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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.

Justified

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.

I am rejoicing

1 Peter 1 v 6
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,”

Through faith in Christ, we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved!

Peter makes an assumption about our response to this reality. He says that we are to rejoice in this. Do we? It’s important here to separate the word “rejoice” from the idea of feeling only positive emotions. To “rejoice,” here, does not necessarily mean to “be happy,” as we understand the terms today. While rejoicing may include positive feelings, the New Testament often communicates that rejoicing is a choice about how we think about our lives (James 1:2; Philippians 4:4).

Peter quickly acknowledges that his readers may be grieved or distressed by various trials in the present moment. He realizes they may be experiencing negative emotions because of their negative circumstances and yet, he still assumes they are rejoicing in the reality of their eternal circumstances in Christ.

We must conclude that this “rejoicing” is less about feelings and more about faith. It is less about maintaining some perfect emotional state and more about a declaration: “My life is worth rejoicing over because of what God is doing for me right now. I am provided for. My future is secure. Nothing can change that. I am rejoicing!”

Deeper Relationship with God



Psalm 25

Apply the Word of God to daily living. As you put into practice ‘the perfect law that gives freedom’ (James 1:25 NIV), your conscience will grow stronger because you know God’s heart better. Arrive at decisions through prayer. Instead of choosing something merely because it looks, sounds, or feels good, bring every issue before the Lord in prayer.

Agree to obey God. When you strongly desire to function God’s way, you will consistently ask, What does He want me to do?

This practice will enable you to discern and follow the Spirit’s lead. Acquire a deeper sensitivity to the Spirit’s conviction. As believers, we are no longer condemned (Rom. 8:1), so we must recognize the difference between the conviction of the Holy Spirit and condemnation from the enemy.

The Spirit always shows us exactly what needs repentance—He doesn’t give us a sense of vague guilt. His conviction has the purpose of turning us back to Him.

Abandon yourself to the perfect will of God. If you recommit daily to be a ‘living sacrifice’ for the Father alone, your inner compass will steer you closer to the Lord. Then, as you refuse to conform to this world´s pattern and instead renew your thinking according to the mind of Jesus Christ, you will be able to ‘test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (Rom. 12:1-2 NIV).

How does a person become acceptable to God?

The path to redemption begins not with the decision to live a better life or to stop doing something wrong, but with the realization that we cannot correct our sinful nature. To find favor with the Lord, we must grasp that it’s impossible to make ourselves righteous. Instead, we need to depend on the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.

When we trust in Christ as our Savior, God the Father applies the benefit of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice to our sin debt, thereby making us saved—that is, acceptable in His eyes.

Dealing With Guilt



1 John 1:5-9

For some of us, guilt is a steady companion. We live under the weight of past mistakes and the fear of future wrongdoing. Even if we try to move forward, self-reproach tags along.

Not all guilty emotions are based in fact, but those that result from breaking biblical or civil law are legitimate: When we transgress, the Holy Spirit points out what is wrong and how to correct it. Then, in response to our confession, God offers us forgiveness and cleansing from guilt every single time (Ps. 32:5). Where does false guilt originate?

There are several answers. For one thing, Satan uses it to harass believers. Through lies and accusations, the enemy seeks to replace inner peace with turmoil, and joy with discouragement. Another source of guilt is legalism, the judging of conduct according to a precise standard. God´s Word establishes the way we are to live, but some Christians and churches impose additional rules. And failure to follow man-made regulations can produce shame.

Childhood experiences can also bring out the negative emotion of guilt. Whether this stems from the aftermath of traumatic events or the feeling that we didn’t meet parental expectations, a memory can prompt us to judge ourselves harshly as adults. Living under severe criticism can have this effect, too, as can perfectionistic tendencies—which tell us we can always ‘do more’ and ‘do better.’

Legalism, painful childhood experiences, perfectionism, and hurtful comments are fertile soil for guilt.

If you struggle with self-condemnation, be sure to check the legitimacy of the source.

Effective Prayer



James 5:16-18

When you face a problem, is prayer your first response, or do you spring into action mode?

God works powerfully through prayer, yet too often we look at it as a last resort: After we are at the end of our rope, then we start praying.

Using the example of Elijah, James reminds us what the effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish. In today’s passage, the subject is healing, but that’s not the only prayer God will answer. Every aspect of life can be impacted by the power of prayer.

Temptation. Jesus told His disciples, ‘Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation’ (Mark 14:38).

Praise. After being beaten and thrown into prison, Paul and Silas prayed and praised God, even in the midst of their pain (Acts 16:25).

Spiritual Warfare. Paul teaches us to access God’s power by ‘pray[ing] without ceasing’ (1 Thess. 5:17).

Anxiety. We aren’t at the mercy of fear if we pray about everything (Phil. 4:6).

Transformation. When we pray according to God’s desires, He transforms our mind, attitudes, character, and actions (Col. 1:9-12).

Witness. Through prayer, we ask that the Lord open doors for us to spread His Word (2 Thess. 3:1).

Protection. God is faithful to answer requests that He strengthen and protect us from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:2-3).

The next time you face a challenging situation, remember that prayer is more powerful than all your self-efforts. Pray, and watch God work.