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On our walk to Jerusalem, we may reach the top of a few mountains and draw closer to Jesus than we ever have before. Perhaps we'll experience more peace or victory in our life. Or maybe Christ will bring healing that the doctors can't really explain. And we may want to sing as David did, "The Lord has done great things for us and we are glad!" (Psalm 126:3)

There was a time not too long ago when the presence of Jesus was so real that I wanted to spend all my time in His Word and talking to Him in prayer. I just couldn't get enough of Jesus! And it made me wonder, "How can I remain in Your presence?"

One morning as I was talking to the Lord, the answer came. "Go to Bethel," Jesus said. "To abide in My presence, you must go to Bethel."

The city of Bethel isn't very far from Bethlehem, only a 17 mile journey. It's known today as Beitan, a Palestinian city on the central west bank. But in the days of the patriarchs, Bethel was only a quiet, isolated spot in the wilderness.

Jacob ended up there after stealing Esau's birthright. He had been running as a fugitive for two days. "The evening of the second day found him far away from his father's tents. He felt that he was an outcast, and knew that this trouble had been brought upon him by his own wrong course. The darkness of despair pressed upon his soul, and he hardly dared to pray" (Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 183). How could God help him after what he had done?

During the night, Jesus came to his wayward son. As Jacob lay on the ground, with a stone for his pillow, he saw angels moving up and down a celestial ladder. At the very top was Christ in all His glory. In a clear voice, Jesus spoke to Jacob, saying: "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham, and the God of Isaac...Behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will never leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you" (Genesis 28:13-15).

In the morning, Jacob woke up, but the memory of the dream remained. And he said, "Surely the Lord was in this place and I didn't know it!" (Genesis 28:16) Then he took the stone which he had slept on and set it up for a memorial of his encounter with Jesus. In the years ahead, Bethel reminded Jacob of the peace he had found there.

Bethel can become a memorial of God's goodness when we keep fresh in our minds the blessings He bestows. One way to duplicate Bethel in our walk to Jerusalem is to keep a journal of answered prayers and other blessings we are showered with. 

I like to begin my Quiet Time in the morning by writing a short letter to Jesus, thanking Him for 3-5 new blessings from the day before. Some are physical blessings, such as a good night's sleep (after having shoulder surgery, this is a tremendous blessing). Sometimes I thank God for a friend who has encouraged me in my walk with Christ. And every day I try to thank God for at least one spiritual blessing that I find by reading His Word or from the inspiring writings of Ellen G. White.

Jeremiah tells us, "His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithful-ness!" (Lamentations 3:23) This can become the song of our heart as we meditate throughout the day on the blessings of the Lord. I have discovered that as I look for new blessings, Jesus is more frequently in my thoughts. I spend more time talking with Him as I'm walking down my country road, driving in the car, or working in the garden. 

Another lesson I've learned is the more I praise God, the more I have to thank Him for. Communion with Jesus is more intimate because I'm more aware of His presence beside me. It's easier to respond to the Spirit's voice when I'm tempted and it's brought me many precious victories. 

I enourage you to start your own Bethel Journal and to look for at least 3 new blessings each day while we are walking to Jerusalem. I know it will bring Jesus closer to each one of us and help us to abide in His love.

Read Genesis 35:1-15
* Read Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 183-188