A Bend in the Road

A Bend in the Road

A Bend in the Road…
…but not the end of the road.  In a dramatic turn in the direction of our lives, we are now ensconced in Massachusetts to be close to our children who will be able to more closely monitor our life’s journey.  We are in good health and reasonably in our right minds and we’ve not totally cut the umbilical cord from the place where we have spent most of our lives–far and away our happiest years!

After 45 years of wonderful ministry with The Bronx Household of Faith, we announced to them about a year ago our intention to be closer to our children and grandchildren.  The reaction to the news, on the part of some, was almost like the stages of grief.  In this case, shock, tears and resignation.

Indeed, I have shed my own tears when thinking about the separation from people that I have known and loved over the years and who have shown their love to Jeannie and me in so many ways.  With all the imperfections that an insider can see, I couldn’t ask for a finer group of believers to be associated with.  It is an understatement to say how blessed of the Lord we have been to be a part of  BHOF, our only ministry since seminary.

The BHOF family demonstrated that love in an absolutely wonderful, lavishly prepared, joy-filled farewell celebration which said more about the them than it did us. There were friends from as far as Florida and Illinois in attendance.

Earlier that day ( April 15th) I gave my farewell sermon.  I told the congregation that I had never preached a farewell sermon before.  It was my first and most certainly my last.  What do I say?  My first thought was to convey something profound, you know, a “memorable” sermon.

I ended up preaching from Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today and forever.”  In the  midst of a changing world we must ever increasingly be like the unchangeable Christ.  In that message, I spoke about matters that our people had heard many times before: loving and caring for one another, moral purity, being content, and submitting to God-ordained leaders in the church.

There was nothing really new.  That was intentional. Those were the things important to me along with thoughts I wanted to leave with them.

During this transition time, well-meaning people have said to me, “I hear that you’re retiring.”  The first time I heard that, I thought to myself—Yikes!  They’re being polite but to be frank, I do not like the word, at least not for me.  It is a terrifying thought to have nothing to do, much less not being involved in the work of the kingdom.  For Jeannie and me there will always be opportunity for ministry and we will continue to be on the board of Hope Academy, BHOF’s  flagship outreach ministry.

But what about The Bronx Household of Faith?  How will the work go forward?   The story of The Bronx Household of Faith is not about me or any one individual at all.  It is a beautiful story of the providence of God.  By providence I mean how God takes the events of our lives, each of which can be explained by the normal process of cause and effect, and weaves them into a beautiful tapestry that is the pattern of His divine purposes.

It is an amazing story where the church ended up geographically in The Bronx, to purchasing houses on different streets with an adjoining backyard that has been used for youth ministry, to meeting in a school by means of a legal victory (thank you Jordan Lorence of ADF) in the federal courts to finally constructing our own building on the same block where we have ministered all these years, a building which we own free and clear of debt, to establishing a school, Hope Academy, where we can work more closely with youth (30 hours a week instead of 2).

The leadership remains in the capable hands of Jack Roberts.  If it wasn’t for Jack’s willingness to take more risks than I, who knows where this ministry would be today?  Actually Jack along with his wife Pat, are the founders of BHOF in 1971.  Jeannie and I rolled into town in November, 1972.  It was to be a short one to two year stay which, in the providence of God , was stretched out to 45 years.

There is younger leadership in the wings as well.  Jack’s son Jordan and his wife Kate along with their three children, are getting settled in an apartment here in The Bronx, after graduating from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

Jordan is an elder in training and is now dividing his time between Hope Christian Center and The Bronx Household of Faith where he is working with youth and doing some preaching.

It was gratifying to leave on such a positive note having baptized four people on April 22nd, the most in a long time and taking them along with 2 others into membership the following week.  The Lord is at work.

I would urge you to continue your support of this ministry.  Might I recommend that you direct your gifts toward Hope Academy, a viable and necessary ministry under the dedicated leadership of Dr. Naomi Woodmansee.

Thank you for your faithful support over the years.  We love you.

–Bob Hall

Household Words
“No one is indispensable, but everyone is irreplaceable.”  Although I believe the second part to be true universally, I’m not so sure the first part is true for Bob and Jeannie Hall. BHOF’s “Household Words” have been shaped in countless and inestimable ways that cannot be reproduced in the days, weeks, months and years that lie ahead for this pilgrim band here in the Bronx. They have served this body of believers in both public and unnoticed, but vitally essential, ways that will become holes in the fabric of our lives together.

Yes, the ministries will continue: someone else will do the office work for Hope Academy, tell the stories for Pioneer Girls, share missionary requests in prayer meeting, take the minutes for our covenant members’ meetings. Yes, the preaching/teaching and planning will continue: someone else will do new members/baptism classes, pre-marital and marital counseling, make the worship/preaching schedule and do numerous administrative tasks behind the scenes. But Bob and Jeannie did all those things, and much more, without hesitation, without complaint, without coercion and without fail. And they did them with excellence.

Now the torch is in the process of being passed to the younger generations, and we are excited about the future. Jordan brings a fresh perspective on church life which seminary and a vibrant church experience in Philadelphia gave him. His gifts and vision are joined with his knowledge of BHOF’s history and culture. His wife, Kate, before marrying Jordan, lived at Naomi’s house for four years and enriched our outreach efforts to the Muslim and Hindu communities in our neighborhood. They, with their three children, are expanding the in-reach and out-reach of our church as Jordan serves as an elder-in-training.

Other members are continuing to grow, to serve and to lead and we are encouraged and challenged by the prospect of new and greater opportunities which healthy change brings. Developing younger leadership to carry BHOF forward has been a goal which we are seeing realized and will make the church stronger and better positioned for the future.  Life goes on, but Bob and Jeannie are irreplaceable.

–Jack Roberts

“If You Have Your Bibles…”

“If You Have Your Bibles…”

If You Have Your Bibles . . . turn to [passage reference]; if you don’t have your Bibles, repent!” [laughter]  Thus the speaker began the meeting.  But if I would dare to borrow a line from Queen Victoria, “We are not amused” when it comes to people not having their Bibles.

I was watching a film clip on my computer of a Billy Graham Crusade meeting, ca. 1970’s thereabouts.  One thing that struck me as the camera panned the audience was how many people had their Bibles and were opening to Graham’s text.

Today, people don’t have their Bibles with them in church.  Okay, they have the Bible on their cell phones.  So, get with it Hall, this is the 21st century.

Yes, we have to come to terms with technology and yes, technology in the form of PCs and inexpensive, but high quality desktop printers, has been a great help to us in the ministry here.

That said, there remains cause for great concern.  It’s nice that the Bible is available electronically such as on a cell phone.  I now do much of my personal Bible study on my PC with an electronic Bible.  My problem is that that is not all there is on hand-held devices.  Owing to a certain amount of cranial thickness, it took me a while to figure out that the heads down focus on one’s device is not always a concentration on the Biblical text, like uh, during a sermon.

It is just as easy, during the sermon, to be texting a friend, even the person next to you.  Okay, I admit it, as teenagers sitting in the balcony of our church, we were passing notes to each other and yes, we most certainly would have taken advantage of the current technology had it been available.

The problem, however, is much deeper than a more clever way to communicate.  You’re probably way ahead of me on this issue but what we have before us is a nefarious something called “tech addiction.”

Perhaps you saw the article posted on the internet by one, Farhad Manjoo, “Even the Tech Elite are Worried about Tech Addiction.”   He writes, “What is interesting is who has been pushing the issue [of tech addiction]. Several former Facebook executives, the very people who set up the Like-based systems of digital addiction and manipulation that now rule much of online life, have begun to speak out in alarm about our slavishness to digital devices.”

He continues, “And their worries seem resonant. Now that we all have phones, and we’re all looking at them all the time, how can we deny that they hold some otherworldly, possibly unhealthy bondage over our brains?”  There’s plenty of cause for concern not too far into the article.

What caught my eye, however, was the same author’s opening statement in a related article, “The Rise of a Visual Internet”: The thing you’re doing now, reading prose on a screen, is going out of fashion.  Text is on the decline; audio and visual is on the rise.”  No.  Say it isn’t so!   Actually we’ve known about this for some time.  A generation ago, Neil Postman, a sociologist, in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, warned us about how television undermines the ability to do linear thinking, that is, the medium itself does not allow the mind to reflect on a proposition and derive inferences from it.

Bear in mind that the people who run the media machines are themselves not caught up in the media they are purveying.  In order to market their product, they have to think, reflect, gather data and analyze it.  They will be happy to filter information, using traditional linear reasoning, convey the message they want you to hear and do the thinking for you all the while making you think you are getting an objective window on the world.

I’m very glad that the surgeon who operated on me 14 years ago learned his craft through reading textbooks and receiving logical, rational instruction as well as hands-on experience supervised by an instructor functioning with the same logic and rationality using language that has precise meaning.  I’m doubly glad that he was not driven by his emotions as he was operating on me.

Why am I concerned that prose is going out of style? because the Bible is prose!  It is words, words that are to be read, re-read, memorized, and reflected upon.  The hip ministries supposedly have picked up on this visually oriented age and are committed  to providing a more visual experience in seeker friendly worship.

After the worship band performs its “set,” (some of whom leave right after their “performance”) people expect the message to be served up with a preliminary video blast after which the preacher, wearing jeans and a shirt not tucked in, delivers the message from a bar stool.

The Scriptures cannot be re-configured into a series of YouTube clips.  Whereas it is true we have to take into consideration our media driven age, we must be careful that we don’t unwittingly succumb to it by dumbing down the message.

The problem is not new. It goes back to the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul had to contend with how he presented his message in Corinth.  Yes, the Jews demanded signs but the Greeks sought wisdom.  The Greco-Roman world placed a high value on rhetoric, that is, on how one delivered the message.

If Paul did not speak in a certain way, his message was not heard and thereby he was not qualified to be a preacher in the minds of some.  Like today, if the message is not packaged in a certain way, it will not be heard.  Marshal McLuhan was quite prophetic when speaking about our age, “The media is the message.”
What was the Apostle’s response?  “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (I  Cor. 1:17).  Mind, this is not to be understood in such a way that it is a virtue to be intellectually lazy.

For me, being faithful to the Scriptures with eloquent simplicity is the order of the day.  That is very difficult to pull off.  It takes hard work and the anointing of the Spirit.

Please pray for us as we, by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s power, preach and teach the whole counsel of God.  And yes, have your Bibles handy.

Household Words

At a recent members’ meeting of The Bronx Household of Faith, we had reports from our various ministries, “A Look Back at the Year 2017.”  These are mostly ministries to teens and some to younger children.  We would be happy to send you a copy of that report upon request, in electronic or hard copy form.  We’re proud of our “front line” workers and equally proud of those who labor in an unheralded but vital support role.

Hope Academy will be holding its fifth annual fund raising banquet on Saturday,  March 3rd.  If you are within striking distance you most likely have received an invitation.  If not, please let us know so that we can include you in the loop.  HA is meeting a real need and the word is getting out.  One limitation in being able to serve more youth, is finances.  Please pray for God’s provision so that we will be able to respond to the requests that come to us.

In addition to our internal ministries which are directly under BHOF, there are those of our number who are engaged in ministries that function outside the “borders” of BHOF.

A basketball team from New York City Christian Athletic League (NYCCAL) just participated in a city-wide tournament where they lost the championship by 2 points in the final minute.  Edwin Santiago reported that other leaders commented on how well the boys took the loss and how impressed they were with the way they conducted themselves.

Expect Hope, a ministry of Hope Christian Center under the directorship of Emily Prins, has just opened its doors to receive pregnant women who would otherwise choose abortion having no place to go.  They are about to receive their first residents.  Please pray for Emily and staff in this vital ministry that provides an alternative to abortion.

–Bob Hall

People

People

I was coming from a meeting in Manhattan and was scurrying to catch a  subway back to The Bronx.  I had to go down two levels to catch this particular train.  In my descent there were people in front of me, much younger than I.  They were walking four abreast, taking their sweet time and I couldn’t get around them. I was getting impatient.  I muttered under my breath (so I thought), “This city’s not fast enough for me.”  As I continued my descent, and they had turned to go in another direction, I caught out of the corner of my eye, one who had turned to look back at me.  Then it hit me. Oh no!  I have become one of those ugly New Yorkers.

Please don’t form a bad opinion about New Yorkers because of me.  On several occasions, I have had direct experience of their kindness one of which was an offer of help after having tripped and fallen on the sidewalk in midtown—again because I was in a rush.

I live at the intersection of two very busy streets in The Bronx. It is not unusual to go the store and bob (no pun intended) in and out of people.  In stark contrast, it comes home to me on those occasions of travel when I find myself in a suburban setting.  I ask, “Where are the people?”

In my neighborhood, on a given day there are over a thousand people on the street within a couple of blocks.  Among the throngs are people with an agenda, whether hawking their wares, handing out flyers, asking for money or just plain hanging out.

It’s not difficult to feel lost in this sea of humanity and I begin to wonder at times how the present reality of the kingdom of God is relevant to these bumper cars of bodies.  The temptation is to feel that life is nothing more than a random series of spontaneous collisions among humanoids doused with a generous effusion of high decibel music.

The temptation is to think that this is reality. Happily, on occasion, there are those “springs in the desert” which makes life a bit more personable.  I’ve lived here long enough to encounter people in the crowd whom I know and with whom I exchange friendly hellos. It helps to take the edge off feelings of insignificance.

This erstwhile labyrinth of muscle and blood is in fact comprised of individuals who are loathe to think of themselves as little more than a social security number.  Many of them harbor deep in their minds a belief that tomorrow is going to be better.  At least that is what the younger set believes.  For some, things do get better economically  and the dream to escape the noise and crowds of the city becomes a reality.  The result is that they end up trading the body compression of a crowded subway car for  traffic congestion on the George Washington Bridge.

For the less fortunate that remain, the clouds have begun to cover the sun.  The future is not as bright as one thought in younger years.  Therefore, one might as well hunker down and try to eek out some semblance of happiness in the here and now.  With some friends, there’s always a hookah to share, dominos to play and, of course, clubbing on Saturday night.  Sad to report that neither the commute in from the suburbs nor the huddles of humanity on the stoop, has produced the goods in terms of a deep abiding happiness that comes with a purposeful life.  Do I have a stranglehold on the obvious or what?

I cannot escape running errands on busy Fordham Road nor do I want to. Ironically, I find a certain comfort of familiarity in zigging while others in front of me are zagging or visa versa.

But the temptation is to allow my mind to drift into the lie when inadvertently connecting with my peripatetic comrades in incidental contact—“sorry!” then a smile—usually. To the contrary, what I see is not all there is.  I have to metaphorically splash water on my face and remind myself of the presence of the kingdom and that people, image bearers of God all, need Jesus.  That is not an escape.  It’s living in reality.

This is God’s world and it is the unbeliever that is trying to escape from reality.  In the words of one of the more obscure songs of Paul Simon, “I don’t know what is real, I can’t touch what I feel, and I hide behind the shield of my illusion. So I’ll continue to continue to pretend my life will never end, and flowers never bend with the rainfall.”

Since it is God’s world and the universally recognized problem of evil is all around us, we have good news to proclaim.  Jesus, the eternal Son of God, came into the world to save sinners.  We thank God for those who have been transformed by this glorious message.

There are others with whom we are engaged who hear the message but either outright stand in opposition to it (in the case of some Muslims with whom some among us are speaking) or, they seem to understand it but as the conversation deepens, the static noise of self- righteousness is interfering with the message that all are sinners and stand in need of a Savior.  Please pray for us as we continue these dialogues.  The Holy Spirit is able to make the blind to see and the deaf hear.

Among the crowds of people who line the streets of The Bronx, there are His sheep who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd to come and follow Him.  We  continue to speak that glorious message in several venues one of which was recently to a captive audience of 40 teenagers waiting to play basketball.

Thank you for praying for us to persevere in preaching the Gospel in season and out of season.

Household Words

Pictured above right is this past summer’s Vacation Bible School staff.  Not everyone was involved everyday but most were.  These are some of my very favorite people on the face of the earth. The theme this year was God is in Control.  This year’s VBS curriculum was written by our own Jordan Roberts.  It most certainly has the Gospel message but there is also a strong emphasis on the sovereignty of God.  In this day and age with a generation increasingly removed from a Biblical knowledge of God, we feel that we need to emphasize the being and character of God in our Gospel presentation.   Though attendance was down this year for a number of reasons, it was nevertheless a good week and a well run week.

For Hope Academy, our Head of School, Naomi Woodmansee writes: “As Hope Academy begins its 4th year, we are trusting God to guide and provide for all our needs in this new school year.  God has provided our sixth staff member (BHOF member, Amanda Swift), and we are adding 10th grade this fall.  We welcomed four new scholars in need of a quality, Christ-centered education and have six on a waiting list to join the Hope Academy family. Our theme this year is John 10: 1-16. Please pray that our scholars will come to know Christ as their Good Shepherd and embrace the abundant life found only in Him.”

What Is the Gospel?

What Is the Gospel?

What is the Gospel?

I have heard this question scoffed at. Why, after all, do we have to waste time sitting around discussing this question? Just look at John 3:16! End of class. Let’s just get on with the task.

I agree that we can get bogged down in conference after conference with big name speakers and great music, fine tuning our understanding of the Gospel.

Would that Christians understood John 3:16 the way the Apostle John intended it to be understood inasmuch as he has some incredible things to say about Christ, the only begotten Son, the One who is the explanation of the Gospel.

I think C.S. Lewis presents a very accurate picture of Christ in the chldren’s book series, The Narnia Tales. Take, for example, Aslan, in The Silver Chair. There we learn about Jill, a little girl from our world, who accidentally stumbles into the world of Narnia and got separated from her school chum, Eustace. She is extremely thirsty and comes upon a stream. But a Lion, Aslan, is sitting by the stream. She is terrified. Aslan says to her, “’If you are thirsty, you may drink.’ She doesn’t move.

‘Are you not thirsty?’ said the Lion.

‘I’m dying of thirst,’ said Jill.

‘Then drink,’ said the Lion.

‘May I, could I, would you mind going away while I do?’ said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And, as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked a whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.”

‘Will you promise not to do anything to me, if I do come?’’ said Jill.

‘I make no promise,’’ said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

‘Do you eat girls?’’ she asked.

‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’’ said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it. [I love this line!]

‘I daren’t come and drink,’’ said Jill.

‘Then you will die of thirst,’’ said the Lion.

‘Oh dear!’’ said Jill, coming another step nearer. ‘I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.’’

‘There is no other stream,’’ said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion, no one who had seen his stern face could do that,’ and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

Before she tasted it she had been intending to make a dash away from the Lion the moment she finished. Now she realized that this would be, on the whole, the most dangerous thing of all. She got up and stood there with her lips still wet from drinking.”

This is much closer to the Christ of John 3:16 which must be understood in its wider context, to wit, the entire Gospel. There we learn about the only begotten Son who offers to quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger but, on His terms.

Sometimes we hear the rejoinder to our Gospel presentation, “I believe but not the way you do.” That is not to be taken as having a more accurately Biblical response to the Gospel than we.

Quite the contrary, it closes the discussion. In other words, that person is actually saying, I believe in me. Therefore I will pick and choose what I like from the Word of God. Sadly, we seem to encounter too many people like this.

Well then, what is the Gospel? Let me respond from a letter that I wrote to someone who posed the question to me:

“The Gospel is like a diamond. It looks a bit different in different light: indirect, artificial, cloudy, bright sun. Each venue propagates its own unique beauty but in the final analysis, it is still a diamond. The Gospel, likewise, is many faceted. At its core are three things: justification, sanctification, and glorification.

In justification, we are declared innocent of the guilt of our sin because of Christ. In sanctification we are being set free from the grip of sin because we have died with Christ. This is a process. Christ, our high priest, is interceding for us. In glorification, there is the blessed hope of one day being free from the presence of sin, when we see Christ face to face, no longer seeing through a glass darkly.

Additionally, there are other aspects to the Gospel: redemption, the buying back through the payment of a price. There is adoption which gives us the right to call God, our Father, making us joint heirs with Christ. There is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. These are some but not all of what comprises the richness of the Gospel.

Simeon, as he held the baby Jesus in his arms at the presentation in the Temple, declared, ‘My eyes have seen your salvation . . .’ So, what is the Gospel? In a word—Christ!”

Household Words
Longtime BHOF member and Head of School of Hope Academy, Naomi Woodmansee, recently received her PhD from Columbia International University.  We honored her with a reception after the worship service and were delighted to address her as Dr. Woodmansee.  She wore her academic hood as she shared of learning to trust and persevere, but as she conveyed her thanks to us, she took it off and said, “I’m still Naomi.” Indeed she is!

Hope Academy just had its 4th annual fund raising banquet.  The featured speaker was Dr. Bruce Lockerbie, a veteran Christian educator and Chairman of Paideia Inc., an education consulting organization.  He spoke on the core values of Christian education and will be returning in June to meet with those directly involved with Hope Academy’s leadership.

There has already been a most generous response to our request for camp scholarships. Thank you. Please join us in helping inner city kids go to a Christian camp, which seems to get more expensive every year.

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle . . . (II Sam11:1). It is spring and we have our own battle. It’s a spiritual battle. New York City Christian Athletic League (NYCCAL), an affiliated ministry, has just begun its spring outdoor basketball program in a nearby park. Our own Edwin Santiago is the founder and director. This year over 100 teenage boys are involved. They will hear the Gospel each week for the next seven weeks. Please join us in the spiritual battle for the souls of these young men. Jack and I are among the speakers who have presented the Gospel to them.

A newer ministry of BHOF is Hope Again under the leadership of Sarah Henry.  This is a counseling/ healing ministry to women who have had abortions. This Bible study offers help with issues such as relief, denial, anger, forgiveness, depression, grief, and guilt.  Sarah and Pat Roberts are already meeting with women who have had abortions.  It is a private and protected environment where women can express their feelings and find help through the healing balm of the Gospel.

There are lots of needs; the fields are truly white unto harvest. We feel like we’re spread pretty thin. Thank you for continuing to pray for us.
Bob Hall

Love

Love

Ah yes, love!  It’s almost spring which turns a young man’s fancy . . ., so I am told.  Valentine’s Day is long past.  You remember.  That’s when love is expressed in big teddy bears and heart shaped helium balloons—genuine expressions of love don’t you know.

In my recreational reading over the last couple of years, I’ve managed to read some (not all) novels that are heavy on the romantic side.  Though the prose was strong on pumping up the emotional side of things, I found this genre of literature to be rather flat and, quite frankly, rather disappointing after finishing the final chapter.  It just isn’t like that in the real world.

Do I have a stranglehold on the obvious to inform you that love is the holy grail of human experience? Everyone is desperate for someone to love and to be loved.  Yet, how sad it is for those who think they have found their one true love to be awakened to another reality of human experience—sin.  Sin and its consort, self-centeredness, is ingrained in all of us and it lurks in the shadows behind the activity of the brain that is often mistaken for love.  Exploiting the weakness of humanly generated love, better known as attraction, it emerges to demolish those dreams and fantasies about the nature and accessibility of true love.

How many couples have come together and have bound themselves to each other on that gossamer foundation that is human love.  Yessir! They’re going to beat the odds of failed relationships because theirs is like nobody else’s.  You see they have such wonderful communication; they can talk together for hours!  So they know how to head off their problems at the pass and solve them before they get out of hand.

Why is it that these same people who were once madly in love forever are now sometime later bitter enemies fighting it out in the divorce courts?

Despite the risks and vulnerability involved, love remains humanity’s highest quest. Why?

Most certainly it is not that we have evolved into a sophisticated array of synapses in the brain; neither is there some DNA molecule that can be identified as love.  Ironically after the development of the brain scanning device known as the PET scanner and the decade of the brain in the 1990’s, we know more about the brain than ever before but are no closer to understanding those things which make us human. I’m referring to that which is the context of the experience of love: self-consciousness, consciousness of the world around us, and the ability to make choices between moral options.  We’re no closer to understanding these things than we were before.1.

Love most certainly has much to do with being image bearers of God.   The latter is something more profound than we often take the time to consider.  We would do well to contemplate it, however, because it is the divinely hardwired capacity to know and love God and to love one another.

We demand, in this day and age, that our worship songs, hymns and sermons be overstuffed with the love of God.  What this new music lacks in content is made up for in high energy electric guitars, keyboards and drum sets.

Don’t misunderstand.  It’s important to me to sing about and contemplate the love of God.  It’s just that I prefer, “I hear the words of love; I gaze upon the blood; I see the mighty sacrifice and I have peace with God;” to “Oh how he loves you and me.”  Sometimes old is better than new.

Indeed, we ought to be singing about the love of God and we ought to be hearing about it in the pulpit but we ought to get beyond the word itself. There are many aspects to that love including, dare I say it, even God’s justice.  He is not indifferent to evil.  Sad to report, most of the rhetoric about God’s love is rather thin when it comes to the specifics as to how that love is expressed.

By the way, have you noticed in the Christian/atheist debates, how the arguments from the atheist side are rarely about some irrefutable scientific data, but rather the problem of evil? It’s amazing how the opposition is so quick to leave their home country of materialism and enter the non-material world of metaphysics.  The unbeliever is truly an image bearer of God and his concern about evil betrays that fact.

Okay, we’re talking about love and not the problem of evil per se but let us see God’s love in the Cross wherein God is not indifferent to evil inasmuch as divine justice has been satisfied so that reconciliation and a new creation in Christ can be offered to the world.

It would not be so bad, this overwhelming emphasis on love in our worship and preaching, if people who are so willing to passionately absorb this touchy-feely rhetoric would find themselves ever more loving.

Why is it that those who love to sing about God’s love, demand sermons on it, end up being some of the most unloving people around?  It’s one thing to sing and talk about God’s love, it’s quite another to receive it.  Am I overstating the case to assert that if we were able to absorb and subsequently transmit one tenth the number of times the love of God is mentioned, that there would be a veritable revival?

Please forgive me if I appear to be sitting high on a perch judging others while rendering myself impervious to the problem.  I include myself in this word-vs-reality deficit.  I am in desperate need of the authentic experience of, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

We would do well to ponder the genuineness of our own experience and expressions of love the next time we sing or hear about how much God loves us.


  1. James LaFanu, Why Us? How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves, pp. 11-21

Household Words

I had an interesting experience riding the subway recently.  I was with my son Nathan and family. On the train we were talking about spiritual things.  A man standing next to us was wincing and intermittently taking deep breaths.  I thought it was a matter of his not having a seat inasmuch as he was somewhat wide of girth.  Finally he got a seat next to me and all of a sudden, he proceeded to tear into me with a broadside of insults (unrepeatable) and a barrage of questions, like “What kind of a Christian are you?  Are you one of those Evangelicals?”  He was not crazy but he had been drinking and sometimes the drink can diminish one’s inhibitions.  In his case he made it known to everyone around how much he hates Christians.  I suspect many others do also.  No matter.  It’s part of the territory of being a follower of Christ and a sober reminder as to how we are to be circumspect in living our lives before a watching world.

Though summer is a few months away, we do want to mention again the need for camp scholarships. Camping is becoming increasingly expensive and it would be sad to see some of our more disadvantaged youth priced out of the experience.  Thank you, in advance, for your generosity.

Whenever I’m in our building, I try to remember to thank God for His amazing and miraculous provision.  The

Lord had provided our homes over the years out of which we were able to carry out our ministries.  We can do so much more having our own facility.  When one acquires a building, even a new one such as we have, it has to be maintained—hellooo!  Periodically, maintenance and repair issues have arisen some of which seem insurmountable.  I stand amazed that God has brought the right person and the right time to handle these problems.  He was with us in the wilderness; He continues to be with us in the promised land.

We’re busy.   A lot of ministries, mostly to youth, directly or indirectly connected to BHOF are happening.  But what we long to see is a response from those that are hearing the Gospel.  We can get decisions but there needs to be a demonstrable, life transforming, spiritual awakening especially in the younger generation.  Only the Lord can make that happen.  Thank you for praying with us to that end.