When God Is Blamed

WHEN GOD IS BLAMED?

After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile. And Pharaoh awoke, and behold, it was a dream. So in the morning his spirit was troubled. Genesis 41:1,8

         What are you waiting on God for today? Part of the human spiritual experience is to pray for heaven to come down and wonder why things don’t happen sooner. When we’re in distress, our relationship with God can get battered by questions of His goodness and love.

         My soul, wait thou only upon God. Psalm 62:6 Calvin translates this verse, “My soul, be silent before God.” Rest calm and undisturbed. Your enemies are round about thee, but rest, my soul, in God. Your enemies are mighty, but HE IS Almighty; your troubles are grievous, but he is greater than your troubles, and he shall deliver you from them. Let not your soul be agitated. The wicked are like the troubled sea that cannot rest: don’t be like them. Be calm: let not a wave ruffle your untroubled spirit. Cast thy burden on the Lord, and then sleep on his bosom.”

            Joseph sat in his prison cell and waited another two years after the cupbearer and baker both broke their promise to bring his case before Pharaoh. I wonder if Joseph felt that God was cruel for not overriding their forgetfulness and just commanding them to speak. (Like God used Balaam’s donkey to speak.) After all, God can cause men to do whatever He tells them to do.

            After long periods of waiting, I have come to understand that much about my waiting room had little to do with me. It was about God preparing people and situations for what was next, lining up the dominoes to fall in succession. Continue reading

When You’ve Spent Your Last Bit Of Hope

WHEN YOU’VE SPENT YOUR LAST BIT OF HOPE

On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his position but he hanged the chief baker. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him. Genesis 40:20-23

         How many years had Joseph been waiting for vindication? A long time. Finally, someone is about to go to Pharaoh and personally speak to him about Joseph’s innocence. Can you imagine how excited Joseph was the morning the cupbearer was taken out of the cell and transported back to the palace? Joseph thought it might be a matter of hours before his own release.

         The story takes a sickening turn and one awful sentence tells the story. ‘Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.’ Just reading this makes your stomach sink. Living it must have been unbearable. For another two years, Joseph had to wait for God to move. If you’ve ever waited years for something, you know how long that is.

         I wonder about Joseph’s thoughts as that initial day turned to a week, then months. Did he think, ‘What are the chances that another person from Pharaoh’s court will end up in my prison cell! How is this ever going to work out for me now?’ These are the human reasonings of someone desperate. You and I will never know if he went down such hopeless trails of thought but I would bet the answer is yes. Faith must be fought for and the heart’s pendulum swings between faith and unbelief.

         Maybe you’ve recently pressed in – in prayer – to ask God for a miracle. You thought the answer came. You felt such relief and joy and counted the minutes until your release from captivity. But then, the answer dissipated without yielding results. All hope vanished in an instant. Continue reading

Would I Speak It?

WOULD I SPEAK IT?

When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree.” Genesis 40:16-19

         I am one from whom others often seek advice. Questions like, “Why am I like this?” “What do you think the problem is?” “Why am I stuck and not progressing?” “Have I done something wrong?” “Is God punishing me?” I love to take someone’s life puzzle and make divine sense of the pieces.

         But having said that, the hardest thing for anyone with a gift of mercy is to give bad news. If a mercy gift is accompanied by a prophetic gift, obedience becomes difficult. God gives insight that can be difficult to speak. Mercy wants to minimize the damage and cushion the blow.

         Joseph’s obedience was put to the test so many times on his rise to blessing. Two cellmates, both former servants to the royal court, share two different dreams. Joseph happily told the first that he would be blessed and reinstated to his former position. Upon that good news, the other man shared his dream. Joseph was instantly in a dilemma. There was no good news about the 2nd dream. He would not be restored to honor; he would be hung. At that point, Joseph could have claimed ignorance but he didn’t fail to give the fateful interpretation.

         Can God count on me to speak the truth when truth is unwelcome? Can He depend on me to paint an accurate picture of what’s ahead for a person, or an organization, if being honest threatens relationships? I will admit that this is a struggle for me. I’d rather stay silent and pray than speak up to inflict life-saving wounds. I’m faced with a number of these dilemmas right now. It seems that no matter where I turn in ministry at the moment, I need an infusion of holy boldness.

        For any like me, know that I am praying for you.

Make me Your prophet. Trembling but obedient. Amen

Your Place of Honor

YOUR PLACE OF HONOR

Then Joseph said to the cupbearer, “This is its interpretation; the three branches are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. Genesis 40:12-13

         Have you been shamed? No matter what the context, the experience is gut wrenching. Every part of your being feels it. Your emotions plummet. Your mind runs tapes of the accusations. Your body language turns inward.

         Joseph told the cupbearer, who was falsely accused, that Pharaoh would lift up his head in three days. The Hebrew idiom paints a beautiful picture. It is when the one shrunken in shame is restored to his position of power. It’s used other places in scripture that expand its beauty.

         God speaks to His people and joyfully commands them to lift their heads. He has gone out to battle on their behalf and has come back victorious. Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Psalm 24:7

         King David, betrayed by his son Absalom, on the run with just the clothes on his back, turns to God for vindication. He climbed the Mount of Olives, covered up his head, wept, and said, “You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Psalm 3:3 As king, he could have formed an army, or at least a posse, to get back his throne. He abandoned all ideas of conniving, of battling, and of manipulating. He recognized that God was his rescuer.

         Who has stripped you of your honor? How long have you been brought low? Have you accepted your fate and given up all hope of restoration? Perhaps you even abandoned prayer. Continue reading

Let’s Talk About Dreams

LET’S TALK ABOUT DREAMS

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. Genesis 40:9-10

         I know one thing for sure – God communicates far more than I hear. I was told growing up that God only speaks through scripture. Any other claim was heresy. And yet, the same people who policed what constituted a genuine word from God were the first to say that God had spoken to them in the night and called them to Peru as missionaries. That was confusing. I knew that they didn’t get that specific calling with their name and destination from a verse of scripture.

         I grew up Baptist and I attend a Southern Baptist Church. However, I am much more progressive in my quest for experiencing God. Over a decade ago, I asked God to open my ears to hear Him in ways I had previously been closed. That began a new chapter for me. While I am a conservative person, careful to sift everything through the grid of scripture, I have now had many dreams. I share them when God nudges.

         The cupbearer dreamed about vines, branches, blossoms, and clusters of grapes. Had he been hallucinating? Joseph never suggested that. Dreams are sometimes literal, sometimes allegorical, and when they are from God, they are powerful and life shaping.

         Are all dreams from God? No. Satan also gives dreams. Dreams can also be quirky and full of silliness, quickly forgotten in the morning. Not all people dream, either. God speaks differently to each child, according to how He wired them. But for each of you who do dream, I share some thoughts. Continue reading

Expectation and Disappointment

EXPECTATION AND DISAPPOINTMENT

In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste.  He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye.  Deuteronomy 32:10

            So much of life involves dealing with expectations.  I envision an event, anticipate the fruit of a relationship, and look forward to what I perceive will happen.  Oftentimes what I hope for does not come to pass.  Even more painful are those moments when I discover that I have been the object of another’s expectation and have fallen short to disappoint them.  I can try feverishly hard to fix that but rarely will I succeed.

            Perhaps your parents wanted a boy and you are a girl.  Maybe they didn’t want children and called you a mistake.  Perhaps they wanted you to take over a family practice and you became an artist instead.  It may be that you were once engaged and your lover broke off the engagement.  He said he didn’t love you anymore, Continue reading

Their Need? Your Opportunity.

THEIR NEED? YOUR OPPORTUNITY

When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.” Genesis 40:6-8

         Many royal courts employed dream interpreters since, in the near East, dreams were a way of foretelling the future. The royal cupbearer and the baker, because they were in prison, had no access to him when they had troubling dreams. But Joseph was intuitive and read their body language the next morning. He asked them why they were downcast and they admitted their need of an interpreter. This was a divine appointment and Joseph instantly recognized it. He ascribed the power of interpretation to God only and made himself available for discerning the mind of God on their behalf.

         How many divine appointments do I miss? Would I have lived in my own world if I had been Joseph? Would I have interacted with my two cellmates? Would I have seen their need as an opportunity for God’s power to be on full display? God knows who will be in proximity to me on a certain day and He will put someone in distress at the very moment our worlds intersect. My part is to live prayerfully so that I recognize a divine appointment when it’s staring me in the face.

         Who is downcast nearby? Who is sick? Who lives in chronic pain? Who was up all night churning because they lack wisdom about a decision? Who has been crying alone? Who is afraid of the future and wants to rehearse the latest headlines about Ebola? Continue reading