Monday, January 17, 2011


I spent the better part of last week in Toronto at the annual corporate launch event for the company I work for. As is always the case at these things it was full of attempts to motivate and inspire all of the employees to go out and strive harder, be better, go farther. And, of course, the expectation from all of this is that we go out and make the company more money. Don't get me wrong; I do believe my company on the whole really does care a ton about the people we employ and everyone else for that matter. We even have a non-profit org that helps provide schools, houses, and technology equipment across the world. Still, I wonder though, can I reach my potential at a place like that?

See, as with all other areas of life I am supposed to have a different view of my potential than a corporation or of anyone that doesn't have Christ as their center. But when I look at myself, I usually look at my potential in terms of career, money, and the like. It is a rare thing that I actually consider my potential in the view of Christ. What does that mean for me? Well for starters I believe it means my view of my potential is VERY, EXTREMELY small! Through my eyes, my flawed human eyes, I cannot even begin to imagine what kind of potential God has put within me.

Not to get too sidetracked, but according to Wikipedia potential energy is the energy stored in a body or in a system due to its position in a force field or due to its configuration. Think about that for a minute in terms of God and the Holy Spirit. If I claim to have named Christ as Lord, then I should have the Holy Spirit within me. With that "configuration" or "force field" I have to think that my potential is in effect limitless/infinite. Therefore, I have the potential (since the Spirit is in me) to be used in the most extraordinary ways. To think instead that my potential on this earth is all about getting that next promotion or making that next buck is to say that I don't care about what God really wants from me. I care more about what my company wants from me instead.

As Paul says in Ephesians 3:20, we have a God "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us." That is real potential. That is what allows one person to be used to truly change the world. That is the potential that allows hearts to be changed from selfish ambition and fear to sacrifice and love.

What is my potential? I don't know that I can really answer that very well right now. I just know that I no longer want to think about my potential in the limited, this world view any longer. What is your potential? I would argue that it is MUCH greater than what you give yourself credit for today. I would argue that you have a REALLY long way to go to even begin a journey to reach your potential. That is, of course if you believe in the God Paul wrote about. If we will just seek out our REAL potential based on our REAL potential energy, the Holy Spirit in us, then we will lead a world to the Cross.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sheep or Goat

There are plenty of Jesus' words in the gospels that should rather quickly bring a little reflection to everyone who claims to be a Christ follower. One of Jesus' stories that hit me lately is the story of the Sheep and Goats in Matthew 25:31-46 (don't keep reading this until you go read that – I don't talk about the text too much in here, but you need to know the whole story for this to make ANY sense). There are really two points in this text that stand out for me. First is the obvious one that if we are disciples of Christ, we WILL serve other's needs simply because it is God's will that we do it and because the love of Christ is in us we can't help but. The second point is a little hidden within the context of the first. Let me look at an example or two of "whatever you did for the least" to set the stage a bit. Then the second point can be uncovered.

Driving around just about anywhere in Atlanta (or any other major city) it doesn't take too long to find someone standing on a corner holding a sign asking for help. They may be asking for money, work, food, something. What are my thoughts when I see that person? Is it, "Hmm, that is Jesus standing there in need of something – let me help him now," or is it more like, "I don't have any cash anyway, so no reason to even role down the window – just don't look at him and I will forget he is there in about half a mile"? Maybe those thoughts are too extreme to be the real thoughts, but what about this? That needy person, a "least of these brothers" is an immediate opportunity right in front of me. God has provided me with an immediate opportunity to serve HIM by serving this needy person. What action do I take? I take the "practical" action. I excuse myself from serving him because my kids are in the car. After all, I can't put my kids in danger if this is some diseased or crazed person, right?

Or take this example. It's a cold night and I am actually DOING something to help the needy. I am taking coats to the homeless. I give out my last coat and start back toward my car to head to my nice warm home for the night. Then, I run across another homeless guy off by himself, shivering. What are my choices here? Ignore him, go buy a coat and bring it back, tell him where a shelter is, or (the unthinkable in today's world) ask him in my car to come home to my family. Of course, I am going to go with one of the first three options in that list. In truth, I probably will take the "go buy him a coat" option. I mean, really, I gave him a coat. That is DOING something, right? That is the practical response.

Those practical thoughts, the "can't put my kids in danger" and "I gave them coats" lead to the deeper/hidden second point in this story. And, I think it reveals more about us and our real beliefs than the simple "are we serving the needy". That second point is this: when we take practical actions/responses, what does that say about our trust/faith/belief in the almighty God we claim to serve? It seems to me if I choose the practical response I am saying I don't trust God to have my best interest in play at that time. Maybe there is some truth in that, since God's view of "my interests" is far different than my view. But seriously, if I am unwilling to immediately ask a stranger (read the Matthew 25 text) into my car or home out of honest concern for my or my family's safety, then isn't that a lack of trust in God to do His work? Yes, this is one of those places where MANY people will call me crazy or say I am WAY overreaching on this point. Well, maybe, but as I have said in earlier posts, Paul and Jesus himself point out the world will think His followers crazy. So, maybe before you say that too loudly, you might want to REALLY check yourself.

Let me get back to the example of buying the coat for the homeless guy. That really is a great thing to do. By no means do I mean to say we should/can't do that. But, what if that person has disappeared by the time you return? What if the cops made him move on, or worse yet something bad happened to him while you were gone? Did you not just walk away from an immediate and clear opportunity to serve a "least of these?" Is that person's wellbeing not at least in some way your responsibility as a Christian? Did you not choose practicality or safety over God's will? Ouch.

Are those "practical" and "safe" responses what we see when we look through the gospels and Acts? No, we see in those stories of reckless abandon of earthly life to simply help those in need. We don't see the disciples or Jesus saying "go write a check" or "go buy them a coat." We see Jesus and the disciples act immediately when God presents opportunities to serve. We should as well. When we truly, fully trust God and have HIS will as our purpose, our fear dissipates, love consumes us, and we serve others whenever, wherever and however the opportunity arises.