Sunday, August 31, 2014

Recognized...

     The definition of the word recognize according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is to know and remember (someone or something) because of previous knowledge or experience. Some people are more recognizable than others. They may be more recognizable because we have seen them on television or because we have shared an experience with them before. Some people are recognizable because of their out-going, life of the party personality. Others may be recognizable because they have a distinct voice or accent. It's easy to recognize a soldier by his uniform, just as it is a police officer, a doctor, or a fireman. How do people recognize you? Maybe a better question to ask is how do people identify you?

     We live in a world where identity is often wrapped up in appearance, occupation, and personality. Yet there is a lot more to a person than their appearance, occupation, and personality. After all, who would want to be identified by only one or two traits? Yet we do it all the time when we try to describe one person to another. She's the blonde over there, he's the best doctor in town, she's the strong willed child in the family.  There are things that we don't reveal in the limited descriptions we give to identify others. The blonde is a blonde because she is a hair dresser who likes to experiment with color. The doctor is not only the best doctor in town, he is a devoted husband and father. That strong willed child is also the smartest most driven kid in school. Adding more words to our descriptions gives a more accurate identification and makes the person we are talking about more recognizable. 

     Some of us want to be recognizable. Perhaps it's because we want people to know who we are or we want to feel special. Maybe it's simply that we want to be noticed or feel set a part in some way that distinguishes us from others. There are those of us who prefer to blend in. We are perfectly content hanging out in the back of a room unnoticed and left alone with our thoughts. We don't care to be recognized. We have no desire to be set apart in some way that distinguishes us from others. We are already aware that we are different and that is why we hope to blend in...so that others won't notice. Which one are you? 

     I have been thinking a lot lately about two recognizable men that I read about in the book of Acts. In Acts chapter four Peter and John were thrown in jail by the religious leaders of their day for preaching Christ and proclaiming His resurrection from the dead. The religious leaders threw them in jail and then decided to question them. They asked "By what power, or in what name have you done this?" Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak. In the course of his speech he said that it was by the name of Jesus Christ. This is not what has given me pause for reflection. This is merely Peter identifying himself with Christ. Verse thirteen is what caught me. It reads, "Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus."

     These religious leaders recognized Peter and John as having been with Jesus. They were the same religious leaders that were around when Jesus walked the earth. They had experienced Jesus for themselves. They were able to recognize Peter and John as having been with Jesus because of their confidence and their speech. Peter and John were no longer untrained and uneducated men, that was their former identity. Spending time with Jesus had changed them so much, that even after He had returned to be with the Father they were recognized as having been with Him.  They had a new identity. They had been identified with Christ.

     This segment of Scripture has me asking myself a few very important questions. Do others recognize Jesus when they spend time with me? Have I spent enough time in His presence that my identity has changed? There have been people in my own life that I have spent time with, who remind me so much of Jesus that I felt as though I was in His presence when I was spending time with them. He was so recognizable in their life that I could identify Him in every aspect. What about you? Do others recognize Jesus when they spend time with you?  Have you spent enough time in His presence that your identity has changed?

     Just as Peter and John were recognized as having been with Jesus, we must be also. We may be the only chance someone gets to experience Jesus. There is nothing else worth being recognized for and this is no time to try and blend in. Our world is breaking. People are hurting. They need Jesus. Will they recognize Him in you? Will they be able to identify you as someone who belongs to Him? Will spending time with you spark a desire in their heart to spend time with Him?

    

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Community...

     There are quite a few things that have me thinking these days. At first glance they seem like odds and ends that are not connected, but I am beginning to think they truly are connected.  What is it that connects living water, Iraq, and Robin Williams? Community.

     On Sunday one of our Pastors spoke about living water. I am sure that there was a lot more to be gleaned from the sermon than what I gleaned from it, but this is what I walked away with: Christ is living water. When I am filled with Christ, His life flows out of me into the lives of others and this is the living water.  Living water is refreshing, pure, and it brings life. If I am not filled with Christ and drawing from His living water, then whatever it is that I am filled with is what flows out of me. If what I am filled with is something like sin or muddy water, then that is what I am pouring into the lives of others.

     The sermon reminded me that our lives touch the lives of others. We are given an opportunity with every person we encounter, even if it is only a brief encounter. We have an opportunity to refresh them or to contaminate them. It's easy to think of ourselves as individuals and to forget that are lives touch the lives of others. We are a part of a community. Schools, churches, towns, and cities are all communities. One of the definitions of a community is " a society at large".  If this is the case, then our world is a community.

     With everything that is going on in the world today I have to wonder, how much do we care about this community? It's easy to look at the problems of the world and feel overwhelmed. It's easy to think that anything that we could say or do to help would just be insignificant in light of the world's problems...but is that true?  If you and I believe in Christ and are filled with His living water, wouldn't pouring it out make a difference?  Do you think that if we shared this living water with just one person, it would change the world? What if someone had shared Christ, the Living Water with Robin Williams? Would he have been set free from all the chains that bound him? Would he have been filled with the joy of the Living God who loved him rather than the depths of despair from the pit of hell? Would he be here with us today, alive?  If sharing this living water would refresh just one more soul and free just one more captive, then what do you think it would do for the Islamic Extremists and those they persecute in Iraq?  Could God use His life flowing out of us who belong to Him, to change a nation? Could He use His life flowing out of us to bring Islamic Extremists to their knees in repentance and end the persecution of thousands of our fellow Christians?  I believe He can. All we have to do is ask.

     I think it's time to stop reading the headlines and feeling overwhelmed or disconnected. Instead, I plan to take the headlines to God in prayer and ask Him to show me how I can pour out this living water that He has poured into me. I know for certain that one way He can do this is through prayer. Prayer changes things. I may not be able to travel to Iraq but I can pray for Iraq and its people faithfully. I may not be able to do anything for Robin Williams right now, but I can pray for his family. I can also ask God to use me to share His love and His life with others who struggle with depression. Not everyone thinks of prayer as a way of taking action. There are people that look at prayer as if it is a passive, easy way out of doing something more substantial.  For those who may think this way I would like to share  some thoughts from S. D. Gordon's book Quiet Talks on Prayer: "The power loosened through prayer is tremendous and may not touch just one spot but wherever in the whole round world you may choose to turn it. Our prayer is God's opportunity to get into the world that would shut Him out. Prayer puts us into direct dynamic touch with the world. We can do nothing of real power until we have done the prayer thing."

     We live in a community called the world. True, it's a huge community with more problems than we can number, but it's our community and we can change it one person at a time. All we need is Christ the Living Water flowing through us into the lives of others. If we ask Him He will show us with each person we come into contact, what that looks like. We have to ask first... and asking requires prayer. Prayer is the beginning of unleashing the rivers of living water and as the Pastor put it this Sunday, "changing the landscape" of our community...our world.