Message from Rev. Moore – April 2017

“More Wonderful Beyond!”

12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

I Corinthians 15:12-14

Alister McGrath, a former atheist who has become a believer in Christ, a theologian and a scientist, tells the following story about the first time he awakened to the hope of Christ’s resurrection:

[As a young man], I was a grumpy and frankly rather arrogant atheist. I was totally convinced that there was no God, and that anyone who thought there was needed to be locked up for her own good. I was majoring in the sciences at high school and had won a scholarship to study chemistry at Oxford University, beginning in October 1971. I had every reason to believe that studying the sciences further would confirm my rampant godlessness. While waiting to go up to Oxford, I decided to work my way through a pile of “improving books.” Needless to say, none of them were religious.

Eventually, I came to a classic work of philosophy—Plato’s Republic. I couldn’t make sense of everything I read. But one image etched itself into my imagination. Plato asks us to imagine a group of men, trapped in a cave, knowing only a world of flickering shadows cast by a fire. Having experienced no other world, they assume that the shadows are the only reality.  Yet the reader knows—and is meant to know—that there is another world beyond the cave, awaiting discovery.

As I read this passage, the hard-nosed rationalist within me smiled condescendingly. Typical escapist superstition! What you see is what you get, and that’s the end of the matter. Yet a still, small voice within me whispered words of doubt. What if this world is only part of the story? What if this world is only a shadowland? What if there is something more wonderful beyond it?

McGrath’s struggle with the truth(s) of the Christian faith is not unique. The Apostle Paul had his own barriers, one being (from a Jewish perspective) the barrier of a religious tradition that assumed that the Messiah would conquer via the glory and honor of war, not the ignominious cross of dishonor.

Barriers to belief many times come in the form of intellectual pride as with McGrath, but McGrath knew by virtue of the moral law within and the starry sky above that “there is something more wonderful beyond” this life. Our neo-pagan culture lies to itself by saying that this is all that there is. It reduces reality to matter, a contiguous concourse of mere molecules in motion. We are like the ancients in Plato’s allegory of the Cave; we believe the shadows of this dark fallen world are all that there is. Yet, some of us are like St. Paul prior to his conversion; because of religious pride we assume “man-made” traditions are all that there is. Religious tradition too can cast a long, dark shadow upon us. Even regenerate (born again) Christians will allow the need to belong, to muddy our thinking in the morass of misconceptions. This was the case for Paul as he addressed the First Church of Corinth. Their intellectual pride of wanting to be accepted by their surrounding pagan culture (sounds familiar?) had them buying into pagan concepts (like the pagan idea that there is no bodily resurrection of believers), concepts contrary to the essentials of the faith (like the Christian idea of the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ).

These are just some barriers to belief. Other barriers can be suffering, evil, and pain. However, when we are confronted with the resurrected Lord, when we have an encounter with the living God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, when we encounter the ultimate reality of the Word of God made flesh then all the idols of our minds retreat while our hearts surrender to Christ. This is what happened to Paul. It was Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus which eroded his doubt; his pang of a guilty conscience receded into the shadows in the face of the overwhelming effulgence of the resurrected Lord.

During this season of Lent and Easter if you are struggling with doubt—e.g. doubt from pride, or doubt from pain and loss, etc.–turn your gaze again to the reality of our Lord who conquered death not for Himself, but for us. Because of Christ’s death on the cross, death for us is but a shadow; and because of Christ’s life and resurrection there is something more wonderful here and now for us and beyond!

Soli Deo Gloria

Pastor Carl

 

Message from Rev. Moore – February 2017

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Mat 16:18 ESV)

As an under-shepherd, I love the church: big churches, little churches and everything in between. And Jesus promised that His church will withstand the gates of hell. But what is the church?   As Gregg Allison in Sojourners and Strangers notes the church is:

…the people of God who have been saved through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and have been incorporated into his body through baptism with the Holy Spirit.

Allison continues to make the distinction between the universal church and the local church. The universal church is all of the people of God saved in Christ, from Pentecost (the birth of the church) to the second coming of Christ when God brings judgment to earth, ultimately bringing heaven to earth in future glory. The universal church includes all of the people of God in the past, present, and future: saints who have died, who are living, and who are yet to be born, all of God’s elect in Christ. St. Augustine noted that the universal church is mostly invisible; in other words, it’s hard to put a finger on it.

In contrast, there is the local church; you can point to the local church. You can put your finger on it.

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Message from Rev. Moore – December 2016

holynight

 

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth!

 

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”—Nelsen Mandela.

Mandela was a great humanitarian and civil rights leader for the people of South Africa! But he had too high a view of human nature and human moral ability. For the unregenerate, hate is more natural; love is most unnatural. You cannot change the human heart by naively teaching people to love and not hate. Until the depraved human heart is reconciled to God by way of regeneration (i.e. being born again from above by the Spirit of Christ Jesus), and no longer hostile to God, then and only then can human beings truly learn to love his and her fellow man as he or she ought!

This is why Jesus came as a baby in the manger. Our Lord God incarnate– the second Person of the Trinity, as the Son of God enfleshed– came to put an end to hate and hostility. He came first to announce the beginning of the end of hostility between humanity and God. The reason why there is hate and there is hostility between our fellow man is because of the hostility between mankind and God. That is the source of our hate for one another. Yet while we were enemies against God, He offered His love to us! This is what Christmas is all about!!

During this Holy Season of Advent and Christmas may God’s radiance beam from the holy face of the Son of God as His love, love’s pure light, of redeeming grace continue to infuse us with supernatural love  as grace changes our hearts to love and not hate.

Soli Deo Gloria
Carl Moore

 

Personal Note from Our Pastor

img_1647If I were to describe my life, I must say that I have been treated better than I deserve! I was born and raised by loving parents. I am the oldest of five siblings. My father and mother raised me and my siblings in the church. In the early years, we were Southern Baptist. Then, when I was roughly middle-school-age, my parents became members of a non-denominational, charismatic church called Abundant Life Church in Richmond, Virginia. Abundant Life was an offshoot from a ministry called New Life for Youth. This served to spiritually, personally, and socially restore young men and women with drug abuse issues and criminal backgrounds. Our family was very active in this church and ministry. Later, my parents left this church to attend and become members of a flagship Assembly of God Church called West End Assembly of God in Henrico County, Richmond, Virginia. I grew up attending worship and other functions. I always loved going to Sunday School and church as a child and was very active in church in my youth.

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Message from Rev. Moore – November 2016

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

In 1900 a Japanese writer named Natsume Soseki visited England for the first time. While he was there he was surprised to discover that few of the locals appreciated or even noticed all of the beauty that he saw. Soseki was so captivated by the snow that he invited some friends over for a “snow-viewing,” but they just laughed at him. When he told another group that the Japanese are deeply emotional about the moon, they looked at him with confusion. Then Soseki told the following story:

One day, when [my host] and I took a walk in the garden, I noted that the paths between the rows of trees were all thickly covered with [beautiful] moss. I offered a compliment, saying that these paths had magnificently acquired a look of age. Whereupon my host replied that he soon intended to get a gardener to scrape all this [ugly] moss away.

Soseki’s surprise—that is his discovery that few locals in England during the turn of the Century and at the end of the Victorian era, appreciated or took notice of the beauty around them—reminds me of a Chinese proverb: “If you want to know about water don’t ask a fish.” The point of the proverb (and Soseki’s experience), is that too often we take too much for granted. We take too much for granted because we don’t stop and reflect and give thanks for what’s right before our eyes. When was the last time you or I were thankful for something as simple as a bright sunny day? As James says, all good gifts come down from God, especially the gift of light. As a pastor, I am thankful for the churches I have served. As your newly elected pastor, I am truly grateful and honored to serve you.

This month when we say grace over our Thanksgiving meal, may we thank God first and foremost for things we take for granted. May we thank God for life and light, for family and friends, for faith, for work and relaxation—all for the glory of God and our satisfaction in Him.

Soli Deo Gloria
Pastor Carl