Pastoral Notes for Sunday, April 8, 2018

As we walk through the Easter season of the church calendar, we’re going to practice resurrection together. That is, for next six weeks or so, we’ve carved out time in worship for public testimony, sharing stories of how Christ is at work in the Cornerstone community.

We’re calling these public testimonies “resurrection stories,” believing that the resurrection Spirit dwells within us (Ephesians 1:19-21; Romans 8:11) and is continuously giving us resurrection power (Philippians 3:9).

It is our earnest hope that the Lord will use these stories to encourage us in the faith and to challenge us to walk in the living hope of the resurrection (1 Peter 1:3). Indeed, as you listen to these testimonies, we pray you’ll experience something of a mini resurrection yourself—that your heart and life will be renewed by the work of God in our midst. Even more, we hope this practice will cause you to look at your own life and ask the question, “What difference is the resurrection life of Jesus making in my life personally?”

If appropriate, go ahead and ask yourself that question now as you prepare for worship. Think back over the last few weeks, months, or even the last year. Where do you see God showing up? If nothing surfaces right away, try getting more specific.

·      Any new godly desire that’s rising up in you?

·      Any sin that’s becoming more loathsome to you?

·      Any loss or trial in life that’s bearing fruit in you?

·      Any new godly affection toward someone that you’re feeling?

·      Any new act of obedience that’s taking shape?

·      Any new insight into the truth that’s strengthening your walk God?

Later this afternoon or next week, return to these questions and ponder them. As you do, consider grabbing a pen and a journal and write out answers to these questions. That way you can reference these encouragements at a later time when your awareness of resurrection power is hard to find.

On that note, if you find it difficult to locate any resurrection stories in your life, don’t despair. God often works under the soil of our lives long before any demonstrable growth can be seen. And then pray for a fresh resurrection work of God in your life, knowing that’s just the kind of prayer God loves to answer.

Easter Sunday 2018 is past, but the resurrection power of Jesus Christ is just getting started. May God be pleased to increase the witness of his resurrection power through the transformation of our lives!  

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, April 1, 2018

“Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion.”—John Stott

“The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, came into nature, in human nature descended into His own universe and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle.”—C. S. Lewis

“For if there is one thing the resurrection teaches us, it is that God is miraculous. If God can intervene in human history in such a dramatic way, it is a small thing for him to do so in other ways. In revivals, the church en masse experiences more fully the change made possible by the resurrection.”—Adrian Warnock

“The whole gospel is encapsulated in the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”—George Eldon Ladd

“The resurrection of Christ is the seal of the great work that He came on earth to do. It was the crowning proof that the ransom He paid for sinners was accepted, the atonement for sin accomplished, the head of him who had the power of death bruised, and the victory won.”—J. C. Ryle

“So when you think of your new birth, think of it as the first installment of what is coming. You body and the whole world will one day take part in this regeneration. God’s final purpose is not spiritually renewed souls inhabiting decrepit bodies in a disease and disaster-ravaged world. His purpose is a renewed world with renewed bodies and renewed souls that take all our renewed senses and make them a means of enjoying and praising God.”—John Piper

“Grant me more and more of the resurrection life:

may it rule me,

may I walk in its power,

and be strengthened through its influence.”

—The Valley of Vision

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, March 25, 2018

A month ago or more now, the elders of Cornerstone approved our Assistant Pastor, Rev. Tony Giles, diminishing (slightly) his role at Cornerstone and extending his ministry reach to the church at large. Don’t worry—he’s not going anywhere! Take a moment to read his excellent report below:

Over the last few years God has been giving me a deepening desire to be involved in the work of helping raise up a new generation of ministry leaders.   

In three and half decades of pastoral ministry, serving in a variety of churches and roles, there is one thing I have consistently observed which pastors need to help them be truly effective in their work: the life on life impact of a coach or mentor. These lessons have been hard won in my own life and have come partly through the ministry of Serge, formerly World Harvest, a cross-denominational mission agency that works alongside U.S. churches to help their leaders experience the depths of the gospel through resources and mentoring of ministry leaders. https://serge.org.  

Over the last several years, Serge has started to become inundated with alumni from their intensive mentoring ministries asking these sorts of questions:     

·      The gospel has been personally transformative for me, but how do I serve well in a church culture that has not yet experienced the same?

·      How do we build gospel renewal into our leadership training – elders, deacons, staff?

·      How can we put into place an intentional church-wide discipleship plan that is missional as well?

At the same time, here are the kinds of questions I have been asking myself in recent months:

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·      How do I steward lessons learned in 34 years of pastoral ministry experience?

·      What should be my focus this season of life and most central to my sense of calling?

·      Where could I find margin to serve beyond my current pastoral responsibilities but still within the scope of my calling?

After an extended season of prayer and long talks with several trusted advisors including our elders – and most of all Mary Lynn – I am planning to reduce my hours as Assistant Pastor at Cornerstone in order to create margin for an expanded ministry outside our local church. Specifically, I will be working 25 hours a week here continuing to serve in the same ways I have been since day one. My hunch is that you may not notice much of a change.

Currently, I am working with Serge staff to develop a new ministry to offer gospel-centered coaching to church pastors and ministry leaders. Specifically, the task is to develop and maintain an effective coaching pathway that will help leaders integrate transformative gospel principles into every area of their leadership resulting in healthy, gospel-centered churches that are missionally engaged. This means

·      Investing personally in key leader(s) of a church

·      Bringing help and expertise to bear on their individual situation, to help them create a sustainable deepening pathway to create a culture of missional discipleship

·      Consulting with those key leaders as they implement plans

·      Eventually recruiting and training other coaches to work alongside me in this new initiative

Actually, these things are right in line with what I have been doing in recent years in my roles as interim senior pastor at Christ Community, as a consultant for a church between pastors in NC and currently as “a fresh set of eyes” for The Village Chapel in Nashville one day a week. I’ve reminded others over the years that calling is most often found at the intersection of passions, giftedness, need and opportunity. Now this open door with Serge is where I am finding that for myself. Please pray for this new ministry and for deepening of faith in my own life.

Pastoral Notes for Sunday, March 18, 2018

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.”—Oswald Chambers

Last week I challenged you to identify one prayer need in your life and then share it with Cornerstone prayer team by e-mailing prayer@cstonepres.org. If you forgot to do that, take a moment now before services or later this afternoon and fire off a prayer request to the prayer team. We’d love to be lifting you up to the throne of grace.

As we’ve grown in our commitment to praying together as a congregation, we’ve recognized an almost constant need for education on the importance and practice of prayer. With that in mind, I asked Marge Middleton, Co-Leader of the Prayer Ministry, to tell us about the new book the Prayer Team has been reading together with great benefit. Check out what Marge wrote below: 

A few years ago, God gave me a burden to participate in a prayer ministry at Cornerstone with others who have a similar burden.  After speaking with Nate and others about it, we all agreed it was a worthy and needed goal. The prayer ministry did not come together quickly, but after brainstorming ideas in January of 2016, our first weekly meeting for prayer occurred in April of 2016. We gathered simply to pray for the needs of our congregation.

In April of 2017, I attended the National Conference of The Gospel Coalition in Indianapolis and came back with a new book, Praying Together by Megan Hill.  This book was perfect for our new prayer ministry, but also valuable to anyone wanting to have a deeper prayer life. It focuses on praying in groups, our duty and privilege to pray together, the biblical mandate, and the blessings that God promises when his people are obedient in prayer.

The author started praying with her small church’s prayer meeting when her pastor-father brought her to the weekly meetings. They became a school of prayer to her as she listened to the prayers of older, more mature saints pouring out their praises and supplications before the throne of grace. She brings a wealth of biblical insight and wisdom of experience to this book. It is written in three parts. She writes about the biblical foundations of praying together in part one, the fruit of praying together in part two, and the practical application of doing prayer in groups in part three.

Full of inspiring stories, sound theology, and practical application, I believe this book will energize and motivate anyone who wishes to dig deeper and draw closer to God and other believers as they pray for one another.

Stop by the Bookshelf on the second floor landing this morning and pick up a copy of Praying Together by Megan Hill. It might just be the tool God uses to draw you into relationship with others and God through prayer.