House of God

Genesis 28 v 22
“and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”

Jacob concludes his vow before the Lord. Previous verses, he has declared that if God does all He has said He would do for Jacob, then Jacob would make the Lord his God (Genesis 28:20–21). In addition, he now says that the stone he has set up for a commemorative pillar will become God’s house. This stone was the very same one on which Jacob rested his head while sleeping in the wilderness (Genesis 28:16–18). In other words, Jacob would return to this place to worship the Lord.

Jacob renamed the place “Bethel,” meaning “house of God.” Bethel would continue to be a significant meeting place with God for Israel far into the future.

Jacob completes his vow with a promise to give to God a tenth of all God gives to him. Previously, Jacob’s grandfather Abraham gave to God’s priest Melchizedek such a tithe (Genesis 14:20). Jacob volunteers to worship the Lord in this financial way as well. Giving to God specific tithes and offerings was one of the ways Israel would later demonstrate their obedience to and dependence on the Lord.

Jacob; God’s Man

Genesis 28 v 21
“so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God,”

The Lord in a dream appeared to Jacob and promised to be with him and bring him back to the land of promise. Now awake, Jacob responds to that promise. If the Lord will really be with him, and keep me safe, and provide food and clothing, and, bring him back to his father’s household in peace, then the Lord will be his God.

When we think of Jacob’s situation, his emphasis on these things makes sense. Jacob was literally running away from his home to spare his life from his brother’s fury (Genesis 27:41). He is apparently alone in the wilderness, traveling to find a wife among his mother’s relatives (Genesis 28:1–2). Before this visit from the Lord, his future was murky and his path was dangerous. Now, because of God, Jacob has hope that he will be provided for, kept safe, and be able to return home.

It is interesting to note that God has already promised Jacob that He will be with him. The Lord has already made Jacob His man. Jacob doesn’t declare the Lord to be his God in hopes that the Lord will take care of him. Jacob makes that declaration in response to God’s promises and care. His worship and commitment follows God’s gifts of grace, just as our does (Ephesians 2:8–10).

Prayer of Faith

Genesis 28 v 20
Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear,”

After commemorating the holiness of the place where the Lord visited him in a dream (Genesis 28:12–13), Jacob now acknowledges the content of what the Lord said to him. He does this in the form of a conditional vow, declaring that if the Lord will do these things, Jacob will respond with actions of his own.

Jacob’s vow should be seen not as a testing of the Lord so much as a prayer of faith. Jacob seems to be saying that since the Lord can do these things, and has said He will do these things, Jacob is willing to trust and obey. Specifically, Jacob mentions God being with him and keeping him safe. He also adds two things God did not say explicitly: providing for him bread and clothing. In the following verses, he will mention one more condition and then the commitments he is binding himself to fulfill for God.

“House of God.”

Genesis 28 v 19
He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first.

While travelling from his homeland in Canaan to Mesopotamia (Genesis 28:1–2), Jacob spends the night sleeping with his head resting on a rock (Genesis 28:10–11). As he sleeps, God appears in a vision of a heavenly staircase, or ladder, filled with angels. In this vision, God passes along to Jacob all of the promises given to Abraham, along with reassurances that God will be with Jacob wherever he goes (Genesis 28:12–18).

Jacob is so convinced of the holiness of the place where the Lord visited him that he decides to rename it. Previously called Luz, the place will now be known as Bethel. The word Bethel means “house of God.” Jacob also sets up the rock on which he slept as a marker, anointing it with oil in some kind of ceremony. This spot will continue to be meaningful well into Israel’s future, as a place where God meets His people.

Jacob overwhelmed

Genesis 28 v 18
“So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.”

God reassures Jacob He will be with him and bring him back to the land of promise (Genesis 28:10–15). When he wakes, Jacob is overwhelmed by what he identifies as the holiness of the place where he slept. He calls it “the house of God” and “the gateway to heaven” (Genesis 28:16–17).

Now Jacob commemorates the holiness of this place. He takes the stone where his head rested during his dream and sets it up as a pillar. This might mean that Jacob took what was once a long, flat-laying stone and stood it upright on end. He pours oil on the top of the stone as part of this ceremony. This stone should not be confused with an altar. Jacob’s marker here is a post or standing stone, an indication of this holy place which Jacob will formally name in the next verse.

The Storms of Life

Matthew 14:22-33

It was night. There were high winds, crashing waves, and low visibility. For the disciples, who were on the sea in a small boat, the situation had reached crisis proportions—and Jesus was not with them. While they were dealing with the frightening weather, He was on the mountainside praying.

In the midst of the storm, perhaps the disciples thought Jesus had forgotten them. However, He knew exactly where they were and what they were experiencing.

Though we can’t see Jesus physically, He is omniscient—He can identify where we are at every moment. No darkness can hide us; no trial can obscure His vision. We are always seen, known, and understood!

Leaving that place of prayer, Jesus sought out the disciples. And He will do the same for us.

However, the Twelve didn’t recognize Him because He went to them by walking on the water. Jesus often does not come in the way that we expect.

Our preconceived ideas of how He works can make us wonder where He might be and can blind us to how near He actually is.

Experiencing Jesus’ presence in hard times can teach us precious truths. During an earlier rough sea adventure, the disciples had observed both Jesus’ trust in God and His authority over nature (Matt. 8:23-26).

In the latest storm, they watched the Lord walk on water—and they saw one of their own do it, too.

Through the storms, they learned who Jesus was, what He could do, and what their own potential was.


1 John 1 v 8
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Here is John’s third conditional (“if”) statement in a row. There are five such “if” statements in this passage. First, he refers to those who claim fellowship with Christ while living in sin (1 John 1:6). Second, John addresses those who truly live according to Christ’s commands (1 John 1:7). Here, in verse 8, John refers to those who claim to have no sin whatsoever.

John’s pattern of alternating positive and negative “if” statements clues the reader in to upcoming ideas. Here, it sets up the reader to expect a negative “if” statement. Saying we have no sin is considered negative and simply impossible only God is completely without sin (Hebrews 4:15). So, anyone who claims to be without sin is self-deceived.

John teaches that those who claim to be without sin do not have the truth in them. This lack of truth applies to the saved believer who claims to have been freed from all sin in their present life. A believer should recognize his or her sinfulness and need of forgiveness through Christ. Even the most devout, clean-living Christian still contends with sin, in some way, shape, or form. Forgetting that we have sin makes us insensitive to things we ought to confess to God. As stated in verse 7, we don’t lose hope, but we trust in Christ to forgive us.

While it’s not necessary to have perfect knowledge in order to be saved—justified before God—a core aspect of the gospel is a recognition of our sin. Therefore, anyone who claims to have never sinned is denying the gospel. By definition, such a person is an unbeliever. And, any believer who concludes that they no longer sin needs to be corrected.

Note that verses 8, 9, and 10 cover past, present, and future sins. Believers still have the choice of whether or not to submit to Christ at any given time. If this was not possible, the Bible would not warn Christians so often about the consequences of sin. Even the believer is still fallible.

Who is God to You??

Revelation 4:9-11

In our culture, God’s name is often mentioned with little reverence. In fact, many people actually use it as a curse. Even among those who love Him, it is far too common to use His name casually, without taking time to ponder who He is. When you say a blessing at mealtimes, for instance, do you realize that you are talking to the almighty God who created and rules over all things?

Our view of the Lord impacts three areas of life. First, it affects our prayers. As we come to know Him better and better, our desires will start to look like His goals for us, and our petitions will align more closely with His purposes. What’s more, as we recognize His greatness and power, we’ll become more confident that He can accomplish mighty things—and we will venture to ‘pray big’ (Eph. 3:20; James 4:2).

Second, our understanding of His righteousness and goodness influences our behavior: If God has these attributes, surely it’s in our best interest to obey gladly. And as we, too, desire righteousness, we’ll be quick to repent of sin.

Third, our faith is impacted. Grasping that Jesus is holy, good, and powerful grows our trust in Him. Knowing our awesome God and remembering His great works will further build our confidence in Him.

God wants you to seek Him with all your heart, and He promises that when you do, you will find Him (Jer. 29:13).

So, the next time you’re feeling a need to be better understood, turn to the One who understands you perfectly. Even more importantly, ask the Lord to help you know Him better.

Finding Wholeness

Romans 8:33-39

Modern society has many ‘solutions’ for unhappiness. For example, a lot of people turn to prestige, love, or various substances to counteract emotional emptiness, but the happiness these things offer soon drains out again. Only God’s transforming power can change someone with a broken spirit into a content Christ follower who understands his or her value.

To find wholeness, a person must start by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior—the sin that stands between him and God has to be removed. Then, with the Holy Spirit’s strength, he will be able to find the courage to confront past disappointments, hurts, and sins that may have contributed to his feeling unworthy of the Lord’s love. Someone with a sense of wholeness feels satisfied with life. He knows he is loved, which leads to a good self-image and the ability to love others. Hardship is inevitable in this world, but it doesn’t devastate him or cause him to grumble or cast blame. Why?

Because the born-again believer knows that God has promised to work everything out for his good (Rom. 8:28). In contrast, someone who feels fragmented or empty often has the opposite experience. He may look okay on the outside while struggling within. This can even be the case with Christians who haven’t learned to experience God’s love.

The truth is that only a relationship with Jesus Christ can make a person whole. From Him comes living water that quenches thirst forever. This means He meets our every need in this life.

In a world marred by sin, we will not have a perfect existence, but through Christ, we can expect to live with a sense of deep satisfaction.