[forthright] Where Do You Sleep?

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sat, 28 Mar 2009 05:27:29 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine 
Straight to the Cross

Build up your faith through the experience of a
sufferer. 'In Search of Perfection: Studies from Job.'


Where Do You Sleep?
 by Michael E. Brooks

   "Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went
   toward Haran. So he came to a certain place
   and stayed there all night, because the sun
   had set. And he took one of the stones of
   that place and put it at his head, and he
   lay down in that place to sleep. . . . Then
   Jacob rose early in the morning, and took
   the stone that he had put at his head, set
   it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of
   it, and he called the name of that place
   Bethel; . . . 'And this stone which I have
   set up as a pillar, shall be God's house'"
   (Genesis 28:10-11, 18-19a, 22a, NKJV).

I have never yet been forced to sleep with only a stone
for a pillow, but I have slept on pillows almost as
hard. I have also slept (or tried to) on boards,
floors, beds much too short for my height, the ground,
and many other less than ideal beds.

The remote villages and isolated homes where I have
been privileged to travel doing evangelistic work do
not often contain tourist accommodations. One sleeps
where and as one can. The ability to rest adequately
under such circumstances may be one sign of a "call" to
missionary work.

Most who read the story of Jacob's night in Bethel
marvel at his ability to find comfort while sleeping
with a stone for his pillow. That he slept and even
dreamed seems unusual to us. There is no indication in
the text however that this was unusual or that Jacob
thought it difficult. The emphasis in the Biblical
account is on the use and significance which Jacob
found for his pillow the next morning.

"This stone . . . shall be God's house." If we take
these words and apply them retroactively to the
previous night, Jacob's lodging is described as being
in God's own dwelling place. That he did not recognize
it and so designate it at the time he laid down does
not change the fact. Jacob slept in God's house.
Perhaps that is why he was so comfortable.

Since I travel as much as I do, both in the U.S. and
abroad, I spend a lot of time deciding where I will
stay. I look at comfort, convenience and most of all
price as I decide between various hotels, lodges or
private homes. Perhaps I should be using a different
standard, however. More than anything else I must
assure that I am staying where I may have access and
communion with God. That is not possible just anywhere.

I do not mean to dispute God's universality, or his
power to be with me wherever I am (compare Psalm 139:7-
12). The limitation on fellowship with him is more on
my side. There are many circumstances in which it would
be very difficult for me to be aware of God's presence
or to want to call his attention to mine. Places of
doubtful morality, nonspiritual atmosphere, or
relational tensions come to mind.

Paul's statement, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord
and the cup of demons" (1 Corinthians 10:21a) applies.
Some things are simply incompatible with faith,
obedience or communion with God. These things and
places we must avoid.

I think of another of Paul's admonitions in this
context: "Pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
It is apparent that this does not require one to live
his life with head bowed and words of prayer streaming
from his lips uninterrupted. Such is not possible.
Rather we are encouraged to always be aware of God's
presence, constantly in fellowship with him, and
perpetually ready to communicate our needs and desires.

How can we accomplish this if we deliberately choose to
frequent places incompatible with his presence? How can
we be always ready to pray, if we stay in places where
the act of prayer would make us uncomfortable, or where
we could not easily concentrate on our conversation
with the Father?

Sometimes the house of God is not the most comfortable
or luxurious place in which we might stay. Satan offers
many five star alternatives. But the price of these is
incredibly high, and their comforts are illusory.
Jacob's night at Bethel influenced and blessed him for
the rest of his life. Let us seek such accommodations.

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