Turn that Frown Upside-Out

In Genesis 40 we learn about the cupbearer and the baker.  They upset the king and were tossed into prison.

I can’t be sure what the conditions were like there, but the ESV uses 3 different words to describe the event.  Prison, confined, custody.  None of those sound extremely pleasant to me.  I only point this out because we know Joseph had favor in all things, including with the captain of the guard who put him in charge of the other prisoners.

While this might be an improvement for Joseph (over the other prisoners), 3 things still remain.  He is in prison.  He is confined.  And he is captive.  We get a small window into his desire to leave when he interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and baker.  He asks them to remember him and speak to the king on his behalf so he can be removed from this place.

But before we get to the dream interpretations, one other line stands out.  How long were they in prison?  “They continued for some time in custody”.  I don’t know what the social etiquette for “some time” was back in the day, but this clearly is more than a few nights.  I get the impression that each of the 3 men were settled into their roles and had formed a bit of a relationship.

After both of the King’s officers had a dream and were “troubled” by it.  Joseph immediately noticed.  And he felt compelled to ask about it.  So he walks in, addresses his fellow inmates and asks, “Why are your faces downcast today?”.

Why are your faces downcast today?

In prison… he asks those incarcerated with him… one of whom we find out is essentially on death row, (he dies at the hands of the king 3 days later, per his dream).  This further tells me this isn’t likely a minimum security scenario.  This “prison” is where he put the man who was accused of advancing on the wife of the king and an officer that was killed instead of released.

And after a lengthy stay in jail, a dream that doesn’t make sense changes the demeanor of not one, but two of the prisoners.  Was it because Joseph took such great care of these men that they didn’t have anything else to worry about?  They obviously slept since they entered the REM levels of sleep and had memorable dreams.  I’m guessing they had beds and blankets.

In my mind this all points to Joseph, who while wrongfully imprisoned (for actually doing the right thing, but being accused of the opposite) decided to make the best of the situation.  It sounds to me like he created an environment that was extremely hospitable and easily livable.  The men under his care weren’t scrounging for food, freezing in corners, or fearing the guards.  They were sleeping, dreaming, and sharing their experiences with one another.

While much of this is speculative, he took enough care, that a downcast face in his ward was something that concerned him.  (again…. IN PRISON!).

Does this sound right to you?  Isn’t it considered rude to ask certain things in certain situations?  Can we actually ask:

The prisoner why he is sad?

The hospital patient why she is worried?

The accident victim what could be wrong?

The outcast why they look lonely?

The mourner what is bothering them?

You can when your purpose for living isn’t tied to this world.  When you have a relationship with God and you go about His business, its much easier to understand why Paul found contentment in prison as well.

What can we complain about today?  Traffic.  Responsibilities.  Money.  Relationships.  Health.  Jobs.  Churches.  Politics.  I’m sure, if we brainstormed, we could come up with a few hundred things.  All of those things are prisons.  Each of them has only power in this world, and only the power we allow them to have.

Our friends might not be bold enough, so its a task left up to us.  Spend some time in the mirror each day and ask… what do we have to be upset about?  What could worry us?  What could deter us from the cross?  In light of what Jesus has done for us… how could our faces possibly be downcast?

We can turn that frown upside down fairly easily when good things happen to us here and now.  Joseph turned his inside out by focusing on good things to come.  Eternal things.  They made all circumstances currently endured null and void.  With the hindsight of Jesus, we can do both.

 

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When Should We Pray? Too Late!

I keep seeing it.  Someone calls us out.  All of us.  Our prayer lives are not what God intended.   We all shake our heads.  It’s sad.  We are sad.  It’s not that we choose failure specifically… it just keeps turning out that way.

We see how bad we need to fix it. In our hearts we want to fix it. And yet we go to our heads to try and fix it. Logically, we will attempt to put plans into action when it makes the most sense. When I’m healthy. When I have more time. When I finish this class. When I fix other issues.  We let the brain try and fix a fault that lies in our hearts and souls.

This is not God helping us to better our spiritual life, this is THE devil actively destroying our relationship with God.   To concoct a plan that implements any form of waiting is in direct contradiction to the call to pray without ceasing.  Time and time again, I see this.  It’s a two part answer from two different enemies at odds with one another.  (part 1), “I need to fix this!” This is the good and Godly part  (part 2 comes immediately after without pause and usually in the same sentence), “as soon as I get back on my feet.”

I’m going to pray better tomorrow after I get some rest.

I’m going to pray more once I get the job with fewer hours.

I’m going to spend quiet time with God once I get a bigger house.

I’m going to be more obedient once the kids move out.

I’m going to start reading more during the summer.

I’m going to pray more earnestly when its not so crowded.

I’ll pray deeper once I get healthier, I can pray when I go running.

Do you see what we do?  We take the will of the Father and the will of the enemy and merge them into a single thought.  This is how the devil works.  We see the truth in the will to do right and we think we are being good sons and daughters.  Rarely do we realize we carry out the will of the enemy in our tasks.  His will (that of the enemies) is that we wait.  Postpone.  Prolong.  See if we can get distracted.  Forget.  Get busy doing other things. 

The issue?  It’s the timing.  There is only one time we should attempt to fix our relationship with God, which greatly includes fixing our prayer life. Rather than try and pick a less than perfect word, allow me an example.

Last week I received a bill from my doctor.  This has happened before.  I recognized the envelope.  I paid him in full, up front.  Yet another bill has come.  It’s an injustice.  At best, they are letting me pay for their accounting errors.  At worst, they are a fraudulent and crooked organization.  I didn’t care which it was.  I was not going to let them do this to me!  Who do they think they are dealing with!!???

I tore open the envelope and jerked the thrice folded and neatly perforated paperwork out.   Just undoing one fold was all I needed to get the full story.  This was indeed another errant bill against my favor.  One hand clinched the bill while the other had already started dialing billing services.  A young lady answered the phone and this is when I noticed the envelope was just settling down on the counter from when I ripped it open and flung it out of the way.

Ok, maybe I can’t dial THAT fast, but you get the image?  Like a cartoon I felt capable of reaching through the phone cord and smacking someone across the back of their head.  I felt like I could still see a faint outline of myself as I made my way in from the mailbox.  I was that fast.  This issue was urgent.  It was dire.  It was all about me!!!!

And this continues the pattern I’ve seen before.   When it affects me, I manage to blur the lines of priority a bit.  I’ve learned to take care of myself very well.  Or my loved ones.  I can justify giving them priority over everything.  Everything.  Sadly, that sometimes includes our God.

I believe most of us.  Quite honestly, all of us… need to start attacking our prayer life the same way I attacked that errant bill.  And with the same concern and urgency.  But it needs to be all about Him!!!!

When we let Satan have access to our priority structure, we will never be able to get our relationship together with God.  When we can see His schemes and attempts to keep us apart, our priorities can be realigned.  What could be more important than spending a moment with the Father right now?  The brain doesn’t understand, ‘now’.  The enemy has too much access to that space.  ‘Now’ is a term of the soul.  It’s immediate, and yet its deeply routed into eternal.

When should we pray?  When should we read?  When should we repair that relationship with God?  Drop to your knees and be speaking to the Father before your legs hit the ground.  That is when.  Not just now… super-now!  Faster than that even.  Am I being too silly, or too demanding?  Not really.  You see, every moment you ponder your next move, adds more red text to the statements above.  When you drop to pray and include God in your next decision, you yank the reigns out of the enemies hand (while hopefully leaving a bit of a mark) 😉

If you think, “I really do need to start…” you have already let the enemy in.  If your next thought is, “God and Father in Heaven…” you have already boxed the enemy out.

How about a little nudge…

[God and Father in Heaven, I need You.  Oh how deep and how wide do I need You.  I desire a relationship with You.  A very true, meaningful, and reciprocated journey that You and I will walk together…. ]

Keep it going (and if possible, don’t stop until we reach the throne of God).