Preparing to go to God’s house

“God said to Jacob, ‘Arise and go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel’” (Genesis 35:1-3, ESV).

Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, had a history with the place called Bethel. It was there, on his way to Padan-Aram to seek a wife and to escape from the vengeful Esau, that he slept using a stone for a pillow. During the night he saw a vision of a ladder or stair case going into heaven, with angels ascending and descending and God at the top. When he awoke he declared the place to be “the House of God” (Genesis 28:16) and named it accordingly. In Hebrew the name was “Bethel” whose meaning is “House of God.” Continue reading “Preparing to go to God’s house”

Purity is about you

By Johnny O. Trail — As the temperature rises the hem lines go up and the neck lines tend to plunge.  While this is sometimes seen as a problem that is reflective in women’s fashion, it can also be a problem among men.  In addition to the cut of the hems and the depth of the neck lines, the messages written on shirts and pants can be immoral in nature.

One of my earliest memories involved a trip to Nashville to visit an uncle who was dying of cancer in the Veteran’s Hospital.  Since we were from Manchester, it was really easy for us to become lost as we navigated the large and confusing town of Nashville.  Somehow or another, we ended up on lower Broad Street.  In that day, prostitution was a problem in that area.  There, on a street corner, were two women who were dressed rather strangely.  From the back seat of our Chevrolet Impala I asked my parents, “Why are those women dressed that way?” Continue reading “Purity is about you”

Sundries: Sex, memory, and a bad sort of minimalism

I avoid sensationalism, preferring the understated approach. Sex is one of those subjects that turns a lot of heads. In Brazil, money and religion are volatile subjects. So when addressing them, we try to deal with them in all sobriety. Last week, I posted for the congregation in Brazil 26 summary points on the biblical teaching about sex and marriage. Maybe I’ll share it here one of these days. (Update: Read them here.)

The points reinforced a lesson to the church on sexual immorality. To be holy means, in part, knowing how to deal with our sexuality.

Modern society is soaked in sensuality. The word is counted as a good thing. Not so in Scripture. It’s the door to immorality. Continue reading “Sundries: Sex, memory, and a bad sort of minimalism”

Baby, it’s cold outside!

The chilly breath of the coming winter whispers into the gardener’s frostbitten ears about numerous garden chores yet to be done. Planting daffodils and crocuses, clearing away the scraggly remains of the perennials, and weeding around the newly sprouted Nigella. 

But it’s cold outside!

Even with an extra set of cotton gloves underneath my garden gloves, I might mistake my fingers for tasteless popsicles after a few minutes of work.

It’s cold outside! Good enough reason to stay indoors and go into semi-hibernation among the seed catalogs with a hot cup of echinacea tea.   Continue reading “Baby, it’s cold outside!”

The purity of God’s people

“A person of illegitimate birth may not enter the assembly of the Lord; to the tenth generation no one related to him may do so. An Ammonite or Moabite may not enter the assembly of the Lord; to the tenth generation none of their descendants shall ever do so…You must not hate an Edomite, for he is your relative; you must not hate an Egyptian, for you lived as a foreigner in his land. Children of the third generation born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 23:1-8 NET).

It seems strange to those of us living in the twenty-first century that there were people whom God would not accept. Some Bibles put a title over this section of Deuteronomy: “Those excluded from the assembly.” Others have something like: “Purity in public worship.” Why would God exclude anyone from assembling with his people to worship him? Continue reading “The purity of God’s people”

Purer in heart

Purer in heart, O God, help me to be;
May I devote my life wholly to Thee;
Watch Thou my wayward feet,
Guide me with counsel sweet;
Purer in heart, help me to be.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encouraged those who would be following God to be “pure in heart” – “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8 NET).

But what does it mean to be “pure in heart?” Continue reading “Purer in heart”