God Will Never Leave You or Forsake You

God Will Never Leave You or Forsake You

God pursues his people.

This is an incredibly comforting truth, because the more I get to know myself, the more I realize that the greatest threat to my walk with God…is me.

His Word makes this clear.

Satan is ferocious, and I must be watchful. But he can’t overpower me if I am relying on God: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

People can do me great harm. But compared to unrepentant sin and God’s judgment, they’re not worth worrying about: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

God sure isn’t an obstacle to my faithfulness: “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

My sinful heart, on the other hand, left unchecked, is a public menace: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:13-15).

I am prone to wander: easily discouraged, quickly offended, repeatedly tempted. Sometimes, I’m not just prone to wander—I’m liable to run into spiritual trouble, into sinful territory.

You and I can be like toddlers. We hear the voice of our Father telling us to “stop, come back,” and we turn and take off in the opposite direction—toward the oncoming traffic of disobedience and its deadly consequences.

Which is why I am so grateful that God doesn’t just shrug and walk away. Like a good Father, he chases us down. Convicting. Restoring. Renewing.

He’s been doing this for his children since we started sinning.

He came looking for Adam and Eve hiding in the garden, and he clothed them.

He came to Jacob-on-the-run and started capturing his allegiance.

He threw a storm at Jonah and pulled him back to obedience through the belly of a fish.

He sent Nathan to David and moved him to repentance. He blinded Saul on the road to Damascus, allowing him to see Jesus as glorious and precious for the first time in his life.

God chases us down like a father, because he intends to make us like his Son.

He is not content just to “save” us. He plans to sanctify us—to “bring us up,” to mature us into children who are with him and like him.

And so when we run from him, he follows. Even when we trip and do irreparable damage, he is with us. Seeing everything. Ready and able to apply the power of his healing grace to the wounds of our rebellion. The injuries of our waywardness might sting. The healing process may take a lifetime. But it is God’s process—and nothing can separate us from his love.

This is the love that we continue to experience at the Bronx Household of Faith, and we in turn desire to be instruments of God’s pursuing love in the lives of others.

This is in fact one reason for God’s church—to manifest the reality that through his Son the Father is adopting wayward children and creating by His Spirit a family. We call others into that same family when we speak about the Son and when we love like him.

What a wonderful reality to share: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

If you love God and his people, it’s because he has loved you. Which means he loves you still. If you are walking with God, it’s because he has pursued you—and he will never stop.

Better Late Than Later

Better Late Than Later

The time for the summer “City Lights” has come and gone. What in the world is going on over there in the Bronx? They’ve dropped the ball! Is anybody home? Did things just fall apart after Bob and Jeannie Hall left??

Well…no, things haven’t fallen apart. But Bob and Jeannie are sorely missed, as you’d imagine. And yes, the summer issue of “City Lights” fell through the cracks.

As Jack (my father) likes to say, “No one is indispensable…but everyone is irreplaceable.” We cannot replace Bob and Jeannie. We cannot duplicate the particular warmth, zeal, and steadiness with which they invested in their relationships and responsibilities here in our church.

For many years, Bob faithfully produced this humble newsletter. He has shared his wisdom, his struggles, his concerns—and his heart for the gospel and the impact it can make in this dark city.

While these two dear friends, Bob and Jeannie, have moved on to watch the gospel illuminate lives in a different context, we in the Bronx Household of Faith continue on here, convinced of this life-shaping truth:

The “light” we bring to the city is not an agenda; it is not a philosophy or a program; it is not a bare system of truths or even the love that flickers and falters within our own hearts. No, the light that dawns every single morning over the darkness of our city—over every place—is a person.

Until God extinguishes the sun, each day its quiet, powerful rays will speak of Jesus Christ and the power of his grace to overcome darkness.

No one (to my knowledge) has ever tried to keep the sun from rising. No one can prevent the day from dawning. And so life continues on the earth.

In the same way, we Christians here in our little sliver of the hemisphere wake up every day with reason to live in hope: we can navigate this city because the light of the world is shining today, once again.

Jesus himself promised to illuminate his people’s lives. “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).

I’m sure there is a whole lot to this verse I haven’t seen or learned yet. I am quick to complicate and overthink, trying to come up with sophisticated interpretations of what “the light of life” might mean. At it’s most basic level, though, surely it means this: Jesus. The first line makes it clear: “I am the light.” Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me—has me.”

How can this truth brighten our lives? Several ways come to mind:

For one thing, Christians are given and taught freedom from shame. Shame feels like death. But Jesus gently reminds us: “I already died for those shameful deeds.” The light of the world shines into our darkness, exposes our most shameful deeds and attitudes and thoughts—as having already been dealt with justly. He was shamed in our place. He beckons us to approach his Father boldly, because the light is with us. The life-giving message of Jesus Christ is that he knows how bad we are and has loved us anyway. Loves us enough to welcome us and change us.

The light of life also gives us and teaches us freedom from listlessness. There really is purpose to life. There really is a reason to study the Bible, for example, because it is a way that Jesus  actually deepens his relationship with us. It is a real way to get to know the God who is there—the God who is here—the God we will see one day, face to face. But the light is with us now. So there is also reason to engage in the nitty-gritty details of work, family, politics—“mundane” stuff. When we belong to God, everything we do is done for him and before him. It is meaningful because it is part of a relationship with the God who owns everything.

Finally, the light of life gives us and teaches us moral stability. It can be easy to take for granted the wisdom of God’s Word and God’s ways. But imagine your life with no boundaries. Imagine what we would be like if every sinful impulse of our hearts was given free rein to lead wherever it wanted to go. We’d probably be dead right now. But instead, because Jesus, the light, is with us, “we have fellowship with one another”—and God uses that to shape, refine, cleanse us. And “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” The light is with us. We walk in the light by learning to confess and confront our sin—and that actually does lead to healthier relationships with others and with God.

Another way to say all this is if God’s grace is ours, then Christ is with us wherever we go. So as recipients of that grace, we blink our way into each morning sustained by the life-giving light of Jesus Christ.

And by that Spirit who enables us to look to Christ and live for him, we look up each day and turn to each other—and for God’s glory, to those in darkness he’s put in our path—and we say, “Look!”

A few hundred miles north, in Massachusetts, Bob and Jeannie are looking up as well. How grateful we are to be partners with them, and with all of you, fellow partakers in the grace of God—fellow children of the light.

 ~Jordan Roberts

November Building Update

We are on the last leg of the building project! The “punch list”—the finishing touches which our contractor has committed to seeing through—we hope will be completed by the end of November. A few inspections remain in order to acquire our long-awaited Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, but the architect and contractor believe we are in good standing to meet NYC Building and Fire Dept. standards.

The most recent progress includes the leveling of the surrounding plot and a wall on the back of the property—both thanks to the generous and skillful labor of BHOF covenant member Wilbert Belezaire.