Returning to the Source

Returning to the Source

You’re one twitch of the finger and a screen-blip away from conjuring up scores of “results” on how Christians should think about everything from Coronavirus to George Floyd’s death and the protests following in its wake. I have found it increasingly difficult to absorb and synthesize all these resources. For the first two months of the pandemic, I sent out recommended “web resources” to our church every Wednesday. But now I’ve pretty much stopped. Not because there aren’t good resources out there, but in part because I realized I’d personally been neglecting a better resource right here.

I’m talking about the Bible.

When the pandemic hit and the protests began, I found myself instinctively looking to other Christians whom I didn’t know for insight into how Scripture applies to “the current situation.” I was partly motivated by a desire to figure out what “the current situation” even was, and the internet seemed like a reasonable place to look for help. After all, the body of Christ and the gifts of the Spirit are not coextensive with the Bronx Household of Faith. We are not self-sufficient as a church, and it is a blessing to benefit from the wisdom of the church in other places.

Still, after a while, I came to realize that I was neglecting the one “resource” (though it is much more than a resource) which matters most: the infallible Word of God. I was relying on other Christians and pastors to know their Bible and think through how it applies to “the situation” in general, rather than depending on the Bible itself to clarify my perspective. I was failing to press into something I would guess many of us struggle to enjoy: becoming so immersed in Scripture that rich and increasingly vivid, nuanced categories are ready at hand for interpreting “the current situation,” whatever it may be.

You could say that I have been failing to treasure the sufficiency of Scripture. The sufficiency of Scripture, as theologian John Frame explains the doctrine, refers to how “Scripture contains all the divine words necessary for us to please God in any area of life.”

The other “resource” I think I struggled, and still struggle, to grasp as fully as I can is the perspectives of other Christians in my church. Not that there’s anything wrong with reading a blog from Minnesota about the pandemic, or with listening to a podcast from Georgia about justice. But on the whole, it ought to be strange—or at least, it’s historically abnormal—to spend more time listening to the amateur reflections of believers I’ve never met than discussing and praying through these things with my own brothers and sisters.

You could say that I have been failing to treasure the importance of fellowship.

If you want to put a “media ecology” spin on it, you might say that I have allowed what is technologically possible and easy to replace what is necessary and beneficial. Just because I can spend more time trolling Facebook for info and opinions than I do reflecting at length with a thoughtful sibling in Christ, doesn’t mean I should. Of course, the problem is exacerbated when the only things my sibling in Christ and I have to say—we got from Facebook!

Hence we’re brought back to the need for Scripture. Not as a sourcebook for Twitter-quotes, but as a deep dive we take together into the history of God’s dealings with men and women, civilizations and devils. Not as a book of quick answers, but as the revelation of God’s character and plan unveiled over the ages. The tyranny of the urgent might make slow, systematic study of Scripture (which really is a study of God) seem impractical.

But really, it’s the one thing necessary. And it’s enough.

The Bible and the blogosphere are not mutually exclusive; I’m not trying to say I’ve abandoned the web or mastered the Bible. But I have been challenged to reflect on whether I am actively believing in the sufficiency of Scripture. And I’m excited about the possibility of spending much more time listening to the one source I know for certain I can trust.

One of the best ways for any Christian to listen to that source is to sit regularly under gospel-proclaiming, Scripture-expositing preaching. The Scriptures are sufficient—but the church is essential, and preaching is the crucial, God-ordained means for all believers (including the illiterate) to be taught, rebuked, corrected, and trained in righteousness, built up as a body, and strengthened in our faith and walk by that sufficient Scripture.

But I am also referring, more specifically, to reading and studying the Bible. In our busy age, some of us might need to drastically cut back on looking to other resources for guidance so we can absorb wisdom from the source. David Wells writes:

“We need to carve out space for ourselves in which we can daily attend to God’s Word, to study it, mark it, learn it, and inwardly digest its truth. This truth must shape our whole understanding of life as we recognize from whom this truth comes and why God has thus given it to us. This must take precedence. It must take precedence even at the cost of phones, e-mails, the internet, texts, TV, Facebook, music, and all the other ways that our technology wires us into a major competitor for our time and attention. Innocent though these things may be, they stand in the way of our knowing God if they steal from us the time that we need for that pursuit. And we do need time.…Let us make no mistake about this. If we do not do this aright, if we are not daily seeking God’s face, if we are not pondering the truth he has given us in his Word, if we are not daily being nourished in our souls by it, and if we are not daily repenting of our sin where we need to, our faith will wither and our walk with God will disappear.” (God in the Whirlwind, 185–86)

In the middle of a pandemic, in the midst of protests and all the questions these things raise: are you settling for second-rate summaries, or sitting at the feet of the Master? Are you just searching for resources, or are you going to the Source?

 ~Jordan Roberts

Your Salvation Is Just a Baby!

Your Salvation Is Just a Baby!

Your Salvation Is Just a Baby!

The Christmas story we read in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel is full of surprises—angels showing up out of the blue and startling people who we’re surprised are even in the story (like the ruffian shepherds and lowly Mary—and God himself as a baby in a manger!).

Surprising, the whole thing!

But halfway through chapter 2, suddenly we meet a man who doesn’t really seem surprised at all by the arrival of Jesus!


How to Celebrate Christmas

If all the surprises up to this point make us sit up and take notice of this savior, the story of Simeon comes in as a lesson on how we are to respond to this savior.

The story of Simeon is here to teach us something many of us still struggle with: how to celebrate the savior’s birth. Simeon is the first person we meet in Luke’s Gospel who knows how to celebrate Christmas because he had waited for it his whole life!

In a nutshell, here’s how he did it: he embraced Christ.

Take a look:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”  (Luke 2:25-32 ESV)


Embrace Your Need…

Simeon was “a righteous and devout” man—but what we see about Simeon’s righteousness was that it came not from what he was doing for God but from the fact that he knew he needed God to do something for him.

The shepherds needed a savior and they didn’t know it. The difference with righteous Simeon isn’t that he didn’t need a savior—it’s that he already knew he needed one.

This is what prepared Simeon to embrace the birth of Christ—to literally hold on to Jesus—and it’s the only way we can rightly embrace the birth of Christ: if we are prepared to face our need for this savior. To see the savior, we need to look honestly at our sin.


Embrace Your Savior…

Ironically, it’s because Simeon knew “the bad news,” that he and all Israel needed God’s help, that he responds with wonder and joy to seeing a little baby carried into the temple! As it became clear to him who Jesus was, he realized that the one he desperately needed and the one he had trusted God to send—he was now holding in his arms. Embracing his need prepared him to celebrate his savior!

And what’s the result? This surprise: now he’s ready to die.

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (vv. 39–42)

In some ways, his response makes sense: God had promised that Simeon wouldn’t die before he saw Christ; now he sees Christ, and he’s ready to go.

But at the same time, it’s a little strange, isn’t it? Wasn’t there anything else on Simeon’s bucket list?

“Well, he’s an old man.” Hm. Maybe. He comes across as elderly, but actually we’re never told he’s old. What we are told is that Simeon gets just a glimpse of what God is doing through this baby—and he’s ready to die.

For Simeon, embracing the Christ who’d come to save him wasn’t a means of improving his circumstances. Salvation to Simeon was about having peace with God that enabled him to face death with joy. Christ was the peace-giving guarantee that death for Simeon would bring him face to face with a saving God.

In other words, through the incarnation God had set himself up to face death—and judgment—on behalf of Simeon and anyone else who’d trust in him. This is the Jesus who would one day say “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).


Not Grown Up Yet!

Holding Jesus in his arms, Simeon saw a salvation that was as certain as it would ever be—but not nearly as good as it was going to get. This baby, this person who was salvation, had yet to accomplish that salvation.

Even though when we receive Christ we welcome him not as a baby but as the one who now has lived, died and risen again for our salvation—still, in a sense, God’s salvation comes to us even today “as a baby.” We are still supposed to long for our full-grown salvation. God has not yet accomplished in us everything he’s guaranteed for us through Christ.

We have, a “baby” salvation, so to speak. Your Christmas festivities this year and then the return to “regular” life—the highs and lows of following Christ—is not the be-all and end-all of Christianity.

Christianity is not cyclical—it has a direction. It’s about waiting for THAT day—not  a day when we’ll embrace the newborn Christ, but a day when we will be welcomed and embraced by the risen lord of the universe, absolutely astounding, totally satisfying, awe-inspiring, setting every troubled mind right, freeing every burdened heart, ushering us into an eternity of wonder! Like an old  hymn says:

“Oh resurrection body, young, radiant, vibrant, free; with powers un-thought, un-dreamed of, how rich your joys shall be. Through endless years to marvel, design, create, explore—in resurrection wonder to worship, serve, adore.”


Therefore We Do Not Lose Heart

So don’t be discouraged, those of you who feel like sometimes “salvation” seems sort of half-baked, like things are still not totally right, either in your own sinful heart or in the wicked, tragic world around you.

Let’s help each other remember, let’s be reminded by Simeon: our salvation is still in its infancy! This is just the beginning! This is just the newborn stage—the first faint indications of a strong, solid, joyful life on the other side of death or Christ’s return.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

So we can face death and all the deadly struggles of this world with joy, because the salvation that HAS come in Christ guarantees the salvation that WILL come when we get to be with Christ.  Like Simeon, our bucket list should be weighted toward what lies beyond death, not before it. There is joy to be found in embracing Christ not just for what he does for us now but for what he holds in store for us: seeing him.

Christmas is just a reminder of the beginning, friends. Let’s not forget the end! Thank you for your friendship with us in Christ. Merry Christmas!

~Your brothers and sisters at BHOF

God Will Never Leave You or Forsake You

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

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

A Bend in the Road

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…”

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