Your Elders and the leadership of RBC have received much feedback from many of you representing various views on the issue of COVID-19 protocols at RBC. The majority of feedback surrounds the requirements currently in place to attend Sunday worship services. We are grateful for your guidance, trust and willingness to reach out with your thoughts, concerns, encouragement and prayers. In addition to much time spent in prayer and discussion, we have read many articles and listened to many talks and messages sent to us. As we and the pastors consider how best to care for you and fulfill our scriptural duties, we also prayerfully consider how our conduct when we gather may impact our local community, whom we are called to love and care for as an extension of Jesus’ love and care for us. In the case of COVID, it is not easy to know how best to do both. There are rational, but opposing, viewpoints that impact our decisions. There are scriptures we could quote that support various viewpoints. We have soberly considered these and the range of opinions within the larger medical community as well as from government agencies, non-government researchers and healthcare providers. We also heard from many of you, not only through our recent survey, but through many conversations and emails. Thank you for your patience with us. We are very grateful for your comments as well as the respectful and mature manner in which you have addressed us.
Sincerely, each time we remember you, we do so with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. You have endured, with continued generosity and hopefulness, a year of historic challenges to normal fellowship, discipleship activities and collective worship of the LORD Jesus Christ on Sundays. To paraphrase Paul, we give thanks to God for you since your faith in Christ still grows and the love of each of you for one another remains (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4).
After multiple meetings, much prayer, and careful dialogue about all pertinent issues, the Elders are in unanimous agreement that we intend to move to a “dual service” option: one requiring facemasks and social distancing, just as we have in place now at 9:00am, and one more relaxed protocols which alters the facemask and social distancing protocols at 10:45am. This “dual service” option would allow those within our body who hold differing convictions and preferences the option of attending a worship service in which they can better engage without concern or distraction.
While the elders are in agreement that we would like to move to a “dual service,” the question remains of when should this begin. It is not an issue of willingness, but of timing. We have concluded it will not be before 2021.
The natural questions that arise then are When in 2021? and What does it depend upon? While many considerations are factored into the decision, such as biblical principles of shepherding, the number of confirmed positive cases in our area, the ongoing impact on all of you, vaccine availability, etc., at this time there is a particular important factor that rises to the surface: What are the conditions of the two hospitals that serve most of our community and congregants (Reston Hospital Center and INOVA Loudoun Hospital)?
As of last week, the ICUs at both hospitals were at 92% capacity. This is much higher than during previous years at the same time. Reston Hospital’s COVID floor is 100% full with another ward now being used for overflow. All hospitals in the greater Northern VA area are experiencing staffing shortages and struggling to meet demand. Added to this are the negative trends of COVID-19 infections and the traditional increase of seasonal flu affecting the elderly and vulnerable.
Consequently, when we begin the dual service option in 2021, it will be strongly tied to better stability at our local hospitals. We will continue to monitor all factors and metrics at the beginning of every month starting in January, hoping for improved conditions so that we can move forward. We will keep you informed.
Thank you again for the good attitudes you have consistently demonstrated through these remarkably difficult months. You continue to fulfill what the Holy Spirit moved Peter to write in his first letter. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8).
As followers of our Savior LORD Jesus Christ, it is not unity on how to respond to COVID that we have been given. We have a better and deeper unity–the unity of “one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Thank you for your “eagerness to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Thank you for months of sincere praying since the pandemic began in our region last March. We ask that you continue to pray for our LORD to bring many to salvation because of the present difficulties and to stabilize the circumstances at the hospitals. And also pray for us as we navigate many issues and together continue to know Christ and make him known here in Northern Virginia and around the world.
The Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord cause His face to shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His face to you, And give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Unity. It seems so out of reach these days. As we the Church continue to navigate these difficult days and push through the process of making challenging decisions in the wake of fear and division running rampant in our society, it’s easy to lose sight of our identity. It’s easy to gloss over the divine blessing that has been bestowed upon us, the Body of Christ, and the charge that we have been given to bless others out of the abundance of favor and good will that has been granted to us as the children of God, even in the hard times.
We must hold fast to the bonds that tie us together as children of the one true God. We must turn our eyes upon Jesus. We must earnestly abide in Christ. We must seek and find our rest in the midst of chaos in the hands of God who holds it all in his perfect will and sovereignty. From there, God will fill us up and send us out to impact the people around us with the love and light of Jesus. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
Recently, several members of the RBC worship team had the opportunity to participate in a project called “The Blessing DMV,” a collaboration of many churches throughout the DC area coming together as the Body of Christ to pray for God’s peace, unity, blessing and favor over the Church and upon our city. As we sing The Blessing as a church family this weekend, it is our desire that we as the Body of Christ might sincerely appreciate both the gravity and the joy encompassed in these lyrics, pulled straight from scripture…and embrace the unity that they convey. We are ONE BODY. We are ONE CHURCH. We are a city on a hill: a light for all to see and know us by our love for one another and for others.
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. Romans 14:1
All of us are the weaker or stronger brother in different areas. Let’s not be dogmatic where there is no dog, but pursue unity as a fruit of corporate humility.
As your pastor, I feel the need to offer an encouragement to all of you. Yet my encouragement may feel like a rebuke. I realize that COVID has made church attendance and engagement difficult. It is uncomfortable to sing with masks on. It is awkward to worship at home. With restrictions in place when gathering on campus and distractions around us when gathering in homes, it may seem like the easiest route is to simply disengage. While neither option to gather is fully preferable or ideal, we can still gather. And we must.
Sometimes people will ask me or one of the church staff a question that has been covered in our services for several weeks, which is a clear indication they are neither present nor engaged in our Sunday worship gathering. Have we let social distance become spiritual apathy? There was a time when the day of worship was set aside and called the Sabbath or The Lord’s Day. These loftier terms eventually became known as simply “Sunday,” which has now given way to merely “the weekend.” In this season where one day blends blandly into the next, I know how easy it is to just sleep in, veg out, or binge-watch the latest Netflix series—but these are serious times that require more engagement, not less. This is not the time to put God on the backburner by becoming spiritually lax in gathering as the church.
We sometimes speak of church in terms of the “gathered church” (what the Scriptures refer to as the ekklesia, the gathering of “called out” localized Christ-followers) and the “scattered church” (believers beyond walls, on mission in their local communities and around the world). Both are important aspects of God’s design for the church, and these days we may be feeling more “scattered” than “gathered.” So here are a few reasons to not give up engaging regularly and faithfully with our local church, particularly in these difficult days. These apply both to gathering in our building for those who are able, and gathering at home for those who are not.
- Don’t disobey! The gathered church is commanded by God. The church is no mere human institution, but a God-ordained one. From tent to temple, house church to mega-church, jungle clearing to video venue, iterations of God’s gathered people are as varied as history and culture. But we must not forget—this is His idea. Regardless of our preferences and thoughts as to what it should look like, God still commands His people to gather. Because of the faithfulness of Jesus to His bride, we are told in Hebrews 10 to obediently “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” One of the hallmarks that we are doing so is that we are “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Meeting together looks different these days than we’re used to, but let’s not kick the habit. The Word of the Lord still stands, and we are to follow and obey the One who “gave Himself up” for the sake of the church. God is clear that engaging together as the church is not optional, so don’t fall into the trap of disobedience. (Hebrews 10:23-25, Ephesians 5:22-32, Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 5:4, John 14:15)
- Don’t disengage! The gathered church ties your gifts to God’s purpose. As I’ve said many times, church is who we are, not a place we go—we are the church, 24/7. That didn’t become any less true when COVID showed up. Facemasks and screen fatigue may make it more challenging to engage, but it doesn’t change the fundamental reality that “you yourselves, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house.” As part of this building process, God has given each and every one of us gifts and abilities to steward that are specifically “for the common good,” which is to say, for the good of His church. So if you disengage, it matters. “If one member suffers, all suffer together…” Not only do you miss out on how God created you, you deprive the body of something significant He means to share through you. There may be some obstacles in your way, but don’t let those keep you from being a good steward of what God has entrusted to you. Ask Him for creativity, perseverance and wisdom, but don’t disengage. (1 Corinthians 12; 1 Peter 2:5, 4:10, Romans 12:3-8)
- Don’t despair! The gathered church is a kingdom outpost. If you’ve ever been to a U.S. embassy while in another country, that embassy is considered U.S. territory, just as if it were on U.S. soil. It is under our country’s authority and protection, even though the space it occupies is in a foreign land. An embassy is an outpost, a “home away from home” that serves as a beacon of hope for any citizens of our nation who find themselves lost or in trouble in a foreign land. In a similar way, the gathering of God’s people serves as our spiritual “home away from home.” The church is our outpost as we navigate this earth as aliens, pilgrims and sojourners, yearning for “a better country, that is a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:6). Whether we are gathering for worship and the Word in our living rooms or in our sanctuary, we as the church are under the authority and protection of King Jesus. Let your faithful engagement in our kingdom outpost serve as a beacon of hope to your own soul and a light to those still stumbling lost through this dark, broken world. Our kingdom outpost gives us hope for today and also points us to the future fulfillment of God’s coming kingdom, when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will stand before our King and confess that Jesus is Lord of all. That day will be sweet, and it will come. In the meantime, stay tethered to the outpost so you don’t wander off in despair. (Hebrews 11:6, Philippians 3:20, 1 Peter 2:11, Psalm 119:54, 2 Corinthians 4:8, Revelation 7:9-12)
Gathering looks different these days, but this is no time to put our sovereign Lord on hold or put him on the backburner. Keep Him at the forefront. I am thankful to see so many continuing to faithfully engage each week despite the many challenges. As one watching over you who will give an account (Hebrews 13:7), it is a deep joy to watch many steadfastly holding to Christ and honoring His bride, the church. Yet our hearts remain burdened for those of you who are struggling to engage. So whether you are doing really well, struggling greatly, or somewhere in the middle, my plea is for all of us to be in prayer hourly, in the Word daily, and joining our services weekly. Let me encourage you to faithfully engage with God and God’s people, whether in person or online for a season. Don’t disobey, disengage, or despair. Don’t give up, tune out, or put God on the backburner. Hold fast. Dig in. Press on. Keep God at the forefront.
We’re all in this together.
Love all of you,
(with Pastor Jason)
A couple weeks ago, the leadership of our church sent out an online survey to get feedback from our local body here at RBC. As we move into colder months, the weather impacts our ability to host outdoor ministry activities, so your feedback is very helpful as we consider how best to steward our ministries in this season. Within the next few weeks, you can expect to hear from the elders regarding any adjustments to our COVID requirements for indoor gatherings.
We do want to thank those of you who took time to fill out the survey. We estimate somewhere between 2/3 and 3/4 of our congregation responded, and we are grateful for your feedback. As communicated when it was released, please note that the questions and responses in the survey are not indicative of any future leadership decisions on these matters. But because the issues at hand are complex and have implications for life and ministry in the body of RBC, it is very helpful to have heard from so many of you. Please continue to pray for our church leadership as we seek the Lord’s wisdom and discernment in faithfully caring for His bride. There are many factors, viewpoints and considerations to navigate, and we take none of it lightly. Yet, we have great hope and freedom, for the Good Shepherd whom we follow patiently reassures us His burden is easy and His yoke is light (Matthew 11:28-30).
For those within our body who are local, consider RBC your church home, and are experiencing significant financial or spiritual hardship in this season, we want to be able to care for you and minister to you. Please reach out to us.
FINANCIAL: If your household is experiencing financial difficulty, please reach out to our Deacon Ministry here. Our deacons are specifically-appointed men and women in our church commissioned to coordinate financial resources and assistance to meet the material needs of our congregation.
SPIRITUAL: If you are experiencing significant spiritual burden or you feel your walk with the Lord is suffering and you would like to speak with someone, please let us know by emailing us or calling the church offices at 703-404-5010. We would love to connect you to a pastor, elder or counselor here at RBC.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:6-11
We live in a fractured world filled with violence and hatred. The last place these evil traits should manifest themselves is the church, but sadly the world often has more influence on the church than the church has on the world.
During the presidential campaign in 2016, many family relationships were strained and many friendships were broken, even among Christians. People became enraged that those close to them were thinking about voting for him—or that they were not voting for him—or that they were going to vote for her.
Four years later, a lot of folks still have brooding resentment over how votes were cast in that election. Yet here we are again, facing a similar situation in an even more tense social environment. A divided nation is preparing to make a decision that is going to bring heated anger to half the populace, however the election goes. The pot is boiling over, people are taking sides and launching assaults online and in the streets. We in the church are not immune. Many followers of Christ, whomever they are voting for, feel vindicated in their wrath because they are certain that Scripture is on their side. And many of us seem to have traded our hope in the gospel of Jesus for hope in the gospel of politics.
Am I saying that we should not exercise our right to vote? Of course not. Are there social and moral issues at stake in this election (and every election)? Yes, most assuredly. But we have to keep things in perspective, and humility and love must be at the helm if we are to navigate these turbulent waters.
Abandoning the gospel for politics is a horrible idea. Here are just a few reasons why.
- We lose sight of the fact that the human heart is depraved. No national leader or political party is immune from the fallenness of humanity. One party or president may do a better job than another, but at the end of the day—or at the end of the century—life remains pretty much as it has through the course of human history, and the human heart is still “deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The gospel tells us that we are in a helpless state and that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). But in His great mercy, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
- We see our party as “the power of God that brings salvation,” which is only true of the gospel itself (Romans 1:16). It is tempting to believe that if our guy gets elected, then he will fix all of the problems in society and bring prosperity, safety, and peace to all. That’s not going to happen, and that’s not what government was designed to do. It simply does not have the power to bring lasting change.
On the other hand, the gospel is powerful enough to take dead men and make them alive “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).
- We forget which kingdom demands our total allegiance. While we are called to obey our governmental authorities, our ultimate allegiance does not belong to a political leader, a party, or even a nation. Jesus said in John 18 that His kingdom is “not of this world.” The kingdom of God is greater than any earthly kingdom, and it operates on a completely different value system. The kingdoms of earth say, “Blessed are the rich and powerful”; the kingdom of heaven says, “Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20).
- We allow our heavenly citizenship to be eclipsed by our earthly citizenship. When that happens, we can find ourselves sucked into the political vortex and filled with anger, vitriol, hatred for the other side. We become consumed with what happens here and now and forget that we are only on earth for a short time. This is not the way of Christ. The gospel says that we are but “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and that “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
- We focus on the temporal instead of the eternal. Politics, campaigns, and cultural issues are all significant parts of our lives on earth, but they won’t last forever. Scripture reminds us that life is but a vapor, “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). The gospel, however, will be relevant for all of eternity. So we must not lose sight of what matters the most—namely, our relationship with Christ and telling others about Him.
- We underestimate the sovereignty of the God who raises up kings and brings them down (Daniel 2:21). We can be tempted to think that “we the people” determine the fate of the nation when we go to the ballot box. Yet God is ultimately the one who calls our leaders and grants them authority to govern. So should we even bother to vote? By all means, yes, for the same reason we pray even though God has marked out the future. There is great mystery and tension in between the sovereignty of God and the moral responsibility of man. But Scripture is clear that God is the one who “makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and disperses them” (Job 12:23).
- We set aside humility and love, and pick up pride and anger. We can hold so tightly to our own views on a candidate or an issue that we lash out against those who see things differently. Believe it or not, it is possible to disagree with someone without hating them. The gospel calls us to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Since we are in Jesus’ kingdom, we need to refrain from vitriolic rhetoric and dialogue, “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
- We view our candidate as a messiah. Most followers of Christ would not actually believe that a presidential hopeful is the Messiah, but it can sure seem that way sometimes. We can act as though we are electing someone who will lead our nation into an age of glory and righteousness. But no mere human could ever attain such heights.
The gospel says that the true Messiah has already come. “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true. And we are in Him who is true by being in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
And it says that He is coming again. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10).
- We forget who the ruler of this present evil age is. If it seems like politics can be filled with lies and vitriol, there is a reason for that. Jesus refers to Satan as the “prince of this world” (John 14:30), and he is a master of division and deception. There is actually “no truth in him,” Jesus says, “for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). No wonder the Internet and airwaves are filled with political ads that slander and defame.
The Scriptures tell us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Christians must be careful not to partake in such divisive and vicious assaults, for in so doing, we employ the worldly tactics of our enemy.
- We want a “fixer” rather than a Redeemer. We look to our political leaders to provide perfect solutions for the problems of our day, but even the most effective politician can only put Band-Aids on societal wounds. A fixer provides temporary solutions to temporary issues. A redeemer, on the other hand, lays down his very life to bring complete restoration. Jesus did not come to “fix” us; rather, He “gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own” (Titus 2:14). Because of this great redemption, “you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness” (Romans 6:18).
At the end of the day, my greatest concern is not so much whom you vote for, important as that is, but rather that you keep a proper perspective on the purpose and limits of politics, and the power and glory of the gospel. Do not abandon the gospel for politics. Rather, let us be humble and loving toward others, even those with whom we adamantly disagree, because “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). We must not allow temporal struggles to distract us from our eternal joy, “so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). We must trust in the sovereign power and will of Almighty God, remembering that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Do not exchange the infinite beauty of the gospel for temporary political fixes. If you find yourself placing more hope in politics than in the gospel, know that you will find no rest there. Instead, regardless of the outcome of this and future elections, rest in the promise and hope that the gospel brings. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
In this video, I have distilled my life’s passion to see the church become a compelling unifying force without compromising sound doctrine. If the church remains divided. the world will remain hostile. The church must be a compelling unifying force to change the course of this world.
The pastors and elders of RBC are prayerfully considering how and when to begin gathering together again as a church body.
You can help us in this process by using the form below to let us know your thoughts about our eventual return to worship services in the building.
The survey questions do not represent “the finalized plan” for meeting again on Sunday mornings. We are still considering the best and wisest course of action that is tied to our live streaming capability being installed and tested. We are thankful for your feedback—please pray along with us as we seeks the Lord’s wisdom.
The survey is now closed. Thank you for your participation!
Plagues, famines and pestilences are regularly mentioned in the Scriptures. Along with widespread pandemics, such as we are facing today, there is a tendency to assume that all events of mass destruction–including hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis, etc.–are signs of the end of days. Keep in mind that these disasters have been around for thousands of years, and almost every generation sees these things and says the Lord must be returning soon. Yet, “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). We ought not draw conclusions where Scripture does not, but we are to be ready and expectant, as this keeps us focused on Jesus and sharpens our eternal perspective (Matthew 24:42-44).
Such considerations usually lead to the age old debate as to whether the Lord allows these disasters or sends them. No matter where you stand on this issue, what is clear is that He is sovereign and we are to rest in Him (Psalm 115:3, Colossians 1:15-20, Matthew 11:28). I recently posted a video about three storms that are found in the Bible. Each storm has a different purpose and theme, some of which are clear and others, not so much. Those who are in Christ Jesus need not fear. Rather, “keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed” (Acts 27:22).
For further reading and consideration, you can download an article below from Joel Rosenberg of The Joshua Fund. His article includes a survey of instances of plague and pestilence found in the Scriptures and how we might respond today.
-pastor mikeClick here to Download the Article
I have often said, in sermons and in conversation, that the world is not getting better, but is actually getting worse. This sometimes meets with pushback from people who see the accomplishments of recent decades as evidence of our great progress. They have a good point, and here is why.
They remind me that we are living longer, and that the latest surgical procedures and medical advances are keeping people alive who otherwise would have died. We have access to knowledge and education like never before. We can FaceTime with friends across the globe. We can go online and check out medical issues that, in times past, might have taken weeks or even years to diagnose. Compare that to people in Rome in the first century, who were exposed to horrible conditions and disease. Ancient Babylon was even worse. Certain advances in medicine and technology have changed our lives for the better.
I totally agree with all of the above, and I could add a lot more to the list.
But at this point, I want to make myself very, very clear. The examples we’ve mentioned, which could be magnified many times over, are what I will call the apples. Apples are the good things, the discoveries and inventions that have bettered our world.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have what we can refer to as the oranges—these would be the addictions, insomnia, diseases, suicide, depression, bankruptcy, divorce, child abuse, sexual abuse, eating disorders, binge drinking, hate, gluttony, and a host of other maladies that are on an exponential rise and plague the world. Many, many people are drowning in troubles that we never anticipated in our pursuit of progress. And there is no sign that those troubles are slowing down.
So in contrast to apples, the oranges are those hurtful, evil things in the world that continue on, despite our growth in areas of technology, medicine and education.
Much confusion comes when we mix the apples and the oranges. So the question remains: Is the world getting better or worse? The answer depends on how you weigh the data. It may seem like there are more apples than oranges, or that at least the apples and the oranges cancel each other out. But let’s zoom in and take a closer look at the issue by turning to the Scriptures, our only source of authority. We will look at two passages that, I believe, need no special interpretation. Read carefully what Jesus says in the following text:
What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person. (Mark 7:20-23)
Note that Jesus is not singling out some wicked individual. He is talking about you and me. He is revealing that all people have the disease of sin in their hearts, and He gives no indication that this malady will improve with time and progress.
Let’s take a look at another verse. This is from the apostle Paul.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
What I want us to see here is that all of these evil bents have been with humanity since Adam and Eve sinned. Yet Paul is quite clear that they will only increase over time, growing worse and worse until the time the Lord returns. We could go through each issue at length, but I have selected just three.
Lovers of themselves: People have always been narcissistic and focused on themselves. But today we have a magazine called Self, we take selfies, read self-help books, we practice self-love and self-care to improve our self-esteem. Paul could not have imagined our technological advances, but he knew that people would always be looking to take advantage of any advancement that promotes “Me.”
Lovers of money: Man has always had an affair with money, but the ability to gain it, leverage it, lend it, borrow it, and invest it is well beyond what anyone thought possible in the first century. Yet an affair with money is still an illegitimate affair. Love of money has led to divorce, excess, neglect of the family, and a myriad of other problems—many of which can be found in Jesus’ list in Mark 7:20-23.
Disobedient to parents: This is not a new problem either, of course, but the epidemic of rebellion seems far greater than before. I have been able to see it in my own lifetime. The biggest problems in the public school system in the late 50s and early 60s were pulling girls’ hair, running in the halls, and smoking out back. These are not the problems of today. An avalanche of depression, sexting, teen pregnancy, drugs and other R-rated issues now fill the principal’s inbox on a daily basis. And in television, Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, and The Andy Griffith Show used to have one thing in common: a father who led the home with integrity and was respected by his children. But today technology has made it possible for children to watch endless hours of shows that paint the parents as buffoons and the children as the real authorities in charge. Video games, movies, books and other avenues that promote this skewed dynamic have captured the hearts and minds of our youth.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the list that Paul gives us is that he never should have made such a prophetic statement. Anyone living at the time would have known that man is intelligent and will one day conquer all these problems. With all of our advancements in knowledge, education, technology, and medicine, such a dire prediction of the last days is absurd. All of our apples should reduce the friction Paul predicted would happen. But Paul was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to write what he wrote, and he makes it clear that the oranges remain. So who is right; those who have predicted utopia? Or Paul, who predicted perilous times?
If you’re talking only about the apples, then all is well! But if you consider the oranges, the prospects look pretty bleak. Living longer, being safer, having air conditioning, and getting laser surgery to give you 20/20 vision are not the real issues at hand. The real issue is the human heart. It has always been “evil from its youth” (Genesis 8:21), but now it has more opportunity, largely through technology, to pursue or express that evil for longer periods of time. Paul may have never known about computers, but his list of sins in 2 Timothy 3 was his way of predicting that evil would go viral.
So I hope this is clear. I thank God for the good gifts he has given mankind that have helped us navigate the deep waters of physical pain and make life more tolerable. If Heaven were gained by good works, then the man who invented novocaine would be the first to enter. I’m grateful for the technology that allows me to communicate with people around the world. I’m amazed at the unprecedented access to knowledge we have in these current days. These are good apples for which I am grateful. However, the bad oranges that plague the whole world are produced daily by hearts that have not been redeemed, and sometimes, even by hearts that have. This is why we, as believers, are not to get attached to this world. Because of sin, this world is in darkness and decay. Pile on as many apples as you want – those rotten oranges remain. Does that mean we shouldn’t try to produce as many apples as we can? By no means! We as believers are here to bring light to show the way out of the darkness and to be salt to impede the decay. But let’s be clear about where our hope lies. No amount of education, medicine, or technological advancement can cure the wickedness of the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9). As great as those advancements are, they only deal with the symptoms of our plight, not the root cause. If Jesus is correct, the real issue is that evil rises up from within. We see the external effects of evil, but evil is not primarily an external issue. Evil is a heart issue. And while apples may fill the belly, they can never redeem the heart.
The point of all of this is not to doom-and-gloom you into depression. It’s to help us see that the bad news is really bad, so that we can remember that the Good News is really good. The world is getting worse, and no amount of medical, intellectual, or technological advancement can stem the tide. If evil comes from inside a person, as Jesus claims, then we are the problem. And as I have said many times, when the problem tries to solve the problem—well, that’s a problem. The world is helplessly broken and cannot fix itself.
But ultimately, we are not called to put our confidence in the apples, nor to despair over the oranges, but rather to rest in the finished work of Christ. In Him, we can have hope and joy no matter what is happening in the world around us. For those who believe in Him, the One who is “making everything new” (Revelation 21:5), the world will be better someday, and for all eternity.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:1-10)
For those of you unfamiliar with the world of theology, allow me to introduce you to the greatest theological mind in the last century – Dr. R.C. Sproul. In a culture awash with theological liberalism, Dr. Sproul has been one of the greatest defenders of the faith in our lifetime.
On December 14, he went home to meet the Savior he has faithfully preached about for the last fifty years of his life. “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” were no doubt the first words he heard upon entering his eternal home and walking into the presence of his Lord.
God gifted Dr. Sproul with a mind that was far beyond that of the greatest of scholars. A scholar himself in numerous fields, he was a superb philosopher, an accomplished linguist, a master logician and a theologian beyond compare. What he casually knew about various disciplines often exceeded the knowledge of scholars dedicated to those fields. To challenge R.C. to a debate was to face sure defeat even before the first words were spoken. His mind was a true gift from God and a true gift to Christianity – a gift well-stewarded in advancing the Kingdom.
When Dr. R.C. Sproul left this world, I am quite certain 90% of its intelligence left with him. But our great loss is overshadowed by his great legacy. May God bless Dr. Spoul’s legacy, and may it continue to bear gospel fruit for generations to come.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. -Philippians 1:21
After the devastation left by several hurricanes this year, Reston Bible Church engaged in relief efforts in Texas and Puerto Rico, providing manpower and supplies. Here’s a brief update from two trips. If you’re interested in future relief trips, please contact Dale Peak.
Wilfredo and Glorimar Corps are long-time RBCers originally from the town of Aibonito, in the center of Puerto Rico.
As most of us are aware, Puerto Rico as recently been devastated by two hurricanes. When they visited Aibonito a week ago, Wilfredo and Glorimar were dismayed to discover both the extent of the damage and that much of the aid sent to Puerto Rico has not reached inland, where their town in located. Many families there are hurting, as well as a large senior assisted-living facility that is unable to provide three meals a day to its residents.
Twenty-two years ago, Wilfredo and Glorimar planted Primera Iglesia Bautista de Aibonito (First Baptist Church of Aibonito) in their garage. The church continued to grow even after the Corps left Puerto Rico for the mainland United States. Today, we have the opportunity to partner with this church to bring much-needed aid and supplies to the people there. The church has procured a waiver from the Puerto Rican government that will allow us to send a large amount of supplies and aid without import taxes. Wilfredo and Glorimar will be on-hand in Puerto Rico to receive our shipment of donated items, transport them to Aibonito and deliver them personally to people in need.
On Sunday, October 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., we will have a truck parked in front of the main building on the traffic circle where you can drop off aid and supply items you see on the list below. The goal of this project is to provide some basic necessities to sustain the people of Aibonito for the next 30-90 days, the estimated time frame until power and basic utilities will be restored to the town.
Here is a list of what we need:
- Power generators
- Extension cords
- Personal water filtration systems
- Drinking water
- Lamps (solar- and battery-powered)
- Non-perishable food items (canned food or items that don’t need refrigeration and can last 60-90 days)
- Powdered milk
- Baby formula
- Baby diapers
- Batteries size D, AA, and AAA
- Battery-operated fans
- Mosquito nets
- Mosquito repellent
- Solar-powered chargers (for phones and other electronics)
- Adult diapers
- Tarps (any size, the bigger the better)
- Power inverters
- Bed sheets (all sizes)
- Over-the-counter medication (Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, etc.)
- Clothing (not heavy or winter as PR is tropical year around)
- Personal hygiene items
Feel free to donate any of the items above in bulk as we are planning on a large container in which to ship them.
Finally, if you order anything from Amazon, please consider using smile.amazon.com, where you’ll find the exact same shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to RBC’s Benevolent Fund. You use the same account on Amazon.com and AmazonSmile, so your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are the same. On your first visit to AmazonSmile, simply select Reston Bible Church as your charitable organization. The website will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make from then on will result in a donation.
We are looking forward to seeing how God will use the people of RBC to share Christ’s love with recent victims of natural disasters, first in Texas and now in Puerto Rico. Thank you for your willingness to help so many hurting people.
We are thankful for many who seek justice and love mercy. Over the past year, we have been able to contribute to both of these organizations because of your generosity.
An opportunity has arisen to show the love of Christ to Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas.
Christian Fellowship Church and RBC are teaming up with Samaritan’s Purse to sponsor a trip to the Corpus Christi area (one of the hardest hit) on November 5-11. Samaritan’s Purse is providing meals, lodging and tools — all you need do is get there. We estimate the cost to be $475 per person, which includes airfare and ground transportation while there. We have reserved a block of 15 plane tickets that must be purchased by Wednesday, October 4, on a first-come, first-served basis. The tickets are non-refundable, and background checks are required. If you have other questions about this work trip, please contact Dale Peak at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants must be 18 years of age to register. Participants 17 and under would only be allowed to participate if a parent or guardian was participating in the trip as well. Registrations will be on a first-come, first-served basis and space is very limited. Once registered, a link will be sent to each registrant to fill out the paperwork required by Samaritan’s Purse. You would not be considered officially registered until all paperwork is filled out completely. Please note that this is very appropriate, high-energy / low-skill work during the first phase of disaster response.
From Samaritan’s Purse
Thank you for partnering with Samaritan’s Purse as we minister to families whose homes were damaged during Hurricane Harvey. Far beyond the physical help you will extend to the homeowners, the spiritual and emotional support you offer to them is even more important. We hope your volunteer experience is rewarding and life-changing. Harvey made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 130 mph. Harvey remained a powerful storm and has brought torrential rain to Texas in the days that followed. Our response to this storm includes debris removal, roof tarping and mudouts.