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I hate fixing stuff. I'm not good at it. I don't have the tools, and if I did I wouldn't know how to use them. I came by this honestly, since my father brought me up in a handy-man free environment. I'm sure my great-grandfather would shake his head in disbelief. He was a blacksmith. Later he worked on early cars and even invented a fancy-schmancy new bumper for them.

Everybody has areas where they don't shine. Someone who can fix a computer may have trouble getting through a novel. Another person who excels in the classroom may struggle to do taxes at the end of the year. Still someone else may be an expert at training dogs, but have no idea about the stock market.

When it comes to developing a character that God expects to see in us, we all fall flat. There's a reason for that. And Jesus tells us succinctly in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”  Nothing. Not gonna happen. Your character will remain unacceptable. You don't have a Popsicle's chance in Panama of pleasing God—apart from Christ.

On the other hand, there is hope. Jesus also says earlier in that verse, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.”

That's a whole new position. Connected to Christ organically, like branches to a vine, we have a growing hope that we will be changed. That's why we can keep our chins up even on a lousy day. Paul says, “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4 ESV).

No matter what, just hanging out with Christ changes everything. Without him we are hopeless. We can do nothing.

With him… we can do anything! It's true. Read it: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 ESV).

What does “all things” mean? Does it mean you can fly like Superman? Run to the moon? Eat Baskin-Robbins out of all their flavours and not get fat?

Well theoretically, yes. But in this life of walking daily with Jesus, it really means doing whatever he asks of us. If he asks it of us, he'll empower us to do it. And he's not asking us to be silly or self-indulgent. He's asking us to live pure and holy lives for him in a world of dissolute morals. He's asking us to love each other even when we don't like each other. He's asking us to serve each other just as he served us.

That's a tough gig. But you can do it. If you are constantly connected to Christ: “I am the vine; you are the branches.”

Major Mark Wagner is the corps officer of Hope Community Church in Ajax, Ont. His blog can be found at

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