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Living as an example

When you are making your way through a field of landmines, you definitely want to listen for the faint "click" of the detonating trigger if you misstep. You then hope to have the wisdom of another who knows the inner workings of the device to show you how to keep the detonator from engaging when you remove your foot from the device.  There are definitely times when there is a specific need to pay attention - to listen like your life depended on it.  Did you know God gives us a certain amount of common sense to handle some of life's challenging moments, while he expects us to listen intently to his voice as though our live's depended upon it?  Truth is, he doesn't really care too much which can of tomato soup we purchase, but he does care about who we might just run into in the aisle as we are shopping.  Common sense allows us to purchase the can of soup which tastes good, is a reasonable price, and meets our nutritional needs.  His still small voice might just prompt us to recognize a need in someone in the aisle, or point out to us an individual we haven't seen in a while, but who desperately needs our interaction.  I have to confess I don't pray over the can of soup - but if I see someone in need, I do shoot up a quick prayer to get God's perspective on how the need might be met.  There are times in our lives when it is our time to be helped - there are others when it is our time to help another.  There are moments when God speaks into our lives - there are others when he is using our lives to speak to others.

Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, "I heard your call in the nick of time; the day you needed me, I was there to help."  Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.  (2 Corinthians 6:1-10 MSG)

I think we might just all be guilty once in a while of squandering opportunities God puts right in front of us.  Opportunities to meet a need, or just be an example another might just use to catch a glimpse of God's love, his grace, or his hope for a lost world.  God asks us to be purposeful in our walk - not squandering (wasting) the opportunities he provides.  This applies to both our need to be helped (his actions on our behalf) and our need to help others (his actions through us on behalf of another).  If there is one thing we need to hear it is the important truth of TODAY being the RIGHT time to listen - listen to his voice, like listening never counted as much before!  If you have ever been guilty of sitting in a meeting, or perhaps a classroom or group of people, with someone talking and your mind wandering a little too much, you might just have been caught a little off-guard when someone actually "called on you" to interject an answer, give a word of advice, or express your opinion. What you discover quickly is how awkward you feel being "exposed" for NOT listening!

Did you ever stop to think of not listening as something which might actually frustrate God?  I guess we think of God sometimes as this infinitely forgiving guy in heaven just waiting for the next opportunity for grace to be extended. Well, in the most literal sense, he is this infinitely forgiving God in heaven, but he also gets frustrated by our disobedience and even our laziness, especially when he senses we are taking his grace for granted in our lives. The grace given us is to be used to reach others in need of the same grace - something we just cannot do if we aren't paying attention.  The simple fact that God's grace is "validated" in the details of our lives is something we should never lose sight of.  The very details of our lives, the things we say or don't say, the actions we take or don't take - these all add up to either substantiate (confirm) the work of God's presence in our lives or not.  For some whose walk with Jesus has grown a little "cool" of late, many of the actions they take and the words they speak are reflective of this coolness. For those whose walk is fresh and alive, their actions and words corroborate God's activity and ongoing presence in their lives!

If I were to ask you when the last time it was where God asked you to do something and you felt a little awkward about it, so you just moved along as though you didn't hear him, when would that be?  For some of us, it was the homeless woman with a sign in the Walmart parking lot we ignored because she looked clean and her clothes looked in good repair, so we immediately said she must be working a scam.  Perhaps it was the lady with a flat tire on the side of the road, dressed to the nines, and looking like she was rich enough to actually have a membership which offered roadside service.  Or maybe it was the man in the grocery store who mops up the spills, responding with rapid speed to those "clean up on aisle nine" calls, knowing it was all a part of his day's work.  Have you ever stopped to talk with the woman begging in the parking lot to hear what her story might really be?  What about calling your own roadside service to assist the woman with the flat tire?  Or how about just stopping the man who mops the floors to just tell him you appreciate how clean he keeps your local grocer aisles?  I wonder how many opportunities we might have missed to just extend a little of God's grace in the lives of those we see almost every day in our "normal everyday living"?

As the gentleman bagged my groceries yesterday, I noticed he kept his eyes down, consumed with the task of moving from this register to the next, bagging up all those purchases in preparation for some meal, or just because some were stocking up on the big sale.  He lives just down the street from me, rides his bike to work everyday - rain or shine.  In just one moment of noticing him and his hard work, his head went from down to held high.  His tired face turned from concentration into a huge smile.  What made the difference?  I called him by his name and asked how HE was today?  They always ask how I am doing and if I found everything all right - but how many times do we ever stop to ask how THEIR day is going and if they are holding up with all those hours on their feet?  And he has to ride his bike home after it is all over!  I don't think he misses a day at work - he seems to be there almost all the time when I go in.  He has even stopped on occasion when I am out in the yard working asking me how MY day was going.  Something I genuinely think he cares about in the lives of those he meets, not just because it has been ingrained into him by the management of our local grocer chain!

What may make the biggest difference in the lives of those who cross your path today may not be a huge investment of your finances, or a tremendous amount of your time, but simply a smile, a hug, or even noticing how well they have done the task at hand.  There are times God has stopped me from just passing someone by, not because I purposefully ignored them, but because God wanted me to purposefully notice them!  Who is God asking you to purposefully notice today?  Who is he asking for you to reveal him to by the graciousness of your life?  It may be the only view of Jesus someone beholds today!  Just sayin!


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