never happened. Oh yeah, He’s reeeeally good at that. And I don’t usually like hearing Him talk about my sins. But the more I seek Him, the easier it is to hear Him, and the more He convicts me about stuff. Yayyyy.

Anybody that says to follow Christ because He will make them happy and comfortable is lying. 😛 The closer I follow Him the less comfortable I am and the more I have to do things that I really really don’t want to. He doesn’t make me ‘happy’.

He never promised He would.

He never promised I would be comfortable.

He did promise to stay with me. He did promise to forgive me when I mess up. He did promise to reward me in the life to come.

But He also expects me to trust and obey Him, even when I don’t like where He leads. Or when I’m scared to do something He tells me to do. Or when I’m tired of being convicted and having to deal with sin and just want to give up the fight.

And when I do trust Him and do obey Him, He gives me joy unspeakable. No, He doesn’t make me ‘happy’. ‘Happy’ is temporary. ‘Happy’ is too small. ‘Happy’ could never describe the tingling feeling that floods through me and makes me to jump up and yell or something crazy like that (and I might be crazy, but I don’t normally want to do loud or dramatic things like that). No, Christ doesn’t make me ‘happy’. But He fills me with joy. And He gives me courage and strength to push through things when I’m afraid. He promises to reward His faithful followers when eternity hits. I think He must also reward people who trust and obey Him in this life too. Because if His overwhelming joy isn’t a reward in and of itself, I don’t know what is. 🙂

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Inescapable Influence

I spent this last week as an assistant counselor for younger girls at a Christian camp for the first time in my life. That was interesting. *Laughs* In all seriousness though, it was an educational experience. One of the things God brought to my attention was just how contagious we are. (Not like spreading germs, although I did come home with somebody else’s cold.) Especially when we’re around kids. They copy EVERYTHING. An illustration: Ever since taking a sign language class I’ve had the habit of signing (to the best of my ability) the lyrics of the songs we sing in church. So naturally when we sang in chapel at camp, I was signing. The first time it was just me, but pretty soon a couple girls from my cabin started watching me and trying to sign along with me. Then they started purposely picking the seats right next to me so they could watch me easier. And then I started to see girls in the rows in front of me discreetly copying me as well. After a day or two, suddenly there were boys on the other side of the center aisle trying to sign too. One of them even came over to the girls’ side so he could see me better. Several kids asked me what signs meant, or asked me what the sign for such-and-such was. I didn’t go to camp intending to teach people sign language. It just happened, because they saw my example.

We are an example to everyone we meet, whether we like it or not. We are constantly influencing the people around us, whether we know it or not. The question is, what are we an example of to those people? What kind of an influence are we? As Christians, we can’t ignore the fact that every day we are setting an example for other people to follow. We are Christ’s ambassadors on deployment, and our responsibility is to represent Christ well to the watching world. That’s not a responsibility to take lightly! Every single thing we do can influence someone. Every single arrogant attitude, every sharp response, every grudge…every smile, every loving act, every humble apology, every word. Every single choice we make is vastly important, because it speaks volumes about what we believe is right or wrong. Every movie we watch, every song we listen to or sing, every game we play, every book we read. People will notice the things we fill our life with.

As Christians, we can’t take our lifestyles lightly. We can’t do things that the world does because they’re ‘okay’. ‘Okay’ is not the same as ‘best’, and furthermore, doing what the world does is not setting an example. It’s following the world’s example. Sometimes we need to give up the ‘okay’ things in favor of God’s very best. Since my adventure in Texas this June (yes, I mean at STEP), I’ve been challenged to consider if the things I do and the choices I make are really God’s best for me. Because if they’re not, I need to give them up. I encourage you to do the same. What kind of an example are you? What habits or hobbies or activities or speech choices glorify God, and which ones should you change? You are a role model to bunches of people every day. Please, please take it seriously!

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