Living in Faith

Following through on the promises we make

Promises. We’ve all made them, but how well do we keep them? Do we even remember the promises we make long enough to follow through?

That issue has been percolating in the back of my mind for several weeks, thanks to a nameless cupbearer in the Bible.

He’s found in the book of Genesis, buried deep in the story of Joseph — a man whose drama-filled life included everything from family favoritism and abandonment to political maneuvering, accusations of sexual misconduct, and national famine. It’s also a story of God working through every situation in Joseph’s life — good and bad — to all make sense in the end.

In Genesis chapter 39, the wife of Potiphar — one of Pharaoh’s top officials and captain of the guard —  accuses Joseph of taking advantage of her. The truth is that Potiphar’s wife makes advances toward Joseph and is enraged when he won’t play along. Potiphar believes his wife and throws Joseph in prison.

It’s a story I’ve heard since childhood, one that often is told to emphasize the point that God is always with us and that His plan is always in motion, even when we don’t see it and no matter how terrible our circumstances might be.

But the last time I read this part Joseph’s story, a piece of it stood out to me in a new way.

Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker are also thrown in prison during Joseph’s time there (Genesis 40). They both have strange dreams one night and can’t figure out the meaning. Joseph reminds them that interpretations belong to God as ask what they dreamed.

Joseph says the cupbearer’s dream of a budding vine that becomes wine in Pharaoh’s cup means that he will be restored to his position in Pharaoh’s household in three days. He says that the baker’s dream of birds eating bread from baskets on top of his head means that he will die in three days

When Joseph’s interpretations of the dreams come true, he asks that the cupbearer remember him when he returns to Pharaoh’s service, that he plead Joseph’s innocence and ask Pharoah to free Joseph from prison.

Of course, the cupbearer promises to do as Joseph asks. And then he promptly forgets.

The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. (Genesis 40:23 NIV)

The cupbearer goes right back to his earlier job serving Pharaoh and doesn’t think of Joseph until two years later when Pharaoh himself has a troubling dream that he wants to understand. Pharaoh sends for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt, but none can interpret the dream.

That’s when the cupbearer remembers Joseph.

Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings. Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard. Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream. And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.” (Genesis 41:9-13)

Pharoah brings Joseph to him. Joseph interprets the dream, which leads to Pharoah releasing Joseph from prison and Joseph becoming Pharoah’s righthand man.

There are many lessons we can learn through Joseph’s story about relationships and patience and trusting God. But, as I said, the cupbearer is the person whose role struck me in a new way the last time I read the story.

People knew that Joseph was wrongly accused and shouldn’t be in prison. They knew he was a good man and that Pharoah’s wife was the one making sexual advances, not the other way around (because Joseph wasn’t the first man she tried to sway). They knew he shouldn’t be in prison.

The cupbearer forgot all of this when he was released from prison. He was thrilled to be free, thrilled to be alive and restored to his previous position.

Two years went by before Pharoah’s distress at not being able to interpret a dream triggered the cupbearer’s memory of Joseph. And his promise to speak well on Joseph’s behalf.

How often do I do the same thing?

How often am I caught up in my own life, in my own “things,” and forget about the people around me? Forget about the promises I’ve made to them?

If I’m honest, I have to say it happens more often than I’d like. And probably more often than I realize.

Ouch.

So where do we go from here? I’ve been asking God to help me remember the promises I’ve made and to do better with following through on them. But I’m not just talking about the times I forget to pick up shampoo at the store.

I’m talking about when I say I’ll read some extra chapters for someone in my critique group, but then let their email get buried in my in-box. Or say I’ll pray for someone and their situation but don’t take it to God as often or as fervently as I could. Or, like the cupbearer, say I’ll speak or do something on someone’s behalf and give it little thought once the moment passes.

Yes, the cupbearer fulfills his promise to Joseph in the end, and everything works out according to God’s plan. But a two-year lag time before remembering that promise seems much less than ideal in our minds. I wonder if he felt guilty once he realized how much time had passed.

I don’t know the answer for the cupbearer, but I know the answer for me: yes. Big, fat, resounding yes.

I do feel bad when I realize I haven’t kept my word as I should have. That’s good as long as it helps motivate me to do better next time. It’s bad if I keep beating myself up over my shortcomings and never move forward.

It can be hard to draw the line between the two extremes, but I’m trying. Asking God to keep reminding me of the promises I’ve made can help, but I’m sure there are other ways to help me follow through. What tactics have you found that help in these situations? Leave a comment below and we can all grow together.


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Living in Faith, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Showing God to the world: 12 Bible verses to remember

When my employer directed us to begin working from home in March 2020, we had no idea how long it would last or what would happen along the way. There have been struggles and frustrations during this time at home and at work, but there have been lots of positive things, too. I have loved this time at home with family, have loved not dealing with my usual commute, and have loved getting back to some things that had fallen by the wayside — like writing.

12 Bible verses about showing God to the worldBut my department will start going back to the office in a few weeks, and I’ve been in a bit of a funk because of it. Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy my job and I work with great people. But I’ve gotten spoiled by the relaxed world of working from home in t-shirts and no makeup.

God reminded me a few days ago that even though I might not look forward to some aspects of returning to the office, I still have plenty to be thankful for. Things like:

  • Having a job to return to (and that didn’t change during this crazy time)
  • Still being able to work from home routinely, probably two days a week (which wasn’t the case before 2020)
  • Building memories with my family while we’ve been home together so much
  • Growing in my faith and trying to trust God more when things felt so uncertain

And then God reminded me of one big reason why I don’t need to always work from home and be mostly  surrounded by my church friends:

I need to be out in the world if the world is going to see God in me.

And isn’t that part of the point?

Our job as Christians is to show God to everyone around us through what we say, what we do — and what we don’t say or do. That means each day I go into the office, I have the chance to show God to my coworkers whether they realize it or not. And as fabulous as technology might be, it’s not a substitute for working side-by-side with someone and getting to know who they are and what they represent.

With that in mind, here are 12 Bible verses that help us remember that we’re not meant to keep God to ourselves. We’re meant to show others what it means to have Him in our lives.

12 verses about telling people about God

  1. I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation. (Psalm 40:10)
  2. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. (Psalm 71:15-16)
  3. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13)
  4. “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19)
  5. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15)
  6. “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:39)
  7. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
  8. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
  9. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)
  10. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:6)
  11. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
  12. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)
  13. We constantly face changes at home, at work, and everywhere we go. But wherever we are and whatever is happening around us, we can show what it means to love and follow God.

Share with us: How do you share God with the people around you every day? If you’ve returned to work or school after being at home for months, what made that shift easier? Or, do you have other favorite verses about sharing God with the world? Leave a comment to encourage the rest of us!

PS: On a writing-related note, I was the guest devotion writer this week at Inkspirations Online, a website for Christian writers. Here’s where you can read “Growing through critique.”


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God sightings, Living in Faith, Scripture verses

How a puzzle reminded me of what the Bible says about procrastination

Tomorrow — June 23 — is Typewriter Day, so I’d like to share the story of the typewriter jigsaw puzzle in my office. And, as silly as it seems, how that puzzle reminded me of what the Bible says about procrastination.

what the bible says about procrastinationAs soon as I saw the puzzle on the shelf at our local bookstore, I knew I would buy it. After all, I’m a writer and the puzzle is an old typewriter. I was so happy to find that puzzle and could picture it framed and hanging on my wall at work.

What I couldn’t picture was how long it would take for that to actually happen.

Putting the puzzle together took less time than I expected. We finished it in about three days, with all four of us pitching in at different times. Then the anxiety set in.

I had never glued and framed a puzzle. And this one was a bit intimidating as a starting point since it’s contoured instead of straight-edged and big — a bit more than 20 inches across. What if I messed something up when I glued it? Once I glued the front, what if it fell apart when I flipped it to glue the back?

I dealt with the anxiety by ignoring it. The puzzle lay on the dining room table for a couple weeks, until just before family came over to celebrate our son’s birthday. I slid a piece of posterboard under it and carefully relocated it to my office downstairs.

That typewriter puzzle claimed a spot on my office floor for weeks … then months … then more months. As embarrassing as it is to admit, it stayed on my floor for more than a year.

Yes, more than a year. All because I was afraid something would go wrong when gluing and then taking it to the frame shop.

What a silly reason to procrastinate! I wish I could claim procrastinating is unusual for me, but it’s easy to do for all sorts of things. Scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Cleaning out the fridge. Starting a new exercise or eating program. Getting back to church after watching online services for so many months. Carving out prayer time. The list goes on.

For some situations, procrastinating can seem valid because something really could go wrong. In other situations, though, all procrastinating does is create a roadblock that doesn’t have to be there.

What the Bible says about procrastinating

Of course, the Bible includes plenty of verses chiding people who procrastinate, even labeling those people as sloths, sluggards and lazy. Ouch! Here are a few of those verses (realizing I’m not digging into their full context here):

  • But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Corinthians 14:40)
  • Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. (Ecclesiastes 11:4)
  • If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. (James 4:17)
  • As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. (John 9:4)
  • One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. (Proverbs 18:9)

It’s easy to agree that everything should be done “in a fitting and orderly way.” But to compare someone who slacks in their work to one who destroys? That’s a zinger.

We assign ourselves “to-do’s,” but some also come from God. While it’s clear that we need to do whatever work is in front of us, procrastinating on some things — like gluing and framing my typewriter puzzle — won’t necessarily make much difference in the big picture of life.

Procrastinating on the things we believe God wants us to do is more serious. Whatever those things might be, if God wants us to do them, He’ll show us how. We might not need to jump in and do everything overnight. But as long as we take small steps in that direction, God will help us keep moving where He wants.

We might even look back later and realize our procrastination was pointless. That’s what happened with my puzzle. I put several layers of glue on the front and nothing fell out of place when we flipped it. I put a couple more layers on the back and had no trouble getting it to Hobby Lobby. The framing department was having such a quiet day that they finished it while I wandered the store for a while (which is easy for me to do there!).

So, yes, the puzzle I procrastinated about for more than a year was mounted, framed and ready to take home less than an hour after I took it to the store. I hung it in my home office that afternoon instead of waiting to take it to work.

Now it’s a focal point that always makes me smile. And a constant reminder that the things that make me anxious — the things that tempt me to procrastinate — can sometimes be things that aren’t worth worrying about in the first place.

 

Lord, it’s so easy to put things off because we’re anxious about what might happen, but that’s crazy because we’re not the ones in control anyway. You’re the one in control and we’re so glad for it. Help us keep moving forward the way you want us to go instead of letting ourselves get bogged down by procrastination. Amen.


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Living in Faith, Monday Motivation, Scripture verses

Monday motivation: Finding God in the everyday things

We expect to find God in the celebratory places, the hard places, the “big” places of life. But He’s also right there in the middle of all the other regular world things: grocery shopping and laundry folding and driving to work.

I love this quote from Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries — a reminder that God is in the little things, too. Once we start paying attention, start looking for Him in the little things, we remember that everything that surrounds us is His and that because it is His, it is holy.

For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4)

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

This week I want to find God in the small, regular places instead of just the big ones. I hope you can find Him there, too.


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