Pastor's Blog

Statement from the Elders of RMBC concerning the Coronavirus

March 16, 2020 | by

Like everyone else, your Elders have been talking and thinking about our response to the current situation regarding the Coronavirus.  Individuals are making decisions regarding their own behaviors and those of their families.  Sports leagues and entertainment venues such as Broadway theaters are making decisions concerning how they will proceed, with many simply canceling the remainder of their seasons.  And of course, political office-holders are having to make decisions about governmental policy, from school closings to immigration. As the Elders of RMBC, we have a unique responsibility that goes beyond those considerations. Our responsibility, in part, is to put this situation into biblical perspective.  In fulfillment of that responsibility, allow us to remind you of certain pertinent truths.  When we have done that, we will then address some practical issues in regard to RMBC, so please read to the end of this statement. We must always, of course, begin with the person of God.  We begin with Him because He has revealed Himself to be the creator, sustainer, and the ruler of the universe.  We begin with Him because He is sovereign over all things, and that includes the Coronavirus.  When the first person became infected, God did not say, “Uh, oh. What do I do now?”  Like the cross of Christ, and the election of His people, this virus was a part of His eternal decree. That being the case, we also know that there is a divine purpose in this event.  In fact, we can be sure that our God has innumerable purposes in all that He does. He has purposes for individuals, for nations, and for His Kingdom.  This virus is not random, nor is it meaningless. But if God is good, as we know Him to be, how can we explain such a thing?  When God created the world, did He not call it “good”?  Indeed, He did. But after that declaration, an event occurred which changed everything.  Our first parents fell into disobedience, and the world fell with them.  The Coronavirus is one consequence of that fall.  As wonderful as this world is, and as much as it continues to bear that mark of its Creator, it also bears the marks of the Fall.  Illness and death are but two of those marks. “As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.”  Psalm 103:15-16 These truths remind us of another.  We are not in control.  We would like to be.  Sometimes we might deceive ourselves into thinking that we are, but that is merely an illusion.  There are things that we can and should do to minimize our exposure to this virus, but we can’t live in a bubble. And who is to say whether some other threat will come along after this one?  We ought to take responsible actions, but in the end, we can guarantee nothing. Our lives are in His hands, not our own. This situation also serves as a reminder that our lives and our world are interconnected.  The measures currently being taken by individuals may affect others whom that individual does not even know.  How many businesses are being affected because people are...

An Application of Pilgrim’s Progress – Let That be a Warning to You!

March 10, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

“Let that be a warning to you”!  As a boy growing up in my father’s house, I would often hear that phrase.  What Dad meant, of course, was that I should be careful to learn from the experience of others.  Most often, this counsel would be, triggered by something negative.  My father would see someone experiencing the consequences of acting in a dangerous or foolish manner, and I would hear, “Let that be a warning to you”.  What he meant, of course, is that I ought to learn from the mistakes of others.  That is the easy way.  He much preferred that I learn from the mistakes of others than to make the same mistakes myself. As Christian and Hopeful continued upon their pilgrimage to the Celestial City, they found themselves in mountainous terrain.  Upon their escape from Doubting Castle they came first to the Delectable Mountains. There they encountered the Hill of Error, and now find themselves on top of yet another mountain called “Caution”.  And apt name, indeed. There on the top of that mountain they saw men, but these men were not pilgrims, though they had once been.  These men had not destination, but rather seemed to wander and stumble aimlessly as they moved about…what was it?  Yes.  Tombs.  Christian and Hopeful continued to watch and discerned that these men were, in fact, blind, and unable to find there way out from that place of death. They inquired of the shepherds who had become their guides, and the answer they received caused them to dissolve into grief and tears, so sad were the words which were spoken.  These men, were once pilgrims, like themselves.  They, too, however, finding the right way to be difficult, had turned from the path, seeking to find an easier way to the Celestial City.  These men, like Christian and Hopeful, had also been captured by Giant Despair and kept in his dungeon.  But there is where the similarities between them come to an end. These men did not escape the Giant.  These men did not continue on the way.  Rather, the Giant had blinded them, putting out their eyes, after which he had left them to wander among the tombs, which the pilgrims now found them doing still.  Bunyan tells us that this is a picture of the words of the Wise Man, whom we know as Solomon.  He is referring to Proverbs 21:16: “A man who wanders from the way of understanding, will rest in the assembly of the dead.” Upon hearing this, we are told that the pilgrims stood with “tears gushing out”. Let that be a warning to you!  There is only one way. There is only one path. It is not an easy way, but it is the right way. To go to the left or to the right, searching for an easy way, leaves us as blind ones, groping in the darkness, and no better off than those who have never been made alive by the power of the Spirit.  The way is hard, but there is light there.  The way is hard, but the path is sure.  The way is hard, but that way is the way of...

An Application of Bunyan – Truth Matters

February 27, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

Having made the acquaintance of the shepherd’s tending their flocks upon the Delectable mountains, the pilgrims quickly became the recipients of the shepherd’s warm hospitality.  There were wonders to be seen in the Delectable mountains, and the shepherds, whose names were Knowledge, Experience, Watchful, and Sincere, determined to reveal those wonders to their new friends, Christian and Hopeful. Their first destination was a hill called Error, one side of which was quite steep.  Being encouraged by the shepherds to gaze down over the edge, they saw at the bottom of the cliff the broken bodies of several men who had fallen from that great height. Christian inquired concerning the identity of these men, and that which had caused them to fall and to be dashed upon the rocks below.  The shepherds explained that these were men who had followed after the errors of Hymeneus and Philetus concerning the resurrection of the body (2 Timothy 2:17-18).  Surely it must have been a terrible sight to behold, just as it is a terrible sight for us to behold the wreckage of one who has made shipwreck of their faith.  And yet, even here is grace.  “Where?”, you might ask.  “Where can grace be seen in the broken bodies of those who have been smashed upon the rocks of error?” The answer comes in the final words uttered by the shepherds before moving on to the next sight they wished Christian and Hopeful to see. “Those that you see lie dashed in pieces at the bottom…have continued to this day unburied, (as you see) for an example for others to take heed how they clamber too high, or how they come too ear to the brink of this mountain.” There is the grace.  It is found in the example of those who have gone before.  It is in the warning that their example sets for us.  Give heed to it.  Do not stray off the straight path, either to the right, nor to the left.  Do not be tossed about by every wind of doctrine.  Do not chase after theological novelty, or the next spiritual experience.  Rather, stand upon the solid rock of the word of God.  Place yourself under solid and sound teaching, and continue on the right way, all the way, to the...

An Application of Bunyan – Emmanuel’s Land

February 26, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

His promises are true.  Christian and Hopeful have known this, but now they are learning this. The One who began a good work in them is bringing that work to perfection, and though that perfection often be accomplished through suffering, their Lord also knows when rest is necessary. The One who is the goal of their pilgrimage knows when those who are traveling on His highway need to be encouraged with a glimpse of what is to come. And so, having escaped Doubting-castle, and the Giant Despair, Christian and Hopeful found themselves back on the King’s Highway, and before long arrived at the Delectable Mountains.  Here they found a place of refreshment. There were gardens, orchards, and vineyards from which to eat, and there were fountains from which to drink and wash.  At the top of the mountains were Shepherds tending their flocks, with whom the pilgrim’s entered into conversation, and from whom they received generous and pleasant hospitality. “Whose Delectable Mountains are these?  And whose be the sheep that feed upon them?”, asked the travelers.  The shepherds responded, “These mountains are Emmanuel’s land, and they are within sight of His city; and the sheep also are His, and He laid down His life for them.” “These mountains are Emmanuel’s Land, and they are within sight of His city.”  How the hearts of the pilgrims must have leapt at the sound of such words!  After so long a journey.  After so many difficulties and dangers.  After so much suffering.  After so many foolish departures from the right way.  Finally, they are within sight of the city. How could this news have failed to fill them with renewed determination to finish the course which they had begun?  Surely, such news would strengthen both their bodies and their resolve.  Surely, this is a means by which the Lord of that city encourages pilgrims to endure to the end. Are you weary of the journey?  The Lord says, “Look!  My city is in sight!  Just a little further.  Don’t give up. Persevere. One more step, and then another. And when you arrive, we shall be together, and you shall find rest and joy, forever.”  It is for this reason that God’s word is sprinkled with encouragement to finish the race, looking ahead to the finish line and what is to come. “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”  Revelation 3:21 “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”  Revelation 2:10 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  1 Peter 1:3-5 On and on we could go.  These great and precious promises are the means by which we keep our destination ever before us.  And though we cannot yet see that great city with our physical...

An Application of Bunyan – Danger! Danger! Go Back!

February 25, 2020 | by James M. Harrison

One might think that having escaped Doubting Castle and the sufferings there inflicted upon them, that Christian and Hopeful would think only of getting as far away from there as possible, and doing so as quickly as possible.  And yet, their actions at this crucial point in their journey reveal quite clearly that they are not who they once were.  Rather, they are being conformed to the image of that One they love, who suffered and died for the sake of pilgrims. Having escaped, their thoughts turned not to themselves, but to others whom they knew would follow.  Those coming after would likewise be tempted to depart from the right way, only to find themselves in the clutches of the Giant, and despairing of life. A warning must be given.  The two companions erected a pillar upon which they engraved this sentence: “Over this stile (a set of steps for getting over a fence), is the way to Doubting Castle, which is kept by Giant Despair, who despiseth the King of the Celestial country, and seeks to destroy His holy pilgrims.” This is grace. This is love. This is what the Lord says to Ezekiel. “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself.”  Ezekiel 3:17-19 Yes, if we know the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we are pilgrims. We are on a journey, striving to reach a destination.  But along the way, we must not forget to sound the warning: “This way is life, but that way is death!”.  Having received the grace of God, how can we keep the wonderful news of the gospel to ourselves?  Shout the warning from the rooftops!  “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord”!  Romans...