Archive for September, 2010

13One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 14a messenger came to Job and said…

16While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said…

17While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said…

18While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said…

20At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;

may the name of the LORD be praised.”

Job 1:13-21

With each messenger, a worse calamity, with the last being the death of his children.

Have you ever had a day in which you lamented “What else can go wrong, Lord?”

Or perhaps you’ve had the day when you become gun shy of the ring of the telephone. What more bad news can it bring?

You probably have. I sure have.

But none have been as bad as Job’s bad day. Never within the span of five minutes have I received four separate “messengers” each with a tale of destruction in my life worse than the one before it.

And yet, I’ve found many opportunities to respond much less gloriously than Job. I’m guessing you have, too.

Lord, help me to apprehend the kind of grace that Job had. Help me to meet all calamities (and minor irritations) with the proclamation “May the name of the Lord be praised!”

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Why do the Righteous Suffer?

That’s the theme of the book that will occupy most of our attention this month – Job. Acknowledged by God as a righteous man, Job finds his family and his wealth taken away. Then his health deteriorates and his friends leave him.

His wife tells him to curse God and die. His response is one you’ve undoubtedly heard before –

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”
(Job 2:10b)

He has three friends who don’t desert him – although at times he wishes they had – these three friends accuse him of great sin to be suffering so severely. They urge him to admit his sin and repent. I’d quote a verse here, but I’d have to quote about thirty chapters. Imagine yourself in Job’s position – how long could you put up with your three friends’ accusations?

Yet Job doesn’t sin…for a long time anyway. Eventually, he is warn down and shakes his fist at God…and eventually God shows up with what I call His “where were you” speach. Here’s just the beginning of it:

1Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind:

2“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? 3Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.

4“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. 5Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying? 6What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone 7as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

8“Who defined the boundaries of the sea as it burst from the womb, 9and as I clothed it with clouds and thick darkness?
Job 38:1-9

I love the “where were you” speech. I find it to be the clearest statement of God’s sovereignty and awesome power in Scripture. I’ve quoted nine verses here. God’s speach goes on for three great chapters. Before He’s finished, we see His awesome power, His great wisdom in creation and His tender care of created beings.

Job can seem a hard book to slog through sometimes. Stick with it. The payoff is more than worth it!

Blessings as you read this month.

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of October’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

It seems to me that the Church is much better at emphasizing the latter point than the first one – when was the last time you heard a sermon encouraging you to look after orphans and widows? When was the last time you were given the opportunity to participate in ministry to orphans and widows? Does your church budget reflect this priority of God’s or is it more heavily weighted toward helping you become/remain unpolluted by the world? I can’t think of a single church I’ve belonged to where there would be anything close to a balance in the church budget between looking after orphans/widows and pursuing holiness. Now you might say that there are fewer orphans and widows than there are healthy people who need help pursuing holiness. OK, I’ll buy that, and I would also agree with you that the percentage of a church budget associated with a specific ministry isn’t a final determination of the church’s support of or involvement in that ministry. For example, nursing home ministry is relatively inexpensive. Still, the point is valid that the Church as a whole does very little to serve “the least of these.” Which means individually, most of us are probably doing little to serve “the least of these.” Jesus said:

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 25:31-46

There are 16,000 nursing homes in the United States, and another 35,000 assisted living facilities. 1.6 million people live in those nursing homes, and 800,000 people die in them each year. The statistic that hit me the hardest, though, is that about one third of all the people who die in the US will have lived in a nursing home for three months or longer before their death. One third. Another statistic that got to me was that eighty percent of people who live in nursing homes receive less than one visitor each week. These people are among the sick Jesus talked about. I would argue that they are also among the strangers because they have been moved to a place that was not their home, and the prisoners because they cannot leave (in most cases). Yet they are the people who built the world we live, who taught in schools, who worked in factories, who cooked and served in restaurants, and who taught in Sunday Schools. They are people who are lonely, confused and disappointed. Some are feeling defeated.

For just a moment I want you to remember and think about the most difficult trial you have ever gone through. Now multiply your suffering, confusion and stress by some large number. That’s the kind of trial that our nursing home friends are going through. What did you need when you were going through your trial? You needed Jesus to comfort, heal, protect, provide and love you. And when He seemed far away, you needed a friend to come alongside you, put their arm around your shoulder and walk you over to their Friend, Jesus. You needed your earthly friend to be a sort of conduit between you and the Lord because your circuits seemed to be closed at the time you most needed to hear from God. Your friend did that by reminding you of God’s faithfulness and His promises, by praying with you, and simply by being there.

We have the awesome opportunity to become friends with people who desperately need someone who can introduce them to Jesus and/or be their conduit during times when He seems far away. They need someone to take their hand and lead them to the feet of Jesus with their pains and their cares. They need someone to give them the cold cup of living water that comes from Christ.

Those who live in nursing homes, have been moved from their home into a strange place where people who are as young as their grandchildren now tell them when and what to eat, when to wake up and go to bed, when it’s time to take a shower and when it’s time to take their medicine. Much of their privacy is lost as they share rooms with people they don’t know and the doors are kept open most or all of the time. Their world has become quite small and they have no control over it. They are probably in pain most of the time. Everyone has authority over the residents and many people treat them as if they were invisible. Most will struggle wondering if their life has any purpose or ever will have purpose again.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

This verse is God’s commission to you and me. We are saved by grace through faith, but we are commanded to do good works. The verse is also God’s commission to those who are in nursing homes. Those in our nursing homes who know Christ need refreshing and encouragement that God still has purpose for them. God still has works that He has prepared in advance for them to do. From personal experience, I can tell you that some of those works are to minister to the people who befriend and serve them. Nursing home residents have been such a blessing to me as I’ve ministered to them.

You are all familiar with Jesus’ final commandment to the church:

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
Mark 16:15

A significant percentage of those in our world live in nursing homes. They are most likely at the time in their lives when they are in more need than they have ever been – socially and spiritually. The fields are ripe for harvest and the saints are in need of encouragement. Will you consider going?

I introduced a new series of posts a little more than a week ago – Let’s be PC – Practicing Christians! I never intended for the first post to about serving in nursing homes, but it seems God did. I was just about to hit the publish button on this post when I realized it’s all about practicing what God commands and should be the first in this series. I had planned on blogging about a subject that will have to wait for the future. I guess God wanted to draw our attention to religion that He accepts as pure and faultless. I won’t argue with that call!

Resources: To become involved in nursing home ministries, contact God Cares Ministry if you live in northeast Ohio – they offer training, resources and teams you can join if your church doesn’t have one; the Sonshine Society for large-print resources and to find ministries in other areas of the country, or a local nursing home to ask the Activities Director if they have a church service for the residents and if you might visit residents one-on-one. Be the catalyst that begins a ministry at your church that reaches into the lives of men and women who helped create the community in which you live.

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28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”… 30But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God…”
Luke 1:28, 30

I frequently say that God is good. All the time. No matter what my circumstances are, I know that the God who is in control loves me beyond my understanding and wants more goodness for me than I understand. Yet it doesn’t always feel that way! Well, I could say that it doesn’t always feel like my husband loves me, too, but I know the truth is that he does. My feelings aren’t the gauge of God’s love for me. Truth determines reality and the truth is that God loves me and is always working both within me and in the circumstances around me to conform me to the image of Christ – and that is definitely for my good. Doesn’t matter how I feel about it. What does matter is how I respond to it.

The angel of the Lord spoke and reported Truth to Mary when he greeted her, saying “The Lord is with you” and “you have found favor with God.” Of course, he immediately follows up the latter greeting with “you’re going to become pregnant even though you aren’t married yet and you haven’t had sexual intercourse yet.” He might as well have met her with the greeting “Good morning, Mary! God is with you! He’s about to mess up your life big time!”

Finding favor with the Lord is a good thing. Having our lives turned upside down – well, from our perspective, not always such a good thing! Lord, give us Your perspective! Example after example after example in Scripture and in history shows us that when God wants to use someone, their life is turned upside down – when God blesses them, their life becomes unpleasant.

It begs the question: What is our definition of being “favored” or blessed by God? Is it a “pleasant” life? Or is it being used by Him to impact those around us and beyond? Mary’s life immediately became unpleasant, and ultimately her heart was shattered as she watched her Son die a horrific death. Yet the angel greeted her “you have found favor with God.”

I want to find favor with God, and I want Him to use me to impact those around me and beyond. I think that means I ought to get used to a life that seems turned upside down. I’m pretty sure it also means that I ought to greet those jumbled and chaotic circumstances with more faith and hope (confident expectation) than I often do. Again, I pray, Lord, give me Your perspective!

How about you? Are you complaining about your circumstances today? Perhaps they are the circumstances that God has orchestrated to favor you. How did you greet them? With grumbling or in faith with thankful praise?

God, help me to greet the jumbled, chaotic circumstances you throw me today in faith and with thankful praise. Help me to respond as Mary did:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.”
Luke 1:38a

For more reading about the person God uses – check out this blog from Dec 2008.

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3We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:3-6

Let’s be PC! Not politically correct, and not users of non-Mac computers (although I advocate the latter). Let’s be Practicing Christians – not Christians in name only, but Christians who practice their faith in ever-increasing degrees. Welcome to the introduction in this series of blogs about increasing our obedience to Christ.

Several things have conspired to cause me to begin this new series. I suspect (well, actually I know) that God is behind the conspiracy! He’s behind it because He wants me to become more like Christ. Let me share the chain of events with you and see what you think:

1) About three weeks ago…

our pastor made a statement in his sermon that has not left me: “God wants so much more for us, but we settle for easy.” And he didn’t explicitly say it, but I also heard “we settle for comfortable.” My Christian walk has become quite comfortable. I’m not saying life is easy and without its challenges. No, I have the same kinds of challenges you probably do – work, finances, relationships and health, all to varying degrees at any point in time. Even so, I’m comfortable.

2) About two weeks ago…

I was listening to a taped testimony and Q&A session with someone who had been converted to Christianity from another religion. During the discussion, someone asked if everyone in his previous religion participated in a certain aspect of their faith. His response stopped me in my tracks. He said, “If they are practicing that faith they do. Some claim the faith but don’t practice it.” I began to wonder – in what areas am I not a “practicing Christian?” I claim the name “Christian” because I have trusted Christ as my personal Savior. But am I truly a practicing Christian, or am I one in name only?

3) Also about two weeks ago,…

our church decided to do a study some of the heroes of our faith on Wednesday nights. Anyone can teach on their favorite hero in upcoming weeks. So I began to read a bit about some of the great heroes of Christianity – men and women who lived in very different times and tenaciously held on to their faith in the midst of great conflict. Each of them suffered hardship and many experienced martyrdom. Each of them had a commitment to practicing their faith that goes far beyond mine.

4) About a week ago, I…

read part of a sermon titled “The Cost of Discipleship.” In it, the author put forth some pretty strong statements:

The mark of a great leader is the demands he makes upon his followers. The Italian freedom fighter Garibaldi offered his men only hunger and death to free Italy. Winston Churchill told the English people that he had nothing to offer them but “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” in their fight against the enemies of England. Jesus demanded that his followers carry a cross. A sign of death.…The demands that Jesus makes upon those who would follow him are extreme. Christianity is not a Sunday morning religion. It is a hungering after God to the point of death if need be. It shakes our foundations, topples our priorities, pits us against friend and family, and makes us strangers in this world. (www.sermons.com)

5) Late last week…

I saw that a Christian in one of the business forums I participate in was reading the book The Normal Christian Life by Watchman Nee. I have a passing knowledge of Nee, but have never read anything by him. The title grabbed me so I thought it’d be a great book to start as I headed off on vacation. Yesterday as we drove across the state of Pennsylvania, my husband read the first chapter to me.

What is the “normal Christian life?” We do well at the outset to ponder this question. The object of theses studies is to show that it is something very different from the life of the average Christian…The Apostle Paul gives us his own definition of the Christian life in Galatians 2:20. It is “no longer I, but Christ”. Here he is not stating something special or peculiar – a high level of Christianity. He is, we believe, presenting God’s normal for a Christian, which can be summarized in the words: I live no longer, but Christ lives His life in me.
The Normal Christian Life, Chapter 1, Watchman Nee,

6) This morning,…

following along with our Resting at the River’s Edge reading schedule, I read the following passage in 1 John:

3We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.
1 John 2:3-6

Are you sensing God’s conspiracy in focusing my attention on this topic? The phrase that’s been going through my head is “Let’s Be PC!” Practicing Christians, that is. I don’t want to live such a watered down Christianity that those around me don’t recognize that there is something different about me – that there is a power within me that forgives me of my sins and enables me to live beyond myself. There is a cost to following Christ, and I am beginning to think I’ve only made the down payment. I don’t want to settle for less than He has for me because of my desire for comfort. I don’t want to have less of an impact on those around me because I so desperately want to be accepted by them or want to please them. I don’t want to be less than God wants me to be because I’ve allowed satan to distract me with the things of this world.

How about you? Are you ready to begin a journey of becoming PC?

My thoughts are that each week I’ll look at one of the commandments God has given us in His word and explore how it can/should be walked out in our lives. My hope is that I am challenged to step up my game – take my obedience to Christ to the next level. Are you in?

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Yesterday our Jewish friends celebrated Rosh Hoshana – the beginning of their new year. A woman on my LinkedIn network recommended an article that I find worthy of passing on to you. (Here’s a link to her profile. If you are a member of LinkedIn, you may want to view it.) Thanks, Deborah!

I read the blog title – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Goodness – and I was a both intrigued by it and a bit thoughtful about it.

Intrigued: The phrase we most often hear – the phrase from our Declaration of Independence – is “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Why was this author changing the wording? I was also intrigued because the blog was recommended in a business forum and it appears smack dab in the middle of a business blog that is generally about innovation. I had to check out. I’m glad I did. While the author isn’t writing from a Christian perspective, his discussion about the differences between pursuing happiness and pursuing goodness. It’s a very good (and short) blog.

Thoughtful: I frequently use the phrase “pursuing God” or “the pursuit of God,” so the slight difference and the author’s conclusions got me thinking. There is certainly a big difference between pursuing goodness and pursuing God, but they are not mutually exclusive. When we pursue God, we must include the pursuit of goodness. The inverse relationship isn’t necessarily true. We can pursue goodness without pursuing God. I was a pretty good person when I was an atheist! I followed many of God’s commandments simply because they made sense for a prosperous life. Of course I didn’t know I was following God’s commandments. I just knew them as good principles to live by. Yet those of us who claim the name “Christian” cannot ignore the pursuit of goodness. Several things have come together that have caused me to begin to develop a new series for this blog. The series title will be “Let’s Be PC!” No I’m not encouraging those of you who use Macs to migrate to PCs, and I’m not suggesting that we become politically correct. I’m suggesting that we become Practicing Christians! More on that in a week or two. In the meantime, pursuing goodness is a great place to start. We so frequently say “God is good. All the time.” If we are to reflect God to the world, that goodness must be reflected in all we do.

L’shana tova all. And let’s pursue goodness! Blessings!

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Preface 1 – A Word about the Timeline
I apologize that the timing on this blog isn’t quite right. I began to write it on Wednesday, but haven’t found the time to finish it until today. Rewriting the beginning to match the true timeline with today would be awkward. Yet printing the blog with a false timeline bothers me. It seems untruthful. So, please don’t hold me to dates, but the blog reflects how it happened. It just took me a few days to get it all on paper (so to speak).

Preface 2 – A Word to the Men
Guys, I suspect that you would never characterize yourself as “whining.” It’s way too girly, I know. I also know (because I’ve been married to one of you for a very long time) that your equivalent of whining is getting annoyed and venting about it, i.e., grumbling. It’s that pre-anger stage you go through. So when you see the word “whine” in this blog, substitute “grumble” or “complain with annoyance/anger.” The primary difference between a whine and a grumble is the pitch of our voice!

From Celebration to Whine
Two weeks ago today I had surgery. Two days later I learned that I do not have cancer! Hallelujah!

Today I just want to whine!

I was preparing to meet some friends for breakfast – girlfriends who get together monthly to encourage one another to reach higher heights in business and life. When I began to think about the opening conversations we’d have, I realized that in response to the question “how are you” I just wanted to whine. I wanted to tell them about the minor discomfort and disabilities associated with recovering from the surgery.

How very self-centered I am! How ungrateful I am! Less than two weeks after learning that my life will not be significantly impacted by medical issues in the coming months, less than two weeks after not receiving what could have been life-threatening news, I just want to complain because I have a few restrictions and some discomfort! I don’t like the picture this paints of me.

So I am disciplining myself to celebrate.

It doesn’t seem like the words “disciplining myself” should be combined with “to celebrate” but they do. Celebrating usually includes some degree of festivities – special food, exuberance, balloons, laughter, and dancing. It’s happy face time. Discipline doesn’t include festivities – it brings to mind the sober, perhaps even somber face, as we get serious about things and exercise self-control. Yet there is a valid, even vital relationship between them.

The purpose of disciplining ourselves – of exercising self control – is to bring our actions in line with God’s guidelines for living. One of those guidelines is to quit complaining – stop the whining!

Do everything without complaining or arguing
Philippians 2:14 (NIV)

When we live according to God’s plan, our soul prospers and joy, from the depths of our spirit, follows. Is it an immediate consequence? Not necessarily. But it is a promised one. We live with the consequences of the choices we make, so from an earthly perspective our circumstances don’t necessarily change immediately. But in the spiritual realm and in our heart, changes begin to happen.

What kinds of things happen when we choose to celebrate instead of whine? In the spirit realm, we are blessing instead of cursing. We are speaking our “amen” to the good things that God has done – we are making them known, giving Him praise and saying “thank You” all at once. We are cultivating a grateful heart. And we are being obedient – we are disciplining ourselves to live as God instructs us to live.

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

When I discipline myself to celebrate, I am embracing the lifestyle and character of Christ. I am becoming more like the One to whom I pledge my allegiance and declare my desire to follow. And in so doing, I apprehend the grace God has for me in that area. He will enable me to do that which I have set my heart to do when it is in accordance with His will.

On the other hand, when I choose to whine and complain instead of celebrate, different things happen in the spiritual realm. In the following verse, Paul is referring to men and women who have rejected God. Paul writes that God has revealed himself to them but they have not responded to Him:

21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.
Romans 1:21-22 (NIV)

21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead.
Romans 1:21-22 (NLT)

I believe there is a connection between an ungrateful heart and a spiritual darkness that brings confusion and foolish actions. When we discipline ourselves to consistently and regularly rejoice over what God has done in our lives, we reinforce in our minds and spirits truths about who God is and how He interacts with His people. When we allow complaining and whining to take center stage, we reinforce lies that the enemy is whispering in our ears – God doesn’t love you, God doesn’t provide what you need, God isn’t interested in blessing you, God is not good to you. Your thinking becomes “futile” and you begin to think up “foolish ideas” about God, His character and His actions. Ultimately, your heart and mind become “dark and confused.” That sounds a lot to me like the description of depression. I’ve experienced serious depression. Dark and confused does a pretty good job of describing it. I didn’t like it. I prefer the happy face of celebration. That means no whining.

The Ubiquitous Caveats
Please know that I am not talking about sharing legitimate needs with friends and asking them to pray. We should always be quick to do that. And when my need to whine threatens to jeopardize my long-term attitude, that becomes a prayer request – not the things I want to whine about, but the fact that I have lost a grateful heart.

Also, please know that I am not minimizing the recovery from clinical depression to simply celebrating and not whining. Clinical depression is a serious condition that requires more than this simple discipline. I am saying, though, that resisting whining will help the healing process and any step you make toward celebrating will help you apprehending the healing grace God has for you.

A Call to Greater Love
Finally, as I thought about this whole issue, I realized how guilty I am of allowing others to whine in my presence. How many times have you said to a friend, or had a friend say to you “I just want to whine a little.” I would bet that the most common response, “Go ahead, girlfriend. You can vent with me.” It’s well meant – giving an ear to hear and a shoulder to cry on. But isn’t there a time and place to say “Friend, I love you and if you need prayer, I want to pray for you. But I also want you to experience all God has for you. First, let’s spend some time celebrating what God is doing in your life”?  I’d like to encourage all of us to help one another “grow up” in Christ by helping one another be better than we sometimes (in weak moments) want to be.

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46“When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to his own land, far away or near; 47and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their conquerors and say, ‘We have sinned, we have done wrong, we have acted wickedly’; 48and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and pray to you toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name; 49then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause. 50And forgive your people, who have sinned against you; forgive all the offenses they have committed against you, and cause their conquerors to show them mercy; 51for they are your people and your inheritance, whom you brought out of Egypt, out of that iron-smelting furnace.
1 Kings 8:46-51

This comes near the end of Solomon’s prayer during the dedication of the temple he built for the Lord. What struck me was Solomon’s prayer for the Israelites when they are taken captive. “Wow!” I thought. “He is praying into the Babylonian captivity almost 400 years before it happened.” OK. I confess. I didn’t really think that. I had to look up the number of years. But I was pretty sure it was a long time. And my thought was still “Wow!” Do you get what’s happening? Solomon is praying for the Israelites who will live almost 400 years in the future! (His future, of course.)

I am continually challenged that my prayer life is nothing compared to the prayers in the Bible. First, the things I pray for on a regular basis don’t begin to compare to the things the Apostle Paul prayed for. Well, they’re beginning to compare, but I’m in kindergarten (maybe first grade) when it comes to praying Paul’s prayers.

Then along comes Solomon. (Yes, we’re taking these out of order. Solomon really did come before Paul. It’s just that Paul’s prayers had more impact on me before Solomon’s.) Solomon doesn’t limit his prayers to the people standing before him during the temple dedication, or even to their children. He prays into the future, asking for God to forgive generations to come when they repent and turn to Him “with all their heart and soul.” Because I’ve read the rest of the book, I know that God answered that prayer. When the Israelites turned to God from Babylon, He caused their conquerors to show them mercy.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have children that I don’t think about (and pray for) generations to come. Phil and I chose not to have children – parenthood was never anything either of us ever looked forward to or dreamed about. Now, thirty years after the decisions to remain childless were made and well “beyond the manner of women” (as they say), perhaps the only thing I miss about not having children is praying over them and over their future – of placing my hands on their heads and speaking words of Life into their spirits as I bless them in the name of our gracious and precious Savior. I suspect, though, that even if I did have kids, my prayers wouldn’t extend to their children’s children’s children, much less six or seven generations into the future. When I pray for my community or our country, I pray for God to move now, not four hundred years from now.

We have such power to influence the course of history with our prayers and few of us take advantage of that awesome opportunity. I have absolutely no doubt that God answers prayers in the immediate. I have absolutely no doubt that God answers prayers in the not-quite-immediate. He’s done that for me many, many times. Wouldn’t an eternal God also answer our prayers for generations to come? The evidence of Scripture is that He does.

Back to the issue of not having children – without children, it’s easy for me to wonder what my “legacy” will be. There will be no Sandy DNA impacting the world after I die. But there can be much Sandy “spiritual” DNA impacting the world for many generations to come if I live well for Him now. And that’s something I can get pretty excited about. Especially since it doesn’t require changing dirty diapers for a couple of years and reminding someone to brush their teeth and wash their hands three times a day for a couple of decades. 🙂

May I encourage you to become forward thinking in your prayers – don’t just pray for the things happening now, but pray for those who will live several generations from now, should the Lord tarry. God, who lives outside of time, hears those prayers and responds. He did it for the Israelites and He will do it in our time.

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