Dealing with Diotrephes

3rd John 1:9-10  I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.  (10)  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

I recently posted a blog entitled A Gift to Gaius. It was meant to be a Biblical illustration of servant-leadership in which I brought out the value of giving positive feedback and how it no doubt served Gaius in a way that only positive feedback from a respected person can. There is also another form of servant-leadership I’d like to address in this post.

Pastors are known as shepherds when it comes to leading God’s people, and the Apostle John was no exception to this. Just as shepherds have to love their sheep, so also are Pastors expected to love the people they lead. We see John’s loving side of this role in his opening address to Gaius. We see how much Gaius and his efforts for the kingdom of God meant to John and the great Apostle showed immense excitement for the fact that there was a man in that church who could be counted on to take on substantive and important roles! This would bless any Pastor!

There is another side of shepherding that, although it’s often recognized among those leading actual sheep, it is often overlooked, completely ignored, or even despised when it comes to spiritual shepherds. The side of which I’m speaking is the protective side of shepherding.

We see an example of this in the ever famous account of David and Goliath, where David tells King Saul in 1st Samuel 17:34-36  And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock:  (35)  And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him.  (36)  Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear…

This part stands out to me as it pertains to the protecting side of servant-leadership because, as I alluded to earlier, it seems that when we think of leading God’s people as a shepherd, we think of it as only being in a loving, soft, or caring way. While there is certainly a place for this, it is as if that’s the only side of leadership there is or that we should acknowledge.

That’s not even the only side of actual shepherding, as we see from the words of David who was a young shepherd at the time he spoke these words. So, if we are going to use shepherding as an illustration of servant-leadership, then let’s make sure we get both sides of the illustration involved.

When David told King Saul that he killed the lion and the bear, it was for the sole intent of protecting those sheep. He didn’t allow the lion and bear to be around the sheep because “The bear just has a few anger issues that need to get worked out, but one day he’ll repent” or “The lion just likes to play a little rough with the sheep, but he means well” or “One day the lion will lay down with the lamb and he will understand the error of his ways. I just need to keep loving and teaching him and the bear until they finally understand and repent”. And yet, this is how shepherding God’s people is viewed!

As a shepherd, David did not view it that way. He viewed it as “I need to serve these sheep and serve my father, to whom these precious sheep belong, by protecting them against these predators who obviously have ill intent against the sheep.” David recognized “Both are predators and that’s what predators do. So, I need to take the proper steps to ensure these predators don’t do to my sheep what predators like to do to sheep…kill and eat them!”

THIS is what the Apostle John was doing when he told Gaius about Diotrephes in 3rd John 1:10  Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.

In other words, “I’m dealing with this, not because I don’t care for Diotrephes, but as a service to those whom he is destroying by his evil works.” Just like David, John was protecting the sheep from the predator that obviously had ill intent. He didn’t say, “Well, Diotrephes just needs to pray and hear the Gospel a little more and he’ll eventually get it”. John was willing to deal with the situation, knowing that the temporary friction it caused would create heat for a while, but he also knew he could take the heat and that the long lasting benefits would be worth the investment of time and energy.

Just as in our last post, there is a caring and loving side of servant-leadership, but there is also a protecting side of servant-leadership. John understood this and, rather than letting the innocent get slaughtered for the sake of keeping one person or not offending anyone (good luck with that), John was willing to accept the responsibility of his role as an Apostle and deal with the one who wasn’t doing right in order to preserve and protect those who were doing right. That is a side of shepherding we don’t hear much about, but it is definitely Biblical and it ends up serving everyone better!

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A Gift to Gaius

3 John 1:5-7  Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers;  (6)  Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well:  (7)  Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles.

The Apostle John, who wrote five books in the New Testament which include The Gospel of John, 1st John, 2nd John, 3rd John, and Revelation, shows to us in this shortest of New Testament books, a very important attribute of servant-leadership. It is something that, if one is not open to seeing, could be missed completely and probably is missed to the casual Bible reader who is just trying to complete their daily Bible reading and sees the brevity of this letter as an easy task.

As a Pastor, along with teaching Biblical doctrines and practical application of the Bible to my congregation, I often find myself teaching on personal development principles, so certain words and events tend to stand out to me from that perspective as well.

In the scriptures above, Gaius is the recipient of this letter and he apparently would take care of travelling ministers as they passed through his town while preaching the Gospel. There was also a church there because John would later have to deal with some issues in that church, which we’ll talk about in a later post.

Gaius was well known by John as being someone who took care of these travelling ministers and Gaius probably did these things without looking for any kind of emotional payoff from others; no likes on Facebook; just good, old fashioned love for God and appreciation for the ministry of the Gospel!

In this world of social media it seems like people think the smallest thought or deed should be recorded, noticed, and praised and so they post it on their social media accounts and wait for the responses to roll in. There will be people who give those responses even to the smallest and most mundane of things thus creating this never-ending feedback loop among the needy and the needed. While social media can have its place and be a kind of blessing even to the work of God, it is certainly not without its downfalls.

I believe John wanted to send Gaius this letter as a way of not only thanking him for his sacrificial service to the kingdom of God (which would probably have been considered an honor in itself) but by giving him a bigger gift even than that.

What gift is that? The gift to Gaius was feedback. This gave Gaius the “30,000 foot view” of the bigger plan and mission and let him see from way up high (John’s perspective) where Gaius’ efforts fit into that plan and mission down on the ground. As John would put it, verse 8 – …that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. In other words, “Gaius, your personal efforts are helping to ensure that the truth of God’s word continues to be preached and people are given the chance to be saved! Ultimately we are building God’s kingdom and this is how your efforts fit into that!”.

Additionally, it was not just intellectual information nor an emotional outburst of “Yippy, yippy Gaius is awesome!”, but genuine and practical feedback about how Gaius’ personal efforts fit into and helped the greater mission. This is not something that had to be given all the time, nor should it be expected all the time, but it no doubt helped Gaius realize that his efforts weren’t being taken for granted but that he was serving a bigger purpose.

This approach can be applied in any setting where people are involved and it’s something I’m currently working on implementing at my own level of leadership as I also grow and develop personally. I’m sure it was appreciated by the one receiving it because it not only showed he was having a positive impact, but it also showed him where he stood in the heart of the Apostle; something I’m sure meant a lot to Gaius.

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Faith That Takes a Risk

Hebrews 11:31  By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

You can read about this event in Joshua 2. In this account, as the army of Israel was preparing to conquer the city of Jericho, Joshua, who was the leader of the Israel’s army at that time, sent two spies into the city to secretly gather information. This way they would know more about the city before they launched an attack.

While the spies were in the city, they went into the house of a woman named Rahab, who secretly brought them into her house and kept them safe from the army of Jericho. The spies made a promise to Rahab that, when they came in to conquer the city, they would ensure the safety of any person who was safely inside Rahab’s home during the attack.

After it was safe to leave Rahab’s house, they went back to Joshua and told him all that Rahab had done to help them during their mission. When the army of Israel would later go in and capture the city of Jericho, they made sure to keep this promise and the family of Rahab was not harmed.

When Rahab provided a safehouse for the Jewish spies, she did so at great risk to her life. This is because Israel was a feared enemy of Jericho and the king no doubt would have had her executed for such an act! But, Rahab had Faith that Takes a Risk, specifically the risk of obeying and honoring the God of Heaven even at great danger to herself!

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Rahab states her reason for protecting the spies in Joshua 2:9-11  And she said unto the men, I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you.  (10)  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.  (11)  And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath.

The part that stands out to me the most is where she says, “…for the LORD your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. She had faith in the God of Israel and He made sure she was protected and blessed because she was willing to take a risk in order to serve Him!

In these last days, are you willing to have Faith that Takes a Risk so that you may be faithful to God, as Rahab was?

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Five Minute Faith Talks: “Faith that Keeps on Walking”

Hebrews 11:30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.

You can read about this event in Joshua 6. During this time, as Israel was approaching the greatly fortified city of Jericho, Joshua was instructed by God to have the army of Israel walk around the city once every day for six days and then to walk around it seven times on the seventh day. Then, on the seventh day after walking around the city the seventh time, God would cause the walls to fall and Israel was to go in and conquer the city.

When we hear or read of this event, we often focus on the walls falling down flat and the Israelites going in and taking the great city. Of course all of that is great; however, I want to bring out what may be a less attractive but very important part of the story.

It is important because if this part had not been done, we likely would not have read about the walls falling down and Jericho being conquered. If it weren’t for this part being done first, the outcome of this story may be very different.

The part I’m talking about is how Israel walked around the city. Rather than thinking they knew a better way, they exercised faith and obeyed God’s specific commandments and just kept walking. They didn’t walk more or less than they were commanded. They simply obeyed God and walked around the city only once each day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day for a total of 13 times.

Ignoring Natural Tendencies

On the first day they may have thought, “Come on man, we can go another round. Let’s knock out two days’ worth of walking right now!” But that isn’t what God said to do. It may be that as the days went by, they got more and more tired and less and less excited. After six days of this, they may have gotten so familiar with the course around the city that the scenery probably started to get old.

Maybe some got bored and began to let their guard down a little. Then, after six days of walking the same path, God said to go around it seven times in one day! And as if that weren’t enough, they would also have to fight to conquer the city!

Through this account, we learn that we don’t always get to determine how many times we have to do something before getting the desired result. There may be situations into which we go where we expect to achieve great things and for the walls to immediately fall! Then, God says to us: “Just walk. No walls falling. No conquering. Just walk.”

In these situations, when we just keep on walking whether we see the results we want or not, we display true faith. We do this because we want to obey God and we find our fulfillment in our obedience to Him and not in our own accomplishments.

After Joshua and the army of Israel compassed the city seven times on the seventh day, the priests blew the trumpets, Jericho’s walls fell down flat, and they conquered the city just like God said they would! I believe all of this took place because they first obeyed God and had Faith That Keeps On Walking!

It’s been good to be with you in this video, and until next time, let’s lead someone closer to Christ!

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Five Minute Faith Talks – “Faith that Makes the Right Choices”

Hebrews 11:24-26  By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;  (25)  Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;  (26)  Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

In our last video, we spoke about the faith of Moses’ parents and how they chose God’s way of doing things rather than the way of those who did not honor God. We find in today’s reading that Moses must have also possessed the same kind of faith as his parents. Maybe he possessed this kind of faith because his mother, who was assigned to be his nurse by Pharoah’s daughter, probably taught Moses about faith in God. More importantly though, we know Moses possessed the same kind of faith as his parents not just because they taught him about faith, but also because of the decisions he made in his life.

In Exodus 2:11 – 12, Moses made a crucial decision that would change the trajectory of his life forever. This decision would make it abundantly clear that Moses had chosen to side with the Hebrews rather than the Egyptians.

He decided to protect a Hebrew slave from an Egyptian who was abusing the Hebrew slave. In doing so, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand. Some people today may say Moses was just trying to do a good deed; however, in Egyptian culture, killing an Egyptian citizen to protect a Hebrew slave meant certain death. This is because the Egyptians considered Hebrew slaves to be far less valuable than their own citizens.

Because of this decision, Moses gave up all his rights and future potential status he would have had in Egyptian society. Many Egyptians around him probably thought he was crazy for making this decision! They may have even considered him to be a traitor but Moses understood that the kingdoms of this earth are temporary. He knew that even the Egyptian kingdom, with all its glory, would one day fall and that the kingdom of God would stand forever! He looked beyond what everyone else saw and chose to be part of God’s eternal kingdom even if it meant suffering for a short time in this life. Moses truly had Faith that Makes the Right Choices!

The next time you face a similar situation where you have to make a decision that shows whose side you are on, our prayer for you is that you will choose to be on God’s side even if it means forfeiting the temporary comforts of this life to do so. We pray you’ll learn to develop Faith that Makes the Right Choices!

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Five Minute Faith Talks: “Faith that Doesn’t Fear Obeying God”

Hebrews 11:23  By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.

You can read about the birth of Moses in Exodus 2:1 – 3. What’s important to know about this setting is that in Exodus 1, just before the birth of Moses, the Pharaoh made a government declaration that all boys who were born to the Jews were to be immediately killed. The king created a law for the Hebrew nurses to kill all the male Hebrew children; however, the nurses decided to obey God by saving the lives of the male children rather than obeying that evil government mandate. The Bible says that because of this, God blessed the nurses and their families.

This was the political and cultural situation that the parents of baby Moses were facing when we read about their faith in Hebrews 11:23! The Egyptians and many other idolatrous nations did not value human life. The concept of valuing human life only came about when people learned to worship the God of the Hebrews, the Creator of all life.

When Amram and Jochebed, Moses’ father and mother, decided to save their son’s life by hiding him in a basket, they risked their lives and the lives of everyone in their family because they chose God’s way rather than the ways of those who did not honor God.

The decision to honor God is a decision that most people do not make; however, it was made by Moses’ parents because they had Faith that Doesn’t Fear Obeying God! Because of their faith, we are reading about them in the Bible today! What better way for God to honor those who honored Him?!

When you’re faced with having to choose between God’s way and the way of those who do not honor God, we pray you’ll choose God’s way and have Faith that Doesn’t Fear Obeying God!

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Five Minute Faith Talks: “Faith that Expects God to Bless”

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Hebrews 11:22  By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

You can read about this event in Genesis 50:24 – 26. In this setting, Joseph, the son of Jacob, was getting ready to die. At this point, the Jews were still living in Egypt, but God had made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 that not only would the Jews live in Egypt for a while, but also that God would bring them out of Egypt one day. This promise was made to Abraham about 215 years before the Jews ever even went into Egypt. Israel would go into Egypt in Genesis 46 and God would bring them out of Egypt in Exodus 12 (another 215 years). That’s 430 years that this promise had been passed down from generation to generation until it finally came to pass! Talk about faith!!

 Joseph knew about this promise that God had made to his great grandfather, Abraham, and Joseph made an oath with the Jews who were there to ensure that, when God brought this promise to pass, they would make sure to take Joseph’s bones with them and bury his bones in the land that God had promised them once they arrived there. He made this oath although they didn’t yet know where that promised land was. The exodus from Egypt didn’t happen for about 144 years after Joseph died…Joseph truly had Faith that Expects God to Bless! He didn’t know when or how, but he believed God to be a God who honors His promises!

While Joseph knew he wouldn’t be there to see this promise come to pass, he wanted to show forth some action of faith that indicated he still believed that it would happen, even if he would never see it himself.

God has given you and me some great and precious promises in His word; promises that He wants us to take quite literally and to start showing forth actions of faith to show that we believe those promises will come to pass!
What can you do today to show forth that you truly believe the promises of God are true and that they will take place? Is there some step of faith that God has been impressing upon your heart to take? Let’s be like Joseph and take that step of faith! Whether we see an immediate result or not, we can show God that we mean business and that we believe His promises! Let’s have Faith that Expects God to Bless!

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Launch Out into the Deep

I once saw a video of a moose in a river cooling off when a wolf came out of the woods into the water and latched onto the moose. No matter how much the moose tried to stomp on the wolf, the wolf had latched onto a spot where the moose could not stomp on it…right behind the moose’s front right leg. The moose was able to get the wolf to let go once by holding the wolf under the water until it released its vice-like grip. But, then as the moose ran, the wolf gave chase! The moose ran and ran and eventually began to run out of energy, with the wolf hot on its trail. It wasn’t until the moose ran into the deeper part of the river that the wolf had to finally back off.

This is a great illustration of how that, as long as the Christian stays in the shallow waters of living, the enemy can easily chase after them and, if the Christian is not growing stronger, the enemy can latch onto that Christian’s life in such a way that, no matter how much that Christian tries to fight him, the devil has secured a spot that the Christian cannot reach unless they change the way they do things and decide to go out into the deeper waters of living for God! Thank God the Christian has a deeper place to which they can go and find refuge and strength! That place is in the deep places of God’s strength and protection!

After calling His disciples, Jesus tells Simon Peter in Luke 5:4 …Launch out into the deep… and that’s just what I want to encourage you to do starting today…right now! LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP!

Launch Out into the Deeper Levels of Thinking

Contrary to popular belief, Christianity was never meant by God to be an autopilot lifestyle, and yet that’s the way many Christians seem to think about and therefore treat their Christian lives. The world and satan take advantage of this lack of understanding and therefore cause people in Christian churches to think and believe all kinds of things…even unbiblical things!

Everyone thinks they’re a “deep thinker” until they have to look at facts and think deeply. Then you find they will spend more time and energy defending the way they have always done things and ignoring, or flat out refusing, to hear anything different!

While it is in every person’s human nature to go along with the bare minimum status quo way of doing things, they may even defend their bare minimum level of shallow thinking. This could be in the form of such phrases as “At least I’m saved and on my way to Heaven and that’s enough for me!”. Shallow thinking brings shallow emotions, shallow actions, and shallow reactions!

Christians are not called to the shallow end of life, we are called to Launch Out into the Deep! Concerning the things of God, the great Apostle Paul puts it in 1st Corinthians 2:10  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.

It is in our human nature to want the shallow and easy things of life. This is why we need to be born again and to receive the divine nature of God! Only then can we truly want to launch out into the deep! There is a deeper level of living for God that awaits all of His children who will take the time to cultivate this kind of relationship with Him!

Launch Out into the Deeper Levels of Learning

There is great protection in knowing the truth about things! Our Lord Himself tells us in John 8:32  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. When you know something is true, you are protected against believing lies about it and when you know something is a lie, you are protected against believing it to be true. If you and I can get THIS, we will have unlocked a great deal of blessings and power in our lives!

There are so many people who know so much and yet understand so little and it shows in their daily lives. It shows in their attitudes, in their marriages, in their family life, in their professional lives, in their financial lives, etc. When discussing those who are educated, but are easily carried away by their lusts, the Bible says in 2nd Timothy 3:7  Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I’m talking about getting so consumed with intellectual knowledge that you can speak Hebrew and Greek but completely miss what’s actually being said! These people know so much about what the Bible says, that they don’t know what the Bible is saying. (Really, they know what it says to others, but don’t seem to pick up on what it’s saying to them.)

Launch Out into the Deeper Levels of Understanding

Just because we know something, does not mean we understand it. You may know that a car cranks when you turn the key or push the button, but you don’t necessarily understand combustion engines. You may know the cell phone works when you turn it on, but you may not understand how motherboards, resistors, and RAMs work.

As God’s people, if we choose to stay in the shallow end of the pool of understanding, then we will not experience the joy of understanding the deeper things of God! There is so much more to knowing God than the children’s prayer of “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soda keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soda I can take!”. We expect that kind of prayer from a child, but not from a maturing Christian who is launching out into the deeper things of God!

For the maturing Christian, we are told in Hebrews 6:1 …let us go on unto perfection… We are also told in Hebrews 5:13-14  For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  (14)  But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age (Meaning those who choose to Launch Out into the Deep)even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. The word for “senses” is the Greek word aistheterion which means “an organ of perception”. This explains why there are so many Christians who can memorize scripture and study the Bible, all of which we should do, but still seem to not understand the very basic tenets of God’s word. This leads us into our next section.

Launch Out into the Deeper Levels of Discernment

Deeper levels of discernment can only be discovered when first built upon the foundation of deeper levels of learning and understanding (both of which we discussed earlier). In the Bible, discernment, from the Greek words diakrino and diakrisis, means to separate thoroughly; to properly discriminate; etc. Another way of saying it is: the ability to sense the differences between two or more things. These things can literally be objects, ideas, activities, actions, or people (when it comes to people, this also entails being able to accurately sense their true intentions as well).

In order to gain this ability to sense the differences between two or more things, we must first learn and understand the word of God. The reason for this is that we’re told the word of God Hebrews 4:12  …is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. The more you learn and gain understanding of God’s word, the more you will receive from God a sense of the things of this life and be able to discern between what is good and evil; what is the will of God and your own will. This takes a sense of commitment that many are not willing to give. This leads us into our final section.

Launch Out into the Deeper Levels of Commitment

We’re given an illustration of the man who obeys the word of God in Luke 6:48  He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. (For all the women: Proverbs 14:1  Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.). Women have the power and responsibility to help build the house on a deeper foundation as well.

The man in Luke 6:48 had to DIG DEEPER than the man in Verse 49 in order for his house to stand during the time of flood and storm! It took a deeper sense of commitment and a deeper act of commitment on his part and it’ll take the same deeper sense of commitment and deeper act of commitment on our parts if our spiritual house is going to stand during the time of flood and storm! God calls us to be fully committed to the cause of Christ! Fully committed from our hearts!

Jesus just wants people to commit and be faithful and He was content even when it was just a few who were committed on a deeper level (which is how it usually was when He preached about commitment).

This deeper level of commitment is built upon the foundation of learning and understanding that launching out into the deep and committing ourselves to God is an expectation from God. If He committed His Son to us, and His Son committed His life to us, shall not we do the same for Him?

Five Minute Faith Talks: “Faith that Blesses”

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Hebrews 11:21  By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

You can read about this event in Genesis 48:5 – 22. In this setting, Jacob, who had been named Israel by God, blessed his grandsons Manasseh and Ephraim. Manasseh was the eldest and was thought by their father Joseph to receive the greater blessing, but Jacob pronounced the greater blessing upon the youngest, Ephraim.

At first Joseph was angry about this, but his father Jacob let him know that this is what God wanted. Jacob’s life had been full of many troubles, but by this point in his life he understood how to perceive and obey the voice of God.

This gives you and me hope that, no matter what troubles we have faced in our lives (even if we were the causes of those troubles) it is still possible to move beyond that and get to a higher level in your life where God’s voice is something you learn to perceive and obey.

It may have been easy at one point to look at Jacob’s life and say, “He needs all the prayers he can get.” But, now he was the one blessing others, and that is the way it can be in our lives as well.

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