My small group leader asked this question a few weeks ago, “What do you think God is doing in our neighborhood?” My mind went blank for a moment as I tried to identify God’s presence in some way that indicated that He was at work.
First of all, I believe God is always at work. The Scriptures tell us that the Holy Spirit is holding back evil so wickedness won’t just be a ruling force in every part of our world. Even with Him restricting evil, it's bad enough. I love the way the Phillips translation states:
2 Thessalonians 2:7 I expect you remember now how I talked about this when I was with you. You will probably also remember how I used to talk about a “restraining power” which would operate until the time should come for the emergence of this man. Evil is already insidiously at work, but its activities are restricted until what I have called the ‘restraining power’ (of God) is removed.
Okay, so we know God is at work in our neighborhood restraining evil.
What else would He be actively doing?
I believe God is reminding us about the simple, poignant things that happen every day in our neighborhood. For example, two little girls decided they were going to sell lemonade on our quiet residential street. The simple sign read something like raising money for animals. It was so sweet and kind that anyone who came by not only paid a fee for the lemonade, they tipped way beyond normal to help the girls raise the money the girls wanted for their project. In one short afternoon, they raised $65 for animals. What animal or animal shelters benefit, I’m not sure, but this simple reminder takes us away from all the craziness in our world. God is working to remind us and can soften our hearts and give us a breath of fresh air based on kindness and simplicity.
Okay, so God is at work restraining evil and reminding us that real life is simple and kind.
Another area where God is working in our neighborhood is through a man named Anthony. Anthony is homeless and lives under a bridge in our neighborhood. He is obviously suffering from mental illness because of his very strange behavior. He is friendly, and all of his life possessions are scattered around him under the bridge. Some days he sits on the corner a few feet from the bridge where there is a traffic light. Everyone sees Anthony because they have to stop for the light. Anthony doesn’t ask for money nor does he bother anyone, he just sits by the traffic light during the day, and sleeps under the bridge at night. So, why do I believe God is working in this example? It’s simple. God reminds us that our life would be different if we were in Anthony’s situation. I believe God uses the circumstances of others to remind us of the blessings we have been afforded. God doesn’t love us more than He does Anthony, but circumstances have Anthony where he is, and we are where we are, and we both co-exist in life.
There is a great lesson in all of this when we ask the question, “What is God doing in our neighborhood?” God is bringing messages to us every day in and around our neighborhoods … most of the time we miss them because we are too busy figuring out our own lives. Every morning I watch countless people walking their dogs (our neighborhood is known for dogs) and I wonder what kind of messages are they getting from their walk with their canine? Are they simply walking the dog to get the routine over with, or is there more going on as they walk the neighborhood? I remember as I walked our dog (may she rest in peace) and I would get so frustrated over the fact she couldn’t walk five feet and she had to stop to sniff. I thought how could sniffing be that interesting? Yet she took great delight in doing it every five feet. Needless to say, it made for a frustrating time for impatient me. All I could think about is, “How can a dog sniff so much and not get the exercise she needs on the walk?” I only recently realized she was a curious dog that took the time, as they say, to ‘smell the roses.’ (Proverbially speaking of course.)
My conclusion is simple. God is always at work, but we must stop long enough to sniff it out, as my dog did on our walks. God is doing one more thing in our neighborhood … He is changing us. Change is inevitable in life, but the kind of change we seek the most is how we change in accordance with surrendering our lives to Him. Are we seeing God make the changes in our lives in such a way that it makes us want to change the world around us … starting in our neighborhoods?
A side note to this blog: When I first moved into my neighborhood 36 years ago, I would see two older men who walked together block by block talking and picking up trash. Those two would never miss a beat on doing their daily walks together, learning from each other, and picking up trash. Now that is the America I remember … I hope she isn’t lost forever.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler