Can Do vs. Called To Do


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

I have recently been battling my inner Wonder Woman. This happens when I let my sinful self-sufficiency sneak up on me. And what is so amazing about the whole thing is that I have twisted Scripture to justify my sin. After all, “I can do all things…”

Lead a Bible study? Write a book? Sponsor a club? Coach a team? Mentor a teen? Support a starving child in Africa? Teach a Sunday school class? Coordinate volunteers? Raise funds? Adopt a child? Keep a home? Go on mission trips? Visit the elderly? Learn to knit? Be the perfect wife? Win the Mom of the Year Award? Clip Coupons? Save the world?

Of course I can help you! I can do all things! After all, isn’t that what the Proverbs 31 woman did? I’m just doing what Scripture tells me to do!

What I quickly forget is that my terrible interpretation of that verse is just that—terrible. Paul is not claiming to be a spiritual Superman. Paul is saying that Jesus grants us the strength to do the things He sets before us. While I can do all things through Christ, He never meant for any of us to do all things at once. He alone is the one who holds all things together, and for me to think that I am needed for any bit of His work to succeed, I have deceived myself severely.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3

And there’s my problem; I think of myself much more highly than I ought. After all, if I don’t do it, someone else is just going to mess it up. The only way it will be done right is for me to do it myself. So I end up trying to do it all, and instead of doing a few things well, I do a lot of things half way. Anyone else find themselves here? So what do we do to remedy this cycle?

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong… 1 Corinthians 1:26-27

First, I must consider my calling. This has been the question on the Post-It note on my computer screen at work the last few weeks: Can Do vs. Called To Do? What things in my life has God genuinely led me to do in His strength, power, and calling, and what things am I doing simply because I am able? He has been convicting me greatly of the fact that just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should be doing it. I am convinced that there have been blessings I have missed in life simply because I spend time bowing to my idols and pride and busyness.

Second, I must remember that God chooses, not me. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways. Sometimes He calls us to do the things we wouldn’t naturally choose for ourselves simply to remind us that it is His work and His calling and His equipping that are successful in furthering His kingdom. He doesn’t need me or my abilities to accomplish His will, but He chooses to use us when we submit to Him and His will. And when we begin to take matters into our own hands, things fall apart. Fast. If life is spinning out of control around you, it may be because you are just trying to do more than He has for you to do. What are you doing out of self-imposed expectations? Are those self-imposed expectations godly? I find that normally, they are not.

Third, I must be weak to show Him to be strong. It is not my responsibility to save the day; He’s already done that. I am not the Messiah; but I am called to reflect the Messiah to a lost and dying world. If, at the end of the day, all anyone notices is how much work I do, then I have failed miserably. We are not called to fix it; we are called to point others to the One who has already fixed it.

Sometimes being obedient means dying to self and saying no, because I am not Wonder Woman. As a woman, that is a hard truth to swallow sometimes. God created us to be helpers and multi-taskers, but our sinful nature can so easily twist that God-given desire to help into a sinful, self-focused desire to save the day.

What things in your life do you do simply because you can do the job and not because He has called you to it? Do you live with this thought in the back of your tired and stressed out mind: “Well if I don’t do it, it might not get done.”

How different would the lives of Christian women be if we began focusing on the few things He calls us to and releasing the rest to His control? I am learning that His ability to get it all done is much better than mine, and resting in that truth is freeing indeed.

A New Sexual Ethic? Part 5


This is part 5 in a 5 part series of a response to Carter Heyward’s essay “Notes on Historical Grounding: Beyond Sexual Essentialism,” which can be found in Sexuality and the Sacred:Sources for Theological Reflection, edited by James B. Nelson and Sandra P. Longfellow.

Heyward concludes her argument with a rallying cry for change. As is the case throughout her article, her call to change is correct, but the direction in which she desires to enact this change is deadly. The following is Heyward’s proposed solution to the issue of a misunderstanding of sexuality in the church:

If we are to live with our feet on the ground, in touch with reality, we must help one another accept the fact that we who are christian are heirs to a body-despising, woman-fearing, sexually repressive religious tradition. If we are to continue being members of the church, we must challenge and transform it at the root. What is required is more than simply a “reformation.” I am speaking of revolutionary transformation. Nothing less will do (Heyward, 16).

Heyward’s call to recognize the past sins of the church is valid. Only when sins are acknowledged and repented of can true healing take place and forgiveness be granted. A vast number of problems within the Church today would be resolved literally overnight if believers were willing to repent and humbly seek forgiveness from their God and from their fellow believers. God confirms this promise in 2 Chronicles 7.14: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” True change occurs not through bitter retribution, as Heyward suggests, but through humble repentance and forgiveness.

This issue of creating idols out of sex and self ultimately stems from a misunderstanding of the person, nature, and work of God. Most claim that their disdain for God’s moral law has little to do with their “personal” relationship with God. They claim to love God. Their problems is with Scripture. Some may think that this type of thinking is extreme and could never be found in the mind of the average church member. But it is creeping into the pews and can be heard in excuses given concerning sexual immorality, divorce, exorbitant debt and a host of other self-gratifying sins. When people make statements like, “I know the Bible says it’s wrong, but God wants me to be happy,” they are judging Scripture through the lens of personal experience—the exact thing sexual pagans do to justify the worship of sex and self.

This idolatrous thinking has made its way into the local church, and it will not be corrected through a “revolutionary transformation,” but only through a humble reformation, by a return to the recognition that the God worthy of service and worship is powerful and sovereign, and He alone ensures that His will and ways have been communicated to His people without error or confusion. Those who think that Scripture is irrelevant today because it has been corrupted throughout time do not have a low view of man or of Scripture. They have a low view of God and his ability to maintain His promise that “the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Is 40.8).

Carter Heyward has so much right in her argument: sexuality can be seen as an aspect of humanity that is fluid and changing. While people (with very rare, medical exceptions) are born biologically heterosexual, through the influence of man’s sinful heart and the impact of the sinful choices of others, some go against the loving and unchanging one, right way of the loving Father and go astray, seeking to do things their own way (Is 53.6). Choosing to follow the sinful desires of the heart is not a liberating way of finding oneself and realizing one’s full potential, as a loving bodyself like Heyward tries so hard to claim. Rather, when man chooses to go his own way, his iniquities are not laid upon the Suffering Servant described in Isaiah 53. By going one’s own way, one is committing to pay the price for sins committed against an infinitely holy God.

For too long the church has silently sat back and uncomfortably watched society claim sex as its own. Before it is too late for the next generation of believers, the church must heed the warning of those who seek to take the good gift of God and further corrupt it in sexual paganism: “Our silence will not protect us…. We are shaping history with our words. Either we speak as best we can or our power… will slip away like a thief in the night” (Heyward, 16). Unlike Heyward, who believes that humanity’s power comes in unity with one’s self and with one another, Christians must remember that God’s grace is sufficient in whatever battle may be faced when standing in the truth of the Word. Christians are called to speak out against those who claim to speak for God but spread lies. Silence will not protect us, but it will most certainly condemn us if we remain silent concerning the increasing attack on biblical sexual morality.